Page images
PDF
EPUB

He certainly did not write "Rosario Straits ;" that name for the channel claimed as the boundary by the British government was then unknown. It has been ingeniously suggested that Lord Aberdeen simply miscalled the "Gulf of Georgia" in writing "King George's Sound." There is a trace of George, no doubt, in both expressions; but this suggestion is open to the objection (which seems to us conclusive) that, in that case, Lord Aberdeen, in professing to describe the boundary, omitted to describe the only part which needed description. There is no question that in running westward on the forty-ninth parallel, as soon as the mainland is left, the water which is reached is the Gulf of Georgia; here must be the northerly point of the water line, which, accordingly, needs no description. There is no question that the Straits of Fuca make the southern part of the boundary line, for they are expressly mentioned by name in the treaty of 1846. It is precisely the piece of the line that comes between its beginning on the 49th parallel and its end in the Straits of Fuca that needs description; and here Lord Aberdeen's unfortunate slip of the pen gives us no light.

But whatever may have been intended by the phrase " King George's Sound," it is clear that Lord Aberdeen had in mind the same adjustment of the boundary which was understood on our side, from the fact that he concludes his description with the words "leaving the whole of Vancouver's Island, with its ports and harbors, in the possession of Great Britain." This was precisely the extent of the concession which it was believed might be made on the part of the United States. If Lord Aberdeen was expecting something more, it would have been no more than prudent, in this instruction to his own minister, to have pointed out that not only Vancouver's Island but the smaller islands lying between it and the mainland were intended to be covered by the language he employed.

It must be observed that this was a private instruction from Lord Aberdeen to Mr. Pakenham, accompanying the draught of the treaty which was to be offered to the United States; but this instruction was not intended to be communicated to the United States government, and in point of fact was not thus communicated until many years afterwards. And as late as 1859, Lord John Russell, in citing from the instruction, by a most unfortunate inadvertence, neglected to cite this closing sentence of the description. Happily Lord Napier had shown the original despatch to Mr. Campbell, who very well remembered it.1

Great Britain endeavored to supplement this vacuous piece of evidence with regard to the meaning attached on the British side to the language of the treaty of 1846 at the time it was made, by appealing, twelve years later, to the memories of Lord Aberdeen and Mr. Pakenham. It is easy to say that diplomatists proverbially have bad memories, or rather good ones; but it is not necessary to suppose that either Lord Aberdeen or Mr. Pakenham purposely forgot any thing. If the former were so confused about the names of the places that he could not call them rightly at the time, when officially instructing his minister, it is not strange that he could not remember them a dozen years later; while Mr. Pakenham had nothing to forget. He never was told any other than an obviously incorrect name for the channel proposed for the boundary; and, as it would seem, he never had the curiosity to inquire of his chief what was intended by " King George's Sound."

The question is often asked, why was it worth while to make a controversy upon a territorial question of so slight magnitude? This question is generally raised in each country with reference to the action of the other, but sometimes, in either country, by large-minded inquirers, in criticism of the action of their own government in protracting the controversy. What have the United States gained after all, it is asked, by the favorable decision of the German Emperor? The whole area comprised between the Rosario Straits and the Canal de Haro is but a few hundred square miles, and only part of this is land; San Juan is but a small island; why was it worth while to maintain a controversy and to invoke the machinery of arbitration with no greater interest at stake?

This question is natural. It is best answered, however, by another question: why was it worth while for Great Britain to insist

1 Mr. Archibald Campbell was the commissioner in behalf of the United States to lay down the boundary under the treaty of 1846, when Captain (now Admiral) Prevost acted in a similar capacity in behalf of Great Britain. Their discussions on the spot were terminated in 1857, in the impossibility of coming to an agreement. Mr. Campbell has more recently been appointed commissioner on the part of the United States to mark the boundary on the forty-ninth parallel, between the Lake of the Woods and the Rocky Mountains: a similar, but distinct duty, in which he is at present engaged.

from the beginning in having the whole of Vancouver's Island? The forty-ninth parallel, as we have seen, had already been adopted as the boundary for thousands of miles across the continent; why should Great Britain repeatedly refuse the proposition of the United States to continue this boundary to the Pacific Ocean, let it cut Vancouver's Island where it might? The part of Vancouver's Island south of the parallel is but about one-fifth of the whole, so that the greater part of the island in any case would have belonged to Great Britain.

