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opinions have been industriously emitted throughout this controversy. and, in some instances, by persons in authority, of a description so much calculated to mislead the public mind that I think it may be of service to offer a few observations.
I do not of course complain of the earnest adherence of partisans' on either side to the general arguments upon which their case is supposed to rest ; but a position has been taken, and facts have been repeatedly stated, which I am sure the authorities of the Federal Government will be abundantly able to contradict, but which have evidently given rise to much public misapprehension. It is maintained that the whole of this controversy about the Boundary began in 1814; that up to that period the line as claimed by Maine was undisputed by Great Britain, and that the claim was avowedly founded on motives of interest to obtain the means of conveniently connecting the British Provinces. I confine these remarks to the refuting this imputation, and I should indeed not have entered upon controversy, even on this, if it did not appear to me to involve, in some degree, a question of national sincerity and good faith.
The assertion is founded on the discussions which preceded the Treaty of Peace signed at Ghent, in 1814. It is perfectly true that a proposal was submitted by the British Plenipotentiaries for the revision of the Boundary Line on the north-eastern frontier, and that it was founded on the position that it was desired to secure the communication between the provinces, the precise delimitation of which was at that time imperfectly known. The American Plenipotentiaries in their first communication from Ghent to the Secretary of State, admit that the British Ministers expressly disclaimed any intention of acquiring an increase of territory, and that they proposed the revision for the purpose of preventing uncere tainty and dispute-a purpose sufficiently justified by subsequent events. Again, in their note of the 4th of September, 1814, the British Ministers remind those from America, that the boundary had never been ascertained, and that the line claimed by America, which interrupted the communication between Halifax and Quebec, never could have been in the contemplation of the parties to the Treaty of Peace of 1783. The same view of the case will be found to pervade all the communications between the plenipotentiaries of the two countries at Ghent. There was no attempt to press any cession of territory on the ground of policy or expedience, but, although the precise geography of the country was then imperfectly known, it was notorious at the time that different opinions existed as to the boundary likely to result from continuing the North Line from the head of the River St. Croix. This appears to have been so clearly known and admitted by the American Plenipotentiaries, that they, in submitting to the conference the project of a treaty, offer a preamble to their 4th Article in these words :
“Whereas, neither that part of the highlands lying due north from the source of the River St. Croix, and designated in the former Treaty of Peace between the two Powers, as the north-west angle of Nova Scotia, nor the north-westernmost head of the Connecticut River has yet been ascertained, &c.".
It should here be observed that these are the words proposed, not by the British but by the American negotiators, and that they were finally adopted by both in the 5th Article of the Treaty.
To close my observations upon what passed on this subject at Ghent I would draw your attention to the letter of Mr. Gallatin, one of the American Plenipotentiaries, to Mr. Secretary Monroe, of the 25th December, 1814. He offers the following conjecture as to what might probably be the arguments of Great Britain, against the line set up by America : “They hope that the river which empties into the Bay des Chaleurs, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, has its source so far west as to intervene between the head waters of the River St. Johns, and those of the streams emptying into the River St. Lawrence; so that the line north from the source of the River St. Croix will first strike the heights of land which divide the waters emptying into the Atlantic Ocean (River St. Johns), from those emptying into the Gulf of St. Lawrence (River des Chaleurs), and afterwards the heights of land which divide the waters emptying into the Gulf of St. Lawrence (River des Chaleurs), from those emptying into the River St. Lawrence ; but that the said line never can, in the words of the Treaty, strike any spot of land actually dividing the waters emptying into the Atlantic Ocean, from those which fall into the River St. Lawrence.” .. So obvious an argument in opposition to the line claimed by America could not escape the known sagacity of Mr. Gallatin. I state it not for the purpose of discussing its merit, but to show that at Ghent not only the fact was well known that this Boundary Question was a matter in dispute, but that the arguments respecting it had then been weighed by the gentleman so éminent in its subsequent discussion. Indeed, the fact that the American Ministers made this disputed question a matter for reference by a Treaty, afterwards ratified by the President and Senate, must to every candid mind be sufficient proof that it was generally considered to be in· volved in sufficient doubt to entitle it to such a mode of solution. It cannot possibly be supposed that the President and Senate would have admitted by treaty doubts respecting this boundary, if they had been heard of for the first time through the pretensions of the British Plenipotentiaries at Ghent. .. If the argument or assertions, which I am now noticing, and to which · I studiously confine myself, had not come from authority, I should owe some apology for these observations. The history of this unfortunate controversy is too well known to you, Sir, and stands but too voluminously recorded in your department, to make them necessary for your own information.
