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what is more important, we have considered this boundary as
established by the treaty of Utrecht, at least on this side of the
Rocky Mountains. It was on the strength of this that we drove
back the British pretensions, after we had obtained Louisiana,
north, from the head-waters of the Mississippi to this parallel of
forty-nine. This is indubitable. We have acted, therefore, and
induced others to act, on the idea that this boundary is actu
ally established. It now so stands in the treaty between the
United States and England. If, on the general notion of conti
guity or continuity ) this line be continued "indefinitely west," or
is allowed to run to the " northwestern ocean," then it leaves on
our side the valley of the Columbia, to which, in my judgment,
our title is maintainable on the ground of Gray s discovery.
The government of the United States has never offered any line
south of forty-nine, (with the navigation of the Columbia,) and
it never will. It behooves all concerned to regard this as a set
tled point. With respect to the navigation of the Columbia,
permanently or for a term of years, that is all matter for just,
reasonable, and friendly negotiation. But the forty-ninth par
allel must be regarded as the general line of boundary, and not
to be departed from for any line farther south. As to all straits,
and sounds, and islands in the neighboring sea, all these are fair
subjects for treaty stipulation. If the general basis be agreed
to, all the rest, it may be presumed, may be accomplished by
the exercise of a spirit of fairness and amity.

And now, Mr. President, if this be so, why should this settle
ment be longer delayed? Why should either government hold
back longer from doing that which both, I think, can see must

VOL. v. 7


be done, if they would avoid a rupture ? Every hour s delay is
injurious to the interests of both countries. It agitates both, dis
turbs their business, interrupts their intercourse, and may, in
time, seriously affect their friendly and respectful feeling towards
each other. Having said this, Mr. President, my purpose is ful
filled. It would be needless, even if it were proper, to say more.
I consider the general sentiment of both countries as almost en
tirely concentrated on this line as the general basis of a line of
demarcation. As yet nothing has happened to touch the point
of honor of either government. Why, then, should not the pro
pitious moment be seized? It is not humiliation, it is not con
descension even, in either government, to do that now which it
sees it must do at some time, if it would avoid serious and
calamitous collision. Now, while there is no point of honor
raised, in correspondence or otherwise, between the two govern
ments, why should not both seize the auspicious moment ? Let
fairness and candor, and, I will add, prudence and foresight, rule
the hour. Let this controversy be settled, the sooner the better,
substantially, according to my judgment, in the manner in which
it must eventually be settled, and let the vast and useful inter
course between the two nations be set free from all alarm and

It would suit my views of what this occasion calls for, that
the measure under consideration* should be postponed for a
month, because I desire, if it can be done, that the negotiation
should close, and close favorably ; and so put an end to the
question of notice. I desire that more especially, because ev
ery one must see that, if forced to act here upon this notice, we
must, as a matter of course, call for all information not yet
transmitted to Congress similar in character to that which the
President has already sent us. I do not propose that, however.
I would not divide the Senate on such a proposition, but I
would suggest to those who have the conduct of this affair,
whether it is not every way better now to postpone this joint
resolution for some time, till some correspondence may take
place between the two governments, till there is opportunity for
the transmission of letters and despatches, and until it be seen
whether it will be necessary to give the notice at ah 1 . I say

* The notice to the British government that it is the intention of the govern
ment of the United States to terminate the Convention.


this because I have the fullest persuasion that notice will be no
aid to negotiation in the present circumstances of the country ;
and yet I am sorry to say that, if no agreement be come to,
and the matter is not speedily settled, there are strong considera
tions arising at home which may render it proper, in my judg
ment, to pass the notice. If I had the control of this measure,
or the conduct of it here, I should lay it on the table for a
month. But I have not that power of control. Gentlemen
must judge of the propriety of this suggestion according to their
own discretion. Of this, however, I suppose there is no doubt,
that, in the present circumstances of the case, the executive
government may feel that it is at this peculiar moment incon
venient to make this communication ; and I must presume in
convenient only because negotiations are resumed, or are ex
pected to be resumed. Inasmuch as that is the case, I hope my
honorable friend from Delaware will let his resolution lie infor
mally on the table.

