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A Good and Wise Measure

A Good and Wise Measure: The Search for the Canadian-American Boundary, 1783-1842

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 480
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  • Book Info
    A Good and Wise Measure
    Book Description:

    The story of the attempts to settle the original boundary between British North America and the United States. Though established by the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the boundary was plagued by ambiguities and errors in the document.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7032-7
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Francis M. Carroll
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-2)
  6. Chapter One Introduction: Working out a Method, 1783–1814
    (pp. 3-32)

    Baron Ashburton (Alexander Baring) came out of retirement in December 1841 at the urgent request of the new foreign secretary, Lord Aberdeen, in order to deal quickly and decisively with the growing danger of a third Anglo-Canadian-American war. Such a conflict threatened to be the inevitable consequence of a series of explosive crises that had erupted in the previous few years along the unresolved boundary between the United States and British North America. Ashburton had already turned down a cabinet position in the new Tory government formed by Sir Robert Peel in September 1841. Ashburton had served as president of...

  7. Part One. Commissions under the Treaty of Ghent:: 1816–1827

    • Chapter 2 Article 4: Islands in the Bay
      (pp. 35-46)

      ‘As to my colleague Col. Barclay, he hasappearedvery well,’ U.S. Commissioner John Holmes wrote to U.S. Secretary of State James Monroe on 20 October 1816, following the first meetings of the commission under article 4 of the Treaty of Ghent, charged with determining the boundary among the islands of Passamaquoddy Bay. ‘But that this gentleman,’ Holmes went on to say, ‘who has investigated this subjectonce before,should not, in some measure, haveprejudgedthe case, is perhaps more to bewished,thanexpected.’¹

      The British constituted a formidable presence at St Andrews, New Brunswick, in that early...

    • Chapter Three Article 5: Highlands and the Source of the St Croix
      (pp. 47-69)

      The border commission under the fifth article of the Treaty of Ghent met at St Andrews, New Brunswick, on 23 September 1816, together with the commission under the fourth article. British Commissioner Colonel Thomas Barclay (articles 4 and 5) had joined Cornelius P. Van Ness, U.S. commissioner for article 5, in Portland and along with U.S. Commissioner John Holmes (article 4) and others sailed to their meeting on the twenty-third. Although the two somewhat-overlapping bodies met in conjunction with each other, they followed very different paths. The islands of Passamaquoddy Bay were all well known, and the commissioners of article...

    • Chapter Four Article 5: The Forty-Fifth Parallel, the Connecticut, and Deadlock
      (pp. 70-94)

      Assessing the various elements of the boundary between New Brunswick, Lower Canada (Quebec), and Maine – the subject of chapter 3 – has generally been understood to be the most important task of the commission under the fifth article of the Treaty of Ghent. The commission was also responsible, however, for marking out the forty-fifth degree of latitude from the Connecticut River to the St Lawrence River (or the Iroquois or Cataraquy, as it was called in the Treaty of Paris of 1783) and for determining the northwesternmost source of the Connecticut River. The forty-fifth parallel had been surveyed before the Revolutionary...

    • Chapter Five Article 6: The St Lawrence and the Great Lakes
      (pp. 95-116)

      Article 6 of the Treaty of Ghent of 1814 created a commission authorized to determine the Great Lakes boundary between the United States and British North America. This part of the boundary stretched almost a thousand miles and would require four seasons (1817–20) for the surveying alone. The northeastern boundary may well have attracted more attention, because lumbermen and settlers were steadily encroaching on the contested borderlands, but the boundary for the Great Lakes involved enormous expanses of territory, numerous physical problems, and conflicting interests as well. Even more than in Maine and New Brunswick, in the Great Lakes...

    • Chapter Six Article 7: From Lake Superior to the Lake of the Woods
      (pp. 117-144)

      The commission under the seventh article of the Treaty of Ghent was to decide the border from Sault Ste Marie across Lake Superior, through the water communication to the Lake of the Woods, to the northwesternmost point of that lake. In the words of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, the line was to go from the Sault, ‘thence through Lake Superior Northward of Isles Royal & Phelipeaux to the Long Lake; Thence through the Middle of said Long Lake, and the Water Communication between it & the Lake of the Woods, ... Thence through the said Lake to the...

