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defence of the State. Major- General Scott had repaired to the
frontier, and under his mediation an agreement, a sort of treaty,
respecting the temporary possession by the two parties of the
territory in dispute, was entered into between the Governors of
Maine and New Brunswick. But as it could not be foreseen
how long the principal dispute would be protracted, Mr. Fox, as
has already been seen, wrote home for instructions for another
treaty, a treaty of less dignity, a collateral treaty, a treaty to
regulate the terms of possession, and the means of keeping the
peace of the frontier, while the number of years should roll
away, necessary, first, to spin out the whole thread of diplomacy
in framing a convention ; next, for three or four years of joint
exploration of seven hundred miles of disputed boundary in the
wilderness of North America ; and, finally, to learn the results
of an arbitration which was to sit at Frankfort on the Maine,
composed of learned doctors from the German universities.

Really, Sir, is not this a most delightful prospect ? Is there
not here as beautiful a labyrinth of diplomacy as one could wish
to look at, of a summer s day ? Would not Castlereagh and
Talleyrand, Nesselrode and Metternich, find it an entanglement
worthy the labor of their own hands to unravel ? Is it not ap
parent, Mr. President, that at this time the adjustment of the
question, by this kind of diplomacy, if to be reached by any
vision, required telescopic sight ? The country was settling ;
individual rights were getting into collision ; it was impossible
to prevent disputes and disturbances ; every consideration re
quired that whatever was to be done should be done quickly ;
and yet every thing, thus far, had waited the sluggish flow of the
current of diplomacy. Labilur et labetur.

I have already stated, that on the receipt of Mr. Forsyth s
last counter-plan, or counter-project, Lord Palmerston, at last,
paused. The British government appears to have made up its
mind that nothing was to be expected, at that time, from pursuing
further this battledore play of projets and contre-projets. What
occurred in England we collect from the published debates of the
House of Commons. From these we learn, that after General
Harrison s election, and, indeed, after his death, and in the first
year of Mr. Tyler s Presidency, Lord Palmerston wrote to Mr.
Fox as follows :

t; Her Majesty s government received, with very great regret, the sec-


ond American counter-draft of a convention for determining the boun
dary between the United States and the British North American Provin
ces, which you transmitted to me last autumn, in your despatch of the
15th of August, 1840, because the counter-draft contained so many
inadmissible propositions, that it plainly showed that her Majesty s gov
ernment could entertain no hope of concluding any arrangement on this
subject with the government of Mr. Van Buren, and that there was no
use in taking any further steps in the negotiations till the new President
should come into power. Her Majesty s government had certainly been
persuaded that a draft which, in pursuance of your instructions, you
presented to Mr. Forsyth, on the 28th of July, 1840, was so fair in
its provisions, and so well calculated to bring the differences between
the two governments about the boundary to a just and satisfactory
conclusion, that it would have been at once accepted by the govern
ment of the United States ; or that, if the American government had
proposed to make any alterations in it, those alterations would have re
lated merely to matters of detail, and would not have borne upon any
essential points of the arrangement ; and her Majesty s government
were the more confirmed in this hope, because almost all the main prin
ciples of the arrangement which that draft was intended to carry into
execution had, as her Majesty s government conceived, been cither
suggested, or agreed to, by the United States government itself."

Lord Palmerston is represented to have said, in this despatch,
of Mr. Forsyth s counter-project, that he "cannot agree " to the
preamble ; that he "cannot consent" to the second article; that
lie " must object to the fourth article" ; that the " seventh article
imposed incompatible duties " ; and to every article there was an
objection, stated in a different form, until he reached the tenth,
and as to that. " none could be more inadmissible."

This was the state of the negotiation a few days before Lord
Palmerston s retirement. But, nevertheless, his Lordship would
make one more attempt, now that there was a new administra
tion here, and he would submit " new proposals." And what
were they ?

