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Martin van Buren: State of Maine - Resolves Relative to the Northeastern Boundary
Martin
Martin van Buren
State of Maine - Resolves Relative to the Northeastern Boundary
June 27, 1837
Messages and Papers of the Presidents
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren
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Resolved, That we view with much solicitude the British usurpations and encroachments on the northeastern part of the territory of this State.

Resolved, That pretensions so groundless and extravagant indicate a spirit of hostility which we had no reason to expect from a nation with whom we are at peace.

Resolved, That vigilance, resolution, firmness, and union on the part of this State are necessary in this state of the controversy.

Resolved, That the governor be authorized and requested to call on the President of the United States to cause the northeastern boundary of this State to be explored and surveyed and monuments erected according to the treaty of 1783.

Resolved , That the cooperation of Massachusetts be requested.

Resolved , That our Senators in Congress be instructed and our Representatives requested to endeavor to obtain a speedy adjustment of the controversy.

Resolved , That copies of this report and resolution be transmitted to the governor of Massachusetts, the President of the United States, to each of our Senators and Representatives in Congress, and other Senators in Congress, and the governors of the several States.

(Passed house March 24, 1837; passed Senate and approved March 25, 1837.)

STATE OF MAINE, EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT,

Augusta, June 27, 1837.

His Excellency MARTIN VAN BUREN,

President of the United States.

SIR: I lose no time in communicating to Your Excellency a copy of a letter from Sir John Harvey, lieutenant-governor of the Province of New Brunswick, and also of a letter from J. A. Maclauchlan to Sir John Harvey, in relation to the arrest and imprisonment of Ebenezer S. Greely.

I have the honor to be, with high consideration, your obedient servant,

ROBERT P. DUNLAP.

GOVERNMENT HOUSE,

Frederickton, New Brunswick, June 12, 1837.

His Excellency the GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF MAINE.

SIR: Since I had the honor of addressing your excellency under date the 6th instant, announcing my assumption of the administration of this government, a report has been laid before me by the warden of the disputed territory, copy of which I feel it to be an act of courtesy toward your excellency to lose no time in communicating to you.

In including the territory within the limits of the British claim in the census which "Ebenezer Greely" appears to have been instructed to take of the population of the county of "Penobscot" he has evidently acted in ignorance or under a misconception of the subsisting relations betwixt England and the United States of America, which I can not allow myself to doubt that your excellency will lose no time in causing to be explained and removed. Though necessarily committed to confinement, I have desired that every regard may be shown to Greely's personal convenience consistent with the position in which he has voluntarily placed himself. I use this expression because, as your excellency will observe, Greely was informed by the warden that if he would desist from the act in which he was engaged and the language which he was holding to the people of the Madawaska settlement (acts constituting not only an interference with the acknowledged rights of jurisdiction of this Province, but the positive exercise within its limits of actual jurisdiction, however unauthorized on the part of the State of Maine) and would withdraw from this district he should be allowed to do so; otherwise that in the discharge of the duties imposed upon him by his office he (the warden), who is in the commission of the peace, must be under the necessity of apprehending, in order to make him amenable to the laws of the Province. This proposal Greely rejected, and was accordingly committed to jail to be dealt with according to law. In the meantime, as an evidence of my desire to cultivate the most friendly understanding with the government of the State of which Greely is a citizen, I lose no time in saying that upon receiving an assurance from your excellency that your authority shall be exerted in restraining this or any other citizen of the State of Maine from adopting proceedings within the British limits (as claimed) calculated to infringe the authority and jurisdiction of this Province and to disturb and unsettle the minds of that portion of its inhabitants residing in the disputed territories until the question in dispute be brought to a final settlement Greely shall immediately be enlarged.

Trusting that your excellency will see in this proposition an anxious desire on my part to redeem the pledge given in my communication of the 6th instant, I have the honor to be, your excellency's most obedient, humble servant,

J: HARVEY,

Major-General, Lieutenant-Governor, etc.

FREDERICKTON, NEW BRUNSWICK, June 10, 1837.

His Excellency Major-General SIR JOHN HARVEY, K. C. H.,

Lieutenant-Governor, etc.:

May it please your excellency: In obedience to your excellency's instructions, communicated to me through the advocate-general in the absence of the attorney and solicitor generals, I have now the honor to report for the information of your excellency that I proceeded with the least possible delay to the Madawaska settlement. On my arrival at the Great Falls, 130 miles from hence, I was informed the American citizen Ebenezer S. Greely had passed up the day previous for the purpose of again proceeding with the census of the inhabitants of Madawaska under authority from the State of Maine. Aware of the probable excitement that would naturally arise between the two governments from this circumstance, and at the same time fully convinced that His Majesty's Government would but regret any unnecessary misunderstanding during the pending negotiation, I thought it advisable to call upon Mr. Coombs, a magistrate residing 12 miles above the Falls, and request him to accompany me, which he readily did, to witness the conversation between Mr. Greely and myself.

