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rectors of the Hudson's Bay Company, who possessed more accurate information, on all subjects connected with North-West America, than could be procured from any other source. The British government and the Hudson's Bay Company have, indeed, always acted in concert; and, except in a few cases, the measures thus devised could be carried into immediate execution without previous reference to parliainent. Beyond the precincts of the colonial office, and of the Hudson's Bay house, no one in England seems to have taken the slightest interest in any thing connected with the regions west of the Rocky Mountains.
In the spring of 1842, Lord Ashburton arrived at Washington, as minister extraordinary from Great Britain, with instructions and powers to settle certain questions of difference between the two nations; and it was, at first, generally supposed, in the United States, and, indeed, in Great Britain, that the establishment of boundaries on the Pacific side of America would be one of the objects of his mission. A treaty was, however, concluded, in August of that year, between him and Mr. Webster, the secretary of state of the United States, in which all the undetermined parts of the line separating the territories of the two powers, on the Atlantic side of America, were defined and settled ; but no allusion was made to any portion of the continent west of the Rocky Mountains. Lord Ashburton had, indeed, been “ furnished with specific and detailed instructions relative to the treatment of this point of difference between the two governments ;" * and the question was discussed by the plenipotentiaries, as declared in the following passage of President Tyler's message to Congress at the opening of the session, on the 7th of December, 1842: “In advance of the acquisition of individual rights to these lands, [west of the Rocky Mountains,] sound policy dictates that every effort should be resorted to, by the two governments, to settle their respective claims. It became evident, at an early hour of the late negotiations, that any attempt, for the time being, satisfactorily to determine those rights, would lead to a protracted discussion, which might embrace in its failure other more pressing matters; and the executive did not regard it as proper to waive all the advantages of an honorable adjustment of other difficulties, of great magnitude and importance, because this, not so immediately pressing, stood in the way. Although the difficulties referred to may not, for several years to come, involve the peace of the two 1842.] BILL IN THE U. s. SENATE FOR OCCUPYING OREGON.
* Letter from Lord Aberdeen to Mr. Fox, October 18, 1842.
countries, yet I shall not delay to urge on Great Britain the importance of its early settlement.” The treaty was ratified and definitively confirmed by both governments; the exclusion of the Oregon question from it, however, increased the excitement respecting that country in the United States, and an excitement on the same subject was soon after created in Great Britain.
The part of the president's message above quoted was referred to the committees on foreign affairs in both houses of Congress; and, a few days afterwards, Mr. Linn, one of the senators from Missouri, who had always displayed the strongest interest with regard to the territories west of the Rocky Mountains, and had assiduously endeavored to effect their incorporation into the republic, brought a bill into the Senate for the occupation and settlement of the territory of Oregon, and for extending the laws of the United States over it. This bill proposed that the president cause to be erected, at suitable places and distances, a line of forts, not exceeding five in number, from points on the Missouri and Arkansas Rivers, to the best pass for entering the valley of the Columbia, and also at or near the mouth of that river; that six hundred and forty acres of land be granted to every white male inhabitant of Oregon, of the age of eighteen years and upwards, who shall cultivate and use them for five years, or to his heirs at law, in case of his decease, with an addition of one hundred and sixty acres for his wife, and the saine for each of his children under the age of eighteen years; that the jurisdiction of the courts of Iowa be extended over the countries stretching from that territory, and from the states of Missouri and Arkansas, to the Rocky Mountains, and over all countries west of those mountains, between the 42d and the 49th parallels; and that justices of the peace be appointed for those countries, as now provided by law for Iowa, who shall have power to arrest and commit for trial all offenders against the laws of the United States; provided that any subject of Great Britain, who may have been so arrested for crimes or misdemeanors committed in the countries west of the Rocky Mountains, while they remain free and open to the people of both nations, shall be delivered up to the nearest or most convenient British authorities, to be tried according to British laws.
This bill, it will be seen, contained nearly the same provisions as that which had been discussed in the House of Representatives in the session of 1828–29,* with the addition of the promise of grants of land to the settlers, after a certain period of occupancy. The debates upon it were continued for several days, during which it was defended and opposed by the most eminent men of both political parties; the senators from the Western States of the Union being generally in favor of it, and those from the Atlantic portions of the republic against it.
* See p. 355.
