referred to in a treaty, and incorporated in a treaty, or Act of Parliament, or any document of that kind, but maps published independently, or under Royal authority, as many of these are said to be, are apt to be, and have been proved by experience to be, the most deceptive possible kind of evidence to be guided by ; so that whilst I put in maps which may or may not be useful, I disclaim relying very much upon them, and at the same time I argue before your Lordships that very little reliance is to be placed upon maps put in by either side.”
IV.—British Guiana-Brazil Boundary Dispute, 1901-1903.
In submitting her argument in this controversy, Great Britain made the following observations upon maps in relation to the question of their value as evidence in a dispute as to boundaries :
(i) General Observations.
“In questions as to the boundaries of territory claimed by conterminous nations the maps of the territory which have from time to time been prepared, whether published or unpublished, may be referred to in illustration of the questions at issue from two different points of view.
“They may be cited as showing the contemporary ideas of the geography of the particular district and the existence or non-existence - of towns, villages, or posts ; or they may be considered in respect of the boundaries shown upon them.
“In neither case can a map taken by itself be regarded as an authoritative document ; in cartography, perhaps more than in most documentary evidence, it is necessary to study and verify the whole history of a document before it can be admitted to have any authority at all. This statement holds good, though in a less degree, in respect of geographical details as well as lines of boundaries. Boundary lines are the more liable to error because geographers have in very many instances been without adequate information on which to base their conclusions.
“The manner in which map-makers so often mechanically copy one another introduces further difficulty into the consideration of cartographical evidence ; and the want of system in selecting the maps to be copied adds yet more ; atlases often contain different maps of the same territory with very different presentations of it, more particularly as regards the lines of boundary exhibited. This is specially true of atlases prepared about the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century.”
* * * *
“ (b) As to Boundaries.
“ On a question of boundary, maps may be cited as evidence—
1. Of the general reputation as to the boundary ;
2. Of the claims put forward by any particular nation ; but in either case the extent to which a map is entitled to carry authority requires careful investigation.
“It does not follow that a map which deservedly enjoys a high reputation in respect of its delineation of physical features should be treated as of equal authority on a question of boundary.
“D'Anville's great Map of 1748 was the first map of South America which portrayed what apparently are definite political boundaries. But there is no record of the information on which D'Anville based his lines, and they accordingly cannot be accepted as having any weight in the face of definite historical facts which are against them.”
“Fundamental Difference in the Point of View.
“There is a fundamental difference in the view taken by the British and Brazilian Governments as to the importance of maps as evidence in an international case. Brazil appears to appeal to the whole cartography of Guiana without any reference to its authority, and without any real attempt to investigate critically the value of any of the maps. Great Britain, on the other hand, holds that the value of a map depends upon various circumstances which must be carefully determined ; that, of itself, a map is of no value as evidence at all ; and, therefore, that the accumulation of maps all showing the same line carries no weight whatever. The repetition of an erroneous fact upon a series of maps does not prove the fact any more than the repetition of errors by historians alters the actual truth when it is discovered. The lake of Parima was marked on maps of repute down to the middle of the 19th century, but this did not give the lake existence. The British Government maintain that each map, like each document, must be investigated carefully and verified by contemporary evidence. They have endeavoured all through this inquiry to maintain a rigid standard of criticism in regard to every map which they have brought before the Arbitrator.”
V.—Alaska Boundary Dispute, 1903.1
In his argument before the arbitral tribunal, in the Alaska Boundary Case, Sir Robert Finlay, of Counsel for Great Britain, said:—
“Of course I do not attach any very great importance to maps. The question of what value is to be attached to the maps depends entirely
1 Alaska Boundary Tribunal, Protocols, Arguments, Awards, etc., Sept. 3rd to Oct. 20th, 1903, (London, printed at the Foreign Office, 1903), pp. 160-161, 167, 158, 944.
on the circumstances under which it was made. If a map merely represents something taken from an earlier map, or the impression which the map-maker formed, which was a convenient one to put on paper, then it comes to nothing. It is merely hearsay. When it comes to accurate investigation of boundaries, really the evidence of the maps requires to be very carefully weighed before it is determined what import ance should be attached to any particular map.”
Further on in his argument, Sir Robert Finlay said :—
“Now I have thought it my duty to go through these maps, calling attention to what they show. I am very sensible of the fact that after all these subsequent maps are of no very great value in a matter of this kind. The maps that were before the negotiators may be very useful indeed. Subsequent maps merely show the impression of the mapmaker, and we do not always know from what source he derived it ; they very often copy from one another, and when it comes down to a mere question of boundary, as indicated either by colour or by drawing a line, the information of the mapmaker is not necessarily of any particular value. So that the evidence of the maps must be discounted by all these considerations.”
Little importance is apparently attached by jurists to the colouring of maps or to the manner in which names are written or printed thereon. Interrupting Sir Robert Finlay in the course of his argument on the evidence of maps, Lord Alverstone, the President of the tribunal, took occasion to say:
“Mr. Attorney : May I suggest to you, only as a result of very long experience and having had to do with these sort of maps, as you know, on several occasions, with regard to legends and popular representations of the names and places, channels, and things of that kind, they are extremely valuable ; but with regard to these minor details such as colouring, we have always found them to be something that you cannot act upon for the reason that they are done by hand and very often done by people who do not understand what they were doing ? On broad lines they are useful to both sides, but on the minor points I do not think they give us much assistance.'
