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A lecture on the Oregon Territory. I. The title of the United States to its sovereignty. II. Its capabilities… Browne, Peter A. (Peter Arrell), 1782-1860 1843

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The subject of the present Essay is of the utmost
importance to every American, native or naturalized,
who retains within his breast one spark of national
feeling or one remaining aspiration for the glory or
welfare of this Republic. Our best hopes of present
public prosperity, and our most devout expectations
of future public renown are intimately connected
with one word—" Oregon ;" and the American
citizen who would refuse to listen to the voice of
truth in regard to the momentous national questions
connected with that Territory, must be either too
supine to be a good or valuable member of this community, or too subservient to the inordinate ambition
and avarice of a rival nation, who would rob our
children of a noble inheritance. For the present exposition and discussion is, therefore, claimed a degree of attention much greater than its author has a
right, personally, to expect, but which cannot exceed
that which the subject imperiously demands. As
there is much to say no further time will be expended in prefatory remarks, but an immediate entry
upon the discussion will be made.
Has the United States title to the Sovereignty of
Oregon Territory ?
According to established maxims of the Laws of
Nations, there are three methods in which a nation
may acquire the sovereignty of a country. 1st. By
discovery. 2d. By cession of the rightful owner.
3d. By conquest.
A brief explanation of the first title may be useful.
Under this title the sovereignty of all the vast regions
of North and South America, as well as of the West
India Islands was originally acquired ; and under this
title is it now held, mediately or immediately. Upon
the justice of a Christian people invading the Territories of barbarous nations and thrusting them from
the soil upon which the great God of the universe
has planted them, not one word will be said—not one
word can be said, except that it appears to be a law
of nature, that civilized man shall gradually succeed
to the wwcivilized. It is too late to discuss the question
between the European and the Indian with views of
retribution; and certain it is, that neither England,
France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Sweden nor Denmark can object to sovereignty thus acquired, since
they have all severally, more or less, participated in
the practice and enjoyed the profits.
To her possessions in Canada, England can produce
no better title than her first discovery, and that of
the French, under whom she claims. To the immense regions in South America, Spain never had
any other title. Portugal holds the Brazils by the
same tenure. With what justice then could it be
required of the United States to produce any other
title than her own prior discovery and those of the
nations under whom she claims ? No other title
ever did exist in them, nor ever can be shown.
But what is meant by " prior discovert/ ?" Is it a
mere view of the land from a distance ? It is the
first sight, followed up by a landing upon the soil ?
Is it the first sight of it, landing upon the soil and
taking formal possession ? Or is it the first sight of
the land, followed up by landing and taking possession, and a subsequent settlement of the same, within
a reasonable time, under all the circumstances of the
ease ?
It is proposed to show, and will be shown, that
the nation with whom we are at present contending
for the right of sovereignty to Oregon Territory has,
at different times, claimed and maintained sovereignty
under every one of these definitions of prior discovery
—and that the United States can show title to the
sovereignty of Oregon Territory under them all.
Let us begin with the case ofthe Falkland Islands.
In 1592, Capt. Davis, who had been sent out with
Cavendish, in his last voyage, was driven by storm
towards the Straits of Magellan, where he, accident-
ally saw some of these Islands from the deck of his
ship. He left them, without observation, or even
giving them a name.
In 1593-4, Sir Richard Hawkins saw one of these
Islands, took it for the main, and gave it the name of
" Hawkin's Maiden Land." The account, taken
from history, of this discovery reads as follows :
" Sir Richard Hawkins, being bound for the Straits
of Magellan, was driven by a cross wind on some
part of the continent, to which he gave the name of
Hawkin's Maiden Land. A promontory shooting out into the sea with three points he called
Point Trementain, and a pleasant Isle not far distant
he called Fair Island."—Heylyn's Geography, published in London in 1674.
In 1598-9, Sebald de West, a Dutch navigator,
came to the same Islands, and supposing himself to
be the first discoverer, called them " Sebald's Islands." England heard no more of them for a
century ; and their existence was even called in
In the reign of William, one Strong,an Englishman,
is said to have found them out again, and he called
them "Falkland's Islands."
No more was heard. or thought of them, in England, until after the treaty of 17G3.
In 1764, Capt. Byron, on a voyage of discovery, descried Falkland Islands, entered the harbor j landed
on one and took possession of the port and surrounding Islands in the name of G-eore III. He called the
Haven, " Port Egmont."   He made no settlement.
In 1766, the King of Spain sent troops from Buenos
Ayres to another of these Islands, took possession of
it, settled it, and called it " Solidade."
In the same year, Capt. McBride established a garrison at Port Egmont.
It did not appear that either of these persons knew
of the movement of the other, before the year 1769.
In that year a dispute arose between the two nations
as to the sovereignty, which England claimed in right
of prior discovery. Now this claim of Great Britain
was founded upon a discovery of the baldest and
most naked character. Their captains saw some of
the islands from the decks of their respective ships.
They neither landed nor made any demonstrations of
an intention of taking possession ; nor for one hundred and seventy-four years was it followed up by
any attempt to make a settlement; yet Great Britain
pertinaciously insisted upon her exclusive right to
the whole of the islands, and Spain was obliged to
It is requested that this case will be borne in mind
until we come to examine the case of Nootka Sound,
when Great Britain changed her ground, insisting
upon rights of occupancy of recent date, in opposition to the prior discovery of Spain, of a much more
perfect kind than this of England to the Falkland
Let us now examine what were the circumstances
under which Great Britain claimed the right of sovereignty over her former North American Colonies,
now the United States.
In 1492, Coulumbus discovered the West Indies.
In 1497, Giovanni Gabato, a Venetian, (Anglice,
John Cabot,) in the employ of Henry VII, of England,
discovered the Island of Newfoundland and the Atlantic coast, as far as what has since been called
" Virginia." King Henry was informed of these discoveries, but made no settlement, nor any motion
towards one. Henry VII died, and Henry VIII came
to the throne. Through the whole of his reign,
though trade was carried on with the West Indies,
(which, says the English historian, Bissett, had been
" seized" and settled by the Spaniards) no attempt
was made by Great Britain to settle in the New
World. Henry VIII died and was succeeded by Edward VI; through his short reign no settlement was
made upon the North American continent by a single
British subject. To Edward succeeded Mary, in 1553,
and to Mary in 1558, Elizabeth. In 1583, eighty-six
years after the discovery of Cabot, the first British
Charter of colonization was signed by the Virgin
Queen, to Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Under his authority two expeditions were fitted put to Newfoundland
and Cape Breton, both of which ended disastrously.
Very soon afterwards a similar patent was granted to
Raleigh, to settle the Southern part of North America. Upon his return thence, he reported that he
found a beautiful country, which he had called
« Virginia." The first colony was afterwards landed
in 1607; but their affairs were so badly conducted
that, to avoid famine, they abandoned the country
and returned to England again.
Raleigh made a second attempt at settlement, but
with no better success. To Elizabeth succeeded
James. In the early part of his reign, one Hacklyt
published a very interesting volume of voyages and
discoveries—an excitement was thereby created, and
in consequence, an expedition was fitted out in which
Gosnold reached Massachusetts Bay. They thence
coasted to the South, landed and traded with the Indians, but made no settlement, and returned to England. King James then divided the discovered land
into two portions, one which he called " Virginia,"
and the other " New England." A London Company
with Hacklyt at their head, received a grant of the
former, and the Plymouth Company of the latter.
Massachusetts was settled in 1620, Connecticut in
1633 or 4, Maryland in 1634, Rhode Island in 1635,
Maine in 1635, New Hampshire in 1637, North Carolina in 16G3, South Carolina in 1670, and Pennsylvania
in 1681.
Notwithstanding these tardy movements of the
British in settling the lands bordering on the Atlantic
Ocean, that nation pertinaciously insisted upon her
exclusive right to the whole territory by virtue of
prior discovery; and when the Dutch, who made the
first settlement of New York, claimed that colony,
they were attacked and driven away by the British m
1614. And when they (the Dutch) returned again
the next year, resettled and fortified themselvels, they
we're regarded as trespassers. And after the death
of James, King Charles the II, in 1664, granted to his
brother, the Duke of York, a large tract of country,
including New York and New Jersey, and a large
force under Colonel Nichols was sent out to put him
in possession. They arrived in the harbor, summoned the provice to surrender, and upon their refusing
to comply the British took forcible possession of New
York and New Jersey.^
Here we find the English Government insisting
upon the prior right of discovery, after a delay of settlement of 123 years, against those who had settled in
the intermediate time.
So the first settlers of Delaware were the Swedes
and Finns. In the year 1627, they made a permanent
settlement on the banks of the Delaware river, under
the auspices of Gustavus Adolphus, the reigning
Prince of Denmark. Their title was, however, disputed by both the Dutch and the English. In the
year 1655, they were attacked by the former, and the
latter having prevailed, the Swedes were obliged to
come under the sovereignty of Great Britain.
Having shown how scrupulously Great Britain has
insisted upon the right of prior discovery where her
title was concerned, let us next inquire how far she
has regarded this right, when it affected the title of
Oregon Territory lies on the northwest coast of
North America, between latitudes 42^ and 54° 40'.
As early as 1543, Bartolome Ferrelo, a Spaniard,
pushed his discoveries as far North as 43°, and landed
at a place since called u Cape Blanco."
In 1592, Juan de Fuca, a Spaniard, discovered a
strait in lat. 49Q to 51°, which Vancouver, in 1792,^j
* In 1674, a formal cession of the whole territory
was made by Holland to Great Briiain.
called'the " Straits of Fuca," in honor of the first
discoverer. He (De Fuca) staid there twenty days,
trading with the natives.
In 1603, Aguiler, in the Spanish employ, discovered
the mouth ofthe river Umpqua, in lat. 448.
In 1774, Perez and Martinez, under the Spanish
flag, discovered a sound, between lat. 498 and 508,
(since called "Nootka Sound,") to which they gave
the name of " Port San Lorenzo." This was the
first visit that had ever been made to that place by an
European.. The Spaniards remained there^^sQme
time, trading with the natives.
In 1775, the Spaniards discovered, in lat. 46°, a promontory, which was called " San Roque," since
known as " Cape Disappointment." Also, a bay, in
lat. 578, of which they took possession, and called it
u Port Remedios."
Other parts of this coast were discovered by the
Spaniards, upon which it is unnecessary, at present,
to dwell.
The foregoing formed the title of Spain to Oregon
Territory, in right of prior discovery; and it was
ample. To this title of Spain, the United States succeeded, by the treaty of 22d February, 1819 ; recog-'
nized and confirmed by the treaty with Mexico, of
12th January, 1828.
We must now take some notice of the proceedings
ofthe British Government, in regard to a part of Oregon Territory.
One of the claims of England to Oregon is based
upon the supposition that it was discovered by Francis Drake in 1577, and by him called " New Albion."