" And what does the House think," said Sir Robert Peel, in the House
of Commons, " were the noble Lord s proposals in that desperate state
of circumstances ? The proposal of the noble Lord, after fifty-eight
years of controversy, submitted by him to the American government
for the purpose of a speedy settlement, was that commissioners should
be nominated on both sides ; that they should attempt to make settle
ment of this long disputed question; and then, if that failed, that


the king of Prussia, the king of Sardinia, and the king of Saxony
were to be called in, not to act as umpires, but they were each to be re
quested to name a scientific man, and that these three members of a sci
entific commission should proceed to arbitrate. Was there ever a prop
osition like this suggested for the arrangement of a question on which
two countries had differed for fifty-eight years ? And this, too, was pro
posed after the failure of the arbitration on the part of the king of Hol
land, and when they had had their commission of exploration in vain.
And yet, with all this, there were to be three scientific men, foreign pro
fessors, one from Prussia, one from Sardinia, and one from Saxony !
To do what ? And where were they to meet ; or how were they to
come to a satisfactory adjustment ? "

It was asked in the House of Commons, not inaptly, What
would the people of Maine think, when they should read that
they were to be visited by three learned foreigners, one from
Prussia, one from Saxony, and one from Sardinia ? To be
sure, what would they think, when they should see three learned
foreign professors, each speaking a different language, and none
of them the English or American tongue, among the swamps
and morasses of Maine in summer, or wading through its
snows in winter, on the Allegash, the Maguadavic, or among
the moose deer, on the precipitous and lofty shores of Lake Po-
henagamook, and for what ? To find where the division was,
between Maine and New Brunswick! Instructing themselves
by these labors, that they might repair to Frankfort on the
Maine, and there hold solemn and scientific arbitration on the
question of a boundary line, in one of the deepest wildernesses
of North America!

Sir, I do not know what might have happened, if this project
had gone on. Possibly, Sir, but that your country has called
you to higher duties, you might now have been at Frankfort on
the Maine, the advocate of our cause before the scientific arbi
tration. If not yourself, some one of the honorable members
here very probably would have been employed in attempting to
utter in the heart of Germany the almost unspeakable names
bestowed by the Northeastern Indians on American lakes and
streams. Mr. Fox, it is said, on reading his despatch, replied,
with characteristic promptitude and good sense, " For Heaven s
sake, save us from the philosophers ! Have sovereigns, if you
please, but no professional men."


But Mr. Fox was instructed, as it now appears, to renew his
exertions to carry forward the arbitration. " Let us," said Lord
Palmerston, in writing to him, "let us consider the American
contre projet as unreasonable, undeserving of answer, as with
drawn from consideration, and now submit my original projet
to Mr. Webster, the new Secretary of State, and persuade him
it is reasonable."

But with all respect, Sir, to Lord Palmerston, Mr. Webster
was not to be so persuaded ; that is to say, he was not to be per
suaded that it was reasonable, or wise, or prudent, to pursue the
negotiation in this form further. He hoped to live long enough
to see the northeastern boundary settled ; but that hope was
faint, unless he could rescue the question from the labyrinth of
projects and counter-projects, explorations and arbitrations, in
which it was involved. He could not reasonably expect that he
had another half-century of life before him.

Mr. President, it is true that I viewed the case as hopeless,
without an entire change in the manner of proceeding. I found
the parties already " in wandering mazes lost." I found it quite
as tedious and difficult to trace the thread of this intricate ne
gotiation, as it would be to run out the line of the Highlands
itself. One was quite as full as the other of deviations, abrupt
nesses, and perplexities. And having received the President s *
authority, I did say to Mr. Fox, as has been stated in the Brit
ish Parliament, that I was willing to attempt to settle the dis
pute by agreeing on a conventional line, or line by compromise.

