Page images
PDF
EPUB

1843.]

CONSIDERATIONS ON THE CONVENTION OF 1827.

383

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and generosity of the nation, for its protection to the American citizens already established in Oregon, who had gone thither in confidence that such aid would be extended to them, and were groaning under the oppressions of the Hudson's Bay Company.*

Previous to the final vote, Mr. Archer endeavored to have the clause respecting the grants of lands struck out; but his motion did not prevail, and on the 3d of February, 1843, the bill was passed by the Senate, twenty-four being for and twenty-two against it. It was immediately sent to the House of Representatives, in which a report against its passage was made by Mr. Adams, the chairman of the committee on foreign affairs; the session, however, expired without any debate on the subject in that House.

In order to determine whether the bill for the occupation of Oregon, passed by the Senate of the United States, in 1843, could, if it had become a law, have been carried into fulfilment without a breach of public faith, until after the abrogation of the existing convention with Great Britain, in the manner therein stipulated, it will be necessary first to analyze that convention, and to reduce the various permissions, requirements and prohibitions, involved in it, to their simplest expressions. The two nations, on agreeing, as by that convention, to leave the territory west of the Rocky Mountains, with its waters, free and open to the citizens and subjects of both, of course agreed that neither should exercise any exclusive dominion, or do any thing calculated to hinder the people of the other from enjoying the promised advantages in any part of that territory. Each nation, of course, reserved to itself the right to provide for the maintenance of peace and the administration of justice among its own citizens, and to appoint agents for that purpose : it was, indeed, the duty of each, as a civilized power, to do so without delay; and it was morally imperative upon them to enter into a supplementary compact for the exercise of concurrent jurisdiction, in cases affecting the persons or interests of subjects or citizens of both, unless provision to that effect should have already been made in some other way. Finally, as the country was inhabited by tribes of savages, the citizens and subjects of each of the civilized nations residing therein might take precautions for their defence against attacks from those savages, by military organization among themselves, and by the erection of the fortifications necessary for that special purpose; and it here again became the duty of the contracting parties to settle by compact the manner in which their governments might jointly or separately aid their people in such defence.

* This was destined to be the last effort of Mr. Linn for the advancement of the cause to which he had so long devoted his powerful energies. He expired on the 3d of October, 1843, at his residence in St. Genevieve, Missouri, without warning, and probably without a struggle.

As the advantages offered to the citizens or subjects of the two nations are not defined, the terms of the convention relating to them are to be understood in their most extensive favorable sense ; including the privileges, not only of fishing, hunting, and trading with the natives, but also of clearing and cultivating the ground, and using or disposing of the products of such labor in any peaceful way, and of making any buildings, dams, dikes, canals, bridges, roads, &c., which the private citizens or subjects of the parties might make in their own countries ; under no other restrictions or limitations than those contained in the clause of the convention providing for the freedom and openness of the territory and waters, or those which might be imposed by the respective governments.

This appears to be the amount of the permissions, requirements, and prohibitions, of the convention ; and, had the two governments done all that is here demanded, no difficulties could have been reasonably apprehended — so long, at least, as the territory in question remains thinly peopled. These things, however, have not all been done ; not only has no supplementary compact been made between the two nations, but the government of the United States has neglected to secure the protection of their laws to their citizens, who have thus, doubtless, in part, been prevented from drawing advantages from the convention equal to those long since enjoyed by British subjects, under the security of the prompt and efficient measures of their government.

If this view of the existing convention between the United States and Great Britain, relative to the territory west of the Rocky Mountains, be correct, and embrace all its permissions and prohibitions, neither of the parties could be justified, during the subsistence of the agreement, in ordering the erection of forts at the mouth of the Columbia, where they certainly are not required for protection against any third power, and in promising to secure large tracts of land in that territory, by patent, to ils citizens or subjects. Had the bill passed by the Senate in 1843 become a law, the convention would from that moment have been virtually 1843.] DEBATE IN THE BRITISH PARLIAMENT ON OREGON.

385

[merged small][ocr errors]

and violently rescinded ; and any attempt to enforce the measures would undoubtedly have been resisted by Great Britain. The abrogation of the convention, in the manner therein provided, or in some other way, by common consent of the parties, should precede all attempts, by either, to occupy any spot in the territory permanently; and whenever the government of either nation considers the time to be near, in which such occupation, by its own citizens or subjects, will be indispensable, it should endeavor to settle, by negotiation with the other power, some mode of effecting that object, before giving notice of its intention to abrogate the agreement; for such a notice can only be regarded as the announcement of the determination of the party giving it to take forcible possession of the territory at the end of the term.

The reports of the debates in the American Senate on the bill for the occupation of Oregon, reached England while the treaty, recently concluded at Washington, was under consideration in Parliament; and they did not fail to elicit some observations in the House of Commons. Lord Palmerston, the late secretary for foreign affairs, and then leader of the opposition, pronounced that, if the bill should pass, and be acted on, it would be equivalent to a declaration of war, as it would be the invasion and seizure of a territory in dispute, by virtue of a decree made by one of the parties in its own favor. Mr. Macaulay, who had been the secretary of war under the previous administration, conceived that the fact of the passage of such a bill by the Senate, a body comprising among its members a large portion of the men of the screatest weight and most distinguished ability in the United States, showed a highly-excited condition of the public mind in

Mr. Blewitt quoted the words of one of the senators in the debate, as being a most violent attack on England : and her regarded the mode in which the matter had been dealt with in the Senate as an insult to his nation. Sir Robert Peel, the premier, in answer, simply stated, that communications of a frienqelly nature, on the subject of Oregon, were then going on bet, jween the two governments, a proposition having been addre, essed to the United States, for considering the best means of effecçting a conciliatory adjustment of the questions respecting those territories; and that, if the bill introduced into the American Senjate had passed both Houses of Congress, it would not have regeived the sanction of the executive, which had given assurjances of its anxiety to settle those questions by negotiation.

