« ZurückWeiter »
A good deal of weight is attached by General Foster to the argument drawn from the maps published since the treaty of 1825, the boundary line shown on many of which accords with or goes beyond the contentions of the United States. It is, however, easy to over-estimate the value of such evidence. Some of these maps are almost grotesque in the extreme claims they make, and evidently have been prepared without adequate knowledge of the treaty. Great allowance must, of course, be made for the cartographers. No surveys other than those of Vancouver were undertaken of the shores of the Lynn Canal till after the year 1880, while the mountain ranges along the coast were not surveyed till the year 1895, after the Convention of 1892 had provided for a joint international survey. As the treaty of 1825, which defines the boundary line, makes its location dependent upon
alternative circumstances, the occurrence or nonoccurrence of mountains running in a direction parallel with the coast, it must be plain that any line placed upon a map before a survey was made, or a knowledge of the existence of such mountains ascertained, cannot be held to establish anything. It is fair to assume that such boundaries were intended by the draughtsman only as an indication of the occurrence of a dividing line somewhere in that region, and later cartographers, in the absence of any further knowledge, simply adopted the location of the line as they found it on earlier maps. The whole country was a veritable terra incognita until recent years, with intermittent communication, scant population, and, comparatively speaking, little or no commerce beyond the trade in furs. Únder these circumstances the Canadian Government feel that little weight should be attached to maps showing the location of the line incorrectly and inconsistently with the treaty, as appears in the fuller light of subsequent surveys.
The Americans largely rely upon certain acts of occupation by them within the lisière to establish their claim to the territory in dispute. The argument drawn therefrom would have more force if Great Britain denied the right of the United States to any lisière at all. But this she does not do. Nobody disputes the claim of the United States to a strip of the coast. The point at issue relates to the extent of this strip. Actual possession at many different points no doubt took place, and political control was exercised all along the lisière both by Russia and the United States, but the question · What is the lisière p' remains unaffected by this admission. It is therefore beside the mark to assert, as General Foster does, that the Russian-American Company erected forts and trading posts within the strip, unless it can also be shown that these forts and trading posts were established in that portion of the territory claimed by Great Britain.
What are the facts with respect to the United States' alleged occupation of this disputed territory at the head of Lynn Canal? In the summer of 1880, the Presbyterian Board of Missions appears to have started a school or mission amongst the Indians at Haines Mission, Portage Cove, near the head of the canal. A building was erected there for the purpose of the school about 1881, and the school was continued for some time, but of late years
it has been abandoned. The United States census for 1880 shows that at that date there was not a single white settler resident at the head of the Lynn Canal. In 1882 or 1883 a store was established at Pyramid Harbour, and another small trading post, belonging to a private individual, was also known to exist at the head of Taiya Inlet, where Dyea now is, in the year 1887. About 1883 two canneries were erected at Pyramid Harbour, and doubtless several other individual acts of ownership may be adduced as having occurred before the great rush came on the discovery of gold in the Klondike region. But it is contended by Canada that isolated acts of individuals cannot be held to prove national occupation or jurisdiction, particularly when, as in the present instances, it is borne in mind that those settlers were mere squatters, for years unrecognised by the United States. Indeed, no evidence has been produced to show that either a mining grant or a land grant was ever issued by the United States Government before the year 1897 to any person in any part of the disputed territory. It is commonly, though erroneously, supposed that the United States have exercised control at Dyea and Skagway for a considerable period of time. The facts are that Dyea and Skagway did not exist prior to the spring of 1897. At the opening of that year there was nothing more than a single log cabin or shanty at either place. In May the influx of miners to the Klondike began. Thousands of them arrived by steamer in the Lynn Canal, and congregated on its margin where Dyea and Skagway now stand. The necessities of this migration caused the erection of many buildings, and created considerable trade and commerce.
Without any survey or further diplomatic action respecting the position of the boundary, the United States Government assumed
political control of these points, and established custom houses, post offices, and other evidences of authority. With such reasonable diligence as the extreme difficulties of access to this territory and other circumstances permitted, Canada protested against this cavalier mode of solving the difficulty, and urged the desirability of establishing the boundary line as contemplated by the Convention of 1892.
It is commonly asserted by the advocates of the United States' contention that Great Britain's claim to the heads of inlets is an afterthought-never dreamed of until the gold discoveries in 1897 drew attention to the advantages of ready means of access to the Yukon country. General Foster, indeed, goes somewhat farther, and intimates that it was not until the International Commission assembled at Quebec in August 1898 that he and his colleagues became aware of any divergence of view between the two Governments respecting the interpretation of the treaty of 1825.
