§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON,
in rising to call attention to the nature of the reference to the Treaty of 1846, which, under the Washington Treaty, was submitted together with the North West Water Boundary Question to the Emperor of Germany for decision, regretted that the forms of the House 1427 would not permit him to move the Resolution which stood in his name, still he had the power to call the attention of the House to the Motion of which he had given Notice—That this House, whilst approving of the principle of arbitration, regrets that Her Majesty's Government allowed, upon that part of the Oregon Treaty referred to the Emperor of Germany for decision, a limited interpretation to be placed which was fatal to the just claims of the British Empire.His Resolution was couched in strong terms—firstly, because he had grounds to justify such terms; and secondly, because he had been rebuked last night by the Prime Minister for shutting the door of repentance upon Members of Her Majesty's Government. He admitted that the rebuke was justified, but by this Motion he had given the opportunity for political penance, and had made the best reparation it was in his power to offer, for it opened the door sufficiently wide to take in the Prime Minister and the whole of his Cabinet. He wished to call attention to that part of the Washington Treaty which had never yet been discussed, by which a certain part of the Oregon Treaty was referred to the Emperor of Germany, with the result of handing over islands, the right to which had been disputed for upwards of 25 years. He did not question the decision of the Emperor, for with Papers laid before him he did not think it was possible for His Majesty to have come to any other decision, and the course which the Emperor had pursued in giving his decision without reasons was a course which might have been adopted with advantage by his brother Arbitrators at Geneva. He did not wish to blame either the American or English Commissioners, for the American Commissioners had done the best they could for their country, while the English Government had throughout directed the English Commissioners, and were evidently satisfied with the Treaty by the honours they had showered upon them. There had been long disputes concerning the proper boundary west of the Rocky Mountains, and various attempts were made to settle it, but without success. The question became somewhat pressing, as disputes were constantly taking place between the settlers of the two nations. In 1841 the British Government were anxious to have the question settled, and 1428 in 1843 began a negotiation which lasted three years, till in 1846 the Oregon Treaty was signed. That Treaty contained an Article to the effect that the BoundaryShould be continued westward along the said forty-ninth parallel of north latitude to the middle of the Channel which separated the Continent from Vancouver's Island, and thence southerly, through the middle of the said Channel and of Fuca's Straits to the Pacific Ocean; provided, however, that the navigation of the whole of the said Channel and Straits south of the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude remain free and open to both parties.That Treaty had not been very long in existence, however, before it became evident that there was an ambiguity in part of the description of the Water Boundary, and that a dispute would arise as to the interpretation of the term "middle of the channel," there being three between Vancouver's Island and the Continent. In the Case laid before the Emperor of Germany there was, perhaps, an insinuation, and it would be something more than an insinuation, that Her Majesty's Government had not behaved in good faith; that they had, at the time the Treaty was negotiated, accepted that interpretation of the Treaty which was held by the American Government; that they allowed that interpretation to pass unchallenged for two years, and when they asserted that the Rosario Straits was the true channel indicated by the Treaty, the American Government was taken by surprise. But it was beyond all doubt that in 1846, the year when the Treaty was signed, the ambiguity in the Treaty had been discovered; and in 1848 Lord Palmerston, having succeeded Lord Aberdeen at the Foreign Office, wrote to the English Minister at Washington to lay before the American Government the views of Her Majesty's Government regarding the disputed point. Indeed, in 1846, Mr. Bancroft wrote to Mr. Buchanan that he had caused a traced copy of Wilkes's Chart of the Straits of Haro to be made, because it had been intimated to him that questions might arise with regard to the islands east of the Strait, and he asked for authority to meet such a claim on the threshold by the assertion that the central channel of the Straits of Haro was the main channel intended by the Treaty. Nothing further was done until 1856, when a joint Commission to thoroughly survey the region was ap- 1429 pointed, and it was in consequence of their labours that we now had the information regarding the district which we now possessed. In 1859 Lord John Russell, who was then at the head of the Foreign Office, endeavoured to settle the dispute as to the true channel. Lord John Russell wrote to Lord Lyons at Washington, but previous to doing so he consulted Lord Aberdeen and Sir Richard Pakenham, the two negotiators of the Treaty, and they had a distinct recollection of the tenor of the conversation during the negotiation, and declared that it was the intention of the Treaty to adopt the mid-channel of the straits. Lord John Russell, having obtained the opinion of these two distinguished men, wrote to Lord Lyons, our representative at Washington, to the effect that it was the intention of the Treaty to adopt the mid-channel of the Straits as the line of demarcation, without any reference to islands, the position and indeed the very existence of which had scarcely, at that time, been accurately ascertained. Particular importance was attached at that time to one island of the group, San Juan, and Lord John Russell in his despatch to Washington stated the interests involved in its retention by the British Crown to be so important that no settlement would be accepted which did not reserve it to England. Lord Granville, speaking after we had lost the island, had declared its importance enormously overrated; but he believed Lord John Russell's view was the accurate one. Lord John Russell's proposal to refer the construction of the Treaty to an Arbitrator, who, if unable to ascertain the precise line intended, should lay down an equitable boundary, was not successful. In 1869 a similar proposal formed part of the Clarendon-Johnson Convention, but the American Senate refused to ratify that Convention, although they did not object to the San Juan Convention contained in it. It was thus plain that Lord John Russell, Lord Palmerston, Lord Aberdeen, Lord Clarendon, and Lord Stanley had all suggested one mode of dealing with the dispute, and that was that the dispute should be referred in its entirety to arbitration, and that the Arbitrator should be allowed to place upon the clause his own interpretation. At the time of the Treaty the Rosario Straits alone was the navi- 1430 gable channel between