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Further, the command of these two channels would give to the United States the entire control of the communications of our colonies on the mainland with the Pacific, which must be made through the Straits of San Juan da Fuca by one of the channels above mentioned, the northern passage, viá Queen Charlotte's Sound, being narrow, intricate, and perilous in the extreme.
The Island of San Juan has, for the reasons given above, been aptly termed “the Cronstadt of the Pacific.” Its conformation is such that a few batteries, skilfully placed, would render it almost impregnable. Imagine the position. Victoria, the capital, with the adjacent harbour of Esquimault, cut off from communication with British Columbia, and the Canadas, or “ the Dominion,” cut off from the seaboard of the Pacific !
There are at this period four railroad routes (one completed and three projected) on the continent of North America, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. They run throughout their entire course within United States territory.
Consider the exclusiveness, the protective policy, the jealousy of British commerce, evinced by the people of the United States, and, I would ask, is it probable that, when British trade has established a route through United States territory from west to east, from London to China and Japan and Australia, it will be allowed to pass free of impost by the United States ?
Do we now compete on equal terms with the
merchants and manufacturers of the United States ? Is not a tariff imposed on our goods entering United States territory which is intended to be absolutely exclusive ? Do the lessons of the past or present teach us to confide in the generosity and magnanimity of future legislators ? Is it not the duty, the interest, of Great Britain, to establish a route at any cost through her own territory, and shower down the rich blessings of her trade upon her own rather than upon the subjects of another Government ?
Such a route was projected many years ago, running through some of the wealthiest territory in the world, capable of supplying us with corn at the cheapest rate; rich in coal, iron, copper, lead, and in gold; abounding with timber, stone, limestone, and brick clay; whose inhabitants enjoy a delightful and bracing climate, and in which it has been prophesied a race of men will grow up, vigorous, healthy, and energetic, to be the rulers of the destinies of the North American continent. Starting from the magnificent harbour of Halifax, the line would run to Quebec, along the northern shore of Lake Superior, between Lake Winnipeg and Fort Garry, to New Westminster, near the mouth of the Fraser river, on the Gulf of Georgia, or to Bute Inlet. To modern engineering the Rocky Mountains present no invincible yobstacle, and the projected line, shorter by some hundreds of miles than the present Pacific Railroad, would be the most direct route for the commerce between London and China, Corea, Japan, and the Eastern Archipelago.
Such an undertaking might relieve the overstocked labour market of England, and the workmen employed upon it would develop the resources of a territory which would afterwards become their own. But of what use such hopes as these, if the gate of the Pacific is to be closed to Great Britain and the Dominion by United States forts? Shut out from the Pacific, the territory of which I have spoken must perforce join its interests with those of the United States, and be added to the great protective federacy against the commercial energy of the people of Great Britain.
If British interests on the North Pacific coast of America are to be protected from the possibility of injury, the Island of San Juan will form a portion of British territory, and will be strongly and skilfully fortified.
Having endeavoured to depict the gravity and importance of my subject, I shall sketch the history of the dispute which has been termed the “San Juan Water Boundary Question.” I shall, wherever it is possible, allow the actors in the same to describe their deeds, and the views by which they were actuated, in their own language, occasionally drawing my own conclusions therefrom, and sometimes qualifying such descriptions when they appear to conflict with the information which I have been able to collect, both on the spot and since my return to this country.
The Haro Archipelago, or cluster of islands above mentioned, has been described by a Government official of the United States in the following words (V) :
“ The Haro Archipelago is bounded on the north by the Canal de Haro and the Gulf of Georgia, on the east by Rosario Strait, on the west by the Canal de Haro, on the south by the Straits of Fuca. It contains seven prominent islands—viz., San Juan, Waldron, Orcas, Shaws, Blakely, Decatur, and Lopez, besides many small ones, some of them scarcely large enough to be worthy of special notice. The combined area of the island is about 170 square miles.
“ The Archipelago occupies an important position in its relation to the other parts of this region. Lying just north of the eastern end of the Straits of Fuca, through which the currents of Paget Sound, and perhaps, also, of the Gulf of Georgia, flow during the rise and fall of the tides, it obstructs the currents flowing to and from the Gulf of Georgia, giving them various courses by deflection, and often producing, in many places, tide-rips sufficiently extensive to endanger small craft.
“The islands are separated by narrow, but very deep channels, so deep, indeed, that the largest class vessels can pass through almost any of them. This is the character of almost every narrow channel separating islands lying between the continent and Vancouver's Island, and has led many a sailor to compare these waters to the Straits of Magellan, where it is often difficult to find anchorage.
“ In circumnavigating the Archipelago, scarcely a harbour
(") American State Papers, p. 132.
is to be found capable of accommodating vessels of even ordinary size, although there are many places where anchorage may be found, and where vessels could lie in safety under the lee of some island during storms from certain quarters. But within the nest, as it were, there are some of the most beautiful harbours in the world. There is among them a perfect network of channels, all sufficiently deep to be navigated by the largest vessels, and unobstructed by rocks, except in a few localities, which are marked on the chart.
“Of the entire area of the islands, it is estimated that about sixty square miles is arable land, and about eighty square miles is pastoral land, covered with nutritious grass, which retains its verdure nearly throughout the year. The remainder is principally covered with forests of the coniferous trees of that region, consisting of fir, pine, and cedar, which, on some portions of the islands, attain great size and beauty. Part of that which is described as arable and pastoral land is also timbered to some extent, and would necessarily have to be cleared before the soil could be cultivated. The islands are well watered by lakes and running streams. Although the portion of open country is small, yet, distributed over the whole group, are patches of prairie land ; smooth swelling slopes and mountain sides, covered with luxuriant grass to their summits, giving to the wild and solitary tracts a pleasingly rural aspect.
66 A noticeable feature in the topography of these islands is the peculiarity that the mountains at the northern end are almost universally the most elevated, and gradually diminish in height toward the south.
« Another striking feature is that the southern slopes are almost invariably destitute of timber, but are covered with a luxuriant grass. This peculiarity is so striking as to attract the attention of all who traverse these waters; and in the spring time and early summer, when the grass is green, and the flowers are in bloom, the prospect is enchanting.
“The absence of trees in these localities may be attributed to the fact that the soil is very shallow, overlying masses of