EXTRACT FROM “HISTORY OF OREGON AND CALIFORNIA.”
BY ROBERT GREENHOW, TRANSLATOR AND LIBRARIAN TO THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE OF THE UNITED STATES. 2ND EDITION
Proofs and Illustrations.
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SHOWING THAT THE FORTY-NINTH PARALLEL OF LATITUDE WAS NOT SELECTED AS THE LINE OF SEPARATION BETWEEN THE FRENCH AND THE BRITISH TERRITORIES IN NORTH AMERICA, BY COMMISSARIES APPOINTED AGREEABLY TO THE TREATY OF UTRECHT.
Mr. Monroe, minister plenipotentiary of the United States in London, in his letter of September 5th, 1804, to Lord Harrowby, the British secretary for foreign affairs,* makes the following statement with regard to the adoption of the 49th parallel of latitude as the northern boundary of Louisiana :—
“By the tenth article of the treaty of Utrecht, it is agreed that 'France shall restore to Great Britain the Bay and Straits of Hudson, together with all the lands, seas, sea-coasts, rivers, and places, situate in the said bay and straits, which belong thereto ; and it is also agreed, on both sides, to determine, within a year, by commissaries to be forthwith named by each party, the limits which are to be fixed between the said Bay of Hudson and the places appertaining to the French, which limits both the British and French subjects shall be wholly forbid to pass over, or thereby to go to each other, by sea or by land : the same commissioners shall also have orders to describe and settle in like manner the boundaries between the other British and French colonies in those parts.' Commissaries were accordingly appointed by each power, who executed the stipulations of the treaty, in establishing the boundaries proposed by it. They fixed the northern boundary of Canada and Louisiana by a line beginning on the Atlantic, at a cape or promontory
* Communicated to Congress, and published with President Jefferson's message of March 30th, 1808.
in 58 degrees 30 minutes north latitude, thence south-westwardly to the Lake Mistissin, thence farther south-west to the latitude of 49 degrees north from the equator, and along that line indefinitely.”
Mr. Monroe does not give his authority for the assertion respecting the adoption of this line by the commissaries ; he, however, most probably derived his information from the map of America attached to Postlethwayt's “Dictionary of Commerce,” published in 1751, to which he alludes in other parts of his correspondence, and in which a line appears nearly as described by him, with a note on the map, saying, “The line that parts French Canada from British Canada was settled by commissaries, after the peace of Utrecht, making a curve from Davis's Inlet, in the Atlantic Sea, down to the 49th degree, through Lake Abitibis, to the North-West Ocean.” In the dictionary to which this map is attached, the limits of these territories are expressly declared to be undetermined. The map of North America, by Palairet and Delaroche, published at London in 1765, also gives the same line, without any note as to the manner in which it was adopted. In the map of the British Possessions in America, published by Bowen and Gibson in 1775, and in one or two other inferior maps, the 49th parallel is given as the southern limit of the Hudson's Bay Company's territories, from the vicinity of Lake Superior, westward to Red River, down which the boundary is continued to Lake Winnipeg. These are the only authorities, as yet discovered, for the belief that the 49th parallel was adopted as a boundary by commissaries appointed according to the treaty of Utrecht.
On the other hand, Mitchell's great map of America, published in 1755 at London, under the patronage of the colonial department, presents a line drawn around Hudson's Bay, at the distance of about one hundred and fifty miles from its shore, as “the bounds of Hudson's Bay by the treaty of Utrecht” ; and the same line appears on the map of America accompaning Smollett's “History of England,” published in 1760, on that of Bennet, published in 1770, on that of Faden, in 1777, and on some other maps of that period.
No line of separation whatsoever, between the Hudson's Bay territories and the French possessions in America, is to be found on the large and beautiful map of America by Henry Popple, published in 1738, also under the patronage of the colonial department, and bearing the stamp of the approbation of Dr. Halley, which is particularly minute in all that relates to the territories in question ; or on any of the maps in the atlas of Maxwell and Senex, published in 1721, or in any of those attached to the volume of Boyer's “Political State for 1721” ; to the “History of Hudson's Bay,” by Dobbs; to the “American Traveller,” by Cluny ; to the “History of the British Empire in America,” by Wynne ; to Alcedo's “Dictionary of America,” or on many other maps, of inferior merit, which might be named.
These discrepancies should not excite surprise ; for maps, and books of geography, which are most frequently consulted in relation to boundaries, are, or rather have been, the very worst authorities on such subjects ; as they are ordinarily made by persons wholly unacquainted with political
affairs. Of this, numerous examples may be cited from works of authors the most highly esteemed as geographers, even at the present day.”*
* In a large and beautifully engraved map of the United States, published at Philadelphia, in 1821, “from the most undoubted authorities, by —, geographer and draughtsman,” the northern boundary of the United States west of the Mississippi is represented by a line drawn westward from the sources of that river, nearly under the latitude of 47 degrees and 40 minutes, the country north of this line being stated to be “in dispute between Spain and Great Britain.” Now, three years before this map appeared, the boundary between the United States and the British possessions in that part of America had been fixed by treaty, according to which, the dividing line followed the course of the 29th parallel, and, two years before the date of the map, Spain had also, by treaty, ceded to the United States her rights to all territories in America north of the 42nd parallel. These treaties had been published, and it is scarcely credible that they should have been unknown to an American geographer engaged in preparing a map of the United States. Mistakes of the same kind, equally great, are, however, committed in Europe. In the Encyclopedia of Geography, published at Edinburgh, in 1834, by Hugh Murray, and other scientific persons, we find it stated (p. 1374), that “the whole region west of the Rocky Mountains, extending between the 42nd and the 49th parallels of latitude, has, by discovery and treaty, been assigned to the United States,” and a statement to the same effect may be found in the London Quarterly Review for January, 1822. These mistakes evidently arose from ignorance; but the same defence cannot be pleaded in all cases ; for maps have been drawn, and engraved, and colored, with a full knowledge of their falsehood, in order to forward the ends of governments or of individuals.