Vancouver's Island and the main land. In 1871 Her Majesty's Government appointed the Commission, who proceeded to Washington to settle this, amongst other differences, between England and America. There were three questions which would have to be decided by the Arbitrator. The first was—Did the word "channel," as stated by Lord Aberdeen and Sir Richard Pakenham, mean the whole intervening space between Vancouver's Island and the main land? second—If the answer was in the negative, what specific channel did the Treaty indicate? and third—Was the navigation of the whole of the space between Vancouver's Island and the main land to be free and navigable to both parties, or only the navigation of that specific channel down which the boundary line might be drawn? The American Commissioners and the English Commissioners had several skirmishes in the Conferences, and the American Commissioners suggested at last that it should be referred to arbitration to determine whether the line of demarcation should pass through the Rosario Straits or Haro Straits. The British Commissioners then proposed that the Arbitrator should have the right to draw the Boundary through the intermediate channel, but the American Commissioners objected, and the objection was accepted. The English Commissioners next proposed that all channels were to be open. The American Commissioners objected, and their objection was accepted. Thus, out of the three questions which had to be referred to arbitration, the American Commissioners were allowed to place their own interpretation upon two. He now came to the essence of the whole question—What were the chances of the Rosario Channel as against the Hare Channel? He thought it was an absolute certainty on the Ham Channel. In almost every dispute there was some one point upon which the disputants agreed. The English and American negotiators agreed upon one point—namely, that the Rosario Channel was not the channel indicated by the Treaty. That it was the channel indicated by the Treaty was the one point which the ingenuity of the Government selected to refer to arbitration, and upon which to base the English case, and with what success 1431 might be imagined. But that was not all. There was only one man in England who, by his official action, had admitted that the claim to the Rosario Straits could not be substantiated. That man was Admiral Prevost, and he was selected to lay our case, which he had himself repudiated, before the Arbitrator. He was a living protest to every argument he offered. That having been so, the state of things was this—that the British Government asked the Arbitrator to adopt a channel, when their own Commissioner had agreed that the claim to that channel could not be supported. He quite agreed that concessions should be made where necessary, but then they should be made in the form of concessions; but the Government acted upon the give-all and take-nothing principle, which for the sake of euphemism they called arbitration. They referred the one untenable point, having abandoned the other at the dictation of the American Commissioners. Were the Government really in earnest in urging our claims? He should be sorry to say that they were not, but really the whole transaction exhibited a wonderful incapacity to negotiate. He believed that our loss of these islands was caused by this—that the Government was determined to have a Treaty, and the Americans very soon found out that determination, and the more anxious the Government were for a Treaty, the more determined the Americans were to have from us as much as they could get. The consequence was, that the unfortunate British Commissioners sent to Washington became the shuttlecocks between two battledores; where as, if they had been properly backed up in the first instance, a different result might have been obtained. But the transaction was finished, and we had lost these islands. He might be told that the Government had a very difficult case to deal with, and had made the best of a bad job, but he did not believe they could possibly have lost more than they had lost; and indeed, if they had accepted the proposals of the American Commissioners themselves, this country would have been in a better position. It might be said that the Government of 1846 or Lord Aberdeen was in fault, but, unfortunately, the Government did not accept the opinion of Lord Aberdeen, who negotiated the Treaty. It might be wrong to negotiate a Boun- 1432 dary Treaty where they were unacquainted with the country through which the Boundary was to run; but if that were so, was it right on the part of the Government to negotiate the Central Asian Treaty? He might be asked what was the object of his Motion, when the thing had been already done; but his reply was, that the object which he sought was to elicit the expression of a strong opinion from the House and the country, such as would render it impossible for any Government to negotiate such another Boundary Treaty. It would have been infinitely better, if we had no claim to those islands, to have plainly and honourably said, like Englishmen, that their predecessors had advanced pretensions which could not be sustained, and they would therefore abandon them. If it was necessary to make concessions, the Government ought to have taken the responsibility of making them; but he objected to questions being referred to arbitration which those who referred them knew must be decided against them. By the action of the Government the Dominion of Canada, with its great possessions upon the Pacific, would have only one channel by which they could have access to these territories, and that a channel commanded by a foreign Power who if they chose to fortify it, could render it impassable to merchant vessels in time of war. It might be said that arbitration would conciliate, but the Treaty had failed to conciliate the American people, or that portion of them who were always hostile to England, and it appeared that the first act of the United States after obtaining these islands was to fortify them. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. Harcourt) had pointed out recently that international law was to a certain extent based upon precedent, and if these transactions were allowed to pass without comment, they would form precedents for the future. He did not believe that if the affairs of England were properly conducted, a war with America was at all probable; but if anything could bring about such a collision it was a negotiation such as he had described, which was calculated to produce nothing but contempt on the one hand, and indignation on the other. That being so, his object was, by his Resolution, which, owing to the Rules of the House he was unable to place formally before it, to prevent the possibility 1433 of any English statesman appealing to such a transaction as that to which he had called attention as a precedent. He asked the House to consider fairly and impartially the statement which he had made. A proposal had been made to limit the power of the Crown to negotiate Treaties without the sanction of Parliament and the only answer to that was, that the Government of the day negotiated Treaties upon their own responsibility, and that the House of Commons would not permit national interests to be sacrificed by them. If he should succeed in eliciting so strong an expression of opinion as effectually to deter this or any other Government, who either from incapacity or from opinions inconsistent with the duties they had to perform, might feel inclined to enter into negotiations such as he had described, from doing so, then he hoped that the House would consider that the time which he had occupied had not been wasted.