After some remarks from Mr. Allen of Ohio, Mr. Webster said in re-

One word, Sir. It is very true that I have expressed myself
on this occasion with premeditated precision. It is an impor
tant question, respecting the intercourse of nations, in a consid
erable emergency between these two nations. It is of impor
tance to be precise, and I really do not think that it would be far
)ut of the way if other gentlemen sometimes would take the same
"are to make their expressions precise. The gentleman sees fit
to consider that this will be regarded as humiliation abroad,
humiliation on our part. I fancy not. I am quite apprehensive
that, if any countenance in Great Britain, be it high or low,
for any thing that has occurred here at this session, puts on a
pout, or a sarcastic smile, it is not more likely to be originated
by what has taken place on our side of this question than by
what may take place on the other.

One word upon a more important part of the case. The
gentleman says that I offer now the boundary of the Columbia.
Pray, Sir, let me be understood ; and such misapprehension of
my offer certainly shows that I was not far out of the road of
reason and propriety in stating what I intended to say to the
Senate in writing. What I have said, and took care to say with


precision, was this : First, that in my opinion, I lay down no
law, I say nothing ex cathedra, that, in my opinion, public
sentiment in both countries is strongly tending to a union upon
a settlement on the general basis of our offer of 1826. Now I
ask the Senator from Ohio if he does not think just so himself?

Mr. Allen having made one or two remarks expressive of dissent, Mr.
Webster resumed as follows :

Tf my opinion be so wide of the truth, and the opinion of the
country is not tending, as the gentleman says it is not, as I rep
resented it, then my opinion goes for nothing. Let him, how
ever, hear what I said, which I said with care and premedita
tion ; it is, that the line of the forty-ninth degree is the line of
demarcation on which, as a general basis, public opinion is set
tling. I do not say the precise basis, because I immediately add
ed, that, looking to the line of the forty-ninth degree as the line of
demarcation, the use of the Columbia River by England, perma
nently or for a number of years, and the use of the straits and
sounds in the adjacent sea, and the islands along the coast,
would all be matter of friendly negotiation. I have not recom
mended to our government one thing or another about allowing
England, for a term of years, the use of the Columbia River; not
at all. If the line of the forty-ninth degree be established as
the general line of demarcation, giving us a straight track from
the Lake of the Woods to the Pacific, I arn satisfied that the
government negotiate about what remains. But the Senator
and Senate will do me the justice to admit, that I said as plainly
as I could, and in as short a sentence as I could frame, that
England must not expect any thing south of the forty-ninth
degree. I may be mistaken, but it seems to me as clear as the
sun at noonday, that there is a tendency of opinion, moved by
a great necessity to settle this question, a strong tendency of
opinion, in this country, that we ought to stand by our offer of
1826 in its substance. Is not that just what was argued by the
gentleman from South Carolina* the other day? Is not that the
result of the discussion in which my friend from New Jersey f
took part, to prove that that was the extent of our claim, and
that the whole country knows it ? Now I think there are rea-

* Mr. Calhoun. f Mr. Dayton.


sons for that. But I rose merely to explain. I mean then to
say, for the sake of perfect distinctness I repeat it. that I am of
opinion that this matter must be settled upon the forty-ninth
parallel. Then as to the use of the Columbia River permanent
ly or for a term of years, and also in regard to all that respects
straits, and sounds, and islands in the neighboring seas, they
are fit subjects for negotiation. But that England must not ex
pect any thing south of the forty-ninth degree, and that the
people of the United States, by a great majority, are content
now to abide by what this government offered to England in


