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Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives online

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Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 127 of 162)
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dominant over the British, both for priority of
date and for the spirit of ownership in which
they were made. The Spaniards explored as
masters of the country, looking after their own
extended and contiguous possessions, and to
which no limit had ever been placed : the
British explored in the character of adventurers,
seeking new lands in a distant region. Neither
made permanent settlements ; both abandoned ;
and, now, I see nothing, either in the value or
the title of these islands, for the two nations
to fight about. The principle of convenience
and mutual good will, so magnanimously pro-
posed by the Emperor Alexander in 1823,
seems to me to be properly applicable to these
desolate islands, chiefly valuable for harbors,
which are often nothing but volcanic chasms,
too deep for anchorage and too abrupt for ap-
proach. In the discussions of 1824, so far as
they were not settled, they were considered
appurtenant to the continent, instead of the
continent being held appurtenant to them ; and
the reversal of this principle, I apprehend,
has been the great error of the recent discus-
sions and has led to the great mistake in rela-
tion to Frazer's River. I dismiss the question,
then, as to this geographical division of the
country, with saying that our title to these isl-
ands is better than that of the British, but that
neither is perfect for want of settlement; and
that now, as proposed in 1824, they should fol-
low the fate of the continental divisions in
front of which they lie.

Frazer's River and its valley, known in north-
western geography as New Caledonia, is the
next division of the disputed country to which
I shall ask the attention of the Senate. It is
a river of about a thousand miles in length,
(following its windings,) rising in the Rocky
Mountains, opposite the head of the Unjigah,
or Peace River, which flows into the Frozen
Ocean in latitude about 70. The course of this
river is nearly north and south, rising in lati-
tude 55, flowing south to near latitude 49, and
along that parallel, and just north of it, to the
Gulf of Georgia, into which it falls behind
Vancouver's Island. The upper part of this
river is good for navigation ; the lower half,
plunging through volcanic chasms in mountains
of rock, is wholly unnavigable for any, species
of craft. This river was discovered by Sir
Alexander Mackenzie in 1798, was settled by



Isr Sess.]


[May, 1846.

the North-west Company in 1806, and soon
covered by their estabhshments from head to
mouth. No American or Spaniard has ever
left a track npon this river or its valley. Our
claim to it, aa far as I can see, rested wholly
upon the treaty with Spain of 1819 ; and her
claim rested wholly upon those discoveries
among the islands, the value of which, as con-
ferring claims upon the continent, it has been
my province to show in our negotiations with
Eussia in 1824. At the time that we acquired
this Spanish claim to Frazer's River, it had
already been discovered twenty-six years by
the British ; had been settled by them for
twelve years ; was knpwn by a British name ;
and no Spaniard had ever made a track on its
banks. New Caledonia, or "Western Caledonia,
was the name which it then bore ; and it so
happens that an American citizen, a native of
Vermont, respectably known to the Senators
now present from that State, and who had
spent twenty years of his life in the hyper-
borean regions of North-west America, in
publishing an account of his travels and so-
journings in that quarter, actually published a
description of this New Caledonia, as a British
province, at the very moment that we were
getting it from Spain, and without the least sus-
picion that it belonged to Spain ! I speak of
Mr. David Harmon, whose Journal of Nineteen
Tears' Residence between latitudes 47 and 58
in North-western America, was published at
Andover, in his native State, in the year 1820,
the precise year after we had purchased this
New Caledonia from the Spaniards. Iread,
not from the volume itself, which is not in the
library of Congress, but from the London Quar-
terly Review, January No., 1822, as reprinted
at Boston ; article, Westeen Caledonia.

"The descent of the Peace River through a deep
chasm ia the Kocky Mountains first opened a pas-
sage to the adventurers above mentioned into the
unexplored country behind them, to which they
gave the name of New Caledonia — a name, how-
ever, which, being already occupied by the Austral-
asians, might advantageously be changed to that
of Western Caledonia. This passage lies in lati-
tude 56° 30'. Mackenzie had crossed the Rocky
chain many years before in latitude 54-J-°, and de-
scended a large river flowing to the southward,
named Tacoutche Tess6, which he conceived to be
the Columbia ; but it is now known to empty itself
about Birch's Bay of Vancouver, in latitude ^49° ;
whereas the mouth of the Columbia lies in 46° 15'.
Another river, called the Caledonia, (Frazer's River,)
holding a parallel course to the Tacoutche Tess6,
(Columbia,) falls into the sea near the Admiralty
Inlet of Vancouver, latitude 48°, and forms a natu-
ral boundary between the new territory of Cale-
douia and the United States, falling in precise-
ly with a continued line on the same parallel
with the Lake of the Woods, and leaving about
two degrees of latitude between it and the Colum-
bia. Its northern boundary may be taken in lati-
tude 51°, close to the southernmost of the Russian
settlements. The length, therefore, will be about
560, and the breadth, from the mountains to the
Pacific, from 330 to 350 geographical miles.

