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The Oregon Treaty, 1846.


to 1845. During the earlier years of this period, the British fur-trading companies preponderated in Oregon.

Later on, American colonists, with their families, had passed the mountains and settled in the fertile river valleys. As in the original settlement of the country, the English settlers had driven out the French trappers, so in Oregon the American emigrant farmers drove away the Canadian and English fur-traders. The boundary between Canada and the United States from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains was the fortyninth parallel. The United States, for some years, had been willing to extend that line to the Pacific, thus yielding to Great Britain the territory between forty-nine and fifty-four degrees and forty minutes of north latitude the latter line being the recognized southern boundary of the Russian province of Alaska. The adoption of the forty-ninth parallel as the boundary between American and British territory, besides giving to the United States the mouth and the greater part of the basin of the Columbia River, would also give it the southern end of Vancouver's Island, and the control of the southern channel connecting the sounds between that island and the continent with the ocean. To this Great Britain would not consent, and the Americans reverted to their more extensive claims. In 1845, the war spirit ran high in the United States. “All Oregon, or none,” and “Fifty-four forty or fight” became the cry. For a while it seemed as if the United States would be obliged to wage war with Great Britain and Mexico at the same time. Joint occupation of Oregon was terminated by the act of the United States. More peaceful counsels prevailed, however, and it was arranged by treaty, in 1846, that the boundary between the United States and Canada should be the forty-ninth parallel, as far as the channel separating Vancouver's Island from the mainland, and should then follow the middle of that channel to the Pacific Ocean. There was some dispute as to which channel was the

one meant by the negotiators of the treaty of 1846, but this contention was arranged by arbitration in 1871 the German Emperor acting as arbitrator and deciding in favour of the United States. The more difficult question as to the division of these great acquisitions between slavery and freedom remained to be settled.



The Anti

The Missouri compromises settled the question of slavery extension for many years, and at the same time made the division between the slave and free slavery agita.

tion. sections more permanent. But the issue involved in that contest had hardly been set at rest when other questions turning on slavery arose. The people of the North, for the most part, were busily employed in acquiring wealth. The northern merchants and manufacturers agreed with the southern slave-owners in a desire to leave the whole subject of slavery undiscussed and undisturbed. There are to be found, however, from time to time, in all parts of the world, earnest souls whose consciences will not permit them to blink at what seems to be wrong, no matter how their material interests may be affected by their actions. Such an one was William Lloyd Garrison. In 1831, while nullification was threatening to disturb the peace of the country, he began at Boston the publication of a paper devoted to the abolition of negro slavery and called “The Liberator.” The South Carolina politician was satisfied with nullification as a first step at least; the Massachusetts agitator clamoured for no union with slave-owners, and denounced the Constitution as “an agreement with Hell.” In the same year that Garrison

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began the publication of “The Liberator,” a slave insurrection broke out in Virginia under the leadership of Nat Turner. There was no connection between the two events, but the Southerners became wild with excitement. The legislature of Georgia offered a reward of five thousand dollars for Garrison's arrest and conviction, and not a copy of “The Liberator” could be openly sold south of the Potomac. Incitement to murder in the South had its counterpart in mob violence in the North. Garrison was locked up in the Boston jail to protect him from the rioters, and William Ellery Channing, publishing a tract against slavery, was deserted by the greater part of his congregation. The matter soon became an affair of national importance owing to the lack of wisdom displayed by the Southern leaders in trying to prevent the presentation of anti-slavery petitions to Congress. John Quincy Adams, the ex-President, was now a member of the House of Representatives. He led the battle for freedom on this issue of the right of petition, and gained for himself a place in the history of the United States as honourable as it is unique. The murder of an abolitionist newspaper editor, named Lovejoy, brought to public notice one of the most splendid orators of all time, Wendell Phillips. At a meeting held in Faneuil Hall, Boston, he rebuked “the recreant American,” who in the interest of the slave-holders had “slandered the dead." The abolition movement seemed to be losing strength, however, when the acquisition of Texas, New Mexico, California, and Oregon brought the nation once again face to face with the problem of the extension of slavery. Once again, under the lead of Henry Clay, the nation flinched and strove to avoid the issue by compromise. Oregon was situated so far north that all parties seem to

have agreed to extend to that territory the principles of the Ordinance of 1787 as to slavery. With regard to California, the case was different.

Settlement of California.


The Settlement of California, 1848–49.


That territory extended far to the south of the line of the Missouri Compromise. Before the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had been concluded, a workman on Colonel Suter's mill-race, near the site of the present city of Sacramento, noticed a few bits of gold in the earth taken from the trench. Slight exploration confirmed the discovery, and a small package containing the precious metal was sent to Washington and there placed on exhibition. Then followed a movement such as the world had never witnessed before in historic times. Over land and over water, the gold-seekers thronged to California. A majority of these early pioneers, “the forty-niners," were Northern men and themselves laboured for the gold. Between February, 1848, and November, 1849, more than eighty thousand emigrants entered the country. In the latter month they held a convention, drew up a State constitution prohibiting slavery, and applied to Congress for admission to the Union as a free State. Congress thus was forced to come to some decision as to the disposal of the territory acquired from Mexico.

General Taylor was now (1849-50) President, having been elected by the Whig party in November, 1848. He was a Louisiana sugar planter and the owner mot Proviso," of a hundred slaves, and was the father-in-law 1846. of Jefferson Davis, one of the Senators from Mississippi. President Taylor, at the time of his inauguration, seems to have believed the Northern anti-slavery men to have been the aggressors.

He soon discovered that the aggression was on the other side. Moreover, he fell under the influence of William H. Seward of New York, one of the anti-slavery leaders in the Senate. Taylor determined to hurry California and New Mexico into the Union as free or slave States, as the people of each region might determine. When Congress met, however, Clay worked out a plan for a compromise which would settle all the pending questions which in any way involved slavery, in the interests of conciliation and good

The “ Wil.

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