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Synopsis

Four years after the Revolutionary War, America's independence was still in doubt. To survive, the new nation needed money and a vital surge in trade. In the back rooms of Boston, a daring plan was launched by a group of merchants and ship owners: to send two ships on a desperate mission around Cape Horn and into the Pacific Ocean. They wanted to establish new trade with China, settle an outpost on territory claimed by the Spanish, and find the legendary Northwest Passage—the fabled waterway linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The adventure would bring the world to the brink of war.

The man chosen to lead the expedition was John Kendrick—a master navigator and a charismatic captain of privateers during the Revolution. On the far side of the world, Kendrick would have to rely on his bravery, his charm, and most of all his remarkable resolve to navigate unknown waters, negotiate with cutthroat imperialists from England and Spain, and form alliances with natives hit hard by early encounters with Europeans.

Seventeen years before Lewis and Clark reached the Pacific coast, Kendrick established the first American outpost on what would become Vancouver Island. He then traveled into the cauldron of an intertribal war in the Hawaiian Islands before moving into the far ports of Macao, China, and Kushimoto, Japan, where he narrowly escaped capture by a troop of samurai. Throughout the seven-year journey, Kendrick faced a subordinate officer who wanted to usurp his command, Spanish officials who wanted him captured, and a rival British captain who wanted him dead.

Morning of Fire follows Kendrick through each perilous turn of his adventures aboard the Lady Washington and the Columbia Rediviva. This meticulously researched story uncovers the full scope of a landmark American voyage that came at the volatile close of the eighteenth century, a time when superpowers Spain and Britain clashed over territory and the fledgling United States stood caught in the middle. As Scott Ridley relates Kendrick's fateful struggle to plant the seed of an "empire of liberty" in the Pacific, he shapes a bold and exciting chronicle of a momentous odyssey. Morning of Fire is popular history at its best.

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