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S. Doc. 231, pt 5-37



[See pp. 580, 584, 599, 600, 609.]


March 9, 1790.

As to the difference that subsists between Great Britain and the United States relative to the eastern boundary, Mr. Strong reported as follows:

The committee to whom the President's messages of the 9th and 18th of February, relating to the differences subsisting between Great Britain and the United States relative to the eastern boundary of the said States, were committed beg leave to report:

That effectual measures should be taken, as soon as conveniently may be, to settle all disputes with the Crown of Great Britain relative to that line.

That it would be proper to cause a representation of the case to be made to the court of Great Britain, and if the said disputes can not be otherwise amicably adjusted, to propose that commissioners be appointed to hear and finally decide those disputes, in the manner pointed out in the report of the late Secretary of the United States for the Department of Foreign Affairs of the 21st of April, 1785, a copy of which report accompanied the first of the said messages.

And that measures should be taken to perpetuate the testimonies of John Mitchell and Nathan Jones, who were appointed by the late Governor Bernard, in 1764, to ascertain the river St. Croix, and of any other persons who may have useful information on this subject. (Annals, 1st Cong., 953.)


February 17, 1829.

Mr. Sanford reported as follows:

That the choice of some friendly sovereign or state for the determination of the points of difference which have arisen in the settlement of the boundary between the United States and the British dominions, as described in the fifth article of the treaty of Ghent, and the first article of the convention of London, of the 29th day of September, in


the year 1827, is a compact or treaty, to be made between the United States and the British Government, which can not be made, on the part of the United States, by the President of the United States without the advice and consent of the Senate.

(Ex. Jour., vol. 3, 645.)

[See pp. 579, 584, 599, 600, 609.]


March 21, 1832.

As to arbitration of King of the Netherlands between the United States and Great Britain as to boundary between the possessions of the two countries, Mr. Tazewell reported as follows:

That this committee have bestowed upon the several subjects to them referred all the attention which their great importance demanded. At the commencement of their examination of these interesting subjects every member of the committee was equally aware that their feelings, as citizens of the United States, might very probably mislead any judgment they might be disposed to form in regard to the correctness of the determination of His Majesty the King of the Netherlands, which proposes to establish the boundary between the possessions of the United States and those of His Majesty the King of Great Britain.. Every argument which suggested itself to the mind of any member of this committee to prove the truth and justice of the several positions for which the United States have contended in the course of the discussion of this subject had already been presented by their different agents, and had proved unsatisfactory both to Great Britain and to the arbiter mutually chosen by the two powers to settle and determine the subject of difference between them. This circumstance of itself was sufficient to warn the committee against confiding too implicitly in their own opinions with regard to a matter as to which they were conscious of feeling so deep an interest and to induce them to view the subject as it now exists, rather than to consider it as presenting a question still open for discussion.

This committee entertain no doubt of the perfect right of the United States to refuse to abide by the award of His Majesty the King of the Netherlands if the constituted authorities of the United States shall think that this award is not made within the terms or meaning of the submission; and they are aware that many reasons exist which, to the minds of our own citizens at least, may appear strong to induce the opinion that such is the case. But will such arguments satisfy others! And if not, what will be the effect of rejecting this award? These are the only questions which this committee think it necessary now to examine.

The history of this country will show that the question, what is the true northeastern boundary of the present United States, has been often discussed between the different parties interested in its decision. While France held the territory contiguous to the former colonies of Great Britain on their north and eastern frontier, this question then disturbed the relations of these two powers; and it was only settled by the treaty which transferred all the dominions of the former in this

quarter to the latter. Not long after that event the same question was revived between Great Britain and her then colony of Massachusetts. As the King of Great Britain was at that time the sovereign of all the provinces limited by this boundary, no matter where it was established or how it was run, and as no private rights had then been acquired near to the line which was ultimately settled by him as the boundary of these provinces, it was then of little moment to any where this line was fixed. Hence, probably, in establishing the northeastern boundary of Massachusetts at that time but little regard was paid to accuracy of description or precision of terms, and a line was fixed upon, of which the "terminus a quo" was not more certainly described than the "terminus ad quem." Before it became necessary to ascertain this line with any degree of accuracy our revolution commenced, and the uncertain boundary established by the previous acts of the Government of Great Britain was recognized by the treaty of 1783 as the northeastern boundary of the United States.

Thus the old question, what the boundary line was, and where it ran, was revived. The settlement of this question constituted the subject of the fifth article of the treaty between the United States and Great Britain in 1794; and it was supposed by both the parties to be determined with sufficient accuracy by the final decision of the commissioners appointed in pursuance of that article. It is worthy of remark here that the decision of the commissioners differed not less widely from the positions contended for by each of the two disagreeing parties at that time than does the present determination of His Majesty the King of the Netherlands from the positions assumed by each of the same parties upon this occasion. Yet both the United States and Great Britain concurred in adopting the decision of these commissioners, although it varied essentially from the claim of boundary set up by each of the two powers.

This decision settled definitively the uncertain "terminus a quo" the northeastern boundary of the United States was to run; and as no difference then existed between the powers as to the course or direction of this line of boundary, the "terminus ad quem" was also supposed to be fixed. Doubts being afterwards suggested on the part of Great Britain as to this point, it was the purpose of the fifth article of the treaty of Ghent, in 1814, to remove these doubts by adopting a mode for settling them similar to that which had been found satisfactory to the parties in the previous case. The commissioners appointed by the high contracting parties, in pursuance of the fifth article of the treaty of Ghent, could neither agree in their opinions, nor affect any other adjustment of the matter to them referred; therefore, the event contemplated by that article having thus occurred, it became necessary under the provisions of this treaty that the two powers should refer the subject to some friendly sovereign or State, to be named by them for that purpose, who should determine the same. His Majesty the King of the Netherlands was the friendly sovereign named by the two high contracting parties for this purpose. He having accepted the function of arbitrator so conferred upon him by his award has decided the whole subject.

The committee have made these statements merely to show that the question determined by this award is one of long standing, which has been much vexed, and that the points involved in it, and necessary to its accurate determination have in some degree been changed by the

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