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in the debates in Parliament on that mes
essage, or in the official correspondence between the two governments on the subject, so far as published; and the only evidence of such acquisition of lands or erection of buildings to be found among the documents annexed to the Memorial presented by Meares to the ministry, is contained in the information of William Graham, a seaman of the Felice, which was taken in London five days after the date of the Memorial. “ The statement of actual and probable losses," for which the memorialists prayed to be indemnified, to the amount of six hundred and fifty thousand dollars, is, moreover, confined entirely to losses consequent upon the seizure of the vessels and cargoes at Nootka. This silence, with regard to lands and buildings, in all the documents brought from China by Meares, certainly authorizes the suspicion that the idea of advancing a claim on those points may have occurred to that gentleman, or may have been suggested to him after his arrival in England, and even after his first communications with the ministers.
With respect to the rights of navigation and fishery in the Pacific and Southern Oceans, and of settlement on their unoccupied coasts, it was insisted by Fox, Grey, the marquis of Lansdowne, and other eminent members of the opposition in Parliament, that nothing had been gained, but, on the contrary, much had been surrendered, by the convention. “Our right, before the convention,” said Mr. Fox,
-“ whether admitted or denied by Spain was of no consequence, was to settle in any part of South or North-West America, not fortified against us by previous occupancy; and we were now restricted to settle in certain places only, and under certain conditions. Our rights of fishing extended to the whole ocean; and now it was limited, and not to be exercised within certain distances of the Spanish settlements. Our right of making settlements was not, as now, a right to build huts, but to plant colonies, if we thought proper. In renouncing all right to make settlements in South America, we had given to Spain what she considered as inestimable, and had, in return, been contented with dross." place in which we might settle,” said Grey, “access was left for the Spaniards. Where we might form a settlement on one hill, they might erect a fort on another; and a merchant must run all the risks of a discovery, and all the expenses of an establishment, for a property which was liable to be the subject of continual dispute, and could never be placed upon a permanent footing."
" In every
As to the utility of the convention in preventing disputes in future between the two nations, Mr. Fox was wholly incredulous ; and he predicted that difficulties would soon arise (as they did) from the impossibility of devising and enforcing any measures on the part of Great Britain, which could be considered " effectual," in checking illicit trade between British subjects and the Spanish settlements in America. “ This treaty,” says he, in conclusion, “reminds me of a lawyer's will, drawn by himself, with a note in the margin of a particular clause — . This will afford room for an excelsent disquisition in the Court of Chancery. With equal propriety, and full as much truth, might those who had extolled the late egotiation, for the occasion it had given to show the vigor and promptitude of the national resources, write in the margin of most of the articles of the convention. This will afford an admirable opportunity for a future display of the power and energy of Great Britain.'"
To all these objections the ministers and their friends gave only short, general, and evasive answers. Their great majorities in both houses enabled them to dispense with arguments, and to evade the calls for information or papers relating to the transaction ; and, having triumphantly carried their vote of thanks to the sovereign, they were left at liberty to execute the new engagements, according to their own construction, for which they had certainly provided themselves with ample space.
As the convention of October, 1790, was the first diplomatic arrangement between the governments of civilized nations with regard to the north-west coast of North America, its conclusion forms an important era in the history of that part of the world. On examining its stipulations, we shall see that they were calculated to produce very few and slight changes in any way, and that those changes were not, upon the whole, disadvantageous to the real interests of Spain. The exclusive navigation of the Pacific and Southern Oceans, and the sovereignty of the vacant territories of America bordering upon them, were claimed by Spain, only with the object of preventing other nations from intercourse with her settlements; as her government foresaw that such intercourse, particularly with the British, who had for more than two centuries been striving to establish it, would be fatal to the subsistence of Spanish supremacy over those dominions. By the convention, both parties were admitted, equally, to navigate and fish in the above
named seas; but the British were, at the same time, specially prohibited from approaching the territories under the actual authority of Spain, and were thus debarred from the exercise of a privilege advantageous to themselves and most annoying to Spain, which they previously possessed in virtue of their maritime superiority. Both parties were by the convention equally excluded from settling on the vacant coasts of South America, and from exercising that jurisdiction which is essential to political sovereignty, over any spot north of the most northern Spanish settlement on the Pacific: but the British and the Russians were the only nations who would be like'; to occupy any of those territories, and the British would not, probably, concede to the Russians any rights greater than those which they themselves possessed ; and any establishment which either of those powers might form in the north, under circumstances so disadvantageous, would be separated from the settled provinces of Spain by a region of mountains, forests, and deserts, of more than a thousand miles in extent. The convention, in fine, established new bases for the navigation and fishery of the respective parties, and their trade with the natives on the unoccupied coasts of America ; but it determined nothing regarding the rights of either to the sovereignty of any portion of America, except so far as it may imply an abrogation, or rather a suspension, of all such claims, on both sides, to any of those coasts.
