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Answer to the strictures of Mr. Thomas Falconer of Lincoln's Inn, on the history of Oregon and California Greenhow, Robert, 1800-1854 1845

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^:|i|g |g        ANSWER ;
"£*JS to the
In publishing the second edition of my History of Oregon and California,
I think it proper to present some observations, in answer to the strictures on the first edition, made by Mr. T. Falconer, of Lincoln's Inn, in
f2$£ his work " On the discovery of the Mississippi, and on the South-west-
jSgJ^ «TO, Oregon, and 'North-xoeslern Boundary of the United Siah 3" which
appeared in London in October, 1844.   These strictures are slightly noticed
in the preface to my second edition ; but observing the importance as-
'ii&$$-£&'* to.them in London, J have besn induced to.answer them more par-.
ticularly here.
Mr. Falconer's book is a small duodecimo, containing ninety-six pages of
. '. ; " original matter, and as many more of translations from documents found by
■M:0j him in the Archives of the Marine Department of France, relative to the dis-
ijjjgéjj;.   çovery and t ' clement of Louisiana.    Of these documents, the greater and
?&j&C'$'6 more valuable portion are already well known in the United States ;• and
a number still greater of more interesting papers, on she same subject, from
the same and other Archives, now lie in manuscript before me, which have
evidently escaped Mr. Falconer's researches.   But while thus examining ar-
-rv        chives, and bringing hidden do<   ments to light, Mr. Falconer has most
singularly, neglected to cast his < ves over works which have been long be-
cSaÏV     fore the world: and of this neblect, his book is in fact the fruit) for
he has.thus been enabled to make many discoveries, new to himself,
and,to build on them a long series of arguments, which want nothing buta
' foundation of truth to render them irrefragable.   Some of his principal
discoveries of this kind I will now proceed to notice ; and they will serve to
show,how much confidence is to be placed on his work, as evidence in
fiiSoi^,^ the important questions of territorial right, now under discussion between
?$?;:&■'   the British and American governments.
JThe first thirty-eight pages are devoted by Mr. Falconer to u an abstract of the events connected with the discovery, occupation, and settle-
' i- /''S- ' •' *'•*** 8p,arW» J,ife of La Salle, and White'» New Reeopilacion. X ANSWER.
ment of Louisiana, and of its transfer to the United States." Upon this
transfer, he says, page 36 :—
" On October 1st, 1800, Louisiana was retroceded by Spain to France,
4 with the same extent that it nov has in the hands of Spain, and that it
had, when France possessed it, hnd such as it should be after the treaties
subsequently entered into between Spain and other States.* It was an
act of retrocession, but it transferred so much less than France originally
held, as had been shorn from it by the treaty of 1763, which gave to
Great Britain, and through Great Britain to the United States, nearly the
entire eastern bank of the Mississippi."
This all correct: now for the transfer of Louisiana to the United
States, respecting which, Mr. Falconer iias made a most notable discovery.    Continuing, he says v—;
" In 1803, France sold Louisiana ;o the United States for eleven millions of dollars. The purchase included all lands ' on the east [quœre
west] side of the Mississippi .iver, not then belonging to the United
States, as far as the great chain of mountains which divide the waters
flowing into the Pacific, and those falling into the Atlantic ocean ; and
from the said chain of mountains to the Pacific Ocean, between tho territory claimed by. Great Britain on one side, and by Spain on the other."
—(History of the Federal Government, by Alden Bradford, Boston.
1840. p. 130.) No point was mentioned where the line in the chain
of mountains was to commence, nor where the tract of land lay, forming
a portion of Louisiana, lying between the territory claimed by Spain and
Great Britain. France had nothing to sell but what constituted Louisiana
after the cession made to great Britain, in 1763. There was nevertheless
inserted in this treaty of sale, a reference to a perfectly undefined line to
the Pacific, having no defined point of commencement, and referring to
territory having no definable boundary on the north, or the south, or on
the east"
In a note to the passage quoted in this paragraph, Mr. Falconer says :
—u Mr. Greenhow, in his elaborate work on the Oregon question, has
omitted all notice of this very important passage."