  8. Part Two. Arbitration and Uncertainty:: The 1820s and 1830s

    • Chapter Seven Preparing for Arbitration
      (pp. 147-171)

      Even before surveying work started in 1822 on the region from Lake Superior to the Lake of the Woods under article 7 of the Treaty of Ghent, efforts resumed to deal with the failure of the commission under article 5 – the northeastern boundary. By 1822 no Anglo–American boundary commission had failed to produce a reasonably satisfactory result, and indeed the arbitral process, had worked well in the past in settling joint problems with political dimensions. So there was room for hope that the whole of the boundary in eastern North America would be amicably decided by this process. The...

    • Chapter Eight The Award and Its Problems
      (pp. 172-194)

      The king of the Netherlands received the statements and accompanying documents from Sir Charles Bagot and William Pitt Preble on 1 April 1830. King William I, his foreign minister, Baron J.G. Verstolk van Soelen, and the staff of the Foreign Ministry at The Hague were to examine, analyse, and consider the facts and the merits of the two sets of arguments. Both the Americans and the British had admitted that the task would be arduous and very probably thankless, and internal political problems in both the Netherlands and the United States were to impede its acceptance in the next few...

    • Chapter Nine Skirmishes on the Frontier
      (pp. 195-219)

      If the diplomatic efforts to salvage some kind of settlement out of the collapse of the arbitration finally trickled to an end in 1833, the 1830s and early 1840s saw serious crises along the frontier between British North America and the United States – perhaps most notably, as this chapter recounts, theCarolineaffair, the Aroostook crisis, and the McLeod affair. By the early 1840s there was the grave possibility that a third war involving Britain, the United States, and British North America might result from the constant friction along the border, despite the efforts of many responsible authorities.

      Apart from...

    • Chapter Ten Surveys and Struggles
      (pp. 220-240)

      The British government had seen little promise in opening talks to negotiate a revised boundary after the failure by 1833 of the arbitration by the king of the Netherlands in 1830–1, and it was even less hopeful about the proposals for a new joint boundary commission to search still further to find the ‘highlands’ mentioned in the Treaty of Paris of 1783. However, during the mid- and late 1830s conditions steadily worsened along the frontier, from Maine and New Brunswick to Michigan and southwestern Upper Canada, and talks – or perhaps talks about talks – continued, for all these initiatives failed...

  9. Part Three. Grasping the Nettle:: 1841–1845

    • Chapter Eleven Sea Change: Initiative and Compromise
      (pp. 243-263)

      Governments change, and with changes of cabinets and policies it is sometimes possible to initiate a fresh approach to intractable old problems. Something of this sort occurred between 1840 and 1842 in Britain, the United States, and Canada. In November 1840, in the United States, the Jacksonian Democrats, who had been in power since 1829, were defeated, and the first Whig president was elected. Politically this was a move somewhat to the right, away from the frontier-influenced, populist, and chauvinistic Jacksonians, and towards the more eastern-based, commercially oriented Whigs. Practically the situation was less clear when the new president, William...

    • Chapter Twelve The Webster–Ashburton Negotiations
      (pp. 264-286)

      Lord Ashburton’s arrival in the United States had met with widespread approval. He landed at Annapolis, Maryland, on 4 April 1842, after fifty-two days at sea, theWarspitehaving been driven by storms well south of its anticipated landfall at New York. Two days later he presented his credentials to President John Tyler at the White House. In reply to Ashburton’s address, the president expressed ‘high gratification’ that the British government should send a special mission to resolve issues with the United States, and he was confident that it would facilitate the ‘re-establishment of the most friendly feeling between the...

    • Chapter Thirteen Storm over the Treaty
      (pp. 287-306)

      Lord Ashburton felt that the completed treaty met with widespread satisfaction in the United States, and he was feted during the remainder of his visit. He stayed in Washington for about another week, during which time the final versions of the text were worked out. John Tyler graciously gave him a farewell dinner on Wednesday, 17 August, and then he thought it best to leave Washington while the treaty was being considered by the Senate. His son-in-law, Humphrey St J. Mildmay, and his secretaries, Frederick Bruce and Mr Shedding, travelled north to Niagara Falls and to see Sir Charles Bagot...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 307-410)
  11. Sources
    (pp. 411-430)
  12. Index
    (pp. 431-462)