We then proceeded and overtook Mr. Greely a short distance above Green River, about 24 miles from the Falls, having ascertained by the inhabitants, as he passed up the river, that Mr. Greely was the whole of the previous day employed in taking down their names, number of each family, and stating they would shortly receive from the State of Maine a sum of money not exceeding $3 for each head of family out of the surplus revenue of the United States.

I required Mr. Greely to show me his instructions for exercising authority in Madawaska, when he handed me a document, a copy of which I beg to inclose your excellency, and after perusing the same I returned it with my opinion that I really thought he (Mr. Greely) had mistaken the intention of his instructions, as no allusion was made either to that settlement or the territory in dispute, and therefore if he would then desist in taking the census I would take no notice of what had passed. Moreover, in reply to my advice and request, he (Mr. Greely) remonstrated and attempted to make it appear that he would be fully borne out by his government in what he had done, and it was also his intention to complete the census if he was not prevented; this reply I regret having left me no alternative but to make him a prisoner, which I did on Wednesday, the 7th instant. On Friday evening I arrived in Frederickton, and this morning (Saturday), by the advice of the advocate-generals, I committed him to the gaol of the county of York.

I have the honor to be, your excellency's most obedient, humble servant.

J. A. MACLAUCHLAN,

Warden of the Disputed Territory.

STATE OF MAINE, EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT,

June 19, 1837.

His Excellency MARTIN VAN BUREN,

President of the United States. SIR: I have the honor to inclose to Your Excellency the copy of a letter which came to hand by the last mail, by which it appears that Ebenezer S. Greely, esq., the agent employed by the county commissioners for the county of Penobscot to take the census of the town of Madawaska, has been arrested by the authorities of the Province of New Brunswick and is now incarcerated in the jail at Frederickton.

In this state of things it becomes my painful duty to make this communication to Your Excellency and to insist that prompt measures be adopted by the Government of the United States to effect the early release of the aforementioned citizen.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,

ROBERT P, DUNLAP.

FREDERICKTON, PROVINCE OF NEW BRUNSWICK,

June 12, 1837.

ROBERT P. DUNLAP, Esq.,

Governor of Maine.

SIR: On the 15th of May last I was appointed by the county commissioners of Penobscot County to take the census of Madawaska. On the 6th of June instant I was arrested by Mr. Maclauchlan, from this place, and committed to jail by him, and there I now remain--in the prison at Frederickton. I was committed on the 10th instant. I addressed a letter to you on the 10th, which has gone by the way of St. Andrews. Fearing that letter will not arrive soon, I write again to-day by way of Houlton. I have described my arrest more particularly in my first letter, which you will undoubtedly receive before long; therefore I only give the facts in this, having a chance, by the assistance of Mr. Lombard, of Hallowell, of forwarding this to Houlton privately. I was employed in business of the State, and do expect my Government will intercede and liberate me from prison in a foreign and adjacent Province. I shall be pleased to receive a line from you expressing your opinion, direction, etc.

I remain, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,

EBEN'R S. GEEELY.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, June 26, 1837.

His Excellency ROBERT P. DUNLAP, Esq.,

Governor of Maine.

SIR: I have the honor, by direction of the President, to acknowledge the receipt of your letter to him of the 19th instant, inclosing the copy of a communication dated the 12th of the same month addressed to you by Ebenezer S. Greely, esq., the agent employed by the county commissioners for the county of Penobscot to take the census of the town of Madawaska, from which it appears that he has been arrested by the authorities of the Province of New Brunswick and is now in confinement in the jail at Frederickton, and insisting that prompt measures be adopted by the Government of the United States to effect the early release of the above-named citizen.

The circumstances attending this outrage as given in Mr. Greely's letter are not sufficient, in the view of the President, to warrant the interference of the Government at present. For what cause, at what place, and by what authority the arrest was made is not stated. The necessary explanations may be found, perhaps, in the previous communication which Mr. Greely refers to as having been addressed to you by him on the 10th June; if not, it is probable that you will easily be able to obtain explicit information from other sources and communicate it to this Department. It is indispensable that a full knowledge of all the facts illustrative of the case should be in possession of the Government before any formal application for redress can be properly preferred.