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he was very glad his noble Friend the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) had brought forward the question, not only because he had made a most interesting and able statement on a very important matter, but because it gave them another opportunity of reviewing the foreign policy of the Government. It was much to be lamented that the House of Commons had so seldom an opportunity of discussing the foreign policy of Ministers until it was too late to do any good. It was so in this instance. The noble Lord the Under Secretary of State would tell them that night, it was a fait accompli; that there was nothing more to be done, the matter having been settled by arbitration; while if they attempted to bring a question forward before negotiations were concluded, they would be told it was objectionable to do so, and might cause serious obstruction in the way of a satisfactory settlement. That was the case in the dispute in the matter of the Suez Canal which he had brought under the notice of the House, upon which he was told that when the negotiations were concluded the Papers would be presented, and that they could discuss the whole subject. The foreign policy of the Government since Lord Granville had been appointed Foreign Minister had been entirely opposed to that pursued by Lord Aberdeen, Lord John 1434 Russell, Lord Palmerston, and Lord Stanley. It was a policy of concession and humiliation, distinguished by the absence of all generous and noble principles. Two years since Lord Granville had sacrificed all the advantages we derived front our terrible war with Russia by giving up the Black Sea; and now, contrary to the whole course of our foreign policy, Russia was permitted to advance her frontier in the East some 400 or 500 miles. With reference to the question before the House, the Protocols showed that the British Commissioners were sensible of the importance not of the Haro Channel, but of the middle channel, and proposed its adoption; and yet in the face of that the Government, in referring the question to the Emperor of Germany, put out of view the middle channel, and limited his power to deciding between the Rosario Channel and the Haro Channel. After the principles which the Government had laid down for the interpretation of Treaties, it was incredible how they could have referred this matter on the terms they did to the Emperor of Germany. He was sorry to repeat that the foreign policy of the Government since Lord Granville came into office had been a policy of concession and humiliation. That House might be indifferent to it, but out-of-doors nothing had tended to render the Government more unpopular than the foreign policy which they had pursued. They felt that for the sake of preserving peace, this country, as represented by Lord Granville, would submit to any amount of humiliation. He never could read the language in which the Washington Treaty was drawn without feeling indignant and humiliated that their policy had been guided by such an absence of generous and noble principle. When the Emperor of Germany gave a decision adverse to them, one would have imagined that Lord Granville would have felt something of humiliation and regret. But the more Lord Granville was ill-treated the more it appeared that Lord Granville in his foreign policy resembled those people who were said to like those who ill-treated them. In the case of some English ships sunk in the Seine, Lord Granville wrote to the German Government, acknowledging with the most intense gratitude their condescension in paying compensation to the owners, and with regard to this ques- 1435 tion of the San Juan Arbitration, the Foreign Secretary wrote to Lord Odo Russell to convey to His Imperial Majesty the thanks of Her Majesty's Government for the friendly motives which had induced him to undertake the task of Arbitrator, and they added their sincere regret for the labour entailed upon His Majesty. If the decision had been in their favour Lord Granville could not have evinced more gratitude. They gained nothing by all this humiliation, and he had heard an American very recently say—"We can kick you now as much as we like; you will never fight." And then the noble Lord opposite, no doubt in obedience to instructions, wrote out to America urging that there should be no delay in withdrawing our troops from San Juan. It never occurred to Lord Granville that we had been done in the matter. Mr. Dallas, who was Governor in 1860, when the United States' General attempted to take possession of the Island of San Juan, wrote as follows:—It was reasonable for us to propose to the American Government to settle the matter by proposing the middle channel as the boundary, and it was quite open to the latter to decline it, as was done. It is, however, inexplicable why, when the Americans refused to entertain the idea of the middle channel at all, we agreed to exclude its consideration, thus virtually abandoning the Treaty by which we both were bound. We could not have played our cards better to play the American game, and we have been be-fooled to our heart's content. It is to be regretted that our Government in such matters does not ask the advice of leading merchants. Neither I, nor any of my acquaintances have been asked to give an opinion on a subject we know so well, nor was Admiral Richards, the hydrographer to the Admiralty, consulted.Now, he wanted to know, if we were right and wise in maintaining our position in 1846, why had we changed our policy? He hoped the House of Commons would be more in accord with the country for the future than it had been by paying more attention to these questions. He was certain that the policy of Her Majesty's Government with regard to them was thoroughly unpopular, and when the General Election came, he believed the opinion of the country, adverse to the Government as it was at present, would be rendered still more adverse in consequence of their foreign policy.
§ VISCOUNT ENFIELD
said; before he came to the question immediately before the House, he must make a few obser- 1436 vations in reply to the strictures of his hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Baillie Cochrane). His hon. Friend, referring to the Suez Canal, told the House that if a discussion on the subject were raised he (Viscount Enfield) might say that the time was gone by and that it was now too late. But his hon. Friend should remember that about three weeks ago he offered the best explanation he could give to the House, and his hon. Friend paid him the compliment of saying that those explanations were far more satisfactory than he had expected.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, the noble Lord had then stated that the question would be decided, and the Papers presented immediately, but they had not yet been produced.
