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for furs west of the Rocky Mountains, in 1828, is placed at one
hundred and thirty-eight thousand dollars. I do not know,
though the member from Missouri is likely to know, whether all
these furs are brought to Fort Vancouver ; or whether some of
them are not sent through the passes in the mountains to Hud
son s Bay ; or to Montreal, by the way of the north shore of
Lake Superior. I suppose this last to be the case. It is stated,
however, by the same authority, that the amount of goods

* Mr. Sevier.


received at Fort Vancouver, and disposed of in payment for
furs, is twenty thousand dollars annually, and no more.

Now, Sir, this right to carry lumber and grain and cattle to
the mouth of the River St. John, on equal terms with the Brit
ish, is a matter of great importance ; it brings lands lying on its
upper branches, far in the interior, into direct communication
with the sea. Those lands are valuable for timber now, and a
portion of them are the best in the State for agriculture. The
fact has been stated to me, on the best authority, that in the
Aroostook valley land is to be found which has yielded more
than forty bushels of wheat to the acre, even under the common
cultivation of new countries. I must, therefore, think that the
commissioners from Maine were quite right in believing that
this was an important acquisition for their State, and one worth
the surrender of some acres of barren mountains and impene
trable swamps.

But, Mr. President, there is another class of objections to this
treaty boundary, on which I wish to submit a few remarks. It
has been alleged, that the treaty of Washington ceded very im
portant military advantages on this continent to the British gov
ernment. One of these is said to be a military road between
the two Provinces of New Brunswick and Lower Canada ; and
the other is the possession of certain heights, well adapted, as is
alleged, to military defence. I think the honorable member
from New York, farthest from the chair,* said, that by the treaty
of Washington a military road was surrendered to England,
which she considered as of vital importance to her possessions
in America.

Mr. Dix explained that he had not spoken of a " military road" but
of a portion of territory affording a means of military communication
between two of her Provinces.

Well, it is the same thing, and we will see how the matter
stands. The honorable member says, that he said a means of
military communication, and not a military road. I am not a
military man, and therefore may not so clearly comprehend, as
that member does, the difference between a military road and a
means of military communication ; but I will read from the hon-

* Mr. Dix.


orable member s speech, which I have before me, understood to
have been revised by himself. The honorable member says :

" The settlement of the northeastern boundary, one of the most deli
cate and difficult that has ever arisen between us, affords a striking evi
dence of our desire to maintain with her the most friendly understand
ing. We ceded to her a portion of territory which she deemed of vital
importance as a means of military communication between the Canadas
and her Atlantic Provinces, and which will give her a great advantage
in a contest with us. The measure was sustained by the constituted au
thorities of the country, and I have no desire or intention to call its wis
dom in question. But it proves that we were not unwilling to afford
Great Britain any facility she required for consolidating her North Amer
ican possessions, acting in peace as though war was not to be expected
between the two countries. If w r e had cherished any ambitious designs
in respect to them, if we had had any other wish than that of continuing
on terms of amity with her and them, this great military advantage
would never have been conceded to her.

" On the other hand, I regret to say, that her course towards us has
been a course of perpetual encroachment. But, Sir, I will not look back
upon what is past for the purpose of reviving disturbing recollections."

I should be very glad if the honorable gentleman would show
how England derives so highly important benefits from the
treaty in a military point of view, or what proof there is that
she so considers the matter.

Mr. Dix here entered into some explanation of the advantage, in a
military point of view, supposed to have been gained by Great Britain
on the northeastern boundary ; and, in confirmation of his opinion, read
extracts from notes of debates in the British Parliament.

The passages which the honorable member has read, however
pertinent they may be to another question, do not touch the
question immediately before us. I understand quite well what
was said of the heights ; but nobody, so far as I know, ever
spoke of this supposed military road, or military communication,
as of any importance at all, unless it be in a remark, not very
intelligible, in an article ascribed to Lord Palmerston.

