§ Lord John Russell
said: I do not think that it is necessary for me to make any apology to the House for calling its attention to the important subject of which I have given notice; but I must apologize for the very imperfect manner in which I feel that I shall discharge the duty which I have under- 179 taken, on account of the difficulties connected with the subject, which is at once intricate and obscure. It is not my intention or wish to call in question the general foreign policy of the Government, or the policy which they may have adopted in this particular question which I intend to bring under the consideration of the House. I asked, in a former Session of Parliament—I think two years ago — a question as to the state of the negotiations between this country and the United States with respect to Oregon. The hon. and learned Member for Bath also asked a question on this subject during the present Session; and I understood that he intended to bring the subject before the House, if he had not felt that he might embarrass the Government by so doing. I should have pursued the same course as the hon. Gentleman, had it not been for the inaugural address of the new President of the United States, which appears to me to take the question out of the ordinary course of diplomatic relations, and to require some notice on the part of Members of this House. If this question had been left to be negotiated by the Executive Government of this country, and the Executive Government of the United States, whatever might be the degree of confidence which I repose in the foreign policy of the present Administration, I never would have interfered; but should have waited until the conclusion of the negotiations before I gave any opinion as to any Treaty or Convention made by the authority of the Government of this country. But, if I am not totally mistaken, the President of the United States has adopted a course entirely new—a course which, if not met by something unusual on our part, threatens to embarrass all intercourse between the Executive Departments of nations. It leaves general questions between nations to be decided by the popular addresses of the head of the Government, and by popular action of the people under that Government, irrespective of all considerations which should induce the two Governments to preserve relations of peace and amity, and settle every question of difference between them, on the one hand with regard to national honour and dignity, and with regard, on the other, to the preservation of the rights of the subjects under their rule. I must first mention—although it is a subject to which I intend to make no more than a passing allusion—that this same Message, amongst 180 other subjects, alludes to a vast increase of the territory of the United States — it alludes to the annexation of Texas; but I shall say nothing of the extent of that country, and of its limits and boundaries, for they are still left undefined, and may yet be carried forward far beyond what are at present understood to be the limits of the independent State of Mexico. It covers at all events a vast extent of territory of a most fruitful soil, and fertile in the production of cotton, and all the other descriptions of produce which are usually to be found in those climates—an extent of rich country to be cultivated, as no doubt it will be, by slave labour, and extending, as it will, over a large area of that portion of the globe. I allude to this subject in passing in order to show that the present policy of the Government of the United States tends towards territorial aggrandizement; and this, let me here remark, is a course of policy in direct contradiction of the policy which was declared to be that of the United States by Mr. Webster when he was Secretary. He declared that, in his opinion the true policy of the United States was to increase her strength and power, not by territorial agrandizement or advantages, but by a cultivation of the resources which were possessed by her in the immense territory already included in the United States. I believe that such a policy as that contained in the declaration of Mr. Webster would be not only more likely to preserve peace with Foreign Powers, but also to advance the interests of his own country. That policy, however, has been now evidently departed from. I do not know what course Her Majesty's Government will take with respect to that altered policy; but from the answer of the Secretary for Foreign Affairs to the Committee of the Anti-Slavery Society, I understand that communications have been sent to the United States, to Mexico, and to Texas, on the subject, I suppose, of what is part of the now declared policy of the United States. The next portion of the Message to which I will call the attention of the House is as follows:—The President, after observing—I shall, on the broad principle which formed the basis and produced the adoption of our Constitution, and not in any narrow spirit of sectional policy, endeavour by all constitutional, honourable, and appropriate means, to consummate the expressed will of the people and Government of the United States, by the re-annexation of Texas to our Union at the earliest practicable period;181 goes on to state in another paragraph certain views with respect to the Oregon Territory, and that paragraph I feel it necessary to read:—Nor will it become in a less degree my duty to assert and maintain, by all constitutional means, the right of the United States to that portion of our territory which lies beyond the Rocky Mountains. Our title to the country of the Oregon is clear and unquestionable; and already are our people preparing to perfect that title by occupying it with their wives and children. But eighty years ago our population was confined on the West by the ridge of the Alleghanies. Within that period, within the lifetime, I might say, of some of my hearers, our people, increasing to many millions, have filled the Eastern valley of the Mississipi, adventurously ascended the Missouri to its head springs, and are already engaged in establishing the blessings of self-government in valleys of which the rivers flow to the Pacific. The world beholds the peaceful triumphs of the industry of our emigrants. To us belongs the duly of protecting them adequately, wherever they may be upon our soil. The jurisdiction of our laws, and the benefits of our republican institutions should be extended over them, in the distant regions which they have selected for their homes. The increasing facilities of intercourse will easily bring the States, of which the formation in that part of our territory cannot be long delayed, within the sphere of our Federative Union. In the meantime, every obligation imposed by treaty or conventional stipulations, should be sacredly respected.Now here we have in the first place an assertion that the claim of the United States to this territory is "clear and unquestionable;" and in the next