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An essay on the Oregon question, written for the Shakspeare Club Meredith, Edmund Allen, 1817-1899 1846

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This book is a
Q-CeCen and AN ESSAY,
EDMUND   A.   MEREDITH, L. L B., t. c. d.
THE 20th JANUARY, 1846,
Jttr. Jpregtoent ant) Gentlemen:
In Europe and America alike, the Oregon question, or, as it is now more generally styled, the " Peace
or War" question, is the all absorbing subject of discussion.
Other political questions have ceased to interest, or are
regarded at least as of secondary importance.
It is not, certainly, the novelty of the question, which
has gained for it this universal consideration. The question is old, the topics of discussion are exhausted, the arguments are thread-bare.
During a period of nearly 40 years, the Oregon has
been upon several occasions the subject of negotiation
between the Governments of Great Britain and the United States. Various are the treaties and conventions,
the Embassies extraordinary, the protocols and despatches
to which it has given birth; still the question remains
in "Statu quo" the difficulties between the two Nations
continue; each party occupies the same ground as in the
commencement of the controversy. The diplomatists
have toiled much, they have advanced but little; they
have adjourned, but not settled the dispute; they have
delayed, but not averted the danger. The question has
reached its crisis, its decision can be postponed no
longer;   the parties have   joined issue ;   it remains to
—J 6
be seen how the issue shall be tried—whether Minerva
or Mars shall be the arbiter!
Apparently the arts of peace have failed; and now both
nations are sternly, though silently preparing, if need be,
to trust the issue of the cause to God and the sword.
Were we to consider the value merely of the territory
in dispute, we might be tempted to regard the controversy
as unimportant; but when we see who are the competitors, the question assumes a graver character. It is not
the greatness of the prize, but the greatness of the combatants, which gives importance to a contest. The prize
here is small; but the competitors are mighty: the
competitors are Great Britain and the United States,
the foremost nations in the old and new worlds. Should
they sound the tocsin of war, what nation could hear
the sound unmoved ? Should they join in battle, what
people would not feel the shock ?
But to us, in this country, the dispute is one of vital,
of peculiar interest. We are intimately connected, physically and politically, with both the contending powers
We are the subjects of the one, the neighbors of the
other. We cherish our connection with the one, we
shrink from incorporation witji the other. We love Monarchy, we eschew Republicanism. We hope much from
the protection of Great Britain, and dread much from
the ambition of the States. It is impossible, then, that
we can view without alarm, the increasing difficulties
which gather round this question, and the daily diminishing probabilities of its amicable adjustment. We
cannot see without apprehension, the gloomy appearance
of the Oregon horizon ; the clouds which have long been gathering there, are hourly becoming darker and more
lowering,—rwho can tell how soon they may burst in thunder over both hemispheres ? Can we, in such a case,
hope to escape the fury of the storm ? Surely not!
Should Great Britain and the States appeal to arms, this
country would, undoubtedly, become the theatre of
the war.
There are, I am aware, very many persons, both in this
country and in the United States, persons competent too
to form an opinion upon the subject, who see in war the
sole means which now remains of putting a period to this
dispute. Diplomacy and negociation cannot, they say,
unravel the gordion knot of Oregon: it must be severed
by the sword. I confess I have better hopes; and, notwithstanding the difficulties which now beset the question,
I am far from despairing of its ultimate adjustment by
peaceful means.
I have great faith in the wisdom and moderation of the
man who directs the helm of the British Government.
I have great faith in the magnanimity and forbearance of
the British Parliament. I have great faith in the love of
peace and of its blessings, so deeply rooted, during a repose of thirty years, in the English people ; and in spite
of the monstrous pretensions of the States; in spite of
the arrogant assurance and blustering bravado of Mr-
Polk ; in spite of the mad thirst for war with England,
which inflames so large a majority of the people of the
States, I still think and hope that means may yet be found
to avert the terrible calamity of war.
But even if the question should be amicably arranged,
and the country thus relieved from all immediate danger 8
in consequence thereof, still an examination of the pretended claim of the States to the whole of Oregon, could
not but be deeply interesting to us, as affording another
proof, if such were needed, of the aggressive territorial
policy of the States; as another step made by them towards the exclusive dominion (which they have marked
out for themselves,) over the whole continent of North
America. Whether, then, peace or war be the issue of
the question, it demands our most serious consideration.
The boundaries of this famous territory, are, no doubt,
familiar to you all. The Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean are its natural boundaries on the east and
west; the parallel of 54 ° 40' north latitude separates it
from the Russian dominions on the north; the parallel
of 42 ° separates it from the Mexican dominions on the
south. Its length is about 650, and its mean breadth
about 550 miles. Quadra or Vancouver's Island, on the
coast, forms also part of the disputed territory.
Up to the period of Mr. Polk's Presidency, the Government of the United States, had always in their treaties and conventions relative to the Oregon, acknowledged
that Great Britain had important rights in that territory.
The extent of those rights was the sole question in discussion. Frequent propositions had previously been made
bv the Government of the Union, to divide this territorv
with England; in all these propositions the Americans
conceded to Great Britain all the territory north of the
parallel of 49 °, or nearly one-half the whole territory.
In addition, important privileges in the remaining portion
of the territory were, on some occasions, subjoined; as,
for example, the free navigation of the Columbia, south ~\
of the parallel of 49 ° . Great Britain refused these offers.
She claimed, besides all this, the portion to the south,
embraced between that parallel and the Columbia River.
This portion, which is a mere fragment of the whole, was,
until Mr. Polk's time, the sole debated ground. It remained for Mr. Polk to stultify the acts of the preceding
American administration, and to proclaim, in direct opposition to the previous admission of the American Government, that the United States were entitled to exclusive
sovereignty over the whole of Oregon ; and that the claims
of Great Britain to any part of it were utterly unfounded.
In his late message to Congress, Mr. President Polk
states it as his " settled conviction " that " the British
pretension, to any part of the Oregon territory, conld not
be maintained upon any principle of public law recognized
by nations." He tells us however, that from deference to
what had been done by his predecessors, he proposed
to Great Britain to divide the territory by the parallel of
49°; but that the proposition was rejected by the British
Plenipotentiary, and he closes with the following remarkable words:—
" The extraordinary and wholly inadmissible demands of the British
government, and the rejection of the proposition made in deference
alone to what had been done by my predecessors, and the implied obligation which their acts seemed to impose, afford satisfactory evidence
that no compromise which the United States ought to accept, can be effected.
With this conviction, the proposition of compromise which had been
made and rejected, was, by my direction, subsequently withdrawn, and
our title to the whole Oregon territory asserted, and, as is believed,
maintained by irrefragable facts and arguments.
