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A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 3, part 2: Martin Van Buren online

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of the President's square and for the construction of a stone bridge
across Rock Creek, etc.


WASHINGTON, _January 18, 1841_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I herewith transmit to the Senate, in reply to their resolution of
the 20th of July last, a report from the Secretary of State, with
accompanying papers.[88]


[Footnote 88: Correspondence imputing malpractices to N.P. Trust,
American consul at Havana, in regard to granting papers to vessels
engaged in the slave trade, etc.]

WASHINGTON, _January 19, 1841_.

_To the House of Representatives of the United States_:

I herewith transmit to the House of Representatives a report, with
accompanying papers,[89] from the Secretary of State, in answer to
the resolution of the House of the 16th of December last.


[Footnote 89: Relating to the origin of any political relations between
the United States and the Empire of China, etc.]

WASHINGTON, _January 22, 1841_.

_To the House of Representatives of the United States_:

I transmit herewith to the House of Representatives of the United States
a report from the Director of the Mint, exhibiting the operations of
that institution during the year 1840, and I have to invite the special
attention of Congress to that part of the Director's report in relation
to the overvaluation given to the gold in foreign coins by the act of
Congress of June 28, 1834, "regulating the value of certain foreign gold
coin within the United States."

Applications have been frequently made at the Mint for copies of medals
voted at different times by Congress to the officers who distinguished
themselves in the War of the Revolution and in the last war (the dies
for which are deposited in the Mint), and it is submitted to Congress
whether authority shall be given to the Mint to strike off copies of
those medals, in bronze or other metal, to supply those persons making
application for them, at a cost not to exceed the actual expense of
striking them off.


WASHINGTON, _January 29, 1841_.

_To the Senate and House of Representatives_:

By the report of the Secretary of State herewith communicated and the
accompanying papers it appears that an additional appropriation is
necessary if it should be the pleasure of Congress that the preparatory
exploration and survey of the northeastern boundary of the United States
should be completed.


WASHINGTON, _February 1, 1841_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I respectfully transmit herewith a report and accompanying documents
from the Secretary of War, in answer to a resolution of the 22d of
December, 1840, requesting the President to transmit to the Senate any
information in his possession relative to the survey directed by the act
of the 12th of June, 1838, entitled "An act to ascertain and designate
the boundary line between the State of Michigan and Territory of


WASHINGTON, _February 8, 1841_.

_To the Senate and House of Representatives_:

I transmit herewith the copy of a report from the commissioners for the
exploration and survey of the northeastern boundary, in addition to the
documents sent to Congress, with reference to a further appropriation
for the completion of the duty intrusted to the commission.


_Report of the commissioners appointed by the President of the United
States under the act of Congress of 20th July, 1840, for the purpose of
exploring and surveying the boundary line between the States of Maine
and New Hampshire and the British Provinces_.

NEW YORK, _January 6, 1842_.


_Secretary of State_.

SIR: The commissioners, having assembled in this city in conformity
with your orders under date of 29th of July, beg leave respectfully
to report -

That the extent of country and the great length of the boundary line
included in the objects of their commission would have rendered it
impossible to have completed the task assigned them within the limits of
a single season. In addition to this physical impossibility, the work of
the present year was entered upon under circumstances very unfavorable
for making any great progress. The law under which they have acted was
passed at the last period of a protracted session, when nearly half
of the season during which working parties can be kept in the field
had elapsed; and although no delay took place in the appointment of
commissioners to carry it into effect, the organization of the board was
not effected, in consequence of the refusal of one of the commissioners
and the agent to accept of their nomination. The commissioners, acting
under these disadvantages, have done all that lay in their power to
accomplish the greatest practicable extent of work, and have obtained
many results which can not but be important in the examination of the
vexed and important question which has been committed to them; but after
having fully and maturely considered the subject and interchanged the
results of their respective operations they have come to the conclusion
that it would be premature to embody the partial results which they have
attained in a general report for the purpose of being laid before the
political and scientific world. The meridian line of the St. Croix
has not been carried to a distance of more than 50 miles from the
monument at the source of that river, and the operations of the other
commissioners, although they have covered a wide extent of country,
have fulfilled but one part of the duty assigned them, namely, that of
exploration; while even in the parts explored actual surveys will be
necessary for the purpose of presenting the question in such form as can
admit of no cavil. In particular, the results of the examination of the
most northern part of the line appear to differ in some points from the
conclusions of the late British commission. Satisfied that the latter
have been reached in too hasty a manner and without a sufficient time
having been expended upon comparative observations, they are cautioned
by this example against committing a like error. In respect to the
argumentative part of the report of the British commissioners, the duty
of furnishing a prompt and immediate reply to such parts of it as rest
upon the construction of treaties and the acts of diplomacy has been
rendered far less important than it might at one time have appeared by
the publication of the more important parts of the argument laid before
the King of the Netherlands as umpire. This argument, the deliberate
and studied work of men who well understood the subject, is a full
exposition of the grounds on which the claim of the United States to the
whole of the disputed territory rests. It has received the sanction of
successive Administrations of opposite politics, and may therefore be
considered, in addition to its original official character, as approved
by the whole nation. To this publication your commission beg leave to
refer as embodying an argument which may be styled unanswerable.

