HL Deb 19 June 1873 vol 216 cc1157-8

asked, What arrangement has been made to settle the water boundary line between the British Territory and Alaska; 2. If British subjects are to be paid for property taken from them on the Island of San Juan; 3. If the channels to the eastward of the Haro are open to British ships without let or hindrance; also the right of fishing. With regard to his first Question—that relating to the water boundary line—in the chart contained in the Blue-Book which had been laid on the Table of the House, the boundary was clearly defined, and he had nothing to say on that point, except so far as the navigation was concerned. It was equally essential that the navigation boundary should be distinctly laid down. He considered that the water boundary could be easily settled without arbitration—at least, he hoped so. At the present moment it might appear that this was not a matter of much consequence, but gold had been discovered up one of the rivers in this region, and it was highly probable that before long the exact water boundary would be a very important consideration. Since he had put his second Question on the Paper a Proclamation had been issued by the President of the United States making it known that the Government of that country would satisfy all just claims of British subjects. It was not, therefore, necessary that he should put that Question. He attached much importance to the third Question. The Haro Channel, was not navigable by sailing vessels, except when towed by steamers, there being a shoal in the middle of it. No doubt the United States of America would offer no objection to the passage of British ships in these waters, but he thought it would be well to have some definite arrangement respecting them. It was also very important that the right of fishing should be clearly defined.


said, that the noble Earl had made much more difficulty about the water boundary than really existed. The Treaty with the United States settled the boundary generally with regard to the British possessions and Alaska, and a Bill had been introduced into Congress last Session appointing a Commission for the purpose of making arrangements as to the water boundary. Owing to the pressure of business, however, that Bill did not pass. The noble Earl, after the Proclamation issued by the President—and he had not since heard anything at variance with it—was right in not pressing for an answer to the second Question. With respect to the third Question, the boundary was defined by the Treaty to be in the middle of a certain channel. Unfortunately, the Treaty was not clear and precise in the definition which channel was intended, and under the Treaty of Washington the Emperor of Germany gave it as his award that the channel in question was the Haro Channel. He did not suppose there would be any impediment to the navigation of the eastward channels by British ships, but they were American waters. As to the Haro Channel, it was open to the ships of both countries.