Page images
PDF
EPUB

The British plenipotentiaries, having entered on the protocol of the conferences a declaration with regard to the previous claims and propositions of their government, similar to that made on the part of the United States by Mr. Gallatin, then intimated their readiness to agree to a simple renewal of the terms of the existing arrangement, for ten years from the date of the expiration of the convention of 1818; provided, however, that, in so doing, they should append to the new convention, in some way, a declaration of what they considered to be its true intent, namely, — that both parties were restricted, during its continuance in force, from exercising, or assuming to themselves the right to exercise, any exclușive sovereignty or jurisdiction over the territories mentioned in the agreement. The objections to this arrangement were nearly as strong as to that which had already been proposed and refused; Mr. Gallatin, however, desired to know what species of acts the British would consider as an exercise of exclusive sovereignty or jurisdiction. In reply, he was informed that Great Britain would not complain of the extension, over the regions west of the Rocky Mountains, of the jurisdiction of any territory, having for its eastern boundary a line within the acknowledged boundaries of the United States ; provided that no custom-house should be erected, nor any duties or charges on tonnage, merchandise, or commerce, be raised, by either party, in the country west of the Rocky Mountains - that the citizens or subjects of the two powers residing in or resorting to those countries, should be amenable only to the jurisdiction of their own nation respectively — and that no military post should be established by either party in those countries; or, at least, no such post as would command the navigation of the Columbia or any of its branches.

To the first of these conditions, Mr. Gallatin saw no strong reason to object. With regard to the second, he considered it indispensable that the respective jurisdiction of the courts of justice should be determined by positive compact, as it would scarcely be possible otherwise to prevent collisions; and upon the third condition, he believed it would be very difficult to arrive at a correct understanding, as the British government would not admit the posts of the Hvolson's Bay Company to be military establishments. On all these points, the two governments might afterwards negotiate; but the American minister refused to assent to any declaration or explanation whatsoever respecting the terms under which the territories in question were to remain open to the people of the two countries; and the British were equally resolved not to agree to a renewal of the engagement for a fixed period of time, without such a declaration.

Finally, on the 6th of August, 1827, a convention was signed by the plenipotentiaries, to the effect, that the provisions of the third article of the convention of October 20th, 1818, — rendering all the territories claimed by Great Britain or by the United States, west of the Rocky Mountains, free and open to the citizens or subjects of both nations for ten years, – should be further extended for an indefinite period; either party being, however, at liberty to annul and abrogate the agreement, on giving a year's notice of its intention to the other. This convention was submitted to the Senate of the United States in the following winter, and, having been approved by that body, it was immediately ratified.

In relating the circumstances connected with the adoption of the convention of October, 1818, the opinion was expressed, that it was perhaps the most wise, as well as most just, arrangement which could then have been made; and this renewal of the arrangement for an indefinite period, leaving each of the parties at liberty to abrogate it, after a reasonable notice to the other, appears to merit the same commendation. No unworthy concession was made, no loss of dignity or right was sustained, on either side; and to break the amicable and mutually profitable relations, then subsisting between the two countries, on a question of mere title to the possession of territories from which neither could derive any immediate benefit of consequence, would have been impolitic and unrighteous. The advantages of the convention were, in 1827, as in 1818, nearly equal to both nations; but the difference was, on the whole, in favor of the United States. The British might, indeed, derive more profit from the fur trade as carried on by their organized Hudson's Bay Company, than the Americans could expect to obtain by the individual efforts of their citizens; but the value of that trade is much less than is generally supposed: no settlements could be formed in the territory beyond the Rocky Mountains, by which it could acquire a population, while the arrangement subsisted; and the facilities for occupying the territory at a future period, when its occupation by the United States should become expedient, would undoubtedly have increased in a far greater ratio on their part than on that of Great Britain. For the difficulties which must arise

* Proofs and Illustrations, letter I, No. 6.

whenever the convention is abrogated, even agreeably to the manner therein stipulated, it became, of course, the duty of each government to provide in time.

In the session of Congress following that in which the new convention with Great Britain had been approved, the subject of the occupation of the mouth of the Columbia River was again discussed ; and, after a long series of debates, in which the most eminent members of the House of Representatives took part, a bill was reported, whereby the president was authorized to cause the territory west of the Rocky Mountains to be explored, and forts and garrisons to be established in any proper places, between the parallels of 42 degrees and 54 degrees 40 minutes; and also to extend the jurisdiction of the United States over those countries, as regards citizens of the Union. The adoption of these measures was urged, on the ground that it was the duty of the government to make good, by occupation, the right of the United States, which was pronounced unquestionable, lest, by neglect, the country should fall irrevocably into the possession of another power, which had unjustly contested that right: and, as inducements to pursue this course, pictures most flattering were presented of the soil, climate, and productions, of the regions watered by the Columbia, and of the various advantages which would be secured to the citizens of the Union engaged in the trade of the Pacific Ocean, by the settlement of those coasts. The bill was opposed, as infringing the convention recently concluded with Great Britain ; in addition to which, it was contended, that, were all opposition on the part of that or other powers removed, and the right of the United States established and universally recognized, the occupation of the countries in question in the manner proposed, would be useless, from their extreme barrenness, from the dangers to navigation presented by their coasts, and from the difficulty of communicating with them either by sea or by land; and such occupation might be injurious, as citizens of the United States would be thus induced to settle in those countries, and their government would find itself bound to protect and maintain them, at great expense, without a commensurate advancement of the public good. In the course of the debates, several amendments were proposed to the bill, but it was finally rejected on the 9th of January, 1829; and, for many years afterwards, very little attention was bestowed, by any branch of the government of the United States, to matters connected with the territories west of the Rocky Mountains.