place, we have the assertion that its title to the territory was perfected by emigration and settlement on the part of the United States; and, thirdly, we have the assertion that before a very long time the institutions of the United States will be extended to the Territory of Oregon, and that a new State, forming part of the Federal Union, will be established in that territory. After this appeal to the people of the United States on the subject of the Oregon Territory, I wish—indeed, I feel myself compelled to do so—to call the attention of this House and this country to the real state of the question, and to how far the President of the United States is justified in declaring that the right of the United States to that territory is "clear and unquestionable;" and how far he is justified in declaring the intention which he has announced, without the sanction of those treaties and conventions which are usually the bonds of peace between inde- 182 pendent States. Before discussing this question, I must tresspass for a short time on the attention of the House, in order to inquire into the usual modes by which the right to every territory has been hitherto maintained and established, and the manner in which such questions have been settled. With respect to uninhabited territories, in the first place, there may be a title by ancient discovery — in the second place, there may be a title by treaty or convention—and, in the third place, there may be a title by discovery, and an ancient or recent perfection of the title by settlement and occupation. With regard to those various modes of establishing a right to a territory, I shall now address myself to the claims of the United States to the Oregon territory, so far as I can gather them from Reports made by Committees of the House of Representatives so long ago as the years 1825 and 1826, and from all that I have since seen put forward on the subject. In the first place, with regard to the claim founded on ancient discovery, it appears that the United States claim all the rights which may be derived in that way from the discoveries of the Spaniards. If I were to go into that question, I should say at once that a claim founded on discoveries at the end of the sixteenth century—that merely visiting a coast, landing for a few hours at a particular portion of it, and which title was not in any way perfected by occupation or settlement for more than two centuries afterwards—that neither on the part of this country or the United States could such a title be maintained to be effectual. If I were of a different opinion on this subject—if I thought otherwise than I do with respect to such a title—I would discuss the question of how far the President of the United States could maintain such a title; and I think I could show by a tenable argument that this country had a title on the ground of ancient discovery; and that the discoveries of Sir Francis Drake in 1578, as compared with the discoveries of Juan de Fuca, and other Spaniards, in 1592, and the commencement of the seventeenth century, would establish that title on the part of England. Sir Francis Drake went at that time as far north as the latitude of 48; and although I am not, as I before observed, going into the question of that title, I think I could show that we should be able, without farther evidence, to make a valid claim to a title founded on that claim of ancient discovery. The next description of title to 183 which we come is that founded on treaties and conventions; and here I will, before I proceed further, state what I conceive to be the position of the Oregon Territory. It may be considered to be the territory which extends east and west between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and which extends north and south between latitude 42 and latitude 54. So far as I can ascertain this large territory does not appear to have been a subject of stipulation between any of the countries of Europe until late in the last century. It is said, I believe, by the Americans, that the Treaty of Utrecht referred to the territory; but I have found nothing, either in that Treaty, or in the history of the negotiations which preceded it, to show that it was so mentioned. It has been said, on the part of America, that the Treaty of 1763, at the Peace of Paris, gave to France or Spain, to one or the other—for it has been put variously by American claimants—all the territory to the west of the Mississipi. I have carefully read all the negotiations, which took place previously to the Peace of Paris, as well as the Treaty itself, made in 1763. I have recently had occasion to read the Despatches of the Duke of Bedford and the Due de Choiseul with respect to that Treaty; and it appears to my mind quite clear, from all those documents, and from the Articles of the Treaty which was afterwards agreed to, that the only question at that time between France and England was the settlement of the Territories of Canada and Louisiana. The whole of Canada was given by that Treaty to England—the Territory of Louisiana was given to France, with the exception of Mobile, part of the Territory of Mississipi, and New Orleans. There was also a stipulation with respect to a district between the Mississipi and the Iroquois in the Treaty; but in no part of the Treaty itself, or the Despatches which preceded it, is there any reference to the countries beyond the Rocky Mountains as a territory to which either country had a claim. The only question then to consider, in order to ascertain if the Oregon Territory was included in that Treaty, was whether Louisiana included any of the territory to the west of the Rocky Mountains. In an able pamphlet, written by Mr. Falconer, an extract from the Instructions of Louis XIV. to Monsieur Crozat is given; and from those instructions it does not appear that Louisiana extended at that period so far as the Rocky Mountains—it extended 184 to the countries washed by the Mississipi, the Missouri, and the Ohio; and it was placed under the authority of the French Governor General of Canada. That is the description given by Louis XIV. in his instructions; and it does not appear from them that Louisiana comprised any territory extending beyond live Rocky Mountains; nor does the Treaty of 1763, either in express terms or by implication, refer to any place beyond the Rocky Mountains. We come at a subsequent period to claims which are made, not from ancient discovery, or under any Treaty between France and England, settling the title to Canada or Louisiana, or to any of the provinces on the Atlantic side of the great chain of mountains, but from the discoveries of navigation, and settlements made in consequence of those discoveries upon the coast of the Pacific. In 1789, a question arose with regard to the settlement of Nootka Sound, which was held by English subjects, and which settlement was disturbed and destroyed by the Spaniards, under Captain Martinez. The English Government, on