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On his Lordship's arrival at Washington, he was met by satisfactory assurances, on the part of the Federal Goverment, of a sincere desire to co-operate with him in giving effect to his mission. This friendly feeling, unequivocally seconded as it was by public opinion in every part of the United States, would probably have led at once to an amicable settlement of the Boundary question, but for that anomaly in Government which has been before alluded to, and which, practically, left the executive branch of the United States without power to give any effect to what was deemed by that department consistent with the public welfare.
By the Federal constitution of that Government, the power of negotiating with Foreign countries is exclusively vested in the executive branch, subject to the ratification of the Senate, but as in this matter of the Boundary question the Federal Government had concurred with the State of Maine, as to the validity of its claim, it was barred by its own act from concluding any agreement with Great Britain to vary what had been assumed to be the Boundary line intended in the Second Article of the Treaty of 1783, without first obtaining the consent of the State or States interested in maintaining the American claim. An official invitation was therefore addressed to the Governors of the States of Maine and Massachussets, by Mr. Webster, the Federal Secretary of State, dated April 11, 1842, in which he urges upon them "the propriety of their co-operation, to a cer"tain extent, and in a certain form, in an "endeavour to terminate a controversy already "of so long duration." And adds:—
"The President proposes, then, that the "Government of Maine and Massachussets "should severally appoint a Commissioner or "Commissioners, empowered to confer with the "authorities of this Government upon a con"ventional line, or line by agreement, with its "terms, conditions, considerations, and equiva"lents, with an understanding that no such "line will be agreed upon without the consent "of such Commissioners."
Upon this invitation the legislative authorities of these States delegated Commissioners to attend at Washington during the progress of the negotiation, with power to give the assent of their respective States to a compromise of the Boundary question, it being provided, however, by the legislative authorities of Maine, that no conventional line was to be agreed upon "without the unanimous assent of their four Commissioners."
Amongst the Maine Commissioners was Mr. William P. Preble, the gentleman who,
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 satisfactory; but in another point of view, independent 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."