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Special Message

April 07, 1842

To the House of Representatives of the United States:

I herewith transmit to the House of Representatives copies of a letter addressed to the Secretary of State by the chairman of the board of commissioners appointed to explore and survey the boundary line between the States of Maine and New Hampshire and the adjoining British Provinces, together with the report of the operations of that commission to the 31st ultimo, and a profile of the meridian line from the source of the St. Croix River as far as surveyed, illustrative of the report.


(The same message was sent to the Senate.)


Washington, March 31, 1842.


Secretary of State.

SIR: By directions of the board of commissioners for exploring and surveying the northeastern boundary, I have handed you the papers hereinafter specified, viz:

1. The report of the operations of the commission up to the present date.

2. A profile of the meridian line of the source of the St Croix as far as surveyed intended to illustrate the report.

3. A portfolio of drawings intended for the same purpose.

4. A roll marked Appendix No. 1, containing the narrative of the field operations of the division of Professor Renwick.

5. A tin case containing the detail of the surveys of the division of Professor Renwick.

In reply to your inquiry in relation to the disposition of the said papers, I am directed respectfully to suggest that all which it is absolutely necessary to lay before Congress are the items 1 and 2, which, with a general map now in preparation, will contain all that will be of any general public interest.

The portfolio (No. 3) and the box of maps and profiles (No. 5) should remain on file in the Department; and while a part of the drawings in the former may be useful for illustration, the latter will be superseded by the general map, in which will be embodied all that they contain of importance to the question at issue.

Appendix No. 1, specified as No. 4 in the above list, will probably be demanded hereafter to give authenticity to the conclusions of the report (No. 1). It ought not, however, to be communicated until the Appendices Nos. 2 and 3, containing the operations of the divisions of Messrs. Graham and Talcott, are handed in; and of the three no more than a limited number of copies will be useful.

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



Report of the commissioners appointed by the President of the United States for the purpose of surveying and exploring the boundary line between the States of Maine and New Hampshire and the British Provinces.

WASHINGTON, March 28, 1842.


Secretary of State.

SIR: The duties assigned to the undersigned by the instructions of your predecessor were twofold:

First. To explore and survey the lines respectively claimed by the Governments of the United States and Great Britain.

Second. To examine and report upon the arguments contained in the report of Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge addressed to the secretary of state of Her Britannic Majesty for foreign affairs under date of 16th April, 1840.


In order to the more exact and successful performance of the duties included under the first of the above heads, the boundary line was divided by their instructions into three separate portions, one of which was assigned to each of the commissioners; and while they were instructed to assemble in a board for the purpose of comparing their respective surveys, in view of the performance of the duties included in the second of the above divisions their explorations have been separately conducted. Each of the commissioners has employed the methods and course of action most appropriate in his opinion to the successful fulfillment of his appointed task, and the nature of the surveys assigned to one of them has been of a character widely different from those of his colleagues. The commissioners, therefore, while uniting in a general report of the progress made up to this time in the duties of their appointment, beg leave to submit, in the form of appendices, the narrative of their several operations, with so much of the records of their observations and calculations as they have severally judged necessary to authenticate the conclusions at which they have arrived.

The progress which has been made in the labors of the commissioners enables them at this time to lay before you--

1. A description of the physical features of the disputed territory.

2. A comparison of the heights of the line claimed by the United States with those of the line styled the "axis of maximum elevation" by Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge. In laying the latter before you they have, in order to avoid delay, made use in part of the published results obtained by those gentlemen, and although they have already detected errors in their inferences they do not consider that by accepting them for the moment as the basis of comparison they can be accused of exhibiting the line claimed by Great Britain in an unfavorable light.