It is, however, probable that the convention published, as the result of this negotiation, did not contain all the engagements contracted by Great Britain and Spain towards each other on that occasion. It was generally believed in Europe that a secret treaty of alliance was at the same time signed, by which the two nations were bound, under certain contingencies, to act together against France, with the understanding that the stipulations of the convention published should remain inoperative; and this supposition is strengthened by the third article of the treaty of alliance between those powers, concluded on the 25th of May, 1793, setting forth that, “ Their majesties having perceived just grounds of jealousy and uneasiness for the safety of their respective dominions, and for the maintenance of the general system of Europe, in the measures which have been for some time past adopted by France, they had already agreed to establish between them an intimate and entire concert, upon the means of opposing a sufficient barrier to those dangerous views of aggression and aggrandizement," &c.
Vancouver sent by the British Government to explore the Coasts of America, and
receive Possession of Lands and Buildings agreeably to the Convention with Spain — Passage of the Washington, under Kendrick, through the Strait of Fuca, in 1789 — Nootka reoccupied by the Spaniards — Voyages of Fidalgo, Quimper, Elisa, Billings, Marchand, and Malaspina — Voyages of the American Fur Traders Gray, Ingraham, and Kendrick - Discovery of the Washington Islands by Ingraham.
In execution of the first and second articles of the convention of October, 1790, between Spain and Great Britain, commissioners were appointed on each side, who were to meet at Nootka Sound, and there to determine what lands and buildings were to be restored to the British claimants, or what amount of indemnification was to be made to them by Spain. The British government at first selected Captain Trowbridge as its agent for this purpose; but the business was afterwards committed to Captain George Vancouver, who was then about to sail on a voyage of exploration to the Pacific.
Vancouver was instructed to examine and survey the whole shores of the American continent on the Pacific, from the 35th to the 60th parallels of latitude; to ascertain particularly the number, situation, and extent of the settlements of civilized nations within these limits; and especially to acquire information as to the nature and direction of any water-passage, which might serve as a channel for commercial intercourse between that side of America and the territories on the Atlantic side occupied by British subjects. For this last-mentioned object, he was particularly to "examine the supposed Strait of Juan de Fuca, said to be situated between the 48th and the 49th degrees of north latitude, and to lead to an opening through which the sloop Washington is reported to have passed in 1789, and to have come out again to the northward of Nootka.”*
* Introduction to Vancouver's narrative of his voyage.
With these orders, Vancouver sailed from England in January, 1791, in the ship Discovery, accompanied by the brig Chatham, under the command of Lieutenant Robert Broughton. The instructions for his conduct as commissioner were afterwards despatched to him in the store-ship Dædalus.
The account of the passage of the Washington through the Strait of Fuca, mentioned in the instructions to Vancouver, had appeared in the “ Observations on the probable Existence of a North-West Passage,” prefixed by Meares to the narrative of his voyages, which had then been recently published at London. Meares there says, “ The Washington entered the Straits of John de Fuca, the knowledge of which she had received from us; and, penetrating up them, entered into an extensive sea, where she steered to the northward and eastward, and had communications with the various tribes who inhabit the shores of the numerous islands that are situated at the back of Nootka Sound, and speak, with some little variation, the language of the Nootkan people. The track of this vessel is marked on the map, and is of great moment, as it is now completely ascertained that Nootka Sound and the parts adjacent are islands, and comprehended within the great northern archipelago. The sea also which is seen to the east is of great extent, and it is from this stationary point, and the most westerly parts of Hudson's Bay, that we are to form an estimate of the distance between them. The most easterly direction of the Washington's course is to the longitude of 237 degrees east of Greenwich. It is probable, however, that the master of that vessel did not make any astronomical observations, to give a just idea of that station ; but, as we have those made by Captain Cook at Nootka Sound, we may be able to form a conjecture, somewhat approaching the truth, concerning the distance between Nootka and the easternmost station of the Washington in the northern archipelago; and consequently this station may be presumed to be in the longitude, or thereabout, of 237 degrees east of Greenwich.” In another place, Meares speaks of the proofs brought by the Washington, “which sailed through a sea extending upwards of eight degrees of latitude," in support of his opinion, that the northwestern portion of America was a collection of islands: and in the chart annexed, “ the sketch of the track of the American sloop Washington in the autumn of 1789,” is represented by those words running in a semi-oval line from the southern entrance of the Strait of Fuca, at Cape Flattery, eastward, to the longitude of 237 degrees, then north-westward, to the 55th parallel of latitude, then west