" The civilized world,'* continues Mr. Polk, " will see in these proceedings a spirit of liberal concession on the part of the United States;
and this government will be relieved from all responsibility which may
follow the failure to settle the controversy." 10
The Government of the United States has then, in
the most solemn and formal manner, denied that Great
Britain has any claim whatever to any portion of Oregon ;
and asserted for itself the right of exclusive sovereignty
over the whole. These assertions are bold. Let us see
what are the " irrefragable facts and arguments " by which
they are attempted to be maintained.
The pretensions of the United States to the exclusive
sovereignty of the Oregon, are based, by Mr. Buchanan,
on two distinct titles : the indirect or Spanish title, and
the direct or American title, properly so called. The
former,or Spanish title, is founded upon the Florida treaty,
concluded between Spain and the States, in 1819. The
latter, or American title, properly so called, is founded on
the discoveries, explorations, and settlements of the
Americans in that territory. These titles taken together,
form, what Mr. Buchanan is fond of styling the Spanish-
American title of the States.
We shall first consider the indirect, or Spanish title :
which, according to Mr. Buchanan, would, by itself, confer upon the Americans the exclusive right to Oregon.
Under the Florida Treaty of 1819, Spain ceded to the
United States u all her rights and claims to any territories west of the Rocky Mountains, and north of the
42nd parallel of latitude." In other words, Spain ceded
to the States, by this Treaty, all the rights and claims
which she herself then had in the Oregon.
The question then is, what were the " rights and
claims" of Spain at that time in this territory? What
rights and claims had she the power to cede ? The
Americans pretend that Spain, at the period of the Flo- r
rida Treaty, was entitled to the exclusive sovereignty of
Oregon. We contend, on the other hand, that Spain did
not possess, at that time, exclusive sovereignty over any
part of Oregon; and that, as Spain could not give what
she did not possess, the Americans cannot, under the
Florida Treaty, claim such sovereignty over any part of
We shall endeavour to show, firstly, that, in 1790, nearly
30 years before the Fiorida Treaty, Spain had, by the
Nootka Convention, formally renounced all pretension to
the exclusive sovereignty over the Oregon: and that, notwithstanding Mr. Buchanan's assertion to the contrary,
that convention was subsisting at the period of the
Florida Treaty. Secondly, that even though that convention were not in force in 1819, even though it never
had existed, still that Spain would not have had, in 1819,
exclusive sovereignty over one rood of Oregon. And,
finally, that the Americans, by their own acts, had practically denied the existence of the sovereignty of Spain to
that territory.
Antecedent to the Nootka Convention, Spain had
undoubtedly pretended to the exclusive sovereignty over
the whole north-west coast of North America, inclusive of the Oregon. Spain had before, and with equal
justice, laid claim to the sovereignty of the entire continent of North America. The sovereigfntv of the north-
west coast and Oregon, was a mere fragment of her once
magnificent kingdom. But her pretended sovereignty over
the continent was despised by other nations; her magnificent kingdom had melted away; and towards the close
of the last century, except the kingdom of Mexico, Ore- gon was the only region over which she claimed to have
sovereignty. And, in 1790, her pretended sovereignty
over the Oregon was also, as we have said, formally, under
the Nootka Convention, abandoned. We shall take the
history of that Convention from the despatch of the
American Plenipotentiary, Mr. Buchanan:
" It is unnecessary," says he, *' to detail the circumstances out of
which this convention arose. It is sufficient to say that John Meares,
a British subject, sailing under the Portuguese flag, landed at Nootka
Sound, in 1788, and made a temporary establishment there for the purpose of building a vessel; and that Spaniards, in 1789, took possession
of this establishment under the orders of the Viceroy of Mexico, who
claimed for Spain the exclusive sovereignty of the whole territory on the
north-west coast of America, up to the Russian line. Meares appealed
to the British Government for redress against Spain, and the danger of
war became imminent. This wes prevented by the conclusion of the
Nootka Sound convention."
By the first article of that convention, it was stipulated
that " the buildings and tracts of land situated on the
north-west coast of the continent of North America, or
on the Islands adjacent to that continent, of which the
subjects of his Britannic Majesty were dispossessed, about
the month of April, 1789, by a Spanish officer, should be
restored to the said British subjects." The second article provides that the British should be compensated or
indemnified for the property which the Spaniards had
seized, and for the injuries which they had sustained by
the Spaniards.
We may remark here, that the restoration of the above
land and buildings, and the payment of the said indemnity, were unequivocal admissions on the part of Spain,
that England had a right to make those establishments
and occupy the territory antecedent to the convention. 13
To prevent, however, for the future, any disputes as to
the rights of the two nations in the territory, the third article was inserted.  The words of this article are as follows:
H In order to strengthen the bonds of friendship, and to
preserve  in  future  a perfect harmony and good understanding between the two contracting parties, it is agreed
that their respective subjects shall not be disturbed or
molested, either in navigating or carrying on their fisheries
in the Pacific ocean, or in the South Seas, or in landing
on the coasts of those seas in places not already occupied,
for the purpose of carrying on their commerce with the
natives of the country, or of making settlements there."
Subject, however, to a restriction contained in the following article, that the subjects of each Power should have
the privilege of trading to the settlements of the subjects
of the othetv
But ifris argued by Mr. Buchanan, that the treaty was
annulled in 1796, by the war which then broke out between England and Spain, and that, since the war, it has
never been revived. ^
Now, in answer to this, we say, that the Nootka Convention (as far as regards the Oregon) was not annulled by the war in 1796,—-that even if it had been annulled
by that war, it would -have been revived by the treaty of
Madrid, in 1814; and would, consequently, have been in
force m 1819. And, finally, that Spain herself regarded
the Nootka Sound Convention, or rather the principles
which it enunciates, as subsisting and in full force at the
period of the Florida Treaty.
The general rule,  says Mr. Buchanan, is that war
terminates all treaties between the belligerent  powers.
c ■■
Granted. But Mr. Buchanan admits that this general
rule is open to an exception. He cites with approbation
the language of Lord Bathurst, wherein the rule and the
exception are both stated. " The only exception," says
Lord Bathurst (as quoted by Mr. Buchanan,) " to the
general rule that war terminates all treaties between the
belligerent nations, is that of a Treaty recognizing certain
sovereign rights belonging to a nation, which rights had
previously existed, iudependent of any treaty engagements.
These rights which the treaty did not create, but only acknowledged, cannot be destroyed by war between the parties."
N ow we are willing to take the rule and the exception,
as laid down by Lord Bathurst, and adopted by Mr.