IN the course of the debates in Congress in the session of 1845-46
on the resolution for terminating the Convention for the joint occupancy
of the Oregon Territory, the treaty of Washington and the negotiation
which led to it were subjects of comment and animadversion in both
houses. The general principles upon which the negotiation had been
conducted on the part of the United States, as w T ell as the particular pro
visions of the treaty were found fault with. The American negotiator
(Mr. Webster) was charged with having failed, in several respects, to
assert the rights and protect the interests of the country. He was ac
cused of having unconstitutionally surrendered a portion of the State of
Maine to a foreign power, and of having accepted a line of boundary
between the United States and the British Provinces unfavorable to the
former. The mode was condemned in which the subject of the search
of vessels suspected of being engaged in the slave trade on the coast
of Africa was disposed of; and it was insisted, that no redress had
been obtained for the violation of the territorial rights of the United
States in the destruction of the " Caroline."

Not having been a member of the last Congress, Mr. Webster had
as yet had no favorable opportunity to undertake a vindication of the
treaty, which had been the subject of attack upon the grounds just indi
cated, from the time of its negotiation. The debate upon the Oregon
question furnished the occasion for such a defence. Mr. Dickinson, a
Senator from New York, in the publication of his speech on that subject,
referred to a speech of Mr. Charles J. Ingersoll, a member of the House
of Representatives from Pennsylvania, and quoted his words, as his au
thority for certain injurious statements in reference to the affair of the
Caroline. Mr. Webster felt called upon to repel the charge thus made
and vouched for, and availed himself of the opportunity to enter, in

* A Speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 6th and 7th of
April, 18-16.


the following speech, into a general history and defence of the negotia
tion and the treaty.

IT is altogether unexpected to me, Mr. President, to find it to
be my duty, here, and at this time, to defend the treaty of
Washington of 1842, and the correspondence accompanying the
negotiation of that treaty. It is a past transaction. Four years
almost have elapsed since the treaty received the sanction of the
Senate, and became the law of the land. While before the
Senate, it was discussed with much earnestness and very great
ability. For its ratification it received the votes of five sixths
of the whole Senate, a greater majority, I believe I may say,
than was ever before found for any disputed treaty. From that
day to this, although I had taken a part in the negotiation of
the treaty, and felt it to be a transaction with which my own
reputation was intimately connected, I have been willing to
leave it to the judgment of the nation. Some things, it is true,
had taken place, of which I have not complained, and do not
complain, but which, nevertheless, were subjects of regret. The
papers accompanying the treaty were voluminous. Their pub
lication was long delayed, waiting for the exchange of ratifica
tions ; and, when finally published, they were not distributed to
any great extent, or in large numbers. The treaty, meantime,
got before the public surreptitiously, and, with the documents,
came out by piecemeal. We know that it is unhappily true,
that, away from the large commercial cities of the Atlantic coast,
there are few of the public prints of the country which publish
official papers on such an occasion at length. I might have
felt a natural desire, that the treaty and the correspondence
should be known and read by every one of my fellow-citizens,
from East to West, and from North to South. Indeed, I did
feel such a desire. But it was impossible. Nevertheless, in
returning to the Senate again, nothing was further from my
purpose than to renew the discussion of any of the topics de
bated and settled at that time ; and nothing further from my ex
pectation than to be called upon by any sense of duty to my own
reputation, and to truth, to make now any observations upon
the treaty, or the correspondence.

But it has so happened, that, in the debate on the Oregon
question, the treaty, and I believe every article of it, and the
correspondence accompanying the negotiation of that treaty,