All the particulars of this pretended'discovery will
be found in Heylyn's Geography, published in London in 1674, from which it appears that this New
Albion lies within the boundaries of California, a
part of the main land, on the western coast of North
America, which had been discovered by Ferdinand
Cortes, in the employ of Spain, in 1534, forty-three
years, before Drake made his appearance in those
seas. The ground upon which this English officer
laid claim to the discovery, was an ignorant belief
that it was an island, separated entirely from the
main land by a part of the Pacific ocean, which he
called "Mare Vermiglio." If Drake, instead of
going through a ridiculous ceremony, which he ex-
ultingly describes, of taking a formal surrender to
England of the Indian crown from some ignorant
natives, whose language he did not understand, and
of sticking up the arms of G. Britain upon a territory which ever had been and ever has been acknowledged to have belonged to the Spaniards, had taken
ordinary pains to understand the country, he would
have found that his "New Albion" was no island at
al]—that his northern point of this island was none
other than the continental Cape Blanco of the Spanish discoverers, situate in California, and that his-
new Mare Vermiglio was only the " Gulf of California," which, at its head, in lat. 33Q, receives the Colorado, and not a strait of the sea, extending from the
Tropic of Cancer to lat. 38°, as he supposed. I have
in my possession a map, published in London in 1606,
eighty-nine years after this pretended discovery of
Sir Francis Drake, wherein all the land on this coast,
north of lat. 42°, is marked as " Terra Borealis incognita," which map never could have been published
in England, at that time, if Sir F. Drake had pre
viously discovered Oregon Territory. Is it not ridiculous for England to lay claim to Oregon under such
a discovery, when they are obliged to admit, from
Drake's own confessions, that he knew nothing of the
coast beyond lat. 38Q, and Oregon Territory com- $$ ,
mences at 42° ?
In the next place, let us examine the discoveries
of Capt. Cook, under which Great Britain claims
Oregon. In 1776, two years after the Spaniards had
discovered Nootka Sound, and after the news of that j^"
discovery had actually reached England, Capt. Cooke
was sent to discover a northwest passage from the
Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. He had positive instructions not to lose time in search of new lands, nor
to stop at any fallen in with, except to "wood and water, until he had reached lat. 65°, and not to take possession of any countries already discovered or visited
by any European power. He " touched'''' (says an
English historian, Bissett,) at Nootka Sound. He did
not, at the time,.pretend to be the discoverer—he was
aware ofthe prior discovery of Perez and Martinez,
and found among the natives articles of European
manufacture. This place might never have been
again visited by an Englishman, but for an accidental
circumstance. Some of Cooke's crew purchased
some furs of the natives, which were sold to advantage in China. Captain King, who wrote the history
of Cooke's voyage, mentioned this circumstance, and
recommended it to his countrymen as a lucrative
trade. In consequence, John McPherson, Governor
General of India, acting under instructions from the
British Cabinet, fitted out two small vessels, and sent
a few adventurers to Nootka Sound in 1788. In 1789
about seventy Chinese were transported thither.
Meares, who had the command, built a house and fortified it. In 1789, Martinez, a Spanish captain, discovered these intruders, took possession of their building and ship, sent the crews to a Spanish port, took
down the English colors and raised the Spanish in
their place. From the English account of this transaction, as recorded in Bissett's continuation of Hume's
History of England, 1 vol. p. 264, the following inferences may fairly be drawn:
1st. That no prior or conflicting discovery to that of
the Spaniards, of the Oregon territory, was ever made
by Drake or Cook, or any other Englishman : for, 1st,
the Spanish nation (says this English historian) claimed
exclusive sovereignty, navigation, and commerce in
those territories, coasts and seas. This claim was
made, in London, by the Spanish ambassador, under a
full conviction ofthe right of his nation. The British
King, George III, immediately demanded—what ?
Restoration to him ofthe invaded territory, his sovereignty of which had been made indisputable by prior
discovery ? Not at all. He demanded adequate satisfaction to the individuals injured, and for the insult
offered the nation through the subjects. Now, it
is inquired whether, according to the rule of expressio
unius est exclusio alterius, by the enumerating of
these grievances, George III did not admit that there
were none others to be redressed, and that, therefore,
the British had no title to the sovereignty of Oregon
But, secondly, the King complained to Parliament—
and what was the gravamen of that complaint ? " The
message of the King (says this English historian)
stated, the   injury, (i. e., the injury before stated, for
had there been any new one it would have been
mentioned,) the insult, the satisfaction demanded, and
the reply." The King, then, in this formal paper,
again admitted that the British nation had no title to
the sovereignty of Oregon. Then came Mr. Pitt's
speech. Now, if the King, in his message, had omitted to state a fact so important as his right of sovereignty, or to refer to an event so striking (had it occurred so recently) as their prior discovery of Nootka
Sound, which would have been a conclusive answer
to the exclusive claim of the Spaniardss, now was the
time to supply that deficiency, and Mr. Pitt the fittest
person for that purpose. But he said that " the British subjects had been forcibly interrupted in a traffic"
(not the King, in a right of sovereignty.) He asserted
that his countrymen had " aright to trade, (not to the
soil,) in places to which no country could claim an
exclusive right of commerce and navigation," (not of
sovereignty.) Here, then, we find this acute minister
admitting, totis viribus, that Great Britain had no title
to the sovereignty of Oregon ; but, admitting the title
to the sovereignty thereto to be in Spam, he set
up a " right of trade and traffic" in his countrymen.
Mr. Fox followed Mr. Pitt, and agreed with him
in these views. Not a member of either house of
Parliament made the slightest suggestion to the contrary, and an address, corresponding with the message, passed without a dissenting voice. From these
proceedings, it is inferred that the British Parliament
confessed that Spain had an exclusive title to the
sovereignty of Oregon.
A million of pounds sterling were voted to carry
into execution warlike preparations to support this
In the mean time, the British minister sent Mr.
Fitzherbert to Madrid, to browbeat the Spaniards.
But still no claim of title to the sovereignty of Oregon
was asserted, in answer to that of the Spaniards to
the exclusive right by virtue of their prior discovery.
The claim of a right to land and build houses for the
purposes of trade, at Nootka Sound, apart of Oregon
1 erritory, (unfounded as we shall presently show that
to be,) is an acknowledgment of the want of a title
to the sovereignty to the whole. If they had title to
the sovereignty of the whole territory, why was it
not disclosed, as it would have been a sufficient warrant for occupying a part ? No reason can be assigned, except the consciousness that none then existed;
and yet England has the effrontery now to assert a
title by virtue of a discovery prior to that discussion,
in point of time.
So the ground upon which the right to trade was
made, viz., one which admitted the exclusive right of
sovereignty in Spain to Oregon, is proof that England,
at that period, when the facts were all fresh in men's
memories, did not venture upon a claim so unfounded ; but which they now set forth. But no nation or
individual is allowed thus to blow hot and cold, (as
it is called,) or to set up contradictory claims. From
all which it plainly appears that Great Britain never
had any right to Oregon, by discovery prior to that of
Spain, under whom we claim.
But thirdly, on the 4th of June, 1790, the Spanish government published a declaration or manifesto, directed to all European Courts, setting forth
their exclusive right of sovereignty to Oregon territory, founded upon their prior discovery.   This ma
nifesto was never contradicted or denied by Great
Britain, either publicly or privately, that has ever
been known or heard. Hence, it would follow that,
even if England had had a right of sovereignty, by
a discovery prior to those of the Spaniards above
cited, (which is not admitted,) that it has been absolutely and irretrievably abandoned by them (the British) so far as regards the United States, who are a
bona fide purchaser of Oregon. When a claim to
anything is publicly made, nature prompts those who
have conflicting ones to make them known ; hence,
silence is construed into an abandonment of right, and
an acquiescence in the conflicting claim made public ; and what is once formally abandoned can never
be revived, especially to the prejudice of a bona
fide purchaser. Had the claims of England and Spain
been originally equal, the law of nations, in deciding
between'England and the United States, would prefer the latter, who have been guilty of no latches,
to the former, who have been guilty of latches. So
that, were it admitted that England had made the
discovery of Oregon prior to Spain, (which is denied,) yet, inasmuch as Great Britain admitted the
prior discovery set forth by Spain in their manifesto,
and not denied at the time, the United States, as assignee of Spain, may now claim the sovereignty of
that territory by a more perfect title. The principle
of the law of nations, upon which this is founded,
will not and cannot be denied.
Having thus shown that Great Britain has no title
to the sovereignty of Oregon Territory, let us examine more particularly what was advanced by her
in regard to Nootka Sound.
The British Government might have had a right of
sovereignty to Nootka Sound, in particular, without
having any right of sovereignty to Oregon Territory,
in general; but, had that been the case, it would
have been distinctly stated, inasmuch as that partial
right of sovereignty would have been an answer to
the claim of sovereignty to the whole territory by
Spain; and also, that right of partial sovereignty
would have been greater than the right of trade and
traffic which was complained of being invaded, and
which would therefore have been merged therein.
But Mr. Pitt's complaints are of the " ships" having
been taken, not the " land." In calling in question
Spain's exclusive claims, he denies those only which
relate to the " trade," " claims (says Mr. Pitt) which
are totally inconsistent with the rights of independent navigators to lands ; which, being before unappropriated, they should make their own by occupancy and
The " rights" of " independent navigators." Who
are " independent navigators ?" Neither Mr. Pitt nor
his historian has condescended to inform us. Of what
are they independent ? Of the law of nations ? "Independent" (Johnson says) is "not supported by any
other"—" not controlled," (South)—" not relating to
any superior power," (Bentley). " Independent navigators" must then be those "gentlemen of the sea,"
who roam about the world uncontrolled, holding
themselves responsible to no superior power ;
the same who, Blackstone tells us, are " Hostis
humani generis;" in vulgar language, "pirates."
But it seems that these " independent navigators"
have "rights." Indeed! The law teaches that there
is no right without a corresponding duty; hence those
who acknowledge no duties can claim no rights. To
enjoy rights and perform duties implies responsibilities, ("dependence") but he who is " independent,"
(irresponsible,) can know neither the one nor the
other. But the " right" of these " independent navigators" is to lands ! How were they acquired ?
By prior discovery ? No. By cession ? No. By conquest ? No. The right of these independent navigators was " to land they could make their own by occupancy and labor." " Occupancy is the taking possession of those things which before belonged to nobody."
(Blackstone.) But the occupancy of these independent navigators was "the seizing upon what before
belonged to somebody." "Quod nullius est, id ratione
naturali occupanti conceditur," (says the law of nations ;) but it would be impossible so to translate this
maxim as to justify the Englishman who trespassed
on the soil and right of sovereignty which the Spaniards had gained by their prior discovery of Oregon.
No such subordinate or interlocutory right of trade
and traffic upon ground to which another has a right
of sovereignty is known to the law. If the land before belonged to nobody, the discovery and taking possession conferred the right of sovereignty; but if they
previously belonged to anybody, the entry upon them
to trade or traffic was tortuous, and no right, of any
kind was thereby acquired.
Nor is the condition of such trespassers at all improved by any labor they may perform upon the lands,
as Mr. Pitt's language would seem to imply. On the
contrary, each new act performed on the soil is a continuation of the trespass; and is by the law referred
back to the tortuous entry, so that these English intruders were not only trespassers ab initio, but ad metas.
But perhaps it maybe said that Mr. Pitt qualified the
rights of these independent navigators to lands theretofore unappropriated. If so, it becomes necessary to
inquire what was meant by "unappropriated."
It not being a legal term, its meaning must be
sought for in ordinary dictionaries. To "appropriate"
is to "claim," (Milton;) "to consign to some use,"
(Hooker.) Now, the Spaniards had claimed Nootka
Sound; it was not, therefore, " unappropriated."
They had also assigned it to some use, viz.. to the use
of themselves and their countrymen. If Mr. Pitt
meant by it being "unappropriated," that no settlement had been made thereon, then the question recurs, whether a title t® sovereignty, by virtue of prior
discovery, can be lost by any delay of settlement,
short of presumption that the title was abandoned-
And upon this question, the conduct of England in
regard to the Falkland Islands and the Province of
New York, would seem to preclude the necessity of
present discussion.
