HC Deb 06 August 1869 vol 198 cc1440-2

VISCOUNT MILTON, in putting to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs the Question of which he had given notice upon this subject, said, that the information which he desired to obtain on a former occasion had been refused, however, courteously. This was not the only instance of a similar refusal. It was a singular fact that every Paper he had asked for on this subject had been refused. This made him think that there were other reasons than a simple desire to refuse that lay at the bottom of these denials.' He was well aware of the importance of this question. He had watched it for years, and he had come to the conclusion that there was an intention on the part of the Government to give up some part of our possessions in America in compensation for the Alabama claims. He therefore felt that he should hardly be doing his duty if he did not ask what were the intentions of the Government? and he asked that question now, because if he delayed till next Session he knew he should probably be told that it would be better not to disturb the negotiations that were going on. But now no negotiations were going on. He wished, therefore, to know what was going to be done by the British Government with the island of San Juan and the group of islands connected with it? He desired to receive from the Under Secretary of State an explicit assurance that no concessions would be made as to the water boundary, which so vitally affected, not only Vancouver's Island and British Columbia, but the future of Canada as a whole. The information hitherto put before the House as to the correspondence was very much in the nature of cooked accounts, for the very Papers which he had asked for two years ago, and which wore then refused to the House of Commons, were now in the possession of Congress. 350 pages of printed matter would not contain all the correspondence which had passed between the two Governments on this boundary question; whereas, during the last ten years, not fifty pages of printed matter relating to it had been vouchsafed to Parliament. The noble Viscount concluded by asking the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, whether he will afford an assurance to the House that no arrangements will be entered into by the Government which can in any way prejudge the question of the land or water boundaries between the British possessions and the United States, until the whole correspondence upon these subjects has been laid upon the table of the House.


said, that the House had not unwisely signified more than once its desire that there should be no discussion at the present moment of questions in controversy between the Government of this country and that of the United States; but he hoped, by a very few words, to relieve the anxiety felt by his noble Friend. There was no mystery in this matter, as he supposed; it was one of extreme simplicity. The land boundary and the water boundary formed not one, but two distinct questions occupying different positions. The land boundary question was settled. Mr. Campbell, on the part of the United States, and Colonel Hawkins, a distintinguished officer of Engineers, on the part of this country, had traced the line of that boundary, the maps had been drawn up, compared, and certified, and that question was at an end. As to the water boundary, a difference of opinion had arisen between the Commissioners, as his noble Friend was aware. In 1860, Lord Russell, then Foreign Minister for this country, proposed that the matter, if it could not be settled in any other way, should be referred to arbitration; and the United States agreed to that proposition. The civil war, however, supervened, and no effect was given to that agreement, nor were further steps taken till October of last year. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) signed a Protocol under which the subject was to be referred to arbitration, and that Protocol Lord Clarendon converted into a Convention, which was now awaiting the ratification of the Senate, which would meet in December next. Under these circumstances, it was impossible for him to give the assurance asked for by the noble Viscount, because the matter had passed for the present out of the hands of the British Government, and rested entirely in those of the Senate of the United States.

Motion, "That this House will, at the rising of the House this day, adjourn till Monday next," by leave, withdrawn.