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SANDWICH ISLANDS OCCUPIED BY THE BRITISH.
In the mean time, Lord George Paulet, a captain in the British navy, arrived at Woahoo, in February, 1843, in the ship Carysfort, and demanded from the king explanations with regard to the conduct of his government towards the consul and subjects of her Britannic majesty. Not receiving a satisfactory answer within the period prescribed, this officer threatened, in the event of longer delay, to make an attack upon Honolulu ; whereupon the king, finding himself unable to comply with the demands, or to resist them, surrendered all the islands under his dominion to Great Britain, until the matter could be arranged between the government of that country and the agents whom he had already sent thither. The British commander accordingly took possession, appointed commissioners to conduct the administration, and issued various regulations for the government of the islands, until further orders could be received from England.
The news of these events created much excitement in the United States ; and a protest against the occupation of the Sandwich Islands by Great Britain was immediately addressed by the American government to the court of London. On the 25th of June, however, the British minister at Washington declared officially, that the acts of Lord George Paulet were entirely unauthorized by her majesty; conformably with which, King Kamehamaha was, on the 31st of July, reinstated in all his powers and dignities by Admiral Thomas, the commander-in-chief of the British naval forces in the Pacific. Finally, on the 28th of November, a declaration was signed at London, on the parts of the queen of England and the king of the French, whereby their majesties “engaged reciprocally to consider the Sandwich Islands as an independent state, and never to take possession, either directly, or under the title of protectorate, or under any other form, of any part of the territory of which they are composed.”
These acts of the British and the French, with regard to the Sandwich Islands, arose, doubtless, rather from political jealousy, on the parts of those nations, than from the simple desire to protect their subjects in trade or religion. The French have shown their anxiety to obtain a permanent footing on the Pacific, by their attempts to form a colony in New Zealand, by their military occupation of the Washington or North Marquesas Islands and their forcible seizure of Otaheite, and by various other circumstances; whilst the British have evinced their determination to counteract those efforts by others equally unequivocal. To either of these nations the
Sandwich Islands would prove a most valuable acquisition, as it would afford the means of controlling the trade and fishery of the North Pacific, and of exercising a powerful influence over the destinies of the north-west coasts of America and lifornia. The United States, claiming the north-west coasts, and conducting nearly the whole of the fishery and trade of the North Pacific, are deeply interested in all that may affect the independence of these islands; and, having neither the power nor the will to establish their own authority over them at present, it is the policy and duty of their government to oppose, at almost any hazard, the attempts of other nations to acquire dominion or influence in this important archipelago.
It will be proper here also to notice, as connected with the history and probable destinies of North-West America, the fact of the occupation of the Falkland Islands by Great Britain, in 1833. After the overthrow of the Spanish supremacy in America, these islands were claimed by the government of Buenos Ayres, as having formed part of the territory under the direction of the viceroy of La Plata ; and attempts were made by that government to exercise dominion over them, which produced, in 1831, a collision between its authorities and the naval forces of the United States. In the month of January, 1833, the British took possession of the whole group, which they have ever since occupied ; and, a representation on the subject having been addressed to that government, by the diplomatic agent of Buenos Ayres at London, Lord Palmerston, the British secretary for foreign affairs, in reply, maintained * the exclusive right of his nation to the islands, on the ground of first discovery and occupation — thus entirely disregarding the sixth article of the Nootka convention of 1790, according to which, no settlement could be made, either by Great Britain or by Spain, on any part of the coasts of South America or the islands adjacent, “situated to the south of those parts of the same coasts, and of the islands adjacent, which are already occupied by Spain," although his government had, in 1827 supported the subsistence of that convention with respect to the north-west coasts of North America.
In 1841, the Sandwich Islands, and the coasts of Oregon and California, were visited by the exploring ships of the United States, under the command of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, who
* Letter from Lord Palmerston to Señor Moreno, dated January 8th, 1834. See Memoir, historical, political, and descriptive, on the Falkland Islands, by Robert Greenhow, published in the New York Merchants' Magazine for February, 1842.
EXPLORING VOYAGE OF WILKES.
had been specially directed to survey and examine those countries, as carefully as circumstances would permit. Lieutenant Wilkes, in the sloop of war Vincennes, arrived off the mouth of the Columbia, on the 27th of April; but, finding it hazardous to attempt the entrance, he sailed to the Strait of Fuca, and anchored in Puget's Sound, near Nasqually, a post belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, from which he despatched several surveying parties into the interior. One of these parties crossed the great westernmost range of mountains to the Columbia ; and, having visited the British trading posts of Okinagan, Colville, and Walla-Walla, returned to Nasqually. Another party proceeded southward to the Cowelitz, and down that river to the main trunk of the Columbia, which was examined upwards as far as Walla-Walla, and downwards to the ocean. In the mean time, other parties were engaged in surveying the coasts and harbors on the Pacific, the Strait of Fuca, and Admiralty Inlet, and particularly in exploring the valleys of the Willamet River, emptying into the Columbia, and of the Sacramento, falling into the Bay of San Francisco, which are perhaps the most valuable portions of Oregon and California. The performance of these important duties was accompanied by an unfortunate occurrence. The sloop of war Peacock, one of the exploring vessels, commanded by Lieut. William L. Hudson, struck on the bar at the mouth of the Columbia, while attempting to enter that river, on the 18th of July, and was lost ; her crew, however, in consequence of the perfect discipline maintained on board, were all landed in safety, with her instruments and papers, on Cape Disappointment, where they were received, and treated with the utmost hospitality, by the agents of the Hudson's Bay Company, residing in the vicinity.*
* The exploring squadron, consisting of the sloops of war Vincennes and Peacock, store-ship Relief, brig Porpoise, and schooners Sea-Gull and Flying-Fish, sailed from the Chesapeake on the 19th of August, 1838, and passed around Cape Horn, where several months were employed in exploring, and, unfortunately, the Sea-Gull was lost, with all on board. Lieutenant Wilkes then crossed the Pacific to Australia, south of which, he, in January, 1840, discovered a line of rocky, ice-bound coast, extending nearly under the Antarctic circle, from the 92d to the 165th degrees of longitude east from London; that is, about 1800 miles. Thence he proceeded north ward, surveying many groups of islands and intricate channels hitherto imperfectly known, to the coast of Oregon, where he spent the summer of 1841, as above stated; and, having completed his work, he returned, with his vessels, through the India seas, and around the Cape of Good Hope, to the United States, where he arrived in June, 1842. The southernmost point attained was in the Pacific, southsouth-west of Cape Horn, in latitude of 70 degrees 14 minutes, that is, farther south than any navigator, except Cook and Weddell had previously penetrated; it was reached on the 24th of March, 1839, by Lieut. W. M. Walker, commanding the Flying-Fish
1842 to 1846.