The seacoast of the State of Maine is rugged and hilly. The primitive rocks of which its geological structure is chiefly composed are broken into ridges which run parallel to the great streams, and therefore in a direction from north to south. These ridges terminate in an irregular line, which to the east of the Penobscot may be identified nearly with the military road to Houlton. From the northern summit of these ridges an extensive view of the disputed territory can in many places be obtained. This is the case at the military post at Houlton, whence a wide extent of country may be seen. A still more perfect view may be obtained from the summit of Parks Hill, at a point about 400 yards south of the road from Houlton to Woodstock and about half a mile east of the exploring meridian line. At the time when that line was run by the British and American surveyors, under the fifth article of the treaty of Ghent, the top of this hill was covered with wood, and they were obliged to content themselves with the view from Park's barn, which is at least 200 feet beneath the summit. At the present moment the latter is cleared, and the view from west-southwest to northeast is unimpeded except by a single clump of trees, which cuts off the view for a few degrees in the northwest direction; but by a change of position every part of the horizon between these points is to be seen. Toward the west are seen ridges parallel to the Penobscot, over which Katahdin towers to a great height, bearing by compass N. 85oW. In a direction N. 75oW. are seen two distant peaks, one of which was identified as the Traveller. All of these eminences lie south of the line claimed by Great Britain. In the north-northwest direction there appear two ridges of comparatively small elevation, which were pointed out as the Aroostook Mountains, but have since been ascertained to lie near the sources of the Meduxnikeag. These lie in the line claimed by Great Britain in 1817.

Between these and the other mountains there is evidently no connection, and the rest of the country, as seen from the hill, bears the aspect of a wooded plain. It will be sufficient to refer to this view to be satisfied that all the impressions which have been circulated of a continuous chain of elevations extending along the line claimed by Great Britain are utterly fallacious.

Toward the north the country exhibits the same general features. One vast and apparently unbroken plain extends to the utmost limits of the visible horizon. In the midst of this, and at a distance of nearly 30 miles, Mars Hill alone breaks the monotonous prospect, and from its isolated position assumes to the eye an importance to which its altitude of less than 1,800 feet would not otherwise entitle it. No other eminences are to be seen in this direction, except a round peak bearing a few degrees west of north and some distant ridges about an equal distance to the east. The first of these has been ascertained by the surveys of Major Graham to be an isolated hill near the peak known as Quaquajo. The eastern ridges are probably those measured between the Tobique and the Bay of Chaleurs by the British commissioners. A sketch of this view from Parks Hill is annexed to the report, and lest any doubt be entertained of its accuracy it is proper to state that the unassisted vision was not relied upon, but that the outlines were carefully delineated by means of the camera lucida.

From this view it might be inferred that the northern part of the admitted possessions of the United States to the east of the Penobscot and the disputed territory as far as visible constitute a vast table-land slightly inclined toward the southeast.

On descending into the valley of the St. John the appearances change. The tableland is cut to a great depth by that stream, and from its bed the broken edges of the great plain look like ridges whose height is exaggerated to the senses in consequence of their being densely clothed with wood. The same is the case with all the branches of this river, which also cut the table-land to greater or less depths according to their distance from the stream into which they discharge themselves.

The want of a true highland or mountainous character in this region is obvious from the aspect it presents in the two different points of view. Mountainous regions are most imposing when seen from a distance and from heights. On a nearer approach, and from the valleys which intersect them, the elevations, so important in the distant view, are hidden by their own slopes or lose the appearance of relative elevation in consequence of the absolute heights of the valleys themselves. In conformity with this character, the line claimed by the United States for the most part presents, when seen at a distance, the appearance of lofty and deeply serrated ridges, while to one who traverses it it is a labyrinth of lakes, morasses, and short but steep elevations which hide its peaks from the valleys and streams.

The line claimed by Great Britain, on the other hand, when seen from a distance is as level as the surface of the ocean, with no greater appearance of elevation and depression than would represent its billows; while, seen from its own valleys, the heights assume an importance which their elevation above the valleys when actually measured does not warrant. The characteristics of the region through which the line of Messrs. Mudge and Featherstonhaugh passes are therefore the opposite of those usually remarked in highland countries, while those of the line claimed by the United States are the same as are always observed in such regions.

This character of a table land deeply cut by streams is well exhibited in the section of their "axis of maximum elevation" by the British commissioners. In that will be seen the mountains near the source of the Aroostook, Alleguash, and Penobscot on the one hand, and of the Tobique on the other, while the intervening space is occupied by a curve resembling an inverted arch, of which the St. John occupies the keystone. In a country of this character any line whatever would present the appearance of a succession of eminences, and might by as liberal a construction of the term as has been made by Messrs. Mudge and Featherstonhaugh be called highlands.