The operations of the parties under the command of the several
commissioners were as follows:

The party under the direction of Professor Renwick left Portland in
detachments on the 26th and 27th of August. The place of general
rendezvous was fixed at Woodstock, or, failing that, at the Grand Falls
of the St. John. The commissary of the party proceeded as speedily as
possible to Oldtown, in order to procure boats and engage men. Professor
Renwick passed by land through Brunswick, Gardiner, and Augusta. At
the former place barometer No. 1 was compared with that of Professor
Cleaveland, at Gardiner with that of Hallowel Gardiner, esq.; and
arrangements were made with them to keep registers, to be used as
corresponding observations with those of the expedition. At Augusta some
additional articles of equipment were obtained from the authorities of
the State, but the barometer which it had been hoped might have been
procured was found to be unfit for service. At Houlton two tents and
a number of knapsacks, with some gunpowder, were furnished by the
politeness of General Bustis from the Government stores.

The boats and all the stores reached Woodstock on the 3d September, and
all the party were collected except one engineer, who had been left
behind at Bangor in the hopes of obtaining another barometer. A bateau
was therefore left to bring him on. The remainder of the boats were
loaded, and the party embarked on the St. John on the morning of the
4th of September. This, the main body, reached the Grand Falls at noon
on the 8th of September. The remaining bateau, with the engineer, arrived
the next evening, having ascended the rapids of the St. John in a time
short beyond precedent. On its arrival it was found that the barometer,
on whose receipt reliance had been placed, had not been completed in
time, and although, as was learnt afterwards, it had been committed as
soon as finished by the maker to the care of Major Graham, the other
commissioners felt compelled to set out before he had joined them. The
want of this barometer, in which defects observed in the others had been
remedied, was of no little detriment.

A delay of eighteen days had occurred in Portland in consequence of the
refusal of Messrs. Cleavelaud and Jarvis to accept their appointments,
and it was known from the experience of the commissioners sent out in
1838 by the State of Maine that it would require at least three weeks
to reach the line claimed by the United States from Bangor. It was
therefore imperative to push forward, unless the risk of having the
whole of the operations of this party paralyzed by the setting in of
winter was to be encountered. It was also ascertained at the Grand Falls
that the streams which were to be ascended were always shallow and
rapid, and that at the moment they were extremely low, so that the boats
would not carry more stores than would be consumed within the time
required to reach the region assigned to Professor Renwick as his share
of the duty and return. It became, therefore, necessary, as it had been
before feared it must, to be content with an exploration instead of a
close and accurate survey. Several of the men employed had been at the
northern extremity of the meridian line, but their knowledge was limited
to that single object. Inquiry was carefully made for guides through the
country between the sources of the Grande Fourche of Restigouche and of
Tuladi, but none were to be found. One Indian only had passed from the
head of Green River to the Grande Fourche, but his knowledge was limited
to a single path, in a direction not likely to shed any light on the
object of the commission. He was, however, engaged. The French hunters
of Madawaska had never penetrated beyond the sources of Green River, and
the Indians who formerly resided on the upper waters of the St. John
were said to have abandoned the country for more than twelve years.

The party was now divided into four detachments, the first to proceed
down the Restigouche to the tide of the Bay of Chaleurs, the second to
ascend the Grande Fourche of Restigouche to its source, the third to be
stationed on Green River Mountain, the fourth to convey the surplus
stores and heavy baggage to Lake Temiscouata and thence to ascend the
Tuladi and Abagusquash to the highest accessible point of the latter.
It was resolved that the second and fourth detachments should endeavor
to cross the country and meet each other, following as far as possible
the height of land. A general rendezvous was again fixed at Lake

In compliance with this plan, the first and second detachments ascended
the Grande River together, crossed the Wagansis portage, and reached the
confluence of the Grande Fourche and southwest branch of Restigouche.

The first detachment then descended the united stream, returned by the
same course to the St. John, and reached the portage at Temiscouata on
the 7th October. All the intended objects of the detachment were happily

The second detachment, under the personal direction of the commissioner,
reached the junction of the north and south branches of the Grande
Fourche on the 22d September. Two engineers, with two men to carry
provisions, were then dispatched to cross the country to the meridian
line, and thence to proceed westward to join the detachment at Kedgwick
Lake. This duty was performed and many valuable observations obtained,
but an accident, by which the barometer was broken, prevented all the
anticipated objects of the mission from being accomplished.

