Lapas attēli

of the two contracting parties may have to any part of the said country; nor shall it be taken to affect the claims of any other power or state to any part of the said country; the only object of the high contracting parties, in that respect, being to prevent disputes and differences among themselves." This convention was renewed in perpetuity in 1827, with the option on either side of renounciug it on giving twelve months' notice. It was qualified, however, by the omission of the reference to the rights of foreign powers, the United States having, in 1819, signed a convention with Spain, and Great Britain, in 1825, a treaty with Russia, being the only powers who, in 1818, could pretend to any claims over any part of the territory.

In 1846 the United States gave notice of terminating this convention of joint occupancy, in the midst of a hot contest of disputed territorial rights which had been going on for some months. The fact was that in the course of time the fine quality of the soil and climate of these territories had begun to be recognized; and, favoured by the fortunate discovery of a remarkable pass in the Rocky Mountains, at the head of La Platte, vast tides of immigrants were beginning to pour into it. Mr. (afterwards Sir Richard) Packington most ably and triumphantly supported the rights of Great Britain against the sweeping pretensions assumed by the other side; but it soon became apparent, that, as in the case of the Maine Boundary question, unless we were prepared to support our claims with something more than argument, we had better cede quietly, what

was only to be effectually defended by force. The modest and reasonable pretension put forward by Great Britain was, that the boundary between the two countries should be made by a coutinuation of the line on the 49th parallel, till it joined the Columbia River, and that it should thence proceed down the middle of that river to the Pacific; Great Britain at the same time offering to give to the United States any port which they might desire, either on the mainland or on Vancouver's Island, .south of the 49th parallel.

The United States utterly repudiated this proposal, and insisted on the 49th parallel as the procrustean rule, from end to end, between the two countries. It so happened, however, that the 49th parallel would have cut off from us a portion of the south-eastern extremity of Vancouver's Island, which we could hardly be expected to consent too, even on the demand of our insatiable opponents. In the end, the negociations were cut short by a proposition which was sent over by Lord Aberdeen, in which, abandoning all claim to the Columbia River, he proposed a clumsy medium course which was at once accepted, and embodied in the Treaty of Washington, signed June 15th, 1846. The boundary so agreed was described as starting from the point on the 49th parallel where the boundary laid down in existing treaties terminates, and then "continued westward to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver's Island, and thence southerly through the middle of the said channel and of Fuca's straits

to the Pacific ocean,—provided, however, that the navigation of the whole of the said channel and straits south of the 49th parallel of north latitude remains free and open to both parties."

The misfortune of this hap-hazard arrangement was that, like previous boundary arrangements, it was formulated in ignorance of the geographical conditions of the place. In the total absence of surveys it was not known that "the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver's Island," running North and South, is no channel at all, in the true sense of the word, but an archipelago crowded with islands, amongst which various devious channels make their way. The principal of these islands is that of St. Juan, which, though intrinsically of no great value, is important in a strategical point of view, as commanding the approach to Victoria, the capital of Vancouver's Island; and, through the latter, that to all the British North American possessions. This island was first settled by the Hudson's Bay Company; and until recent disputes commenced, had always been considered British territory, and, as such, within the jurisdiction of the Government of Vancouver's Island. The method by which this peaceful occupancy was disturbed was in accordance with the usual marauding principles in vogue with our American cousins. In 1859, some squatters made their appearance upon the island, between whom and the original settlers disputes soon arose, in the course of which one of the former lost a hog. Upon this, General Harvey, of the United States

service, in command in Washington territory, a portion of the state of Oregon, so called, sent over some troops for the protection of American citizens, and their rights as such, and made nominal seizure of the whole island. This audacious encroachment was met by General Douglas, Governor of Vancouver's Island, who sent over a small detachment of troops, who landed upon the opposite side of the island to that occupied by the United States troops; and so was established a rival occupancy, which has continued ever since; a most anomalous, and discreditable condition of affairs, which none but a very weak and pusillanimous nation would permit to exist for a single day.

The question now is-who is to retain this inportant island? The United States insist that the boundary line, under the Treaty of 1846, should be taken down the Haro Channel which runs between Vancouver's Island and that of St. Juan; the British claim the Rosario Strait, which runs between the latter and the continent. The former line would give St. Juan to the United States, the latter would give it to Great Britain. The importance of the question in a strategical point of view, to which we have already alluded, is increased by the following considerations, that the Haro passage is narrow, and unsuitable for navigation except by steam, and might be commanded by the Island of St. Juan in such a way as to practically cut off from Vancouver all communication by sea with the main land; the only alternative passage, that of Queen Charlotte's Sound, being narrow, intricate and dangerous.

The arrangements for a settlement between the two Governments had been made in the abortive Treaty of 1869, and the British Commissioners proposed that an arbitration should be based upon that Treaty. The American Commissioners replied that "though no formal vote was actually taken upon it, it was well understood that the Treaty (of 1869) had not been favourably regarded by the Senate." They therefore declined the proposal for an arbitration having reference to that Treaty, and "expressed a wish that an effort should be made to settle the question in the Joint High Commission." This was assented to on our side; but the American Commissioners still insisting on the Haro Canal, the British Commissioners dissented, and the other side then suggested that "the Treaty might have been made under a mutual misunderstanding," and "therefore proposed to abrogate the whole of that part of the Treaty, and re-arrange the boundary line which was in dispute before that Treaty was concluded." The British Commissioners, having no instructions which would enable them to entertain this proposal, declined it, with the remark which has since the Alabama disputes been used against us with recriminatory effect,-that "the proposal to abrogate a Treaty was one of a serious character." After some further haggling, the British Commissioners proposing to adopt the middle channel (generally known as the Douglas Channel), and the Americans insisting upon the Haro Channel, the former again proposed to refer the matter to arbitration. The American Commissioners accepted


« iepriekšējāTurpināt »