When Mr. Fitzherbert arrived at Madrid, and the
Spaniards insisted upon their right to Nootka Sound5
as part of Oregon, which they had first discovered
and taken possession of, he reiterated the sophistry of
Mr. Pitt. "Whatever is common, (said this Ambassador,) belongs to the < first occupier.' " The Spaniards answered, that was once common, ceased to be
so, and became exclusive property by prior discovery
and taking of possession. " Every nation, (said the
Ambassador,) has a right to appropriate whatever
it can acquire, without trespassing upon the previous appropriations of others." Ergo, the British   had   a   right   to   seize  upon   Nootka   Sound,
which had been previously appropriated ! This was
the diplomatic logic! It is marvellous how such a
conclusion could ever have been allowed; but the
English historian, Bissett, explains it. " This language, (he says,) of British justice demanding
what British power could so easily enforce from any
aggressor that dared to provoke its vengeance, was
(as well it might be) considered haughty and menacing" by the Spaniards. But Great Britain had 158
ships of the line, with which Spain was unable*To
contend; and France, to whom she applied, was unable to afford her any assistance. Thus the Spaniards
were defrauded and robbed of their rights. "And
(says the historian) other powers were taught that
British subjects (even when acting as trespassers)
were not to be molested with impunity."
From all which it is obvious that Great Britain
never had any title to the sovereignty of Oregon by
right of prior discovery. That she never had any by
cession from the Spaniards will be equally apparent
to any unprejudiced person who will examine the
subject. All that she demanded of Spain was " a
right of traffic and trade;" and that, she obtained no
more, is proved not only by the words of the cession
itself, (which appears to have been very carefully
drawn, with the view of excluding therefrom all
subsequent inference that a right of sovereignty was
therein contained,) but also, from the acknowledgment of Mr. Fox, in the British Parliament, when
this Treaty of Cession was under consideration, that
nothing had been acquired, and the congratulatory vote
of the House of Commons, that " an adequate reparation had been provided for the violence which was
committed at Nootka, and the security to his Majesty's subjects of the exercise of their navigation, commerce and fisheries, in those parts of the world, which
were the subjects of discussion.1"
But, fourthly. The United States has a title to Oregon Territory by virtue of her own discoveries and
It is a well known principle of the Law of Nations, in regard to discovery, that the nation who
discovers the mouth of a river is entitled to the sovereignty to all the land which is watered by such
river, its tributaries and head waters.
In 1683, Mr. De La Lalle, a Frenchman, navigated
the Mississippi river from Canada to its mouth. In
virtue whereof, France claimed the sovereignty
to Louisiana, on both sides of the river, from the
Gulf of Mexico to the 49Q of latitude. And this title
of France was acknowledged by Great Britain, in
the Treaty of Utrecht, of 1713, and of Versailles, in
In 1792, Captain Gray, of the American ship " Columbia," discovered the Columbia river, which he
named after his ship. He landed, held an intercourse
with the natives, who had never before seen a white
man or a ship.
In 1804, Lewis and Clarke, in the employ of the
United States, ascended the Missouri, passed the
Rocky Mountains—up to that time unexplored by a
white man—discovered and explored the head waters
of the Columbia River—and followed that River
down to its mouth ; where they passed the winter of
In 1808, the American Missouri Fur Company esta-
blished several trading posts, one on the River Lewis,
a branch of the Columbia.
In 1811, Astoria was founded, at the mouth of the
Columbia River, by Mr. John Jacob Astor, of New
In December, 1813, Astoria was captured by the
\ .    * British sloop-of-war, Raccoon, Captain Blake.
By the Treaty of Ghent, it was agreed that all
Territories, &c, taken by either party from the
other, during the war, should be restored without
Astoria was restored the 6th of October, 1818.
By virtue ofthe above mentioned discovery, settlement and restoration, the United States, without the
aid of any other titles, have a right to the sovereignty
and soil of Oregon Territory.
Great Britain pretends to say that Alexander Mc-
Kinsey, one of their subjects, discovered a north
branch of the Columbia River prior to our discoveries ; but McKinsey himself has said that his discovery was in May, 1793, whereas that of Captain
Gray was in 1792 ; and if any impartial person will
read McKinsey's account, he will be convinced that
the river he saw was not a head water of the Columbia. [See Report of Committee on Military Affairs,
made to 27th Congress, the third session, No. 31, p.
17.] They also contend that Mr. Thompson, Astronomer, of the Northwest Fur Company, established
posts among the Flatheads and Kootanie Tribes of
Indians, on the head waters or main branch of the
Columbia, in the same and subsequent years, as the
discovery of Lewis and Clarke. But when the evidence upon this point is examined, it turns out that
Lewis and Clarke reached the Pacific Ocean, after
exploring the Columbia River, on the 15th November, 1804, and that the earliest post established by
Mr. Thompson was in the spring of 180#\ Great Britain, well knowing that she had no title to the sovereignty of Oregon, proposed to the United States to
divide the Territory between them, making the Columbia River the boundary; they (the British) taking
the country north and west of that line, and leaving
the Americans the other side. To this proposition
our Ministers dissented. The true mother never
consents to divide the child !
Having in a former essay shown that the title to
the sovereignty of Oregon is in the United States, I
proceed to examine the two remaining questions, viz:
What are its capacities and value to our country? And
the necessity of an immediate settlement of it from
the States.
Oregon Territory holds out to the American citizen every inducement to settle. The valleys of the
Columbia river and its tributaries alone are estimated
at 350 square miles. The soil is fruitful, the climate moderate, and the mountains by which they are
bounded on the east are filled with mineral wealth.
The mouth of the Columbia river is the finest site in
the known world for a commercial city. It is within
ten days' sail and within six days' steamboat navigation ofthe Sandwich Islands, and within thirty days,
over an unruffled ocean, of Canton. In the hands of
a free and enterprising people there is scarcely any
limit to the opulence of such a city. To the United
States it would be a most invaluable emporium,   lt
would insure a steady market for our increasing manufactures ; it would open an unbounded mar,t for our
agricultural productions ; and it would secure to us
the fur trade of the West, of which we have been
so long, surreptitiously, deprived by the corporated
agent of a rival nation ; and the lumber trade, which
would of itself be sufficient to pay all the expenses
of transit and settlement, and by enabling us, through
that direct route, to exchange the boundless produce of
the lead mines of Missouri for the teas and silks of
China, instead of transporting them to the Atlantic
States, and thence to the East Indies, we would not
only supply ourselves, but all the rest ofthe world,
with these valuable commodities. Great Britain, as
long ago as 1789, valued the " trade and traffic" of
Nootka Sound so highly, that her Parliament voted a
million of pounds sterling to secure them; and we
are told in Astoria, (page 230, 2d vol.,) that the goods
taken on board a,n American vessel at New York,
which cost there only $25,000, were exchanged on
this Northwest coast for furs, for which the captain
was offered, in Canton, $150,000; and that, had he
accepted this offer, and laid out the amount in Chinese goods, they would have brought, in New York,
The editor of a respectable English periodical,
whose work is eagerly sought after and extensively
read in this country, (Edinburg Review,) pronounces
all attempts to settle Oregon from the Atlantic States
to be impossible. " However the political question
between England and America, as to the ownership
of Oregon may be decided, (says this editor,) Oregon
never can be colonized over land from the Eastern
States." Now if this is the case, it is worse than
useless to make the present proposition, which, by
holding out false inducements to accomplish ends beyond our reach, would unnecessarily disturb the public tranquillity. But is it the case ? Or is this writer,
who no doubt acts under the direction of the British
Cabinet, endeavoring to blind us, and withdraw our
attention from a lucrative trade, that his own countrymen may, in the mean time, reap the golden advantages? He remarks:—"In the mean time, the long
line of coast (of Oregon) invites emigration from the
overpeopled shores of the oldvjorld (England.) When
once the Isthmus of Darien is rendered traversable
(he proceeds) the voyage will be easier and shorter
than that to Australia, which 30,000 of our countrymen have made in a single year. Let us not then (he
concludes) under the idle persuasion that we have
colonies enough ; that it is mere labor in vain to scatter the seed of future nations over the earth ; that it
is but trouble and expense to govern them. If there
is any one thing on which the maintenance of that
perilous greatness to which we have attained depends
more than all the rest, it is colonization, the opening
of new markets, the creation of new customers. It
is quite true that the great fields of emigration in Canada and Australia promise room enough for more
than we can send. But the worst and commonest error respecting colonization is to regard it merely as
that which it can never be—a mode of checking the
increase of our people. What we want is not to
draw off driblets from our teeming multitudes, but to
found new nations of commercial allies. And in this
view every new colony founded, far from diverting
strength from the older ones, infuses into them additional vigor.   To them, as well as to the mother
country, it opens a neiv market. It forms a new link
in the chain along which our commercial intercommunication is carried, touching and benefiting every
point of the line as it passes. Thus in former days,
the prosperity of the West India Islands was the
great stimulus to the peopling of North America.
The newer colony of Canada has flourished through
its connection with our settlements in the States ; the
market of New Zealand will excite production in
Australia. The uttermost portions of the earth
are our inheritance ; let us not throw it away in
mere supineness, or in deference to the wise conclusions of those sages ofthe discouraging school, who,
had they been listened to,-would have checked, one
by one, all the enterprises which have changed the
face of the world in the last thirty years."
Now it is respectfully submitted, that upon reading
this opinion of this English editor, who (as I presume) is only promulgating the opinions of the British Ministers, it is difficult to suppress a suspicion
that the assertion that " Oregon can never be settled
from the Atlantic States," was intended to add another to the many delays we have suffered, the better to enable that rival nation to seize upon and secure the prize. But as the settlement is a circumstance of the utmost importance, let us suppress this
suspicion, and examine coolly and deliberately the
reasons he gives for having come to this,conclusion.
First—the distance.
The traveller from the Mississippi to the Pacific
has (says this Editor) to pass over several distinct regions—1st, a region of two or three hundred miles in
length, occupied by the States of Missouri, Arkansas
and Iowa. 2d, A region of two or three hundred
miles, inhabited by the Choctaws, the Cherokees and
the Creeks. 3d, A desert of six or seven hundred
miles, of which 400 is Prairie land, and 300 directly
east of the Rocky Mountains is strictly a desert. 4th,
The Rocky Mountains, (no distance given,) and 5th,
From the Rocky Mountains over a desert country to
the mouth of the Columbia river, (no distance given.)
But this distance, which, to the mind of this Islander,
appears to be interminable, will form no obstacle in
the way of the hardy, migratory sons of the Columbian Continent, especially as we live in an age of
steamboats and railroads, by the introduction of which
distance is nearly annihilated. Lewis and Clarke
crossed the Rocky Mountains in about lat. 47°, by a
very circuitous route. By the one taken by Mr.
Townsend, of this city, and his party, in about lat.
43°, the whole distance does not appear to be more
than from 1800 to 2000 miles; and even this will, no
doubt, be diminished by succeeding travellers.
The second obstacle in the way of settling Oregon
from the States (in the opinion of this English editor
and his employers, the British ministers) arises out of
the difficulties of transit; these he considers under
three distinct heads, and they shall be examined in
the same order. 1st. The difficulties presented by
the face ofthe country. He admits that in regard of
the first two or three hundred miles, that through
Missouri, Arkansas or Iowa, that the country is made
up of Prairie and Forest lands, with a larger proportion ofthe former than the latter, and that it presents
nothing of an extraordinary character which is calculated to impede travelling.
As to the second region, of two or three hundred
miles, being that occupied by the friendly Indians, it
is also admitted that it consists of wide plains, diversified with ranges of hills, and that it is easy of transit. In regard to the soil, Mr. Farnham remarks,
that it is a deep alluvial, capable of producing the
most abundant crops ofthe grains and vegetables that
grow in such latitudes.
