« PreviousContinue »
causes all those incorrect statements which had so much prejudiced the British claim both at home and abroad. They believed that the moment was arrived when it was necessary to present a strong case for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government if the right and the honour of the country authorized it, or frankly to admit that the claim of Great Britain did not appear to them to be founded in truth and justice*. Under a deep sense, then, of their responsibility, they, after long and anxious investigation of the subject, determined to report in substance to Her Majesty's Government, that the line of “ Highlands” claimed by America was inconsistent with the physical geography of the country, and with the inten. tions of the Treaty of 1783; and that the line of “Highlands” mentioned in the second Article of that Treaty did not lie to the north of the St. John, but to the south of that river. . : This Report, accompanied with all the details necessary to the perfect understanding and confirmation of these conclusions, was intended, not only as a document upon which Her Majesty's Government might safely rely for the maintenance of the just rights of the country, but also as a full and sufficient refutátion of the unfounded allegations that had been brought forward, in the progress of the contro versy, of the want of good faith and integrity which had marked the character of the British claim. This claim was now shown to be such as the Government and the nation could approve, without fearing to compromise its character for justice and the sacred regard due to Treaties. It might be true that the existing state of things forbade the sanguine expectation that Great Britain could ever peacefully realize the claim established by this Report, and indeed its authors were far from thinking that the controversy ever could be settled but by a friendly compromise; but finding that they could conscientiously present a case to the world which relieved their country from every offensive imputation, they submitted their Report to Her Majesty's Government in 1840, by whom it was accepted, and officially communicated to that of the United States of America in June, 1840, previous to its being laid before Parliament in the month of July of the same year.
* On the day that Her Majesty's Commissioners entered the disputed territory to commence their investigations, they agreed, that on whatever side the evidence of right should appear to them to preponderate, they would frankly state their opinions to Government, that every possible chance might be avoided of further exasperating the dispute between the two countries..
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 extent 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 à 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