The sameness of this general character is broken only by a single chain of hills.* This is a prolongation of Mars Hill toward the north, and, being both of less height and breadth than that mountain, is hidden by it from the view of a spectator on Parks Hill. Mars Hill is itself an isolated eminence, and is in fact nearly an island, for the Presque Isle and Gissiguit rivers, running the one to the north and the other to the south of it, have branches which take their rise in the sums swamp on its northwestern side. To the north of the Des Chutes the ground again rises, and although cut by several streams, and particularly by the Aroostook, the chain is prolonged by isolated eminences as far as the White Rapids, below the Grand Falls of the St. John, where it crosses that river. It may thence be traced in a northern direction to the Sugar Loaf Mountain, on the Wagansis portage, where it terminates.

*A chain is made up of mountains whose bases touch each other.--BALFI.

To this broken chain belongs the elevation of 918 feet given by Messrs. Mudge and Featherstouhaugh to an eminence in the neighborhood of the Aroostook Falls. An accurate profile of so many of these eminences as fall in the line of the connected meridian is herewith submitted. This chain of eminences is not prolonged to the westward, as it is entirely unconnected with any other height aspiring to the name of mountain in that direction.

It is not in any sense a dividing ridge, being cut by all the streams in the country, and in particular to a great depth by the St. John and the Aroostook.

A section of this line was given in a report to the British commissioner under the fifth article of the treaty of Ghent by Colonel Bouchette, the surveyor-general of the Province of Canada. His heights were determined by the barometer, and estimated from the assumed level of the monument at the source of the St. Croix.

It would now appear that the section of Colonel Bouchette is very inaccurate, and that the heights as reported by him are not only much beyond the truth, but that the continually ascending slope ascribed by him to the country from the monument at the source of the St. Croix to the point where the due north line crosses the St. John is entirely erroneous. He, however, adroitly availed himself of this inaccurate section to attempt to prove the existence of a continuous chain of mountains from Katahdin to the Great Falls of the St. John, and thence around the southwestern branches of the Restigouche until it met the heights rising from the north shore of the Bay of Chaleurs. For this reason his view taken from Park's barn and that made by Mr. Odell from the same point were urged for admission as evidence on oath by the British agent, and the map of Mr. Johnson, which contradicted this evidence, was carefully excluded. It can not be concealed that could Colonel Bouchette's idea founded on erroneous premises have been established by indisputable facts it would have been the most fatal argument that has ever been adduced against the American claim, for he would have argued that the meridian line of the St. Croix would at Mars Hill have first intersected highlands which, rising from the north shore of the Bay of Chaleurs, would have appeared to divide until within a few miles of the Grand Falls of the St. John waters which fall into the St. Lawrence from those which fall into the Atlantic, and would have been the south boundary of the Province of Quebec.

Mars Hill would then have appeared to be in truth as well as in claim the northwest angle of the Province of Nova Scotia; and although the rest of the line would not have fulfilled the conditions the United States might by an arbitrator have been compelled to accept this point as the beginning of their boundary. Nor, in the unexplored state of the country, is it by any means certain that the American agent, who does not seem to have seen the drift of the proceedings of Colonel Bouchette, would have been prepared with the adverse facts, which are now known to be undeniable. It may therefore be considered fortunate for the claim of the United States that the survey was afterwards intrusted to a surveyor who, in pursuit of the double object of encroachment on the United States and the enlargement of his native Province at the expense of Canada, signally failed in the proof of either of his positions.

The knowledge now acquired shows that the idea of Colonel Bouchette is unsupported by the facts of the case, for the highlands which rise from the north shore of the Bay of Chaleurs do not meet those in which the most southerly branch of the Restigouche takes its rise.

The British commissioners, although they give a profile of this ridge, do not pretend to have examined it except at Mars Hill, near the Aroostook, and at the Grand Falls of the St. John. It must be remarked that these profiles (the original one of Colonel Bouchette and that exhibited by themselves) are contrasted--one British authority with another--for the purpose of invalidating the ground on which the American claim is founder.