I was induced to refer to this subject. Sir, by a circumstance
which I have not long been apprised of. Lord Palmerston (if
he be the author of certain publications ascribed to him) says
that all the important points were given up by Lord Ash burton
to the United States. I might here state, too, that Lord Palm-


erston called the whole treaty " the Ashburton capitulation,"
declaring that it yielded every thing that was of importance to
Great Britain, and that all its stipulations were to the advantage
of the United States, and to the sacrifice of the interests of Eng
land. But it is not on such general, and, I may add, such un
just statements, nor on any off-hand expressions used in debate,
though in the roundest terms, that this question must turn. He
speaks of this military road, but he entirely misplaces it. The
road which runs from New Brunswick to Canada follows the
north side of the St. John to the mouth of the Madawaska, and
then, turning northwest, follows that stream to Lake Temis-
coata, and thence proceeds over a depressed part of the High
lands till it strikes the St. Lawrence one hundred and seventeen
miles below Quebec. This is the road which has been always
used, and there is no other.

I admit that it is very convenient for the British government
to possess territory through which they may enjoy a road ; it is
of great value as an avenue of communication in time of peace ;
but as a military communication it is of no value at all. What
business can an army ever have there ? Besides, it is no gorge,
no pass, no narrow defile, to be defended by a fort. If a fort
should be built there, an army could, at pleasure, make a detour
so as to keep out of the reach of its guns. It is very useful, I
admit, in time of peace. But does not every body know, mili
tary man or not, that unless there is a defile, or some narrow
place through which troops must pass, and which a fortification
will command, that a mere open road must, in time of war, be
in the power of the strongest? If we retained by treaty the
territory over w r hich the road is to be constructed, and war came,
would not the English take possession of it if they could ?
Would they be restrained by a regard to the treaty of Washing
ton ? I have never yet heard a reason adduced why this com
munication should be regarded as of the slightest possible ad
vantage in a military point of view.

But the circumstance to which I allude is, that, by a map
published with the speech of the honorable member from Mis
souri, made in the Senate, on the question of ratifying the
treaty,* this \vell-known and long-used road is laid down, prob-

* Mr. Benton.


ably from the same source of error which misled Lord Palmers-
ton, as following the St. John, on its south side, to the mouth
of the St. Francis ; thence along that river to its source, and
thence, by a single bound, over the Highlands to the St. Law
rence, near Quebec. This is all imagination. It is called the
"Valley Road." Valley Road indeed! Why, Sir, it is repre
sented as running over the very ridge of the most inaccessible
part of the Highlands ! It is made to cross abrupt and broken
precipices, two thousand feet high! It is, at different points of
its imaginary course, from fifty to a hundred miles distant from
the real road.

So much, Mr. President, for the great boon of military com
munication conceded to England. It is nothing more nor less
than a common road, along streams and lakes, and over a coun
try in great part rather flat. It then passes the heights to the
St. Lawrence. If war breaks out, we shall take it if we can,
and if we need it, of which there is not the slightest probability.
It will never be protected by fortifications, and never can be. It
will be just as easy to take it from England, in case of war, as
it would be to keep possession of it, if it were our own.

In regard to the defence of the heights, I shall dispose of that
subject in a few words. There is a ridge of highlands which
does approach the River St. Lawrence, although it is not true
that it overlooks Quebec; on the contrary, the ridge is at the
distance of thirty or forty miles.

It is very natural that military men in England, or indeed in
any part of Europe, should have attached great importance to
these mountains. The great military authority of England, per
haps the highest living military authority, had served in India
and on the European continent, and it was natural enough that
he should apply European ideas of military defences to America.
But they are quite inapplicable. Highlands such as these are
not ordinarily found on the great battle-fields of Europe. They
are neither Alps nor Pyrenees; they have no passes through
them, nor roads over them, and never will have.