The explanation of the earnestness of Great Britain upon this point is the obvious circumstance that the entrance from the Pacific Ocean into the Straits of Fuca lies south of Vancouver's Island; and these straits, with the system of watercourses to which they lead, give access by water to a large extent of territory north as well as south of the parallel of 49°. Had that parallel been maintained as the boundary quite to the Pacific Ocean, giving the southern portion of Vancouver's Island to the United States, we should have commanded both sides of the entrance to the straits, that is, both sides of the water-passage from the ocean, not only to our own territory, but also to the British possessions in that part of the continent. By insisting on the southern portion of Vancouver's Island, Great Britain secured the command of one side of the passage, leaving to the United States, as would appear, the command of the other side, — an arrangement palpably just and impartial.

The British government seems always to have been strongly impressed with the equity of such an arrangement as should give to each country respectively the command on land of one side of the water-passage from the Pacific by the Straits of Fuca. As early as 1826, the United States had proposed the forty-ninth parallel as the boundary throughout from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, with free navigation by British subjects of the Columbia River. The British government proposed at that time that the Columbia River should be the boundary from the point where its head waters were intersected by the forty-ninth parallel; but as that would cut off the United States from the Straits of Fuca, the British government then formally proposed that the United States should have in addition a tract of territory on the Pacific, on the southern side of the straits, to be possessed in exclusive sovereignty.

In yielding, therefore, to Great Britain, in 1846, the southern portion of Vancouver's Island, we yielded only to an equitable plan, of the sincerity of her belief in which Great Britain had given the strongest proof, that the two countries should divide the command by land of the water-passage from the ocean into the interior. But this passage, which begins with the Straits of Fuca, continues by the Canal de Haro; and it was a necessary sequel of the arrangement that, while Great Britain commanded one side of the passage from Vancouver's Island, the United States should command the other, not only from the mainland at the south of the entrance to the Straits of Fuca, but from the island of San Juan, which makes the eastern side of the channel of the Canal de Haro.

In other words, had Great Britain been able to substantiate before the German Emperor the claim to the Rosario Straits as "the channel" mentioned in the treaty of 1846, we should have been in this position, that having acquiesced in giving to the British the southern portion of Vancouver's Island upon their suggestion that it was not reasonable that we should have command by land of both sides of the water-passage from the ocean inland, we should in effect have given to them the land command of both sides, — an arrangement obviously equally unreasonable, and in all respects unsatisfactory.

We have contented ourselves with a general review of those points brought forward in the solution of the controversy which, in our view, were of the chief importance in affecting the decision. Many others, which are interesting, were adduced, and more or less stress was laid upon them upon either side. For these we must refer the reader to the papers themselves, which happily are not voluminous. The principal documents are but four in number. The case in behalf of the United States was opened before the German Emperor by Mr. Bancroft's " memorial " in December, 1871; at the same time the "case of Great Britain" was submitted in behalf of that government. In June, 1872, were submitted the " reply of the United States" again by Mr. Bancroft, and the "second and definitive statement " of Great Britain. On the 21st of October, 1872, the German Emperor made his award, that "most in accordance with the true interpretation of the treaty" of 1846 "is the claim of the government of the

VOl. Till. 17

United States, that the boundary line between the territories of Her Britannic Majesty and the United States should be drawn through the Haro channel."

This is the whole of the award. There is a formal preamble, but no argument or statement of reasons for the decision. The only thing to be remarked about it is an accidental slip of the pen in describing the late Treaty of Washington by the date of the sixth of May, 1871. The true date is the eighth. This error exists in the original bearing the Emperor's autograph signature and the impression of the imperial great seal. From the circumstances of the case, it is not likely to be attended with the inconveniences which resulted from the similar accident in the use of the phrase " King George's Sound" in the preparation of Lord Aberdeen's instruction. The error is of no practical consequence whatever.

While the award is thus brief, the preliminary statements in behalf of each side are full of interesting matter. Each is accompanied by an appendix. Evidence in the shape of extracts from official correspondence, and numerous maps, were brought forward on each side. The second British statement is illustrated by an "historical note," to which is attached, for convenience of reference, a curious table giving the names of all the official personages who have been connected with the negotiations, from Lord Castlereagh to Lord Granville on one side, and President Munroe to President Grant, Mr. John Q. Adams to Mr. Fish, as their secretaries of state, on the other. This table gives the exact date of service of the several ministers and others having official part in the negotiations, and is valuable for other purposes besides the study of this particular question.

All of these papers make together the fifth volume of " Papers relating to the Treaty of Washington," accompanying the President's Message to Congress of December, 1872, — a document of 271 pages, which has been published since the preparation of the last number of this Review. The maps are included; most of them, we regret to say, reproduced in wretched lithography, unworthy of the government printing-office, and unlike its usual work. It may promote the convenience of those who have occasion to use the volume, if we remark that the list of maps presented in behalf of the United States (a part of which are interspersed among the pages of the text, and a part placed at

« PreviousContinue »