" The whole of this vast country is in fact so in-
tersected with rivers and lakes, that Mr. Harmon
thinks one-sixth part of its surface may be consid-
ered as water. 'The largest of the latter yet visited
is named Stuart's Lake, and is supposed to be about
400 miles in circumference. A post has been es-
tablished on its margin in latitue 54° 30' north, lon-
gitude 125° west. Fifty miles to the westward of
this is Frazer's Lake, about eighty or ninety miles in
circumference ; here, too, a post was established in
1806. A third, of sixty or seventy miles in cir-
cumference, has been name McLeod's Lake, on the
shore of which a fort has been built in latitude
55° north, longitude 124° west. The waters of
this lake fall into the Peace River ; those flowing
out of the other two are supposed to empty them-
selves into the Pacific, and are probably the two rivers
pointed out by Vancouver, near Pont Essington,
as we had occasion to observe in a former article.
The immense quantity of salmon which annually
visit these two lakes, leave no doubt whatever of
their communication with the Pacific ; and the ab-
sence of this fish from McLeod's Lake, makes it
almost equally certain that its outlet is not into
that ocean. 'The river flowing out of Stuart's Lake
passes through the populous tribes of the Nate-ote-
tains, who say that white people come up in large
boats to trade with the A-te-nas, (a nation dwelling
between them and the sea,) which was fully proved
by the guns, iron pots, cloth, tar, and other articles
found in their possession.

" Most of the mountains of Western Caledonia
are clothed with timber trees to their very summits,
consisting principally of spruce and other kinds of
fir, birch, poplar, aspen, cypress, and, generally
speaking, all those which are found on the opposite
side of the Rocky Mountains. The large animals
common to North America, such as buffalo, elk,
moose, reindeer, bears, &c., are not numerous in
this new territory ; but there is no scarcity of the
beaver, otter, wolverine, marten, foxes of difierent
kinds, and the rest of the fur animals, any more
than of wolves, badgers, and polecats ; fowls, also,
of all the descriptions found in North America, are
plentiful in Western Caledonia ; cranes visit them
in prodigious numbers, as do swans, bustards, geese,
and ducks."

This is the account given by Mr. Harmon of
New Caledonia, and given of it by bim at the
esaot moment that we were purchasing the
Spanish title to it ! Of this Spanish title, of
which the Spaniards never heard, the narrator
seems to have been as profoundly ignorant as
the Spaniards were themselves ; and made his
description of New Caledonia as of a British
possession, without any more reference to an
adverse title than if he had been speaiiing of
Canada. So much for the written description :
now let us look at the map, and see how it
stands there. Here is a map— a 54° 40' map—
which will show us the features of the country,
and the names of the settlements upon^ it.
Here is Frazer's River, running from 55° to
49°, and here is a line of British posts upon it,
from Fort McLeod, at its head, to Fort Lang-
ley at its mouth, and from Thompson's Fork,
on 'one side, to Stuart's Fork on the other.
And here are clusters of British names, im-
posed by the British, visible everywhere—



May, 1846.]


[29Tn Cong.