that occasion, demanded redress; and the result of that demand on the part of England was, that the redress which was demanded was given; the settlers were restored to their possession at Nootka Sound, and a Treaty was agreed upon with regard to the future occupation of that district. The claims of England and Spain to settle in that district were defined and agreed to by that Treaty; and I find in Hertzlett's Commercial Treaties, that the 5th Article of the Treaty to which I am now referring, which was signed at the Escurial on the 28th of October, 1790, secured those rights. By the 5th Article of that Treaty, it was agreed, that—In all other parts of the north-western coasts of North America, or of the islands adjacent, situated to the north of the parts of the said territory already occupied by Spain, wherever the subjects of either of the two Powers shall have made settlements since the month of April, 1789, or shall hereafter make any, the subjects of the other shall have free access, and carry on their trading without disturbance or molestation.Now, that Article shows clearly that all the part north of the part of the coast occupied by Spain, was a part which was subject to be settled by either Power, and that no separate jurisdiction was claimed by England or Spain over the portion of the country to the north of that part of the coast. Spain was allowed to carry on trade in the dis- 185 trict to the west of the British settlements; but she was allowed no jurisdiction over the subjects of England in those settlements; and the only part which was left indefinite by the Treaty was, the part of the coast occupied by Spain. It does not appear that at the period of the Treaty there were any settlements to the north of latitude 40 in the occupation of Spain, or at the Columbia River, or Nootka Sound, or in any of the districts adjacent to the Columbia River. Such, then, is the state of the Treaties between Great Britain and Spain on that subject; and it is manifest that it remained open to Great Britain or Spain to perfect their discoveries on the coast by making such settlements as they thought proper. It appears that Captain Vancouver was sent out by the British Government after the settlement, and that he was ordered to discover the line of coast and to take possession of certain parts which were laid down in his instructions; and we come now to another part of the claims of the United States. The United States put in a claim to this territory on the ground of discovery, and that is founded on transactions which I shall proceed now to relate. It appears that a merchant vessel, called the Columbia, the commander, named Grey, discovered an inlet, which he supposed to be the inlet of a river, and that he spent some days there in May, 1792, those days having been spent partly at anchor, and partly in endeavouring to ascertain the limits of the bay which he discovered. After a few days spent in that manner, the vessel again sailed into the Pacific Ocean; and I think it is very clear that the commander of the merchant vessel, Captain Grey, thought he was mistaken in supposing that he found the inlet of a river, and having endeavoured to penetrate the river, he was obliged to return, after a few days, without having discovered the river. Shortly after Captain Grey left the coast and sailed into the Pacific, Captain Vancouver arrived at the inlet, and sent his lieutenant, Mr. Broughton, to explore the river. Lieutenant Broughton was more successful than Mr. Grey, and he discovered the entrance of the Columbia river, and went up ninety or one hundred miles—he remained several days in making his explorations, and having discovered the territories on the banks of the river, he returned to the ship. Captain Vancouver then took possession of the territory, and the coasts adjacent to Nootka Sound, in the name of His Majesty the King of England. And 186 here we have something like a valid title established on the principle of taking possession of the territory, not by the casual visit of a merchant vessel, but by an officer in the uniform of his Majesty the King of England. The possession was thus taken for the purpose of occupation and settlement. These, then, are the most important transactions which took place with respect to the title to this territory. There are other transactions, however, on which the Committee of the House of Representatives founded a claim; and these are not, in my opinion, sufficient to sustain a valid title. It appears that France, in 1803, made a cession of Louisiana, and that all the rights which France possessed in Louisiana passed with that cession to the United States. There was a subsequent Treaty, in 1819, by which the Floridas were given up to the United States, and that all the rights which Spain possessed in connexion with that territory were also given up. But I must here remark, that unless France or Spain had rights over a territory in America, they could not give them up by a Treaty. It is manifest that no cession could give up to the United States, on the part of France or Spain, a right which neither of these countries possessed. It is stated in a pamphlet which I have here, and which is an American publication, that the purchase of Louisiana included all the lands on the east side of the Mississipi not then belonging to the United States, as far as the great chain of mountains which divide the waters running into the Pacific, and those falling into the Atlantic Ocean; and from the said chain to the Pacific Ocean, between the territory claimed by Great Britain on the one side, and Spain on the other. To this I say, that unless Lousiana did include any part of that territory to the west of the Rocky Mountains, there can be no valid claim. But Louisiana never did include any such territory; therefore this article is useless. But suppose it were a valid article, it would only give them the territory between what was claimed by Great Britain on the one side, and by Spain on the other. It does not say "to what Great Britain has made good her claim, or which is acknowledged to be hers;" but only "that part which is claimed by Great Britain." With regard to that cession by Spain, I should think it could only be a cession of any rights which Spain may have held under a convention with Great Britain relative to Nootka Sound. That was a convention between 187 Spain on the one side, and Great Britain on the other. The two Powers afterwards went to war; and it has been said I know by some, arguing, I believe, on the part of the United States, that that war took away any title Great Britain might have held. There is no reason for any such assumption. But the fact is, that convention was renewed at the peace in 1814, between this country and Spain. Therefore, the United States, by any agreement they made, any Treaty they entered into in 1819, could only inherit and succeed to such a title as Spain held in 1814. Now, what was that title? It was a title