« ZurückWeiter »
CONTENTS OP VOLUME I.
SPEECHES IN THE SENATE.
THE OREGON QUESTION.
FEBKUARY 18 and 19,1846.
The Territory on the northwest coast of America, west of the Rocky Mountains, known as Oregon, and long in dispute between the United States and Great Britain, was, by a convention between the two countries, concluded on the 20th October, 1818, made free to the vessels, citizens, and subjects of both, for the period of ten years. This agreement was continued in force and indefinitely extended by the convention of 26th August, 1827. In consequence of collisions between the people of the two countries within the disputed Territory, resolutions were introduced into the Senate, in February, 1846, requiring the President to give notice of the abrogation of the last-mentioned convention, in accordance with one of its stipulations. A portion of the senators were in favor of adjusting the controversy by adopting the 49th parallel of latitude as the boundary, leaving to Great Britain the territory north of it; and the others of insisting on the abandonment by Great Britain of the whole country as far north as 54° 40', from which line northward the title of Russia had been acknowledged by both the parties to the pending dispute. Mr. Dix, while asserting the title of the United States to the whole Territory derived from the discoveries and occupation of Spain, was nevertheless in favor of the compromise line of 49°, which had been offered to Great Britain in previous negotiations.
The question was settled by the adoption of that parallel as the boundary line, under a treaty negotiated by Mr. Louis McLane, and ratified by the Senate at the same session in which the debate took place.
In entering into the debate on the question under consideration, I feel constrained to differ in opinion with two distinguished senators who have preceded me, in relation to the manner in which the discussion should be con
VOL. I. l
ducted. I allude to the Senator from Ohio,1 who opened the debate, and the Senator from Delaware,2 who followed him. Both took the ground, and with equally strong language, that the title to Oregon ought not to be drawn into this discussion; but for totally different reasons: the Senator from Ohio, because the time for discussing it had gone by; and the Senator from Delaware, because the time for discussing it had not arrived. With the unfeigned respect which I entertain for both senators, I dissent from their opinions with great diffidence of my own. But I am constrained to regard the question of our rights in Oregon as one on which the propriety of the measures proposed peculiarly and eminently depends. What is the proposition before the Senate I It is, to give to Great Britain the notice of twelve months, by virtue of which the treaty between her and the United States, stipulating that the Territory of Oregon shall be free and open to the people of both countries, is to be abrogated and annulled. We cannot disguise the fact that this is a measure of the most decided character, and involving the most important consequences. What is it, sir, but a declaration that the Territory of Oregon, after the expiration of twelve months, shall no longer be open to the subjects of Great Britain? It is the first step towards the assertion of our right of empire and domain in Oregon. I can see it in no other light. I shall support it. But I cannot assent to the propriety of adopting a measure of such magnitude, without saying a single word in illustration of our title to the Territory, over which we are thus preparing to assert our paramount rights. I do not feel at liberty to take such a step, denying summarily all right in others, or abstaining from the assertion of any right in ourselves.
I propose, therefore, as a preliminary of action on my own part, to look at our title to Oregon,—not for the purpose of defining it with critical precision, but so far as 1 Mr. Allen. 2 Mr. J. M. Clayton.