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CAPTAIN Prevost, the British commissioner, (1) left England in H.M.S. Satellite, steamer, at the close of December, 1856, leaving Captain Richards, his assistant-commissioner, and the chief astronomer and surveyor of the British Commission, to follow him in H.M.S. Plumper, steamer, it being intended that the last-mentioned officer should survey and draw up a chart of the channels and islands between the continent and Vancouver's Island.
Captain Prevost arrived in the Harbour of Esquimault, Vancouver's Island, on the 12th June, 1857, but Captain Richards, in consequence of an accident to the machinery of H.M.S. Plumper, did not arrive until near the end of the year. (2) Mr. Campbell, the United States commissioner, (3) having the United States surveying steamer Active, Captain Alden commander, and the United States brig Fauntleroy, placed under his orders, for the purpose of making such hydrographical surveys as might be required, left New York on the 20th April, and arrived at Victoria, Vancouver's Island, on the 22nd June, 1857.
The joint commission held its first meeting on the 27th June, 1857,0) on board H.M.S. Satellite, in
(1) American State Papers, p. 8. (2) Idem, p. 9.
(4) Idem, p. 48.
(*) Idem, p. 8.
the Harbour of Esquimault, when the commissioners exhibited their respective commissions, which were read, and, according to a minute made by Mr. Campbell, were found to be in due form. The commissioners then discussed their future plans, and agreed to proceed to Point Roberts, towards the north of the Gulf of Georgia, in the neighbourhood of which, it was stated, the initial points of the boundary line might be expected to be found.
On the 17th July, 1957, a second meeting of the joint commission was held on board H.M.S. Satellite, in the Harbour of Nanaimo, on the south-east of Vancouver's Island, when an adjournment was found necessary in consequence of the non-arrival of H.M.S. Plumper. The third meeting took place on the 26th October, 1857, on board H.M.S. Satellite, in Simiahmoo Bay, on the coast of British Columbia, near Point Roberts, when the British commissioner, Captain Prevost, stated that as he had verified the general accuracy of the United States Coast Survey Chart, dated 1854, he was willing to take that chart as the chart upon which the general character of the boundary line should be determined, leaving the correct tracing of that line to be subsequently carried out by the surveying officers.
The first article of the treaty of 18.16 was then read and discussed, (1) Captain Prevost arguing that Rosario Strait was the only channel which would the answer the language of the treaty, and Mr. Campbell stating that in his opinion the boundary line should
(1) American State Papers, pp. 48, 49.
pass through the Canal de Haro. The fourth meeting of the joint commission was held on the 27th October, 1857, on board H.M.S. Satellite, in Simiahmoo Bay, when another discussion took place, Captain Prevost pointing out that the Rosario Strait was the channel preferred by vessels sailing through the waters between Vancouver's Island and the mainland.
On the following day Captain Prevost proceeded to put the substance of his views on the boundary question into writing, in a letter addressed to Mr. Campbell, which was as follows:0
“Her Britannic Majesty's ship Satellite, “ Simiahmoo Bay, Gulf of Georgia, Oct. 28, 1857. “SIR,—With reference to the various consultations we have had as to the direction in which the boundary line should run through the channel separating the continent from Vancouver's Island, at and to the southward of the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude into the Straits of Juan de Fuca, and from thence to the Pacific Ocean, I have the honour to communicate to you in writing the views I entertain on the subject.
“ 2. As the water boundary line to be determined is described in the first article of the treaty between Great Britain and the United States of 15th June, 1846, it, in my opinion, clearly follows that the direction in which the said line is to be traced should alone be sought in the words of that treaty. I will here quote them so far as they relate to the particular line of water boundary :
* The line of boundary between the territories of Her Britannic Majesty and those of the United States shall be continued westward along the said forty-ninth parallel of north latitude to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver's Island, and thence southerly through the middle of the said channel and of Fuca Straits
(1) American State Papers, p. 10.
to the Pacific Ocean; provided, however, that the navigation of the whole of the said channel and straits south of the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude remain free and open to both parties.
“3. Now upon reference to the chart it will be found, what indeed is the fact, that at the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude there is only one navigable channel lying between the continent and Vancouver's Island. This channel is commonly called the Gulf of Georgia, and in its open waters will be found the initial point of boundary line. From this point there can be but little difficulty in carrying the boundary line, according to the words of the treaty, southerly through the middle of the said channel to about 48° 45' of north latitude. Here the waters are studded with islands, through which, it is generally admitted, two navigable passages are to be found. One is now commonly designated the Rosario Strait, and is situated near the continent; the other is called the Canal de Arro, and is found nearer to Vancouver's Island. Through which of these two channels the boundary line should pass may at first sight appear a matter of doubt, but the precise wording of the treaty, I think, sufficiently determines it. The line is to be carried through the middle of a navigable channel separating the continent from Vancouver's Island, and the only navigable channel separating the continent from Vancouver's Island at this position is the channel generally called the Rosario Strait. Therefore, my entire conviction is that the boundary line should be carried through those waters known as the Gulf of Georgia into the Rosario Strait, to the Straits of Fuca, and thence to the Pacific Ocean.
“4. By a careful consideration of the wording of the treaty it would seem distinctly to provide that the channel mentioned should possess three characteristics :—1st. It should separate the continent from Vancouver's Island. 2nd. It should admit of the boundary line being carried through the middle of it in a southerly direction. 3rd. It should be a navigable channel. To these three peculiar conditions the channel known as the Rosario Strait most entirely answers.
“ 5. It is readily admitted that the Canal de Arro is also a navigable channel, and therefore answers to one characteristic of the channel of the treaty ; although I may as well here mention, that from the rapidity and variableness of its currents, and from its being destitute of anchorages, except at extreme ends, it is unsuitable for sailing vessels, and would scarcely ever be used by them so long as the passage through the Rosario Strait remained available, as the currents in that Strait being generally regular, and the anchorages convenient and secure, it is by far the more navigable channel of the two. But the Canal de Arro will not meet the two remaining characteristics of the channel of the treaty. It literally and geographically does not separate the continent from Vancouver's Island, that continent having already been separated by another navigable channel, the Rosario Strait; and further, it will be found, on tracing the line of boundary according to the literal wording of the treaty, which appears to me peculiarly precise and clear, that the line to reach the Canal de Arro must proceed for some distance in a westerly direction, for which deviation from a southerly direction no provision is made in the treaty. I, therefore, am unable to admit that the Canal de Arro is the channel of the treaty.
“6. Having thus frankly communicated in writing the views that I have already expressed to you verbally, I shall feel indebted to you if you will be so good as to favour me in like manner with your views on the subject, in order that I may devote to them every consideration and reflection.
“ With the greatest respect and esteem, I beg you will allow me to subscribe myself “Your most obedient and humble servant,
.“ JAMES C. PREVOST.”
It will be seen that in this letter the British commissioner did not adopt the lucid argument stated by Lord Clarendon in his instructions of the 20th December, 1856, but founded his opinions (as