From the 1780s, Siberian merchant capitalists interested in Russian America kept a keen eye on their Spanish rivals for trade and territory along the Northwest Coast. Even after Spain and England settled the Nootka Sound controversy peacefully, officials in Madrid and Mexico City continued to contemplate plans for reoccupying Nootka and ousting the Russian traders and settlers in maritime Alaska. Only after Imperial Russia joined Napoleon’s Bourbon alliance in 1801 did Spanish authorities suspend their ambition for bases in the North Pacific.

By that time Tsar Paul I had united all his nation’s American enterprises under the newly formed Russian-American Company (RAC), first headed in North America by General Manager Alexander Baranov. With encouragement from St. Petersburg, Baranov sought to counter the efforts of naval explorers and ship captains from other nations to encroach on what he regarded as Russia’s legally owned trading...

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