Buchanan. But we contend that the Nootka Convention comes within the class of exceptions. The rights recognised by the Convention were the rights of trading to
and making settlements in the Oregon, rights which
had existed, and which Great Britain had acted upon antecedent to the treaty, rights which Great Britain deemed
so important and so well founded that she was prepared to
make war to maintain them, rights, in fine,which Spain herself virtually admitted that Great Britain possessed antecedent to the Convention, inasmuch as she indemnified
Great Britain for her unwarrantable interference with
them. Here, then, there was clearly no creation of
new rights, there was, merely, an acknowledgment of
old ones; indeed, the whole tenor, as well as the nature
of the entire treaty, indicates, plainly, that it was regarded
bv both parties as purely declaratory. In a word, Great
Britain, previous to the Nootka Convention, had possessed, asserted, exercised,   and   maintained at the risk of 15
war, rights in the Oregon, utterly incompatible with the
pretended sovereignty of Spain, in that territory; rights
which Spain, by her acts, admitted, and by that Convention solemnly bound herself to respect.    The war may
have relieved Spain from her obligation to respect those
rights, but certainly it could not impair their existence.
Such, then being the nature of the Nootka Convention,
the rights which it acknowledges, the principles which it
enunciates, could not be effected or disturbed (according
to the rule laid down by Mr. Buchanan himself) by the
war, in 1796.    They existed, consequently, and were Li
full force at the period of the cession of Spain's rights to
America, in   1819.
But suppose we are not warranted in regarding the
convention as a simply declaratory one ; what then is its
nature ? Surely if it be not considered a declaratory, it
must be considered as a commercial treaty ? Now, regarding it in this light even, it would (if annulled by the
war in 1796,) have been revived under the treaty of
Madrid, concluded in 1814, between Spain and England,
by which treaty *■ all treaties of commerce between the
two countries were expressly revived." Whether, therefore,
the Nootka Convention be a simply declaratory or a commercial treatv, it subsisted, and its provisions were in full
force in 1819, and, consequently, the rights of Spain in
the Oregon, then transferred to the States, must be taken*
qualified and restricted as they were, by the admissions
therein made in favour of the rights of Great Britain.
I shall, however, not dwell any further upon this Convention, because I am persuaded that the fact of its existence or non-existence at the period of the Florida treaty, 16
is perfectly immaterial to us. This leads me to the proposition which I stated some time back, that even though
the Nootka Convention, had never existed, Spain would
not have possessed, in 1819, and, consequently, could not
then have transferred to America, exclusive sovereignty
over one acre of Oregon.
What then were the rights of Spain to the Oregon,
antecedent to the Nootka Sound Convention ? If she
had then a right of exclusive sovereignty over the Oregon,
what was the foundation of that right? If she had then a
good title, where are the muniments of the title ? It would
seem that Mr. Buchanan does not rest the claim of Spain
to the exclusive sovereignty of the Oregon upon the
discoveries of the Spaniards in that region, the foundation adopted by most persons who advocate the
American pretensions. Mr. Buchanan gives us, indeed,
a long list of the Spanish discoveries on the northwest coast, commencing with Juan de Fuca, in the
year 1592. He most studiously warns us, however, not
to consider this as the foundation on which Spain rests
her claim. " Spain," says he, at the close of his formidable list of voyagers, " had proceeded in this work of discovery, not as a means of acquiring title, but for the purpose of examining and surveying a country to which she
believed she had an incontestible right," and again he informs us " that Spain had maintained with the most vigilant jealousy, her title to the sovereignty of the western
coast of North America, ever since the discovery of North
America" and consequently at a period anterior to all discovery in that particular region. The Spanish title then
is not based upon their discoveries; upon what is it based ? 17
On this subject Mr. Buchanan is not so clear.    He tells
us what is not, but does not tell us what is the foundation
of the title.    He speaks, however, of the Spanish claim as
an   " ancient claim," asserted by   Spain, for nearly three
hundred years, and never seriously questioned by any European Power.    Now Mr. Buchanan knew full well upon
what this  " ancient claim" of Spain was built; this claim
which he himself assures us, existed from the " first discovery" of the Continent.    It was founded on nothing more
or less than the famous Bull of Pope VI. published immediately after the discovery of the New World, in which the
Pope of cc his own mere motion and liberality, and by his
authority, as Successor of St. Peter, made over, all the Continent and islands which then were or might be thereafter
discovered, to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and their
successors, forever."*    This famous Bull was published
in   1493, consequently just three  hundred years before
the   Nootka  Sound   Convention.    Mr.   Buchanan  does
not, of course, give us this valuable title-deed of Spain.
He tells us merely, that Spain had for nearly three hundred years claimed that country, in common with all the
rest of the western coast, and that no European nation
had ever denied their claim.    He rests the Spanish title,
then, not on the positive acts of Spain, but upon the negative acts of the other European pow ers, in other words,
upon the alleged acquiescence of Europe in the Spanish
title.    But let us examine the alleged acquiescence of
the European nations in the Spanish title, and see to what
in reality it amounts.
* This rather curious document is given at length, by Vattell, in his Law of Nations.
Vide Book 1, § 208.—(Note.) 18
The European nations planted no Colonies, made no
settlement on the Oregon, during a period of thiree hundred years after the discovery of North America. Doubtless because they respected the c ancient claim' of Spain.
Doubtless because they feared to infringe upon the right
of sovereignty given to Spain by the Bull of Alexander
VI. Surely Mr. Buchanan cannot regard these facts as
any admission of the Spanish claims of sovereignty. No
settlements were made, no colonies planted in the Oregon
by the other European powers, because there was no inducement to do so ; this 'Ultima Thule' of the globe had
not yet become an object worthy of attention: in fact no
nation would have thought, at that time, of appropriating
Oregon to any other purpose than that of a penal settlement. This it was, and not the sacredness of the Spanish title, that prevented the Oregon from being occupied
by some of the European nations at a much earlier period.
The fact that this territory was not occupied by any European nation during a period of three hundred years, may
be a proof of the remoteness and worthlessness of the territory, but cannot be adduced as au implied admission of the
sovereignty of Spain. And I would ask Mr. Buchanan,
did the nations of Europe, above all did England, recognize in any other way directly or indirectly the Spanish title ? Did England recognize that title when
Drake planted the British Flag upon that territory in
1579, took formal possession of it on behalf of Great
Britain, and gave to it the name of New Albion, a
name by which, for a long period, it was marked on all
charts, and by which it was expressly mentioned in the
charters granted by Great Britain to Virginia and Caro- 19
lina. Did England recognize that title when she despatched her Cooks, Dixons, Berkleys, and others, to
explore that coast ? Above all, did England recognize
that title in 1798? Spain then, for the first time, attempted, practically, to assert that title : the Viceroy
of Mexico caused the lands and buildings which Lieutenant Meares had occupied and erected to be seized, because
he regarded the establishment made by Meares at Nootka
Sound to be an infringement on the sovereign right of
Spain. Did England then submit to the decree of this
self-elected sovereign ? Let the war with which she in-
instantly threatened Spain, let the Nootka Sound Convention answer. Great Britain then, never, directly or indirectly, recognized the pretended sovereignty of Spain to
the north west coast. She saw that that coast was wholly
vacant and unappropriated, and she considered it consequently open, like any other unappropriated region, to
her settlements ; accordingly, as soon as it suited her purpose to make a settlement upon it, she did so, without
any regard to the imaginary title of Spain; and when
Spain presumed to interfere with that settlement, England was only prevented from having recourse to arms, to
maintain her rights, on Spain's restoring the lands and
buildings which she had seized, indemnifying the British
for the losses they had sustained, and acknowledging,
formally, by the Nootka Convention, Great Britain's
right to trade to the Oregon, and make settlements there
in common with herself.
