By John Kendrick
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Extra info for Alejandro Malaspina: Portrait of a Visionary
1 There is no evidence that Malaspina knew of this communication, or that Valdés or others in Madrid had been considering such an expedition before Malaspina returned from the Astrea voyage. 2 The plan was submitted to "His Excellency, Bailío Don Antonio Valdés, Minister of Marine" on 10 September 1788, only four months after Malaspina had brought Astrea back to Cadiz. It was signed by both Malaspina and his fellow officer, Jose Bustamante. Malaspina wrote to say that for the last twenty years the English and French had undertaken voyages during which 34 Alejandro Malaspina navigation, geography, and even humanity had made rapid progress.
However, all this lay well on in the future for the thirty-five-yearold commander when the expedition sailed from Cadiz on 30 June 1789. They were not long underway when caterpillars were found in the bread supply. Malaspina the scientist reacted to this by obtaining an opinion from his experts that the eggs were probably in the bread before it came aboard, and that not only were the caterpillars harmless but they might be nutritious. 25 The scientific part of the "politico-scientific voyage" had begun.
The navy needed better ships, equipment, and navigators; the army needed munitions and engineers. Both needed educated officers and some literacy in the lower ranks. The universities, which had become exclusive clubs for young men with family connections to grandees or to rich bishops, were to be forced to teach qualified students who had no wealth or high connections. These policies and other educational initiatives were supported by the Jansenists. The reforms were never completely successful.