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Special Message

December 22, 1837

To the Senate of the United States:

I herewith transmit to the Senate a report from the Secretary of State, in answer to their resolution of the 16th of October last.



Washington, December 22, 1837.


The Secretary of State, to whom has been referred the resolution of the Senate of the 16th of October last, requesting the President of the United States to communicate to that body "at the next session of Congress (if not inconsistent with the public interest) any correspondence between the Government of the United States and any foreign government relative to the occupation of the territory of the United States west of the Rocky Mountains and bordering on the Pacific Ocean, and whether any, and, if so, what, portion of the said territory is in the possession of any foreign power," has the honor to report to the President that no correspondence between this and any foreign government on the subject referred to has passed since the negotiation of the existing convention of 1827 with Great Britain, by which the provisions of the third article of the convention of the 20th of October, 1818, with His Britannic Majesty, leaving the territory claimed by either power westward of the Rocky Mountains free and open to the citizens and subjects of both, were extended and continued in force indefinitely, but liable to be annulled at the will of either party, on due notice of twelve mouths, at any time after the 20th of October, 1828, and that the papers relating to the negotiation to which allusion has just been made were communicated to the Senate in confidence in the early part of the first session of the Twentieth Congress.

With regard to the second clause of the resolution above cited, the Secretary has to state that the trading establishment called "Astoria," at the mouth of the Columbia River, formerly belonging to John Jacob Astor, of New York, was sold to, and therefore left in the possession of, the British Northwest Company, which subsequently united with the British Hudson Bay Company; that this company has now several depots in the country, the principal of which is at Fort Vancouver, on the north bank of the Columbia River, and about 80 or 100 miles from its mouth. It appears that these posts have not been considered as being in contravention of the third article of the convention of 1818, before referred to; and if not, there is no portion of the territory claimed by the United States west of the Stony Mountains known to be in the exclusive possession of a foreign power. It is known, by information recently obtained, that the English company have a steamboat on the Columbia, and have erected a sawmill and are cutting timber on the territory claimed by the United States, and shipping it in considerable quantities to the Sandwich Islands.

Respectfully submitted.


Martin van Buren, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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