Mr. President, I was fully aware of the difficulty of the
undertaking. I saw it was a serious affair to call on Maine to
come into an agreement, by which she might subject herself to
the loss of territory which she regarded as clearly her own. The
question touched her proprietary interests, and, what was more
delicate, it touched the extent of her jurisdiction. I knew well
her extreme jealousy and high feeling on this point, f But I be-

* Mr. Tyler.

f It is now well known, that in 1832 an agreement was entered into between
some of the heads of department at Washington, namely, Messrs. Livingston,
McLane, and Woodbury, under the direction of President Jackson, on the part
of the United States, and Messrs. Preble, Williams, and Emery, on the part of
the government of Maine, by which it was stipulated that Maine should surren
der to the United States the territory which she claimed beyond the line desig
nated by the King of the Netherlands, and receive, as an indemnity, ONE MIL
LION of acres of the public lands, to be selected by herself, in Michigan. The

VOL. V. 9


lieved in her patriotism, and in her willingness to make sacrifices
for the good of the country. I trusted, too, that her own good
sense would lead her, while she doubtless preferred the strict
execution of the treaty, as she understood it, to any line by
compromise, to see, nevertheless, that the government of the
United States was already pledged to arbitration, by its own
proposition and the agreement of Great Britain ; that this arbi
tration might not be concluded and finished for many years, and
that, after all, the result might be doubtful. With this reliance
on the patriotism and good sense of Maine, and with the sanc
tion of the President, I was willing to make an effort to estab
lish a boundary by direct compromise and agreement, by acts
of the parties themselves, which they could understand and
judge of for themselves, by a proceeding which left nothing to
the future judgment of others, and by which the controversy
could be settled in six months. And, Sir, I leave it to the Sen
ate to-day, and the country always, to say how far this offer
and this effort were wise or unwise, statesmanlike or unstates-
manlike, beneficial or injurious.

Well, Sir, in the autumn of 1841 it was known in England
to be the opinion of the American government, that it was not
advisable to prosecute further the scheme of arbitration; that
that government was ready to open a negotiation for a conven
tional line of boundary ; and a letter from Mr. Everett, dated on
the 31st of December, announced the determination of the Brit
ish government to send a special minister to the United States,
authorized to settle all matters in difference, and the selection
of Lord Ashburton for that trust* This letter was answered,
on the 29th of January, by an assurance that Lord Ashbur
ton would be received with the respect due to his government
and to himself, f Lord Ashburton arrived in Washington on
the 4th of April, 1842, and was presented to the President on
the 6th.

On the llth, a letter was written from the Department of
State to the Governor of Maine, announcing his arrival, and
his declaration that he had authority to treat for a conventional

existence of this treaty was not known for some time, and it was never ratified
by the high contracting parties.

* The letter of Mr. Everett referred to will be found among the Diplomatic
Papers, in the sixth volume.

f See the letter, in the sixth volume.


line of boundary, or line by agreement, on mutual conditions,
considerations, and equivalents.*

The Governor of Maine was informed, that,

" Under these circumstances, the President has felt it to be his duty
to call the serious attention of the governments of Maine and Massachu
setts to the subject, and to submit to those governments the propriety of
their cooperation, to a certain extent and in a certain form, in an endeav
or to terminate a controversy already of so long duration, and which
seems very likely to be still considerably further protracted before the
desired end of a final adjustment shall be attained, unless a shorter
course of arriving at that end be adopted than such as has heretofore
been pursued, and as the two governments are still pursuing

" The opinion of this government upon the justice and validity of the
American claim has been expressed at so many times, and in so many
forms, that a repetition of that opinion is not necessary. But the subject
is a subject in dispute. The government has agreed to make it matter
of reference and arbitration ; and it must fulfil that agreement, unless
another mode of settling the controversy should be resorted to with the
hope of producing a speedier decision. The President proposes, then,
that the governments of Maine and Massachusetts should severally ap
point a commissioner or commissioners, empowered to confer with the
authorities of this government upon a conventional line, or line by agree
ment, with its terms, conditions, considerations, and equivalents, with an
understanding that no such line will be agreed upon without the assent
of such commissioners.

" This mode of proceeding, or some other which shall express assent
beforehand, seems indispensable, if any negotiation for a conventional
line is to be attempted ; since, if happily a treaty should be the result of
the negotiation, it can only be submitted to the Senate of the United
States for ratification."