§ VISCOUNT ENFIELD
said, he could not possibly have said that the Papers would be ready immediately, because negotiations of much delicacy were proceeding at the time, and until they were completed the necessary information could not be given to Parliament. His hon. Friend attacked Lord Granville for what he had done in the case of some ships that had been sunk in the Seine. What were the facts? As soon as the circumstances of the case were brought to the notice of the German Government, they expressed their regret for what had been done, and promised any compensation which might be considered satisfactory, and they kept their word. His hon. Friend thought it very extraordinary that a letter should have been written by the Foreign Office to the German Government expressing our thanks for what they had done but in writing the letter we had done nothing but what was usual according to the comity observed among nations. Then with respect to the German Emperor, we had done nothing but what we were bound in duty to do, when we expressed thanks to His Majesty for having undertaken and discharged so laborious a task, and a precedent would be found in a previous case in which the late King of the Belgians had acted as arbiter, and had received the thanks of this country for undertaking such duties. But surely there was no humiliation whatever in returning thanks where, as in this case, they were justly due? Referring to the matter more immediately before the House, he regretted that his noble Friend 1437 and Colleague (Lord George Hamilton) in the latter part of his speech had so entirely denounced the principle of arbitration as a means of settling disputes between nations. He had hoped, from the wording of his Motion, that the noble Lord was of opinion that arbitration was in certain cases wise. He could have understood exception being taken to the terms of reference, but thought the desirability of arbitration was now beyond question. Still, no one could have listened to the noble Lord with more pleasure than he had, considering the terms of friendship subsisting between them. He was afraid it would be necessary to follow the noble Lord in the history of the case, and even to go a little further back than he had, because he wished to show that this north-western boundary question had always been a subject of great difficulty and intricacy. Nothing could be more protracted and intricate than the negotiations relating to Oregon Territory; they dated from the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, by which France restored to England the Hudson's Bay Territory. The Treaty between England, France, and Spain in 1763 further defined boundaries between French and British possessions; and the Treaty between Great Britain and the United States of 1783 agreed that the Western Boundary of the United States should be defined by a lineDrawn from the most North-Western point of the Lake of the Woods, and from thence on a due west course to the River Mississippi, until it should intersect the northernmost part of the 31st degree of north latitude.By another Treaty in 1764, France ceded to Spain the Colony of Louisiana; Spain retroceded that Colony to France in 1800, and France sold it in 1803 to the United States for 60,000 francs. The boundary question now began between Great Britain and the United States. Up to that time, they had not been contiguous in the north-west; but in 1806 a Convention was signed recognizing the 49th parallel as the boundary west from the Lake of the WoodsAs far as the territories of the United States extend in that quarter, provided that nothing in the present Article shall be construed to extend to the North-west Coast of America, or to the territories belonging to or claimed by either party on the Continent of America to the west of the Stony Mountains.1438 That Convention was not ratified, but it showed the origin of the boundary of the 49th parallel. The Oregon country was at that time almost unknown, and the boundaries between Louisiana and the Hudson's Bay Company had never been defined. The British Government held that America could not claim north of the 40th parallel, and Americans contended that they might draw a line from the most north-western point on the Lake of the Woods claimed to be on the 50th parallel. The Treaty of Peace of 1814 appointed Commissioners to settle the position of the Lake of the Woods, but to decide nothing about territory westward. The Treaty of 1818, however, accomplished that. By Article III. it was agreed that any country that might be claimed by either party on the north-west coast of America, westward of the Stony Mountains, should, together with its harbours, bays, and creeks, and the navigation of all rivers within the same, be free and open for the term of ten years without prejudice. That term of ten years was extended indefinitely by the Treaty of 1827, but each party had power to close the arrangement by giving 12 months' notice. In 1819 Spain ceded Florida to the United States, thereby ceding all her "rights, claims, and pretensions" to the territories lying north of the 42nd parallel. By the Treaty of 1790 Great Britain and Spain had agreed that the Pacific Fisheries should be open to both parties, and that settlements made on unoccupied territories should be respected. This Treaty of 1819 introduced a further question. America contended that under it they were entitled to all territory north of the 49th parallel up to the parallel 54.40 degrees of the Russian frontier on the west coast. He would not weary the House by quoting subsequent negotiations, which were to be found described in the second British statement at Berlin, presented to Parliament this year. Taking up the thread of the narrative in 1845, he stated that the British Government then proposed arbitration, which was refused, and Lord Aberdeen's despatch showed how dangerously near war the discussion approached on that occasion. The United States offered to agree to the 49th parallel, with free ports to Great Britain south of it in Vancouver's Island. That was not accepted, and the offer was withdrawn. In 1846 Congress 1439 gave notice for the termination of the Treaties of 1818 and 1827, but before that Lord Aberdeen had instructed Mr. (afterwards Sir Richard) Pakenham, at Washington, to accept the principle of the 49th parallel; he also sent out a draft Treaty. On the 18th of May, 1846, Mr. M'Lane, the American minister here, reported a conversation with Lord Aberdeen, and understood him to say that instructions would be sent out to our Minister at Washington, but his Report differed from the actual instructions. But, unfortunately, two days after this Sir Henry Pelly, Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, reported to Lord Aberdeen in favour of the route of Vancouver in 1792 as the boundary. In December, 1846, Mr. Buchanan reported in the same sense to Mr. Bancroft, and in 1848 the British Government proposed a line to be drawn through a channel marked in Vancouver's chart as one though which he had sailed, but that was demurred to. In July, 1848, Mr. Bancroft wrote to Lord Palmerston naming the Canal de Arro, and in November, 1848, that was again repeated. In 1856 the proposal for the Vancouver route was renewed by the British Government and declined, but a Commission was proposed, which, however, did not meet till 1857. Admiral Prevost was of opinion that the Rosario Strait must be the channel through which the boundary line should pass; but seeing that there was no probability of its being accepted, he made a counter proposition of the Douglas Channel. In 1859 Lord Russell, writing to Lord Lyons, who was at that time our Minister at Washington, said—It may be proper, however, that you should make the Government of the United States understand that this proposal of compromise that you are thus instructed to lay before them is made without prejudice to the claim which Her Majesty's Government consider themselves justified in maintaining to the Rosario Channel as the true boundary between Her Majesty's Possessions and those of the United States. They offer this compromise in the hope that its acceptance by the Government of the United States may obviate any further discussion on the subject; but if it is rejected they reserve to themselves the right to fall back on their original claim to its full extent.Lord Russell in his despatch used certain expressions which were not very palatable to the United States' Government, and nothing came of his proposal. 1440 General Harney's descent on the island in 1859 led to a joint occupation, and to further delay in the settlement of the question. In November, 1870, arbitration was mooted, and Lord Russell wrote to Lord Lyons—It appears to Her Majesty's Government that the argument on both sides being nearly exhausted, and neither party having succeeded in producing conviction in the other, the question can only be settled by arbitration. Three questions would arise thereupon:—1. What is to be the subject-matter of arbitration? 2. Who is to be the arbiter? 3. What is to be the result of the decision of the arbiter? With regard to the first point, Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that the question or questions to be referred should be—What is the true meaning of the words relating to the Water Boundary contained in Article I. of the Treaty of June 15, 1846? Or, if the precise line intended cannot be ascertained, is there any line which will furnish an equitable solution of the difficulty; and which is the nearest approximation that can be made to an accurate construction of the words of the Treaty?It would be seen that Lord Russell never abandoned what he conceived to be the just claim of England to the Rosario Channel. The President referred his proposal to the Senate, and the Committee of Foreign Relations proposed a reference of the existing dispute "to the arbitration of a friendly Power, with authority to determine the line according to the provisions of the Treaty of June 15, 1846, but without authority to establish any line but that provided for in the Treaty." Nothing, however, was done. The Civil War absorbed attention. In the Protocol signed by Lord Stanley with Mr. Reverdy-Johnson in October, 1868, and in the Clarendon-Johnson Treaty of January, 1869, the question was again mooted; but the Treaty never obtained the sanction of the Senate, and matters remained in abeyance till 1871, when the Commissioners met at Washington. The noble Lord and the hon. Member (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) were somewhat severe upon the Commissioners, and the noble Lord had spoken disparagingly of their ability.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
denied that he had reflected in the least upon their ability. What he had said was that the Commissioners were guided by the Government.
