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sador at St. Petersburg, to proceed to open the discussion with the Russian Minister upon the basis of the instructions given to the Duke of Wellington.
Owing, however, to a doubt as to the position taken by the United States with regard to this territory, negotiations were not actually commenced till the following year. Sir Charles Bagot stated verbally to Count Nesselrode in August 1823, that he believed the British pretensions had always extended to the 59th parallel, but that a line of demarcation drawn at the 57th would be quite satisfactory. In two conversations which he had later with M. Poletica, who, in the absence of Count Nesselrode, was empowered to represent the Russian Government, Sir Charles Bagot gave him to understand that the British Government would be satisfied to take Cross Sound, lying about latitude 571°, as the boundary between the two Powers on the coast, and a meridian drawn from the head of Lynn Canal as the boundary in the interior of the continent. In reply, Sir Charles Bagot understood M. Poletica to suggest the 55th degree as that which Russia would desire to obtain as her boundary, and to intimate that it would be with extreme reluctance that Russia would consent to any demarcation which would deprive her of her establishment at Novo-Archangelsk (Sitka).
In January 1824, Sir Charles Bagot received new instructions to proceed with the negotiations, and on the 16th February had his first conference upon this question with the Russian Plenipotentiaries, Count Nesselrode and M. Poletica. He then proposed as the boundary a line drawn through Chatham Straits to the head of Lynn Canal, thence north-west to the 140th degree of longitude, and thence along that degree of longitude to the Polar Sea.
In reply, the Russian Plenipotentiaries at the next meeting offered a counter-proposal, which was afterwards, at Sir Charles Bagot's request, reduced into writing. By this counter-proposal, the Russian Plenipotentiaries proposed the 55th degree of north latitude
as the line of demarcation on the north-west coast of America, 19 being the limit which the Emperor Paul had assigned to the
Russian possessions by his Charter to the Russian-American Company. Further, as that parallel cut Prince of Wales Island in its southern extremity leaving out of the Russian dominions two points of land, it was proposed that these two points should be comprised within the Russian limit, in order to avoid an inconvenient division. To complete the line and make it as distinct as possible, the Russian Plenipotentiaries expressed a desire to make it follow the Portland Channel as far as the mountains which skirt the coast (“jusqu'aux montagnes qui bordent la côte"). From that point they suggested that the boundary should run along those mountains in a direction parallel (“parallèlement") to the sinuosities of the coast as far as the 139th degree of longitude. It was explained that the principal motive which forced Russia to insist on the sovereignty of this fringe (lisère) on the continent from the Portland Channel northwards was that without that territory the Russian-American Company would have no means of maintaining their establishments, which would be thenceforth without a “point d'appui,” and which would have no solidity. In return Russia offered the free navigation of all rivers which emptied themselves into the ocean within that fringe.
There are certain observations which have to be made upon the terms of this proposal. In the first place, it is clear that the limit in point of latitude which Russia was claiming in principle was the 55th parallel, and that it was only put further south so far as necessary to include two promontories on Prince of Wales Island, and to reach on the mainland a boundary marked by a channel. In the second place, it is clear that the island wbich they understood as Prince of Wales Island was the large island so marked on the map, the two southern extremities of which would be cut off by the 55th parallel of latitude. In the third place, the extent and the function assigned to the lisère which Russia desired to possess, are worthy of note. It was to be a mere fringe, as a protection and a "point d'appui.” It will be found that this conception of the lisère was not departed from. In reply to this counter-proposal, Sir Charles Bagot delivered an
amended proposal in which he expanded the description which 20 the Russian Plenipotentiaries had given of their proposed
line. He described this line as being traced from the southern extremity of Prince of Wales Island to the embouchure of the Portland Canal, thence by the middle of that canal until it (the line) touched “la terre ferme," thence to the mountains which skirt the coast, and so on.
Sir Charles Bagot continued his despatch by pointing out that the adoption of this line would deprive His Britannic Majesty of
the sovereignty of all those coves and little bays which lie between latitudes 56° and 54° 45'. On this it is to be observed that the embouchure of Portland Canal as contended for by Great Britain was ascertained by Vancouver to lie in latitude 54° 45%'. It is further to be remarked that Sir Charles Bagot does not appear to have considered that the concession of the boundary proposed by the Russians would have deprived the British of all the inlets above the 56th degree of latitude.
In this amended proposal Sir Charles Bagot suggested a line drawn along the middle of the channel which separates Prince of Wales Island and what was then known as the Duke of York's Island from the islands to the north of them, until it touched the mainland; thence in the same direction 10 marine leagues inland; thence northerly parallel to the sinuosity of the coast.