It is not our business to reconcile these conflicting authorities, but it is our duty to recall the recollections of the fact that no part of the American argument laid before the King of the Netherlands was founded on this or any other estimate of heights. Many elevations, indeed, were measured with great pains on the part of the Americans as well as of Great Britain.

On behalf of the United States Captain Partridge made many barometric observations, while Mr. Johnson took an extensive series of vertical and horizontal angles. His operations were performed in the presence of Mr. Odell, the surveyor on behalf of Great Britain, who doubtless made similar ones, as he visited the same stations with a better instrument and for the same avowed purpose. Mr. Odell's observations were not presented by the British agent, and those of Mr. Johnson were objected to. If received, they would have set aside the pretensions that a continuous ridge of mountains existed between the Metjarmette portage and Mars Hill. They are, however, superseded by the operations of the undersigned, which have yielded satisfactory evidence that no chain of highlands in the sense of the British commissioners, or even an "axis of maximum elevation," exists where it is laid down on their map. Nor can it be doubted that the operations of Mr. Johnson had a decided advantage in point of probable accuracy over theirs. The exploring meridian line used as abase was measured with a tolerable degree of accuracy, and from the three heights chosen by him the whole country is visible.

On the other hand, the course of Messrs. Mudge and Featherstonhaugh being confined, except where they ascended Mars Hill, to the valleys of the streams, they were for the most part excluded from a prospect. In describing the view from Mars Hill, however, they have pictured in most accurate terms the true features of the country:

"The character of the country may be well discerned and understood from this insulated hill. It presents to the eye one mass of dark and gloomy forest to the utmost limits of sight, coveting by its umbrageous mantle the principal rivers, minor streams, and scanty vestiges of the habitation of man."

This description can only agree with that of a vast table-land into which the streams cut so deep and form such narrow valleys as to be invisible.

But if a chain of highlands, or even an "axis of maximum elevation," had existed miles, it would have been visible, and it need not be said as they lay it down, within 20 miles, it would have been visible, and it need not be said that they would not have failed to describe it. The inconsistency between their map and this true and forcible description of the features of the country is apparent.

The same general character of table-land is found to the north of the St. John above the Grand Falls. Its first important northern tributary is the Grand River. In ascending this stream the level of the table-land is soon reached. The river runs between banks of very moderate elevation and on a regular slope, and although running with great rapidity upon a pebbly bed it is yet so tortuous that while its distance from its mouth to the Wagansis portage in a straight line is no more than 13 miles the meanders of its channel amount to 30.

On the Wagansis portage the table-land is terminated by a ridge whose summit is elevated 264 feet above the wagansis* of Grand River. It was at first believed that this, although of small elevation, was a dividing ridge, and that it might correspond to one construction which has, although inaccurately, been put on the treaty of 1783. This belief was speedily removed, for the rivulet on its northern side was found to be cut off from the Restigouche by the Sugar Loaf Mountain, and is therefore a branch either of the Grand River or of the stream which falls into the St. John immediately above the Grand Falls. The height of land which divides this rivulet from the wagan of the Restigouche is not elevated above the former more than 117 feet. There is, in fact, at this place a gap 5 or 6 miles in breadth in the great system of mountains which extend from the Gulf of St. Lawrence at the Bay des Chaleurs to the river St. Lawrence near the Temiscouata portage. At the northern verge of the table-land which has been described, and near the mouth of Green River, rises to the height of about 1,600 feet a mountain known from the name of that stream. This is, like Mars Hill, isolated, and affords an extensive view. To the north and west the prospect is bounded By a continuous line of horizon, which, instead of being obviously below the level of the eye, as in the view of the disputed territory from Mars Hill, is evidently of even greater height than the Green River Mountain itself.

*Wagan is a term in the Abenaki language signifying way. Sis is a diminutive particle. Wagansis is therefore the little way; and it seems probable that the name of Grand River, the usual epithet for the St. John, has been improperly applied to the small stream which bears it on the map.

