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was Sir Francis Drake. He left England in 1577, on a predatory expedition against the dominions of Spain in the Pacific. In 1579, after having accomplished his object, and carried devastation and terror into the unprotected Spanish settlements on the coast, he landed in 38° north latitude, in a bay supposed to be that of San Francisco, and passed five weeks in repairing his vessel. He took possession of the country, and called it New Albion. It is pretended that Sir Francis Drake followed the coast as far north as 48°; but the best authorities fix the northerly limit of his examination, which was a mere inspection from his vessel, at 43°, - the supposed boundary of Ferrelo's inspection more than a quarter of a century before. As the British negotiators have abandoned Drake's expedition as a part of the basis of their claim, I will not dwell upon it, excepting to add that his examinations were accidental ; they were not made in pursuance of any purpose of exploration or settlement; they led to the discovery of no new territory; and they were not followed up by an actual occupation of the soil. For two centuries no claim to territorial rights, that I am aware of, was set up by Great Britain on the ground of Drake's pretended discoveries.
The next explorer was the Greek pilot, Juan de Fuca, who was sent to the northwest coast in 1592, thirteen years after Drake, by the Viceroy of Mexico, for the purpose of discovering the imaginary Strait of Anian, supposed, at that day, to connect the north Pacific with the north Atlantic Ocean. In the prosecution of his voyage he entered an extensive inlet from the sea, as he supposed, between the 47th and 48th parallels of latitude, and sailed more than twenty days in it. Such is his own account as detailed by Michael Lock; and it accords, as well as his descriptions, so nearly with the actual nature of the localities, that it is now generally conceded to be substantially true; and his name is conferred by universal consent on the strait
between the 48th and 49th parallels of latitude. Spain had thus made discoveries on the northwest coast before the close of the sixteenth century as far north at least as the 48th degree of latitude; and the nature of the explorations, from their extent and the settled purpose in pursuance of which they were made, excludes all claim of discovery by others down to that period of time.
In 1603, Vizcaino, a distinguished naval commander, under an order from the King of Spain, made a careful survey of the coast of California to Monterey, in the 37th parallel of latitude ; and he also explored the coast as far north as the 43d parallel, giving names to several bays and promontories as he advanced. During the seventeenth century, at least seven different attempts were made by the Spaniards to form establishments in California ; but, from the hostility of the natives and other causes, these attempts failed, so far as any permanent settlement is concerned, excepting the last, which was made in 1697. But, within sixty years from this time, sixteen principal establishments were formed by the Jesuits on the western coast of America, between the Gulf of California and Cape Mendocino, one of which was in the bay of St. Francisco, near the 38th degree of latitude. During the whole period from the landing of Fernando Cortes in California, and the latter part of the eighteenth century, Spain had uniformly asserted her title to the northwest coast of America, and had, from time to time, made efforts not only to extend her discoveries there, but to perfect her right of empire and domain by permanent establishments.
In 1774, Perez was ordered by the Viceroy of Mexico to proceed to 60° north latitude, and explore the coast south to Monterey, and to take possession, in the name of the King of Spain, of the places where he should land. He succeeded in reaching the 54th parallel, within two thirds of a degree of the northern boundary of the disputed territory, whence he returned along the coast to
Washington's Island, as it was called by Captain Gray, or Queen Charlotte's Island, as it was afterwards named by the British navigators. In latitude 49° 30' he entered a capacious bay, where he remained for some time, trading with the natives, — the same bay, beyond all question, which
was four years afterwards called King George's Sound, by Captain Cook, and is now known as Nootka Sound.
The next year, (1775,) Heceta sailed as far north as the 48th degree of latitude, and explored the coast south, filling up the outline which Perez had left incomplete. He had previously landed at 41° 10, and erected a cross, with an inscription setting forth that he had taken possession of the country in the name of his sovereign. In latitude 46°17' he discovered a rapid current outward from the land, opposite to an opening which he immediately pronounced to be the mouth of a river. From him it was first called the Entrada de Heceta, and afterwards the river St. Roc. He made repeated attempts to enter it, but was constantly baffled by the violence of the current. This is now conceded to have been the mouth of the river Columbia, which was discovered and entered by Captain Gray, of Boston, seventeen years afterwards.