Then comes the third region, the desert, the first
400 miles of which is prairie. This region, except a
few spots on the borders of rivers, is declared to be
incapable forever of any fixed settlement. Let us compare this opinion with his description. " Seen during
the Spring and Summer, it is (he says) a delightful
land—a land of grass and flowers—with a bright sky
and an elastic air, diversified with little patches of
wood, picturesquely, here and there (every where)
to relieve the eye from the monotony of the plains—
traversed by four splendid rivers, the Red, the Arkansas, the Platte and the Missouri." What a description of a desert! Of a desert incapable forever of
fixed settlement! Many a poor inhabitant of Europe would be thankful to be transplanted to such
a desert! But strange to relate, this pseudo-uninhabitable region is, according to his own confession,
already partially inhabited. " Here and there (he
says) around the posts established by trading companies on the banks of rivers, a few fields have been
cultivated, and hamlets (small villages) have been
formed by enterprising Americans, who find abundant
custom for their productions from various parties
which roam over the wilderness." Nor does it
require the power of prophecy for us to predict
that as soon as the United States shall have fixed
military posts at proper distances, than the whole
route will be settled in like manner by the same
Advancing still further, you come to the desert,
properly so called, of which he has drawn up a highly
wrought, and, in some respects, inaccurate description ; but even this inhospitable region, he admits,
is not without its redeeming features—-fruitful ridges
and scattered spots of fertility. I cannot withstand
the temptation to read to you Mr. Farnham's description of some of these places on both sides of the
Rocky Mountains, that you may judge how far the
assertion is gratuitous, that the desert can never become a place of fixed settlement.
Old Park lies in the valley of Grand river, which
is a branch of the Colorado of the West. It is here
(says Farnham) a transparent stream, 300 yards
wide, 6 to 10 feet deep, and a current of 6 miles an
hour. The valleys contain extensive meadows
and woodlands, filled with antelopes, deer, hares,
grouse, wild turkeys, geese and ducks.—page 51.
Tumbleton Park, near the Three Butes, and also in
the valley of Grand river, " is a beautiful savannah,
with groves of pine, spruce, fir and oak."
The glades were splendid—many were, when he
passed, covered with a heavy growth of timothy or
herd grass and red top in blossom. The mountain
flax covered acres as densely as it usually stands in
cultivated fields. The tame grasses of Europe, all
that are valuable for stock, the best and most sought
after by every intelligent farmer in Christendom, are
there indigenous.—p. 5Q.
At Fort David Crocket, in the valley of Green
river, rich mountain grasses grow ivild all winter.—
p. 59.
The vicinity of Great Bear river will, (he says,)
in the course of time, become one of the most prosperous abodes of cultivated life.—p. 70. The Soda
Springs, from the healthiness and beauty of the locality and the magnificence of the scenery, will
hereafter be thronged with the gay and fashionable
of both sides of the Continent.—p. 71.
The passage of the Rocky Mountains, our English
editor, to please his ministerial employers, represents
as a Herculean task; but in this also he is mistaken.
Mr. Farnham says that loaded wagons can pass them
even where he did without serious interruption. He
saw at Fort Bossai, on a river of the same name,
which is a branch of the Sapin, the remains of a one-
( horse Yankee wagon,brought thither by some missionaries from the State of Connecticut; and he adds, "that
fortunately for the next of our countrymen who shall
attempt to cross the continent, a safe and easy passage-
has lately been discovered by which vehicles of the kind
may be drawn through to the Wallawalla." The new
route alluded to is, it is presumed, the one taken by
Mr. Townsend and his party in 1834.
On the 9th of June, (he tells us,) they encamped
at "Independence Rock," on the Banks of the Sweet
Water, which is one of the head waters of the north
fork of the Platte. They were consequently on the
eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. They passed
through the "Great Gap," at a place generally called
the "Bull Pen," having on their right hand the
Wind river cluster of the Rocky Mountains, the
highest land in North America, and on their left
hand, Long's range of the same mountains.
On the 12th, they advanced over the plains of the
Sweet Water, lat. 43 degrees, 6, long. 110 degrees, 30.
On the 14th, they left the Sweet Water and proceeded southerly to Sandy River, which is a branc
of the Colorado of the West, thus having in five
days passed the main ridge of the Rocky Mountains
with comparative ease!
They proceeded down Sandy River to Green River,
the Sheetskadee of other travellers, and a branch of
the Colorado of the West, into which Sandy River
empties, thence to Hum's fork of the Green River,
thence to Muddy Creek, a branch of Bear river, which
empties into the salt lake, or Lake Bonneville, thence
to Bear River, which they struck only one hundred
miles from the place where it enters the lake, thence
to White Clay Pits on Bear River, crossed over to
Blackfeet River at the Three Butes, thence to Ross'
Creek, a small branch of Lewis' River, also called
Snake River and Sapin River, thence to Lewis'
River, and down Lewis' River to the Columbia.
It is much to be regretted that there is no good map
of these regions.
But the last and most formidable obstacle of all, to
the settlement of Oregon from the States, this editor
and his ministerial friends tell us, are the Cumanches,
a numerous and ferocious tribe of Indians, who (he
says) are the best riders and the best shots in the
world. These, more formidable than the Bedouins,
(he says) hover over the wilderness like birds of
prey, ready to pounce upon the unwary traveller.
But this Indian story will produce no effect upon the
Americans, who will smile at the idea of being intimidated by a handful of Cumanches!
They number but ten thousand, men, women and
children,—their home is the neighborhood of Texas,
—they come North only to hunt the buffalo; and as
the buffalo retires before the footsteps of civilization,
so will the Cumanches; leaving behind them, (like
Goe; and Magog, to whom they have been likened.)
nothing but an empty name.
A much more formidable impediment to the settlement of Oregon by Americans, is presented by the
Hudson Bay Company. But this is an obstacle
which must he met and overcome, and the sooner it is
met and overcome the better! The Hudson Bay
Company is a formidable foreign corporation, consisting entirely of British subjects, and acting solely
under British ministerial protection and influence, ,
within the bounds of American Territory!" The %?!;
Hudson Bay Company (says the Editor we have so
often quoted) is, in all its instincts and habits, thoroughly British and anti- American!" and for once he
has told the truth. The Hudson Bay Company's
shares of stock were originally £100—but by engrossing a trade which belongs exclusively to us,
they have advanced one hundred per cent! The
Hudson Bay Company pay an interest on their shares
of ten per cent., besides laying up a reserve fund for
the express and avowed purpose of keeping Americans
out of the trade !
The Hudson Bay Company have again and again
used this reserved fund to persecute Americans, who «:«
dared to deal in furs in our own Territory!
The Hudson Bay Company, while the British ministers have been holding out the illusion that the
dispute about Oregon shall be soon amicably settled,
have erected and fortified nineteen forts within qnx
Territory! They have taken illegal possession of
almost every eligible spot in Oregon as regards water
power, or that is a good site for a manufactory; and
they have selected the finest sites for farms !
The Hudson Bay Company are cutting the best
timber off* our lands, and selling it to enrich themselves !
The British Parliament have passed an act, authorizing the Hudson Bay Company to arrest and send
to Canada any American citizen who may come   %
within their (the Hudson Bay Company's) displeasure. V>
By this daring outrage upon our sovereignty, any
American can be arrested and sent out of our own
Territory, to be tried on British ground by British
judges and British laws!
The Hudson Bay Company have power, by British
laws, to give judgment against any American citizen a
in Oregon, and issue an execution, under cover of
which he may be either confined in their forts, or
sent to the jails of Canada, at their pleasure!
The Hudson Bay Company, through long license,
have become so overbearing that they actually
obliged a respectable American to wear skins for
several years, for having incurred their displeasure !
The Hudson Bay Company send, annually, large
parties to trap the Beaver upon land adjacent to Oregon, belonging to the United States, and to which
England has never laid claim !
The Hudson Bay Company's agents commit depredations upon the Indians living within the acknowledged limits of the United States, actually murdering
hundreds of them every year !
The Hudson Bay Company, under authority of the
British Parliament, are actually selling lands in Oregon Territory to all those who are willing to take
their title.
What is to be done ? Congress has been petitioned
by the American settlers in Oregon, to take them
under their protection; but their prayers are unanswered.
But hark ! a sound, like the meeting of many waters, rises in the West!—and now it seems to roll, as
a great wave, from the Alleghenies even to the
Rocky Mountains !—and then it is echoed back again
to the shores of the Atlantic ! It is the mighty voice
of an injured and indignant people, who have been
long slumbering, but are roused, and are determined
to do themselves justice.'
From the very nature of the discoveries and settlements of the French and the English in Canada,
to precise limits were, at first, fixed to their respective possessions. At the peace of Aix la Chapelle,
these boundaries were yet left unsettled. Both nations wished to engross the fur trade. England
claimed to navigate the Mississippi; while France
endeavored to surround the British possessions, from
that river to the lakes, with a border of forts. Both
tations were anxious to win over to their side the
Indians. Negotiations were resorted to, but difficulties constantly occurred, which created delays.
When, suddenly, Great Britain, without a declaration of war, or giving notice of any kind of their
tiostile intentions, sent a fleet to Canada and captured
two French ships of the line; by a simultaneous
movement, all the French merchant vessels, sailing
either to or from the West Indies or North America,
amounting to more than three hundred, were captured, and taken to English ports, and the French
seamen thus obtained were even compelled to enter
the British service.' Having thus obtained a signal
advantage, by making war, before it was declared,
upon the unsuspecting Frenchmen, they pushed forward this advantage with great vigor, until they compelled Quebec to surrender to their arms.
An English historian, after narrating these facts,
expresses a well-grounded fear that posterity may
look upon them as unwarrantable aggressions. "But
(he says) it is as evident a principle as any in jurisprudence that injuries attempted may be prevented,
and that therefore war to hinder an attack is as lawful
as war to repel or punish an injury." " Policy, therefore, coincided -with justice (!) in dictating an attack
upon the French ships!" &c, &c.
Here is an English lesson of " policy" and "justice"
that, it is to be hoped, will no£ be lost upon the American people. If there was the shadow of justice to
authorize England, in an interval of profound peace
between her and France, and while negotiations
were actually on foot, in making this sudden and unlocked for attack, in capturing their ships, armed
and unarmed, and in making slaves (not prisoners) of
their seamen, merely to prevent a rival colony from
out-doing them in acts of daily occurrence with both
nations, a multo forteiri, will we he. justified in peacefully taking possession of our own territory and ousting unjust intruders ?
The original entry of the Hudson Bay Company
upon our territory was unlawful—their remaining
there is unlawful—he who ought to know them says
that " they are in all their intstincts and habits tho
roughly British and Anti-American;" wherefore, we
owe themno courtesy. That this Company acts under
the orders of the present British Ministers, is also
certain. It has ever been the policy of that artful
government, when they had any dangerous or disagreeable manoeuvre to perform, to employ agents.
This method insures to them the advantage of adopting their acts if successful, or abandoning them if
necessity requires. If Spain had been able to enforce
redress for the outrages committed upon their possessions in the new world by Drake, he would have
been punished instead of being knighted. Many of
the barbarous murders committed during our war of
the revolution were laid upon their " Indian allies;"
and now, through the instrumentality of the Hudson
Bay Company, they are depriving our citizens of all
participation in the fur trade of our own country.
" Since 1S21, (says the English editor before quoted)
they (the Hudson Bay Company) have had no British
rival, and they have exerted all their policy (arts)
to repress interference on the part of the Americans,
and in this they seem to have thoroughly succeeded."
