Page images

possess without any special confirmation) the right freely to use and navigate the strait throughout its extent. After further describing the proposal, Mr. McLane adds, that he has reason to know that it is not an ultimatum, but that Mr. Pakenhain would have no authority to modify it without consulting his Government, and he expressed also the confident opinion that it will not be possible to obtain the extension of the forty-ninth parallel to the sea, so as to give the southern cape of Vancouver's Island to the United States.

“In conformity with the expectation of Mr. McLane, the British proposal was sent to Mr. Pakenham by the steamer of May 19, and on the 6th of June it was presented by Mr. Pakenham to Mr. Buchanan. The proposal thus made was precisely the present treaty of 1846. On the 10th of June it was laid before the Senate by the President, with a request for their advice as to the action which, in their judgment, it may be proper to take in reference to it. On the 12th of June the Senate adopted a resolution advising the President 'to accept the proposal of the British Government.' Four days after the treaty was sent to the Senate for its approval, and on the 18th of June it was ratified in the precise form in which it came from the British Government.

“From this narrative, whatever may be said of the language which the negotiators of the Oregon treaty employed, to give effect to their intentions, there can be no doubt, it seems to me, as to the boundary which they had in view. The great controversy was ended on the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude. It is at this parallel that the boundary begins in the first article. It is this boundary which controls the British right of navigation, on the great branch of the Columbia River,' in the second article. It is this parallel which is referred to also in the third article in connection with the possessory rights of the Hudson's Bay Company. It is this parallel, moreover, which has been the basis of every Oregon negotiation which has ever been undertaken by either country. It was adopted at last in 1846, and now remains, with a single exception, the undisputed north-western boundary of the

United States. Had Vancouver's Island never existed, this exception would have been neither proposed nor conceded ; but the boundary of forty-nine would have run directly to the ocean. Great Britain urged, however, that a divided jurisdiction on this island might be a source of constant difficulty to both countries; and since by far the larger part of it was north of the line, she insisted that the line should be deflected far enough to the south to leave the whole of it in her possession. Even this claim was strenuously resisted, and the United States endeavoured for a long time to avoid it by offering to concede the freedom of the harbours in the southern part of the island, instead of conceding the territory itself. Great Britain, however, refused to yield, and the deflection was finally adopted. It was adopted for the single purpose of leaving Vancouver's Island undivided. This was all that the British Government claimed, and this was all that the American Government conceded. Mr. Buchanan had written to Mr. McLane, that, except for this purpose, the President would never consent to bring the British boundary a single inch below the parallel of 49°, and no other purpose than this was anywhere avowed. If the British Government had desired still other territory south of 49°, it is quite incredible that this desire should never have been announced. The geo. graphy of that region was less perfectly known at that time than it now is, but on all the maps the Canal de Haro, and the archipelago east of it, were laid down with sufficient accuracy. No claim was made, however, to the possession of these islands, and the very island of San Juan, which is now so highly estimated by the British Government, was suffered to pass unnoticed. There can be no reasonable doubt, therefore, that in the language employed by Senator Benton, in his speech in support of the treaty, the line established by that article [the 1st] . . . . follows the parallel of 49° to the sea, with a slight deflection to avoid cutting the south end of Vancouver's Island. This being established, it remains now to inquire in what manner the intention of those who negotiated the treaty was carried into effect.

“ With respect to that part of the line of boundary which, in the words of the treaty, 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,' there appears to be no dispute, and there is no conflict either as to that part of it which leads through the Straits of Fuca to the ocean. The only portion of it which is called in question is that which leads from the point of deflection on the forty-ninth parallel to Fuca Straits, and even here I am unable, I confess, to appreciate the difficulties by which Her Majesty's Government seems to be embarrassed. The words of the treaty are, * Through the middle of said channel and of Fuca's Straits to the Pacific Ocean.' Ordinarily, and in the absence of any other controlling circumstances, the way which would be selected from one given point to another would be the shortest and the best way. In the present case this is the Canal de Haro, which is, undoubtedly, the broadest, the deepest, and the shortest route by which the Straits of Fuca can be reached from the point of deflection. This preeminence was given to it by De Mofras as long ago as 1841, and it has been fully confirmed by subsequent surveys. The Canal de Haro may, therefore, be fairly regarded, from its own intrinsic merits merely, as the main channel down the middle of which the treaty boundary is to pass to the Straits of Fuca. It is the only channel, moreover, which is consistent with the purpose of those who negotiated the treaty, for it is the only channel which separates Vancouver's Island from the continent without leaving something more to Great Britain south of the forty-ninth parallel than the southern cape of that island. The Rosario Channel, claimed by Captain Prevost, would surrender to Great Britain, not only Vancouver's Island, but the whole archipelago between that island and itself; while the middle channel, which is proposed as a compromise by Lord John Russell, would in like manner concede the important island of San Juan. These considerations seem to be almost conclusive in favour of the Haro Channel. But they are abundantly confirmed by evidence contemporaneous with