A similar letter was addressed to the Governor of Massachu
setts. The Governor of Maine, now an honorable member of
this house,f immediately convoked the legislature of Maine, by
proclamation. In Massachusetts the probable exigency had
been anticipated, and the legislature had authorized the Govern
or, now my honorable colleague here,J to appoint commission
ers on behalf of the Commonwealth. The legislature of Maine
adopted resolutions to the same effect, and duly elected four
commissioners from among the most eminent persons in the

* See the letter, in the sixth volume.

f Mr. Fairfield. J Mr. John Davis.


State, of all parties ; and their unanimous consent to any pro
posed line of boundary was made indispensable. Three distin-
cniished public men, known to all parties, and having the confi
dence of all parties in any question of this kind, were appointed
commissioners by the Governor of Massachusetts.

Now, Sir, I ask, Could any thing have been devised fairer,
safer, and better for all parties than this? The States were
here by their commissioners ; Great Britain was here by her
special minister, and the Canadian and New Brunswick author
ities within reach of the means of consultation ; and the govern
ment of the United States was ready to proceed with the im
portant duties it had assumed. I put the question to any man
of sense, whether, supposing the real object to be a fair, just,
convenient, prompt settlement of the boundary dispute, this
state of things was not more promising than all the schemes of
exploration and arbitration, and all the tissue of projects and
counter-projects, with which the two governments had been
making themselves strenuously idle for so many years. Nor
was the promise not fulfilled.

It has been said, absurdly enough, that Maine was coerced
into a consent to this line of boundary. What was the coer
cion ? Where was the coercion ? On the one hand, she saw
an immediate and reasonable settlement; on the other hand, a
proceeding sure to be long, and its result seen to be doubtful.
Sir, the coercion was none other than the coercion of duty, good
sense, and manifest interest. The right and the expedient
united, to compel her to give up the wrong, the useless, the in

Maine was asked to judge for herself, to decide on her own
interests, not unmindful, nevertheless, of those patriotic consider
ations which should lead her to regard the peace and prosperity
of the whole country. Maine, it has been said, was persuaded
to part with a portion of territory by this agreement. Persuad
ed! Why, Sir, she was invited here to make a compromise, to
give and to take, to surrender territory of very little value for
equivalent advantages, of which advantages she was herself to
be the uncontrolled judge. Her commissioners needed no guar
dians. They knew her interest. They knew what they were
called on to part with, and the value of what they could obtain
in exchange. They knew, especially, that on the one hand was


immediate settlement, on the other, ten or fifteen years more of
delay and vexation. Sir, the piteous tears shed for Maine, in
this respect, are not her own tears. They are the crocodile tears
of pretended friendship and party sentimentality. Lamenta
tions and griefs have been uttered in this Capitol about the
losses and sacrifices of Maine, which nine tenths of the people
of Maine laugh at. Nine tenths of her people, to this day,
heartily approve the treaty. It is my full belief, that there are
not, at this moment, fifty respectable persons in Maine who
would now wish to see the treaty annulled, and the State re
placed in the condition in which it was. with Mr. Van Buren s
arbitration before it, and inextricably fixed upon it. by the
plighted faith of this government, on the 4th of March, 1841.

Sir, the occasion called for the revision of a very long line of
boundary ; and what complicated the case, and rendered it more
difficult, was, that the territory on the side of the United States
belonged to no less than four different States. The establish-


ment of the boundary was to affect Maine, New Hampshire,
Vermont, and New York. All these States were to be satisfied,
if properly they could be. Maine, it is true, was principally
concerned. But she did not expect to retain all that she called
her own, and yet get more, and still call it compromise and
an exchange of equivalents. She was not so absurd. I regret
some things which occurred ; particularly, that, while the com
missioners of Maine assented, unanimously, to the boundary
proposed, on the equivalents proposed, yet, in the paper in
which they express that assent, they seem to argue against
the act which they were about to perform. This, I think, was a
mistake. It had an awkward appearance, and probably gave rise
to whatever of dissatisfaction has been expressed in any quarter.
And now, Sir, I am prepared to ask whether the proceeding
adopted, that is, an attempt to settle this long controversy by
the assent of the States concerned, was not wise and discreet,
under the circumstances of the case ? Sir, the attempt succeed
ed, and it put an end to a controversy which had subsisted, with
no little inconvenience to the country and danger to its peace,
through every administration from that of General Washington
to that of Mr. Van Buren. It is due to truth and to the occa
sion to say, that there were difficulties and obstacles in the way
of this settlement, which had not been overcome under the ad-


