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This document shows that the contracting parties were quite unaware of the importance of the question, and were not accurately acquainted with the geography of the district with which they were dealing.
It appears that at the time this treaty was made (1) only one of the two straits above mentioned had been surveyed and used, viz., the Rosario Strait, and it would certainly seem to be the natural view to take of the intention of the negotiators of the treaty, that the word "channel " therein used had reference to that strait.
Some time elapsed before any attempt was made to carry out the terms of the treaty, and to mark out the boundary line therein stipulated.
A survey of the so-called Gulf of Georgia was, however, set on foot by the British Government, but the same does not appear to have proceeded with very great rapidity.
At length, after some correspondence on the subject between the two Governments, Mr. Crampton, the then British Minister at Washington, was instructed to propose that Commissioners should be appointed for the purpose of carrying down such parts of the boundary line as should, on consultation, seem advisable to the two Governments. Accordingly, on the 13th January, 1848, he wrote to Mr. Buchanan a letter, from which the following is an extract :(9)—
“ From the lake of the woods to the Gulf of Georgia
(1) American State Papers, p. 42; Letter of Crampton.
the line is described by the treaty of 15th June, 1846, as running along the forty-ninth parallel of latitude, and the ascertainment of that parallel on the surface of the ground being an operation of astronomical observation, can be accomplished with as much precision at a future time as at present.
“But between the Gulf of Georgia and the Straits of Fuca, the line is less distinctly and accurately defined by the verbal description of the treaty by which it is established, and local circumstances render it probable that if this part of the line were not to be precisely determined, the uncertainty as to its course might give rise to disputes between British subjects and citizens of the United States. It appears, therefore, to Her Majesty's Government, that it would be wise to proceed forth with to take measures for marking out that portion of the line of boundary.
“For this purpose, Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that it might probably be sufficient that each Government should appoint a naval officer of scientific attainments, and of conciliatory character, and that those officers should be directed to meet at a specified time and place, and should proceed in concert to lay down the above-mentioned portion of the boundary line.
“ The first operation of these officers would be to determine with accuracy the point at which the forty-ninth parallel of latitude strikes the eastern shore of the Gulf of Georgia, and to mark that point by a substantial monument.
“ From that point, they would have to carry on the line along the forty-ninth parallel of latitude, to the centre of the channel between Vancouver's Island and the continent; and this point, as it probably cannot be marked out by any object to be permanently fixed on the spot, should be ascertained by the intersection of the cross-bearings of natural cr artificial landmarks.
“ The two officers would then have to carry on the line down the centre of that channel, and down the centre of the Straits of Fuca to the ocean. And this water-line must, as it
would seem, be determined also by a series of points, to be ascertained by the intersection of cross-bearings.
“But in regard to this portion of the boundary line, a preliminary question arises, which turns upon the interpretation of the treaty, rather than upon the result of local observation and survey.
• The convention of the 15th June, 1816, declares that the line shall be drawn through the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver's Island; and upon this may be asked what the word "channel' was intended to mean ?
“Generally speaking, the word channel,' when employed in treaties, means a deep and navigable channel. In the present case it is believed that only one channel—that, namely, which was laid down by Vancouver in his charthas, in this part of the gulf, been hitherto surveyed and used; and it seems natural to suppose that the negociators of the Oregon convention, in employing the word "channel,' had that particular channel in view.
“ If this construction be mutually adopted, no preliminary difficulty will exist, and the Commissioners will only have to ascertain the course of the line along the middle of that channel, and along the middle of the Straits of Fuca, down to the sea.
“ It is, indeed, on all accounts, to be wished that this arrangement should be agreed upon by the two Governments, because, otherwise, much time might be wasted in surveying the various intricate channels, formed by the numerous islets which lie between Vancouver's Island and the mainland, and some difficulty might arise in deciding which of those channels ought to be adopted for the dividing boundary.
“ The main channel marked in Vancouver's chart is, indeed, somewhat nearer to the continent than to Vancouver's Island, and its adoption would leave on the British side of the line rather more of those small islets with which that part of the gulf is studded than would remain on the American side. But these islets are of little or no value, and the only large
and valuable island belonging to the group-namely, that called Whidbey's—would, of course, belong to the United States.
“ This question being, as I have already said, one of interpretation rather than of local observation, it ought, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, to be determined before the Commissioners go out, which cannot be earlier than spring next year.
A draught copy of the instructions proposed by Great Britain to be given to the Commissioners, it appointed, was enclosed in the above letter, and it appears to have been in the following words:(1)
“Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States, having determined to appoint Commissioners for the purpose of marking out that part of the line of boundary between the British and United States possessions in North America, which passes through the Gulf of Georgia and Fuca Straits to the Pacific Ocean, I have to acquaint you, &c., &c.
“ The first article of the treaty of the 15th of June, 1816, between Great Britain and the United States, provides as follows:
“ From the point on the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude, where the boundary laid down in existing treaties and conventions between Great Britain and the United States terminates, 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, to the Pacific Ocean : Provided, however, that the navigation of the whole of the said channel and strait, south of the fortyninth parallel of north latitude, remain free and open to both parties.
(") American State Papers, p. 42.
“ The first operation, which, in conjunction with the United States Commissioners, you will have to undertake, in tracing the above mentioned boundary line, will be to determine with accuracy the point at which the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude strikes the eastern shore of the Gulf of Georgia, and to mark that point by a substantial monument.
“ From that point you will carry on the line of boundary, along the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude to the middle of the channel between Vancouver's Island and the continent; the whole breadth of the Gulf of Georgia in this part being, as far as is known, navigable. The term middle of the channel,' used in the treaty, may here be assumed to mean the middle of the gulf; but it is probable that the point which constitutes the middle of the gulf cannot well be marked out by any object to be fixed permanently on the spot, it must be ascertained and fixed by the intersection of the cross - bearings of natural or artificial landmarks. This matter the Commissioners will have to settle by mutual agreement; but it will be essential that the point in question should be marked out as accurately as the nature of things will admit.
“ You will then proceed to carry on the line of boundary, from this point down the middle of the Straits of Fuca to the ocean.
In tracing and marking out this continuation of the boundary, the water-line must, probably, still be determined by a series of points, to be ascertained by the intersection of cross-bearings.
"In performing this operation it will, of course, be desirable to observe as much accuracy as may be attainable ; but, independently of the impossibility of arriving at mathematical precision in such matters, such precision is the less important, because the treaty stipulates that the navigation of the whole of the channel of the Gulf of Georgia, and of the Straits of Fuca, shall remain free and open to both parties.
“That part of the channel of the Gulf of Georgia which lies nearly midway between the forty-eighth and forty-ninth parallels of north latitude appearing, by Vancouver's chart, to