This note surprised me not a little, as I was unable to see the importance of a passage containing merely a gratuitous, and certainly unfounded, opinion as to the limits of Louisiana ; and I could discover no
reason for which I should have noticed it. But how much greater was
my surprise, on finding that Mr. Falconer had presented this passage as
a stipulation in the treaty of October 1803. That such a mistake could
have been made by a man professing to instruct the world as to uthe
South-western, Oregon, and North-western boundaries of the United
States," appeared preposterous : but on examining farther, no doubt was
left that such was his view, or the view which he endeavored to impress
on others. In the many pages which he has devoted to the consideration
of this point, with the object of fixing upon tho United States, the stigma
of having procured the insertion in tho treaty of 1803, of a clause, by
which they might afterwards, unrighteously, lay claim to the Oregon territory, he returns again and again to this important passage,—his principal
cheval de bataille. After relating the particulars of the Florida treaty,
by which Spain ceded to th* United States all her claims to territories on
■r the Pacific eide of America, north of the forty-second parallel of latitude,
he says, (p. 48,) " Thus was the undefined line from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, inserted in the treaty with France, converted into
a defined line." Speaking of the western limits of Louisiana, (p. <>0,) he
says, — u There was no strip of land to the west, belonging tc France, at
mentioned in the treaty of 1803, ' lying between the territory claimed by
Great Britain on the one side, and Spain on the other.'" —and (page 61,)
when comparing the provisions of the latter treaty with those of the Florida treaty, he remarks — " The treaty with France, in 1603, professed to
give (a lino9 across some country lying between the territory claimed
by Spain and Great Britain."
It is needless to say, to* any one acquainted - with the history of the
transfer of Louisiana, by France to the United States, that the treaty by
which that cession was effected, contains no other words respecting the
limits of the country ceded, than those extracted from the treaty of 1300,
whereby France obtained Louisiana from Spain, — viz. : "the colony or
province of Louisiana, with the same extent that it now has in the hands
of Spain, and that it had when France possessed it ; and such as it should
be, after the treaties subsequently entered into between Spain and other
states ;" and that no other description of boundaries could ever be obtained from the French government. Mr. Falconer quoted these words
himself; but it is most charitable to suppose that he never saw the treaty,
as he must otherwise stand amenable to the charge of having falsely
brought forward the passage forming the subject of these remarks, as one
of its stipulations, with the object of defaming the American government.
Mr. Falconer next presents a review of the accounts in my history, of
the discoveries of the Spaniards, of Cook, and of the fur traders, as also
of the pretended British settlement at Nootka Sound, of which he says,
"the personal facts of the case are not of the slightest importance;"
though upon those facts rests the whole question as to the superiority
of tho Spanish, or of the British claim to the territory «about Nootka.
He then enters upon the examination of the rights derived from discovery
and occupation of a country, and quotes a large portion of the observations, in pages 187 to J89 of my history, omitting, however, some which
have an important bearing on tho subject. Here he contends that "a settlement must bo understood to mean the establishment of the laws or
government of the persons making the settlement, with the consent and
authority of the nation to which they belong:" that, " discoveries actually
accompanied by occupation, without such consent, do not entitle the
settlers to any of the rights of their own government, or to exercise any
power, even of tho most inferior description, under the pretence of being
a colony ;" and that, u taking possession,"—that is to say, tho declaration
of the right of a sovereign, or state, by one of its officers, to the possession of an unoccupied country, which he may touch, " is the exercise of
a sovereign power, a distinct act of legislation, by which the new territory
becomes annexed to the dominions of the crown." Upon theso grounds
ho regards the right of Great Britain to the north-west coasts of America,
as paramount ; forgetting, or concealing the facts, -that Spanish officers had
landed on all those coasts, and on each occasion had most formally
taken possession, in the name of their monarch, and had made a settle- ^li^pp
ment by direct and special orders, from their government, before any
attempts for the,same purpose had been made there by the people of any
other nation ; and that no authority on the part of the British government
was alleged by the claimants of Nootka Sound, whose cause was supported by that power in 1790, at the risk of a war with Spain. Equally
careful is Mr. Falconer, to omit all the material arguments adduced by
me, with regard — to the controversy between Vancouver and the Spanish ^
Commissioner at Nootka, in 1792—to the examinations of the Columbia
and the adjacent coasts, by Gray, and by tho British navigators — to the
American settlements on the Columbia, and — to the pretended reservation
of right by the British government, on restoring those settlements in 1815.
On atl these points I have* nothing to change in the accounts presented in *
my history. Mr. Falconer's note on his page 93, so far as I can unravel
its meaning, for it is rendered somewhat doubtful by omissions, is as
direct and positive misrepresentation of my views, as expressed in page
281 of the history to which it refers.