Excitement in the United States respecting Oregon — Bill in the Senate for the im
mediate Occupation of Oregon — That Bill inconsistent with the Convention of 1827, between the United States and Great Britain - Renewal of Negotiations between the United States and Great Britain — Emigration from the United States to Oregon — State of the Hudson's Bay Company's Possessions — Conclusion.
During the latter years of the period to which the preceding chapter relates, the government and people of the United States were becoming seriously interested in the subject of the claims of the republic to countries west of the Rocky Mountains, which had so long remained undetermined. The population of the Union had, in fact, been so much increased, that large numbers of persons were to be found in every part, whose spirit of enterprise and adventure could not be restrained within the limits of the states and organized territories; and, as the adjoining central division of the continent offered no inducements to settlers, those who did not choose to fix their habitations in Texas, began to direct their views towards the valleys of the Columbia, where they expected to obtain rich lands without cost, and security under the flag of the stars and stripes.
The period had, in fact, arrived, when the countries west of the Rocky Mountains were to receive a civilized population from the United States.
This feeling began to manifest itself, about the year 1837, by the formation of societies for emigration to Oregon, in various parts of the Union, and especially in those which had themselves been most recently settled, and were most thinly peopled. From these associations, and from American citizens already established in Oregon, petitions were presented to Congress, as well as resolutions from the legislatures of states,* urging the general government
* either to settle the questions of right as to the country west of the Rocky Mountains, by definitive arrangement with the other claimant,
* Nearly all these petitions and resolutions came from Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Michigan.
1840.] EXCITEMENT IN THE U. STATES RESPECTING OREGON. 377
or to take immediate civil and military possession of that country; and bills, having for their object the accomplishment of one or both of these ends, were annually introduced into the Senate or the House of Representatives of the Union. The members of the executive branch of the government, particularly Messrs. Forsyth and Poinsett, the able and energetic secretaries of state and of war, were likewise assiduously engaged in collecting information respecting the nature and grounds of the claims of the United States, and the most effective means of enforcing them, in order that the government might, when necessary, act with vigor and certainty, and be justified before the world. The information thus obtained was, from time to time, published, by order of Congress, for the instruction of the people on points so important;* but no bill relating to Oregon was passed by either house before 1843, nor was any decisive measure on the subject adopted by the American government.
The British government was, meanwhile, not unmindful of its interests in the territories west of the Rocky Mountains. Its views and intentions were not proclaimed to the world annually, in parliamentary speeches or executive reports : but the Admiralty caused the lower part of the Columbia River, the Bay of San Francisco, and the adjacent coasts of the Pacific, to be carefully surveyed, in 1839, by Captain Belcher; † and the Colonial Office, and Board of Trade, were in constant communication with the governor and di
Among these documents, the principal are the following, viz.: Report to the Senate, with Maps, and a Bill for the Occupation of Oregon; presented by Mr. Linn, June 6th, 1838 — Reports of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, of the House of Representatives, respecting the Territory of Oregon, with a Map, presented Jan. 4th and Feb. 16th, 1839, by Mr. Cushing, accompanied by a bill to provide for the protection of the citizens of the United States residing in that territory, or trading on the Columbia River, and various documents in proof - Memoir, Historical and Political, on the North-West Coast of North America, and the adjacent Countries, with a Map and a Geographical View of those Countries, by Robert Greenhow, Translator and Librarian to the Department of State; presented Feb. 10th, 1840, by Mr. Linn (see Preface to this History) — Report of the Hon. J. R. Poinsett, Secretary of War, in relation to the establishment of a line of Military Posts from the Missouri River to the Columbia, 1840 — Report of the Military Committee of the House of Representatives, on the Subject of the Occupation and Defence of the Columbia Countries; presented by Mr. Pendleton, May 25th, 1842.
† Narrative of a Voyage round the World, performed in her Majesty's Ship Sulphur, during the Years 1836—1842, by Captain Sir Edward Belcher, R. N. This large and expensive work, though very amusing to the general reader, abounds in misstatements and inconsistencies, and contains scarcely a single fact or observation of importance with regard to the different places visited. The results of the scientific investigations, especially the geographical positions of many important points, which were determined, doubtless, with the utmost accuracy during the voyage, are omitted.