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did explore, and make most important doza,* that “this imaginary propriety discoveries, as high up as the 58th par- [sovereignty] could not binder other allel, three and four years before any princes from transporting colonies into English or other foreign vessel appeared those parts where the Spaniards inhabit on the coast at all-establishing for Spain not, forasmuch as prescription without a claim, certainly incontestible, unless possession is little worth.” These things the principle of right, by prior discovery, are mere forms, words. The question is, be utterly denied; and finally, that the why, for two hundred and fifty years, Nootka Sound Treaty, ratified in 1792, vessels were not sent into those seas ? (only seven years after these discover colonies planted ? legitimate ascendancy ies, has not a single phrase or word, made to take the place of tenantless sovwhich can be construed into a relinquish- ereignty? This would have been a pracment of the Spanish sovereign title; but tical denial of exclusive claim, amounting simply concedes certain hunting and to something. Is it said, that the estabtrading privileges-rigorously withheld lishment of Meares, at Nootka Sound, before — with establishments, "settle. 1788,t was an attempt to do this ? or is ments,” for that purpose, (that is, the to be looked upon as virtnally doing it? use of the country,) the express terms But this came too late to be legitimate. being, that “ the sovereignty shall be in To say nothing of the title by prescripabeyance,” thus plainly leaving that ab- tion, which so long sufferance had now stract title to be as valid, after any (rea- perfected, Spain, we repeat, had just sonable) term of years, as it was before completed such important discoveries the Convention took place. This was the along the whole coast, (prior to any argument for our right through Spain, made by England,) as in themselves and we have not, as yet, seen any ob- gave her a new and perfect title. We jections successfully invalidating it. Mr. cannot, indeed, repress our surprise, that Gallatin, indeed, in his recent able letters this, the most important point of all, published in Washington, affirms that should be so constantly and willfully England did practically question and overlooked by the assailers of that title. deny the exclusive Spanish claim to the We again assert, that if a claim by prior Pacific Coast, by making the colonial discoveries be not worthless, the three charters which she granted, in the seven. distinct explorations of Perez, Heceta teenth century, along the Atlantic, extend and Bodega, surveying many parts of the across the continent to the “ South coast, from California to the 58th paralSeas,” that is, to the Pacific Ocean. Tël, in the years 1774, 1775—Cook arriv. What a “practical questioning” was ing there in 1778—established for Spain that! To stretch a vague pretension, a claim which cannot be overturned ; and on the vaguest of all principles, indefi- that England appears to us, in that connite contiguily-for an unknown dis- troversy, to have been uiterly in the tance-across a continent of wilderness wrong. It was her power, and Spain's -three thousand miles of forests, rivers weakness, which made that dispute end and mountains, utterly unexplored-to as it did. England is often magnanian unknown ocean, whose shores no mous; but she has never refused to exVessel of hers had ever coasted, but tend her dominion-most of all, her comwhere another nation had already planted merce; and the most ambitious and graspsettlements not many leagues below the ing of all her ministers, William Pitt
, point where the lowest of these grants was then at the head of affairs. It is would strike the coast, and had explored simply asked, what would Great Britain to a higher parallel (the 43d) than would have done, bad she been in Spain's bound the highest! The granting of place? The answer needs not to be inthose indefinite charters is, in fact, among timated. the most absurd things in all history. It One other point has been raised. It is is only to be compared, in ridiculousness, urged (in the Edinburgh Review and with the pope's bull, which has been so elsewhere) that the Spanish title, when much ridiculed, and, in truth, bears a made over to us by treaty, in 1819, had strong likeness to it. Nor is it of any then become invalidated by “non-user,” more account, that Queen Elizabeth de or neglect to occupy. We see not huw clared to the Spanish ambassador, Men- this can be. It must of course depend
* Campden's Elizabeth, year 1583.
t In the article last month, we made the mistake, p. 126, of assigning 1778, as the date of Meare's establishment, reading 78 instead of 88.