To enable them to effect this grand object, the British ministers delay, from time to time, th® settlement of the pretended question of their right of sovereignty. At the period of the Treaty of Ghent it
was put off for ten years, with a stipulation that our
citizens should, in the mean time, enjoy an equal
right of trade. By the treaty of 1827, it was indefinitely postponed, under the same condition. In the
last treaty the subject is entirely and unaccountably
lost sight of; and now, while our Cabinet are
amused with the allegation that it is " debateable
ground," the Hudson Bay Company will not allow an \ „
American to purchase a single skin, and we are 1 ^
threatened with England sending 30,000 men "
there, to overrun our soil. If Congress do not and
will not interfere, will " the Lion of the West" submit tamely to this foreign imposition ? Will not the
people of the United States, generally, resent the
affront put upon us, as an independent nation ?
By the passage of an Act of Parliament, authorizing the seizure of Americans, within our own
territory, to be dragged to foreign places, to be incarcerated in foreign prisons, and to be tried before
foreign judges by foreign laws, England has broken
all conditions upon which mutual tenure of Oregon
with mutual rights was held ; and the threat of sending 30,000 men to possess the country will justify us,
in the eyes of all Christendom, in taking immediate
steps to settle our own territory, the first of which
will be the ejecting of foreign intruders.
Containing a Review of the Letter of a distinguished
Member of the British Parliament, published in the
London Morning Chronicle of the 2ith day of April,
In the London Morning Chronicle, of the 24th day
of last April, is a letter, said to have been written by
a distinguished member of the British Parliament,
upon the Oregon question. As it is to be presumed,
from this gentleman's public situation, and the position he assumes of instructor of his countrymen, that
he is oonversant with the strongest grounds of the
English claim to Oregon, and as he appears, from his
letter, to have placed those grounds in their strongest
points of view, it is thought proper to give to his letter a fair and candid examination and answer.
This M. P. commences by stating that the claim of
America to the territory in question assumes a duplex form. That she claims by pre-occupation and
also by cession. Here is an error at the very threshold. The United States claims the whole of Oregon Territory by cession from the Spaniards, who
were the first discoverers thereof ; and she claims
all the land watered by the Columbia River, its tributaries and head waters, under a well known principle of the law of nations, that " the nation who discovers the mouth of a river is entitled to all the land
that is watered by that river, its tributaries and head
" The United States (says this M. P.) occupied the
territory in 1805, and upon such occupation claim an
exclusive right, at all events as against England, to
the whole country."
Now, if this M. P. will allow the United States to
speak for themselves, he will find that they claim the
whole territory by virtue of the grant from Spain,
whose right of prior discovery of the same they (the
United States) are ready to prove, as also that it had
been acknowledged by Great Britain prior to the cession of Spain. And in answer to the claims of England to the discovery thereof, the United States
allege that, in 1792, Captain Gray, of the American
ship Columbia, first discovered the Columbia River,
which he named after his ship. That he landed,
held an interview with the natives, who had never
before seen a white man or a ship. That, in 1804,
Lewis and Clarke, in the employ ofthe United States,
ascended the Missouri, passed the Rocky Mountains—
up to that time unexplored by a white man—discovered and explored the head waters ofthe Columbia
River, and followed that river down to its mouth,
where they passed the winter of 1805-6. That, in
1808, the American Missouri Fur Company established
several trading posts on the River Lewis, a branch of
the Columbia. That, in 1811, Astoria was founded,
at the mouth of the Columbia River, by John Jacob
Astor, of New York. That in December, 1813, Astoria was captured by the British sloop-of-war Raccoon, Captain Blake. That, by the Treaty of Ghent,
it was agreed that all territories, &c, taken by either
party from the other, during the war, should be restored without delay. And that Astoria was restored
to the United States by Great Britain in 1818. Now,
the United States say that by virtue ofthe above discovery, (which was prior in point of time to any that
England can show,) by the settlement within a reasonable time under all the circumstances of the case,
and by the restoration, they have, independently of
all other considerations, a full and perfect title to all
the land watered by the Columbia River, its tributaries and head waters.
It will hence be apparent that the M. P., in his
statement of the American title, has omitted many of
its important features. It appears strange to us, on
this side of the water, how a M. P. should be ignorant of the fact that the United States dates her discovery of the Columbia River as far back as 1792, as
above stated; and not in 1805, as he (the M. P.) has
stated, seeing that whenever the United States have
made known their claim to be the first discoverers of
the Columbia River, the discoveries of Captain Gray
and of Lewis and Clarke have been simultaneously
promulgated; and it is equally strange how a person
so well informed, as a M. P. ought to be, should not
know that his own countryman, Vancouver, an officer in the British Navy, admitted that Captain Gray
had discovered the mouth ofthe Columbia, and had
informed him (Vancouver) of the existence of that
river, of which he had no previous knowledge. " After leaving Nootka Sound, (says this English navigator,) the serenity of the weather encouraged him
to hope that he might be enabled, on his way south,
to re-examine the coast of New Albion, and particularly a river and harbor discovered by Mr. Gray, in the
Columbia, between the forty-sixth and forty-seventh degrees of north latitude."
But, perhaps, it was not politic for the M. P. to
speak of this discovery of the mouth of the Columbia, by an American citizen, so early as 1792, as, in
that case, no answer could have been given to the
right of the United States to claim the sovereignty of
all the land watered by that river, its tributaries and
head waters, according to the law of nations.
Having thus set the M. P. straight in regard to the
brief of title of the United States, let us see what further he has to say upon this subject.
" But pre-occupancy, under all circumstances, does
not impart a title." " In order that it shall have this
effect, it is absolutely necessary that no other substantial claim should exist." This rule is admitted,
provided by the terms " substantial claim" is meant
(as it is presumed) " title." And it is earnestly re
quested that this rule may be borne in mind, as it is
intended, hereafter, to use it in our favor.
But, while the rule, as above explained, is cheerfully admitted, it is different with the inferences
which the M. P. has drawn therefrom, provided his
course of reasoning has been rightly understood.
It will be observed that, in what follows, the M. P.
no longer uses the terms " substantial claim," which
are above considered as synonymous to " title," but in
all the rest of the passage he uses the word " claim"
only. If, by so doing, this writer meant that the
United States were precluded from discovering, taking possession of and settling Oregon, because England had already claimed the territory, without regard to the title of England thereto, it is denied that
there is any principle of the law of nations which
recognizes such a position. The notion is so absurd
and dangerous that no nation in Christendom would
be willing to submit to its introduction. Suppose, for
instance, Great Britain (who, through one of their
most popular writers, has recently declared that
" the whole earth is her inheritance"—Edinburg Review,) should publish a manifesto declaring that they
" claimed" all the islands in the Western Ocean,
would that claim prevent other nations from making
subsequent discoveries of, and appropriating to themselves any island la that regioa which was before
such discovery unknown ?
If, on the contrary, by the above passage it was intended by the word " claim" to mean " substantial
claim," (" title,") then the United States are not
obliged to enter the lists with England under the
disadvantages obscurely pointed out by the M. P.,
but have a right to put her title to Oregon before the
tribunal of the world, upon the same square and level
as her proud adversary; and this is all that this Republic have ever demanded or will ever demand.
" England (says this M. P.) has for centuries claimed Oregon, by the same tenure now set forth." Now
here the learned M. P. has fallen into a very great
error. In 1790, which is not one century ago, a dispute arose between Spain and Great Britain in regard
to a right of trade and traffic at " Port San Lorenzo,"
better known by the name of " Nootka Sound," which
is a part of Oregon Territory; Nootka lying between
forty-ninth and fiftieth degrees of north latitude and
Oregon Territory extending from forty-second degree to fifty-fourth degree forty minutes. In this dispute Spain claimed exclusive right to the whole of
Oregon, by virtue of her prior discoveries ; and England, admitting that the right of sovereignty to the
whole territory was in Spain, set up (as before stated)
a mere right of trade and traffic. This claim was, in
itself, unfounded, but such subordinate and interlocu-
tary right was entirely inconsistent with the claim
which she (England) now advances to the whole territory. [See my first lecture.] Whence it is evident
that Great Britain has not for centuries claimed title
to Oregon, but, on the contrary, that within little more
than half a century she has admitted that she had no
such title.
But what is this claim to Oregon which (as this M. P.
says) England has made for centuries?
" It has long existed as a historical fact (says the
M. P.) that the very territory in question was discovered by Sir Francis Drake, about the year 1576,
who landed upon several points of the coast, taking
formal possession of the same in the name of Queen
Elizabeth. In some old Spanish maps the territory is designated' New Albion,' Math a short note expressive of Drake's priority of discovery; and according to these charts New Albion extended several
degrees to the southward of the present northern
Mexican line. Thus, then, we find actual possession
taken by England of this very coast before the United
States had even a colonial existence."
To the pages of history which relate to this voyage of Drake, I also cheerfully appeal. [The reader
is requested to place the map of North and South
America before him, and see Mavor's Voyages, 2d
vol., p. 7 to 45.] In 1577, (not 1576,) the 15th November, Drake left Plymouth. On the 27th January,
1578, he was at the " Mayo," one of the Cape Verd
Islands. On the 6th of September, 1578, he passed
the Straights of Magelhm and entered the South
Sea, and a few days afterwards saw (he says) for the
first time the conflux of the Western and Southern
Oceans. He directed his course for thirty degrees
south latitude ; found no convenient harbor ; advanced
to Macao ; thence to St. Philip's Bay; thence to Valparaiso, in latitude thirty-three degrees three minutes
south, where he captured a ship belonging to Spain,
(with which nation England was at peace ;) thence
to Coquimbo, in latitude thirty degrees south ; thence
to Sarcipaxa, where he robbed a Spaniard, asleep,
of four thousand ducats' worth of silver ; and, on the
7th of February, 1579, he arrived at Arica, in south
latitude eighteen degrees twenty-six minutes, where
he robbed three small Spanish vessels of fifty-seven
ingots of silver. He then set sail for Chili, in search
of plunder, but news of his being on the coast having
been transmitted, overland, (as Drake learned from a
captured Indian,) he sailed for and arrived at Lima,
where a number of Spanish vessels, richly laden,
were robbed. Here he learned that a rich Spanish
ship had sailed, three days before, for Paita, which
lies in south latitude five degrees five minutes ; he
resolved to pursue her ; but, finding that she had actually proceeded to Panama, which lies in north latitude 9 deg. 0 min. 30 sec, he altered his course. On
the 1st of March, 1579, he came up to this vessel, and
captured her. He now shaped his course towards the
west; put into a small island (the name of which is
not mentioned) to refit. On the 26th of March, they
put to sea again, and, on the 13th of April, arrived
at Port Anguatulco—[he committed several piracies
on this route]—where he landed and plundered the
town. Drake's crew, now sated with plunder, were
anxious to return to England; but he expatiated upon
the honor of finding a northwest passage. His authority prevailing, they sailed into a port in the Isle
of Canes, where they took in wood and water. They
thence proceeded in quest of the northwest passage ; but after sailing to latitude forty-three degrees north, without seeing any land, they relinquished their purpose and altered their course. Drake
now determined to visit the Moluccas, in the East
Indian Sea, and thence return to England, by the Cape
of Good Hope. On the 17th of June, 1579, he anchored in a commodious harbor in no. th latitude 38 deg.
30 min., (which upon the small map which accompanies this letter is marked " Po. St. Francis
Dr.") This land our hero mistook for an island, and
supposing himself to be the first discoverer, he took
possession, and called it "New Albion." And this
is the discovery under which (this M. P. says) England now claims Oregon Territory, which lies between north latitude forty-two degrees and fifty-one
degrees forty minutes, and which Brake never saw.