to settle in and to trade to parts in which English subjects had already settled and traded, to settle and trade for themselves. Well, then, I come to the third question, which I think the most important of all these modes of establishing a title—I mean the title of occupancy and settlement. The question for the House now to consider is, whether there is what the President of the United States calls "a title clear and unquestionable" to be made out by occupation and settlement. I have already stated that a British settlement was formed at Nootka Sound, and I have to add that subsequently settlements were established by the Hudson's Bay Company in various parts of the Oregon Territory. The United States, on the other hand, established a settlement in that district; and I will tell you what was the fate of that settlement, as described by an American writer, Mr. Farnham, who is also very anxious to stand up for the claims of America to this territory. It appears that in 1810 or 1811, a settlement was established in a territory which was called Astoria; and with the proceedings connected with the origin and subsequent fate of those settlements or forts, we have all been made perfectly acquainted by the beautiful manner in which their history has been related by a gentleman, whom I am happy to call a friend of mine, Mr. Washington Irving. Mr. Astor, in 1810 or 1811, made a settlement which he called Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River. Not long after the settlement was formed by Mr. Astor, a war broke out between England and the United States, and a question arose as to what should become of Astoria, as those who were residing there feared, as they naturally might, that a maritime expedition might be sent out from England to attack the settlement. In consequence of this fear on the part of those in the settlement, 188 the American company took means for the sale of the settlement, and the sale was accordingly effected to the North West Company. After the Treaty of 1815, however, some misconception took place in this country with respect to the settlement which was sold; and Lord Bathurst thought it right to restore to the subjects of the United States the possession of the settlement under an Article in the Treaty of 1815, which Article declared "that all possessions of the United States which had been captured by this country should be restored to the United States." It was urged by the North West Company, who bought the settlement, that the settlement had not been captured by England, but had been, regularly sold to them. It appears, however, that in point of fact the settlement was, after the war, given up to the agent of the United States, and that in point of fact the United States did not establish a new settlement after it had been so given up to the United States' agent. It appears, according to the statement of Mr. Farnham, that the two British companies which were established in this territory, the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay, soon after this period, were joined together by an Act of Parliament, and became one company; and they then built a fort at the mouth of the Columbia River, which they called Fort George; and Mr. Farnham describes this fort as having been presided over by a gentleman, on the part of the Hudson's Bay Company, who was possessed of great influence over the people, and was, as Mr. Farnham states, called the King of the Indians in that territory, and was the only person in authority there. Mr. Farnham gives an account of another American company which was formed by the United States, and which was called by them the Pacific Fur Company; but that company was a total failure; and it failed not on account of any violence or aggression on the part of British subjects, but because the Hudson's Bay Company entered on their trade with a larger spirit of enterprise and more extended views; that they understood the mode of conducting trade in a better manner; and that their particular operations were in consequence more successful and on a more extensive principle. The effect of this superiority was, that the Pacific Fur Company sold out their settlements to the Hudson's Bay Company. What account does Mr. Farnham give of the Hudson's Bay Company, though all the 189 time complaining that any British subject should settle in those parts, and above all, that Americans should be subject to any authority exercised by Englishmen? He says,—There are no less than eighteen settlements or ports in this part of the territory of the Oregon. There are several along the River Columbia. One part called Vancouver, contains a great number of people within a sort of stockade or entrenchment. There is also a farm of 3,000 acres well cultivated. The inhabitants dwell in a village, and are subject to the authority and control of the Hudson's Bay Company.He describes all their settlements to be in admirable condition. He says,—While they give a better price for their furs, they bargain with the savages more advantageously to the Indians than any other persons can do for the manufactured goods and various articles they sell.And I like to quote these American authorities, because they bear a high testimony, not only to the intelligence, but to the integrity and benevolence of this Company in these transactions. We well know the story, so terrible in the history of American civilization, that civilized people have prevailed upon savages, by giving them intoxicating drinks, to part with such goods and furs as they possessed, and could part with; and at the same time they brutalized these unfortunate savages by the use of rum and brandy, which they thus sold to them. Now, mark what is said by a Lieutenant in the American service,—The Hudson's Bay Company have done every thing possible to prevent such transactions on the part of the agents of their Company with the Indians with whom they are concerned. And although they have in their stores large quantities of rum, they are not permitted to be sold to those savages. When a ship came into Columbia laden with spirits, the Company at once bought the whole cargo, in order to prevent the degradation and demoralization of the Indian character by the immoderate and excessive use of these spirits, which has been the case formerly.We are told by the authority which I am now quoting, that the Hudson's Bay Company did every thing in their power, every thing that was possible, to prevent the infliction of the evils produced by these intoxicating drinks upon the Indians; and that although they have large stores of rum in their settlements they do not permit it to be sold to the savages. Such is the mode in which they carry 190 out their views, that at one time, when a ship arrived in the Columbia river, laden with spirits, they bought the whole cargo, in order effectually to prevent the injury to the Indians which always was produced by the immoderate use of spirits. Such is the high character of