Forts George, St. James, Simpson, Thompson,
Frazer, McLeod, Langley, and others : rivers
and lakes with the same names, and others : and
here is Deserter's Creek, so named by Macken-
zie, because his guide deserted him there in
July, 1793 ; and here is an Indian village which
he named Friendly, because the people were
the most friendly to strangers that he had ever
seen ; and here another called Eascal's village,
so named by Mackenzie fifty-three years ago,
because its inhabitants were the most rascally
Indians he had ever seen ; and here is the rep-
resentation of that famous boundary line 54°
40', which is supposed to be the exact boun-
dary of American territorial rights in that quar-
ter, and which happens to include the whole
of New Caledonia, except McLeod's fort, and
the half of Stuart's Lake, and a spring, which is
left to the British, while we take the branch
which flows from it. This line takes all in —
river, lakes, forts, villages. See how it goes !
Starting at the sea, it gives us, by a quarter of
an inch on the map. Fort Simpson, so named
after the British governor Simpson, and founded
by the Hudson Bay Company. Upon what
principle we take this British fort I know not
— except it be on the assumption that our
sacred right and title being adjusted to a min-
ute, by the aid of these 40 minutes, so ap-
positely determined by the Emperor Paul's
charter to a fur company in 1799, to be on this
straight line, the bad example of even a slight
deviation from it at the start should not be al-
lowed even to spare a British fort away up at
Point Mclntyre, in Chatham Sound. On this
principle we can understand the inclusion, by
a quarter of an inch on the map, of this remote
md isolated British post. The cutting in two
[)f Stuart's Lake, which the lines does as it runs,
is quite intelhgible : it must be on the principle
stated in one of the fifty-four-forty papers, that
Breat Britain should not have one drop of our
(vater ; therefore we divide the lake, each tak-
ing their own share of its drops. The fate of
;he two forts, McLeod and St. James, so near
io each other and so fiir off from us, united all
iheir lives, and now so unexpectedly divided
irom each other by this line, is less compre-
lensible ; and I cannot account for the differ-
3nce of their fates, unless it is upon the law of
;he day of judgment, when, of two men In the
leld, one shall be taken and the other left, and
10 man be able to tell the reason why. All
;he rest of the inclusions of British establish-
nents which the line makes, from head to
nouth of Frazer's Eiver, are intelligible enough:
rhey turn upon the principle of all or none ! —
ipon the principle that every acre and every
nch, every grain of sand, drop of water, and
)lade of grass in all Oregon, up to fifty-four
brty, is ours ! and have it we will.

This is the country which geography and
listory five-and-twenty years ago called New
Caledonia, and treated as a British possession ;
,nd it is the country which an organized party
mong ourselves of the present day call " the

whole of Oregon or none" and every inch of
which they say belongs to ua. Well, let us pro-
ceed a little further with the documents of
1823, and see what the men of that day — Pres-
ident Monroe and his Cabinet — the men who
had made the treaty with Spain by which we
became the masters of this large domain : let
us proceed a little further, and see what they
thought of onr title up to fifty-four forty. I
read from the same document of 1823 :

Mr. Adams to Mr. Middleton, July 22, 1823.
" The right of the United States, from the forty-
second to forty-ninth parallel of latitude on the
Pacific Ocean we consider as unquestionable, being
founded, first, on the acquisition of the treaty of
22d February, 1819, of all the rights of Spain;
second, by the discovery of the Columbia Eiver, first
from the sea at its mouth, and then by land by
Lewis and Clarke ; and, third, by the settlement at
its mouth in 1811. This territory is to the United
States of an importance which no possession in
North America can be of to any European nation,
not only as it is but the continuity of their posses-
sions from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, but as
it offers their inhabitants the means of establishing
hereafler water communications from the one to the

Forty -nine, Mr. President, forty-nine! To
that line, and that four years after the acgnisi-
tion of the Spanish claim, teas our unquestion-
able right held to extend; fifty-one was the
highest debatable line named, and that named
on a principle hnown to he erroneous, and ready
to be given up.

Again :

Mr. Adams to Mr. Hush. Same date.

" By the treaty of amity, setleraent, and limitsi
between the United States and Spain, of 22d Feb.
1819, the boundary line between them was fixed at
the forty-second degree of latitude, from the source
of the Arkansas Kiver to the South Sea. By which
treaty the United States acquired all the rights of
Spain north of that parallel.

" The right of the United States to the Columbia
Eiver, and to the interior territory washed by its
waters, rests upon its discovery from the sea and
nomination by a citizen of the United States; upon
its exploration to the sea, made by Captains Lewis
and Clarke ; upon the settlement of Astoria, made
under the protection of the United States, and thus
restored to them in 1818 ; and upon this subse-
quent acquisition of all the rights of Spain, the
only European power who, prior to the discovery
of the river, had any pretensions to territorial
rights on the north-west coast of America.

