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the Author would state that he has reason to suppose he is not presuming too far to believe that the British claim, as maintained in this Report, would have been substantially adhered to by Her Majesty's present Ministers if the mission of Lord Ashburton had failed, and it had been necessary to refer the controversy to an umpire for the second time.
Having brought the proceedings on the part of Great Britain up to this period, it becomes proper to advert briefly to the course of public opinion on this subject in the United States, where a belief of the exclusive right of that country to the whole territory appeared to be as general as the conviction now entertained in Great Britain, that she had never ceded any portion of it at the Peace of 1783.
The people of the States of Maine and Massachussetts were alone greatly interested in acquiring possession of the territory in dispute. Maine was directly conterminous with and claimed jurisdiction over it; whilst Massachussetts had a joint interest with Maine in her public lands, of which they claimed this territory to be a part. The States of New Hampshire and New York had also a small beneficial interest in the narrow territory adjacent to the 45° of north latitude, which the King of the Netherlands had decided was to be re-surveyed. The other States of the Union had no interest whatever in the question, save that arising from a natural sympathy for the success of the cause of their sister States as against a Foreign Power. This sympathy had been evoked in a very powerful manner and with effect, for in July, 1838, the Senate of the United States, upon the Report of a Committee devoted to the discussion of the claim of Maine, unanimously passed the following resolution :
“After a careful examination and deliberate “consideration of the whole controversy be“tween the United States and Great Britain, “relative to the north-eastern boundary of the “former * * * * * * it (the Senate) enter“tains a perfect conviction of the justice and “validity of the title of the United States to “ the full eatent of all the territory in dispute “ between the two powers.”
This resolution, and the unanimity with which it passed in a body representing the sovereign power of each of the States of the Union, was considered throughout America as a solemn pledge on the part of the Senate, which is the Treaty-making power, that that body would not consent to any arrangement of the controversy, which fell short of a compliance with the whole claim of Maine:
From this moment it was easy to perceive that neither country would give way to the extent of the claim of its opponent, and that all men of good feelings and moderate counsels in the two countries would, sooner or later, desire to resort to a peaceful compromise, the object of the controversy not being of sufficient importance to justify a protracted contention, much less a destructive and sanguinary war, which, at its termination, would most probably leave both parties, as respected this question, in the same situation as at the commencement of the contest.
But it must be obvious to every one, that there were other considerations for Her Majesty's Government, independent of this view of the subject, in which men of sense concurred. Great Britain, by her unbounded enterprise and wealth, had attained a height of prosperity and renown hitherto unknown in the annals of nations. She had planted important colonies in every desirable part of the earth, and under her fostering care they seemed destined to become mighty branches of the parent stock, and to emulate it in those true sources of its glory, its religion, its good faith, and its industry. To these peace was necessary.
At home her manufacturing interests had
momentarily suffered by an over-production contemporary with a diminished demand; and these concurring causes were greatly exaggerated by the concomitant and painful pressure of labour without adequate employment. To restore a demand for these productions peace was equally necessary. In India and in China the country was engaged in expensive and uncertain contests, and these could not be retired from before they were brought to that honourable conclusion which on the part of Great Britain was the real object sought to be accomplished, and which, by the valour and energy of her warriors by sea and land, has since been most gloriously accomplished. - Looking, therefore, at the extraordinary and lofty position which the interests and power of our country had compelled her to assume as conservator of the peace of the civilized world, and to the stern necessity of that peace to the prosperity of every branch of her own industry, it is manifest that the Queen's Ministers, by pursuing the path of peace as long as it could be trod with honour and safety, were giving the highest proofs of their determination to administer the affairs of the empire with wisdom. There would appear indeed to have been but three lines of conduct for them to pursue, upon coming into power. Convinced of that extreme right of Great Britain which had been demonstrated, they might have chosen to adhere to it, and have kept open an irritating question which was daily endangering the peace between the two countries, and of Europe also. They might have protracted the negotiation with the United States, for the purpose of referring the controversy to another arbitration; but where was the security afforded by this course that, after the unavoidable irritations engendered by a delay of eight or ten years, and an expense beyond the value of the territory in dispute, political caprice and jealousy might not in the end decide the question against us? What rational course then was left but that of calling into action a principle which sometimes happily extinguishes discord in private controversies, by inducing the most powerful to make generous yet prudent concessions in the name of peace and friendship, and thus converts an apprehended enemy into a permanent and sincere friend' This, which promised to heal for ever the growing breach between the two countries, was the course which Her Majesty's Ministers wisely determined to follow.