the Company—such is the extent of their operations—and such is the spirit in which their operations are carried on. It is stated on good authority that there are 20,000 persons living in the Oregon Territory, and that scarcely 100 of these are citizens of the United States; whilst, on the other hand, the Hudson's Bay Company have many settlements in the territory. I know not what the value of the fur trade may be, but it is obvious that it must be a trade of considerable value. There are other considerations, however, which attach importance to this question. The Columbia is the only port, I believe, on that coast, which is, I believe, a very dangerous coast; whilst, in order to show the extent of the river, it is enough to state that it is 1,600 yards wide, at a distance of 90 miles from the mouth. It is obvious that the increase of trade which must take place between this country and China will render it more important, as that is the only port on that part of the coast. There may be one established near Nootka Sound; but it is not, I believe, approachable, and is surrounded by high mountains; and probably will not for hundreds of years, if even then, be made available. I have now given to the House an account of the transactions which relate to this difficult subject; and the result is, that so far as ancient discovery establishes a claim, England has a superior claim to the United States. With regard to the question of treaty or convention, the United States have no claim whatever; nor have they any claim upon the territory on the ground of settlement, occupancy, or trading, on the part of their subjects. With respect to the question of recent discoveries and occupation, it appears that there was a perfect discovery and possession under the authority and sanction of our Government, and the settlement consequent thereon; and, therefore, it appears to me, that on these grounds also this country has a claim to the Oregon Territory stronger than the United States. Captain Vancouver took possession of the coast, and an officer under his command went many miles up the river; and English subjects belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, going from Canada, are, by their skill and enter- 191 prise, carrying on traffic of great importance in that territory. Sir, having stated in this manner the general nature of these claims, I will now allude to what has been done in the way of negotiation between this country and the United States. What I am going first to allude to is an important negotiation that took place in London, between Mr. Rush, on the part of the United States, and Mr. Huskisson and Sir Stratford Canning, acting under Mr. Canning, on the part of Great Britain. Propositions were made by Mr. Rush, on the part of the United States; and it was then alleged, with reference to a declaration of the President of the United States, that no colonization should thereafter take place on the American Continent. This claim was peremptorily denied by Mr. Canning and Mr. Huskisson. The claim to the whole of the Oregon Territory was as peremptorily denied. At the same time, with a proper appreciation, as I think, of the value of a good understanding between the two countries, Mr. Canning authorized Mr. Huskisson to propose a compromise. A line was agreed to be carried to where the 49th degree of north latitude intersects the Rocky Mountains, and to be carried on beyond that point to a branch of the Columbia River called the M'Gillivray, and thence on to the main stream of the Columbia, and that the river Columbia was then to form the boundary of the territories of the two countries. This was giving a very considerable territory to the United States. It was giving them a valley, watered by a river as large as the Columbia, where it joins the M'Gillivray, called the Willoughby, and all the territory to the south of the Columbia, and between the Columbia and latitude 42, where the British possessions commenced. That extent of territory is described as the most fertile, the best adapted for the cultivation of wheat and other valuable productions. It was proposed by Mr. Canning, that all that country should belong to the United States; but he was not ready to give up the territory or to give up the forts or settlements to the north of the Columbia, which, for the purpose of harbours, were important to the subjects of this country. It appears to me that this proposal was an equitable proposal on the part of Mr. Canning; and that considering the value of the claims which we have, and considering the claims which the United States have, to make the proposal was as fair as they could reasonably expect. It was, however, rejected 192 by the American Government; and it became necessary to renew a convention that had been agreed upon, that both Great Britain and the United States should have power to trade, to occupy, and to settle, without claiming any right of sovereignty in any portion of that territory. Such, Sir, was the state of the question down to the present time; but at the present time we have a new circumstance, a new event upon which the whole question must be finally brought to issue. The President of the United States has made, as I have already read to the House, a peremptory claim to the whole of this territory. He has claimed the whole possession of it for the United States, and has in an unusual manner called upon the people of the United States, with their wives and children, to occupy that territory. That district is becoming, on account of the forts on the river Columbia, more important every year. After that statement of the President of the United States, I consider it impossible that Her Majesty's Government should not endeavour to obtain a speedy solution of this question. I am sure they will feel it impossible to allow the present undefined and unsettled state of relations between the two countries to continue, without incurring great danger that the people of the United States, acting upon the suggestion of the President, may endeavour to disturb British subjects in rights which they hold by virtue of Treaties, and may produce a state of things dangerous to the peace of the two countries. For my own part, I will say, in all moderation, that I am not prepared to affirm that this country ought to put forward any arrogant pretensions. I do not pretend to define—what it belongs to Her Majesty's advisers to define—the diplomatic proposals that should be made. I will not pretend to say what line ought to be laid down; but this I will say, that I do not think we can make any proposal which shall be less than the proposal made by Mr. Canning, with any regard for our own interests, or our own honour. I may be told that it does not matter if this rocky and barren territory should be claimed, or occupied, or taken by the United States. Yes, Sir, but I must say it does matter. It cannot be a matter of indifference, that a large territory to which we have a better