Page images
PDF
EPUB

CONSIDERATION OF THIS BOUNDARY, AS SETTLED BY

THE TREATY OF 1783, RESUMED.

BEFORE proceeding to the consideration of the proposal of Mr. Livingston, and the correspondence between the two Governments in relation thereto, it will be necessary to revert to the subject of the natural boundary of the great peninsula of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, as settled by the Treaty of 1783 ; and also to offer some observations upon this controversy, as the United States, and as the particular States of Massachusetts and of Maine, are affected thereby

This line of boundary has hitherto been looked at by me principally with reference to the words o the Treaty, and to the construction of those considered simply as an ordinary contract. It has been looked at, too, by me, principally with reference to present times and present circumstances.

It being generally assumed that the framers of the Treaty were altogether ignorant of the territory which they divided, it must also be assumed that the British Ministry of 1783 were equally unin

formed with respect to this matter. Now if the historical events which occurred upon the North American continent during the thirty years preceding the Treaty of 1783—if the public characters who figured on this and on the other side of the Atlantic during that eventful period of time be examined, it will be found that there is no adequate cause for imputing to the framers of the Treaty, or the Ministry of 1783, this gross ignorance. Of the public men of North America of that day, Franklin alone need be mentioned, although he was aided in his labours by the experience and wisdom of the then American Congress—that is, of all the men of that day who had most distinguished themselves in the efforts made by the whole people, in the field and in the cabinet, to aggrandize the power of the British, at the expense of the French colonies. There is nothing in the life and character of that man that would justify the belief that he had wilfully inserted an unintelligible description of this line of boundary for the purpose of procuring the aggrandizement of his own nation. He was too wise a man wilfully to provide before-hand a cause or pretext for war to his nation with any other, and still less with a nation of the power and resources of England, wherewith no man was better acquainted than he was.

Let one other man on the other side of the question be looked at-I mean Governor Pownall. He had been for several years CaptainGeneral of the four New England States ; had sat in the council convened at Albany in 1757, for the purpose of devising means to repress the power of the French Colonies ; had transmitted to the Earl of Halifax in that year a plan of operations for the conquest of the French Colonies, which was adopted and acted upon in the American campaign of 1759. Sensible of the importance of an intimate geographical knowledge of that continent, he had, in the Colonial Office in Downing Street, collected all the information that could be procured in the old colonies respecting the geography of the country, and had compiled under his superintendence the map commonly called Mitchell's Map, which bears his signature ; he was upon terms of confidential communication respecting American affairs with Mr. Grenville and the other leading men of his day here. He was a man of most powerful and original mind, matured by great experience in the conduct of difficult affairs. Mr. Grenville, Mr. Burke, the Earl of Chatham, the Earl of Shelbourne, and many others, had devoted much attention to American politics. In the wars of 1759 France had been conquered in Germany and America. Though the seat of the war was America, and though the immediate and local interests of America could not but be materially affected by its result, the war was a national war, and carried on there with all the energies of the nation. Without entering into details to be met with in the common historians, the fact that of the present national debt of England one hundred millions is

chargeable to this head of account, sufficiently shows the interest which was taken here in the contest; and it would be difficult to believe that this boundary, so distinctly marked in nature, so essential to the maintenance of the dominion of England over this peninsula and over the gulf, could have been overlooked ; considered in reference to the lakes, and to the long line of boundary extending from the Lake of the Woods to the mouth of the River St. Croix, its importance was too palpable not to be seen. But the profitable attention given to this line of water communication by the men of that day is not left to conjecture: we have, in the plan of operations sent by Governor Pownall to the Duke of Cumberland in 1756, heretofore adverted to, one instance of the attention which was then given to this general line of boundary. So much of the paper as relates to the site of the country is here given.

First, Prior to any observations on the settlers and settlements, it will be necessary to take some notice of the peculiar state and site of the countries in which they are settled; for it is the site and circumstances (I mean those that are unchangeable) of a country which give the characteristic form to the state and nature of the people who inhabit it.

The consideration of the continent of America may be properly divided into two parts, from the two very different and distinct ideas that the face of the country presents ; but more especially from the

K

[ocr errors]

two distinct effects which must necessarily, and have actually arisen, from the two very different sorts of circumstances to be found in each tract of country.

All the continent of North America, as far as known to the Europeans, is to the westward of the endless mountains a high level plane; all to the south-east of these mountains slopes away southeasterly down to the Atlantic Ocean. By a level plane I must not be understood as if I thought there were no hills, or valleys, or mountains in it, but that the plane of a section, parallel to the main face of the country, would be nearly an horizontal plane, as the plane of a like section of this other part would be inclined to the horizon, with a large slope to the Atlantic Ocean. The line that divides these two tracts, that is, the south-east edge of these planes, or the highest part of this slope, may in general be said to run from Onondago, along the westernmost Allegehani ridge of the endless mountains, to Apalatche in the Gulf of Mexico.

“Secondly,— In considering first the main continent, this high plain, it may be observed, with very few exceptions in comparison to the whole, that the multitude of waters found in it is, properly speaking, but of two masses; the one composed of the waters of the lakes and their suite, which disembogue by the River St. Lawrence; the other that multitude of waters which all lead into the Mississippi, and from thence to the ocean; the former

« PreviousContinue »