It is somewhat surprising that an American statesman, and an ex-Secretary of State to boot, should commit himself to a statement so easy of disproof. More than ten years ago the United States Government issued a document containing letters by Dr. George Dawson (an eminent Canadian authority, who had been summoned to Washington for a conference on the boundary) in support of the Canadian contention as to the line crossing inlets, and also a counter-argument by Mr. Dall, the American expert. Accompanying this report is a map showing how the boundary would run in accordance with the views presented by Dr. Dawson. On this map the line is clearly marked as crossing the Lynn Canal in the vicinity of Berner's Bay. It is also a matter of common knowledge to those in Canada who take interest in this question that on several occasions, both before and after the publication in 1889 of the American Blue-book referred to above, the Dominion authorities protested against arbitrary attempts on the part of the United States to settle the question conformably to its own pretensions.
While the foregoing presentation of the Alaska boundary question is admittedly from the British point of view, it is by no means desired to convey the impression that the facts and the arguments are all one way. On the letter of the treaty the British side have, we think, a decided advantage,
Senate 50th Congress, 2nd Session, Ex doc. No. 146, pp. 4–9. Map No. 16.
prejudiced to some extent by extravagant claims put forward by over-zealous British Columbians—such, for instance, as that the coast'refers to the outer shore of the islands, which would not allow the Americans any foothold on the continent at all, though the whole dispute is about a strip of coast on the mainland as distinct from the islands. Scarcely less untenable is the tbeory that Portland Channel of the treaty does not mean Portland Channel, but Clarence Strait-an entirely different body of water, which Sir C. Bagot endeavoured to get as the boundary and failed.
On the other hand it is not to be denied that the claim of the United States derives a certain amount of strength from the neglect and apathy which for many years characterised Great Britain's attitude towards this question. How far this indifference may be held to impair the advantages of an appeal to the letter of the treaty seeins to be one of those questions eminently suited for reference to an arbitral tribunal. So judged the late Lord Herschell and his Canadian colleagues on the International Commission of 1898–99, at which, it is understood, every effort which conciliation could suggest was made by the British Commissioners to remove this vexed question from the domain of controversy. To this end they offered to yield to the United States the wbole of the land bordering on the Lynn Canal, except Pyramid Harbour, and such a strip of land running back from that harbour to the boundary line as would secure uninterrupted access to the interior by the Dalton Trail—that is to say, they were prepared to give the United States two ports (Dyea and Skagway and the passes behind) out of three. Should this proposal be unacceptable, the British Commissioners expressed their willingness to agree to a reference of the whole question to arbitration on the lines of the Venezuela Boundary Treaty. That treaty provided that adverse holding for fifty years should make a good title, and also that such effect should be given to occupation for less than fifty years as reason, justice, the principles of international law, and equities of the case required.
The United States Commissioners refused both offers, qualifying their rejection of the latter by a counter-proposal to the effect that in the event of their consenting to an arbitration, it should be understood and provided beforehand that all settlements on tide-water settled on the authority of the United States, should continue to be American territory, even though they might prove to be on
the British side of the line. In other words, they would consent to arbitrate only on condition that the principal objects of the arbitration should be theirs in any event, and that the other parties to the dispute should so covenant before they went into court. The British Commissioners, it is needless to say, found themselves unable to accept this modification of their proposal, and the negotiations were shortly afterwards suspended, whereupon the United States press proceeded to upbraid Canada with what they termed her extravagant demands and unreasonable conduct in thwarting the completion of an arrangement which both the Great Powers interested were desirous to effect. Nor was this unfair criticism wholly confined to the United States. Throughout the press of the mother country there ran a tone mildly deprecatory of what the Times called Canada's ' tremendous tenacity,' and even Mr. Asquith ‘was not quite sure that Canada had approached this question with the calmness of the United States. The publication last June of the protocols of the Washington Conference effectually dispelled these misconceptions. It was then seen that Canada, far from having interposed obstacles to the successful issue of the negotiations, had gone to the verge of sacrificing her self-respect in her anxiety to effect a settlement of the dispute, and that it was the uncompromising stand taken by the United States plenipotentiaries which compelled the adjournment of the Commission.
The question naturally arises, why should the United States resolutely decline to refer to arbitration a case which its advocates are never wearied of pronouncing indefeasible, more especially when their position is safeguarded by considerations of possession, occupation, the equities of the case, and so forth? Such an attitude towards a kindred nation seems not a little strange, and of itself almost justifies the inference that the American people do not want the Alaska boundary settled.
It is commonly taken for granted that the cordial feelings entertained by the British people for their American cousins are reciprocated by the latter. Those who have visited only New York and other great centres in the United States have hardly perhaps had enough experience on which to found so wide and satisfactory a judgement. Among those whom they met in Wall Street, at the Clubs, and in society, were many no doubt animated by unaffected sentiments of admiration and regard for the motherland, and it is pleasant to think that this class is increasing in number