The bill was defended, generally, on the grounds that its adoption would be the exercise, by the United States, of rights which were unquestionable, and had been long unjustly withheld from them by Great Britain ; and that, taking this for granted, it afforded the best means, in all respects, of making good those rights, and securing to the republic the ultimate possession of the territories west of the Rocky Mountains, which must otherwise fall, or rather remain irretrievably, in the hands of another power. The United States, it was contended, had been deprived of the privileges of the joint occupancy, secured to them in the convention of 1827, by the encroachments of the Hudson's Bay Company, which, under the direct protection of the British government, had taken actual possession of the whole territory beyond the Rocky Mountains, and had within a few years founded farming establishments, on a large scale, from which provisions were exported, in considerable quantities, to the Russian settlements and the Sandwich Islands. Great Britain was there employing the same policy and mechanism, of a great trading company, by means of which she had made her way to the dominion of India. She already practically occupied all that she ever claimed south and north of the Columbia ; and her agents had directly avowed that she would not give up the establishments which she had encouraged her subjects to form there. The felling of forests, the construction of regular habitations, the fencing in of fields, the regular improvement of the soil, the fitting up of mills and workshops, and, added to all these, the erection of forts to protect them, as had been done by the British, in Oregon, meant something more than was provided by the existing convention, and were intended to constitute a lasting, and, of course, exclusive occupation of the places thus appropriated. The bill does not pretend to define the territory of the United States, or to dispossess Great Britain of what she now holds, but merely to do what she has herself done. She has extended the jurisdiction of her courts over Oregon ; the United States must do the same; and if a conflict of jurisdictions ensue, the question of definitive possession will only be determined the sooner. Meanwhile, provision should be made for
DEBATE IN THE SENATE OF THE U. S. ON OREGON.
the rights of American citizens to the lands which they might occupy. The grants proposed in the bill are only prospective. Citizens of the Union are invited to settle in Oregon, and, after they have resided there five years, certain portions of land are to be allotted to them within that time the questions of right to the territory will have been determined, and if those who have acted on the faith of the invitation do not then receive the advantages promised, their government will, of course, be bound to indemnify them.
The opponents of the bill differed in their views of the whole, and of each separate provision ; but they agreed in regarding the proposed granting of lands in Oregon to American citizens as an infraction of the Convention of 1827 with Great Britain, agreeably to which neither government could legally do any thing calculated to divest the people of the other party of the enjoyment of the common freedom of the countries in question; and with many this formed the sole ground of their objection. Some were unfavorable to any action upon the subject of Oregon at the time, as being calculated to defeat the very object in view, by hastening a conclusion before the United States were in a condition to render it favorable to them ; while others regarded the country beyond the Rocky Mountains as of no value, in comparison with the difficulties and expenses which would be occasioned by the attempt to occupy it at any period. If the bill should become a law, the United States must be prepared to maintain and execute all its provisions; and Great Britain, though, like the United States, directly interested in the continuance of peace, would, if she viewed the measures in question as an infringement of the convention, stand upon that point, when she might not stand upon the value of the territory.
By some senators, the right of the republic to the whole region west of the Rocky Mountains, as far north as the 49th parallel of latitude, was made to rest chiefly, if not entirely, on the acquisition of Louisiana, of which that region was declared to form part, and the supposed settlement of limits by commissaries, under the treaty of Utrecht; others presented the Spanish claims, transferred to the United States by the Florida treaty, as the strongest grounds of the right; and others, again, depended principally on the discoveries and settlements of American citizens. The territory was described by some as possessing every quality of soil and climate which should render its possession desirable ; while others regarded it as a desert, utterly without value in any way, and which no American citizen should be condemned to occupy except as a punishment.
The observations of Mr. Calhoun on the subject attracted particular attention throughout the United States, and in Europe. He believed the possession of the Columbia countries to be important to the United States in many respects, and was ready to maintain and exercise all the rights possessed by the republic, conformably with the existing convention of 1827. He was disposed to extend the jurisdiction of the government over them, and to go as far in every way as Great Britain had gone : but he could find nothing, in the proceedings of that power, of equal force or extent with the grant of lands promised by this bill; between which and immediate grants he could see no distinction as to their force in binding the United States to assume possession of the territory. He could not but anticipate a rupture of the peace with Great Britain, if the bill should pass with this provision ; and he conceived that the occupation of Oregon should not be thus attempted, prematurely, at the risk of a war with the most powerful nation on earth. « If Great Britain should resist our attempt, it'would be unsuccessful, and the territory be lost. There is only one means by which it can be preserved to us; but that fortunately is the most powerful of all. Time is acting for us; and if we shall have the wisdom to trust to its operation, it will assert and maintain our right, with resistless force, without costing a cent of money or a drop of blood. There is often, in the affairs of government, more efficiency and wisdom in nonaction than in action ; all that we want, to effect our object in this
a 'wise and masterly inactivity. Our population is rolling towards the shores of the Pacific, with an impetus greater than we can realize.
It will soon reach the Rocky Mountains, and be ready to pour into the Oregon territory, which will thus come into our possession without resistance or struggle ; or, if there should be resistance, it would be feeble and ineffectual.”
To the objections thus made to his bill, Mr. Linn replied at length, dwelling on the great importance of the Oregon countries;
on the vast extent of lands, on the Columbia and its tributary streams, which were said to exceed in productiveness any in the states of the Union; and on the number and excellence of the harbors on those coasts, the use of which was imperatively required by the American whaling vessels employed in the adjacent ocean;
on the facility with which travel and transportation might be effected, across the continent, by means of ordinary roads at present and by railroads hereafter: and he produced a number of letters, reports, and other documents, from various sources, confirming all these statements. Finally, he appealed to the honor