So much, then, for England's alleged acquiescence in
the Spanish claim to sovereignty up to the period of the
Nootka Convention.
^ fiff
But Mr. Buchanan argues that that Convention con-
tained an implied    recognition  of the   Spanish claim.
He wishes us to believe that there was a reservation in
that Convention of the " ultimate sovereignty" of Spain.
But where in the Convention is this reservation made ?
There is not in the entire of it one single syllable with
reference to the sovereignty of Spain ; there is not the
slightest allusion  to  it,   direct or indirect    And why?
Because Great  Britain  laughed  at  these preposterous
pretensions, because she had already practically denied
them; because, in fact, Spain herself had virtually abandoned them.    As well might we contend that there was
a  reservation of the " ultimate  sovereignty"   of Great
Britain to that territory, for both nations are placed upon
the same footing,  and admitted to precisely the same
rights, by the Convention.
We might push the argument a step further, and say
that the Nootka Convention when it acknowledged that
Great Britain had the right of making settlements in the
Oregon, acknowledged as a necessary consequence her
right of sovereignty over those settlements when made.
Settlement in an unoccupied country, gives the right of
possession or domain, and sovereignty is an incident to
domain, fi When," says Vattel, " a nation takes possession of a country that never yet belonged to another,
it is considered as possessing there the empire or sovereignty at the same time as the domain, for since it is free
and independent it can have no intention in settling in a
country to leave to others the right of command or any other
that constitutes sovereignty."*   Now it is a well establish-
pfi' ' -y~
* Vide Vattel's Law of Nations, Book 1, § 205. 21 |
ed principle of law, as well an axiom of common sense,
that the conveyance or admission ot the principal is a conveyance or admission of its accessories. Here the right
of settlement is the principal, the right of sovereignty the
accessory or incident. The Convention plainly acknowledges that Great Britain had the former right, the
latter is, therefore, implied as a necessary inference.
Had the parties to that Convention intended that this
necessary inference should not be made, they would,
most assuredly, have expressed their intention plainly in
the Convention.
We have thus examined into the foundation of the
title of Spain, upon the ground of the presumed acquiescence therein of Great Britain and the other powers of
Europe; and we have shewn that Great Britain never
recognized in any way, directly or indirectly, either before
that treaty or by that treaty, the pretended sovereignty of
Mr. Buchanan has, as we have already observed, studiously avoided resting the Spanish claim of sovereignty
upon her discoveries on the Oregon coast. " The discoveries which Spain made upon the coast were not," he
informs us, " made for the purpose of acquiring title.9''
We regard this as an implied admission, on his part, that
these discoveries could not be regarded as conferring on
Spain the exclusive sovereignty over the territory. As,
however, most of the advocates of the American pretensions have assumed that these discoveries form a good
foundation for the Spanish claim, it becomes necessary
to examine the validity of such foundation.
D 22
The question to be considered is, can mere discovery,
that is, discovery not followed by actual occupation or
possession, confer a title of exclusive sovereignty ?    We
are aware that towards the close of the last century the
Spaniards or two miserable settlements on Vancouver Island, these were, however, but mere mockeries of
settlements, and having been abandoned almost immediately after their establishment, they may be  regarded as
if they never had existed.    The title which we are now
to consider rests then upon mere discovery.    But we apprehend that mere discovery cannot we a title of sovereignty.    It is a well  established axiom of international
law, that discoTery, by itself, confers not an actual right
of  property, but a   contingent  right of possession, an
inchoate  or imperfect  right,  which,   to   be    perfected,
must  be followed up by actual possession.    Discovery
gives   the right   of occupation,   actual   occupation   the
right   of sovereignty.    The language of  Vattel, which
has   frequently  been quoted, during this discussion,   is
clear and  decisive upon this point.    " The law of nations," says he, " only acknowledges the  property and
sovereignty  of a   nation over   uninhabited   countries, of
which they shall really and in fact take possession, in which
they shall form settlements, and of which they shall make
actual use." *    These principles are not merely consistent with the dictates of justice and common sense, they
are the principles acknowledged and acted upon by  all
civilized nations.    The Dutch discovered Van Dieman's
Land, but as they did not take any steps for settling it,
England did so, and Australia has accordingly become a
* Vide Vattel's Law of Nations, Book 1, § 208. 23
Colony of Great Britain. England, by Captain Cook,
discovered the Sandwich, the Friendly, and Society Isles,
and indeed nearlv the whole of the Islands in the Pacific
Archipelago ; yet England does not pretend that she has
any exclusive claim to the Sovereignty of those Islands
Thus then, it appears clearly established, both in theory
and practice, that discovery, by itself, can confer no title
whatever to the sovereignty of a country.
We think that we have clearly shewn, that antecedent
to the Nootka Convention, Spain did not possess exclusive sovereignty over the Oregon, either by reason of her
discoveries, or of the alleged acquiescence of Great Britain in her claims. That the Nootka Convention, if it
did not weaken, certainly did not strengthen, the claims
of Spain ; and, as between the period of the Nootka
Convention and the Florida Treaty, Spain's title was not
improved, the conclusion appears irresistible, that at the
period of that Treaty, even if the Nootka Convention
never had existed, Spain would not have possessed, and
consequently could not have transferred to America, exclusive sovereignty over an acre of the Oregon territory !
The conduct of Spain for a long time previous to the
Florida Treaty, clearly shews that she considered that
her ancient claim to the sovereignty of Oregon, was utterly worthless.
«' Had Spain," observes Mr. Packenham, "considered herself restored
to the exclusive dominion over the unoccupied parts of the North American continent, it is not to be imagined that she would have passively submitted to see the contending claims of Great Britain end the United
States to a portion of that Territory the subject of negotiation and
formal diplomatic transactions between those two nations.
" It is, on the contrary, from her silence with respect to the continued occupation, by the British, of their settlements in the Columbia 24
territory, subsequently to the convention of 18 U, and when as yet there
had been no transfer of her rights, claims, or pretensions to the United
States; and from her silence also while important negotiations respecting the Columbia territory, incompatible altogether with her ancient
claim to exclusive dominion, were in progress between Great Britain
and the United States, fairly to be inferred that Spain considered the
stipulations of the Nootka Convention, and the principles therein laid
down, to be still in force."
The conduct, finally, of America herself, previous to
the Florida Treaty, showed also most plainly that she did
not think that Spain was entitled to any exclusive sovereignty in the Oregon. Every act of American exploration, every act of American settlement in the Oregon,
was a practical denial on their part, of the exclusive
sovereignty of Spain. If Spain had exclusive dominion
over Oregon, then the explorations of Lewis and Clarke,
and the establishment at the mouth of the Columbia,
must be considered as so many encroachments on the territorial rights of Spain.