on the length of time necessary to de- justifying and strengthning the abstract stroy an original title by non-occupation. argument of the Honorable Secretary of Now the only date to be reckoned from State and the Administration, is to show is; necessarily, that of the Nootka Treaty the greater height of the position from (1792) when the rights of Spain were which they have fallen! put forth by her, and to some extent ad More closely to observe the exact namitted by England. But in 1815 we ture of that position, we will state sucbegan to negotiate with Spain for her title cinctly the actual rights of England, also, --pending which transaction, of course, in the Oregon region. If our previous she would abstain from settling the coast. arguments have been correct, she has Are twenty-three years time enough for a very little to urge of abstract, positive nation to lose all hold on a valuable claims—very few original grounds of title territory, because not choosing for a to the soil-corresponding to those which while to settle it? Surely not. And the Americans unquestionably possess. especially not in this case ; since, by that She has none by occupancy, since the treaty, no settlements by the English Nootka compromise (as already often in the mean time could confer any terri. remarked) conferred merely privileges of torial rights on them--and still more, trade and hunting, with " settlements," because that period of twenty-three years that is, posts, for that purpose-such as was more confused and turbulent, more the Fur Company have had there ever filled with mighty and terrible wars, since—but left“ the sovereignty in abeyhindering all the arts and occupations of ance.” She has none by treaty, since peace, than almost any period of the that same Nootka compromise was the world's history.
only treaty she ever made touching that As to the claim in our own right, by region-except the repeated conventions discovery and exploration of the Co. of joint occupancy entered into with us, lumbia River, it is most evident to every which, of course, left the “sovereignty" one that we have strong grounds here for just where it was before. That she holding a part of Oregon, whether the should have any by prescription, is neSpanish title be worth anything or not. cessarily out of the case, since her earliTo declare the former of no avail because est knowledge of the country dates only we assert the latter, is undoubtedly pre. from Cook’s voyage to that coast, in 1778. posterous: if left as our only ground- Her sources of title must, then, be rein which case alone, however, could it duced to two--contiguity and discovery. be urged to its full value—it would justly The former she can allege, because her give us as high, at least, as the 49th Canadian territory stretches west to the degree and De Fuca's Straits. The facts Rocky Mountains, and therefore lies and arguments on these points are so over against a portion of Oregonthat plain, they need not be enumerated. part, namely, above the 49th degree, as
We have reiterated this full corrobo- that parallel was the boundary agreed ration of Mr. Buchanan's general state- upon with Great Britain, in 1818, between ment—with a purpose. Weare unwilling, our territory and hers, from the Lake of for one, that the country should in any the Woods to the Rocky Chain. This degree discredit the broadest title which, claim is, indeed, of less value than our on abstract grounds, under the law of own below the 49th degree, since the nations, can justly be made ont for us. nearest settlement in Canada is a thouIf there are just grounds of title to be sand miles farther from Oregon than are urged by the opposing claimant under the our western frontiers, and the necessary same received law of nations; if there and consequent force of this ground of are other considerations in their favor, claim is always affected by the greater not under that law, but under a far better or less proximity of a nation's inhabited one, the law of reasonable right--which soil to the region in dispute. It must, unquestionably there are, and which we, also, meet the force of the Spanish title, with our new institutions, new thoughts, which, if valid, covers the whole coast, and new policy, are peculiarly the people to extending inland, would reasonably reach acknowledge;-let these things, in any back to the Rocky Mountains. But this practical disposition of the question, be opposition of claims does not hinder each carefully weighed, liberally allowed—but from having its force under the law of let us not fail to place on record before nations---for, as we remarked above, the the world the original preponderance of conventional principles of that law were the grounds of our claim.