All the stores which could possibly be spared were now placed in a depot
at the junction of the south branch, and the commissioner proceeded with
the boats thus lightened toward Kedgwick Lake. The lightening of the
boats was rendered necessary in consequence of the diminution of the
volume of the river and the occurrence of falls, over which it would
have been impossible to convey them when fully loaded. For want of a
guide, a branch more western than that which issues from the lake was
entered. One of the boats was therefore sent round into the lake to
await the return of the engineers dispatched to the meridian line.
The stores, which were all that could be brought up in the state of the
waters, were now found to be wholly insufficient to allow of committing
the party to the unexplored country between this stream and Tuladi. Even
the four days which must intervene before the return of the engineers
could be expected would do much to exhaust them. The commissioner
therefore resolved to proceed across the country, with no other
companion than two men, carrying ten days' provisions. It was hoped that
four or five days might suffice for the purpose, but ten of great toil
and difficulty were spent before Lake Tuladi was reached. The remainder
of the detachment, united by the return of the engineers, descended the
north branch of the Grande Fourche to the junction of the south branch,
ascended the latter, and made the portage to Green River. In this the
boats were completely worn out, and the last of their food exhausted
just at the moment that supplies sent up the Green River to meet them
arrived at their camp.

No arrangement which could have been made would have sufficed to prevent
the risk of famine which was thus encountered by the second detachment.
A greater number of boats would have required more men, and these would
have eaten all they could have carried. No other actual suffering but
great fatigue and anxiety were encountered; and it is now obvious that
had the rains which were so abundant during the first week of October
been snow (as they sometimes are in that climate) there would have been
a risk of the detachment perishing.

The third detachment reached their station on Green River Mountain on
the 13th September and continued there until the 12th October. A full
set of barometric observations was made, the latitude well determined
by numerous altitudes, and the longitude approximately by some lunar

The fourth detachment, after depositing the stores intended for the
return of the party in charge of the British commissary at Fort Ingall,
who politely undertook the care of them, ascended the Tuladi, and taking
its northern branch reached Lake Abagusquash. Here one of the engineers
wounded himself severely and was rendered unfit for duty. The commissary
then proceeded a journey of five days toward the east, blazing a path
and making signals to guide the second detachment.

The difference between the country as it actually exists and as
represented on any maps prevented the commissioner from meeting this
party. It found the source of the central or main branch of Tuladi to
the north of that of the Abagusquash, and following the height of land
reached the deep and narrow valley of the Rimouski at the point where,
on the British maps, that stream is represented as issuing from a
ridge of mountains far north of the line offered to the King of the
Netherlands as the bounds of the American claim. The commissary
therefore found it impossible to ascend Rimouski to its source, and
crossing its valley found himself again on a dividing ridge, where he
soon struck a stream running to the southeast. This, from a comparison
of courses and distances, is believed to be the source of the main
branch of the Grande Fourche of Ristaymoh; and thus the second and
fourth detachments had reached points within a very short distance
of each other. The greater breadth of the dividing ridge has thus been
explored, but it will remain to trace the limits of the valley of the
Rimouski, which will form a deep indenture in the boundary line. This
line having been explored, a party was formed, after the assemblage
of the several divisions at Temiscouata, for the purpose of leveling
it with the barometer; but the expedition was frustrated by a heavy
snowstorm, which set in on the 12th October. This, the most important
part of the whole northern line, therefore remains for future
investigation. It can only be stated that strong grounds exist for the
belief that its summits are not only higher than any point which has
been measured, but that, although cut by the Rimouski, it exceeds in
average elevation any part of the disputed territory.

The leveling of the Temiscouata portage appeared to be an object of
great importance, not only on its own account, but as furnishing a base
for future operations. As soon as a sufficient force had been assembled
at Lake Temiscouata a party was therefore formed to survey the portage
with a theodolite. Orders were also given by the commissioner that the
first barometer which should be returned should be carried over the
portage. It was believed that this double provision would have secured
the examination of this point beyond the chance of failure. A snowstorm,
however (the same which interrupted the last operation referred to), set
in after the level had been run to the mountain of Biort, and one of the
laboring men, worn out by his preceding fatigues, fell sick. The party
being thus rendered insufficient, the engineer in command found himself
compelled to return. The contemplated operation with the barometer was
also frustrated, for on examination at Temiscouata it was found that all
were unfit for further service. In order that the desired object might
be accomplished, a new expedition was dispatched from New York on the
12th of November, furnished with four barometers. This party, by great
exertions, reached St. André, on the St. Lawrence, on the eighth day
and accomplished the object of its mission. The operation was rendered
possible at this inclement season by its being confined to a beaten road
and in the vicinity of human habitations.