"Besides," as the British Plenipotentiary argues, "how shall we
reconcile this high estimation of the territorial rights of Spain, with the
course observed by the United States in their diplomatic transactions
with Great Britain, previously to the conclusion of the Florida treaty ?
The claim advanced for the restitution of Fort George,* under the first
article of the Treaty of Ghent; the arrangement concluded for the
joint occupation of the Oregon territory by Great Britain and the Unp
ted States; and above all, the proposal actually made on the part of the
United States, for the partition of the Oregon territory ; all of which
transactions took place in 1818, when, as yet, Spain had made no transfer or cession of her rights—appear to be as little reconcilable with any
regard for those rights while still vested in Spain, as the claim founded
on discovery, exploration, and settlement accomplished previously to
the transfer of those rights to the United States.
* The name given to Astoria, after i% had been formally taken possession of by the
English, in December, 1813. 25
11 Supposing the arrangement proposed in the year 3818, or any other
arrangement for the partition of the Oregon territory, to have been
concluded in those days, between Great Britain and this country, what
would, in that case, have become of the exclusive rights of Spain ?
" To appeal to the Florida treaty as conveying to the United States
any exclusive rights, is to attach a character of encroaqhment and of
violation of the rights of Spain, to every act to which the United S tates
appealed in the negotiation of 1818, as giving them a claim to territory
on the northwest coast."
In a word, then, this Spanish claim to the il exclusive
sovereignty over the Oregon," is an obsolete, exploded
claim, which never had any good foundation, which America, as well as England, had always denied, and which
Spain herself had long before solemnly renounced. Let
us, then, hear no more about the exclusive sovereignty
of Spain, this phantom sovereignty, which the Americans
have conjured up from some realm of shades, itself the
shadow of a shade, which like the fabled Eurydice, evoked
by Orpheus' lyre from Pluto's mansion, vanishes when
we turn to view it.
I would not have dwelt so long upon the Spanish
title, and the Nootka Sound Convention, but for the very
great stress which Mr. Buchanan (in common with all the
partisans of the American pretensions,) lays upon them,
in his elaborate argument upon this question. It is impossible to read his official correspondence with Mr.
Packenham, without being struck by the manner in which
he persists in thrusting forward this Convention. He
wishes to make it appear as the pivot upon which the
whole question turns; he forces it upon us as the sole
foundation of our claims, and then assures us of the
rottenness of our foundation.    He treats it as the Goliah
— ■
of the British side, and then he pretends to shew
with how small a pebble our Goliah is overthrown. Now,
we tell him, we fling that Convention to the winds ; we
have a right to it, but we need it not. We need it not as
a foundation for our own title ; we need it not for the
purpose of invalidating the claims of Spain. With or
without that Convention our claims are good; with or
without that Convention, the Spanish claim, and consequently the American claim founded thereon, is bad.
We have thus disposed of the first branch of the Spanish-American title of the United States to the Oregon.
We turn now to the consideration of the second, or the
American, branch of that title. The purely American,
or direct title of the States is, like the rival title ^f Great
Britain, founded upon discovery, exploration and settlement. We might object at the outset to allowing the
Americans to set up at the same time this title and the
last. These two titles are, as Mr. Packenham has plainly proved, utterly incompatible and repugnant; they cannot exist together: in fact to maintain them both at the
same time, is to maintain that Spain and America were
at the same moment possessed of the same territory.
The Americans are undoubtedly entitled to a part of
Oregon, under the latter; not content with this, they
seek to claim the whole, under the former. But in striving
to grasp the shadowy sovereignty of Spain over the whole,
they let fall the substantial sceptre which they had a right
to wield, as sovereign of a part. For it must be remembered that Mr. Buchanan himself has never pretended to
claim under this latter title the sovereignty of the whole
territory.    All that is claimed on the score of the discove- :-:. 27
ries, explorations and settlements of the Americans themselves is the valley drained by the waters of the Columbia.
Granting, therefore, all that America pretends to claim
under this head, Great Britain would still remain master
of a large portion of the Oregon. The sovereignty,
therefore, of the Columbia valley, and not that of the
whole of Oregon, is now the matter in dispute. The
Americans claim the whole valley, we assert that at best
they can only claim a part of it.
It is clear that the Americans cannot impugn the validity of the British title, founded upon British discoveries,
explorations and settlements in the Oregon, while they
maintain the validity of the American title, founded upon
American discoveries, explorations and settlements made
there, at the same time.
If the States, before they became possessed of any of
the rights of Spain, were justified in making discoveries
and settlements in the Oregon, and in founding a title
upon such discoveries and settlements, then assuredly
Great Britain, even without the Nootka Convention,
would be equally justified in making discoveries and settlements in that territory, and in founding a title thereon.
If the title of the States be valid, that of England is
valid (e a fortiori."
But the Americans in their negotiation with England,
relative to the Oregon, in 1818, and consequently before
the Florida Treaty, had assumed that their title to
the Columbia valley was perfect. Besides, Mr. Buchanan expressly tells us that the American title to the
Columbia existed antecedently to the Florida treaty, and
that it is wholly independent of the rights derived from 23
Spain.    We shall then consider this title on its own merits, as Mr. Buchanan himself does.
The title is founded on the following facts :—that Captain Gray, in May, 1792, sailed ten miles up the Columbia River. That thirteen years afterwards, Lewis and
Clarke, two American citizens, crossed the Rocky Mountains, in the southern portion of the territory, and by
means of one of the southern tributaries of the Columbia
reached that river, which they followed to the Pacific.
The only settlement on the American side is the much
disputed Astoria. This, then, is the sum total, the
mighty aggregate of discoveries, explorations, and settlements of the Americans, up to the well known treaty of
conjoint occupation of the 20th October 1818' Nothing
subsequent to that treaty can be taken into consideration
as strengthening either the British title, or the American
title, properly so called, it having been expressly stipulated in that Convention, which was renewed for an indefinite period, with the same provisions, on the 6th August
1827, "that the claims of the respective nations should
not be effected by any thing done under that treaty."