The repeated discussions between the two countries, and the repeated projects for settlement, which have occupied every successive Administration of the United States, sufficiently prove how unfounded is the assertion that doubts and difficulties respecting this boundary had their first origin in the year 1814. It is true that down to that time, and, indeed, to a later period, the local features of the country were little known, and the different arguments had, in consequence, not assumed any definite form; but sufficient was known to both parties to satisfy them of the impossibility of tracing strictly the boundary prescribed by the Treaty of Peace of 1783.
I would refer in proof of this simply to American authorities, and those of the very first order.
In the year 1802, Mr. Madison, at that time Secretary of State for the - United States, in his instructions to Mr. Rufus King, observed that the difficulty in fixing the north-west angle of Nova Scotia “ arises from a reference in the Treaty of 1783 to highlands, which it is now found have no definite existence;" and he suggests the appointment of a commission to be jointly appointed to determine on a point most proper to be substituted for the description in Article II. of the Treaty of 1783.”
Again, Mr. Jefferson, in a message to Congress, on the 17th October, * 1803, stated that " a further knowledge of the ground in the north-eastern and north-western angles of the United States has evinced that the boundaries established by the Treaty of Paris, between the British territories ·and ours, in those points, were too imperfectly described to be susceptible of execution.” . · These opinions of two most distinguished American statesmen gave rise to a convention of boundary made in London by Mr. Rufus King and Lord Hawkesbury, which, from other circumstances which it is not necessary to refer to, was not ratified by the Senate.
I might further refer you on this subject to the report of Judge Sullivan, who acted as Commissioner of the United States, for settling the controversy with Great Britain respecting the true River St. Croix, who says, " The boundary between Nova Scotia and Canada was described by the King's proclamation in the same mode of expression as that used in the Treaty of Peace Commissioners who were appointed to settle that line have traversed the country in vain to find the highlands, designated as a boundary.”
With these known facts how can it possibly be maintained that doubts about the boundary arose for the first time in the year 1814 ? I need not pursue this subject further. Indeed, it would have been
useless to treat of it at all with any person having before him the records of the diplomatic history of the two countries for the last half a century. My object in adverting to it is to correct an error, arising, I am ready to believe, not from any intention to misrepresent, but from want of information, and which seemed to be sufficiently circulated to make some refutation useful towards promoting the desired friendly and equitable settlement of this question...
. We believe the position maintained by us on the subject of this boundary to be founded in justice and equity; and we deny that we have been determined in our pretensions by policy and expedience. I might, perhaps, fairly admit that those last-mentioned considerations have prompted, in some measure, our perseverence in maintaining them. The territory in controversy is, for that portion of it at least which is likely to come to Great Britain by any amicable settlement, as worthless for any purposes of habitation or cultivation as probably any tract of equal size on the habitable globe; and if it were not for the obvious circumstance of its.connecting the British North American Provinces, I believe I might venture to say that, whatever might have been the merit of our case, we should long since have given up the controversy and willingly have made the sacrifice to the wishes of a country with which it is so much our interest, as it is our desire, to maintain the most perfect harmony and good will. .
I trust that this sentiment must be manifest in my unreserved communication with you on this and all other subjects connected with my mission. If I have failed in this respect, I shall have ill obeyed the instructions of my Government, and the earnest dictates of my personal inclinations.
Permit me, &c., . . . . . (Signed) ASHBURTON.
Mr. Webster to Lord Ashburton.
Department of State,
Washington, June 17, 1842. LORD ASHBURTON having been charged by the Queen's Govern. ment with full powers to negotiate and settle all matters in discussion between the United States and England, and having on his arrival at Washington announced that in relation to the question of the Northeastern Boundary of the United States, he was authorized to treat for a conventional line, or line by agreement, on such terms and conditions and with such mutual considerations and equivalents as might be thought just and equitable, and that he was ready to enter upon a negotiation for such conventional line so soon as this Government should say that it was authorized and ready on its part to commence such negotiation, the Undersigned, Secretary of State of the United States, has now the honour to acquaint his Lordship, by direction of the President, that the Undersigned is ready, on behalf of the Government of the United States, and duly authorized to proceed to the consideration of such conventional line, or line by agreement, and will be happy to have an interview on that subject, at his Lordship's convenience. - The Undersigned &c.,
(Signed) DANIEL WEBSTER.
Lord Ashburton to Mr. Webster.
* Washington, June 17, 1842. :: THE Undersigned, Plenipotentiary of Her Britannic Majesty on an extraordinary and special mission to the United States of America, has the honour of acknowledging, with much satisfaction, the communication received this day from Mr. Webster, Secretary of State of the United States, that he is ready, on behalf of the United States, and duly authorized, in relation to the question of the North-eastern Boundary of the United States, to proceed to the consideration of a conventional line, or line by agreement, on such terms and conditions, and with such mutual considerations and equivalents, as: might be thought just and equitable. And in reply to Mr. Webster's invitation to the Undersigned to fix some time for their first conference upon this subject, he begs to propose to call on Mr. Webster at the Department of State to-morrow at 12 o'clock for this purpose, should that time be perfectly convenient to Mr. Webster. . .: The Undersigned, &c., . in."