and a juster title, should be yielded to what I must call a blustering announcement on the part of the President of the United States. It cannot be a matter of indifference that the 193 communication between that country, west of the Rocky Mountains, and China, the East Indies, and the whole of South America, should be surrendered at once to a Foreign Power; but, above all, it cannot be a matter of indifference, that the tone or the character of England should be lowered in any transaction which we may have to carry on with the United States. With this feeling, then, I beg to thank the House for having listened to the statement which I have very imperfectly made as to the claim which this country possesses to that territory. I should have abstained altogether from entering upon this subject if it had been left to diplomatic negotiation between Lord Aberdeen and Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary of State for the United States. I feel the difficulty, and the objectionable course which I am myself pursuing; but I feel that it is forced upon me, and I feel that I can do what it is quite impossible for any Minister of the Crown to do—satisfy the House and the people of this country as to what are their rights. With this statement, therefore, I leave the matter in the hands of the Government of the country; and I will not express the smallest doubt that in all their proceedings they will duly consult the interests of the country and the honour of the Crown which they serve.
§ Sir R. Peel
said: Sir, I cannot be surprised, and I must say I cannot complain, that the noble Lord should have taken this opportunity of delivering the sentiments which he has expressed on the present occasion. I think the noble Lord has justly defined the limits within which it is wise to introduce in a popular assembly, and pending the negotiation of measures materially affecting the important interests of two great nations—he has justly defined, I say, the rule which Members of Parliament should lay down to themselves in the exercise of their privileges. While negotiations are pending, through the means of persons regularly constituted with a distinct authority for that purpose, unless there be plain reasons for the exercise of their right, it is politic to abstain from the exercise of free discussion in popular assemblies upon topics of this description. It is so easy to excite public feeling in such assemblies, that, unless there be grave and cogent arguments for the contrary course, it is better to leave such matters to the discretion of those who are entrusted with the care of the honour and the interests 194 of the country. But if the noble Lord has felt it his duty to depart from that course, I must say, he is not responsible for any of the consequences that may arise from that deviation. The noble Lord says, and says with truth, that, from the latest accounts, the President of the United States would appear, in this important matter, to have withdrawn it from the cognizance of the authorities to whom, up to a very recent period, it had been entrusted, and to appeal for a decision of the question to other authorities than those to whom the power of its adjustment was entrusted. The noble Lord has truly said that, in speaking of such a subject as this, a Minister of the Crown speaks under an obligation and an engagement from which the noble Lord, as an individual Member of Parliament, is free. I do not think it would be consistent with my duty to follow the noble Lord in a discussion of the grounds which the United States urged in regard to their claim. It would be impossible to do so without expressing, or at least without implying, opinions which I think it more consistent with my duty not to proclaim in this House. I shall only correct the statement of the noble Lord in one particular in which I think he was in error. The noble Lord, in speaking of the propositions made by Mr. Huskisson, under the authority of Mr. Canning, in 1827—[Lord J. Russell had referred, not to 1827, but to 1818]—I do not know whether the noble Lord is aware that the subject was under discussion at a subsequent period, in the year 1827, which discussion was carried on first by Mr. Huskisson, and afterwards by Mr. Grant. The last propoposition, made on the authority of Mr. Canning, was not what the noble Lord supposes. The noble Lord states that the last proposal made by the authority of Mr. Canning was, that a line should be drawn from the point where the 49th parallel of latitude intercepts the Rocky Mountains to a branch of the River Columbia called the M'Gillivray, and should continue down to where that river joins the Columbia and thence to the Pacific. The proposal made by Mr. Canning was, that in addition to this, the United States should have this further advantage—that in the harbour of Juan de Fuca there should be free access for American vessels, and that they should have a certain peninsula, comprising a considerable extent of land to the north 195 of the Columbia river, but that the south of the strait should be ceded in sovereignty to the United States. That was the proposal made by Mr. Huskisson at the instance of Mr. Canning. I think it right to abstain from all further discussion as to the claims of the United States; but I feel it perfectly open to me to inform the House of the present general state of our negotiations with the United States. It may be convenient — at least to some Gentlemen—that I should shortly refer to a statement which I made the other night, in consequence of some observations made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bath. In the Convention of 1819, the Northern Boundary of the United States and of the British possessions was defined. The line was carried to where the 49th degree of latitude intersects the Rocky Mountains. No agreement was made with respect to the country west of the Rocky Mountains; but the Convention of 1819 gave a right of joint occupation, which was to endure for ten years. In the course of the year 1824 and the year 1826, efforts were made by Mr. Canning to come to an amicable adjustment of the respective claims of the United States and this country. Those efforts, conducted under the auspices of men of great ability, were entirely unavailing. The proposals which we made to the United States were rejected by them, and the proposals which they made were rejected by us. At the expiration of the term of ten years the Convention would expire. A new Convention was, therefore, entered into in 1827, which was to be continued in force for a further term of ten years, from the Convention of 1819, with an additional proviso—and this distinguished the more recent Convention from the former one—that the Convention of 1827 was not to be necessarily determined by the lapse of time, but was to continue in force for an indefinite period, each party, however, having the power of terminating it at the end of a year, by giving notice the year