Now let us consider the discoveries, explorations, and
setlements of Great Britain, up to the same period, the
20th Oct., 1818. At the first glance at the catalogue
of British discoveries and settlements, we are struck with
the remarkable contrast it presents to the American
catalogue, which we have just given. If the latter be
scanty and meagre, the former is numerous and redundant;
where America has one name, Great Britain has ten. This
is apparent at first sight, and when we come to examine
more nearly these respective catalogues, when we weigh 29
the amount, extent, importance and nationality of the
discoveries and settlements contained in each, the contrast becomes still more remarkable, and the advantage
on the side of Great Britain still more apparent. To do
justice to the Discoveries of Great Britain, I should go
back to 1597, and remind you of the discoveries of the
famous Drake, on this coast; I should dwell also upon
the accurate and well authenticated voyages of Cook, in
1778. I shall, however, content myself with stating that
to Captain Cook belongs the discovery of Nootka Sound,
and of Cape Flattery, at the entrance of the Fuca Straits,
and that Berkeley, a British Captain, first sailed through
those Straits. Passing rapidly over these facts, as also over
the voyages of Dixon, Duncan, and Meares, I shall come
at once to the more recent voyages of Vancouver, in 1792,
contemporaneous, consequently, with Gray's 10 mile
sail up the Columbia River. Vancouver had been despatched by the British Government, in 1792, to witness
the fulfilment, on the part of Spain, of the terms of the
Nootka Convention, and to effect the survey of the north
west coast. Having witnessed, therefore, the restitution
to the British" of the lands and buildings which the Spaniards had seized, he proceeded to execute the second
object of his mission. From Nootka Sound, (on the
western shore of the island now called after this voyager,
Vancouver Island?) he sailed south, passed through the
Straits of Fuca, which separate this island from the main
land on the south, and having made an accurate survey
of the coast, and inlets of the Straits, on both sides, he
discovered a northern passage into the Pacific, by which
he returned to Nootka, having thus completely circum-
E 30
navigated and explored the island which bears his name.
Thus we have, as far as relates to Vancouver island, as
Mr. Packenham justly observes, " as complete a case of
discovery, exploration, and settlement, as can well be presented, givipg tp Great Britain the strongest possible claim
to the possession of that Island," And yet a considerable
part of this Island would be included in the American portion, according to the most favourable division which they
proposed, (i.e.) the division of the territory by the parallel
of 49 °. The settlement alluded to in the above extract
from Mr. Packenbam is the settlement made by Meares in
1788, and which had been restored to Great Britain under
the terms of the Nootka Convention. In additiop, however,
to this long list of British voyagers, in opposition to
which, be it remarked, the Americans cannot cite the
name of one single voyager in the same regions, we have
to mention another, whose discoveries become peculiarly
important, because they were made about the same time,
and upon the same river, as those of the illustrious " ten
mile voyager, Captain Qray; we mean the discoveries
and explorations of Broughton, one of Vancouver's offi-
cers. Vancouver, having heard from Gray that he had
succeeded in entering the Columbia river# which Vancou-
ver himself had attempted previously, but which, in consequence of the formidable breakers at its entrance, he
had been unable to accomplish, hastens again to the
Columbia; finding the entrance impracticable for his own
vessel, he sends his Lieutenant, Broughton, in a smaller
vessel to explore: Broughton succeeded in entering the
river and explored it to a distance of one hundred miles
from its mouth, and formally took possesion of the coun- 31
try, in the name of England. This exploration was made
in October, 1792, Gray having entered the river in the
preceding May. So much for the maritime discoveries
of Great Britain. Now let us compare her discoveries in
the interior, with those of America, (i. e.) with ths explorations of Lewis and Clarke. First, then, in 1792, Sir
Alexander McKenzie, a partner in the North West Company, crossed the ridge of the Rocky Mountains, and having discovered the head waters of a river, since called Fra-
zer's river, he followed its channel to the Pacific Ocean.
Immediately after his return several trading posts were
established to the westward of the Rocky Mountains.
« In October, 1800, Mr. David Thompson, Astronomer to the North
West Company, and at present a resident of this city, with six Canadians and four or five Indians, crossed the Rocky Mountain in latitude
51 ° north, and descended one of the great northern branches of the
Columbia River, which he called M'Gilvray's River. He descended this
River for a good distance, when he was driven back by a band of a
powerful tribe of Indians, and compelled to re-cross the Rocky
" In 1807 Mr. Thompson again crossed the Rocky Mountains, and
established, at a very short distance from the source of the Columbia
River, a fortified trading post, a!nd there wintered two winters: the summer season he was employed in exploring the country, &c.
" In 1809 he established a trading post near the head of the Saleesh
River, between latitudes 47° and 48° north, and wintered there. During these three years, several trading posts were established on different
parts of the Columbia River, its branches, and lakes.
" In 1810 Mr. Thompson wintered on the Columbia River, near the.
foot of the Rocky Mountains, about 100 miles from its source, and spent
the summer in exploring the country, &c.
" In 1811, having learned from the Indians that white people had
settled near the sea coast, on the estuary of the Columbia River, in the
fall of 1810, Mr. Thompson determined to go down and see who they
were ; and accordingly, ^e immediately we"nt down the Columbia Bfiver 32
and arrived at the settlement in July, 1811, and found the celebrated
Fort Astoria to consist of four or five low, rude log huts ; and there, in
front of them, planted the British flag, which remained flying and undisturbed till he left.
Thus showing tha.t Mr. Thompson had established trading posts in the
interior on the Columbia River, several of its branches and lakes, at least
four years before the Astor Company.
4 For six successive years Mr. Thompson employed himself in exploring and surveying the main Columbia River and all its great branches,
and settling the positions of these places by numerous astronomical observations; therefore, the exact distance from the mouth of the Columbia River to any given point in the Oregon territory can be readily
ascertained from his surveys and maps, the latter now in the possession
of the Foreign Office, London." *
We shall return for a moment to the rival discoveries
of Gray and Broughton. We have already seen, that,
in point of extent and importance, Broughton has clearly
the advantage. We shall now consider them with respect to their nationality and to the formalities attending
them. What are the conditions which authorize a nation
to found a title upon the discovery of an individual ?
Let Vattel answer. " When" says he, " navigators going
on voyages of discovery, furnished with a commission
from their Sovereign, meeting with Islands or other desert
places, have taken possession of them in the name of their
nation; this title has commonly been respected,provided it
is soon after followed up by a real possession." f In which
case have these conditions been complied with? Gray
was a private person, without any authority from his gov-
* The above extract, "with reference to Mr. Thompson's explorations, <fec., is taken
from a ' Memorandum' recently published in various journals of this city. Many of the
facts contained in it have not, as far as I am aware, appeared in any official document
on the subject of the Oregon. They seem to me, however, very important and are undoubtedly well authenticated.
t Vattels Law of Nations, Book L, § 207. 33
eminent, sailing for the purposes of trade. Vancouver
and Broughton were officers of the British Navy, sailing
in vessels belonging to government, sent expressly by their
government for the purposes of exploration and discovery
of the north west coast, and clothed with an express commission for that purpose. Again, Gray made no attempt
to take possession of the territory he discovered for the
United States, whereas Vancouver took possession of the
Columbia territory in the usual manner, in the name of
his government. But lastly, and above all, the discovery
of Gray, whatever may have been its original value, became valueless to the Americans, because it was not followed up within a reasonable time by any real possession*
The sole advantage which Gray's discovery possesses over
that of Vancouver and Broughton is that of priority, but
the honour of priority of discovery, with whatever benefits
flow from it, must be ceded by both parties to the Spanish
discoverer Heceta. In a word, to close this comparison
between the merits of the respective discoveries, whether
maritime or inland, of Great Britain and the United
States in these regions; the former were extensive, accurate, official, and clothed with all the formalities which
usage and the law of nations prescribes, the latter were
limited, inaccurate, unofficial, and devoid of any of the
prescribed and customary formalities: and finally and
chiefly, the former were followed up by actual settlement
and occupation long before the latter.