On entering into this region from the south by any of the navigable streams which traverse it, it presents a more decidedly mountainous character than the country to the south. The Grande Fourche of Restigouche is bordered by two continuous chains of mountains, rising when it first issues from them to the height of a thousand feet above its surface. The stream having a rapid fall, the relative elevation becomes less until, in the neighborhood of the lake in which its north branch first collects its waters, the relative elevation is not more than four or five hundred feet.

On traversing this elevated country it presents a different aspect from what is seen either from a distance or where it is entered from the rivers. Frequent ridges are crossed; the tops of these are often occupied by swamps filled with a thick growth of cedars. Deep and small basins occur, which are occupied by lakes that give rise to rivers flowing to the St. Lawrence or to the St. John. These are intermingled with thickets of dwarf spruce, and the streams are sometimes bordered by marshes covered by low alders, and sometimes cut deep into rocky channels. In this apparent labyrinth one positive circumstance marks the line of division, or the true height of land: The streams which run to the St. John are all of the first description--sluggish--while those which discharge themselves into the St. Lawrence are rapid, and have the character of torrents.

On the western side of the disputed territory are ridges of rocky hills running nearly north and south, and thus tending toward the St. Lawrence, which they in some places reach and shut out the view of the interior.

It thus becomes difficult to find a station whence the heights of land can be viewed and its character exhibited. It has therefore been hitherto possible for those who have argued in support of the claims of Great Britain to represent without meeting with contradiction that the streams which fall into the St. John had their rise in a country possessed of none of that mountainous character which they urged was essential to the epithet of highlands. There are, however, points where a different character is apparent, and some of these are easy of access. Thus, on the main mail road, along the Southeast Branch of the St. Lawrence a mile northeast of the church of L'Islette, a rocky eminence is passed, whence may be seen a bold group of mountains which have been identified with the sources of the Ouelle, the Kamouraska and Black rivers. A view of this group is herewith presented.

From the height to the east of river Du Loup a view may be seen on a clear day extending round 137oof the horizon, beginning with the highlands of Bic, bearing N. 580 E., and terminating in a conical mountain bearing S. 15oW.

The nearest and more conspicuous of these highlands (named those of St. Andre) are on the river Fourche, a branch of the river Du Loup, whose waters they divide from those of the St. Francis. A view of these is also submitted herewith.

A similar view of the same panorama of highlands is obtained from Hare Island, in the St. Lawrence, an outline of which, taken with the camera lucida, is likewise submitted. About a quarter of a mile to the south of the point where the Temiscouata portage crosses Mount Biort the highlands may be seen at the head of Rimouski, bearing nearly east, thence extending round by the north to the mountains of St. Andre, bearing nearly west, forming about one-half of the entire horizon. The entire panorama from the latter point, taken with the camera lucida, along with copies of some daguerreotypes made at the same place, are herewith submitted. Of the part of the line which extends to the northeast from the source of the Etchemin for a distance of many miles, a view may be almost constantly seen from the citadel of Quebec and from the tops of the houses in that city. One still more satisfactory may be obtained from the road between Quebec and the Falls of Montmorency, in the neighborhood of the village of Belport. The latter views are in particular referred to, as they are within the reach of numerous civil and military officers of the British Government who must assent to the evidence of their own senses, which will prove that this region, the position of the path pursued during the present year by Captain Talcott's parties, is to all intents a range of highlands.

The boundary presents from these positions the aspect of a continuous and deeply serrated ridge.

The geological character of the country can not be admitted as having any bearing upon the subject under consideration. It never entered into the views of the framers of the treaty of 1783, and therefore could afford no illustrations of their intentions.

Were it admissible, however, it might be cited as an additional argument that the dividing height which incloses the waters of the Connecticut continues unchanged its features until it is cut off by the deep channel of the St. Lawrence.

Opportunities for observations of this character were most frequent on the Temiscouata portage and on the banks of the St. Lawrence itself. It was only on the former place that the relative geological heights of the rocks could be observed by means of their outcrop.

