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concurs also with Lord John Russell, that after the gradual disappearance, one after another, of so many of these points of difference which have disturbed the relations of the two countries, no reasonable doubt should be entertained that this new question which has arisen will, in like manner, be amicably adjusted. It is impossible, however, to reconcile these just and friendly sentiments of his lordship with the declaration which is made in another part of the same despatch, that the British Government is already determined, under any circumstances whatever, to maintain its right to the island of San Juan:- The interests at stake in connection with the retention of that island are too important, it is said, “to admit of compromise, and your lordship will consequently bear in mind that, whatever arrangement as to the boundary line is finally arrived at, no settlement of the question will be accepted by Her Majesty's Government which does not provide for the island of San Juan being reserved to the British Crown.'
“If this declaration is to be insisted on, it must terminate the negotiation at its very threshold; because this Government can permit itself to enter into no discussion with that of Great Britain, or any other power, except upon terms of perfect equality. And when Her Majesty's Government declares that it will never yield its right to the Island of San Juan, this Government has only to declare a similar determination on the part of the United States, in order to render any further discussion of the subject entirely fruitless. I cannot persuade myself, however, that any such result as this was contemplated by Her Majesty's Government, or that the United States could have been expected to enter upon a negotiation where its own claim was excluded in advance, and the only adjustment possible was that claimed by the opposite party. But for this confidence which he feels in the good intentions of Her Majesty's Government, the President, I am instructed to say, would not feel himself at liberty to entertain the proposition of Lord John Russell, even for the purpose of discussion; and it is only because he believes that the objectionable declaration by which it is accompanied will receive a prompt
explanation or withdrawal, that he has instructed me to offer some observations in respect to it.
“The proposition being a proposition of compromise, assumes, of course, that the difference between the two Governments, as to the meaning of the treaty, in that part of it which is in controversy, is wholly irreconcilable. The President is not prepared, however, to reach this conclusion until every reasonable effort has been exhausted to avoid it, and he cannot help expressing his regret that the British Government should have thought it necessary to abandon the treaty line for a line purely arbitrary, before any discussion whatever had been had on the subject with the United States. It is quite true that the Commissioners of the two countries, who were appointed in 1856, failed to reach an agreement as to the water boundary between Vancouver's Island and the continent, but this very failure may have been induced by the conviction-with which the British Commissioner seems to have entered upon
his work—that a disagreement was inevitable. Such a result was even contemplated in the original instructions under which Captain Prevost commenced his labours, and he was authorised, in view of it, to propose the very compromise which is now suggested by Lord John Russell, while he appears to have received substantially the same caution with respect to the island of San Juan, which is given to Lord Lyons in the annexed despatch. Without entering into any comment upon the peculiar character of these instructions, or undertaking to determine how far they influenced the course of the British Commissioner, I think they are calculated to explain, in some measure, the failure of the commission, and to justify the hope which the President still entertains, that the true line of the treaty may yet be agreed upon by the two Governments. The treaty provides that the boundary line 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 said channel, and of Fuca Straits, to the Pacific Ocean; provided, however, that the navigation of the whole
of said channel and straits south of the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude remains free and open to both parties.'
“It is much to be regretted, undoubtedly—inasmuch as the present controversy has arisen—that there was not annexed to the treaty of 1846 any map or chart by which the true meaning of the expressions made use of in this article could be authori. tatively ascertained. Unquestionably, however, this subject was occasioned, and the terms of the article are less precise than they would otherwise have been, in consequence of the conviction of the negotiators of the treaty that their purpose in framing it was too clear to be misunderstood; and that, when this purpose was known, two great nations could never enter into conflict about the collocation of words, or the signification of a doubtful phrase. In this belief, I am persuaded that the negotiators were only just to their respective Governments, and that, if the purpose of the article can be at once determined in harmony with the general tenor of its language, this discussion will be for ever terminated. It is to this inquiry, therefore, that I shall first address myself.