"The waters of the Columbia. Eiver extend, by
the Multnomah, to the 42d degree of latitude,
where its source approaches within a few miles
of those of the Platte and Arkansas; and by
Clarke's Eiver to the 50th or 51st degree of latitude ;
thence descending, southward, till its sources almost
intersect those of the Missouri.

"To the territory thus watered, and immediately
contiguous to the original possessions of the United
States, as first bounded on the Mississippi, they
consider their right to be now established by all
the principles which have ever been applied to



1st Sess.]


[May, 1846.

European settlements upon the American hemi-

This is an extract of great value, and is an
amplification and development of the principle
laid down in the extract just read. It recites
the Spanish treaty of 1819, and claims nothing
under it beyond the Columbia and its valley.
To this our title is alleged to be complete on
American grounds independent of the treaty,
namely, discovery, settlement, and coloniza-
tion by Mr. Astoi-, under the protection of the
United States :

Again :

Mr. Adams to Mr. Bush. Same despatch.

"If the British North-west and Hudson Bay Com-
. panies have any posts on the coast, as suggested in
the article in the Quarterly Review above cited,
the third article of the convention of the 20th of
October, 1818, is applicable to them. Mr. Middle-
ton is authorized to propose an article of similar
import, to be inserted in a joint convention between
the United States, Great Britain, and Russia, for a
term of ten years from its signature. You are
authorized to make the same proposal to the
British Government ; and, with a view to draw a
defiuite line of demarcation for the future, to stipu-
late that no settlement shall hereafter be made on
the north-west coast, or on any of the islands
thereto adjoining by Russian subjects, south of lati-
tude 55, by citizens of the United States north
of latitude 51 ; or by British subjects either south
of 51 or north of 55.

"I mention the latitude of 61, as the bound
within which we are willing to limit the future set-
tlement of the United States, because it is not to
be doubted that the Columbia River branches as far
north as 51, although it is most probably not the
Taconeschee Tess6 of Maclienzie. As, however,
the Une already runs in latitude 49 to the Stony
Mountains, should it be earnestly insisted upon by
Great Britain, we will consent to carry it into con-
tinuance, on the same parallel, to the sea. Copies
of this instruction will likewise be forwarded to Mr.
Middleton, with whom you will freely but cautious-
ly correspond on this subject, as well as in regard
to your negotiation respecting the suppression of
the slave trade."

Four things must strike the attention in this
extract: 1. The otfer of a partnership to the
Emperor Alexander, which he wisely refused.
2. The offer of the same to Great Britain,
\fhich she sagaciously accepted. 3. The offer
of 55° to Great Britain as her permanent north-
ern boundary. 4. The offer of 51° to her as a
permanent southern boundary, and its offer
on a principle not valid, with the alternative
to fall back upon the line of 49°. The British
who know all this, and a great deal more, must
be astonished at our fifty -four forty war fever
of to-day !

Again :

Mr. Bush to Mr. Adams.

" London, December 22, 1823.

" In an interview I had with Mr. Canning last
week, I made known to him, as preparatory to
the negotiation, the views of our Government rela-

tive to the north-west coast of America. These,
as you know, are :

"First. That, as regards the country westward
of the Rocky Mountains, the three powers, viz. :
Great Britain, the United States, and Russia, should
jointly agree to a convention, to be in force ten
years, similar in its nature to the third article of
the convention of October, 1818, now subsisting
between the two former powers; and secondly,
that the United States would stipulate not to make
any settlements on that coast north of the fifty-
first degree of latitude, provided Great Britain
would stipulate not to make any south of 51° or
north of 65° ; and Russia not to make any south
of 56°.

Again :

" Mr. Canning expressed no opinion on the above
propositions further than to hint, under his first
impressions, strong objections to the one which
goes to limit Great Britain northwards to 55°. _ His
object in wishing to learn from me our propositions
at this point of time, was, as I understood, that he
might better write to Sir Charles Bagot on the
whole subject to which they relate."

Again :

Same to Same., December 19, 1823.

" And secondly, that the United States were
willing to stipulate to make no settlements north
of the 51st degree of north latitude on that coast,
provided Great Britain stipulated to make none
south of 51° or north of 55° ; and Russia to make
none south of 55°."

Again :

Same to Same, same date.