At pago 85, Mr. Falconer writes: "On the north and north-western
boundary of the United States, * Louisiana, it is said, stretched from the
Gulf of Mexico, to the northward and north-westward, to an undefined extent.' (Greenhow, p. 276.) It can be most distinctly demonstrated, that
there is not the 'slightest foundation for this statement.9'
■Sow in the first place Mr. Falconer has entirely misquoted my exprès*
sions. Specially referring to the state of things at the commencement of
this century, I say "the territories of the United States were at that time,
all included between the Atlantic Ocean on the east, and the Mississippi
river on the west. In the north were the British Provinces ; in tho west
lay Florida belonging to Spain ; and beyond the Mississippi the Spaniards
claimed the vast region, called Louisiana, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico, northward and north-westward to an undefined extent." These
observations, I repeat, refer only to the state of things In 1800, when
Louisiana embraced no territory east of the Mississippi, except New
Orleans and its vicinity ; and nothing which I have seen has induced me
to doubt their entire accuracy.
His conclusions on the subject are thus summed up in page 87 : " First
the't, as a subordinate province partly formed out of Canada, Louisiana
extended no farther than the distinct boundaries of it could be shown ;
secondly, it never extended further north than the Illinois river; thirdly,
the question of the extent of Louisiana was argued at the peace of 1762 ;
fourthly, Canada in its full extent was ceded to Great Britain ; and, lastly,
the official map used by France in its negotiations with Great Britain, in-
contestably proves, that the country north and north-west of the Mississippi was ceded as the Province of Canada. No better authority for the
above statement can be cited, than M. Duflot de Mofras, a gentleman attached to the French legation at Mexico, and tho author of a work on
California, published by order of tho French Government-—to avoid
the possibility of misinterpretation, his own words cited."
Of these conclusions it will be necessary to examine only the last, to
which the others are subordinate ; it is thus farther explained by Mr. Falconer. " By the seventh article of this cession" [tho treaty of 1763 between France and Great Britain] " the line drawn from the source of the Pt9$p
River Mississippi, to the south, gave to Great Britain all the lands on the
east bank of the river, and secured to France and through it to Spain, the
territory west of the same line. But the territory of Canada north of the
source of that river, (47° 10' N. L.) and north of a line, running west of
the source of the river, was left as a part of Canada, of which it most indisputably formed a portion."
Mr. Falconer here places his meaning beyond question. Has he ever
read the charter of the Hudson's Bay Company ? Certainly not, or he
would never have made th is assertion. That charter was granted by King
Charles the Second in 1669 ; it conveys to the Hudson's Bay Company
in full possession, and almost in sovereignty, "all those seas, straits, and
bays, rivers, lakes, creeks and sounds, in whatsoever latitude they shall be,
that lie within the entrance of the Straits, commonly called Hudson's
Straits, together with all the lands, countries, and territories, upon the
coast and confines of the seas, straits, bays, lakes, rivers, creeks, and
sounds aforesaid, which are not actually possessed by any of our subjects,
or by the subjects of any other Christian prince or state." The right
to these waters and territories was maintained by Great Britain in her
wars with France, and was confirmed in the treaty of Utrecht, and in all subsequent treaties between those powers relative to territories in America so
long as France held any possessions on the northern continent. The territories thus granted to the Hudson's Bay Company extend west of the
Mississippi, and south of the latitude of the sources of that river, and they
were always claimed and used by that body until 1818, when the 49th
parallel of latitude was adopted by convention between Great Britain and
the United States, as the dividing line between their possessions in that
part of America. Until the conclusion of that convention, the nothern
boundaries of Louisiana remained undefined — that is, undetermined by accord of the parties interested, as I prove clearly in my pages 281 and 436.
Will Mr. Falconer now maintain that the territories, thus granted to
the Hudson's Bay Company in 1669, most indisputably formed a portion
of Canada, and therefore belonged to France until 1762 r* If not, his whole
theory as to 'he western extension of Canada falls to the ground. Does
he not see, moreover, that if his argument be admitted, by the same rule
Louisiana must also necessarily have extended to the Pacific, embracing
the whole lower portion and the mouth of the Columbia, which his government is now so anxious to secure ?
