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There can be no better introduction to a study of the real issues involved by the Alaskan Treaty between Great Britain and Russia, than the following extract from a letter written by Mr. George Canning, to the Minister in charge of the negotiations, as given by Mr. Thos. H. Balch, in a recent publication, in support of the claims of the United States. The letter is dated: Feb. 16-28, 1825.
"It only remains in recapitulation to remind you of the origin and principle of this whole negotiation.
"It is not on our part a negotiation about limits. "It is a demand for the repeal of an offensive and unjustifiable arrogation of exclusive jurisdiction over an ocean of unmeasured extent; but a demand qualified and mitigated in its manner, in order that its justice may be acknowledged and satisfied without soreness or humiliation on the part of Russia.
"We negotiate about territory to cover the remonstrance about principle. But any attempt to take advantage of this voluntary facility we must oppose."
The attitude of the United States respecting the matter of the Alaskan Boundary, can only be properly understood as being part of a policy of aggression upon the Territorial rights of the Dominion of Canada; that, while creating a situation that must make her condition as a Colony of Great Britain intolerable, is one that might be immediately relieved by her secession from the Empire, and alliance with the States. As a solution for the many questions that are pending between the two countries, such a consummation has much to recommend it. The considerations opposed to this alliance may be summed up in the feeling of loy
alty to the Mother Country, and to dislike of the political methods that are in vogue in the Union. The sentiment of loyalty is one, the strength of which can be permanently retained only in proportion to the sense of reciprocity with which it is met, and it so far shares the attributes of love, as to resent either indifference or unconsciousness. And unfortunately, Canada, by her proximity to the States, has been exposed to the pin-pricks of malice, as well as to extortions, directed against her as a dependency, that would not have been attempted or tolerated if directed against Britain herself.
Canada, as a dependency of Britain, can have no quarrel with the United States, with respect to their action on the Boundary Question. It is the duty of Britain, to resist aggressions upon her Colonies; unless she is prepared to find them making terms with the aggressor rather than with herself. It is the tolerance of Britain in the past that invites aggressions in the future.
There is some reason to suppose this indifference to the rights of her Colony has reacted on Britain, in an increase of the contempt and hatred of the citizens of the States, quite as much as from her actual relations to themselves in the past. The greater respect and friendship, recently manifested to Britain, does not result, perhaps, so much from a sense of the friendly abuse of her obligations of neutrality towards Spain, (from which, in theory at least, she holds Gibraltar; as an ally) as from a consciousness of a change in the attitude of the Empire towards the Colonies; that appears to have vastly increased the risk that aggressions previously tolerated, will no longer be regarded with similar complacency. For the apparent surrender of Colonial rights involved by the consent of Britain to the present Convention, it is evident Sir Wilfred Laurier, as appears from his answers to questions in the House at Ottawa, assumes the responsibility. The British Minister would not have agreed to such a Convention had he been warned that more than a matter of "limits" was involved in his consent.
My own conviction of the rights of Canada, has been
derived from a perception of the fallacious character of the assumptions, and weakness of the arguments used in behalf of the United States claims. There is an advantage in becoming acquainted with these, before making any attempt to understand the line of defense adopted by Canadian representatives; because in view of the disclosures made, of the falsification of maps and other methods of lying, resorted to in the case of the Maine Boundary negotiations, no logical mind can accept other propositions proceeding from the same quarter and affecting similar interests, without subjecting them to the gravest doubt and circumspection. Had Britain, when the fraud was discovered, been without the power to remonstrate, nothing could have been expected of her, by gods or men. But, having the power and failing to exact restitution, she became a partner in the guilt, and loses the right to resent a renewal of extortionate solicitations. To imagine the subsequent disclosure was in the slightest degree a fruit of repentance, and guarantee of good faith in the future, can only result from a fatuous disinclination to face disagreeable facts. The only lesson there is any reason to suppose has been learned from the experience, must be an assurance of the complaisance with which Britain submits to the consequences of taking part in such negotiations.
It is not unreasonable to suspect that the frauds practised during the Maine Boundary Negotiations, might be as the efforts of a 'prentice hand, compared with the more finished product of the Alaskan claims. Considered in the most favorable light, the avowed motive that prompted the purchase, was simply a wish to prevent the expansion of British interests upon this Continent; by opposing her right to redeem territory that was of greater importance to the Colony, than by any legitimate possibility it could be to a State that had no excuse for interference, or any apparent motive that was not sufficiently base to sanction any method of deceit by which its objects might be attained. It has always been the interest of the United States, to repudiate the obligations of Russia, and the implications of