§ VISCOUNT ENFIELD
at once accepted with pleasure the noble Lord's assurance with regard to the Commissioners. From the first they had pressed for the same end, as had been sought for by all our 1441 other negotiators. They always maintained that Great Britain was fairly entitled to the Rosario Channel. The British Commissioners proposed that the Arbitrator should have the right to draw the boundary through an intermediate channel. The American Commissioners declined this proposal, stating that they desired a decision, not a compromise. It might be stated that no channel should have been mentioned; but in that case the Arbitrator might have drawn the line still further west, in the South Channel, close to Vancouver Island. If the whole Water Boundary had been left open, the Oregon question would have been re-opened, and we might, possibly, have lost the harbour of Esquimalt, one of the finest in the Pacific. It was said that scant justice had been done to Canada, but Sir John Macdonald had strongly supported the reference to an impartial arbitration, and in the division which took place in the Dominion Parliament the six representatives of British Columbia and Vancouver's Island voted for the Treaty. To sum up—Great Britain had always upheld the Rosario Channel, and the United States the Haro Channel. The British Commission in 1857, though maintaining our right to the Rosario Channel, proposed a middle channel as a compromise. The United States' Commissioner refused to accept a compromise. The American Senate, to whom the "veto" belonged, never formally agreed to it, though it had once been not unfavourably considered by the Government. And at Washington in 1871 the United States' High Commission distinctly refused the "compromise," pressing for a decision. To the party against whom a decision was given, whether in an ordinary Court of Law or in an International Court of Law, there must, of course, be much disappointment; but he very much mistook the feelings of the constituencies of this country and the opinion of the House, if admitting that the principle of arbitration was a sound, just, and good one, there was any question better calculated for Arbitration than this, which for so ninny years had been a cause of great jealousy, great dissension, and much heart-burning between this country and the United States. Though of course as Englishmen we regretted the decision arrived at, still, as Englishmen, we 1442 should ungrudgingly and without hesitation accept it.
§ MR. PERCY WYNDHAM
said, he would not support the Motion of his noble Friend the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) if it could be construed as a censure on the Imperial Arbitrator, because he believed it could be shown most clearly that the decision was most natural, and the only decision the Imperial Arbitrator could have come to under the circumstances that were laid before him. The opinion of the majority of Statesmen who were most competent to give an opinion upon the subject, was against the claim as presented by America; and he blamed Her Majesty's Government for not having insisted on the Rosario Channel, and for having taken a course which enabled the American lawyers at Berlin to show conclusively to the advisers of the Imperial Arbitrator that whatever channel was the right channel, it was perfectly impossible that the Rosario Channel could be the right channel.
§ Mr. EASTWICK
said, that in the matter of the San Juan Arbitration the Americans had obtained all they had asked for, and that we had lost all that we had contended for; but that nevertheless as all cause of discontent on the part of the former had been removed by the decision of the Arbitrator in that matter, we were fully compensated for the loss to us of territory which had resulted from that adverse judgment. That, however, did not at all prevent them from criticizing the way in which the negotiations had been carried on, and the truth was that our Government had made a mistake in the matter which they ought to have foreseen and guarded against. Under the Treaty of 1846 it was clear that the Douglas Channel, and not the Hare Channel, was intended to form the Boundary line. The expression used in the Treaty of 1842 was over and over again "Mid-channel," and there was no allusion to Rosario and Haro; and he was astonished that we should have given up the vital point of Douglas Channel. By giving it up, they had surrendered the whole matter, and it was absolute carelessness on the part of the Government to have given up that vital point. We ought never to have made any concession at all on the subject, and what the Government had done amounted to a complete aban- 1443 donment of the rights of this country in reference to it. They should have stood firm on the exact words of the 1st Article of the Treaty of June, 1846, in which there was no question about either the Rosario Channel or the Haro Channel. The matter, however, was a thing of the past; and there was no occasion further to recur to it. He wished, however, to inform the House that we were adopting almost a precisely similar course with reference to the channels at the mouth of the St. Clare River, which the Americans were seeking to obtain the right to, although they belonged of right to Canada. It would be wise, in order to prevent future complications on the boundary question, were we at once to have the boundary between our North-American territory, and the territory which America had recently purchased from Russia definitely ascertained and fixed.
