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modation of the party. The occupation was avowedly for a temporary purpose ; and he had stipulated with Maquinna
; to restore the possession to him, when he (Meares) should finally leave the coast. In the autumn of the same year, he left Nootka Sound with his vessels, one of which wintered in China, and the two others in the Sandwich Islands. I should have before observed that he arrived at Nootka Sound with two vessels, the Felice and the Iphigenia ; and the third, the Northwest America, was built there during the summer.
In the mean time, the Columbia and the Washington, two American vessels from Boston, entered the sound and passed the winter; and, from all the testimony relating to the subject, there is no doubt that the lot occupied by Meares was abandoned, or restored to Maquinna, in pursuance of the agreement between them. During all this time, it is to be recollected, Meares was sailing under the Portuguese flag; and it is a curious fact that he carried with him instructions to repel by force any attempt on the part of Russian, Spanish, or English vessels, to seize him, or carry him out of his way. He was further instructed, in case he was successful in capturing his assailant, to send the vessel to China, to be condemned, and the crew to be tried as pirates ; and yet, sir, notwithstanding he was sailing under a foreign flag, with orders to treat his Britannic Majesty's subjects as pirates, in case they molested him, the British Government does not scruple to found its title to Oregon on his voyage!
Though the vessels of Meares sailed under the Portuguese flag, and under the name of a Portuguese subject, he as
1 “Maquinna had not only most read- “The chief was also requested to ily consented to grant us a spot of show every mark of attention and ground in his territory, whereon a friendship to the party we should leave house might be built for the accommo- on shore ; and, as a bribe to secure his dation of the people we intended to attachment, he was promised, that when leave there, but had promised us also we finally left the coast, he should enhis assistance in forwarding our works, ter into full possession of the house, and his protection of the party, who and all the goods and chattels therewere destined to remain at Nootka dur- unto belonging.” — Ib. p. 130. ing our absence.”- Voyages, &-c. by John ? Appendix to Meares's Voyages, paMeares, p. 114.
pers No. 1.
serted, in his memorial to Parliament, that the parties in interest were British merchants. I desire to state the whole truth, and therefore I give a fact I have not seen noticed. At page 173 of his “ Voyages," it will be seen that he took possession of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, in the name of the King of Great Britain, in July, 1788. But, independently of the objection to claims founded upon the transactions of an individual, who, under the most favorable view that can be taken of him, had sought the protection of a foreign flag to perpetrate frauds on the revenue laws of China, this unauthorized act of taking possession under such a flag was preceded many years by similar formalities on the part of the Spanish navigators, under express
orders from their sovereign. The twofold character which Meares united in his person certainly gave him manifest advantages, both as a trader and a discoverer. He was a Portuguese captain when defrauding the revenue laws of China for the benefit of British subjects, and a British lieutenant when encroaching on the territorial rights of Spain, for the benefit of the British sovereign.
On the 6th of May, 1789, Martinez, a Spanish naval commander, with two public armed vessels, entered Nootka Sound, with instructions to assert and maintain the paramount rights of Spain to the place and to the adjacent
The Iphigenia and the Northwest America, two of Meares's vessels, had returned from the Sandwich Islands, still sailing under Portuguese colors, and arrived in the sound on the 20th of April, sixteen days before Martinez. The Northwest America sailed eight days afterwards on a trading voyage, and the Iphigenia was a short time subsequently seized by Martinez, on the ground that her instructions were hostile to Spain. She was, however, soon restored, and continued to trade under Portuguese colors, – a fact which shows conclusively that no claim can justly be set up by Great Britain on the basis of the voyage of Meares to Nootka, and his temporary establishment there. The Northwest America was also seized, for reasons not directly connected with any question of sovereignty, and was employed for nearly two years in the Spanish service.
In the month of June, 1789, two vessels, the Argonaut and Princess Royal, sailing under British colors, arrived at Nootka, and were seized by Martinez. It is unnecessary to enter into the details of this transaction. It is sufficient to say that it led to an animated discussion between the governments of Great Britain and Spain, in respect to their rights in the Pacific and the western coast of America, which, for several months, threatened to produce a war between the two countries, but which was finally terminated in October, 1790, by the Treaty of the Escurial, or the Nootka Sound Convention, as it is more frequently denominated with us. Before the negotiations were concluded, both vessels were voluntarily released by the Spanish authorities in Mexico.
As the Nootka Sound Convention constitutes an essential ingredient in the claim of Great Britain, it will be necessary to advert to such of its provisions as are made the foundation of her title to the qualified exercise of sovereignty which she asserts over the northwest coast of America, and to consider them in connection with the circumstances under which they were framed. The articles which relate particularly to the question under discussion are the 1st, 3d, 5th, and 6th.
The first article provides that —
“ The buildings and tracts of land situated on the northwest coast of the continent of North America, or on the islands adjacent to that continent, of which the subjects of His Britannic Majesty were dispossessed about the month of April, 1789, by a Spanish officer, shall be restored to the said British subjects.”