and I believe every part of it, have been the subject of dispar
aging, disapproving, sometimes contumelious remarks, in one
or the other of the houses of Congress. Now, with all my in
disposition to revive past transactions and make them the sub
jects of debate here, and satisfied, and indeed highly gratified,
with the approbation of the treaty so very generally expressed
by the country, at the time and ever since, I suppose that it
could hardly be expected, nevertheless, by any body, that I
should sit here from day to day, through the debate, and through
the session, hearing statements entirely erroneous as to matters
of fact, and deductions from these supposed facts quite as erro
neous, all tending to produce unfavorable impressions respecting
the treaty, and the correspondence, and every body who had a
hand in it, I say it could hardly be expected by any body that
I should sit here and hear all this, and keep my peace. The
country knows that I am here. It knows what I have heard,
again and again, from day to day ; and if statements wholly
incorrect are made here, and in my presence, without reply
or answer from me, why, shall we not hear in all the contests
of party and elections hereafter, that this is a fact, and that is
a fact, because it has been stated where and when an answer
could be given, and no answer was given ? It is my purpose,
therefore, to give an answer here, and now, to whatever has
been alleged against the treaty, or the correspondence.

Mr. President, in the negotiation of 1842, and in the corre
spondence, I acted as Secretary of State, under the direction, of
course, of the President of the United States. But, Sir, in mat
ters of high importance, I shrink not from the responsibility of
any thing I have ever done under any man s direction. Where-
over my name stands I am ready to answer it, and to de
fend that with which it is connected. I am here to-day to take
upon myself, without disrespect to the chief magistrate under
whose direction I acted, and for the purposes of this discussion,
the whole responsibility of every thing that has my name con
nected with it, in the negotiation and correspondence.

Sir, the treaty of Washington was not entered into to settle
any, or altogether for the purpose of settling any, new questions.
The matter embraced in that treaty, and in the correspondence
accompanying it, had been interesting subjects in our foreign
relations for fifty years, unsettled for fifty years, agitating and


annoying the counsels of the country, and threatening to dis
turb its peace for fifty years. My first duty, therefore, in enter
ing upon such remarks as I think the occasion calls for in re
gard to one and all of these topics, will be, to treat the subjects
historically, to show when each arose what has been its prog
ress in the diplomatic history of the country, and especially to
show in what posture each of those important subjects stood at
the time when General Harrison acceded to the ofiice of Presi
dent of the United States. This is my purpose. I do not in
tend to enter upon any crimination of gentlemen who have
filled important situations in the executive government in the
earlier, or in the more recent, history of the country. But I
intend to show, in the progress of this discussion, the actual po
sition in which things were left in regard to the topics embraced
by the treaty, and the correspondence attending its negotiation,
when the executive government devolved upon General Harrison,
and his immediate successor, Mr. Tyler.

Now, Sir, the first of these topics is the question of the north
eastern boundary of the United States. The general history of
that question, from the peace of 1783 to this time, is known to
all public men, of course, and pretty well understood by the
great mass of well-informed persons throughout the country.
I shall therefore state it quite brieily.

In the treaty of peace of September, 1783, the northern and
eastern, or perhaps, more properly speaking, the northeastern
boundary of the United States, is described as follows :

" From the northwest angle of Nova Scotia, namely, that angle which
is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of St. Croix River
to the Highlands ; along the said Highlands, which divide those rivers
that empty themselves into the River St. Lawrence from those which
fall into the Atlantic Ocean, to the northwesternmost head of Connecti
cut River ; thence, along the middle of that river, to the forty-fifth degree
of north latitude ; from thence, hy a line due west on said latitude,
until it strikes the River Iroquois or Cataraquy

u East, by a line to be drawn along the middle of the River St. Croix,
from its mouth in the Bay of Fuudy, to its source, and from its source
directly north to the aforesaid Highlands."

Such is the description of the northeastern boundary of the
United States, according to the treaty of peace of 1783. And
it is quite remarkable that so many embarrassing questions


should have arisen from these few lines, and have been matters
of controversy for more than half a century.

The first disputed question was, " Which, of the several rivers
running into the Bay of Fundy, is the St. Croix, mentioned in
the treaty ? " It is singular that this should be matter of dispute,
but so it was. England insisted that the true St. Croix was
one river ; the United States insisted it was another.