356

CHAPTER XVII.

1823 to 1844

Few Citizens of the United States in the Countries west of the Rocky Mountains

between 1813 and 1823 — Trading Expeditions of Ashley, Subleite, Smith, Pilcher, Pattie, Bonneville, and Wyeth — Missionaries from the United States form Establishments on the Columbia - First Printing Press set up in Oregon — Opposition of the Hudson's Bay Company to the Americans; how exerted— Controversy between the United States and Russia — Dispute between the Hudson's Bay and the Russian American Companies; how terminated - California ; Capture of Monterey by Commodore Jones — The Sandwich Islands; Proceedings of the Missionaries; Expulsion of the Catholic Priests, and their Reinstatement by a French Force — The Sandwich Islands temporarily occupied by the British.

It has already been said, that, during the ten years immediately following the dissolution of the Pacific Fur Company, and the seizure of its establishments on the Columbia by the British, few, if any, citizens of the United States entered the countries west of the Rocky Mountains; although, within that period, the facilities for communication between those countries and the settled portions of the American Union had been increased by the introduction of steam vessels on the Mississippi and its tributary rivers. Nearly all the trade of the regions of the Upper Mississippi and the Missouri was then carried on by the old North American Fur Company, at the head of which Mr. Astor still remained ; and by another association, called the Columbia Fur Company, formed in 1822, composed principally of persons who had been in the service of the North-West Company, and were dissatisfied with their new masters. The Columbia Company established several posts on the upper waters of the Mississippi, the Missouri, and the Yellowstone, which were, however, transferred to the North American Company, on the junction of the two bodies in 1926. The Americans had also begun to trade with the northernmost provinces of Mexico, before the overthrow of the Spanish authority in that country; after which event, large caravans passed regularly, in each summer, between St. Louis and Santa Fé, the capital of New Mexico, on the headwaters of the River Bravo del Norte.

The first attempt to reëstablish commercial communications between the United States and the territories west of the Rocky Mountains, was made by W. H. Ashley, of St. Louis, who had been, for some time previous, engaged in the fur trade of the Missouri and Yellowstone countries. He quitted the state of Missouri in the spring of 1823, at the head of a large party of men, with horses carrying merchandise and baggage, and proceeded up the Platte River, to the sources of its northern branch, called the Sweet Water, which had not been previously explored. These sources were found to be situated in a remarkable valley, or cleft, in the Rocky Mountains, in the latitude of 42 degrees 20 minutes; and immediately beyond them were discovered those of another stream, flowing south-westward, called by the Indians Sidskadee, and by the Americans Green River, which proved to be one of the headwaters of the Colorado of California. In the country about these streams, which had not then been frequented by the British traders, Mr. Ashley passed the summer, with his men, employed in trapping, and in bartering goods for skins with the natives; and, before the end of the year, he brought back to St. Louis a large and valuable stock of furs.

In 1824, Mr. Ashley made another expedition up the Platte, and through the cleft in the mountains, which has since been generally called the Southern Pass; and then, advancing farther west, he reached a great collection of salt water called the Utah Lake, (probably the Lake Timpanogos, or Lake Tegayo, of the old Spanish maps, which lies imbosomed among lofty mountains, between the 40th and the 42d parallels of latitude. Near this lake, on the south-east, he found another and smaller one, to which he gave his own name; and there he built a fort, or trading post, in which he left about a hundred men, when he returned to Missouri in the autumn. Two years afterwards, a six-pound cannon was drawn from Missouri to this fort, a distance of more than twelve hundred miles; and, in 1828, many wagons, heavily laden, performed the same journey.

During the three years between 1824 and 1827, the men left by Mr. Ashley in the country beyond the Rocky Mountains collected and sent to St. Louis furs to the value of more than one hundred and eighty thousand dollars; this enterprising man then retired from the trade, and sold all his interests and establishments to the Rocky Mountain Company, at the head of which were Messrs. Smith, Jackson, and Sublette, persons not less energetic and determined.

« PreviousContinue »