before; and in that case the rights of the two parties were not to be prejudiced. That is the agreement under which we are now acting. That is the Convention which determines the relations between this country and the United States, with respect to this territory, which I will call the Oregon Territory. Thinking it of great importance that the causes of future differences should be prevented, 196 by an amicable settlement of the respective claims, Mr. Pakenham, our Minister, was directed to enter into negotiations with the Government of the United States, for the purpose of effecting an amicable adjustment on principles which should be equitable and just to the two countries. Those negotiations were continued during the presidency of Mr. Tyler, and almost to the period when Mr. Pakenham entered upon his duties in the United States; and it may be useful that I should read the notice which was taken of the progress of those negotiations in a Message addressed by the President of the United States to the two Houses of Congress, at so late a period as the 3rd of December, 1844. The then President, Mr. Tyler, on the 3rd of December last, said:—Since the closing of your last Session, a negotiation has been formally entered upon between the Secretary of State, and Her Britannic Majesty's Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary, residing at Washington, relative to the rights of their respective nations in and over the Oregon Territory. That negotiation is still pending. Should it, during your Session, be brought to a definite conclusion, the result will be promptly communicated to Congress. I would, however, again call your attention to the recommendations contained in previous Messages, designed to protect and facilitate emigration to that territory. The establishment of military posts at suitable points upon the extended line of land travel, would enable our citizens to migrate in comparative safety to the fertile regions below the Falls of the Columbia, and make the provisions of the existing Convention for the joint occupation of the territory by subjects of Great Britain and the citizens of the United States more available than heretofore to the latter. These posts would constitute places of rest for the weary emigrant, where he would be sheltered securely against the danger of attack from the Indians, and be enabled to recover from the exhaustion of a long line of travel. Legislative enactments should also be made which would spread over him the ægis of our laws, so as to afford protection to his person and property when he shall have reached his distant home. In this latter respect, the British Government has been much more careful of the interests of such of her people as are to be found in that country, than the United States.That refers to an Act passed by the Imperial Parliament in the year 1821, which Act introduced British laws in this disputed territory.She has made necessary provision for their security and protection against the acts of the viciously disposed and lawless; and her emi- 197 grant reposes in safety under the panoply of the laws. Whatever may be the result of the pending negotiation, such measures are necessary. It will afford me the greatest pleasure to witness a happy and favourable termination to the existing negotiation, upon terms compatible with the public honour; and the best efforts of the Government will continue to be directed to this end.This was the Address delivered to the two Houses of Congress by the late President Tyler, at so late a period as the 3rd of December, 1844. I think the general spirit of this Message must show a sincere desire to obtain an amicable adjustment of the claims by means of negotiation; but at a later period than the 3rd of December, a Motion was made in Congress for an Address to the Executive Government, praying that all Papers relating to the negotiations might be laid upon the Table of the House. It was necessary for Mr. Tyler to reply to that Motion, which he did at so late a date as the 19th of February, 1845, about a fortnight before the Inaugural Speech made by the present President, to which the noble Lord has referred; find what was the answer given by Mr. Tyler? It is as follows:—TO THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES.In answer to the Resolution of the Senate of the 11th of December, 1844, requesting the President to lay before the Senate, if in his judgment that may be done without prejudice to the public interests, a copy of any instructions which may have been given by the Executive to the American Minister in England, on the subject of the title to and occupation of the territory of Oregon, since the 4th day of March, 1841; also a copy of any correspondence which may have passed between this Government and that of Great Britain, or between either of the two Governments and the Minister of the other, in relation to that subject since that time—I have to say, that in my opinion, as the negotiation is still pending, the information sought for cannot be communicated without prejudice to the public service. I deem it, however, proper to add, that considerable progress has been made in the discussion, which has been carried on in a very amicable spirit between the two Governments; and that there is reason to hope that it may be terminated, and the negotiation be brought to a close within a short period. I have delayed answering the Resolution under the expectation expressed in my Annual Message, that the negotiation would have been terminated before the close of the present Session of Congress, and that the information called for by the Resolution of the Senate might be communicated. "JOHN TYLER.Washington, Feb. 19, 1845.198 I am bound to confirm this statement so far as relates to the amicable spirit of the negotiation. I cannot confirm it as to the progress of the negotiation, and the prospect of its speedy termination; but nothing could be more friendly than the spirit in which the late President declined to give the information required. On the 4th of March, 1845, the present President of the United States made that Inaugural Address to which the noble Lord has referred. It is right to state that since that Inaugural Address we have had no communication from our Minister in the United States. He wrote a letter transmitting the Address, but had not time to make any comment upon it. No diplomatic negotiations have taken place between him and the present Government of the United States that we are aware of. When I say that no such negotiation has taken place, I do not mean up to the present time, but at the date of the last accounts. We have had no direct communication; but I think it highly probable that Mr. Pakenham would have continued with the present Government the negotiations that were in progress; but since the resignation of Mr. Calhoun and the appointment of Mr. Buchanan as Secretary of State, we have had no communication. All we know is what is contained