On the 23d of July, Drake left there skores, proceeded to the Moluccas, and thence, by the Cape of
Good Hope, home to England.
I have followed Drake thus minutely that every
one may judge for himself how ridiculous it is for
this M. P. to rely upon the pretended discovery of
New Albion, by Sir Francis Drake, for giving title to
England to Oregon.
In a geographical work by Peter Heylin, published
in London in 1674, page 105, this "island" of Nova
Albion, in latitude thirty-eight degrees, is said to have
been discovered by Sir Francis Drake, in his circumnavigation of the world, anno 1577, and by him
named " Nova Albion," in honor of England, his own
country, which was once called " Albion." In page
104, " Nova Albion" is stated to be parted from the
main by a sea called " Mer Vermiglio," which, it is
said, is entirely surrounded by the ocean and extends
from Cape Blanco to Cape St. Lucas. The Gulf of
California, misnamed Mer Vermiglia, which separates the peninsula of Old California (not the Island
of Nova Albion) from the main land of Mexico, is
about seven hundred miles long, varying in breadth
from sixty to one hundred and twanty miles ; at its
northern extremity it receives the Colorado and the
Gila Rivers. On the map of North and South America, which will be found between pages 82 and 83,
this supposed Island of New Albion and " Sea of
Vermiglio" are laid down, and all the land in Northwestern America beyond forty-two degrees is marked
as " Terra Borealis Incognita." To California
the title of Spain never has been disputed by England or any other nation or individual. (It was discovered by Cortez in 1535.) Even our M. P. has
admitted it. "But Spain had never the shadow
of a ,claim, at all events recognized by England,
to an acre of soil beyond the present acknowledged northern limits oe Mexico, beyond the
parallel of forty-two degress" and within this acknowledged limit of California, this pretended "New
Albion" is said to be.
What becomes of the boasted discovery of Oregon Territory by Sir Francis, upon which this M. P.
so confidently relies for the title of Great Britain,
when it has been shewn, not only that Oregon was
not included within the only piece of ground of
which Sir Francis erroneously claimed to be the discoverer, but that his countryman, his historian, and
the herald of his fame, has acknowldeged that in
1674, nearly one hundred years after Drake's return
home, the region now known as Oregon, was utterly
unknown in England ?
England, it is presumed, will never again display
the discoveries of Sir Francis Drake in connection
with the title to this territory.
But, to return to our M. P. He proceeds to say
that the title of England to Oregon is founded upon
those acknowledged principles upon which she held
her former colonies on the Atlantic side of North
America, and that the United States, having by the
treaty of peace of 1783, taken a transfer of the English title to the colonies, are forever precluded from
disputing the title of Great Britain to Oregon.
Now, leave is taken to deny both these premises
and the conclusion. The title under which Great
Britain held her former Atlantic colonies in North
America was founded upon the prior discoveries of
Giovanni Gabato, in the employ of Henry VII, in
1497, and her actual settlements made of them from
1620 to 1681. But she can show no discovery of Oregon prior to those of Spain, under whom we claim,
or to those made of the Columbia River by the United
States. The title of England, therefore, to Oregon
does not depend upon the same principles as the
title to her former Atlantic colonies; and the premises of our M. P. fall to the ground. But even if
England had an imperfect title to her former Atlantic
colonies and the United States accepted that title,
quantum valebat, how could this acceptance affect,
one way or the other, the title to Oregon? The
United States were in possession of the soil, and were
the owners, de facto; England claimed to have the
title to the sovereignty, de jure ; where then was the
impropriety of accepting such an instrument, which
might act, at least, as a release.
The next ground upon which the M. P. places the
title of England to the sovereignty of Oregon is what
he calls the general principles, which at the time of
the western discovery and settlement were universally admitted to regulate the practice of the European powers in America. " In appropriating to
themselves (says the M. P.) the newly discovered
continent, there was one common rule which they were
tacitly and mutually pledged to observe." " It was
regarded from the very first as a fixed principle—that
possession of the Atlantic coast conferred upon the
possessor the right to the inland country—stretching
indefinitely westward.''
That there never was any such " principle," or
" common rule," to which the European powers who
discovered and settled America were either tacitly or
expressly pledged, will now be proven.
In 1683, M. De la Salle, a Frenchman, navigated
the Mississippi River from Canada to its mouth ; in
virtue whereof France claimed the sovereignty of
Louisiana, on both sides of the river, from the Gulf
of Mexico, in north latitude about 29 deg., to the
head waters, in 49th deg. of latitude. Now, this region of country lies westward of the British Atlantic
colonies in North America, which, as before shown,
had been previously discovered and settled from
Georgia, in 31 deg., to Maine, in 48 deg. If, therefore, England, by this discovery and settlement of
the Atlantic coast, had conferred upon themselves
" the inland country, stretching indefinitely westward,"
they were entitled to Louisiana, which lay between
these latitudes, on the " stretch" towards the west.
But this title of France was acknowledged by Great
Britain in the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, and of Ver-
sailes, in 1763. And if this rule of stretching indefinitely to the westward was the " principle," or " common rule," why did not England, by virtue thereof,
claim all the rest of the Spanish possessions on the
North American Continent, which lie between the
parallels of latitude of their Atlantic colonies ? Why
did they not lay claim to all that part of California
which lies between 31 deg. and 42 deg., which could
have been done with equal justice, if any such principle or common rule had been pledged ? And why
has our M. P., almost in the same breath that he
claims the right of stretching westward indefinitely,
told us that "the acknowledged boundary of Spain
extends to 42 deg" 1
Again, when, in 1790, England had the dispute with
Spain, with regard to her pretended right of trade and
traffic at Nootka Sound, why did not the learned Pitt
put an end to that dispute in a minute, by saying that
Nootka Sound lay between 45 deg. and 51 deg., and
that England, by stretching indefinitely westward the
lines of latitude of her colonies, was entitled to claim,
not a right of trade and traffic, but the sovereignty
of Nootka Sound?
Had any such "principle," or " common rule,"
such as the M. P. has now insisted on, existed, it
would scarcely have escaped the acute observation
of the renowned Pitt; and therefore the inference is
allowable that this is an after-thought, seized upon,
as a dernier argument, in support of a hopeless claim.
Moreover, if this rule of stretching westward to
the Pacific Ocean was a common rule, as the M. P.
has asserted, why does not Great Britain, in virtue
of her possessions on the eastern side of the continent between north latitude 54 deg. 40 min. and 65
deg. 52 min., claim all the land between those parallels of latitude on the Pacific, whereas it is well
known that Russia holds undisputed possession of
those regions, and the Hudson Bay Company, the
great corporate agent of Great Britain, has taken a
lease from Russia of a part thereof.
In every civilized country with which we are acquainted, when one man seeks to deprive another of
an acre of ground, the demandant is called upon to
make proof of his title, as a condition precedent to
his recovery. Upon the same principle of right, it
may not be esteemed too bold to inquire, when England is seeking to take from the United States the
sovereignty of a country having an area of three
hundred and fifty thousand square miles, what evidence she has produced of this rule, of stretching indefinitely westward, upon which our M. P. so firmly
relies ? Is it a part of the law of nations, binding,
by common consent, upon all civilized communities ?
This is not pretended. Can it be traced to any treaty
made between those nations who were respectively
concerned in the discovery and settlement of North
America ? No such treaty has been nor can be vouched. " This rule (says the M. P.) the European powers in America tacitly and mutually pledged themselves to observe." He acknowledges, then, his inability to refer to any such convention, contract or
agreement between the parties in interest, and relies
upon inference and implication, a very frail and dangerous base whereon to build so important a superstructure as the "pledge" in question. He has, moreover, first asserted that the rule was "universally"
admitted. "In order to form a correct judgment
(says our M. P.) we must throw ourselves upon those
principles which at the time of western discovery
were universally admitted to regulate the practice
of European powers in ' America.' " Yet. immediately afterwards, he tells us that, " although it was
the recognized principle, there were many instances
in which it was widely departed from." And two
instances, of great importance, have been above noticed, viz., those of the lands watered by the Mississippi and California, which are in direct opposition
to such a rule. Our M. P. then proceeds to point out
some instances in which (as he says) England acted
upon the principle of this rule ; but, in order to make
an agreement or contract, it will not suffice to show
the acts or words of one party, it requiring the consent of at least two to make an agreement of any
kind. Besides which, the instances which the M. P.
has adduced in proof of the rule of stretching westward to the Pacific Ocean, are none of them to the
point, since they turn out, upon examination, to be
-nothing but English charters to their own colonists,
without giving western limits; a practice which
arose out of an ignorance of the geography of the
North American Continent.
The two grounds upon which Great Britain claims
title to Oregon, relied upon by the M. P., have now
been examined—and what is the result ? That she
has not the shadow of a claim. They shall be briefly
recapitulated. 1st. The supposed discovery of Oregon by Sir Francis Drake. 2d. The right of the discoverers of lands upon the Atlantic coast to extend
their lines westward to the Pacific Ocean. Both these
have been fairly discussed and completely answered.
Now let us glance at the other side.
The United States claim the whole of Oregon Territory under a solemn treaty made with Spain, and
afterwards confirmed by Mexico. The M. P. says
that, under the transfer of Spain, the United States
can derive no better title than Spain herself had. Ad-
milted. But Spain made the first discoveries of Oregon Territory, from 1543 to 1775—and the Parliament
of Great Britain has acknowledged her title to the
same. [See my first lecture—the proceedings in relation to Nootka Sound.]
And as to the discovery of the Columbia River by
Captain Gray and Lewis and Clarke, it is not and
cannot be denied.
The M. P. admits that the United States was in
possession of Oregon in 1805. He ought to have said
1792. And it is only since 1805 that Great Britain has
attempted to occupy the same.
But it is obvious that in whichever way England
claims Oregon, whether by the discovery of Sir
Francis Drake in 1579, or by the discovery and settlement of her Atlantic colonies, the last of which,
viz., Pennsylvania, was colonized in 1681, that if
she ever had any title at all she must have had it
previously to 1763. Now, in that year Great Britain,
France and Spain made a solemn treaty settling definitively the parts of the North American Continent
that belonged to them respectively, and the English
historian, Bisselt, in " his" continuation of Hume's
History of England, tell us what was the extent of
her territory on this continent at that date, including
all her discoveries and acquisitions ; and Oregon is
not included. And I have now in my possession a
map, which is entitled " An Accurate Map of North
America, describing and distinguishing the British,
Spanish and French Dominions on this great continent according to the Definite Treaty, concluded at
Paris 10th of February, 1763, also of the West India
Islands, belonging to and possessed by the several
European Princes and States." "The whole laid
down according to the latest and most authentic improvements, by Em an Bowen, Geog'r to his Majesty, and John Gibson, engraver." And on this map
the dominions of England extend from the Atlantic
to the Mississippi; the French dominions extend from
the Mississippi to the western boundary of Louisiana,
and all the country between the last mentioned
belonging to Spain. This evidence is conclusive
as to the right of Spain, and shows that the claim
now made by England is of recent date and entirely
" The new relations of the civilized world with
the East have brought the Pacific coast of America
into vast and sudden importance," says our M. P.
Here is the main-spring that has set in motion all the
wheels of British sophistry. But they revolve in
vain, for the United States never will give up Oregon
(to which they have a just title) as long as the waters
of the beautiful Columbia River shall continue to
flow and the Rocky Mountains shall stand upon their
present foundations.
A Review ofthe "Statement" of Messrs Huskisson
and Addington, English Plenipotentiaries in 1S27.