Then there was another cause of misconception on this subject
in England. In 1839 an ex parte survey was made, as I have
said, by Colonel Mudge arid Mr. Featherstonhaugh, if survey it
could be called, of the region in the North of Maine, for the use
of the British government. I dare say Colonel Mudge is an in-


telligent and respectable officer ; how much personal attention he
gave the subject I do not know. As to Mr. Featherstonhaugh,
he has been in our service, and his authority is not worth a
straw. These two persons made a report, containing this very
singular statement : That in the ridge of highlands nearest to
the St. Lawrence there was a great hiatus in one particular
place, a gap of thirty or forty miles, in which the elevation did
not exceed fifty feet. This is certainly the strangest state
ment that ever was made.* Their whole report gave but one
measurement by the barometer, and that measurement stated
the height of twelve hundred feet. A survey and map were
made the following year by our own commissioners, Messrs.
Graham and Talcott, of the Corps of Topographical Engineers,
and Professor Renwick, of Columbia College. On this map,
the very spot where this gap was said to be situated is dotted
over thickly with figures showing heights varying from twelve
hundred to two thousand feet, and forming one rough and lofty
ridge, marked by abrupt and almost perpendicular precipices.
When this map and report of Messrs. Mudge and Feather-
stonhangh were published, the British authorities saw that this
alleged gap was laid down as an indefensible point, and it was
probably on that ground alone that they desired a line east of
that ridge, in order that they might guard against access of a
hostile power from the United States. But in truth there is no
such gap ; our engineers proved this, and we quite well under
stood it when agreeing to the boundary. Any man of common
sense, military or not, must therefore now see, that nothing can
be more imaginary or unfounded than the idea that any impor
tance attaches to the possession of these heights.

Sir, there are two old and well-known roads to Canada ; one
by way of Lake Champlain and the Richelieu, to Montreal.
This is the route which armies have traversed so often, in dif
ferent periods of our history. The other leads from the Kenne-
bec River to the sources of the Chaudiere and the Du Loup,
and so to Quebec. This last was the track of Arnold s march.
East of this, there is no practicable communication for troops
between Maine and Canada till we get to the Madawaska.
We had before us a report from General Wool, while this treaty

* See page 41 of their printed report.


was under negotiation, in which that intelligent officer declares
that it is perfectly idle to think of fortifying any point east of this
road. East of Arnold s track it is a mountain region, through
which no army can possibly pass into Canada. With General
Wool was associated, in this examination, Major Graham,
whom I have already mentioned. His report to General Wool,
made in the year 1838, clearly points out the Kennebec and
Chaudiere road as the only practicable route for an army be
tween Maine and Quebec. He was subsequently employed as
a commissioner in the ex parte surveys of the United States.
Being an engineer officer of high character for military knowl
edge and scientific accuracy, his opinion had the weight it
ought to have, and which will be readily given to it by all
who know him. His subsequent and still more thorough ac
quaintance with this mountain range, in its whole extent, has
only confirmed the judgment which he had previously formed.
And, Sir, this avenue to Canada, this practicable avenue, and
only practicable avenue east of that by way of Lake Cham-
plain, is left now just as it was found by the treaty. The treaty
does not touch it, nor in any manner affect it.

But I must go further. I said that the treaty of Washing
ton was a treaty of equivalents, in which it was expected that
each party should give something and receive something. I
am now willing to meet any gentleman, be he a military man
or not, who will make the assertion, that, in a military point of
view, the greatest advantages derived from that treaty are on
the side of Great Britain. It was on this point that I wished
to say something in reply to an honorable member from New
York,* who will have it that in this treaty England supposes
that she got the advantage of us. Sir, I do not think the mili
tary advantages she obtained by it are worth a rush. But even
if they were, if she had obtained advantages of the greatest val
ue, would it not have been fair in the member from New York
to state, nevertheless, whether there were not equivalent mili
tary advantages obtained, on our side, in other parts of the line ?
Would it not have been candid and proper in him, when ad
verting to the military advantages obtained by England, in a
communication between New Brunswick and Canada, if such