said, the deserted appearance of the House was an indication that it was not at all anxious to discuss another Motion condemnatory of the Ministry. He deprecated Votes of Censure on the Government being moved daily. It was rather too much that, after the course that had been taken yesterday, a fresh Vote of Censure should be brought forward that evening, when it was found impossible to express any decisive opinion upon it. It was trifling with the House, and, moreover, such a course was calculated to bring Votes of Censure into ridicule. The previous speaker had, without cause, seemed to find fault with the Imperial Arbitrator; but we had gone to arbitration on the subject of the San Juan Boundary of our own free will, and we ought to be grateful to the Emperor of Germany for having removed a cause of disagreement between this country and America. After complimenting his noble Friend (Viscount Enfield) on the clearness with which he had explained an intricate chain of negotiations, the noble Lord related the history of the Oregon Territory, with a view to show that prior to the Treaty of 1816, by which England agreed to a joint occupation, the Americans had no claim to it, and that their Treaties with France and Spain for the acquisition of Louisiana and Florida did not affect Oregon. Coming down to the Treaty of 1846, he remarked that the boundary, if laid down, admitted four 1444 constructions—the Haro Channel, the Middle or Dundas Channel, the Rosario Channel, or a line down the middle of the strait dividing Vancouver's Island from the main land, disregarding the archipelago of islands altogether. Only two constructions were, however, contended for—the Rosario Channel by ourselves, and the Haro Channel by the Americans. He thought this country should have insisted on putting the whole Treaty before the Arbitrator, and regretted that our negotiators gave up the free navigation of all the channels except that to be determined by the Emperor of Germany; but though the military future of Vancouver's Island had suffered a great blow from the decision, it was useless now to re-open the matter and endeavour to throw dirt at one another. For many years all negotiations with the Americans had ended in our receding and in their obtaining what they wanted. The reason was, that they had always been in earnest and we had not. They had been ready to go to war if we did not give way; while the English people—for it was not merely the Government and the negotiators—would not think of going to war. He thought it was Sir Robert Peel who said it was better to yield the Americans a few million acres than to go to war with them. Hence in the dispute as to the boundary of Maine, we gave way after considerable negotiation. On the last occasion we might, perhaps, have carried our point if we had shown that we were in earnest, and that we cared less about what was called friendship towards America than about retaining what might be the rights of England. He himself doubted whether a great nation could with safety yield any part of its rights in order to purchase the favour of another country. In the future we ought to be wise in time. As to the San Juan Boundary Line, the question was now finally closed, and it was too late to bring any accusation against the Government with respect to it; but the boundary between Alaska and our northwestern Possessions in America still remain unsettled, and was referred to only the other day in the Message of the President of the United States. There would be no great difficulty if the matter were dealt with at once, but if we waited until the Americans had settled over our border, their angry passions would arise, 1445 and we should find that the boundary between Alaska and our Territory would present much the same aspect as that presented by the San Juan Boundary question. If public attention were directed to that and other important questions which were "looming in the future" the noble Lord would not have raised the present discussion in vain.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, in his opinion, the noble Lord the Member for Berwick (Viscount Bury) had evinced great inconsistency in first censuring the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) for having brought forward the question, and in subsequently pointing out that the importance of the events "looming in the future" fully justified him in submitting it to the notice of the House. It was, indeed, through Motions of that kind, which justly criticized the conduct of the Government in regard to important Treaties, that we must hope to see the prospect of more satisfactory diplomatic action in the future; and, therefore, instead of deserving censure, he maintained that his noble Friend had performed an important public duty in bringing the matter forward. The noble Lord opposite (Viscount Enfield), had made a most careful and clear statement in vindication of the course taken by Her Majesty's Government with respect to that portion of the Treaty of Washington. He (Lord John Manners) thought however, that in his historical summary the noble Lord had laid rather too much stress on the supposed fact that all the English statesmen concerned in this matter had pressed the claim of the Rosario Channel. Surely the noble Lord could not have forgotten that the Earl of Aberdeen did not mention that channel, and that in writing years afterwards to Earl Russell he stated that this particular channel was not in his mind at the time. The noble Lord opposite had therefore broken clown in the most important part of his statement.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
pointed out the passage in the Blue Book, and remarked that Lord Aberdeen referred to the Mid-channel. Now no human being could say that the Rosario Channel was a mid-channel.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
went on to say that there was no idea of fixing on the Rosario Channel under the Treaty of 1846. The Treaty of 1846 required that, in Sir Richard Pakenham's words, "a line should be traced along the middle of the channel," meaning the whole intervening space that separated the Continent from Vancouver's Island. Lord Aberdeen and Sir Richard Pakenham communicated their opinion on this point to Lord Palmerston. Lord John Russell, in 1859, adopted the same line. The one point now at issue was, whether the English Government were wise in 1871 in receding from the position they had taken up, and in not pressing for an open instead of a restricted reference. With great respect to the noble Lord the Tinder Secretary for Foreign Affairs, he had not shown that the conduct of Her Majesty's Government in yielding at the instance of the American Government the point of an open reference was either wise or justifiable, and his noble Friend the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton) had done good service in calling attention to that most material branch of the subject. Point after point had been yielded by Her Majesty's Government to the American view of the case; and so long as an impression prevailed that our Government in negotiating with the United States put forward claims in order that they might be withdrawn on the slightest show of opposition, the result was most unfortunate for the best interests of the country. He knew no course so likely to prevent a repetition of such transactions as the discussion so usefully introduced by the speech of his noble Friend the Member for Middlesex.