In their reply to Sir Charles Bagot's amended proposal, the Russian Plenipotentiaries re-stated their reasons for proposing as the boundary on the coast of the continent to the south (sur la côte du continent au sud ") the Portland Canal, the origin of which inland (“dans les terres') they said was at the 56th degree of north latitude, and to the east the chain of mountains which followed at a very little distance the sinuosities of the coast. They observed that this would leave for British expansion (1) all that part of the coast (de la côte") situated between the embouchure of the Portland Canal and the 51st parallel, contemplated as the boundary in the Ukase of 1821; and (2) all the territory situated between the English establishments at the 54th parallel and the origin of the Portland Canal. From the language held by the Russian Plenipotentiaries in mak
ing this proposal, it is perfectly clear that they did not regard 21 the coast (“la côte”), as the word was used by them in these
negotiations as extending up the waters of Portland Canal. Had they done so, it would have been impossible to describe the Portland Canal as the boundary on the coast of the continent to the south, nor would they have described their proposals as leaving free to British expansion all the part of the coast (“toute la partie de la côte') which lay between the embouchure of Portland Canal and the 51st parallel. Nor, again, would they have described the Portland Canal as having its origin inland (“dans les terres").
Sir Charles Bagot did not give way to the arguments of the Russian negotiators, but repeated his amended proposal (modified so as to give Prince of Wales Island to Russia). This the Russian Plenipotentiaries declined to accept, repeating that the possession of Prince of Wales Island without a portion of territory on the coast situated opposite that island (“sur la côte située vis-à-vis de cette île") would be of no use to Russia.
At this point Sir Charles Bagot suspended the negotiations, and by a despatch dated the 29th March, 1824, reported to Mr. Canning the communications which had taken place. A despatch dated the 17th April, 1824, was also addressed by Count Nesselrode to Count Lieven, in which he summarized and repeated the views he had pressed upon Sir Charles Bagot. He speaks of his proposal to make the southern frontier of the Russian dominions terminate upon the continent (“aboutir sur le continent") at Portland Canal, of which he says “l'embouchure dans l'Ocean” is in the latitude of Prince of Wales Island and the origin inland between the 55th and 56th degrees of latitude. From his language here it is again obvious that in his view the shore at Portland Canal is not coast" and its waters are not ocean."
In the same despatch Count Nesselrode emphasizes again and again the slender character of the lisière which it was desired that Russia should possess. He describes it as merely “une étroite lisière sur la côte même," "une simple lisière du continent," "un médiocre espace de terre ferme” only required to enable Russia to make use of—nay, to avoid losing-the neighbouring islands (“le moyen de faire valoir
nous dirons plus, de ne pas perdre-les îles environnantes”). 22 Russia, he says in conclusion, only reserves to herself a “point
d'appui,” without which it would not be possible for her to preserve half her dominions.
The Russian proposals were laid by Mr. Canning before the Hudson's Bay Company, and on receipt of their Report Mr. Canning wrote to Count Lieven on the 29th May, 1824, announcing that Sir Charles Bagot's discretion would be so far enlarged as to enable him to admit with some qualifications the terms last proposed by the Russian Government. The qualifications would consist chiefly in a more definite description of the limit to which the strip of land required by Russia on the continent was to be restricted, in the selection of a somewhat more western degree of longitude, as the boundary to the northward of Mount Elias, and in precise and positive stipulations for the free use of rivers, &c.
On the 12th July, 1824, the instructions referred to were sent to Sir Charles Bagot, with a draft Convention to which he was authorized to consent. Articles II and III of this draft Convention were as follows:
La ligne séparative entre les possessions des deux Hautes Parties Contractantes sur le continent et les Iles de l'Amérique du Nord-ouest sera tracée de la manière suivante:
“En commençant des deux points de l'isle dite du Prince de Galles, qui en forment l'extrémité méridionale, lesquels points sont situés sous le parallèle de 54° 40et entre le 131° et le 1334 degré de longitude ouest (méridien de Greenwich), la ligne de la frontière, entre les possessions Britanniques et Russes remontera, au nord, par la passe dite le Portland Channel jusqu'à ce qu'elle touche à la côte de la terre ferme située au 56° degré de latitude nord. De ce point elle suivra cette côte, parallèlement à ses sinuosités, et sous ou dans la base vers la mer des montagnes qui la bordent jusqu'au 139° degré de longitude ouest du dit méridien. Et de là, la susdite ligne méridionale du 139e degré de longitude ouest en sa prolongation jusqu'à la Mer Glaciale formera la limite des possessions Britanniques et Russes sur le dit Continent de l'Amérique du Nord-Ouest.
“Il est convenu, néanmoins, par rapport aux stipulations de l'Article précédent“1. Que la susdite lisière de côte sur le Continent de l'Amérique formant la
limite des possessions Russes ne doit, en aucun cas, s'étendre en largeur 23 depuis la mer vers l'intérieur, au delà de la distance de
lieues maritimes à quelque distance que seront les susdites montagnes. “2. Que les sujets Britanniques navigueront et commerceront librement à perpétuité sur la dite lisière de côte, et sur celle des îles qui l'avoisinent.
“3. Que la navigation et le commerce des fleuves du continent traversant cette lisière seront libres aux sujets Britanniques tant à ceux habitant ou fréquentant l'intérieur de ce continent qu'à ceux qui aborderont ces parages du côte de l'Océan Pacifique.”
By the covering despatch it was left to Sir Charles Bagot to agree to a distance (left blank in Article III of the draft) to which the breadth of the lisière was to be limited, provided that he was not authorized to agree to a greater distance than 10 marine leagues. The covering despatch also shows that this provision was due to the uncertainty as to the real position of the mountains which appeared almost to border the coast.