from the first indefinite and contradictory, But the chief reason at present in thus so that a claim by contiguity must often
conflict with another based on discovery. we have, ourselves, since acquiring that Here, then-a point to which we did supposed exclusive title, admitted the not allow sufficient weight in our former same arrangement, leaving them joint article-England has, if not a prepon- tenants with us, with privileges of trade derant claim, yet a reasonable considera- and settlement co-equal with our own; tion in her favor, which we cannot dis we have, at three different times, reregard, and which, in fact, we tacitly al- newed that arrangement; we have, ourlowed in offering, as early as 1818, to selves, again and again, for more than a let the same boundary of the 49th degree quarter of a century, negotiated with continue over the mountains down to the England, to ascertain and settle conflictPacific. Great Britain, however, has a ing rights-thus tacitly acknowledging counter claim to the Spanish title, in the that she has rights; and we have made north of Oregon, superior to this. She three offers to compromise, by a line that discovered, explored, and occupied with would leave her four ninths of the whole trading-posts, (before any American had territory. been in that quarter,) the second great We come now to the Administration. river of Oregon-Frazer's River—which –Mr. Buchanan undoubtedly saw the runs from above the 54th degree south- force of these circumstances on the Britward about to the 49th degree, thus tra- ish side. He virtually acknowledged versing nearly the whole of that region them, indeed, by renewing the offer of a which so many other circumstances seem division of claims-or“compromise,” as to have conspired to allow her. Un- he prefers to call it-by the 49th paraldoubtedly, this claim, too, must meet the lel. As a lawyer and a politician, how. Spanish title, which, if valid, would cer ever-still more, as a diplomatist-he, of taidly extend to the distance of two or course, felt himself compelled, not only three hundred miles inland, and would to say nothing about them of his own thus cover the whole of the section tra- accord, but to show that they had no exversed by that river. Still, it cannot rea- istence! And it will be confessed, that sonably be left out of the account-es- partly from the stronger position on the pecially as Spain never set a foot in the American side of the question, partly interior, from California to the 54th de- from his creditable powers of reasoning, gree. It might, perhaps, almost be called his argument was superior to any ever a case of the conflict of those indetermi- constructed on the part of England. We nate principles allowed to govern such make no question, that—accompanied, questions, (although the discovery of as it was, with the evidence of a renewed the coast was prior by some years to that proposal from us, to yield her a large of the river ;) and all such cases furnish portion of the country in dispute-the plain grounds for compromise. At any correspondence must have favorably imrale, to quote from our former article: pressed the European mind, not only “As the discovery and exploration of with the preponderance of our claim, but the Columbia must be, in the eyes of with the liberality of our government. other nations, and of England herself, a This impression must have been deepmost important consideration' in our ened by the additional fact, that the Britfavor, supporting the exclusive Spanish ish Minister had rejected that offer, with. title when assailed by England, so her out even a reference to his government. discovery of Frazer's River is a just Thus, then, the Administration and the * consideration' in her favor, against that country stood most favorably before the title, as urged by us.”
