When I some twenty years ago was researching the naval officer Gustaf von Psilander (1669-1738) and his encounter with Rear Admiral William Whetstone's squadron in late July 1704, I came upon a rather peculiar item. As far as I remember it was like this: a man claiming to represent a number of Chilean princes made contact with the Swedish envoy in the Netherlands. According to this man two heavily loaded ships would be sent from Chile to Europe, preferably to a Swedish port. In return for the valuable cargo the princes wanted to buy guns and ammunition.
This proposal went quite far (as I recall it). A brief discussion in the Council and longer discussions in the College of Commerce and the Chancery, where the conclusion was that it would be risky to accept because of possible hostile reaction from other European powers, most notably Spain.
The story seems quite far-fetched. The Spanish never fully subjugated the Mapuche, so it is entirely possible that the latter would have been interested in acquiring weapons from some friendly European power. But how would they have found suitable ships and crews and manage to pull off such a major undertaking? A reasonable explanation would seem to be that they had to go through an intermediary, possibly a European merchant/smuggler who was not afraid to risk men and ships in order to make a profit by selling to a European power not directly involved in the War of the Spanish succession.
During a recent visit to Riksarkivet I decided to see if I could find the story once more. I had a pretty good idea of where to look, but I was not sure if it happened in 1704 or later. But I did find it again and (if I remember correctly) even one additional item, which gave more information about the man who handed over the proposal.
So next week: the proposal and the identity of the intermediary.