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informing you, that having now made what seemed to me a most equitable and simple proposition, I reserved to myself, in the event of your non-acceptance of it, entire liberty of action either for the protection of British subjects and property, or of our claims to the sovereignty of the island, until they are settled by the North-western Boundary Comunission now existing, or by the respective Governments.
“I believe I have now given you the substance of our conversation, and have only to add my regret that you were not able to agree to a course which it appears to me would totally avoid the risk of a collision.
“The responsibility of any such catastrophe does not, I feel, rest on me or on Her Majesty's representative at Vancouver's Island. “I have the honour to be, sir, “ Your most obedient humble servant,
“GEOFFREY PAIPPS HORNBY,
“ Captain and Senior Officer.” “ Captain Geo. Pickett, “ Commanding Detachment of United States 9th Regiment."
The protest of Governor Douglas referred to in the letter, was as follows:(1)—
“By James Douglas, C.B., Governor and Commander-inChief in and over the colony of Vancouver's Island and its dependencies, Vice-Admiral of the same, &c.
“The sovereignty of the Island of San Juan, and of the whole of the Haro Archipelago, has always been undeviatingly claimed to be in the crown of Great Britain. Therefore, I, James Douglas, do hereby formally and solemnly protest against the occupation of the said island, or any part of the said archipelago, by any person whatsoever, for or on behalf of any other power, hereby protesting and declaring that the sovereignty thereof by right now is, and always hath been, in Her Majesty Queen Victoria, and her predecessors, kings of Great Britain.
(1) American State Papers, p. 157.
« Given under my hand and seal at Victoria, Vancouver's Island, on this second day of August, One thousand eight hundred and fifty-nine, and in the twenty-third year of Her Majesty's reign.
- JAMES DOUGLAS.”
To the conciliatory and reasonable offer of Captain Hornby, who had force at his disposal immeasurably superior to that of Captain Pickett, the following reply was made by the latter officer :(1)—
“ Military Post, Island of San Juan, W.7.,
“ August 3, 11 P.M. “SIR,-I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your cominunication of this date, in reference to the conversation which was held to-day between ourselves and Captains Prevost and Richards. Your recollection of said conversation seems to be very accurate. There is one point, however, which I dwelt upon particularly, and which I must endeavour, as the officer representing my Government, to impress upon you, viz., that as a matter of course, I, being here under orders from my Government, cannot allow any joint occupation until so ordered by my commanding officer, and that any attempt to make any such occupation as you have proposed, before I can communicate with General Harney, will be bringing on a collision which can be avoided by awaiting this issue. I do not for one moment imagine that there will any difficulty occur on this island which will render a military interference necessary; and I therefore deem it proper to state that I think no discredit can reflect upon us or our respective flags by remaining in our present positions until we have an opportunity of hearing from those higher in authority.
“ I hope most sincerely, sir, you will reflect on this, and hope you may coincide with me in my conclusion. Should you see fit to act otherwise, you will then be the person who will bring on a most disastrous difficulty, and not the United States officials.
(") American State Papers, p. 156.
“I have thus hurriedly answered your communication, in order to avoid any delay and its consequences. “I remain, with much respect, your obedient servant,
“ GEORGE E. PICKETT,
“ Captain 9th Infantry, Commanding Post. “ Captain G. Phipps Hornby, commanding H.B.M. “ Ship Tribune, Harbour of San Juan, Washington Territory.”
On the same date Captain Pickett wrote as follows to head-quarters :(1)
“ San Juan, W.T., Military Post,
“ August 3, 10 P.M. “ CAPTAIN, I have the honour to report the following circumstances :— The British ships, the Tribune, the Plumper, and the Satellite, are lying here in a menacing attitude. I have been warned off by the Hudson's Bay Company's agent; then a summons was sent to me to appear before a Mr. De Courcey, an official of Her Britannic Majesty. To-day I received the enclosed communications, and I also enclose my answer to the same.
“I had to deal with three captains, and I thought it better to take the brunt of it. They have a force so much superior to mine that it will be merely a mouthful for them ; still I have inforined them that I am here by order of my cominanding general, and will maintain my position if possible.
“They wish to have a co-joint occupation of the island; I decline anything of that kind. They can, if they choose, land at almost any point on the island, and I cannot prevent them. I have used the utmost courtesy and delicacy in my intercourse, and, if it is possible, please inform me at such an early hour as to prevent a collision. The utmost I could expect to-day was to suspend any proceeding till they have had time to digest a pill which I gave them. They wish to throw the onus on me, because I refused to allow them to land an equal force, and
(1) American State Papers, p. 153.
each of us to have military occupation, thereby wiping out both civil authorities. I say I cannot do so until I hear from the General.
“ I have endeavoured to impress them with the idea that my authority comes directly through you frorn Washington.
* The Pleiades left this morning for San Francisco with Colonel Hawkins. The excitement in Victoria and here is tremendous. I suppose some five hundred people have visited us. I have had to use a great deal of my peace-making disposition in order to restrain some of the sovereigns. Please to excuse this hasty, and I am almost afraid unintelligible letter, but the steamer is waiting, and I have been writing under the most unfavourable circumstances. I must add that they seem to doubt the authority of the General commanding, and do not wish to acknowledge his right to occupy the island, which they say is in dispute, unless the United States Government have decided the question with Great Britain. I have so far staved them off, by saying that the two Governments have, without doubt, settled this affuir. But this state of affairs cannot last; therefore, I must respectfully ask that an express be sent me immediately, on my future guidance. I do not think there are any moments to waste. In order to maintain our dignity we must occupy in force, or allow them to land an equal force, which they can do now, and possibly will do, in spite of my diplomacy.
“I have the honour to enclose all the correspondence which has taken place. Hoping that my course of action will meet with the approval of the General commanding, and that I may hear from him in regard to my future course at once, “I remain, Captain, your obedient servant,
“G. E. PICKETT,
“ Captain 9th Infantry, Commanding Post. “ Captain A. Pleasonton, Mounted Dragoons, Adjutant-General,
“ Departinent of Oregon, Fort Vancouver, W.T.”
Comment upon such a despatch from an officer
employed in transactions so important as these would be thrown away. I may, however, call attention to the fact that he stated, “I have endeavoured to impress them with the idea that my authority comes directly through you, from Washington," although he must have been aware that such was not the case. (1)
On the 6th of August the Assistant AdjutantGeneral of the Department of Oregon wrote, by order of General Harney, to Captain Pickett (2), approving the course the latter had pursued, and directing that no joint occupation, or any civil jurisdiction, by the British authorities, should be permitted on San Juan Island under any circumstances.
At the same time he enclosed the following communication from General Harney to Governor Douglas :)—
“Head-quarters, Department of “ Oregon, Fort Vancouver, W.T., August 6, 1859. “SIR, I have the honour to inform you of the receipt of an official copy of a protest made by you to the occupation of San Juan Island, in Puget Sound, by a company of United States troops under my command.
“This official copy was furnished by Captain Hornby, of Her Majesty's ship Tribune, to the United States officer in command at San Juan Island, Captain George Pickett, of the 9th Infantry of the American army, together with a communication threatening the joint occupation of San Juan Island by the forces of Her Majesty's ship Tribune, Plumper, and Sutellite, now in the harbour of that island by your orders.
“ As the military commander of the department of Oregon, assigned to that command by the orders of the President of
(2) Idem, p. 157.
(1) American State Papers, p. 158.
(3) Idem, p. 157.