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the speedy adjustment of the boundary was strongly recommended.*
In connection with the Oregon question, Mr. Polk committed a fatal error, amounting to what Talleyrand would call a “blunder," "and which, having the effect of alienating some of his warmest friends, greatly embarrassed his administration throughout. In his first communication to the American people, he proclaimed to the world, that our title to the country of the Oregon was “clear and unquestionable.” In that assertion he was but reiterating the opinions of his constituents, solemnly expressed at the ballot-box. The statement was still more solemnly uttered in his message to Congress. In the same communication he announced a principle which should control the Government of the United States. I If it is the un-/
* "All attempts at compromise having failed, it becomes the duty of Congress to consider what measures it may be proper to adopt for the security and protection of our citizens now inhabiting, or who may
hereafter inhabit Oregon, and for the maintenance of our just title to that territory. This notice it would, in my judgment, be proper to give, and I recommend that provision be made by law for giving it accordingly, and terminating, in this manner, the convention of the 6th of August, 1827.”—Message of Mr. Polk to Congress, December, 1845. t"
“With this conviction the proposition of compromise which had been made and rejected, was by my direction, subsequently withdrawn, and our title to the whole Oregon territory asserted, and as is believed, maintained by irrefragable facts and arguments.”—Ibid.
| “Near a quarter of a century ago, the principle was distinctly announced to the world in the annual message of one of my predecessors, that 'the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European power.' This principle will apply with greatly increased force, should any European power attempt to establish any new colony in North America. In
changeable policy of this country to prevent Europeans from colonizing any portion of this continent, it applies to territory to which we have no claim, as well as to that which belongs to us; and if we cannot sufler them to colonize parts of the American continent to which we have no claim, how can we surrender territory to which our title is “clear and unquestionable ?"*
It is true, Mr. Polk stated that he proposed to the British Government to settle the boundary upon the 49th" of north latitude, in deference to what his predecessor's had done; yet by that offer he agreed to surrender nearly 200,000,000 acres of land which rightfully belonged to the United States. It is difficult to reconcile this course of
the existing circumstances of the world, the present is deemed a proper occasion to reiterate and reaffirin the principle avowed by Mr. Monroe, and to state my cordial concurrence in its wisdom and sound policy. The re-assertion of this principle, especially in reference to North America, is at this day but the promulgation of a policy which no European power should cherish the disposition to resist.”—Message of Mr. Polk to Congress, December, 18.15.
*“ The proposition thus offered and rejected, repeated the offer of the parallel of 49° of north latitude, which had been made by two preceding administrations, but without proposing to surrender to Great Britain, as they had done, the free navigation of the Colunbia River.”-Ibid.
† " Upon the whole : From the most careful and ample examination which the undersigned has been able to bestow upon the subject, he is satisfied that the Spanish American title, now held by the United States, embracing the whole territory between the parallels of 120 and 51° 40', is the best title in existence to this entire region; and that the claim of Great Britain to any portion of it has no sufficient foundation. Even British Geographers have not doubted our title to the territory in dispute. There is a large and splendid globe now in the Department of State, recently received from London, and published by Malby and Company,
action with the principle which was proclaimed by Mr. Monroe, and which Mr. Polk himself had so forcibly reiterated, especially when his offer extended privileges to Great Britain never offered by his
predecessors, consisting in the use of free ports on the southern extremity of Vancouver's Island. But when the proposition which he made to Great Britain was almost insultingly rejected, * there was no reason why that boundary should be accepted by our Government, if tendered by England. I know it has been asserted by high authority, that Mr. Polk could not refuse a proposition which he had himself offered to that power. If the offer made by the Executive had been accepted, then it would have been binding, but it was rejected, and then withdrawn; the two Governments, therefore,
“ manufacturers and publishers to the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge,' which assigns this territory to the United States.
“ Notwithstanding such was and still is the opinion of the President, yet in the spirit of compromise and concession, and in deference to the action of his predecessors, the undersigned, in obedience to his instructions, proposed to the British Plenipotentiary to settle the controversy by dividing the territory in dispute by the 49th parallel of latitude, offering at the same time, to make free to Great Britain any port or ports on Vancouver's Island south of this latitude which the British Government might desire. The British Plenipotentiary bas correctly suggested that the free navigation of the Columbia River was not embraced in this proposal to Great Britain; but, on the other hand, the use of free ports on the southern extremity of this island had not been included in former offers." -Letter of the Secretary of State to the British Minister, August 30th, 1845.
* “ The English Ambassador expressed the wish that the Government of the United States would make ‘some further proposal for the settlement of the Oregon question, more consistent with fairness and equity, and with the reasonable expectations of the British Government.'”_Mr. Polk's Message to Congress, December, 1845.
occupied the same position which they did before it was made. The argument is, that we could not refuse an offer we were blind enough to make ourselves. All agree that the President could not have made a more liberal proposition; and still, in 1818 and in 1826, our Government tendered to Great Britain the 49tho of north latitude, together with the free navigation of the Columbia River south of that line. Now if we were bound to accept as liberal an offer as we had made, we should be forced to accede to the proposition which we proposed in 1818 and in 1826. If that would not have been admissible, then the argument fails to exculpate the administration.
The announcement by Mr. Polk that our title was good to the whole of the Oregon Territory, was supported by the facts which were fully illustrated in that celebrated debate in Congress, which Mr. Adams pronounced the ablest he had ever listened to. The territory west of the Rocky Mountains, and between latitude 42° and 61°, unquestionably belonged to Spain prior to the Nootka Convention between that country and England, in 1790; and it is important to ascertain whether Spain conveyed the sovereignty which she possessed in Oregon to Great Britain by the terms of that convention. To determine that fact it is only necessary to examine the third, fourth, and fifth articles.* By the third article it was simply agreed
* "Art. 3. 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
that the subjects of the two high contracting parties should have the right of trading with the Indians and navigating the waters in that portion of the world, and to make settlements, subject to the restrictions specified in the subsequent articles. Article 4th specified that the subjects of Great Britain should not navigate or carry on their fishery within ten sea leagues from any part of the coasts occupied by Spain. It is difficult to imagine what rights England could have had where such particular language was used to guard the privileges of Spanish subjects. Article 5th stated that all islands, and parts of the northwestern coasts of North America, situute to the north of the parts of the said coasts already occupied by Spain, should be
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—the whole subject, nevertheless, to the restrictions specified in the two following articles."
“ Art. 4. His Britannic Majesty engages to take the most effectual measures to prevent the navigation and the fishing of his subjects in the Pacific ocean or in the South seas from being made a pretext for illicit trade with the Spanish settlements; and with this view, it is moreover expressly stipulated, that British subjects shall not navigate, or carry on their fishery in the said seas, within the space of ten sea leagues from any part of the coasts already occupied by Spain.
“Art. 5. As well in the places which are to be restored to the British subjects, by virtue of the first article, as in all other parts of the northwestern coasts of North America, or of the islands adjacent, situate to the north of the parts of the said coast already occupied by Spain, wherever the subjects of either of the two powers shall have made settlements since the month of April, 1789, or shall hereafter make any, the subjects of the other shall have free access, and shall carry on their trade without any disturbance or molestation."