Truth is simple and uniform; but the British
claims to Oregon are complex and contradictory. I
published, at large, the letter of a distinguished member of the British Parliament. In it, as has been
seen, the title of England to the Territory in question
is confined to two grounds, 1st. The (pretended) discovery of Sir Francis Drake of his Island of New
Albion, and—2d. The assumed right of the British
crown, by virtue of the discoveries and settlements
of their former Atlantic Colonies to stretch through
to the Pacific Ocean.   Having submitted my answers
to both these grounds, in my third Essay, it is not my
purpose to resume that discussion at this moment; but
I have thought proper to make the above statement
of the grounds of title to show that the M. P. contended for an exclusive right of sovereignty over the
whole soil. " Beyond the parallel of 42° (says the
M. P.) England has ever steadily claimed an exclusive proprietorship, nor has any act on her part,
since her title first accrued, either weakened or
interrupted her claim." I now solicit the attention
of my readers while I set out the grounds of the
title of Great Britain to Oregon, as contained in a
written statement of Messrs. Huskisson and Adding-
ton, plenipotentiaries appointed by her in 1827.
" Great Britain claims no exclusive sovereignty
NINTH parallels of latitude ; her present claim,
not in respect to any part, but to the whole, is limited TO A RIGHT  OF JOINT   OCCUPANCY IN  COMMON
with other States, leaving the right of exclusive
dominion in abeyance; and her pretensions to the
mere maintenance of her own rights, in resistance
to the exclusive character of the pretensions of
the U. S."
Now nothing is required but a comparison of these
"pretensions" of Messrs. Huskisson and Addington
with the " claims" of the M. P., to perceive that they
are so completely and entirely at variance that they
cannot for a single moment stand together, and that
if one is adopted, the other must, necessarily, fall to
the ground. The right of prior discovery of a nation
must, by inevitable consequence, confer an exclusive
right, if it confers any. And it was upon the strength
of this conclusion that the British government ejected the Spaniards from the Falkland Islands, the
Dutch from their settlements in New York, and the
Swedes from the peaceful shores of the Delaware.
How is it possible that a separate act of discovery
can confer a joint right ? The exclusive sovereignty
is conferred upon the nation, in consideration of the
expense, trouble, industry and perseverance of the
citizens or subjects in making the prior discovery ;
but it would be strange indeed if this sovereignty
was to be divided, equally, between those who had
and those who had not been at this expense and
trouble ;—between those who had used industry and
perseverance and those who had not. And this incongruity is rendered still more striking from the
circumstance that this right of sovereignty by prior
discovery, is to be enjoyed not only by another, but by
' other States," i. e., by all other States who think
proper, at any time to make the claim. " The claim
of England (say Messrs. Huskisson and Addington)
is limited to a right of joint occupancy in common
with other States." That such a common right, originating in a prior discovery of any one State, is recognized by the law of nations, or has ever been acceded
to, except where the nation has been forced into the
measure by the fear of British arms, I confidently
deny. Upon the whole, then, it appears that this
"pretension"* of Great Britain (as it has not inaptly
been called) is a final and conclusive answer to the
claims of the M. P. in right of her (alleged) prior
# "Pretension," a fictitious show or appearance.—
Barclay^ Dictionary,
But if this right of joint occupancy cannot be traced
to the law of nations, and is, as I have shown, so
much at variance with the principles which govern
in such cases, whence does it derive its binding
effect ?
"The rights of Great Britain (continue Messrs.
Huskisson and Addington) are recorded and defined
in the Convention of1790 ; they embrace the right to
navigate the waters of those countries, to settle in and
over any part of them and to trade with the inhabitants and occupiers ofthe same."
"The Convention of 1790?" The reader will no
doubt be surprised to learn that this " Convention"
was nothing more nor less than a treaty made the
28th of October, 1790, between Spain and Great Britain and no other power. So that here we find these
plenipotentiaries, after all the denials on behalf of
Great Britain that Spain had any right, by prior discovery or otherwise, to Oregon, laying the foundation stone of all her (Great Britain's) rights to the
territory upon the title of the Spaniards! " If Spain
had no title (said the M. P ) she could convey none
to the U. S." This was granted, for true it is that
the waters can be traced no higher than the spring
But unless there is one rule of interpretation where
England is concerned and another for the U. S., England, by a Convention with Spain, could derive no
greater right than was vested in the Spanish crown.
Wherefore this reference of the plenipotentiaries to
the " Convention" with Spain, as the "defined" and
" recorded" basis of the " pretensions" of Great Britain, is a free, full and absolute admission that Spain
was entitled to the territory, in right of her prior discoveries ; that being the only title thereto which the
Spaniards have ever set up. Now what become* of
Sir Francis Drake and his (pretended) Island of Albion ? What becomes of that singularly erroneous
notion of the M. P., of the right of Great Britain, by
virtue of her discovery and settlement of her Atlantic colonies, to stretch (over Louisiana and California)
to the Pacific Ocean ? All these dreams of the M.
P. have vanished before this diplomatic admission of
the Spanish right, "like the baseless fabric of a vision,
leaving not a wreck behind !"
Taking then the statement of these plenipotentiaries to embody the entire " pretensions" of G. Britain
to Oregon, I pledge myself, if the reader will accompany me, to show that they are no justification for
England to claim title to that territory.
In the first place, I recall attention to the circumstances under which that convention was wrung (I
do not make use of too strong a word) from the
Spaniards. I recall attention to that part of my first
lecture in which I have shown, that the right to
Oregan by prior discovery was in Spain, that the entry upon Nootka, by the British subjects, was a trespass—that the King, Lords and Commons, in Parliament assembled, acknowledged that the title to the
sovernigty of Oregon was in Spain—that nothing
more was claimed, on behalf of Great Britain, than a
right of trade and traffic—that such a right to trade and
traffic, without the consent of the soverign of a country, is not recognized by any principle of the law of
nations—that Spain insisted upon her exclusive right
of sovereignty—that she was threatened with war by
Great Britain, whose Parliament had voted a million
of pounds to carry it on—that France, to whom she
applied was unable, or unwilling, to assist her—that
Great Britain had 158 sail of the line, with which
Spain was unable to contend—and, therefore, that this
" convention" was extorted from Spain, as it were,
"at the cannon's mouth." And I ask, with some
confidence, whether, if England considers such a
" convention" a proper treaty to force upon the U, S.,
who were no parties thereto, the U. S. will consider it an agreement which they, as the grantees of
Spain, are bound to fulfil ?
But secondly, I appeal to history that this " convention," which, upon its face, has such an imposing
appearance, was considered by " the high contracting
powers," more as a paper concession, to gratify the
pride of the British people, whose passions had been
much excited by the affair at Nootka, than as any real
eonti act, to be carried into execution. Let any one
read the debates in Parliament when this treaty was
submitted to that body. He will there find, that the
Ministry and their friends talked much of the vindication ofthe honor ofthe nation, fyc, while the opposition contended and showed that Great Britain had
gained nothing; but, upon the whole, was the loser
by the convention. That the papers and correspondence upon which the treaty was made, were loudly
called for and obstinately withheld. That although
I have, by taking, as I promised to do, the English
account of the affair at the sound, which states that
Mears " had built a house and fortified it," that there
is very strong reason to believe that Mears never
built any house at Nootka,—and it is certain that, if
he ever did build one, that it was a mere shanty,
which was removed before Martinez came there.
That the " convention" was purposely so worded
that while it conveyed the idea that under its provisions lands and buildings were to be restored, yet
for want of a sufficient specification none ever could
be restored. That although it was promulgated in
England that two frigates were to be sent out to the
Pacific to assume possession of the lands, &c, at
Nootka, that the commission dwindled down to the
appointment of Mr. George Vancouver, one of Cook's
Lieutenants ; who was not even sent out for this express purpose, but was about to sail on a voyage of
discovery;—that in August, 1792, Vancouver was at
Nootka, and was ready to receive from Quadra, the
Spanish Captain, repossession of the lands, &c, (if
an j) taken from Mears,—that upon making strict inquiry it was found that he (Mears) was never in possession of any land,s there, and that no lands or houses
were ever restored or put into the possession of the British,—that on the 2d Sept., 1794, the Spaniards were
still in quiet possession of Nootka,—that Vancouver
returned to England in 1795, and, of course, made his
report; but nothing further has been done in the
There is, therefore, every reason for believing tha
this boasted " Convention," where the British right
to Oregon is said, by the plenipotentiaries, to be " defined and recorded," was one of those artifices that
the English ministers, from time to time, play off
upon the people, and that it never would have been
again thought of but for the ingenuity of these plenipotentiaries.^
#In Belsham's History of Great Britain, vol.
3., p. 337, it is stated that the Spanish flag at Nootka was never struck, and that the whole territory has
been relinquished by Great Britain.
Thirdly. The Convention between Spain and
Great Britain, upon which the plenipotentiaries rely,
was (as above said) made in 1790,
In 1796, Spain declared war against England.
Now, whatever may have been the licenses " to navigate the waters of those countries, to settle in and over
any part of them, and to trade with the inhabitants
and occcupiers of the same," which were derived
(as it is said) from Spain, and which Great Britain, by
virtue of the Convention of 1790, might claim to exercise in time of peace, certain it is that, by the declaration of war in 1796, all these licenses were abrogated and annulled, and that they never could be
again revived, except by a new convention made by
the parties in interest.
This is a principle ofthe law of nations, which will
not be denied.
No new convention was made between England
and Spain, renewing these concessions, between 1796
and the 22d February, 1819, when Spain transferred
all her right, title and interest in Oregon to the United
So that this "pretension" of England to hold Oregon by virtue of this Convention, is only another of
those straws by the specific gravity of which they
vainly hope to keep their unfounded claim from
TJie Discovery ofthe Columbia River.
It is proposed, in the present paper, to give a condensed view of all the facts immediately connected
with the discovery ofthe Columbia River, in Oregon
Territory. This river, one of the head waters of
which is as far North as lat. 54, empties into the Pacific Ocean in 46 deg. 18', between two points of
land; one in the North called " Cape Disappointment" or " Cape Hancock," and the other called
"Point Adams," seven miles distant from each other.
In 1775, Don Antonio Bucareli, then Viceroy of
Mexico, fitted out an expedition to the North Pacific,
for the purpose of examining the Coast from Cape
Mendocino in lat. 40 deg. 19' to lat. 65 deg. This
expedit on, which consisted of the Santiago and So-
nora, was placed under the command of Captain
Bruno Heceta; Juan Perez going in the former vessel as ensign, and Juan de Ayala being chief officer
of the latter. These vessels on the 10th June cast
anchor in a cove in lat. 41 deg. 3m., which they named
" Port Trinidad." On the 9th of July, finding themselves in the latitude where the Spaniard, Juan de
Fuca, was said to have discovered a Strait, they
sailed thither, and descried the Southwest side of a
great Island, since called " Quadra and Vancouver's
Island," and the Strait now called "the Strait of
Juan de Fuca." They were then driven by the winds
Southward to within eighty miles of the mouth of
the Columbia river, where they anchored near an
Island, called by them "Isla de Delores," inconsequence of some of their men having been there murdered by the natives. The 14th August, while Heceta
was coasting Southward, he discovered a promontory
called by him " Cape San Roque," and immediately
South of this, in lat. 46 deg. 16', an opening in the
land which appeared to him to be a harbor or the
mouth of a river. This opening was afterwards represented in the Spanish charts, printed before 1788,
by the names of " Entrada de Heceta," " Entrada de
Asuncion" and " Rio de San Roque."