" That they (the United States) were willing,
however, waiving for the present the full advantage
of these claims, to forbear, all settlements north
of 51 ; as ihat limit might be sufficient to give
them the benefit of all the waters of the Columbia
River ; but that they would expect Great Britain to
abstain from coming south of that limit or going
.above 55 ; the latter parallel being taken as that
beyond which it was not imagined that she had any
actual settlements."

On Friday, Mr. President, I read one passage
from the documents of 1823, to let you see
that fifty-four forty (for that is the true read-
ing of fifty-five) had been offered to Great Brit-
ain for her northern boundary : to-day I read
you six passages from the same documents,
to show the same thing. And let me remark
once more— the remark will bear eternal repe-
tition — these offers were made by the men
who bad acquired the Spanish title to Oregon !
and who must be presumed to know as much
about it as those whose acquaintance with Ore-
gon extends from the epoch of the Baltimore
Convention— whose love of it dates from the
era of its promulgation as a party watchword
-whose knowledge of it extends to the lumi-
nous pages of Mr. Greenhow's book !

Six times Mr. Monroe and his Cabinet re-
nounced Frazer's River and its valley, and left it
to the British ! They did so on the inteUigiblt
principle that the British bad discovered it



Ut, 1846.]


[29th Cono.

ad settled it, and were in actual possession of
; when we got the Spanish claim ; which
laim Spain never made ! Upon this principle,
Tew Caledonia was left to the British in 1823.
Tpon -wlia-t principle is it claimed now ?

This is what Mr. Monroe and his Oahinet
bought of our title to the whole of Oregon or
one, in the year 1823. They took neither
ranch of this proposition. They did not go for
11 or none, but for some ! They took some,
nd left some ; and they divided by a line right
1 itself, and convenient in itself, and mutually
uitable to each party. This President and his
Jabinet carry their " unquestionable right " to
)regon as far as 49, and no further. This is
xactly what was done six years before. Mr.
Jallatin and Mr. Rush offered the same line,
s being a continuation of the line of Utrecht,
describing it by that name in their despatch
f October 20th, 1818,) and as covering the
alley of the Columbia River, to which they
Ueged our title to be indisputable. Mr. Jef-
erson had offered the same line in 1807. All
hese offers leave Frazer's River and its valley
the British, because they discovered and
ettled it. All these ofifers hold on to the Oo-
ambia River and its valley, because we discov-
red and settled it ; and all these offers let the
irinciple of contiguity or continuity work
qually on the British as on the American side
f the line of Utrecht.

This is what the statesmen did who made
he acquisition of the Spanish claim to Oregon
Q 1819. In four years afterwards they had
reely offered all north of 49 to Great Britain ;
,nd no one ever thought of arraigning them for
t. Most of these statesmen have gone through
iery trials since, and been fiercely assailed on
,11 the deeds of their lives ; but I never heard
if one of them being called to account, much
ess lose an election, for the part he acted in
iffering 49 to Great Britain in 1828, or at any
ither time. For my part, I thought they were
ight then, and I think so now ; I was Senator
hen, as I am now. I thought with them that
^ew Caledonia belonged to the British ; and
hinking so still, and acting upon the first half
if the great maxim — Ask nothing but what is
ight — I shall not ask them for it, much leas
ight them for it now.

I come now to the third geographical divi-
ion of the contested country, purposely reserved
or the last, because it furnislies the subject for
he application of the second half of the great
naxim : Submit to nothing that is wrong. I
!ome to the river Columbia, and its vast and
nagnificent valley. I once made a description
)f it, with an anathema against its alienation.
'. described it by metes and bounds — by marks
md features — and then wrote its name in its
ace. The fifty-four fortys got hold of my de-
loription — rubbed out the name — obliterated
,he features^expanded the boundaries took in
Sfew Caledonia, and all the rivers, lakes, bays,
;oimds, islands, valleys, forts, and settlements,
ill the way up to 64 40 1 and then turned my

own anathema against myself, because their
minds could not apply words to things. Well !
I take no offence at this. There are some peo-
ple too simple to get angry with. All we do
with them in the West is, to have them " cut
for the simples ; " after which they are cured.
They can perform this operation for them-
selves, or have it done. If by themselves, all
they have to do is rub their eyes, and read

Online LibraryUnited States. CongressAbridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856. From Gales and Seatons' Annals of Congress; from their Register of debates; and from the official reported debates, by John C. Rives → online text (page 127 of 162)