Department of State, .....
Washington, June 17, 1842. THE Secretary of State will have great pleasure in seeing Lord Ashburton at twelve o'clock to-morrow, as proposed by him.
Lord Ashburton to Mr. Webster. Sir; ont :
. . :Washington, June 21, 1842.THE letter you did me the honour of addressing me on the 17th instant, informed me that you were now prepared and authorized to enter with me into the discussion of that portion of the differences between our two countries, which relates to the North-Eastern Boundary, and we had the following day our first formal conference for that purpose, with a view to consider, in the first instance, the best mode of proceeding to arrive at what is so much desired by all parties, an amicable, and, at the same time, equitable settlement of a controversy, which, with the best intentions, the authorities of the two countries for nearly half a century have in vain endeavoured to effect. 1. The result of this conference has been, that I have been invited by you to state generally my view of this case, and of the expectations of my Government;' and although I am aware that, in the ordinary, practice of diplomatic intercourse I should expose myself to some disadvantage by so doing, I nevertheless do not hesitate to comply, premising only that the following observations are to be considered merely as memoranda for discussion, and not as formal propositions to have any binding effect, should our negotiation have the unfortunate fate of the many which have preceded it, of ending in disappointment.
I believe you are sufficiently aware of the circumstances which induced me personally to undertake this mission. If the part which during a long life I have taken in public affairs is marked by any particular character, it has been by an earnest persevering desire to maintain peace and to
promote harmony between our two countries. My exertions were unavailingly employed to prevent the last unfortunate war, and have since been unremitting in watching any passing clouds which might at any time forebode its renewal. On the accession to power of the present Ministers in England, perceiving the same wise and honourable spirit to prevail with them, I could not resist the temptation and the hope of being of some service to my country and to our common race, at a time of life when no other cause could have had sufficient interest to draw me from a retirement better suited to my age and to my inclinations. . 1 trust, Sir, that you will have perceived in the course of my hitherto informal communications with you, that I approach my duties generally without any of those devices and maneuvres which are supposed, I believe ignorantly, to be the useful tools of ordinary diplomacy. With a person of your penetration they would avail as little as they would with the intelligent public of the two great enlightened countries of whose interests we are treating. I know no other mode of acting than open plain dealing, and I therefore disregard willingly all the disadvantage of complying with the invitation given me to be the first to speak on this question of the Eastern Boundary. It is already agreed that we abstain from a continued discussion of the arguments by which the lines of the two countries are reciprocally maintained, and I have so well observed this rule that I have not even communicated to you a volume of additional controversial matter which I brought with me, and much of which would, if controversy were our object, be of no inconsiderable weight and importance. It would be in the event only of the failure of this negotiation, which I will not anticipate, that we should be again driven into the labyrinth from which it is our purpose to escape, and that failing to interpret strictly the words of the Treaty, we should be obliged to search again into contemporaneous occurrences and opinions for principles of construction which might shed light on the actual intentions of the parties.
Our success must, on the contrary, depend on the reciprocal admission or presumption that the Royal Arbiter was so far right, when he came to the conclusion, which others had come to before him, that the Treaty of 1783 was not executable according to its strict expression, and that the case was therefore one for agreement by compromise. The only point upon which I thought it my duty to enter upon anything like controversy is that referred to in my letter of the 13th instant, and I did so to rescue my Government and myself from an imputation of unworthy motives, and the charge that they set up a claim which they knew to be unfounded from mere considerations of policy or convenience. The assertions of persons in my position on subjects connected with their diplomatic duties are naturally received by the world with some caution, but I trust you will believe me when I assure you that I should not be the person to come here on any such errand. I do not pretend, nor have I ever thought the claim of Great Britain, with respect to this Boundary, any more than the claim of America, to be unattended with difficulties. Those claims have been considered by impartial men of high authority and unquestioned ability to be equally so attended; and, therefore, it is that this is a question for a compromise, and it is this compromise which it has become our duty to endeavour to accomplish. I will only here add the most solemn assurance, which I would not lightly make, that after a long and careful consideration of all the arguments and inferences, direct and circumstantial, bearing on the whole of this truly difficult question, it is my settled conviction that it was the intentions of the parties to the Treaty of Peace of 1783, however imperfectly those intentions may have been executed, to leave to Great Britain, by their description of boundaries, the whole of the waters of the River St. John.
The length of these preliminary observations, requires, perhaps, some apology, but I now proceed to comply with your application to me to state the principles and conditions on which it appears to me that this compromise, which it is agreed we should attempt, should be founded.
A new boundary is, in fact, to be traced between the State of Maine