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The following pages are devoted, principally, to the description and history of the portion of North America bordering on the Pacific Ocean, between the 40th and the 54th parallels of latitude, which is traversed and in a great measure drained, by the River Columbia, and to which the name of OREGON is now usually applied. It has, however, been found necessary, for the objects of the work, to bestow. almost equal attention on the regions embraced under the general appellation of CALIFORNIA, extending southward from the Columbia countries, to the arm of the Pacific, called the Californian Gulf; and also to take into consideration the coasts and islands north and north-west of those countries, as far as the Arctic Sea.
The vast division of America, comprehending these territories, remains, with the exception of a few isolated spots on the coasts and on the margins of the larger streams, uncultivated and inhabited only by tribes of wandering savages. Its shores and some of its rivers have been examined with care, and their course may be found delineated with considerable minuteness on maps. Of its interior regions, some have never been explored, and are indeed ap
, parently impenetrable by man ; others, which offer fewer obstacles to the traveller, are only known through the vague and imperfect accounts of traders or missionaries ; and in those which have been the most frequented by civilized persons, much remains to be effected by the aid of scientific observations, in order to obtain satisfactory ideas of their geography and physical characteristics.
These territories, unoccupied, partially explored, and
remote from all civilized countries, nevertheless present much that is interesting in their political history, as well as in their natural conformation and productions; and events are now in progress which seem calculated, ere long, to attract towards them the views of the governments and people of many powerful nations.
Every part of this division of America is in fact claimed by some civilized state as its exclusive property, in virtue either of discoveries or settlements made by its citizens or subjects, or of transfer or inheritance from some other state claiming on similar grounds, or of contiguity to its own acknowledged territories. On these points, the principles of national law are by no means clearly defined ; nor is it easy to apply such as are most generally admitted, to particular cases; nor are governments ordinarily found ready to relinquish claims merely because they prove to be unfounded, agreeably to such principles : and disputes have in consequence arisen between different nations asserting the right of possession to the same portion of Western America, which have more than once threatened to disturb the peace of the world. Attempts have been made to settle the questions at issue by negotiation ; and certain lines of boundary have been agreed on by treaties between one and another of the claimant powers : but the arrangements thus made, can scarcely in any instance be considered definitive, as they have not received, and will probably never receive, the assent of the other parties interested.
In the mean time these territories are daily becoming more important from the advancement of the population of adjoining countries towards them, and from the constant increase of the trade and navigation of several of the claimant powers in the Pacific, which would render the undisputed possession of establishments on the coasts of that Ocean most desirable for each. The difficulty of effecting an amicable partition of the territories thus becomes daily
greater, and more urgent therefore is the necessity of endeavoring to attain that end without delay.
It was principally with the object of showing the nature, origin and extent of these various claims, that the author of the following pages composed his “Memoir, Historical and Political, on the North-West Coasts of North America and the adjacent Territories,”* which was published by order of the Senate of the United States in 1840. He there endeavored to present a complete, clear, and impartial view of all the discoveries and settlements, made or attempted, in those countries by civilized nations, and of all the disputes, negotiations and conventions, between different governments with respect to them, from the period when they were first visited by Europeans ; founding his statements as much as possible, upon original authorities. That memoir is the only work hitherto published, approaching in its character to a history of the western portion of North America. The History of California,t printed at Madrid, in 1758, is devoted almost exclusively to descriptions of the Californian Peninsula, and to accounts of the missionary labors of the Jesuits, in that desolate region. The Introduction to the Journal of Marchand's Voyage,f which appeared in 1799, and the Introduction to the Journal of Galiano and Valdes, & published in 1802, are confined to the discoveries of European navigators on the North Pacific coasts of America, before 1793 ; upon which so many details have been made known, since the appearance of those works, that they are now entirely obsolete, and scarcely one of their paragraphs can be cited as correct. The Journals of Cook, La Pérouse, Vancou
* Extract from the Journal of the Senate of the United States. — “Monday, Feb. 10, 1840. On motion, by Mr. Linn — Ordered, That a History of the North-West Coast of North America and the adjacent Territories, communicated to the Select Committee on the Oregon Territory, be printed, with the accompanying map: and two thousand five hundred copies, in addition to the usual number, be printed for the use of the Senate." + See page 105.
See page 223.
§ See page 241. B
ver, Mackenzie, Krusenstern, Lewis and Clark, Kotzebue, Beechey, and Belcher, all contain important information as to the geography of the countries under consideration ; but as regards the events, which lie within the province of the historian, we have only the accounts of the Astoria enterprise, by Franchére, Cox, and Irving, all interesting, yet all limited to the occurrences of three or four years. In the most popular histories of other countries, and especially of Great Britain, the circumstances relating to NorthWest America, are, in every material point, misrepresented, either from neglect on the part of the authors, or from motives less excusable ; and these histories, being universally read and received as true in England and in the United States, it is not astonishing, that erroneous ideas should be generally entertained by the people of both nations, upon points, which have been, and will continue to be, the subjects of discussion between their governments.
The Memoir, above mentioned, contains the outlines of the History now presented; for which the same authorities, with many others since collected, consisting of private and official reports, letters and accounts, journals of expeditions by sea and land, and histories and state papers of various civilized nations, have been carefully examined and compared. Many errors of fact as well as of reasoning in the former work, have by this means been corrected; and new circumstances have been brought to light, and new arguments have been founded upon them, calculated perhaps materially to modify the views of those to whom the settlement of questions relative to North-West America may be hereafter entrusted. The principal object of the author has been to present the facts relative to the discovery and settlement of those countries, fairly; and to investigate the claims which have been deduced from them, agreeably to the immutable principles of right, and the general understanding of civilized nations : and although he fully appreciates, and endeavors in all cases to
place in their proper light, the merits of his own countrymen, and the pretensions of his own government, he is not conscious that his desire to do so, has in any case led him to the commission of injustice towards other individuals, or nations, either by misstatements, or by suppressions of the truth. In order to unite the various parts into a regular narrative, and to preserve the remembrances of events which may be interesting, if not important at future periods, he has introduced circumstances not immediately tending to the attainment of the principal objects proposed; but he has omitted nothing voluntarily, which if made known might have led to conclusions different from those here presented. Dates and references to authorities are generally given, and always in cases where the circumstances related are new or material, or in which his accounts differ from those usually received ; and he has appended a number of documents, extracts and original notices as Proofs and Illustrations of the history. Among the latter, are some valuable papers never before published, others not commonly known, and others again which the reader will probably desire frequently to consult, including all the treaties and conventions hitherto concluded between civilized nations, with respect to the countries forming the subjects of the history.
In the geographical view he has collected, compared, and endeavored to arrange in order, what appeared to be the most exact and striking details, presented by the numerous travellers who have visited the countries in question. The
has been composed, as far as possible, from original authorities; being intended for the illustration of the history, it necessarily embraces a very large portion of the surface of the globe, and will be found, perhaps, on the whole, more nearly correct than any other yet offered to the public.
WASHINGTON, FEBRUARY, 1844.