49

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

t

S

e

ai

are not provided with the

This last declaration from Sir Robert Peel was confirmed by the president of the United States, in his message sent to Congress on

the 5th of December following; and, in February, 1844, the Honse

orable Richard Pakenham arrived in Washington, as minister plenijoi

potentiary from Great Britain, with full instructions to treat for a definitive arrangement of the disputed points relative to the coun

tries west of the Rocky Mountains.* the

In the mean time, the excitement in the United States with reinciu

gard to the immediate occupation of Oregon, as well as the difficulBritan.the la

ties of effecting an amicable arrangement of the questions with Great general.

i or anoin respecting that country, had increased and become more out from Misstaand of mauln each year since 1838, small parties of emigrants had set on their way, fron, which therwri for the Columbia ; but they had suffered so much that few had reached the own cou, hunger, thirst, fatigue, and a dread of Indians, returned to the United States contained place of their destination, and those who no means calculated to induce oth and operave accounts of their expeditions by ining these accounts, however, it appear imposed by red that in all cases the par

-rs to follow them. On examties had been insufficient in numbers, or wo requisite supplies, or were guided and commissions, req. nded by incompetent persons; besides which, nothing like an assurance they should have made their settlements, was afford, uld have'd by their gov

two gove of protection, after ernment. On the faith of the promise of such protectory in qtion

, held out by the passage through the Senate of the bill for the ve not immedi: occupation of Oregon, a thousand persons, men, women, dren, assembled at Westport, near the Missouri River, on ti

en magand tier of the state of Missouri, from which they began their m

States Oregon, with a large number of wagons, horses, and cattle,

deir citi1843.7 They pursued the route along the banks of th

ted from and its northern branch, which had been carefully survey

ong since preceding year by Lieutenant Fremont, of the United Statempt and to the South Pass, in the Rocky Mountains; thence throug, valleys of the Green and Bear Rivers to the Hudson's Bay (

Inited ny's post, called Fort Hall, on the Lewis; and thence, in se

of the parties, to the Willamet valley, where they arrived in October.

ins and journey, of more than two thousand miles, was, of course, labe

ag the and fatiguing; they were subjected to many difficulties and pr tions, and seven of their party died on the way, from sick

ared

ure * Sir Robert Peel's speech in the House of Commons, February 5th, 1844. or

+ See the interesting report and map of Lieutenant Fremont, published by order the Senate, in the spring of 1843.

[graphic]

1844.)

AMERICAN EMIGRATION TO OREGON.

387

[ocr errors]

or accident. Their numbers and their discipline, however, enabled them to set at defiance, the Sioux and the Blackfeet, those Tartars of the American Steppes, who could only gaze at a distance, no doubt with wonder, at the crowd of pale-faces, leaving the sunny valleys of the Mississippi for the rugged wilds of the Columbia. The difficulties of the journey proved to be, on the whole, much less than had been anticipated, even by the most sanguine partisans of the immediate occupation of Oregon; and the success of the expedition, induced a still larger number to follow in 1844, before the end of which year, the number of American citizens in that region exceeded three thousand. They established themselves, for the most part, in the valley of the Willamet, and other valleys south of the Columbia, where they soon laid out counties, founded towns, and formed a provisional government, on a republican basis, with its legislative, executive, and judicial branches properly defined, adopting the laws of the territory of Iowa, as the basis of their jurisprudence. The first meeting of the legislature took place at Oregon city, near the falls of the Willamet, on the 24th of May, 1844; and several laws were passed, one of which, prohibiting the manufacture or introduction of spirituous liquors, was instantly enforced, by the destruction of a distillery. Acts were also passed, for the imposition of taxes, and for the assignment of six hundred and forty acres of land, to each person who should make improvements of a permanent character thereon, and continue to

occupy them. a bod Of the Americans who emigrated to Oregon, many asterwards of theproceeded to California, whither large numbers also went direct States rom the United States, either overland, or by sea around Cape that corn. The greater part of those who devote themselves to agrisenatorulture, settled in the valley of the Sacramento, north of the Bay of ana' bean Francisco, where an extensive tract, called New Helvetia, is with held by a Swiss, named Sutter, under a grant from the Mexican

argovernment; the others distributed themselves through the towns a frieron the coast, in which they form the majority of the commercial

betpopulation. The revolutions which frequently convulse Mexico are necessarily felt in California, where their principal effect is to

paralyze exertion among the native inhabitants, and to encourage those the foreigners, especially the Americans, who see in each struggle,

an additional assurance that the country will, ere long, be annexed ter to the United States. Each new party, on arriving at power in

the

OD

addre

effet

Sen

« PreviousContinue »