* Mr. Dickinson.
VOL. V. 10


advantages there were, to have stated, on the other hand, and
at the same time, our recovery of Rouse s Point, at the outlet
of Lake Charnplain ? an advantage which overbalanced all oth
ers, forty times told. I must be allowed to say, that I certain
ly never expected that a member from New York, above all
other men, should speak of this treaty as conferring military
advantages on Great Britain without full equivalents. I listened
to it, I confess, with utter astonishment. A distinguished Sena
tor from that State* saw at the time, very clearly, the advan
tage gained by this treaty to the United States and to New
York. He voted willingly for its ratification, and he never will
say that Great Britain obtained a balance of advantages in a
military point of view.

Why, how is the State of New York affected by this treaty ?
Sir, is not Rouse s Point perfectly well known, and admitted, by
every military man, to be the key of Lake Champlain ? It com
mands every vessel passing up or down the lake, between New
York and Canada. It had always been supposed that this
point lay some distance south of the parallel of 45, which was
our boundary line with Canada, and therefore \vas within the
United States ; and, under this supposition, the United States
purchased the land, and commenced the erection of a strong for
tress. But a more accurate survey having been made in 1818,
by astronomers on both sides, it was found that the parallel of
45 ran south of this fortress, and thus Rouse s Point, with the
fort upon it, was found to be in the British dominions. This
discovery created, as well it might, a great sensation here.
None knows this better than the honorable member from South
Carolina,! wno was then a ^ the head of the Department of
War. As Rouse s Point was no longer ours, we sent our engi
neers to examine the shores of the lake, to find some other place
or places which we might fortify. They made a report on their
return, saying that there were two other points some distance
south of Rouse s Point, one called Windmill Point, on the east
side of the lake, and the other called Stony Point, on the west
side, which it became necessary now to fortify, and they gave an
estimate of the probable expense. When this treaty was in pro
cess of negotiation, we called for the opinion of military men

* Mr. Wright. f Mr. Calhoun.


respecting the value of Rouse s Point, in order to see whether it
was highly desirable to obtain it. We had their report before us,
in which it was stated, that the natural and best point for the de
fence of the outlet of Lake Champlain was Rouse s Point. In
fact, any body might see that this was the case who would look
at the rnap. The point projects into the narrowest passage by
which the waters of the lake pass into the Richelieu. Any ves
sel, passing into or out of the lake, must come within point-
blank range of the guns of a fortress erected on this point; and
it ran out so far that any such vessel must approach the fort,
head on, for several miles, so as to be exposed to a raking fire
from the battery, before she could possibly bring her broadside
to bear upon the fort at all. It was very different with the points
farther south. Between them the passage was much wider ; so
much so, indeed, that a vessel might pass directly between the
two, and not be in reach of point-blank shot from either.

Mr. Dickinson of New York here interposed, to ask whether the
Dutch line did not give us Rouse s Point.

Certainly not. It gave us a semicircular line, running round
the fort, but not including what we had possessed before. And
besides, we had rejected the Dutch line, and the whole point
now clearly belonged to England. It was all within the British

I was saying that a vessel might pass between Windmill
Point and Stony Point, and be without the range of both,
till her broadside could be brought to bear upon either of
them. The forts would be entirely independent of each other,
and, having no communication, could not render each other
the least assistance in case of attack. But the military men
told us there was no sort of question that Rouse s Point was
extremely desirable as a point of military defence. This is
plain enough, and I need not spend time to prove it. Of one
thing I am certain, that the true road to Canada is by the
way of Lake Champlain. That is the old path. I take to my
self the credit of having said here, thirty years ago, speaking
of the mode of taking Canada, that, when an American woods
man undertakes to fell a tree, he does not begin by lopping off the
branches, but strikes his axe at once into the trunk. The trunk,
in relation to Canada, is Montreal, and the River St. Lawrence


down to Quebec; and so we found in the last war. It is not
my purpose to scan the propriety of military measures then
adopted, but I suppose it to have been rather accidental and un
fortunate that we began the attack in Upper Canada. It would
have been better military policy, as I suppose, to have pushed
our whole force by the way of Lake Champlain, and made a
direct movement on Montreal ; and though we might thereby
have lost the glories of the battles of the Thames and of Lun-
dy s Lane, and of the sortie from Fort Erie, yet we should have
won other laurels of equal, and perhaps greater value, at Mon
treal. Once successful in this movement, the whole country
above would have fallen into our power. Is not this evident to
every gentleman ?

