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THE TREATY OF WASHINGTON,
Signed August 9, 1842.
It will create surprise in some persons to find an inveterate opposition produced to the Treaty of Washington in the United States, that country which will benefit so much by its provisions; but in Treaties of delimitation betwixt independent States, it often happens that individuals suppose they can find just cause for dissatisfaction, both of a public and private nature; for being almost invariably founded upon a compromise of conflicting interests and jurisdictions, they can scarcely be closed without opening a door to the reproaches of interested and offended persons. Those who do not conceive their private interests to have been satisfactorily secured are generally loud and unceasing in the expression of their disapprobation, whilst those who feel that they have nothing left to desire, attribute their good fortune to the justice of their claims, and are slow to praise, even when they owe it to the most painful and meritorious exertions of others. Thus Treaties, even when they are in every sense well timed and deserving of the public confidence, are frequently more vehemently assailed than they are defended.
But even the objections which are made to Treaties upon public grounds have sometimes their origin also in private feeling, for when a Treaty has been so judiciously made as to furnish no just ground of discontent to private individuals, and no substantial reasons for provoking the censure of public opinion, its very merits sometimes conjure up opponents, and it is arraigned, not from a sincere conviction of its demerits, but from a deep sense of disappointment at seeing others reap the glory of accomplishing an eminent service to their country, in the harvest of which circumstances had denied them any participation.
Now, although these remarks apply more particularly to the United States, where personal interests were mixed up in the Boundary question, and where the Treaty, like every other great measure, was exposed to strong political opposition, still it has not escaped animadversion in our own country. Happily, however, this has not been of an uncompromising character, and has already given way to calmer views of those practical benefits, which all who are interested in the preservation of peace and friendship between Great Britain and America are glad to entertain.
The defence, therefore, of this important public act might, on the part of this country at least, have been safely left to its own operation, if the opposition to it had been confined to the people that were parties to it. This has not been the case. A writer* of ability in a neighbouring nation, appearing to be influenced by a jealous impatience at the prosperity and glory of England, and mistaking the motives and the conduct of her Government, has studiously engaged in misrepresenting both, and seems to wish, with perverse energy, to lower Great Britain in the eyesof the nations of Europe, from the high moral position she has taken.
And as a great majority of those who constitute public opinion in all countries have neither the time nor the means to form an accurate judgment of the real value of those controversial statements, assertions, and arguments which are advanced, it becomes the fit and natural duty of those who are differently situated, and indeed of every Englishman who is alive to the estimate which should be formed of the honour of his country abroad, to vindicate, according to his ability, those public acts of his Government which can be shown, by the test of truth and reason, to be founded in wisdom and justice.
* Rerue des Deux Mondes. Diplomatic Etranggre. Du nouveau Trait6 entre l'Angleterre et les Etats Unis.—Paris, Octobre, 1842.
The discussions which have taken place at home and abroad upon the merits of this Treaty, have not only suggested these reflections, but have prompted the author of these pages to endeavour to give a lucid and plain statement of the true meaning of the Treaty of Washington, for the purpose of correcting many misrepresentations respecting it that seem, for the most part, to have grown out of an imperfect acquaintance with the subject. He submits, therefore, to the public a short narrative of the circumstances which led to it, accompanied with a fair yet brief examination of its whole purport, having no apprehension of failing in his principal object, which is, to establish a general conviction that it is eminently consistent with the honour and interests of Great Britain.
It is a curious illustration of what has been stated, and may serve as a measure of the intrinsic value of this Treaty, that at its promulgation, it was simultaneously denounced both in Great Britain and in the United States of America, as an act by which Lord Ashburton