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PREFACE TO THE FOURTH EDITION.
Since the publication of the first edition of this History, one of the countries, to which it relates, has been the subject of a most serious discussion between the two great nations claiming the sovereignty over it ; and the peace of the civilized world seemed, for a time, to depend upon the determination of the question, — whether the territory drained by the Columbia River should belong, definitively, to the United States or to Great Britain ? This question has been settled, amicably, and honorably to both the parties, by the Treaty of June 15, 1846, and Oregon has ceased to be the topic of the day. The war between the United States and Mexico, however, at the same time, brought California before the public; but less interest was felt on the subject, as no one appeared to doubt that the latter country would also be speedily annexed to the Great American Republic.
By the events which have been thus consummated, or are now in progress, the foundation has been laid for a new power on the shores of the North Pacific. Thousands of American citizens are already established there, and as many more are now on their way thither, by land and by sea, carrying with them the feelings, the institutions, and the arts of their native land ; and cities will soon rise in Oregon and California, and vessels will be sent forth from their ports, under the flag of the United States, to vie with those of other civilized lands, in the trade and fishery of the Western Ocean. The History of North-West America will not lose its interest, in consequence of these changes, but will be studied with greater care by the political philosopher, the merchant, the agriculturist, and the man of the world ; and the rising population of those countries will treasure up the annals of their discovery and settlement, and many a barren waste, and naked promontory or islet, will be endowed with a romantic value, as the scenes of adventures of the early explorers and colonists.
The author of the present work has reason to congratulate himself, that he devoted his leisure hours to the investigation of the history of Oregon and California, before the occurrence of the discussion with regard to the former country; of which he has thus been able to contribute, in some measure, to the favorable conclusion, by removing a mass of embarrassing errors, and placing the most material points, for the first time, in a clear and distinct light. That attempts would be made, as they have been, and will continue to be, to deprive him of his share of merit, in the production of these important results, he fully anticipated from the commencement of his labors, and he has, therefore, suffered no disappointment ; on the contrary, his work has met with a success, both in America and in Europe, far exceeding his most sanguine anticipations, and well calculated to assure him, that it will survive the memory of those, who have endeavored to destroy it, by falsehood or by affected contempt.
In the present edition, the author has availed himself of all the information which he has been able to obtain, since the publication of the last preceding; and he has particularly studied the numerous reviews of his work, and answers to it, which have appeared in Europe, without allowing himself to be affected by the hostile tone in general pervading them. The objections urged by those writers, have been all carefully examined ; and, where they have been considered either well-founded, or worthy of refutation from their speciousness, corresponding altera
tions have been made in the text. Among the portions which have thus been in a manner renewed, are those relating to Drake's voyage, (page 70) — to the boundaries of Louisiana, Canada, and the Hudson's Bay Company's territories, (pages 100 and 277) — especially to the supposed adoption of the forty-ninth parallel of latitude, as the separation between the Hudson's Bay countries and the French possessions, agreeably to the Treaty of Utrecht, on which, it is believed, all doubts will be now set at rest, (pages 280 and 436) — to the meaning and duration of the Nootka Convention, of 1790, between Great Britain and Spain, (pages 256 and 318), in which is presented (page 259,), an analysis of the law of nations, as to the effects of war and peace upon treaties. On these, and other points, more or less important, much care has been bestowed, and the views and statements of the author have been modified, as circumstances seemed to require ; while many new facts and arguments have been introduced, tending to make the whole more complete. The account
of the recent discussions and treaty, between the United | States and Great Britain, on the subject of Oregon, ter
minating this history, is confined entirely to essential circumstances, which are related as concisely and accurately as possible, and with very few remarks of any kind ; the Treaty will be found at length, on page 482.
The author must be permitted, in conclusion, to protest against the assertion which has been made, that his work is merely an argument, or brief, in favor of the claims of the United States to the possession of Oregon. It was intended to be, and is, neither more nor less than its name imports, a History of Oregon and California, and the adjacent territories on the North-West Coast of North America; and not one line in it, or in the Memoir on the North-West Coast, which preceded it, has been written under the dictation, or even with the advice, of of the American Government. Had the author been thus influenced, contrary to his own convictions, the whole
work would have been different ; and he would scarcely have ventured to oppose, as he has in so many, and indeed in nearly all cases, the views long established in the United States, and uniformly maintained by their Government, in its previous discussions and declarations, at the risk of the abuse and injury to which he has, as he anticipated, been exposed. His maxim has been, to present what he believed to be true and right, in the narration of events, and in reasoning upon them; and while endeavoring to guard and advance the interests of his country, he is not conscious that he has, in any case, been the advocate of a course, by which those interests were to be preserved or benefited, at the expense of its honor or of justice.
The author will moreover take this occasion to say, that he expects ere long to offer to the public, another work on the same plan, and on a kindred subject, namely: “A History of Florida, Louisiana and Texas, and the adjacent countries, including the whole valley of the Mississippi, from their discovery to their incorporation with the United States,” which has for some time past occupied his leisure hours, and on which he has collected a vast mass of new and interesting facts, calculated materially to change the existing opinions on many important points, relative to that portion of America.
WASHINGTON, JANUARY, 1847.