Let us now examine, more fully, the respective settlements of the two nations, in this region. We have already seen that numerous trading posts (some of them
fortified ones) had been established by the British North 34
West Company in the years 1805 and 1806, and between
that period and 1811 on the Columbia itself and on its
branches. All these trading posts were occupied by the
British North West Company, and were in full operation
in 1811, when Astoria was founded, and consequently the
territorial rights arising from these several settlements or
trading posts could not have been affected by the establishment at Astoria. " From the year 1811, till the year
1818," to quote Mr. Packenham's words, "when the arrangement for the/joint occupancy of the territory was
concluded, the North West Company continued to extend
their operations throughout the Oregon territory, and to
occupy, it may be said, as far as occupation can be effected
in regions so inaccessible and destitute of resources."
The contrast between Great Britain and the States
with reference to settlement (the ground of all others the
most important) is then not less remarkable than with reference to discovery. On the side of Great Britain we
have a steady, uninterrupted, constantly increasing and general occupation of the Oregon territory, together with
the establishment of numerous and important trading
posts, as well on the Columbia and its tributaries as elsewhere. On the side of America we have in lieu of all
this, one miserable post at the mouth of the Columbia,
founded partly by the British and partly by the Amerin
cans*: which consisted of % four or five rude log huts," and
which after being occupied for about two years, was sold
to the English, and abandoned by the Americana
The Americans attach great importance to the surrender of Astoria to the United States by Great Britain,
after it had been captured by the British during the war
t 35
in 1813.    We must say a few words on this head.    Astoria had been regularly sold, by Mr. Astor's agent, to the
British North   West Company; it was, however, afterwards formally taken possession of by the British, during
the American war, and ultimately (in accordance with the
Treaty of Ghent) restored to the  United States.    The
terms of that treaty are clear and imperative : " All places
and possessions whatsoever,taken by either party during the
war, (with certain exceptions therein specified)  shall be
restored without delay";   accordingly, in obedience  to
the letter of this treaty, Astoria, although it was then,
and had been from the period of the sale, in the possession of the North-West Company, was delivered up in
January, 1818, to the American Government.    It was,
however, expressly declared in the act of delivery, that the
settlement of Fort George alone was restored.   The Americans cannot,  therefore,   claim under this  delivery   one
particle of the adjoining territory; besides, it is notorious
that the delivery was made on the understanding that the
British claims to the territory should not be affected by the
surrender, those claims being at that very moment the
subje'ct of a negotiation with the United States, at London.
But   Great   Britain   can   afford to be generous to the
United States with reference to Astoria, she can afford
to regard it as a national and American establishment,
instead of what it really was, a private and three-fourths
British concern.    She can afford to suppose that it had
never been sold or abandoned by the Americans.    And
when all these gratuitous concessions have been made, we
ask, can an isolated establishment, like Astoria, by any
possibility give a claim to the exclusive sovereignty of the 36
Columbia valley against a number of flourishing, con-
stantly increasing, thoroughly British settlements, established not only in the Columbia valley, but in the
neighbouring territory at a much earlier period? We
think a liberal allowance of the territory on the southern
bank of the Columbia River, on which this settlement
was made, would be all that Astoria, regarded in the most
favorable light, would be entitled to claim. And England has always offered to the States a much larger portion
of the territory.*
I have thus examined the Spanish-American title to
Oregon. I have endeavoured to establish that the Spanish branch of the title, considered as a ground of exclusive
sovereignty to the whole or any portion of the Oregon, is
utterly worthless : that it is moreover incompatible with
the American title, properly so called: that the American
title, or the title founded on the discoveries and settlement of the Americans themselves, is infinitely weaker
than the British title of the same nature, and that it cannot, when considered even in the most advantageous
manner, confer a right of sovereignty over that portion
even of the territory which Great Britain has proposed
to yield to the United States.
I had intended to have said a few words with reference
to the claim put forward by Mr. Calhoun, on behalf of
the United States, under the Louisiana treaty, concluded
between France and the United States, in 1803. Mr.
Packenham completely dissipated this claim ; and, indeed,
* An intelligent aud impartial American writer, in the January number of the North
American, Review, closes his examination of the American claims to the Columbia valley
with these words:—" To the region thus drained, (i e., the Columbia valley,) the discovery of Gray, the expedition of Lewis and Clarke, and the settlement of Astoria, afford
us (the people of the States) not the shadow of a title."
I 37
the strongest argument for its worthlessness, is found in
the fact that Mr. Buchanan has not once alluded to it
throughout the whole course of the discussion. It is
therefore unnecessary to occupy our time with any examination of its merits.
In the course of the rather lengthened observations
which I have made, I have borrowed very freely from the
statements and arguments already before the public upon
this important question, especially from those contained
in Mr. Thorn's able pamphlet, and in the masterly despatches of the British Plenipotentiary at Washington.
I have done this because I have aimed at accuracy rather
than originality; and should it be conceded that the
statements I have made are correct, and that the arguments
I have urged are sound, 1 shall be content to be told that
the former are not novel, and the latter not original.
But here let us pause for a moment, to consider how
deeply we are indebted to Mr. Polk for the " spirit of
liberal concession" which has actuated him with reference
to this question ; how " clear," how " indisputable," are
the so oft and so solemnly reiterated claims of the United
States to the exclusive sovereignty of the whole of Oregon,—how irrefragable are the arguments by which they
are maintained ! Away with this solemn hypocrisy, this
miserable cant. The truth is too clear to be concealed.
The proposed occupation of the Oregon must be regarded, by all impartial persons, as a fresh proof, if any
such were needed, of the rapacious policy, the insolent
injustice, of the States. The all absording passion of the
United States is an insatiable thirst for territorial acquisitions.    In vain have their wisest men, their " Washing-
F 38
tons," their " Channings," and their " Websters," raised
their voices to warn their countrymen of the ruinous consequences of this passion. To satisfy it they robbed the
red man of his forests; f^hey incorporated Florida and
Louisiana without the consent of their inhabitants ; and
recently, in open defiance of the laws of nations, by means
of a revolt which they themselves had caused, they wrested
Texas from Mexico. Justice and morality, all laws, human and Divine, are despised and trampled on, when they
would oppose or delay the gratification of this passion.