In the meantime I have in conversation unofficially called the attention of Mr. Fox, the British minister at Washington, to this complaint, and be has given me an assurance that he will immediately address a representation on the subject to the governor of New Brunswick requesting, unless there shall be some very extraordinary reasons against it, that Mr. Greely may be set at liberty.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

JOHN FORSYH.

STATE OF MAINE, EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT,

Augusta, June 27, 1837.

Hon. JOHN FORSYTH,

Secretary, of State of the United States.

SIR: I would respectfully solicit copies of all documents and papers in the Department of State of the United States in relation to the subject of the northeastern boundary, with the exception of such as were furnished this department by the General Government in the year 1827. It is understood that copies have been furnished relative to this subject down to the respective statements submitted by the two Governments to the King of the Netherlands, but the arguments we have not been furnished with.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

ROBERT P. DUNLAP.

STATE OF MAINE, EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT,

July 3, 1837 .

Hon. JOHN FORSYTH,

Secretary of State of United States.

SIR: I have had the honor to receive yours of the 26th of June last, in which, by direction of the President, you indicate that the circumstances detailed in Mr. Greely's letter relative to his arrest and imprisonment are not of themselves without further explanation sufficient to justify the interference of the Government of the United States. This information is received with some surprise and much regret--surprise because I had understood Mr. Greely's communication to show that while employed within the limits of this State and under its authority on a business intrusted to him by the laws of the State he was, without being charged or suspected of any other offense, seized and transported to a foreign jail; regret inasmuch as the feelings of the people of this State have been strongly excited by this outrage upon the honor and sovereignty of Maine, and each additional day's confinement which that unoffending citizen endures is adding to the indignation of our citizens, I therefore hasten to lay before you a summary of the transactions connected with this subject as they are gathered from Mr. Greely's communications to this department. The facts are to be considered the less indisputable because they are in the main confirmed by the statements contained in the letter of the lieutenant-governor of the Province of New Brunswick, by whose order the imprisonment was made, and a copy of which I recently had the horror of transmitting to the President.

On the 8th day of March last the legislature of this State passed an act relative to the surplus revenue, a copy of which is inclosed,* to the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth sections of which I beg leave to refer your attention. An additional act was passed on the 29th day of March last, a copy of which I also inclose.* By this last-named act it became the duty of the county commissioners of Penobscot County to cause an enumeration to he taken of the inhabitants of said county residing north of the surveyed and located townships. The tract thus defined comprised the town of Madawaska, which was incorporated by this State on the 15th of March, 1831. Pursuant to that requirement, the county commissioners of said county appointed Ebenezer S. Greely to perform that service, and, being duly commissioned, he forth-with proceeded to the place designated and entered upon the required operations. Being thus employed, he was on the 29th day of May last arrested by the authorities of the Province of New Brunswick and conveyed to Woodstock, in the county of Carlton, in said Province, but the sheriff of the county refused to commit him to jail. and he was accordingly discharged. He immediately returned to the Madawaska settlements to enter again upon the duty intrusted to him. On the 6th day of June last he was arrested a second time by the same authorities and committed to the jail at Frederickton. It is for this act of obedience to the laws of his government that Mr. Greely now lies incarcerated in a public jail in the Province of New Brunswick. Is not redress urgently called for? Must not this unoffending citizen be immediately released?

*Omitted .

Permit me, sir, to add my confident belief that the President on this presentation of the facts relative to this outrage upon the national as well as the State rights will not fail to demand the immediate release of Ebenezer S. Greely and to interpose suitable claims of indemnity for the wrongs so wantonly enforced upon him.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

ROBERT P. DUNLAP.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, July 14, 1837.

Hon. ROBERT P. DUNLAP,

Governor of the State of Maine.

SIR: Your letter of the 3d instant has been received. The surprise you express that the information contained in the letter of Mr. Greely which accompanied your former communication was not considered sufficient to enable the President to make a formal application to the British Government for his release has probably arisen from your not having adverted particularly to the defects of his statement. It was not expressly mentioned for what offense the arrest was made nor where it took place--upon the territory in dispute between the United States and Great Britain or beyond it. The character of the charge and the place at which the offense was committed might have been inferred from what was stated, but you must perceive the impropriety of a formal complaint from one government to another rounded upon inference when the means of ascertaining and presenting the facts distinctly were within the power of the party complaining; but although this Department felt itself constrained by these considerations to delay a formal application to the British Government for the release of Mr. Greely, it lost no time, as has been already stated, in procuring the interference to that end of the British minister near this Government; and I have now the satisfaction to inform you that I have learnt from him that he has opened a correspondence with the lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick, which it is expected will lead to the release of Greely from confinement without waiting for the decision of His Britannic Majesty's Government on the whole question.