Rouse s Point is the best means of defending both the ingress
into the lake, and the exit from it. And I say now, that on the
whole frontier of the State of New York, with the single excep
tion of the Narrows below the city, there is not a point of equal
importance. I hope this government will last for ever ; but if it
does not, arid if, in the judgment of Heaven, so great a calamity
shall befall us as the rupture of this Union, and the State of New
York shall thereby be thrown upon her own defences, I ask, Is
there a single point, except the Narrows, the possession of which
she will so much desire ? No, there is not one. And how did
we obtain this advantage for her? The parallel of 45 north
was established by the treaty of 1783 as our boundary with
Canada in that part of the line. But, as I have stated, that
line was found to run south of Rouse s Point. And how did
we get back this precious possession ? By running a semicircle
like that of the King of the Netherlands ? No ; we went back
to the old line, which had always been supposed to be the true
line, and the establishment of which gave us not only Rouse s
Point, but a strip of land containing some thirty or forty thou
sand acres between the parallel of 45 and the old line.

The same arrangement gave us a similar advantage in Ver
mont ; and I have never heard that the constituents of my friend
near me* made any complaint of the treaty. That State got
about sixty or seventy thousand acres, including several villages,
which would otherwise have been left on the British side of the

* Mr. Phelps.


line. We received Rouse s Point, and this additional land, as
one of the equivalents for the cession of territory made in Maine.
And what did we do for New Hampshire ? There was an an
cient dispute as to which was the northwesternmost head of the
Connecticut River. Several streams were found, either of which
might be insisted on as the true boundary. But we claimed
that which is called Hall s Stream. This had not formerly been
allowed ; the Dutch award did not give to New Hampshire
what she claimed; and Mr. Van Ness, our commissioner, ap
pointed under the treaty of Ghent, after examining the ground,
came to the conclusion that we were not entitled to Hall s
Stream. I thought that we were so entitled, although I admit
that Hall s Stream does not join the Connecticut River till after
it has passed the parallel of 45. By the treaty of Washington
this demand was agreed to, and it gave New Hampshire one
hundred thousand acres of land. I do not say that we obtained
this wrongfully ; but I do say that we got that which Mr. Van
Ness had doubted our right to. I thought the claim just, how
ever, and the line was established accordingly. And here let
me say, once for all, that, if we had gone for arbitration, we
should inevitably have lost what the treaty gave to Vermont and
New York; because all that was clear matter of cession, and
not adjustment of doubtful boundary.

I think that I ought now to relieve the Senate from any fur
ther remarks on this northeastern boundary. I say that it was
a favorable arrangement, both to Maine and Massachusetts, and
that nine tenths of their people are well satisfied with it ; and I
say also, that it was advantageous to New Hampshire, Ver
mont, and New York. And I say further, that it gave up no
important military point, but, on the contrary, obtained one
of the greatest consequence and value. And here I leave that
part of the case for the consideration of the Senate and of the

Here the Senate adjourned. On the following day, Mr. Webster re
sumed his speech as follows :

Yesterday I read from the proceedings in the British Parlia
ment an extract from a despatch of Lord Palmerston to Mr. Fox,
in which Lord Palmerston says that the British government, as
early as 1840, had perceived that they never could come to a


settlement of this controversy with the government of Mr. Van
Buren. I do not wish to say whether the fault was more on

Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 11 of 53)