What " the official map used by France, in its negotiations with Great
Britain,'* was, we are to learn from M. Duflot de Mofras. On referring
to the quotation from that author, we see, first that, " All the old maps,
in fact, in accordance with the authors most worthy of credit, carry the
limits of the French possessions of Canada to the South Sea." *
It is needless to waste time on such an assertion ; the erroneousness of
which, is shown by every old atlas. The " author most worthy of credit^
cited by M. de Mofras, is L'Escarbot, in whose history of New France,
printed in 1617, after the settlement of Florida, New Mexico, Virginia
and the New Netherlands, the whole of the American continent and
• ( Toutes lei ancienne» cartet, en effet d'accord avec les auteurs \on plat "vtré*
n'arrêtent qu'à la mer du Sud, la limite des possession Françaises du Canada. ^^ESyp^tï
islands north of the Tropic of Cancer, is claimed as New France. M. de
Mofras continues : " Finally in a map, engraved in 1757, and annexed to
the Memoirs of the Commissaries of the kings of France and England in
America, it may be seen beyond doubt that New France extended to the
Pacific ; and on it will be found on the west coast of America, under the
46th degree of latitude, a great river traced in a direction exactly conformable with that of the river Columbia."*
The work last cited, is a collection of statements, presented respectively by the Commissaries of France and England, appointed under the
treaty of Aix la Chapelle in 1748, to settle the limits of certain territories
in America. It is well known, and may be found in all large libraries.
There are not less than four copies of it in Washington. If Mr. Falconer
will take the trouble to examine it, he will find the map in the fourth volume, as specially stated by M. do Mofras, being indeed the only one in
the collection, embracing the western part of America ; but he will assuredly not find on it any river entering the Pacific from the interior of
America, near the 46th degree of latitude, nor any river resembling the
Columbia, nor any allusion to Canada or New France, nor any sign
whatsoever of the existence of French dominion in America. The map
was in fact, drawn and presented by the French Commissaries, as
its title purports, with the object of exposing the extravagant pretensions of the British in America ; and the whole division of the continent from sea to sea, between the 40th and the 48th parallels of latitude, including, of course, nearly all Canada, appears on it as New England»
Yet this map Mr. Falconer presents as " the official map used by France, in
its negotiations with Great Britain," (mistaking, as the context abundantly
shows, the Commissaries appointed under the treaty of Aix la Chapelle,
for the Plenipotentiaries who signed the treaty of Paris ;) and as incontes-
tably proving " that the country north and north-west of the Mississippi,
was ceded as the province of Canada."
The quotations from M. Duflot de Mofras, are made from some articles
by him on Oregon, which appeared in the Paris Journal des Débats. This
gentleman has since pur»!L* hed, under the auspices of the French government, a work on Orego.. and California, professing to be the results of
personal examination of those countries, and of subsequent labors and researches ; but in reality containing little else than extracts from my history, with alterations to suit the views of the author. The conclusions of
M. de Mofras are — that Canada certainly extended to the Pacific — that
the Canadians are now as good Frenchmen as in the days of Beauharnais
— that they will soon throw ofF the detested yoke of Great Britain, and
will then form a grand Franco Canadian Empire, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and embracing Oregon, which will be bound to
France by every tie of religion, feeling and policy.
It will be unnecessary to pursue farther, the evidence of Mr. Falconer's
* " Enfin, dans une carte gravée en 1757, at annexée aux Mémoires des Commissaires des Rois de France et d'Angleterre en Amérique, en peut constater, que la
Novelle France s'étendait jusque a la mer Pacifique ; et 1 on y trouve, a la côte
ouest de l'Amérique, sous le 4G« degré, une grand riviere, tracée dans une direction
exactement conforme à celle du Rio Columbia."
|p§| incompetency to treat the important matters to which ho has devoted his
attention in this volume ; or to expose his mistakes, misquotations, and misrepresentations of a1. kinds. In his concluding page, he declares that" It
is not honorable, while the title to the territory of Oregon is undetermined
between the respective governments, to urge measures to populate it with
American citizens, in order to give facilities for its occupation at a future
perod." On this point, I will simply refer him to the letters addressed by
t Messrs. Pelly and Simpson, the governors of the Hudson's Bay Company,
to the Colonial Department, in 1837, soliciting a renewal of their charter,
as published by order of parliament in 1840, where he will find, that those
gentlemen claimed and received the aid and consideration of government
for their energy and success in expelling the Americans from the Columbia regions, and forming settlements there, by means of which they were
rapidly converting Oregon into à British colony. Since that period
things have changed ; and nothing but prudence is required, on the part of
tho American government, to convert Oregon, ere long, into a State of the
Federal Union.
Washington, April, 1845.
t o1  *L6


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