HC Deb 03 March 1845 vol 78 cc235-7
Mr. Roebuck

wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Robert Feel) a question, of which he had given notice. The subject was the negotiation now going on between this country and the United States relative to the Oregon Territory. He wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman had any objection, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to lay the negotiation, as far as it had proceeded, before the House. The reason which induced him to ask that question was to be found in the present state of circumstances in the United States with regard to this very question. He did not desire to cast any slur on the conduct of a great nation like the United States, or use any language which might excite angry feelings; but it could not be unknown to the right hon. Gentleman—for it was known to all the world—that a Bill had already passed the House of Representatives with regard to the Oregon Territory. He always considered that the Oregon Territory, which had been already the subject of so much dispute, was yet to be considered as a matter on which no settlement had been made, in fact that it was an open question. A Bill, however, had passed the House of Representatives, in order to make the Oregon what was called a Territory. British interests were quite safe in the hands of Mr. Pakenham, who had hitherto conducted the negotiations; but it seemed extraordinary that such a course had been taken by the House of Representatives. This country was not accustomed to bluster, but it must be apparent to all that this was a proceeding not to be submitted to quietly. If it arose out of the weakness of the Executive Government in the United States; if the Senate passed the Bill, and if the President, also, gave it his sanction—not being prepared to oppose the two Houses—it was fit that the people of this country should know what was the precise footing on which Great Britain stood with the United States. The law for taking possession of the Territory had certainly passed one branch of the Legislature; and if we took no steps to counteract what had been done, our national rights might be infringed, and the rights of individuals invaded. This country ought to have declared that the United States had no pretext for going westward of the Rocky Mountains. Negotiations on the subject had been commenced, and he (Mr. Roebuck) trusted that the United States would be called upon to show the ground of her claim to any territory westward of the Rocky Mountains. She had no right to cross the Rocky Mountains at all. He wished to know if Ministers intended to leave Parliament entirely in the dark upon this important question, regarding which one branch of the Legislature of the United States had proceeded hastily.

Sir R. Peel

said, the hon. Member had correctly stated the nature of the Convention between Great Britain and the United Slates. It was passed in 1818, and was intended to last ten years, and it enabled each party jointly to occupy. It was renewed in 1827, was to expire in 1838, but it was provided also that neither party was to terminate the arrangement without giving a year's notice. With regard to the question with which the hon. Member had concluded, he had to remark that, as the negotiations of this country with the Executive Government of the United States had not yet been brought to a close, he did not think it consistent, with his duty to lay the correspondence before Parliament. The hon. Member would be aware that our negotiations were not with the House of Representatives, but with the Executive Government of the United States. Certainly nothing could be more unseemly than to bluster; but while he refrained from any expressions of the kind it was not to be supposed that the British Government was not duly sensible of the importance of the question.