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and pleasant waters may be much resorted to by her cruisers, but the place of refreshment, rendezvous, and, if need be, of refuge, will, because there can be no better, be Esquimault itself. Indeed, a fortified anchorage at San Juan island, for instance, would not be essentially nearer, and would no better overlook our harbours of Dungeness, Port Discovery, Sequin Harbour, Admiralty Inlet, Puget Sound, &c., than that of Esquimault.
“Neither does Great Britain need San Juan Island, nor any other island in the group, for the purpose of defending by fortifications her communications with the Gulf of Georgia.(1)
- 6 Such a system would demand numerous works to overlook the many navigable passages through the group, while the same naval force that will be indispensable for other purposes, will be precisely the best description of force for this defence, and for interception of, and resistance to, expeditions from our distant shores.
“ If, therefore, the Archipelago be assigned to Great Britain, it will hardly be the seat of any naval or military establishment. Possibly, with the growth of the country, some establishments there may be deemed to need slight defences against predatory raids, but nothing of that sort can occur within any reasonable time; and nothing is likely to happen in that way to bear upon our present question. But even if it be her wish to fortify them, her desire to retain the island arises, I am convinced, much less from a belief that such a military or naval station is necessary to her interest in that region, than from a knowledge that to us they will afford military advantages quite important, and not otherwise to be had.
" This leads me to remark, in the second place, that by the establishment of the division line between the two countries in the Straits of Haro, we shall, in some sort, have compensation for the advantages Great Britain enjoys by owning the whole of Vancouver's Island, and maintaining a predominant naval force at its southern extremity, since it
(4) I must beg respectfully to differ from this opinion. X
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will then be in our power to react with more or less effect, according to our energy and enterprise, upon these interior waters, by securely fortifying an anchorage at San Juan Island, or some other place close upon the Haro channel.
“ The presence, under the shelter of such fortifications, of fast armed steamers, would exercise an important influence upon the communications between the Straits of Fuca, and the Gulf of Georgia, Frazer River, &c., would at all times threaten and harass that communication, and completely command it whenever it should happen to be without the actual presence of a strong convoy.
“ It is easy to see that no such effects could be looked for, with the naval mastery against us, if our nearest fortified position were some forty or fifty miles distant from the main channel, which will be the case of the Rosario Strait is to become the boundary.
“My conclusions, from these and such like considerations, are, that the possession of the San Juan group of islands is strategically of high importance to us; that without this possession, there can be no escape or relief from the paralysis that adverse naval predominance will impose on our coasts and waters inside Cape Flattery; and that so far as considerations of a different nature admit, or can be materially aided by such influence, this importance can hardly have too much weight given to it.”
- It may be observed here, that the General, in stating that the island can be of no service to Great Britain, proceeds on the assumption that she would retain her naval supremacy.
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CHAPTER IV. The boundary line between the United States and the British possessions in North America has been defined by various treaties and conventions, including the unfortunate Ashburton treaty, by which Great Britain virtually ceded a large tract of valuable territory to the United States. The lands lying between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and between 42° and 54° 40' of north latitude, formed, during a long period, a kind of debatable ground, tu which claims were advanced by both countries..
The parties most deeply interested in the question of proprietorship were, on the part of Great Britain, the Hudson's Bay Company and the North-West Company. These companies depended for their existence upon the absolute and undivided possession of extensive wastes, forming a kind of preserve for the wild animals in whose furs they traded. Through these wastes their hunters, Indian and half-caste, roamed, and their agents, established in places available for trade, collected furs and forwarded them to the central depôts. Between the respective agents of these rival companies the fiercest animosities grew up, and numerous were the skirmishes and fights which took place between the hunters and Indians who owned allegiance to the Hudson's Bay Company and
those who were attached to the North-West Company. The latter was at length driven from the field, or merged into the former. These companies have been the pioneers on the part of Great Britain in the settlement of the north-west of America, just as the backwoodsmen have been the pioneers of the United States in the settlement of the west; and the occupation of the Hudson's Bay Company, or of the NorthWest Company, by their agents, must be taken as occupation by Great Britain.
In the year 1788, Lieutenant Meares, of the British navy, discovered and entered the mouth of a river (now called tbe Columbia) the head waters of which rise on the western declivities of the Rocky Mountains, within British territory, and which flows down south and west into the Pacific Ocean. About the year 1805, and in subsequent years, the British North-West Company established their posts on the main branch of the river, being induced to do so by the easy communication it gave them with the Pacific through a country at that time unsettled by any civilised power.
In the year 1792, Captain Gray, an American merchant captain, entered the mouth of the river, and, from the name of his vessel, it received the name of the Columbia River. In 1805-6, Captains Lewis and Clarke, Americans, descended the river from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, and passed the winter on its banks.
Subsequently a company of fur traders set up u trading settlement at the mouth of the river,
giving it the name of Astoria, and a small military post was established for its protection. This fort was in the possession of Great Britain at the conclusion of her war with the United States, commenced in 1812, and, being claimed on the part of the latter country, was given up to her under the first article of the treaty of Ghent, 1814, express reservation being made by Great Britain in respect of her claims to the whole of the territory surrounding the fort, and upon which territory the fort and settlement was then declared to be an encroachment. By the third article of the convention between the United States and Great Britain, in 1818, it was agreed as follows:
“ That any country that may be claimed by either party on the north-west coast of America, westward of the Stony Mountains, shall, together with its harbours, bays, and creeks, and the navigation of all rivers within the same, be free and open, for the term of ten years from the date of the signature of the present convention, to the vessels, citizens, and subjects of the two powers; it being well understood that this agreement is not to be construed to the prejudice of any claim which either of the two high contracting parties may have to any part of the said country; nor shall it be taken to affect the claims of any other power or state to any part of the said country; the only object of the high contracting parties in that respect being to prevent disputes and differences amongst themselves.”
The arguments, by which the claim of the United States to the territory which I have termed the debatable ground is supported, are thus put by a United States authority, Mr. Wheaton. (1)
() Wheaton's “ Elemen's of International Law.” 6 ! Edition, p. 229.