The whole of the portage passes over stratified rocks dipping rapidly to the southeast. They were found to be alternate groups of common and talcose slate and of a rock made up principally of angular fragments of white quartz (grauwacke). These are in all respects identical with rocks which have been observed by one of the commissioners in place in Berkshire County, Mass., and in Columbia and Rensselaer counties, N.Y., and the description of geologists at various intervening points, as well as the observations of Captain Talcott's parties, would tend to establish the fact that the formations are continuous.

From these data it would appear probable that the rocks are a prolongation of the western slope of the great range called by Mr. Featherstonhaugh, in his report as United States geologist, the Atlantic ridge. This formation, which is but a few miles in width where it crosses the Hudson, appears gradually to widen as it proceeds to the north, and was on the St. Lawrence found to prevail both at the river Du Loup and at Grand Metis, dipping in the two places in opposite directions and covered in the interval by the thick diluvial deposits which from the valley of the Trois Pistoles. To render the analogy more complete, in the valley of the outlet of the Little Lake (Temiscouata) was found a vein of metalliferous quartz charged with peroxide of iron, evidently arising from the decomposition of pyrites, being in fact the same as the matrix of the gold which has been traced in the talcose slate formation from Georgia to Vermont; and on the western shore of the Temiscouata Lake, about a mile to the south of Fort Ingall, lie great masses of granular carbonate of lime, identically resembling the white marbles of Pennsylvania, Westchester County, N.Y., and Berkshire County, Mass.

If the latter be in place, which, although probable, was not ascertained beyond all question, the primitive carbonate of lime has exactly the same relation to the slaty rocks which it bears in the latter locality.

The formations which have been spoken of appear to occupy the whole extent of the country explored by the parties of Professor Renwick. Everywhere the streams were found cutting through rocks of slate. On the summits of many of the hills were found weathered masses of angular quartz rocks, showing that while the slate had yielded to the action of the elements, the harder and less friable rock had kept its place. The ridges which intervene between the St. Lawrence at the river Du Loup and Lake Temiscouata have the character, so well described by Elie de Beaumont, of mountains elevated by some internal force.

To the eastward of Lake Temiscouata, on the other hand, the country has the aspect of having once been a table-land, elevated on the average about 1,700 feet above the level of the sea, and of having been washed by some mighty flood, which, wearing away the softer rocks, had cut it into valleys, forming a complex system incapable of being described in words and only to be understood by inspection of a map.


For the purpose of exhibiting the relative claims of the two lines to the exclusive epithet of "the highlands" in the most clear and definite manner, each of them will be considered as divided into three portions, which will be contrasted with each other by pairs. The first portion of each of the lines is that which lies nearest to the point of bifurcation; the residue of the American line is divided at the source of the Ouelle; the remainder of the line of Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge at that of the Aroostook. Metjarmette portage is taken as the point of bifurcation, whence waters run to the Penobscot, the St. John, and the St. Lawrence.

On the American line from the Metjarmette portage to Lake Etchemin-- Feet.

The maximum height is--------------------------------------------------------------- 1,718

The minimum height is--------------------------------------------------------------- 1,718

The minimum measured height is that of Lake Etchemin, which is lower than the actual source of that stream, and whose omission as not upon the dividing ridge would make the minimum greater. This height was determined by the parties of A. Talcott, esq., by two distinct and separate sets of observations, one of which was continued hourly for several days; and no doubt can exist that it is as accurate a measure as the barometer is capable of affording. In the report of Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge this height is set down as no more than 957 feet, but it is determined from a single observation. That it is erroneous must be considered as demonstrated. In the map presented by those gentlemen they have made use of this erroneous determination for a purpose which, even were it correct, would not be warranted, for they on its authority leave out all the symbols by which heights are represented, and substitute therefor a dotted line with the inscription "Fictitious hills of Mr. Burnham's map." The actual character of this part of the American line is an undulating country.

On the line of Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge between the

Metjarmette portage and the Cocumgamoc Mountains-- Feet.

The maximum elevation is------------------------------------------------------ 2,302

The minimum elevation is-------------------------------------------------------- 987

This part of the line of Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge derives its apparent advantage from the fact that it crosses the summit and occupies the eastern slope of the highlands claimed by the United States. Notwithstanding this, the difference in their elevation is not such as to give it any decided superiority in its highland character.