“ The Oregon negotiation, which resulted in the treaty of 1846, originally involved, as you are aware, the whole of that territory west of the Rocky Mountains, between the parallels of 42° and 54° 40' north latitude, which is now occupied south of the British line by the State of Oregon and the Territory of Washington. When President Polk came into office, in 1845, he found this whole region still in the joint occupation of the United States and Great Britain, under the treaty of 1827. Repeated efforts had been made to accomplish an amicable division of the territory between the two countries upon the basis of the parallel of 49°, and a proposition for the compromise was actually pending in Washington when Mr. Polk became President. Under these circumstances he felt himself bound to continue the negotiation, although in his inaugural address he had declared his full conviction that we had a clear title to the whole territory. He repeated the offer, therefore, which Great Britain had previously declined, to adopt the parallel of 49o as the boundary between the United States and
that Government, and he offered in addition to make free to Great Britain any port or ports on Vancouver's Island, south of that parallel, which the British Government might desire. In his note of July 12, 1845, announcing to Mr. McLane, who was then the American Minister, that this offer had been made, Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary of State, took care to explain that it was only made by the President in deference to the repeated action of his predecessors, and that, with a single exception, it was to be regarded as the ultimatum of this Government. “From what has been said,' he writes, you will perceive how perfectly impossible it is for the President to accept any ternis of compromise which would bring the British south of the parallel of 499, and this you may intimate to the British Ministers in conversation, should you deem it wise under the circumstances. The only exception to this rule which could possibly be made might be the concession for an adequate equivalent of the small cape of Vancouver's Island south of this latitude. The offer, however, was rejected by the British Minister in Washington, and was immediately withdrawn, Great Britain being informed at the same time that it would not be renewed, and that no further proposition would be made by the United States. It remained for the British Government, therefore, to determine what other steps, if any, should be taken to continue the negotiation. The first proposal which was then made was a proposal for arbitration, and this was declined by the President, for the avowed reason, among others, that its acceptance might possibly result in bringing the British possessions below the parallel of 49o. Meanwhile a resolution was passed by the Senate, advising the President to give the necessary notice to terminate the treaty of 1827 —which provided for the joint occupancy of Oregon-and this notice was given.
“ In this serious condition of affairs renewed efforts were made through Mr. McLane, in London, to induce the President to repeat his offer of July 12, which had been rejected by Mr. Pakenham, without any reference of it to his Government, but the President refused to change his position. In
reference, however, to that or any similar offer which might be made by Great Britain, he made no secret of the course which he might be expected to pursue. 'He could not now authorise,' Mr. Buchanan wrote to Mr. McLane, on the 29th January, 1846, 'the conclusion of a treaty on that basis. But the Senate, his constitutional advisers, are now in session. The question of peace or war may be involved in the issue.
In deference to the Senate, under these circumstances, he would in the first instance feel it to be his duty to submit such a proposition for their previous advice. The President will accept nothing less than the whole territory, unless the Senate should otherwise determine. The only question which he will decide is, whether the new proposition, should any such be made, be of a character to justify its submission to the Senate for their previous advice. With these views before him, and which were communicated to Her Majesty's Government, Mr. McLane was authorised to receive and transmit to his Government any proposition which Lord Aberdeen might make to him for that purpose; but the negotiation was in no event to be transferred to London. On the 15th of May the proposition seems to have been determined on by Great Britain, and Mr. McLane was then for the first time informed of it. I had a lengthened conference with Lord Aberdeen,' he wrote to Mr. Buchanan on the 18th of May,
on which occasion the resumption of the negotiation for the amicable settlement of the Oregon question, and the nature of the proposition he contemplated submitting for that purpose, formed the subject of a full and free conversation. I have now to state that instructions will be transmitted to Mr. Pakenham by the steamer of to-morrow, to submit a new and further proposition on the part of this Government, for the partition of the territory in dispute. The proposition most probably will offer substantially, first, to divide the territory by the extension of the parallel of 49° to the sea—that is to say, to the arm of the sea called Birch's Bay—thence by the Canal de Haro and Straits of Fuca, to the ocean, and confirming to the United States (what indeed they would