world on this question. With some unBut these absolute grounds of counter- necessary loudness of tone, at first, our claim are not those on which this nation government had yet committed no false should most readily concede to England step-had managed all by exposition and a part of Oregon. By no legitimate col. argument—had excelled the opposing onization, indeed, but by a guarantied government in controversy—had equaled sufferance and privilege-determined in it in concession--had even succeeded in solemn treaty, before we owned the title placing its accredited agent in the --British subjects have been in undis- wrong. How have they maintained this turbed possession of all the northern position? A question which we would part for a period of forty years, and not seek to answer, but for a purpose have, in that time, established lines of above personal or party spleen. trade, hunting interests, and various It is unquestionable, as all have felt, rights of property, that cannot be over- that Mr. Pakenham, in summarily relooked. What touches us more nearly- jecting the offer referred to, deserved all
the blame which Sir Robert Peel, in terms the spirit of reasonable right in the matthe more severe for their measured cour ter—which is one of the greatest possible tesy, has bestowed upon him. It is also errors in a wise diplomacy. It was not, evident that our government was right, in fact, at all necessary for him to underunder such circumstances, in withdraw- stand the term “equitable division,” in ing that offer: it was due to our national the alarming light of asserting an orihonor to do so. But the next movement ginal inherent title under the law of was to be made by Great Britain. Ac- nations”-a prior sovereignty in the soil. cordingly, we find, from Sir Robert's No one has contended more strenuously speech, that the British Government, un than ourselves for the superior validityable to make Mr. Buchanan's offer the abstractly considered—of the Spanishbasis of a new proposal of compromise American claim. But that claim, as we on their part—as that offer had never been ha veshown, is hampered with incumtransmitted to them—and naturally un- brances, many of which our own govwilling to proceed without knowing what ernment has from time to time helped to it was, yet anxious at once to settle a heap upon it. It is met by various “ cisdisastrous dispute, embraced the only al. cumstances,” “ considerations,” even parternative, and renewed a former proposal tial counter-claims, advanced under the to arbitrate. This, the Administration the same loose rules that apply to itself; peremptorily refuse. Why? From spleen, and it is on these grounds, we assert, because the British Minister had as hast- that some sort of division of that country ily rejected theirs ? We will absolve between us and England is “equitable”even Mr. Polk from an impulse so child. or, in lieu of this, that the “reasonable ish. Besides, other reasons were given, rights” which have grown up there, in which-it is highly proper to consider ! various ways, should be bought out.
Mr. Pakenham commences this sec- The Hon. Secretary knew no better then, ond correspondence, with regretting, for than he had known before, that Great his government, the failure of so many Britain does claim a superior title to parts efforts to effect a friendly setttlement by of Oregon; he knew, 100, that, on the negotiation—that from such a mode great grounds above named, we have ourselves advantages would doubtless have result- for more than a quarter of a century ed to both parties—that, as it is, the most been disputing, negotiating, making offers prudent, perhaps the only step, is to and counter-offers—all referring to a di
refer the whole question of an equita- vision of that same territory—the last of ble division of that territory, to an arbi- which offers came from his own hands; tration of some friendly sovereign or he knew, therefore, in whatever form the State”—that this step, it was hoped, question should come before an arbitra. would be viewed as a proof of the con tor-as naked title or terms of partitionfidence of England in the justice of her these consiilerations would guide the declaim, yet of her readiness to incur the cision to the same result, granting a “dirisk of a great sacrifice, for the preser- vision”—"equitable,” it should be hoped, vation of peace—and that the proposal thus presenting the very phrase he obwas “ made in a spirit of moderation jects to! Why did he not, then, accept and fairness, of which the world would the proposal at once, like a man whose judge.” Mr Buchanan, in reply, objects logic is not too keen for his common that the British Government, in proposing sense ? to refer to arbitration the “equitable di As it is not to be expected, however, vision,” that is, a partition, of Oregon, that the lawyer should be entirely lost in “ assumed the fact, that the title of Great the Secretary of State, we would not find Britain to a portion of the territory is fault with this “nicety of eye,” were it valid ; and thus take for granted the very not manifest that he raised the objection question in dispute.” The title—the bare merely as a cover. To satisfy Mr. Butitle alone should be referred. The prop- chanan's " legal scruples,” the British osition is accordingly rejected,