said, he would not enter into the question of the North-Western Boundary between Great Britain and the United States—not because it was not a proper subject for discussion in Parliament—but because he did not think that any advantage would arise from his entering into that discussion. He would look to the main proposition of the noble Lord the Member for Middlesex (Lord George Hamilton), and then state his views upon it. When they looked at the Motion of the noble Lord, it was obvious that a question would arise upon it, and that those who were opposed to it would challenge the Motion on its foundation. It had been said that 1447 the time had passed when the Treaty of Washington could be usefully handled in the way of criticism upon the proceedings of Her Majesty's Government, but that was a matter on which it did not behove the Government to dwell. He regarded that and every other part of the Treaty of Washington as a legitimate subject of criticism and objection. It would, moreover, have been difficult to criticize the negotiations on this point at a much earlier period, because the tendency of some of the criticisms heard that night would have been far from advantageous to the public interests if they had been made before the Arbitration at Berlin came to an end. The noble Lord the Member for Middlesex said that in a recent debate, he (Mr. Gladstone) complained that he had shut the door of repentance against the Government, whereupon he claimed credit that by the Motion he was now making he intended to enable the Government to do penance for themselves and set themselves right in the Court of Conscience. What, however, the noble Lord did on a former occasion was to deny the Government the privilege of leaving what he (Mr. Gladstone) declared to be the path of vice for that of virtue, and now the noble Lord wanted the Government, when they were walking in the paths of virtue, to travel over to the paths of vice. The noble Lord had therefore appeared to-night in the character of a corrupter of the morals of Her Majesty's Government. The Motion of the noble Lord impugned the conduct of the Government in allowing a limited interpretation to be placed on that part of the Oregon Treaty which was referred to the decision of the Emperor of Germany. The noble Lord objected to the limited reference, but he ought first to have shown that it was in the power of Her Majesty's Government to obtain an unlimited reference. If it were not, then the question arose, first, whether the limited reference to which the Government consented was the most legitimate and reasonable that could be chosen, and, next, was it one which the Government were wise in choosing, rather than not to have any reference at all? He (Mr. Gladstone) held that it was wise to have a limited reference rather than have no reference at all. We had four or five controversies open with the United States, and were on the point of closing 1448 them all, with one exception. Those questions were—with regard to Canada, with regard to the Fisheries, with regard to the United States claims upon England for occurrences during the war, and with regard to British claims upon the United States for occurrences during the war. When these controversies were—excepting one—apparently on the point of being brought to a satisfactory issue, then the question arose whether all that had been done in respect to them was to be nullified because they would accept no reference in respect to the Oregon Treaty, except a reference which would be in the nature of a commission to the Emperor of Germany to settle the whole matter as he thought fit; an unlimited reference which would have released the Arbitrator from having regard to the general words of the Treaty and thrown him back on the general principles of equity. Why, the Government would have done despite to the general feeling of the country, and met with universal condemnation from every quarter of the House, if they had taken a course so unwise and imprudent as to decline to admit any reference of the Oregon Boundary and the San Juan Channel to peaceful arbitration, and the only reference possible was one conceived in such terms as to make the Emperor of Germany master of the whole subject to decide it as he pleased. Was, then, the particular reference an unwise and injudicious one? The noble Lord's line of argument, too, was against the Government accepting the limited reference, and there was no doubt he would have had a very good case, if he could have established his basis on facts. He (Mr. Gladstone), however, denied his main proposition, for the noble Lord said the Government should have placed before the Emperor of Germany a reasonable alternative, and that whereas the Government had never contended that the Rosario Strait was that which best fulfilled the conditions of the Treaty the Government marched to certain defeat. Instead, however, of never setting up the Rosario strait as the true and legitimate interpretation of the Treaty, he asserted that the Government had never set up any other strait from the time when they knew enough of the subject to set up any strait or boundary at all. The language of Sir Richard Pakenham in 1859, and of Lord Russell 1449 in his despatch, had been quoted to show that Lord Aberdeen in giving his recollection of what occurred in 1846—and no man's memory was more trustworthy, no man's habit of mind was more cautious and circumspect in any matter of business—declared it to be the intention of the Treaty to adopt the Mid-channel straits as the line of demarcation, without any reference to islands, the very existence of which at that time had hardly been accurately ascertained. Upon that statement was founded the extraordinary inference that the British Government had never contended for the Rosario straits. Now, what Lord Aberdeen said was, that at the time the Treaty was made, not being acquainted with the precise topography, a reservation was made in general terms on behalf of the Mid-channel, though referring to no channel in particular. When, however, in process of time fuller information was obtained with respect to the distribution of land and islands and the course of waters in that region, the British Government contended, steadily to the end, that the Rosario channel was that which best corresponded with the terms of the Treaty, and, therefore, for the fulfilment of the Treaty, ought to be definitely adopted as the boundary. He could not suppose that the noble Lord was prepared to question that proposition. It was so plain upon the face of the whole documents, it was so entirely without plausible ground of objection, that he did not know whether he was justified in dwelling upon it in any detail. But the extraordinary course of argument which had been adopted compelled some reference to what had been said. The hon. Member (Mr. Percy Wyndham) quoted from the speech of the American counsel at Berlin, who, following the practice of counsel on this side of the water, did not, indeed, misquote the words of the person whose authority he desired to enlist, but attached to those words an interpretation which was not the true sense or meaning, but was his own construction of the meaning.