The country which has been the object of this reconnoissance is, as may
already be understood, of very difficult access from the settled parts
of the State of Maine. It is also, at best, almost impenetrable except
by the water courses. It furnishes no supplies except fish and small
game, nor can these be obtained by a surveying party which can not be
strong enough to allow for hunters and fishermen as a constituent part.
The third detachment alone derived any important benefit from these
sources. The best mode of supplying a party moving on the eastern
section would be to draw provisions and stores from the St. Lawrence.
It is, indeed, now obvious, although it is contrary to the belief of any
of the persons professing to be acquainted with the subject, that had
the commissioner proceeded from New York by the way of Montreal and
Quebec he must have reached the district assigned to him a fortnight
earlier and have accomplished twice as much work as his party was able
to perform.

Although much remains to be done in this region, an extensive knowledge
of a country hitherto unknown and unexplored has been obtained; and this
not only sheds much light upon the boundary question in its present
state, but will be of permanent service in case of a further _ex parte_
examination, or of a joint commission being agreed upon by the
Governments of Great Britain and the United States.

The season was too late for any efficient work, as the line to be
explored was not reached before the 22d September. Not only were the
rivers at their lowest ebb, but ice was met in the progress of the
parties as early as the 12th September, and snow fell on the 21st and
22d September. The actual setting in of winter, which sometimes occurs
in the first week of October, was therefore to be dreaded. From this
time the country becomes unfit for traveling of any description until
the streams are bound with solid ice and a crust formed on the snow of
sufficient firmness to make it passable on snowshoes. The only road is
that along the St. John River, and it would be almost impossible for a
party distant more than 10 or 12 miles from that stream to extricate
itself after the winter begins.

No duty could be well imagined more likely to be disagreeable than that
assigned to Professor Renwick. The only feasible modes of approach lay
for hundreds of miles through the acknowledged limits of the British
territory, and the line he was directed to explore was included within
the military post of that nation. It may be likened to the entry upon
the land of a neighbor for the purpose of inquiring into his title.
Under these circumstances of anticipated difficulty it becomes his duty,
as well as his pleasure, to acknowledge the uniform attention and
civilities he has experienced from all parties, whether in official
or in private stations. All possibility of interruption by the local
authorities was prevented by a proclamation of His Excellency Sir John
Harvey, K.C.B., lieutenant-governor of the Province of New Brunswick,
and the British warden, Colonel Maclauchlan, was personally instrumental
in promoting the comforts of the commissioner and his assistants.
Similar attentions were received from the officers of the garrison at
Fort Ingall, and the commandant of the citadel of Quebec, and from His
Excellency the Governor-General. Even the private persons whose property
might be affected by the acknowledgment of the American claim exhibited
a generous hospitality.

The party under the direction of Captain Talcott left the settlements on
Halls Stream on the 6th of September. The main branch of this was
followed to its source in a swamp, in which a branch of the St. Francis
also had its origin. From this point the party followed the ridge
dividing the Atlantic from the St. Lawrence waters until it was supposed
that all the branches of Indian Stream had been headed. In this work the
party was employed until the 14th September. It had now arrived at a
point where the Magalloway River should be found to the left, according
to the most authentic map of the country, especially that prepared by
the New Hampshire commissioner appointed in 1836 to explore the boundary
of that State, and accompanying that report.[90] The party accordingly
bore well north to avoid being led from the true "height of land" by the
dividing ridge between the Connecticut and Androscoggin rivers. After
crossing several small streams, it came on the afternoon of the 15th to
a rivulet about 12 feet wide running to the east, which was supposed
to be the main Magalloway. The 16th was spent in exploring it to its
source. The next day it was discovered that what had been taken for
the Magalloway was a tributary of Salmon River, a large branch of the
St. Francis, and consequently the party was considerably to the north of
the boundary.

The supply of provisions did not allow the party to retrace its steps to
the point where it had diverged from the true dividing ridge. The course
was therefore changed until it bore a little south; but it was not until
the 22d that the party found itself again on the dividing ridge, and
then upon the waters of the Magalloway.

The party reached Arnold River, or Chaudiere, above Lake Megantic, on
the 24th September. After having recruited and taken a fresh supply of
provisions from the depot established there, the party was divided into
two detachments. One returned westward to find the corner of the State
of New Hampshire as marked by the commission in 1789 appointed to trace
the boundary line.

It was there ascertained that the corner was on the true _dividing_
ridge, and not from 8 to 10 miles south, as has been erroneously
reported by the surveyor employed by the New Hampshire commissioners in
1836 and reiterated in several official papers. From the State corner

Online LibraryJames D. RichardsonA Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 3, part 2: Martin Van Buren → online text (page 43 of 44)