Are we secure from its effects, are w7e protected from
its influence ? Is their any thing peculiar in the position
of Canada to prevent it from being absorbed into the
United States, as so many other countries have been
already ? The spirit which has heretofore actuated the
States, will it become extinct with the occupation of the
Oregon ? Assuredly not. Texas and Oregon are but
the " beginning of the end." Each accession of territory
serves but to extend for the States the horizon of their
ambition; each acquisition is the parent of another. Nor
is this policy any longer concealed; it is openly, unblush-
ingly proclaimed by their Statesmen in Congress, before
the face of all the world. Every day has some new project of annexation or occupation, or rather of spoliation
and of robbery. Their cry is ever that of the covetous
man in Horace:
" O si angulus ille,
Proximus accedat, qui nunc denormat agellum!"
To-day Texas and Oregon are coveted, to-morrow
Yucatan, Mexico, and California; they already long for
Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia; nay, they 39
desire war with Great Britain, because they think that in
case of war, these possessions would become more speedily their prey. Their ex-President, Mr. Adams (thank
Heaven, ex-Presidents are not prophets,) has declared in
Congress, if there be a war, England will not retain one
foot of land on the Continent of North America. Nay
these British possessions have already been distributed :
Canada and her sister Colonies have been parcelled out
into six States, to be added to the north, in order to
preserve the " balance of power," in the Union, and
serve as a counterpoise to the recent accession to the Southern States. Such, it would seem, was the understanding upon which Texas was admitted into the Union.
Oregon and the Canadas on the north, were to be set off
against Texas and Mexico on the south. Has the world
ever witnessed a spectacle of more astounding insolenj&e
and injustice ? Nothing, it would seem, can arrest the
mad career of this robber-nation, until one foot be planted
upon the Isthmus of Panama, and the other upon the
frozen regions of the North Pole. May we not then say,
with truth, of the States, as Cassius did of Caesar :
*' They do bestride the narrow world
Like a collossus, and we petty men
Walk under their huge legs, and seek about
To find ourselves dishonorable graves."
Nor even then is their ambition appeased, one world,
one continent, is not enough:
" Unus $lli non sufficit orbis,
iEstuat infelix angusto limite mundi.''
They spurn the petty limits of North America, and stretch
out their arms, across the Ocean to grasp at Cuba also. 40
But we are told that nations have their destinies; destinies which they must fulfil; and that the destiny of the
United States is to overspread the Continent of North
America, and diffuse the blessings of civilization and Re-
publican Institutions from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from
Panama to the Pole! Such is the great national work
which it is their " mission " to accomplish. Charge them
with having1 robbed the Indian, thev answer it was " des-
tiny." Charge them with having plundered Texas, they
urge it was " fate." Charge them with the design to
appropriate the Canadas, they plead with "honest" Jack
Falstaff " It is my vocation, shall not every man labor in
his vocation ?" And surely when we reflect upon the
miffhty national work committed to the States, we shall
not be over nice to mark the means by which it is effected.
Honor, justice, and humanity were never designed to impede the fulfilment of a nation's destiny, or to retard the
progress of the civilization of mankind. We doubtless
will hail with delight the "avatar" of these apostles of
civilization in this benighted land. What a magnificent
future opens up before us under such instructors ? How
rapid will be our advance in morality and justice, in all
that can adorn and dignify a people ? Liberty and equality will be taught us by task-masters and slave-dealers ;
morality and honesty by bankrupts and repudiators;
Christianity and rational Religion by Millerites and Mormons ; religious tolerance and Christian charity, by the
persecutors of the Irish Roman Catholics, and the burners of Convents.
If we desire not these things, it behoves us to be up
and doing; the enemy have at least warned us of our
^- 41
danger, if we are unprepared to meet it, the fault will be
our own.
Hitherto we have beheld with comparative indifference,
the rapacity and injustice of the States. We could fold
our arms, and look on calmly, while the Red Man of the
woods was driven from his hunting and fishing grounds,
and from the graves of his fathers, beyond the waters of
the Mississippi and Missouri! We could, with marvellous
philosophy, see Mexico despoiled of the fairest portion
of her territory. Perchance the tear of sympathy has
been shed at the recital of the sufferings of the " Red
Man;" perchance a feeling of indignation has been
aroused at the wrongs of Mexico. Sympathy must now
be changed into resistance; indignation must give place
to action. We ourselves are now the object of attack.
Like mariners becalmed upon the ocean, we have some
while been watching, in fancied security, the progress of
a distant storm,—some vessels are seen on the far-off horizon ; they cower before the coming tempest, they resist,
they struggle against its fury; but in vain ! One by one
they sink beneath the waves ! Meanwhile the remorseless
gale sweeps on, and now, our own good ship, which
lately lay so seemingly secure upon the tranquil deep, is
exposed to the full fury of the storm ! The danger which
was theirs is ours; let us beware, lest their fate be ours
also !
It is impossible to deny that the danger of war is great,
and seems momently increasing. The war party, in the
States, is distinguished no less by its numbers than by its
recklessness. Should there be a war, how terrible a war
will it be ?   A war, of which who can foretel the end ? 42
Who can foresee the consequences ? Who pan measure
the calamities ? A war which would in all human probability kindle the flames of strife throughout the continent
of Europe; a war, in which an untold amount of blood
and treasure would be expended; a war which would hurl
millions from affluence to poverty; reduce to ashes many
a noble city, paralyze the commerce of the globe, and
fill the old and the new world with desolation and with
Above all, let the United States beware of such a war*
Let them beware lest in tjtaeir hour of direst need the red
men of the West pour back from the Mississippi and
Missouri to wreak on them a terrible revenge, for the
gathered wrongs of years. Let them beware lest the negro of the South, bursting his bonds asunder, exact a bloody
retribution for the sufferings of his race. The planters of
Virginia and Kentucky know full well that beneath »their
feet there is a slumbering volcano, let them beware how
they light its flames. God forbid that we should adopt
the language of one of the Members of Congress, and say
that we " we would laugh at their calamity and mock when
their fear cometh." God forbid tbat any of us should
wish to see a renewal of the horrors of St. Domingo !
but let not the people of the States provoke their fate.
Assuredly, they will not find a Mexjco in Great Britain*
Mexico threatened war, but did not make it; Great Britain
may make war, but will not threaten it. Already she has
done every thing that could be done for the preservation
of peace, short of abandoning her just rights, and sacrificing iter national honour. She has offered frequently
to divide t|ne territory liberally with her rival—her offers 43
have been spurned. She has proposed to submit the dispute to the arbitration of a third party—her proposal has
been rejected. Throughout the entire controversy she
has been, and, as long as it is possible, will continue the
steady advocate of peace. If then, in spite of her efforts,
war should come, as come it may, the future historian
must record to the glory of Great Britain, that she made
every exertion to avert the terrible calamity, and that,
even while with one hand she reluctantly lifted up the
gauntlet of defiance, she still, with the other, held out to
her foes the olive branch of peace. f


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