the negotiation of the treaty. The description given by Mr. McLane, immediately after he had an interview on the subject with Lord Aberdeen, of what the British proposal would be, has already been mentioned, and carries the line in so many words down the Canal de Haro. Equally clear is the statement of Senator Benton as to what the proposition was. Colonel Benton was one of the most earnest members of the Senate in his support of the treaty, and he was better acquainted, perhaps, than any other member with the geography of the region in dispute. His construction, therefore, of the treaty, at the very time it was before the Senate for ratification, is entitled to no inconsiderable weight. On that occasion he said: “The first article is in the very words which I myself would have used, . . . and that article constitutes the treaty. With me it is the treaty. . . . . The great question was that of boundary. . . . . When · the line reaches the channel which separates Vancouver's Island from the continent .. . it proceeds to the middle of the channel, and thence turning south through the Channel de Haro (wrongly written Arro in the maps) to the Straits of Fuca. Mr. Buchanan, who signed the treaty, was equally explicit in his understanding of this part of it. In a letter to Mr. McLane, dated the 6th of June, 1846 (the very day on which the treaty was presented by Mr. Pakenham to Mr. Buchanan), a copy of which is now before me, he expressly mentions the Canal de Haro as the channel intended by the treaty; and subsequently, on the 28th of December, 1846, Mr. Bancroft having written to him on the subject from London, he enclosed to him a traced copy of Wilkes's chart of the Straits of Arro, and added in his letter: “It is not probable, however, that any claim of this character will be seriously preferred by Her Britannic Majesty's Government to any island lying to the eastward of the Canal de Arro, as marked in Captain Wilkes's map of the Oregon Territory. Mr. Bancroft, who was a member of President Polk's Cabinet when the treaty was concluded, wrote repeatedly to Lord Palmerston after receiving this chart, and

uniformly described the Straits of Arro as the channel through the middle of which the boundary is to be continued.' He seems at oue period to have been informed that the Hudson's Bay Company were inclined to encroach upon the islands east of the Haro Channel, and to claim them under the treaty, but he did not rely fully upon this information, and

the Ministry,' he said, "has, I believe, no such design. Some of its members would be the first to frown on it.' The Canal de Haro, then, as being the best channel leading from the point of deflection to the Straits of Fuca; as answering completely the purpose for which the deflection was made; as being the only channel between the island and the mainland which does answer this purpose, and as being supported, also, by a large amount of personal testimony contemporaneous with the treaty, must fairly be regarded, in my judgment, as the treaty channel. Nor are there any important difficulties which seem to me to be necessarily in conflict with this conclusion. Lord John Russell, indeed, says that it is beyond dispute that the intentions of the British Government were that the line of boundary should be drawn through Vancouver's Channel. But this assumption is wholly inconsistent, not only with the treaty itself, but with the statements both of the Earl of Aberdeen and of Sir Richard Pakenham. Lord Aberdeen declares that it was the intention of the treaty to adopt the mid channel of the straits as the line of demarcation, without reference to islands, the position of which, and indeed the very existence of which, had hardly at that time been accurately ascertained; and he has no recollection of any mention having been made during the discussion of any other channel than those described in the treaty itself.' Sir Richard Pakenham is still more explicit. Neither the Canal de Haro nor the Channel of Vancouver,' he says,

could, as I conceive, exactly fulfil the conditions of the treaty which, according to their literal tenor, would require the line to be traced along the middle of the channel, meaning, I presume, the whole intervening space which separates the continent from Vancouver's Island. He adds further, that he

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »