Unpublished letters in the Burke archive (Sheffield and Northampton) reveal that when Captain James Cook’s Resolution departed Plymouth in July 1776, Lieutenant James King harbored strong pro-American sympathies and that these sympathies were possibly shared by his fellow messmates. King, with strong familial and political ties to Edmund Burke, would become one of Cook’s most trusted aides, commander of HMS Discovery on the voyage home, and author of volume three of A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (1784), the official history of the voyage, a publication that has put him at the center of continuing scholarly disputes concerning Cook’s death. This essay reconstructs King’s previously unknown American experience, suggests the formative effect of his activities on both sides of the Atlantic in the years just prior Cook’s third voyage, and proposes new approaches to reading his contested record of Cook’s third voyage.

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