The information communicated to the Department since the receipt of your letter of the 3d instant is sufficiently explicit, and a note founded upon it has been, by direction of the President, addressed to Mr. Stevenson, instructing him to demand the immediate liberation of Mr. Greely and indemnity for his imprisonment.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,

JOHN FORSYTH.

P.S.--The papers asked for in your letter of the 27th ultimo will be sent to you.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, July 19, 1837.

Hon. ROBERT P. DUNLAP,

Governor of Maine.

SIR: In compliance with the request contained in your letter of the 27th ultimo, I have the honor to transmit to you a printed volume containing a statement on the part of the United States of the case referred, in pursuance of the convention of the 29th September, 1827, between the said States and Great Britain to the King of the Netherlands for his decision thereon, and to refer you for such other papers and documents in relation to the northeastern boundary as have not been specially furnished by this Department to the executive of Maine to the following numbers in the volumes of documents of the Senate and House of Representatives distributed under a resolution of Congress, and which have been from time to time transmitted to the several State governments, including that of Maine:

Documents of the House of Representatives: First session Twentieth Congress, NOS. 217,218; second session Twentieth Congress, No. 90; second session Twenty-third Congress, No. 62. Documents of the Senate: First session Twenty-fourth Congress, No. 414.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,

JOHN FORSYTH.

STATE OF MAINE, EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT,

July 28, 1837.

His Excellency MARTIN VAN BUREN,

President of the United States.

SIR: Impelled by a sense of duty arising from the oversight committed to me of the rights and interests of this State, I beg leave to invite the attention of Your Excellency to the subject of the northeastern boundary of Maine. By the federal compact the obligation of defending each State against foreign invasion and of protecting it in the exercise of its jurisdictional rights up to its extreme line of boundary is devolved upon the National Government. Permit me respectfully to inform the President that in the opinion of the people of Maine the justice due to this State in this respect has not been rendered.

Let it not be suspected that the discontents which are moving strongly and deeply through the public mind flow from any deficiency of attachment or practical adhesion to our National Government. Without appealing to the blood so freely poured out in war by the citizens of Maine, to the privations so cheerfully endured while the restrictive measures of the Government were prostrating the most important interests of this commercial people, or to the support of the Union so cordially given through every vicissitude up to the present hour, such a suspicion, if it could arise, would be sufficiently refuted by merely adverting to the forbearance with which they have so long endured the aggressions by a foreign government upon their sovereignty, their citizens, and their soil.

It would be easy to prove that the territory of Maine extends to the highlands north of the St. John; but that point, having been not only admitted, but successfully demonstrated, by the Federal Government, needs not now to be discussed. Candor, however, requires me to say that this conceded and undeniable position ill accords with the proceedings in which the British authorities have for many years been indulged, and by which the rightful jurisdiction of Maine has been subverted, her lands ravaged of their most valuable products, and her citizens dragged beyond the limits of the State to undergo the sufferings and ignominies of a foreign jail. These outrages have been made known to the Federal Government; they have been the subject of repeated remonstrances by the State, and these remonstrances seem as often to have been contemned. It can not be deemed irrelevant for me here to ask, amid all these various impositions, and while Maine has been vigorously employed in sustaining the Union and in training her children to the same high standard of devotion to the political institutions of the country, what relief has been brought to us by the Federal Government. The invaders have not been expelled. The sovereignty and soil of the State are yet stained by the hostile machinations of resident emissaries of a foreign government. The territory and the jurisdiction of 6,000,000 acres, our title to which the Government of the United States has pronounced to be perfect, have, without the knowledge of Maine, been once put entirely at hazard. Grave discussions, treaty arrangements, and sovereign arbitration have been resorted to, in which Maine was not permitted to speak, and they have resulted not in removing the fictitious pretensions, but in supplying new encouragements to the aggressors. Diplomatic ingenuity, the only foundation of the British claim, has been arrayed against the perfect right. In the meantime a stipulation made by the Executive of the nation, without the knowledge of Maine, purported to preclude her from reclaiming her rightful jurisdiction until the slow process of a negotiation should be brought to a close. Whatever the real force of that stipulation might be, made as it was without the concurrence of the two branches of the treaty-making power, it was hoped when it expired by the closing up of that negotiation that a measure fraught with such hurtful consequences to Maine would not again be attempted; but that hope was to be disappointed, and now, by a compact of similar character, a writ of protection appears to have been spread by our own Government over the whole mass of British aggressions. What, then, has the Federal Government done for this State? May it not be said, in the language of another, "Maine has not been treated as she endeavored to deserve"?