During the same year the coast was also explored from the 56th to the 59th degrees of latitude by Quadra (y Bodega) and Maurelle, who erected crosses in testimony of their discoveries.
On their return, they visited the coast at the 47th degree of latitude, and explored it from the 45th southwardly to the 42d.
It will be perceived by these details, which I have deemed it necessary to state with some particularity, that, previous to 1778, the year in which Captain Cook visited the northwest coast, the Spaniards had examined it with great care and perseverance from 37° to 49° 30. They had also examined it from the 54th to the 59th parallels, and visited it at intermediate points. And in these explorations they were wholly without competitors, excepting on the part of
some Russian navigators, who had made discoveries north of the 56th parallel, and Drake, who had visited the coast at the 38th. During the two centuries which intervened between the expedition of Drake and the third voyage of Cook, no attempt had been made, nor any design indicated, on the part of Great Britain, to avail herself of any pretended claim by virtue of the transient visit of the former to the coast; while Spain constantly asserted her right to it by virtue of previous and subsequent discoveries. And in California and its neighborhood she had, after repeated efforts, succeeded in effecting the permanent occupation of the country, which was her earnest object, —an object which
, no other power during that long period had even in contemplation.
The third voyage of Captain Cook, undertaken in 1777, gave the first indication of a desire on the part of Great Britain to appropriate such parts of the northwest coast of America as she considered open to settlement, and subject them to her dominion. He was instructed to take possession, in the name of the King, of convenient situations in the countries he might discover that had not been already discovered or visited by any other European power. In 1778 he landed at Nootka Sound, in 49° 33' north latitude, where he remained nearly a month, trading with the natives and refitting his vessel. I believe this was the only point within the Territory in dispute at which Captain Cook landed; and it is proved by its latitude to be the same bay which Perez discovered four years before, and in which he passed some time, like Captain Cook, trading with the natives. The subsequent explorations of the latter were made farther north - I believe he did not see the coast south of 55° — with a view to the discovery of a passage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans; and they have no bearing on the question under discussion.
The explorations of Captain Cook gave no title whatever to Great Britain on the score of discovery—the only place
where he landed having been previously visited by Perez. Besides, if she had gained a contingent right of possession by virtue of his explorations, she did not proceed to perfect her title by a formal occupancy.
The neglect of Great Britain to take actual possession of Nootka Sound, even if she had gained a contingent right by discovery, is conclusive against any claim on her part to a right of property in it. For eight or nine years the British flag was not once unfurled there, as I can learn, although the place had, in the mean time, been visited by navigators of other nations; and it was not until several years later still that it was even entered by a public armed vessel of Great Britain ; and then, not until the Spanish Government had taken formal possession of it.
In 1787, Berkeley, an Englishman, in the service of the Austrian East India Company, saw the Strait of Juan de Fuca, but without attempting to enter it. In like manner, Meares, a lieutenant in the British navy, though in the service of a Portuguese merchant, and sailing under the flag of Portugal, sent a boat a few miles into the strait in 1788, having learned from Berkeley that he had rediscovered it the preceding year. Meares also explored the coast in the vicinity of the mouth of the Columbia River, and came to the conclusion, to use his own language, that “no such river as that of St. Roc exists, as laid down in the Spanish charts.”ı
As the transactions in which Meares was engaged, on the northwest coast, are intimately connected with the claim of Great Britain to a right of joint occupancy in respect to Oregon, I trust it will not be deemed superfluous if I examine them somewhat in detail.
Before making the explorations above referred to, Meares had landed at Nootka Sound, and left a party to build a small vessel. He had, for a trifling consideration, obtained
, the grant of “a spot of ground” from Maquinna, the king of the surrounding country, to build a house for the accom
Voyages, &c., John Meares, Esq., p. 168.