EXTRACT FROM COMMENTARIES UPON INTERNATIONAL LAW BY THE RT. HON. SIR ROBERT J. PHILLIMORE.
2ND EDITION. VOL. I, pp. 277-9.
The United States of America, during the pendency of the negotiations with England, with respect to the Oregon boundary, asserted “that a nation discovering a country, by entering the mouth of its principal river at the sea-coast, must necessarily be allowed to claim and hold as great an extent of the interior country as was described by the course of such principal river and its tributary streams”*
But this proposition was strenuously denied by great Britain upon various grounds :
1.That no such right accrued at all to mere discovery ;
2.Not to discovery by a private individual. Great Britain “was yet to be informed (she said) under what principles or usage, among the nations of Europe, his having first entered or discovered the mouth of the River Columbia, admitting this to have been the fact, was to carry after it such a portion of the interior country as was alleged. Great Britain entered her dissent from such a claim ; and least of all did she admit that the circumstance of a merchant vessel of the United States having penetrated the coast of that continent at Columbia River, was to be taken to extend a claim in favour of the United States along the same coast, both above and below that river, over latitudes that had been previously discovered and explored by Great Britain herself, in expeditions fitted out under the authority and with the resources of the nation” †
CCXXXVII.If the circumstances had been these, viz. that an actual settlement had been grafted upon a discovery made by an authorised public officer of a nation at the mouth of a river, the law would not have been unreasonably applied.
There appears to be no variance in the opinions of writers upon International Law as to this point. They all agree that the Right of Occupation incident to a settlement, such as has been described, extends over all territory
*State Papers, Vol. iii, p. 506. Twiss. Oregon Question Examined.
†State Papers, Vol. xiii, p. 509.
actually and bona fide occupied, over all that is essential to the real use of the settlers, although the use be only inchoate, and not fully developed ; over all, in fact, that is necessary for the integrity and security of the possession, such necessity being measured by the principle already applied to the parts of the sea adjacent to the coasts, namely, “ibi finitur imperium ubi finitur armorum vis.” The application of the principle to a territorial boundary is, of course, dependant in each case upon details of the particular topography.
Martens, discussing “jusqu'où s'étend 1'occupation,” writes with as much precision and clearness upon the point as the subject will admit of. “Une nation qui occupe un district doit être censée avoir occupé toutes les parties vacantes qui le composent ; sa propriété s'étend même sur les places qu'elle laisse incultes, et sur celles dont elle permet l'usage à tous. Les limites de son territoire sont ou naturelles (telle que la mer, les rivières les eaux, les montagnes, les forêts) ou artificielles (telles que des barrières des bornes, des poteaux, etc.) Les montagnes, les forêts les bruyères, etc., qui séparent le territoire de deux nations, sont censés appartenir à chacune des deux jusqu'à la ligne qui forme le milieu, à moins qu'on ne soit convenu de régler différemment les limites, ou de les neutraliser. A défaut des limites certaines le droit d'une nation d'exclure des nations étrangères des terres ou îles voisines ne s'étend pas au-dela du district qu'elle cultive, ou duquel du moins elle pout prouver l'occupation ; à moins que, de part et d'autre, l'on ne soit convenu de ne pas occuper certains districts, îles, etc., en les déclarant neutres.”*
CCXXXVIII. This middle distance mentioned by Martens appears, in cases where there is no sea-coast boundary, to be recognised in practice.
In the negotiations between Spain and the United States of America respecting the western boundary of Louisiana, the latter country laid down with accuracy and clearness certain propositions of law upon this subject, and which fortify the opinion advanced in the forgoing paragraphs.
* Martens. Droit des Gens, 1. ii, c. 1, s. 38.