The third article provides, that " In order to strengthen the bonds of friendship, and to preserve in future a perfect harmony and good understanding between the two contracting parties, it is agreed that their respective subjects shall not be disturbed or molested, either in navigating or carrying on their
fisheries in the Pacific Ocean, or in the South Seas, or in landing on the coasts of those seas in places not already occupied, for the purpose of carrying on their commerce with the natives of the country, or of making settlements there; the whole, subject, nevertheless, to the restrictions specified in the three following articles.”
The fifth article provides that —
“ As well in the places which are to be restored to the British subjects by virtue of the first article, as in all other parts of the northwestern coast of America, or of the islands adjacent, situate to the north of the parts of the said coast already occupied by Spain, whereever the subjects of either of the two Powers shall have made settlements since the month of April, 1789, or shall hereafter make any, the subjects of the other shall have free access, and shall carry on their trade without any disturbance or molestation.”
The sixth article relates to the coast of South America; but it has an importance in containing a definition of the erections which may be made, confining them to such as may serve the purposes of fishing; and the provisions of the third article are expressly declared to be subject to the restrictions in “ the three following articles," one of which is the sixth.
1 On the 1st of March, 1825, Colonel by Spain was of no consequence,) and Benton made an able speech in the to what extent were they now secured Senate of the United States in favor of to us? We possessed and exercised the occupation of the Oregon (Colum- the free navigation of the Pacific Ocean bia) River. In this speech he examined without restraint or limitation. We the Treaty of the Escurial, (the Nootka possessed and exercised the right of Sound Convention,) and insisted that carrying on fisheries in the South Seas it was proved by its terms to be “a equally unlimited.” “This estate we treaty of concession, and not of acqui- had, and were daily improving; it was sition of rights on the part of Great not to be disgraced by the name of an Britain”; and “that the permission to acquisition. The adinission of part of land and to make settlements, so far these rights was all we had obtained. from contemplating an acquisition of Our right before was to settle in any territory, was limited by subsequent part of the south or northwest coast of restrictions to the erection of temporary America not fortified against us by prehuts for the personal accommodation of vious occupancy; and we were now refishermen and traders only." These stricted to settle in certain places only, positions were enforced in his argu- and under certain restrictions. This ment by a reference to the assertions was an important concession on our of Mr. Fox, and the admissions of Mr. part. Our rights of fishing extended Pitt, when the Nootka Sound contro- to the whole ocean; and now it was versy was under discussion in the Brit- limited and to be carried on within ish Parliament. The following are certain distances of the Spanish settlesome of the passages to which he re- ments. Our right of making settleferred:
ments was not, as now, a right to “Mr. Fox said : What, then, was build huts, but to plant colonies if we the extent of our rights before the con- thought proper. Surely these were vention, (whether admitted or denied not acquisitions, or rather conquests, When Vancouver was sent out, in 1792, to receive possession of the buildings, &c. to be restored, none could be found excepting those erected by the Spaniards. No building occupied by British subjects remained at Nootka in 1789, when Martinez arrived there; and it was denied by the Indians that any tracts of land as they must be considered, if we were accuracy of this construction of the to judge by the triumphant language treaty as to settlements and erections. respecting them, but great and im. But he maintained “that, though what portant concessions.” By the third this country (Great Britain) had gained article we are authorized navigate consisted not of new rights, it certainly the Pacific Ocean and South Seas, un- did of new advantages. We had bemolested, for the purpose of carrying fore a right to the southern whale-fish. on our fisheries, and to land on the ing, and a right to navigate and carry unsettled coasts for the purpose of trad- on fisheries in the Pacific Ocean, and to ing with the natives; but after this trade on the coast of any part of Northpompous recognition of right to navi- west America; but that right had not gation, fishing, and commerce, comes only not been acknowledged, but disanother article, the sixth, which takes puted and resisted; whereas by the away the right of landing, and erect- convention it was secured to us, - a ing even temporary huts, for any pur- circumstance which, though no new pose but that of carrying on the fish- right, was a new advantage.” – Ib. p. ery, and amounts to a complete dere- 1002. liction of all right settle in any way
I now proceed to state certain facts in respect to this convention, and to draw from them conclusions at which I have arrived with some diffidence. The facts I shall endeavor to present with a rigid regard to accuracy. If my conclusions are erroneous, the better judgment of the Senate will correct them; and I shall have the consolation of reflecting that iny errors — if they shall prove such — have led to the discovery of truth, which I am sure is the great object of every senator on this floor.
The first article was practically inoperative, from a total misapprehension of the facts which it supposed. There is no evidence that subjects of his Britannic Majesty had been dispossessed of buildings or tracts of lands in April, 1789, or at any other time, by a Spanish officer. In the message of the British King to Parliament, and in the earnest discussions between the two countries in respect to the seizure of the British ships, I find no mention of such dispossession.
This subject has recently been furfor the purpose of commerce with the ther illustrated in a close and well-reanatives.' British Parliamentary His- soned argument by Mr. Owen, of Inditory, Vol. XXVIII. p. 990.
ana, in the House of Representatives. Mr. Pitt, in reply, did not deny the