On the 22d day of April last I had the honor to transmit to Your Excellency certain resolves passed by the legislature of this State relative to the northeastern boundary, and in behalf of the State to call upon the President of the United States to cause the line to be explored and surveyed and monuments thereof erected. That this call, made by direction of the legislature, did not extend to the expulsion of invaders, but merely to the ascertainment of the treaty line, will, I trust, be viewed as it was designed to be, not only as an evidence of the continued forbearance of Maine, but as a testimonial of the confidence she cherished that the Federal Executive would protect the territory after its limitation should be ascertained. That this application would meet with favor from the Federal Executive was expected, more especially as Congress had made a specific appropriation for the purpose. I will not attempt to conceal the mortification I have realized that no reply has been made to that communication nor any measures taken, so far as my information extends, for effecting the object proposed.

It now remains that in the exercise of that faithfulness for which I stand solemnly pledged to the people of Maine I should again commend to the attention of the National Executive this apparently unwelcome but really important subject.

I have, therefore, the honor again to request that the President will cause the treaty line upon the northeastern limits of Maine to be run and marked, and I can not but hope that on a reexamination of the subject Your Excellency will concur with this State in relation to the rightfulness and the necessity of the measure proposed, as well as to all the remedies to be adopted for restoring to Maine the invaluable rights from which she has so long been debarred.

I have the honor to be, with high consideration, your obedient servant,

ROBERT P. DUNLAP.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, August 17, 1837.

His Excellency ROBERT P. DUNLAP,

Governor of the State of Maine.

SIR Your letter of the 28th ultimo to the President was duly received. It has been referred to this Department with instructions to make a suitable reply.

Your excellency is of opinion that the Federal Government has for a series of years failed to protect the State of Maine in the exercise of her jurisdictional rights to the extent of her boundary, and complains that these rights have been in consequence thereof subverted, the lands of the State ravaged of their most valuable productions, and her citizens subjected to imprisonment in a foreign jail. Your excellency particularly objects to the course of the Federal Government for having, without the knowledge of the State, put entirely at hazard the title of Maine, admitted by the Government of the United States to be perfect, to the territory in question by the resort to diplomatic discussions, treaty arrangements, and foreign arbitration in which Maine was not permitted to speak; for having entered into a stipulation without her consent purporting to preclude the State from retaining her rightful jurisdiction pending a negotiation, and for the continuance of it after that negotiation was supposed to have been concluded, and for an omission on the part of the Executive of the United States to comply with an application of the State made through her legislature to have the boundary line between Maine and the British North American possessions explored, surveyed, and monuments erected thereon in pursuance of the authority conferred on the President by Congress and of a request made by your excellency, which is now renewed.

The views which your excellency has been pleased to take of the subject at this time embrace measures some of which have long since ceased to be operative and reach back to the propriety of the stipulations entered into by the treaty of Ghent, also of the subsequent. negotiation designed to bring those stipulations to a satisfactory result in the mode prescribed by that treaty--that of arbitrament. It being, as your excellency states, the opinion of Maine that those proceedings were unjust and unwise, it is, in a matter in which she is so deeply interested, her undoubted right to say so; yet the President thinks that he can not be mistaken in believing that no practical good can at this time be expected from discussion between the Federal and State Governments upon those points. That the measures referred to have not been as fortunate in their results as was hoped is entirely true, but your excellency may nevertheless be assured that they had their origin in a sincere desire on the part of the Federal Government to discharge all its duties toward the State of Maine as a member of the Union, and were resorted to in the full belief that her just rights would be promoted by their adoption.