Minister offered in reply, just what Mr. Now the objection to this “ objection” Buchanan had indicated. He offered to is, that it was quite too legal. Mr. refer the question, not of partition, but Buchanan has not forgotten the bar: he of title; the arbitrator, however,-in case cannot fail to be guarded and finical ; he of finding neither possessed of a perfect remembers that it is a lawyer's maxim to title to the whole—was to make a division “ go for the whole and get what you can.” “according to the just claims of each.” He was willing, therefore, to put forward He suggests, moreover, that the reference a mere technical obstruction, neglecting might be made-not necessarily to a
government or crowned head, but to “a at the end. Weak, pusillanimous, as it mixed commission, with an umpire ap- is, it stands the only colorable reason pointed by common consent”-or to “a given. But it is utterly insufficient. “The board, composed of the most distinguish- United States hold the best title in exed civilians and jurists of the time.” To istence to the whole." The President, this noble proposition—the noblest which therefore, “ cannot consent to jeopard one nation could offer and another re- for his country all the great interests inceive—one of the noblest, we may say, volved”– -_" cannot deprive the Republic ever made in any age-what is Mr. Bu- of all the good harbors on the coast.” chanan's reply? In that answer, we
Patriotic man ! He had already offered most painfully feel, he has not only not to give up half of them! Could he have assumed the wise diplomatist-he has not any reason to complain, if arbitration even preserved the right-minded lawyer. took away the same extent ?-Or, can st is an unexpected, unnecessary quibble, be pretend to see the danger of losing annexing a condition utterly unworthy more than that? Certainly, for him or in its origin and character, and useless in the Republic to fear such a result is its results. This offer, says our Secre- equally preposterous, undignified, and tary, is exposed to the same “ objection unjust. If our claims are, on the whole, in point of fact, if not in form,” which so strongly based, as Mr. Buchanan lay against the last. For if the arbitra- thinks them to be, as nearly the whole tor finds neither party possessing a com- country is persuaded they are, how shall plete title to the whole, he shall assign we insult Christendom with the doubtto each a portion according to their seem- asserted, implied, or thought-that there ing claims, which might, and probably is no Christian nation, nor any number would be construed into an intimation, of civil and judicial characters, in her if not a direct invitation to the arbitrator, limits, who would see the grounds of to divide the territory between the parties.” such claims, and do us justice ? “The title, and the title alone, can be And how would submitting “ the title, submitted.” Arbitrators are “ naturally and the title alone,” advance the settledesirous to please both parties”——“make ment of difficulties a single step? Were a compromising award,” &c. The pro- it to be decided that we had an abstract posal is accordingly rejected.
title, paramount, to the whole, we should Surely this is the absurdest mockery. still be forced to negotiate with Great BritInvitation to divide the territory! Do ain respecting those circumstantial rights we then really design to have the wholz? which have grown up in that region Have we for a quarter of a century been through a period of forty years. We pretending to negotiate, to compromise, should only have submitted to long unas a mere cover to an ultimate purpose ? certainty and delay, to find ourselves at throwing up straw to see how strong the the end in practically the same position wind is? making a smoke instead of a as before. “council-fire ?” And is it now the time to We have a higher idea, than most peraccomplish that purpose ? Did Mr. Bu sons seem to entertain, of the value of the chanan ever dream, that we could get the Oregon territory and the Pacific harbors. whole of Oregon by any management? Lying between the vast interior of this Has he once imagined, that England does continent and Asia, that coast and its not believe in her claim ? Past negoti- harbors hold a most important relation to ations have failed :—does he yet hope to the rest of North America. We know, get the entire region by a skillful diplo- too, that the most valuable harbors on the macy ?-carefully to force it away from whole coast of Oregon, and among the her ?—to soothe her into a soft relinquish- finest waters in the world—are in De Fument? Does he suppose, moreover ca's Straits, near the 49th°. We confess, does any reasoning man in this country, moreover, we should greatly prefer, with or in all Christendom, suppose, that Mr. Pakenham, that this controversy any arbitrator or arbitrators, would, or had been settled by negotiation, for it is should under the circumstances, do other really a disgrace that two such nations wise than award some kind of division should have negotiated so many years of claims, or an equivalent for relin- with “ assurances of distinguished conquished rights? What, then, does he hope sideration," yet come to no_detinite for? What would he have?-War?- conclusion on the matter. But this If he wishes not this flagrant alternative, method so constantly failing, all considerdoes he fear in arbitration some sacrifice, ations pointed to arbitration-an alternot to be thought of ? This he intimates native always honorabie in cases that