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We have now nothing to do but to await Mr. Buchanan's reply to your appeal to him, although I collect from your despatch that your proposal will certainly be refused. Should that reply however be of such a nature as to give any ground of hope that the matter in dispute may yet be brought to an amicable issue by means of direct negotiation, I shall gladly avail myself of such an opening. If not, it will then be for Her Majesty's Government to consider what measures it may be expedient to adopt, in order to meet'any emergency which may arise...
I am, &c.,
Mr. Pakenham to the Earl of Aberdeen.(Received March 3.)
My Lord, but IU ; :
Washington, February 5, 1846. I HAVE the honour herewith to inclose a copy of a note which I received yesterday from Mr. Buchanan, in answer to that which I addressed to him on the 16th of January, of which I had the honour to transmit a copy with my despatch of the 29th ultimo.
I have, &c.,
Inclosure in No. 36.
Mr. Buchanan to Mr. Pakenham.
Department of State,
Washington, February 4, 1846. THE Undersigned, Secretary of State of the United States, has the honour to acknowledge the receipt of the note of Mr. Pakenham, Her Britannic Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, dated on the 16th ultimo, by which he again proposes a reference of the Oregon Question to arbitration. Under his present proposition, the powers of the arbitrator would not as in his last, be limited in terms to the division of the territory between the parties, but would extend to the question of their conflicting titles. There is, however, a condition annexed to this offer which exposes it to the same objection in point of fact, if not in form, which was prominently presented in the answer of the Undersigned to Mr. Pakenham's last proposal. This condition is, 6 that if neither (party) should be found in the opinion of the arbitrator to possess a complete title to the whole territory, there should, in that case, be assigned to each that portion of territory which would, in the opinion of the arbitrating power, be called for by a just appreciation of the respective claims of each.” If the Government of the United States should consent to an arbitration upon such a condition, this might and probably would be construed into an intimation, if not a direct invitation, to the arbitrator to divide the territory between the parties. Were it possible for the President, under any circumstances, to consent to refer the subject to arbitration, the title, and the title alone, detached from every other consideration, is the only question which could be submitted. If not confined to a single point, so strong is the natural disposition of arbitrators to please both parties, that in almost every instance, whether of national or individual controversies, they make a compromising award. We have
Notwithstanding that the arbitrator, under the terms of the submission, was clearly and explicitly confined to the decision of which was the line of highlands described in the Treaty of Peace of 1783; yet, instead of pursuing any range of highlands whatever, he advised that the line should run along the bed of a river; and actually divided the territory in dispute between the parties by " the middle of the deepest channel of the St. John's.”
The Undersigned might content himself, in answer to the present proposition, with a reference to the observations contained in his last note to Mr. Pakenham of the 3rd ultimo. In that it was plainly intimated not only that there are so other conclusive reasons for declining the proposition," independently of the one which had been prominently stated, but it was expressly asserted, as the belief of the President, “that any attempt to refer this question to a third Power would only involve it in new difficulties.”
The Undersigned will however proceed to state a simple reason, which, apart from the intrinsic difficulty of selecting a suitable arbitrator, as well as other considerations that might be adduced, is conclusive on the mind of the President against a reference of this question to arbitration in any form which can be devised, no matter what may be the character of the arbitrator—whether sovereign, citizen, or subject. This reason is, that he does not believe the territorial rights of this nation to be a proper subject for arbitration. It may be true that, under peculiar circumstances, if the interest at stake were comparatively small, and if both parties stood upon an equal footing, there might be no insuperable objection to such a course. But what is the extent of territory in dispute on the present occasion ? It embraces nearly thirteen degrees of latitude along the north-west coast of the Pacific, and stretches eastward to the summit of the Rocky Mountains. Within its limits several powerful and prosperous States of the Union may be embraced. It lies contiguous, on this continent, to the acknowledged territory of the United States, and is destined, at no distant day, to be peopled by our citizens. This territory presents the avenue through which the commerce of our Western States can be profitably conducted with Asia and the western coasts of this continent, and its ports, the only harbours belonging to the United States to which our numerous whalers and other vessels in that region can resort. And yet, vast as are its dimensions, it contains not a single safe and commodious harbour from its southern extremity until we approach the 49th parallel of latitude.
It is far from the intention of the Undersigned again to open the discussion of the conflicting claims of the two Powers to the Oregon Territory. It is sufficient for him to state the continued conviction of the President, that the United States hold the best title in existence to the whole of this territory. Under this conviction he cannot consent to jeopard for his country all the great interests involved, and by any possibility, however remote, to deprive the Republic of all the good harbours on the coast, by referring the question to arbitration.
Neither is the territory in dispute of equal, or nearly equal, value to the two Powers. Whilst it is invaluable to the United States, it is of comparatively small importance to Great Britain. To her Oregon would be but a distant colonial possession of doubtful value, and which, from the natural progress of human events, she would not probably long enough enjoy to derive from it essential benefits; whilst to the United States it would become an integral and essential portion to the Republic. The gain to Great Britain, she would never sensibly feel, whilst the loss to the United States would be irreparable.
The Undersigned is perfectly aware that such considerations can have no bearing upon the question of the title of either party. They are presented solely for the purpose of explaining the views of the President in his refusal to adopt any measure which should withdraw our title from the control of the Government and the people of the United States, and place it within the discretion of any arbitrator, no matter how intelligent and respectable.
The President cordially concurs with the Government of Great Britain in desiring that the present controversy may be amicably adjusted. Of this he has given the strongest proof before the whole world. He believes that as there are no two nations on the earth more closely bound together by the ties of commerce, so there are none who ought to be more able or willing to do each other justice, without the interposition of any arbitrator. The Undersigned, &c.,
(Signed) JAMES BUCHANAN.
Foreign Office, March 3, 6 P. M., 1846. SINCE my preceding despatch of this day's date, was written, I have received your despatch of 5th February with its inclosure, by which you put me in possession of the final rejection by the United States Government, of our proposal of a reference of the Oregon Question to arbitration.
There is of course no time before the departure of the mail of this evening, for the consideration of so serious a question as that which is involved in the President's decision as now announced.
I am, &c., (Signed) ABERDEEN.