In speaking of the restrictions imposed upon Maine in reclaiming her rightful jurisdiction your excellency doubtlessly refers to the understanding between the Federal Government and that of Great Britain that each party should abstain from the exercise of jurisdiction over the disputed territory during the pendency of negotiation. Unless it be correct to say that the controversy was one that did not admit of negotiation, and that the duty of the Federal Government consisted only in an immediate resort to maintain the construction put by itself upon its own rights and those of the State of Maine, there would seem to be no reasonable objection to such an arrangement as that alluded to, whether it be viewed in respect to the interests or the pacific and just characters of the respective Governments. That this arrangement was not abrogated at the period at which your excellency is understood to suppose that it ought to have been done, viz, upon the failure of a settlement of the controversy by arbitration, is explained by events of subsequent occurrence. When the award of the arbitrator was submitted by the late President to the Senate of the United States, that body refused its advice and consent to the execution of the award, and passed a resolution recommending to him to open a new negotiation with Great Britain for the ascertainment of the boundary according to the treaty of peace of 1783. That negotiation was forthwith entered upon by the Executive, is still pending, and has been prosecuted with unremitting assiduity. It is under such circumstances that the Federal Executive has decided upon a continued compliance with the arrangement referred to, and has insisted also upon its observance on the part of Great Britain.

Considerations of a similar nature have induced the President to refrain hitherto from exercising the discretionary authority with which he is invested to cause the boundary line in dispute to be explored, surveyed, and monuments to be erected thereon. Coinciding with the government of Maine on the question of the true boundary between the British Provinces and the State, the President is yet bound by duty to consider the claim which has been set up by a foreign power in amity with the United States and the circumstances under which the negotiation for the adjustment of that claim has been transmitted to him. It could not be useful to examine the foundation of the British claim in a letter to your excellency. Respect for the authorities of a friendly nation compels us to admit that they have persuaded themselves that their claim is justly grounded. However that may be, the present President of the United States upon entering on the discharge of the duties of his office found that a distinct proposition had been made by his predecessor for the purpose of amicably settling this long-disputed controversy, to which no answer has yet been received. Under such circumstances the President was not able to satisfy himself, however anxious to gratify the people and the legislature of Maine, that a step like that recommended by them could be usefully or properly taken.

The clause containing the specific appropriation made by the last Congress for exploring, surveying, and marking certain portions of the northeastern boundary of the United States, to which your excellency alludes, is by no means imperative in its character. The simple legislative act of placing a sum of money under the control of the Executive for a designated object is not understood to be a direction that it must in any event be immediately applied to the prosecution of that object. On the contrary, so far from implying that the end in view is to be attained at all hazards, it is believed that it merely vests a discretionary power in the President to carry out the views of Congress on his own responsibility should contingencies arise to render expedient the proposed expenditure.

Under existing circumstances the President deems it proper to wait for the definitive answer of the British Government to the last proposition offered by the United States. When received, a further communication to your excellency may be found proper, and if so will be made without unnecessary delay.

It can not be necessary to assure your excellency that the omission to reply to your communication forwarding to this Department the resolutions of the legislature of Maine did not in any degree arise either from a want of respect for their wishes or for the wishes of your excellency, or from indifference to the interests of the State. When these resolutions were received, there was every reason at no distant day to expect what is now daily looked for--a definitive answer to the proposition just alluded to, to which the attention of the British Government had been again forcibly invited about the time those resolutions were on their passage. Under this expectation a reply to the application from Maine was temporarily delayed; the more readily as about the time of its reception the Representatives of Maine, acting in reference to one of those resolutions, had a full and free conversation with the President. The most recent proceedings relative to the question of boundary were shewn to them in this Department by his directions, and the occasion thus afforded was cheerfully embraced of offering frank and unreserved explanations of the President's views.

Of the recent events which have called the attention of the State of Maine to the question of the northeastern boundary, and which have been brought by it to the notice of the President, one--the arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Greely--has already been made the subject of communication with your excellency. All that it was competent for the Federal Executive to do has been done. Redress has been demanded, will be insisted upon, and is expected from that authority from whom alone redress can properly be sought. The President has followed the same course that was pursued by one of his predecessors and which was understood to be satisfactory to the State of Maine under circumstances of a somewhat similar character. In respect to the other--the projected construction of a railroad between St. Andrews and Quebec--a representation has been addressed to the British Government stating that the proposed measure is inconsistent with the understanding between the two Governments to preserve the status quo in the disputed territory until the question of boundary be satisfactorily adjusted, remonstrating against the project as contrary to the American claim and demanding a suspension of all further movements in execution of it. No answer has yet been received to this communication. From an informal conversation between the British minister at Washington and myself at the Department of State, the President is, however, firm in the conviction that the attempt to make the road in question will not be further prosecuted.

I am, in conclusion, directed to inform you that however unbounded may be the confidence of the legislature and people of Maine in the justice of their claim to the boundary contended for by the United States, the President's is not less so; and your excellency may rest assured that no exertions have been or shall be spared on his part to bring to a favorable and speedy termination a question involving interests so highly important to Maine and to the Union.