§ MR. PERCY WYNDHAM
said, he had quoted the very words of Sir Richard Pakenham as they were cited by the American counsel.
said that those words did not in the least serve the purpose of the hon. Member. Sir Richard Pakenham said— 1450The conditions of the Treaty, according to their literal tenour, would require the line to be traced along the middle of the channel, meaning the whole intervening space which separated the Continent from Vancouver's Island.Sir Richard Pakenham did not commit himself to anything with respect to the Rosario Channel; But the American counsel, who must have poisoned the mind of the hon. Member, ingeniously and boldly went on to say—Thus Sir Richard Pakenham rejects entirely the so-called Rosario channel as the channel of the Treaty.Now, Sir Richard Pakenham signed the Treaty, but did not negotiate it, and as the negotiator of the Treaty, he would necessarily have been the person most conversant with its terms; but the Treaty was drawn in this country, and signed in America by Sir Richard Pakenham simply as the agent of the British Government. Those who were concerned in the matter at home did not know the minute topography of the region with which they were dealing and he thought they had made a mistake; but he was far from blaming them for what they did, indeed, he was one of the persons who were jointly responsible. He, however, believed it was the best settlement of which the circumstances admitted, for the American Government would not consent to an unlimited reference; but at the same time, he would admit that it would have been for the interest of this country to have obtained such a reference. Nor did he think our case for the Rosario Channel a very strong case. But our Commissioners used every effort to obtain an unlimited reference, and such a reference was opposed from the first, with one exception, by the American Government, and that was in 1857, when the Douglas Channel was proposed as a compromise by the English Government, the American Government refusing to accept it. The exception was when the Reverdy Johnson and Clarendon Treaty with reference to the San Juan Water Boundary was recommended to the Senate by the Foreign Affairs Committee. The Senate, however, did not adopt that Treaty, and the American Government at once resumed its old position, refusing an unlimited reference, and leaving us to choose between a limited reference and no reference at all. Having that alternative, Her Majesty's Government determined that a limited 1451 reference was better than none at all; and the question arose what the limited reference should be. The noble Lord seemed to think the Douglas Channel should have been taken as our reference. But the Douglas Channel had only been proposed by us as a compromise. It was stated by Her Majesty's Government that that offer was caused by no change of opinion on their part, but by their desire to settle the question, and Lord Russell, in 1859, expressly declared that the offer was made without prejudice to the claim, which the British Government considered themselves justified in maintaining, to the Rosario Channel as the true boundary. The contention of the British Government having thus been in favour of the Rosario Channel, were there any natural features in the case of the Douglas Channel which would have justified the British Government in saying it answered the terms of the Treaty? Whatever else the Treaty meant, it meant the principal channel between the Continent and Vancouver's Island—the channel which was most suitable for navigation. Consequently, in the British Argument stress was laid upon the depth of water, the breadth of the channel, the convenience of access and egress—upon all those natural features, in short, which, as the British Government thought, recommended the Rosario Channel as satisfying the description in the Treaty; but the Douglas Channel was greatly inferior either to the Rosario or the Haro Channel. It might have been taken for the sake of compromise; but it entirely failed to satisfy the main idea of the Treaty of 1846—namely, that it should be the principal channel marked out for the course of navigation. In Admiral Richards' Report upon the Douglas Channel, he said—"The middle channel, though inferior in capacity to the Rosario and Haro Channel, was perfectly safe for steamers." Admiral Richards went on to say that the channel was open to the same objection for sailing vessels, and in a greater degree, in consequence of its width, which was not more than a mile. Then he pointed out that on the eastern shore there was a rock to be avoided, called the Reed Rock—"a dangerous patch with 12 feet of water on it." The gallant Admiral proceeded with his agreeable description of this navigable channel—"The tide sets rapidly over 1452 these rocks." [Lord GEORGE HAMILTON: The word "navigable" does not occur in the Treaty.] True, but the Treaty evidently meant the Channel which, from its natural features, was the safest for navigation; and this was a channel having rocks covered with water, with the tide setting rapidly over them, with its "southern entrance only three-quarters of a mile wide," its "tides strong" and "its bottom very irregular." His (Mr. Gladstone's) contention was that when the Treaty spoke of the middle of the channel it meant the main channel, and assumed that there was but one principal channel. Yet that narrow, rocky, dangerous, insidious, comparatively insignificant channel was that for which the noble Lord said we should most stoutly have contended as satisfying the conditions of the Treaty, which was framed avowedly in ignorance of the geographical details. Why, any Government pursuing such a course would have made itself little short of ridiculous, and would not only have incurred defeat before the Arbitrator—a thing which might happen to anyone, however just his cause might be, but something like disgrace in the face of any Arbitrator who really knew what he was about. He regretted that the question could not be more fully discussed, but he fully agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Berwick (Viscount Bury) that it would not be fair to estimate the importance of the subject by the number of hon. Members to be found on the benches when the debate was going on. The labours of that House were such that a very large number of its Members were compelled to find relief and relaxation when they could, and many things were allowed to pass in their absence which they would dignify with their notice and personal presence, but for the extreme pressure of their personal labours. He did not deny the importance of the question or complain of the criticism which had been indulged in upon the conduct of the Government; but the noble Lord himself could not venture to contend that we should have been right in breaking off with America on the whole of this great negotiation, rather than admit the limited reference—and a limited reference only America was willing to accede—and in choosing the ground of that limited reference, Government had chosen the only ground which it could select with 1453 prudence and honour. When it was their duty to go before an Arbitrator with two alternatives, and two alternatives alone, Government had no course before it in prudence except to assume the argument which had been the Argument of the British side from the commencement of the controversy, and to refer to the German Emperor that point, upon which he had come to a perfectly legitimate decision, between the Haro Channel, for which America had contended, and the Rosario Channel, which had been the object of the desire of the British Government. He did not believe that the Argument on the British side could possibly have been better maintained than it had been, and that desire had been pursued with all the seriousness and earnestness and force at their command. If they lamented the chances of Arbitration, at all events they were better than the chances of war. They could not but acknowledge, however, that in this instance the natural mortification of disappointment was not aggravated in the slightest degree by any mistrust of the perfect good faith of the German Emperor, or by anything like astonishment or surprise at the conclusion to which, at the end of a difficult inquiry, he had, with perfect honesty and with every instrument of careful investigation, been led to arrive.
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put and agreed to.