In 1787, Lieutenant John Meares, an Englishman,
made an attempt to re-discover this harbor or mouth
of a river, but he was entirely unsuccessful. I will,
at present, take his own statement of this affair. He
says he discovered a headland in lat. 46 deg. 47,
which he called "Cape Shoal water." "Sailing thence
along the coast, (says Meares) towards the South,
a high bluff promontory bore us off Southeast, at the
distance of only four leagues, for which we steered
to double, with the hope that, between it and Cape
Shoal water, we should find some sort of harbor. We
now discovered distant land beyond this promontory,
and we pleased ourselves with the expectation of its
being " Cape Saint Roc" (Roque) of the Spaniards,
near which they are said to have found a good port.
By half past eleven we doubled this Cape, at the
distance of three miles, having a clear and perfect
view of the shore in every part, on which we did not
discern a living creature, or the least trace of habitable life. A prodigious easterly swell rolled on the
shore, and the soundings gradually decreased, from
forty to sixteen fathoms over a hard, sandy bottom.
After we had rounded the promontory, a large bay,
as we had imagined, opened to our view, that bore a
very promising appearance, and into which we steered with every encouraging expectation. The highland that formed the boundaries of the Bay was at a
great distance, and a flat, level country occupied the
intervening space ; the Bay itself took rather a west-
erly direction. As we steered in, the water shoaled
to nine, eight and seven fathoms, when breakers
were seen from the deck, right ahead, and from the
mast-head they were observed to extend across the
Bay; we,- therefore, hauled out, and directed our
course to the opposite shore, to see if there was any
channel, or if we could discover any port." The name
of " Cape Disappointment" was given to the promontory, and the Bay obtained the title of " Deception
Bay." By an indifferent meridian observation, it
lies in the latitude of 46 deg. 10' North, and in the
computed longitude of 235 deg. 35' East. We can
now with safety assert (says Meares) that no
such river as that of Saint Roc (Roque) EXISTS,
as laid down in the Spanish charts.*
Before I proceed to the discoveries of Captain
Gray, of the American ship Columbia, I take leave
to make a few remarks upon this account of Lieut.
The honest, plain dealing part of the community,
not only of the United States, but, I trust, of England,
will be surprised to learn that upon these acts of
Lieutenant Meares, Great Britain maintains that he
was the first discoverer of the Columbia River !
In 1826, the plenipotentiaries of the British Government presented a statement to the minister of the
United States from which the following is truly extracted.
" Great Britain can show that in 1788, that is, four
years before Gray entered the mouth of the Columbia
River, Mr. Meares, a lieutenant of the Royal Navy,
who had been sent by the East India Company on a
trading expedition to the Northwest coast of Ameri-
*Meares' account of this voyage, published by him
in London, 1790, p. 167.
ca, had already minutely explored that coast, from the
49th to the 54th degree of North latitude ; had taken
formal possession of the Straits de Fuca, in the name
of his Sovereign; had purchased land, trafficked, and
formed treaties with the natives ; and had actually
Disappointment—a name that it bears to this day."
Is it not monstrous that gentlemen who pride themselves upon their rank, station, talents and education
should labor under such a delusion as to believe that
diplomacy requires of them to resort to such measures ? Perhaps it may be urged on behalf of these
gentlemen that they were ignorant of Meares' publication, from which I have made the above extract ;
and I sincerely wished that this might have been the
case, but unfortunately, in the same paper, these plenipotentiaries add, that "Meares' account of his
voyage was published in London in August, 1790,"
and it is hardly fair to presume that these gentlemen
had come to the discussion of the right to Oregon,
without reading the book to which they refer. If they
did read it, they must there have seen that Meares had
not already minutely explored the coast from the 49th
to 54th degree ofN. Lat., that he had not taken formal possession of the Straits de Fuca—that he had
neither purchased land, nor trafficked, nor formed
treaties with the natives—that he had not actually entered the Bay of the Columbia River, but that on the
contrary, that he had asserted that no such river ever
did exist, and that he had called the Cape " Disappointment," because he had been disappointed in his
expectation of finding the river laid down in the Spanish charts.
A more plausible, but still far from being a substantial excuse, might perhaps be suggested, in the
fact, that the papers upon which this statement of the
Plenipotentiaries was founded were fallacious, for
these gentlemen proceed to say that they have appended "an extract from the log-book of Meares—
maps of the coasts and harbors he visited, in which
every part of the Coast in question, including the Bay
ofthe Columbia, (into which the log expressly
states that Meares entered,) is minutely laid
down, and an engraving, dated August, 1790, of the
entrance of de Fuca Straits, executed after a design
taken in June, 1788, by Meares himself.*
Now I appeal with confidence to every honest man,
without regard to the nation to which he belongs,
that these " extracts" and " designs," so utterly and
entirely at variance with the journal published by
Meares himself in London, in 1790, are entirely destitute of credit. If the Plenipotentiaries made use of
these spurious papers, believing them to have been
genuine, (which, notwithstanding the improbability
of gentlemen of their extensive reading, never having perused Meares' book, published in London in
1790, to which they themselves refer, I prefer inferring,) it behoves them now to institute an immediate
inquiry, and to cause to '/be punished the individual,
whoever he may turn out to be, who has been guilty
of this deception. If, on the other hand, (which I at
present disclaim) the Plenipotentiaries had read the
book of Meares, published in London in 1790, and
*I have a word more to say upon the subject of
the design, which shall appear hereafter.
they relied upon these spurious papers, knowing
them to be spurious, upon the supposition that the
ignorant Yankees had never seen that book, and
would be unable to detect the imposition, a much
graver and more distressing aspect would be put
upon the whole affair. We will now proceed to
show who did discover the Columbia River.
In the month of May, 1791, Captain Gray, of the
American ship Columbia, of Boston, sailing along
the Northwest Coast of North America, observed
an opening in lat. 46° 16', from which issued a current so strong as to prevent his entrance, although he
remained nine days in its vicinity endeavoring to effect that object. He was, however, convinced that
he had discovered the mouth of a large river. The
ship Columbia wintered at Clyoquet. On the 29th
day of April, 1792, they fell in with the English ship
Discovery, Captain Vancouver, and Captain Gray
informed Captain Vancouver of his having been
" off the mouth of a river in lat. 46° 10', where the
outset or reflux was so strong as to prevent his entering for nine days." On the 30th of April, Captain
Vancouver made the following entry in his journal,
which has been since published: " We have now
explored a part of the American continent, extending nearly two hundred and fifteen leagues, under
the most fortunate and favorable circumstances of
wind and weather. So minutely has this extensive
coast been inspected, that the surf has been constantly seen to break on its shores, from the masthead ; and it was but in a few small intervals only
where, our distance precluded its being visible from
the deck. It must be considered as a very singular
circumstance, that, in so great an extent of coast,
vje should not until now have seen the appearance of
any opening inits shores, which presented any certain
prospect of affording shelter ; the whole coast foiming
one compact, solid and nearly straight barrier against
the sea. The river mentioned by Mr. Gray should,
from the latitude he assigned to it, have existence
in the Bay South of Cape Disappointment. This we
passed in the forenoon of the 27th; and, as I then
observed, if any inlet or river should be found, it
must be a very intricate one, and inaccessible to vessels of our burthen, owing to the reefs and broken
water, which then appeared in its neighborhood.
Mr. Gray stated that he had been several days attempting to enter it, which at length he was unable
to effect, in consequence of a very strong outset.
This is a phenomenon difficult to account for, as, in
most cases, where there are outsets of such strength
in a sea coast, there are corresponding tides setting
in. Be that, however, as it may, I was thoroughly
convinced, as were also most persons of observation
on board, that we could not possibly have passed any
safe navigable opening harbor, or place of security for
shipping on this coast from Cape Mendocino* to the
promontory of Classet,-\ nor had we any reason to
alter our opinions, notwithstanding that theoretical
geographers have thought proper to assert in that
space the existence of arms of the Ocean, communicating with a Mediterranean Sea, and extensive
rivers, with safe and convenient ports."
-     * Lat, 40° 19'.
| Cape Flatiery, at the entrance of the Straits de
Fuca, between 48 and 49°.
Now I appeal again to the honest of all nations
whether it could be possible, that Lieutenant Meares,
of the Royal Navy, could have previously visited
every part of this coast, including the Bay of Columbia, into which the spurious extracts of his logbook, referred to by the plenipotentiaries, " expressly
state that he entered." And whether he could have,
in 1788, made any such " design" of the entrance to
the straits of Fuca, the existence of which Captain
Vancouver treats as being fabulous. That Captain
Vancouver had seen Meares' book published in London, 1790, is highly probable, if not certain, for he
refers to "Disappointment," the name bestowed by
Meares upon the Cape, in consequence of his having
been disappointed in finding the San Roque, (the Columbia.) What opinion then must be formed of the
line of conduct of the British Government, if they
persist in their endeavor to take away from the people of the United States the Territory of Oregon,
upon such dishonorable and dishonest giounds as
these spurious extracts and antidated designs ?
But we must return to Captain Gray. On the 11th
of May, the ship Columbia was opposite to the " Deception Bay" of Lieutenant Meares, and immediately South of his " Cape Disappointment," at the very
spot where Captain Vancouver was thoroughly convinced there was no river. The breakers extending
across the bay, presented as usual, a formidable appearance ; but the gallant Yankee, nothing daunted,
dashed forward, and soon found himself on the broad
bosom of the Columbia; the waters of which were so
fresh, that the casks of the ship were filled within
ten miles of the Pacific Ocean. On the 14th, he ascended that river twenty miles from its mouth;
anchored, landed, and traded with the natives until
the 18th. On the 20th, he descended the river,
passed the breakers and entered the Pacific Ocean.
Captain Gray gave the name of his ship (" the Columbia") to the river. The Cape at the Southern
side, he called "Adams;" and "Hancock" was
substituted for "Disappointment."*
Of the merit of this discovery, no power on earth
can deprive Captain Gray. Even were might to
overcome right, and the Americans to be deprived
of the Territory, posterity would do justice to this
bold and enterprising American. The United States
has no knighthood to confer upon him; but his name
shall descend to after times honored; not so with
Sir Francis Drake's!
At Nootka Sound, Captain Vancouver was informed of the particulars of Captain Gray's successes,
and received from the Spanish Commissioner, Quadra, copies of Gray's charts and descriptions ; which
had been obtained from Gray. In the following October, Vancouver went again in search of the Columbia River, and this time he found it. Now mark,
my countrymen, how ingeniously and ungenerously
he endeavors to deprive Captain Gray of his fame :
" The portion of the Columbia River near the sea
(says Vancouver) was found by Captain Broughton,
(who he sent in to make explorations,) to be about
seven miles in width, its depth varied from two fathoms to eight, and it was crossed, in every direction,
by shoals, which must always render the navigation
* Extracts from Captain Gray's log-book as published.
 difficult, even by small vessels. Higher up, the stream
became narrower, at the distance of twenty-five
miles its breadth did not exceed 1000 yards." From
these circumstances, Vancouver contends that the
true entrance ofthe River was at that point ; and hence>
that, as Captain Gray had proceeded only twenty
miles, he had not discovered the Columbia River !
I blush for human nature as I record such sophistry.
Shame upon such unbecoming envy and uncharita-
hleness !   From the point above mentioned to the
ocean is not " the River," but " an inlet" or " Sound,"
(says Vancouver.) I will not insult the understanding of my readers by making any comments upon
this (pretended) distinction.
Such is the impartial history of the discovery of the
Columbia River, upon the merits of which the impartial will decide according to the dictates of Truth
and Right.
" Let Justice be done,
Though the heavens shall fall*"


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