I have the honor to be, with high consideration, your excellency's obedient servant,

JOHN FORSYTH.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, August 25, 1837.

His Excellency ROBERT P. DUNLAP,

Governor of Maine.

SIR: I have the honor to transmit to your excellency, by direction of the President, the copy of a note from the British minister at Washington, dated yesterday, stating that the Government of Her Britannic Majesty has been pleased to direct the immediate discontinuance by the colonial authorities of Lower Canada and New Brunswick, respectively, of all operations connected with the projected railroad between the cities of Quebec and St. Andrews.

Mr. Fox took occasion on Wednesday last to inform me that Mr. Greely had been discharged from imprisonment at Frederickton, a fact of which doubtlessly your excellency has been some time since apprised.

I have the honor to be, with high consideration, your excellency's obedient servant,

JOHN FORSYTH.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,

Washington, March 23, 1837.

HENRY S. FOX, Esq., etc.:

The undersigned, Secretary of State of the United States, has the honor, by direction of the President, to invite the attention of Mr. Fox, His Britannic Majesty's envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, to a subject which from its high importance demands the prompt consideration of His Majesty's Government.

It appears from representations and documents recently received at the Department of State that a number of inhabitants of the town of St. Andrews, in New Brunswick, associated themselves together in the year 1835, by the name of the St. Andrews and Quebec Railroad Association, for the purpose of bringing into public notice the practicability of constructing a railway between those ports, and that sundry resolutions were passed in furtherance of this object; that the project was sanctioned and patronized by the governor in chief of British North America, the lieutenant-governors of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and the legislatures and people of the Provinces of Lower Canada and New Brunswick; that the route of the proposed railroad had been explored as far as the head waters of the St. John River by surveyors employed by the association; that an act has actually passed the legislature of New Brunswick incorporating this company, and that a similar act was expected to be passed in Lower Canada; that letters were addressed to the boards of trade of Quebec and Montreal requesting their cooperation; that these communications were favorably received, and that petitions had been forwarded to His Britannic Majesty, signed by committees of the association and by inhabitants of the cities of Quebec and Montreal, soliciting the construction of a railway between the ports above named, or the extension of royal aid and protection to the petitioners in the proposed undertaking.

Without allowing himself for a moment to believe that His Britannic Majesty's Government will in any manner countenance the projected railroad from St. Andrews to Quebec when the slightest inspection of the map of the country which it crosses will show that its intended location would be for a great portion of the route an encroachment upon the territory in dispute between the United States and Great Britain, the President yet sees cause for painful surprise and deep regret in the fact that the civil authorities of His Majesty's Provinces on our northeastern borders should have lent their encouragement to or should in any wise have promoted an undertaking which if persevered in will inevitably lead to the most disastrous consequences. The object of the association from its inception was objectionable, since it could only be effected by entering upon territory the title to which was controverted and unsettled--a proceeding which could not fail to be offensive to the Government and people of the United States. Still more unjustifiable was the act of sovereignty giving to this company corporate powers over property known to be claimed by citizens of a friendly and neighboring State, and which constituted at the time the subject of an amicable negotiation between the Government of His Majesty and that of the United States. The President regrets to see in this step on the part of His Majesty's provincial authorities and subjects a most exceptionable departure from the principle of continuing to abstain during the progress of negotiation from any extension of the exercise of jurisdiction within the disputed territory on either side, the propriety of which has been hitherto so sedulously inculcated and so distinctly acquiesced in by both parties. An understanding that this principle should be observed by them was the natural result of the respective positions and pacific intentions of the two Governments, and could alone prevent the exercise of asserted rights by force. Without it the end of all negotiation on the subject would have been defeated. If, therefore, nothing had been said by either party relative to such an understanding, it would have been proper to infer that a tacit agreement to that effect existed between the two Governments. But the correspondence between them is sufficiently full and explicit to prevent all misconception. The views of both Governments in respect to it will be found in the letters of the Secretary of State to the minister of Great Britain dated the 18th of January, 1826, 9th of January, 11th of March, and 11th of May, 1829, and of the British minister to the Secretary of State dated 15th of November and 2d of December, 1825; 16th of January, 1827; 18th of February and 25th of March, 1828, and 14th of April, 1833, as well as in other communications, which it is deemed needless now to designate.