The second controverted question was, " Where is the north
west angle of Nova Scotia to be found ? "

The third, " What and where are the highlands, along which
the line is to run, from the northwest angle of Nova Scotia to
the northwesternmost head of Connecticut River ? "

The fourth, " Of the several streams which, flowing together,
make up Connecticut River, which is that stream which ought
to be regarded, as its northwesternmost head ? "

The fifth was, " Are the rivers which discharge their waters
into the Bay of Fundy rivers which fall into the Atlantic
Ocean, in the sense of the terms used in the treaty?"

The fifth article of the treaty between the United States and
Great Britain of the 19th of November, 1794, after reciting, that
doubts had " arisen what river was truly intended under the name
of the River St. Croix," proceeded to provide for the decision of
that question, by creating three commissioners, one to be ap
pointed by each government, and these two to choose a third ;
or, if they could not agree, then each to make his nomination,
and decide the choice by lot. The two commissioners agreed
on a third ; the three executed the duty assigned them, decided
what river was the true St. Croix, traced it to its source, and
there established a monument. So much, then, on the eastern
line was settled ; and all the other questions remained wholly
unsettled down to the year 1842.

But the two governments continued to pursue the important
and necessary purpose of adjusting boundary difficulties ; and a
convention was negotiated in London, by Mr. Rufus King and
Lord Hawkesbury, and signed on the 12th day of May, 1803,
by the second and third articles of which it was agreed, that a
commission should be appointed in the same manner as that
provided for under the treaty of 1794 ; to wit, one commissioner
to be appointed by England, and one by the United States, and
these two to make choice of a third; or, if they could not agree,


each to name the person he proposed, and the choice to be de
cided by lot; this third commissioner, whether appointed by
choice or by lot, would, of course, be umpire or ultimate arbiter.

Governments, at that day, in disputes concerning territorial
boundaries, did not set out each with the declaration that the
whole of its own claim was " clear and unquestionable." What
ever was seriously disputed they regarded as in some degree,
at least, doubtful or disputable ; and when they could not agree,
they saw no indignity or impropriety in referring the dispute to
arbitration, even though the arbitrator were to be appointed by
chance from among respectable persons named severally by the

The commission thus constituted was authorized to ascertain
and determine the northwest angle of Nova Scotia ; to run and
mark the line from the monument, at the source of the St. Croix,
to that northwest angle of Nova Scotia ; and also to determine
the northwesternmost head of Connecticut River ; and then to
run and mark the boundary line between the northwest angle of
Nova Scotia and the said northwesternmost head of Connecti
cut River ; and the decision and proceedings of the said com
missioners, or a majority of them, were to be final and con

No objection was made by either government to this agree
ment and stipulation ; but an incident arose to prevent the final
ratification of this treaty, and it arose in this way. Its fifth
article contained an agreement between the parties settling the
line of boundary between them beyond the Lake of the Woods.
In coming to this agreement they proceeded, exclusively, on the
grounds of their respective rights under the treaty of 1783 ; but
it so happened that, twelve days before the convention was
signed in London, France, by a treaty signed in Paris, had
ceded Louisiana to the United States. This cession was ai
once regarded as giving to the United States new rights, or new
limits, in this part of the continent. The Senate, therefore,
struck this fifth article out of the convention ; and as England
did not incline to agree to this alteration, the whole convention

Here, Sir, the whole matter rested till it was revived by the
treaty of Ghent, in the year 1814. By the fifth article of that
treaty it was provided, that each party should appoint a com-


missioncr, and that those two should have power to ascertain
and determine the boundary line, from the source of the St.
Croix to the St. Lawrence River, according to the treaty of
1783 ; and if these commissioners could not agree, they were to
state their grounds of difference, and the subject was to be re
ferred to the arbitration of some friendly sovereign or state, to
be afterwards agreed upon by the two governments. The two
commissioners were appointed, explored the country, and ex
amined the boundary, but could not agree.

In the year 1823, under the administration of Mr. Monroe,

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