“Sir Robert Finlay : I quite agree, my Lord.
“The President : I think that is our general feeling.”
In his opinion in support of the award, Lord Alverstone said:
“For the purpose of identifying the channel, known as Portland Channel, the maps which were before the negotiators may be useful. This is one of the points upon which evidence of contemporary maps as to general reputation is undoubtedly admissible.
* * * *
“I do not attach particular importance to the way in which names on the maps are written or printed, and therefore I do not rely on the fact that in the case of some of these contemporary maps, the words 'Portland Channel' are written so as to include, within the name, the lower part of the channel which is in dispute. From long experience I have found that it is not safe to rely upon any such peculiarities.
* * * *
“In the view I take of the terms of the treaty, it is not necessary to discuss subsequent action. Had the terms of the treaty led me to a different conclusion and entitled me to adopt the view presented by Great Britain, I should have felt great difficulty in holding that anything that had been done or omitted to be done by or on behalf of Great Britain or that any conduct on her part prevented her from insisting on the strict interpretation of the treaty ; nor do I think that the representations of map-makers that the boundary was assumed to run round the heads of the inlets could have been properly urged by the United States as a sufficient reason for depriving Great Britain of any rights which she had under the treaty, had they existed.”
VI.—The King v. Price (1926) S. C. R. (CAN.) 28.
“A grant was made in 1693 by Frontenac, Intendant of New France, and confirmed in 1694 by royal warrant of Louis XIV, King of France, upon the request of Augustin Rouer, for and in the name of Louis Heuer, his son, for the concession of a lake, or one lake ('d'un lac'), called Mitis, which discharged itself into a river of the same name, with one league of land all about the lake. This grant was and still is commonly known under the name of the seigniory of Lake Metis. According to the topography, it is not a single body of water which is to be found at the source of the River Metis, but three bodies of water, two of them being approximately of the same altitude above sea level and the third being of an altitude approximately eight feet above the other two ; all three discharged naturally, from one to another by channels of flowing water which form no part of the lake expanse. At the time of the grant, these bodies of water were situated in a remote locality and uninhabited unless by Indians. After various changes of ownership, the respondent became the proprietor of the seigniory in 1922 and it then instituted a petition of right for the purpose of determining the extent of the property. It is alleged that, at the time of the grant, it was not known that there was any difference of level between the three bodies of water and that what are now shown in the modern maps and known generally as three lake sections with connecting channels were, by the grant, considered and described as a single lake ; and it concluded by asking for a declaration that the three bodies of water should be considered as 'a lake' within the meaning of that term in the grant.
* * * *
“At the trial, the respondent produced a number of maps which were admitted in evidence on its behalf : they came originally from various sources, but were mostly selected from the collection of maps at the Dominion Archives. The earliest are of the date of 1765 and in all these maps down to 1863, there is a single lake shown at the head of the River Metis.”
* * * *
The Supreme Court of Canada (Anglin, C.J., Idington, Mignault, Newcombe and Rinfret, J.J., Duff, J. dissenting), reversing the judgment of
the Court of Appeal for Quebec and affirming the judgment of the Court of King's Bench for Quebec, allowed the appeal of the Crown and identified the upper lake, now known as Lake Metis, as the “Lac Mitis” referred to in the original grant. The judgment of Anglin, C.J., Mignault and Newcombe, J.J., was delivered by Newcombe, J. The following extracts, with regard to the evidential value of the maps which were admitted in evidence on behalf of the respondent, are taken from his judgment.
“Maps are from their nature of very slight evidence. Geographers often lay them down upon incorrect surveys or information, copying the mistakes of one another. This may be illustrated by reference to Holland's map of 1803, where it is said, under the figure of Lake Metis, surrounded by lines to represent the boundaries of the seigniory, that ' these lakes are laid down not from actual survey but from information of travellers.' Now this drawing which is the first representation of a lake which is of any use for the purpose of realizing its size or shape was certainly laid down without any reliable information ; there is no lake of its outline or size upon the ground, and yet the lake as shown here re-appears in subsequent maps with considerable regularity until 1863, a time considerably subsequent to Ballantyne's survey. It must be remembered that these are all maps of an unsurveyed district, and they are really of little or no value to prove the facts which they depict or represent ; they may however be useful as admissions against the party who produces them ; and, in this aspect, the inference which they support is that, until the time of Ballantyne's survey, everybody, both cartographers and the persons from whom they got their information, were under the impression that the River Metis had its source in one lake only. It may be that the description of the grant is apt or sufficient to include the upper or the lower lake as a lake, or one lake, called Metis, which is the subject of the grant, but upon what principle the description can be extended to include more lakes than one I am unable to realize. I see no convincing evidence that the 3 lakes were called Metis ; but, if they were, how does that improve the respondent's case ? If there were 3 lakes called Metis discharging into the River Metis the grant is surely void for uncertainty, or because it is impossible to apply the description to any defined subject-matter ; and, if it be only the lower lake which discharges into the River Metis, that fact, while perhaps sufficient to identify the lake as the subject of the grant, does not entitle the respondent to include also 2 other lakes called Metis which do not discharge into the River Metis.
“Maps, when they have no conventional or statutory significance, should be regarded merely as representing the opinions of the persons who constructed them, they furnish at best no adequate proof, and none when it appears that they are founded upon misleading or unreliable information or upon reasons which do not go to establish the theory or opinion represented, and when they have not the qualifications requisite