in the President's Address. I think it highly probable, as I have said, that the negotiations have been renewed, or rather continued, by Mr. Pakenham. At no distant period the result of that renewed negotiation must be known. I think it my duty not to despair of a favourable result of the negotiation; but in case there should be an unfavourable result, if the measure which we have already proposed should be rejected, and if no counter proposals should be made by the United States which are likely to lead to an amicable adjustment of these differences—if that should be the issue, it will then be the duty of the Government to lay upon the Table of the House all the communications that have taken place. I trust, however, still, that that will not be the case; I still hope that an amicable adjustment of the claims of the two countries may be made, notwithstanding the last Address of the President. I must, however, express my deep regret that while the negotiations were pending, the chief Executive Authority of the United States should, in a public Address, contrary to all 199 usage, have referred to other contingencies than a friendly and satisfactory termination of these differences. Such a reference is not likely to lead to that issue which may tend to the maintenance of the amicable relations between the two countries which we desire to see—namely, an amicable, honourable, and equitable settlement of the differences which have arisen respecting this territory. I deeply regret, not only the reference which was so made, but I deeply regret the tone and temper in which that reference was made. As the subject has been brought under discussion — I think not improperly by the noble Lord—I feel it my imperative duty, on the part of the British Government, to state in language the most temperate, but, at the same time, the most decided, that we consider we have rights respecting this territory of Oregon which are clear and unquestionable. We trust still to arrive at an amicable adjustment—we desire to effect an amicable adjustment of our claim; but having exhausted every effort to effect that settlement, if our rights shall be invaded, we are resolved—and we are prepared—to maintain them. Perhaps that declaration may induce the House—although each individual Member has a right to participate in a discussion with reference to a public question—to abstain from a discussion in a popular assembly. Such, although it be a matter of right, might have a tendency to prevent that result which we must all desire—a satisfactory adjustment of the question; and I trust individual Members will be content to leave the matter where it is placed, in the hands of Her Majesty's Government.
§ Lord John Russell
said, he had not been aware of the more recent proposals of Mr. Canning, to which the right hon. Baronet adverted, otherwise he should not have omitted to notice them. After what the right hon. Gentlemen had said, he should leave the matter where it was. He had made no Motion—he had carefully abstained from making any Motion; and after what the right hon. Gentleman had stated, he should abstain from making any Motion until the Government were prepared to communicate the necessary information to the House.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said: Sir, I quite agree with the the right hon. Baronet that it would not be now expedient for Members of this House to pursue the sub- 200 ject further; but I wish to avail myself of this opportunity to state, with reference to what has passed in an earlier part of the evening, that, looking at the quotations that had been made by a noble Lord in another place, as I understand from Despatches which I myself placed on the Table in connexion with the negotiations on the Boundary Question, I am inclined to think that when the right hon. Baronet looks into them he will find that the noble Lord has quoted nothing but what he was perfectly justified in quoting. After the manner in which things which I have said in debate have been elsewhere alluded to, I might perhaps take advantage of this opportunity to answer what has been said elsewhere. I shall only say with regard to the observations that have been made upon statements and arguments of mine on the Boundary Question and the Ashburton Negotiation, nothing which has been said in another place appears to me to contain any answer to the detailed arguments which I, nearly two years ago, addressed to this House, and to the despatches which have been laid before the two Houses of Parliament; and the opinions which I expressed and entertained have been in no degree invalidated. It is true that the late Government adopted the award of the King of the Netherlands. They did so because they thought it a point of honour to abide by his decision. It is quite true, also, that it was less advantageous to the country than the proposal which we afterwards made for dividing the disputed territory into two. It is true that it would have left to the Americans the territory south of the St. John; but we did not stand on the ground that such cession ought not, under any circumstances, to be made, but our negotiator had said that it would be cruel and unjust to make the cession without the consent of the inhabitants. The Americans had said that the river was the natural boundary; but he afterwards, in reference to another portion of the territory, did not stand upon the river, but consented to go beyond it in deference to their wishes. It has been said in another place that my arguments were at variance with my acts; but if any one will take the trouble of referring to what I said, he will find that I refuted all the arguments founded upon that assumption. Objections have also been taken to the manner in which I have stated my views 201 on this subject. I trust that on every occasion when it has been my duty to state my opinions to the House, I have always abstained as much as circumstances would permit from any personal attack upon any individual; but if individuals choose to accept great and important public functions, they must expect that their public conduct and their public acts will be liable to such observations as any one may think it his duty to make. And I can only say, when observations are made by persons who, in my opinion, have in the discharge of great important public trusts, from whatever motive it may have arisen—whether it be from natural incapacity, or from opinions—speculative opinions—inconsistent with the duties they have to perform, whenever such persons sacrifice the honour or the interest of this country, it will be a matter of entire indifference to me in what manner such individuals may speak of any strictures I feel it my duty to make upon them. I never feel any concern if I find the opinions of these persons, upon great political questions, at variance with my own. I am, Sir, rather inclined to think that where they do differ from me, it is a presumption of my view being the correct one.