plate 33

John Meares
A Chart of the Interior Part of North America demonstrating the very good probability of an Inland Navigation from Hudsons Bay to the West Coast


John Meares, a former lieutenant in the Royal Navy, sailed twice to America, first in 1786–1787, and again in 1788. His massive 379-page book, Voyages Made in the Years 1788 and 1789 from China to the North West Coast of America (published in London by J. Walter at No. 169 Piccadilly in 1790), suggests affluent sponsorship because of its long list of distinguished Subscribers following the preface. 

His book contains a number of interesting maps, not all of which are to be believed. In one, for instance, it is he who makes a highly speculative (and the last) case for a Northwest Passage from the interior of western Canada to Prince William Sound. Meares’ errors and liberties with the truth have been examined and well documented in a retrospective analysis, The Dixon-Meares Controversy by the Canadian historian, F. W. Howay. In his study,15 Howay, a distinguished magistrate as well as historian, decides firmly in Dixon’s favor. Nonetheless, despite his well-documented and habitual penchant for exaggeration and fabrication, Meares did explore much of the coastline from the Strait of Juan de Fuca north to Prince William Sound, adding significantly to the knowledge of the entire area.

15. F. W. Howay, The Dixon-Meares Controversy (Toronto: Reyerson Press, 1929).