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Document Number: AJ-098
Author: Duhaut-Cilly, Auguste Bernard, 1790-1849
Title: Duhaut-Cilly's Account of California in the Years 1827-1828
Source: Duhaut-Cilly, Auguste Bernard; Charles Franklin Carter (translator). "Duhaut-Cilly's Account of California in the Years 1827-28." Quarterly of the California Historical Society. Volume 8, numbers 2-4 (June-December 1929), pages 131-166; 214-250; 306-336.
Pages/Illustrations: 109 / 6 (3 of tables)
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-098/

Author Note

August Bernard Duhaut-Cilly (1790-1849) enlisted in Napoleon’s navy at the age of seventeen and fought the British from the coast of West Africa to the Indian Ocean. He left the military in 1814 to join the merchant marine and became one of his nation’s most accomplished long-distance navigators. Unlike most sea captains, he was also an intellectual who read three languages and was an artist of considerable talent. After this voyage Duhaut-Cilly gave up the sea and retired to his native province of Brittany, where he served as the mayor of Saint Servan for several years before dying in 1849.

Expedition of 1826-1829

In April 1826 Duhaut-Cilly left France with a shipload of merchandise that his backers expected him to trade for furs on the Pacific coast of North America. Following a well-established route, he was to carry these American furs to China, where they would sell at a substantial profit, and then return to France. Unfortunately, the trade goods chosen in France did not much interest the Indians or the Spaniards of California. Duhaut-Cilly reached San Francisco at the start of 1827 and spent almost two years trying to unload his merchandise. By the end of 1828 he had tried ports from San Francisco to Peru, with two side trips to Hawaii. He finally reached China in December 1828, disposed of such cargo as he’d been able to assemble, rounded the Horn of Africa, and arrived back in France on July 19, 1829.

We probably profit from the voyage more than the investors did, because while Duhaut-Cilly lingered in California he wrote down enough observations of Spanish and Indian life to fill more than five hundred pages. The Franciscan mission system was at its height and Duhaut-Cilly, as a fellow Catholic, was allowed to see places and inquire about topics that would have been off-limits to an Englishman like Vancouver (see AJ-134), a Russian like Rezanov (see AJ-128) or an American like Wilkes (see AJ-135).

Document Note

After his return, Duhaut-Cilly published his Voyage autour du Monde. principalement à la Californie et aux Iles Sandwich, pendant les années 1826, 1827, 1828, et 1829 (Paris, 1834-1835), much of it written on board ship while the events were unfolding. That French edition is so rare that only about a dozen copies are thought to have survived, and Duhaut-Cilly became better known through an 1841 Italian edition. The English translation given here is limited to his descriptions of California. The full text, including the visits to Hawaii, Peru, and China, are included in the recent Univ. of California Press edition cited below. A short account by the second mate, Edmond le Netrel, appeared in the Nouvelles Annales des Voyages (Paris, 1830), and includes details omitted by Duhaut-Cilly about sexual relations between the sailors and Hawaiian women.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

A modern translation by August Frugé and Neal Harlow is available from the Univ. of California Press at http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/8383.html. It contains the best summary of Duhaut-Cilly’s life, the complete contents of the original work in English, and excellent footnotes on his text.

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