Page images
PDF

as has been before stated, protested on the 12th of January, 1831, against the award of the King of the Netherlands, and who was understood upon this occasion to represent that party in the State of Maine which had most strenuously insisted upon its extreme claim. When these gentlemen were all assembled at Washington, the extraordinary spectacle presented itself of the supreme power in the Government being exposed to be controlled, in one of its most important functions, by four Commissioners from the State of Maine, and three from the State of Massachussets; a circumstance which, looking to the unanimity required on the part of those of Maine, and to the known extreme opinions entertained by Mr. Preble, led many persons to entertain apprehensions for the success of the mission, for the dissenting voice of that gentleman was alone sufficient to frustrate this most important negotiation. After contending, however, to the latest moment for terms that the instructions of the British Plenipotentiary did not warrant him to admit, these Commissioners finally abandoned that extreme claim which they had never at any time ceased to urge their just title to, and assented to the compromise. By it Great Britain is left for ever in the unquestioned possession of those indispensable

objects for which her negotiators had contended at the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, upon the condition of releasing her claim to a portion of the disputed territory contiguous to the United States, not necessary to the welfare of the British Colonies. This it is now proposed to place beyond all reasonable doubt, by a brief analysis of the compromise, and a reference to the Map. The territory in dispute was comprehended in the area on the map which is tinted with a pink colour, and consisted, according to a careful estimate made by the British astronomer, Dr. Tiarks, in 1818, of 10,705 square miles, or 6,851,200 acres. The River St. John runs from its source nearly through the centre of this area, until it intersects that north line from a source of the River St. Croix, which forms the eastern boundary of the United States. The claim of that Government extended to the northern extremity of the area, and not only pretended to cut off the established military and post routes, vid Madawasca River, Temiscouata Lake, and the Grand Portage, from Halifax and New Brunswick to Quebec, but would have given to the United States a right to establish military positions along the range of highlands extending, but with considerable interruptions, from the Metis

River to the sources of the Du Sud, opposite to Quebec; a distance of about 180 miles, and upon a line almost at every point within 25 miles of the River St. Lawrence. By the award of the King of the Netherlands, the St. John, from the point where it is intersected by the north line, was made the boundary between the two countries along its course as far as the St. Francis, and as far as this related to the preservation of our communications, it was to that extent satis– factory; but in another point of view, inde– pendent of the extravagant cession of territory involved by it, the award was disadvantageous, for it directed the boundary to proceed up the St. Francis to its source in the Highlands, and thence by the Highlands to the sources of the Du Sud, surrendering to the United States, for a distance of sixty miles, the right to overlook the valley of the St. Lawrence from the military positions there. This was the most objectionable part of the award, and was considered so unsatisfactory by our military authorities, that probably the British Government of that day would not have acceded to it, notwithstanding their anxiety to terminate the dispute, but for the pledge that had been given by Great Britain to receive the decision as “final and conclusive.”

By looking at those red lines on the map which represent the boundary established by the Treaty of Washington, the reader will perceive that every essential object for which Great Britain had heretofore contended, and every advantage indispensable to the welfare and security of her colonies, have been at length secured to her; that that which was so objectionable in the award of the King of the Netherlands has been entirely removed, and that, in fact, the American Government, instead of persevering and succeeding in that extreme claim to which it appeared to have been pledged in legislative proceedings, and which was justly felt to be both offensive and dangerous to Great Britain, has entirely withdrawn it, and has resigned every pretension to the country lying north of the red line, including all our established communications, and every military position along the whole line of what was claimed as the frontier, which now in no instance approaches nearer than sixty miles to Quebec. In bringing the dispute to this very satisfactory termination, the negotiators appear to have prudently abstained, as far as it was possible, from entering into any discussion of their extreme claims; a friendly compromise and not controversy was their object, and they accordingly divided the territory into two moieties as near as it could be done, assigning to each country that portion contiguous to, and, most necessary to its immediate interests, as will now be shown. The estimate made by Dr. Tiarks of the square contents of the territory, which has been before alluded to, was 6,851,200 acres. The territory assigned to Great Britain by the award of the King of the Netherlands does not appear to have been computed by that gentleman, but in a confidential letter of Mr. Webster to the Commissioners of Maine and Massachussets, dated Washington, July 12th, 1842, the amount of acres is there stated as follows:— “By the award of the King of the Nether“lands there was assigned to England, 4,119 “square miles—2,636,160 acres.” But the estimate made by Dr. Tiarks was, as it is well known, a very large one, for he drew the southern limit of the disputed territory by an irregular west line running round the heads of streams flowing in opposite directions, from Mars Hill to the sources of the Chaudière, a line that was south of the true boundary claimed by Great Britain from the Roostuc to the Chaudière, which only gives for the whole area the square contents of 6,750,000 acres, a moiety of which is 3,375,000. Now

« PreviousContinue »