ministration of Washington, or the elder Adams, or Mr. Jef
ferson, or Mr. Madison, or Mr. Monroe, or Mr. John Quincy
Adams, or General Jackson, or Mr. Van Buren. In 1842, in the
administration of Mr. Tyler, the dispute was settled, and settled

Sir, whatever may be said to the contrary, Maine was no
loser, but an evident gainer, by this adjustment of boundary.
She parted with some portion of territory ; this I would not un
dervalue ; but certainly most of it was intrinsically worthless.
Captain Talcott s report, and other evidence, sufficiently estab
lish that fact*

Maine having, by her own free consent, agreed to part with
this portion of territory, received, in the first place, from the
treasury of the United States, one hundred and fifty thousand
dollars, for her half of the land, a sum which I suppose to be
much greater than she would have realized from the sale of it
in fifty years. No person, well informed on the subject, can
doubt this. In the next place, the United States government
paid her for the expenses of her civil posse to defend the State,
and also for the surveys. On this account she has already
received two hundred thousand dollars, and hopes to receive
eighty or one hundred thousand dollars more. If this hope shall
be realized, she will have received four hundred and fifty thou
sand dollars in cash.

But Maine, I admit, did not look, and ought not to have
looked, to the treaty as a mere pecuniary bargain. She looked
at other things than money. She took into consideration that
she was to enjoy the free navigation of the River St. John. I
thought this a great object at the time the treaty \vas made ;
but I had then no adequate conception of its real importance.
Circumstances which have since taken place show that its ad
vantages to the State are far greater than I then supposed.
That river is to be free to the citizens of Maine for the trans
portation down its stream of all unmanufactured articles what
ever. Now what is this River St. John? We have heard a
vast deal lately of the immense value and importance of the
River Columbia and its navigation ; but I will undertake to say,
that, for all purposes of human use, the St. John is worth a

* See the letter of Captain Talcott, in the sixth volume.


hundred times as much as the Columbia is, or ever will be. In
point of magnitude, it is one of the most respectable rivers on
the eastern side of this part of America. It is longer than the
Hudson, and as large as the Delaware. And, moreover, it is a
river which has a mouth to it, and that, in the opinion of the
member from Arkansas,* is a thing of some importance in the
matter of rivers. It is navigable from the sea, and by steam
boats, to a greater distance than the Columbia. It runs through
a good country, and its tributaries afford a communication with
the Aroostook valley. I will leave it to the member from
Maine to say whether that valley is not one of the finest and
most fertile parts of the State. I will leave it not only to
him, but to any man at all acquainted with the facts, whether
this free navigation of the St. John has not, at once, greatly
raised the value of the lands on Fish River, on the Allegash, the
Madawaska, and the St. Francis. That whole region has no
other outlet, and the value of the lumber which has, during this
very year, been floated down that river, is far greater than that
of all the furs which have descended from Fort Vancouver to
the Pacific.

On this subject I am enabled to speak with authority, for it
has so happened that, since the last adjournment of the Senate,
I have looked at an official return of the Hudson s Bay Com
pany, showing the actual extent of the fur trade in Oregon, and
I find it to be much less than I had supposed. An intelligent
gentleman from Missouri estimated the value of that trade,
west of the Rocky Mountains, at three hundred thousand dol
lars annually ; but I find it stated in the last publication by Mr.
McGregor, of the Board of Trade in England, (a very accu
rate authority,) that the receipts of the Hudson s Bay Company

Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 10 of 53)