The undersigned is directed by the President to inform Mr. Fox that the prosecution of the enterprise above referred to will be regarded by this Government as a deliberate infringement of the rights of the United States to the territory in question and as an unwarrantable assumption of jurisdiction therein by the British Government, and the undersigned is instructed to urge the prompt adoption of such measures as may be deemed most appropriate by His Majesty's Government to suspend any further movements in execution of the proposed railroad from St. Andrews to Quebec during the continuance of the pending negotiations between the two Governments relative to the northeastern boundary of the United States.

The proceedings above alluded to, considered in connection with incidents on other parts of the disputed boundary line well known to His Majesty's ministers, would seem to render it indispensable to the maintenance of those liberal and friendly relations between the two countries which both Governments are so sincerely anxious to preserve that they should come to a speedy adjustment of the subject. The recent resolutions of the State of Maine, to which the projected railroad from St. Andrews to Quebec gave rise requesting the President of the United States to cause the line established by the treaty of 1783 to be run and monuments to be established thereon, and the appropriation of $20,000 by Congress at their late session to enable the Executive to carry that request into effect, with a subsequent earnest application from the Representatives of Maine for an immediate compliance with it, afford additional incentives to exertion to bring this controversy to a conclusion not to be disregarded by the President of the United States.

The president therefore awaits with great anxiety the decision of His Majesty's Government on the proposition made by the undersigned to His Majesty's charge' d'affaires at Washington in February, 1836, suggesting the river St. John, from its mouth to its source, as an eligible and convenient line of boundary. No small degree of disappointment has been felt that this decision, already long expected, has not been given, but the hope is entertained that the result of this protracted deliberation will prove favorable to the wishes of the President, and that even if that proposition be not acceded to by His Britannic Majesty some definitive offer looking to a prompt termination of the controversy will be made without further delay.

The undersigned avails himself of this occasion to renew to Mr. Fox the assurance of his distinguished consideration.

JOHN FORSYTH.

WASHINGTON, March 28, 1837.

Hon. JOHN FORSYTH, etc.:

The undersigned, His Britannic Majesty's envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, has had the honor to receive the official note addressed to him under date of the 23d instant by Mr. Forsyth, Secretary of State of the United States, upon the subject of information received by the United States Government of a projected railroad between the cities of Quebec and St. Andrews, and upon certain other matters connected with the question of the boundary line between the United States and the British possessions in North America.

The undersigned, in accordance with the wishes of the President signified in Mr. Forsyth's official note, will not fail immediately to convey that note to the knowledge of his Government at home; and he entertains no doubt that His Majesty's Government will proceed to the consideration of the several matters therein contained with the serious and ready attention that their importance deserves.

The undersigned avails himself of this occasion to renew to Mr. Forsyth the assurance of his high esteem and consideration.

H. S. FOX.

WASHINGTON, August 24, 1837.

Hon. JOHN FORSYTH, etc.

SIR: With reference to the official note which, by direction of the President, you addressed to me on the 23d of March last, respecting a projected railroad between the cities of Quebec and St. Andrews, which it was apprehended would, if carried into effect, traverse a part of the territory at present in dispute between Great Britain and the United States, I am now enabled to inform you that, in consideration of the arguments and observations contained in your note, Her Majesty's Government has been pleased to direct the colonial authorities of Lower Canada and New Brunswick, respectively, to cause all operations connected with the above-mentioned project within the limits of the disputed territory to be immediately discontinued.

I have the honor to be, sir, with high respect and consideration, your most obedient and humble servant,

H.S. FOX.

Mr. Stevenson to Lord Palmerston.

(Extract.)

23 PORTLAND PLACE, August 10, 1837 .

The undersigned will avail himself of the occasion to remind Lord Palmerston of the urgency which exists for the immediate and final adjustment of this long-pending controversy (respecting the northeastern boundary) and the increased obstacles which will be thrown in the way of its harmonious settlement by these repeated collisions of authority and the exercise of exclusive jurisdiction by either party within the disputed territory.

He begs leave also to repeat to his lordship assurances of the earnest and unabated desire which the President feels that the controversy should be speedily and amicably settled, and to express the anxiety with which the Government of the United States is waiting the promised decision of Her Majesty's Government upon the proposition submitted to it as far back as July, 1836, and which the undersigned had been led to believe would long since have been given; and he has been further directed to say that should this proposition be disapproved the President entertains the hope that some new one, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, will immediately be made for the final and favorable termination of this protracted and deeply exciting controversy.

The undersigned begs Lord Palmerston to receive renewed assurances of his distinguished consideration.

A. STEVENSON.



Citation: Martin van Buren: "State of Maine - Resolves Relative to the Northeastern Boundary," June 27, 1837. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=67321.
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