On the American line from Lake Etchemin to the river Ouelle-- Feet.

The maximum height is--------------------------------------------------------- 2,854

The minimum height is--------------------------------------------------------- 1,306

On the line of Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge from the

Cocumgamoc Mountains to the head waters of the Aroostook --

The maximum height is--------------------------------------------------------- 1,268

The minimum height is----------------------------------------------------------- 880

On the parts of the line thus contrasted the maximum height of that claimed by Great Britain is less elevated than the lowest gap of that claimed by the United States.

On the third portion of the American line:

From the head of the Ouelle to the Temiscouata portage-- Feet.

The maximum height is--------------------------------------------------------- 2,231

The minimum height is----------------------------------------------------------- 853

From the point where the line first crosses the

Temiscouata portage to Mount Paradis --

The maximum height is--------------------------------------------------------- 1,983

The minimum height is----------------------------------------------------------- 906

On the third portion of the American line (continued):

From the Temiscouata portage to the head of the Abagusquash-- Feet.

The maximum height is------------------------------------------------------------- 1, 510

The minimum height is----------------------------------------------------------- 676

From Abagusquash to the Rimouski Lake--

The maximum height is-------------------------------------------------------- 1,824

The minimum height is---------------------------------------------------------- 651

From the Rimouski Lake to the northwest angle--

The maximum height is--------------------------------------------------------- 1,841

The minimum height is--------------------------------------------------------- 1,014

The greatest elevation of the whole of the third part of the

American line, therefore, is----------------------------------------------------------------- 2, 231

The minimum is-------------------------------------------------------------------------- 651

The termination of the exploring meridian line falls into this part of the American line. Its height of 1,519 feet was determined by two separate observations, compared with others taken on Lake Johnson. The height of the latter was calculated at 1,007 feet from a series of observations continued for seventeen days, and is believed to be as accurate as the method of the barometer is susceptible of.

This height of the termination of that line is estimated by Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge at no more than 388 feet, and that of the lake at no more than 363. In this estimate they reject the indications of their own barometers, because the results of them would have contradicted the previous impressions which seem to have governed all their operations, viz, that the point claimed by the United States as the northwest angle of Nova Scotia is not in an elevated region of country.*

*A continuous line of leveling was carried by one of the parties of Major Graham's division, by means of two spirit levels checking one another, from tide water at Calais, in Maine, to the monument at the source of the St. Croix, and thence along the true median line to its intersection with the river St. John. The surface of the St. John at this point of intersection was thus found to be 419 1/2 feet above the level of mean tide at Calais. The basin of the river immediately above the Grand Falls may be stated as of the same elevation in round numbers, as there is very little current in the river between those two points.

On the third part of the British line from the sources of the Aroostook to the Grand Falls of the St. John no height is reported as measured by the British commissioners which exceeds 1,050 feet, while the greatest height on their profile is 1,050 feet. The minimum height on their profile, excluding the Aroostook at its mouth and its intersection with the meridian line, is 243 feet, and the mean of the numbers entered by them both on their map and profile is 665 feet.

It will therefore appear that if the profile of Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge be correct the lowest gap on the third part of the American line is about as high as the mean elevation of the part of the British line with which it is compared.

The line claimed by the United States therefore possesses throughout in a preeminent degree the highland character according to the sense at one time contended for in the argument of Great Britain, and is, to use the term of the British commissioners, "the axis of maximum elevation," the mean of all the heights measured upon it being 1,459 feet, while that of those measured on the line of Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge is no more than 1,085 feet.

It is regretted that the computations of the barometric and other observations for the determination of the heights of that portion of the country between the valley of the St. John and the sources of the Aroostook, explored by the division of Major Graham, could not be completed in time to be made use of for this report in the description of that portion of the line claimed for Great Britain by Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge. This delay has been solely caused by a want of reasonable time to complete this portion of the work, the commissioner having direction of the division charged with it having only returned from the field in the month of January.

Sufficient information is known, however, to have been derived from those surveys to justify the assertion that, instead of the strongly marked range of highlands represented by the British commissioners as constituting a part of their "axis of maximum elevation," the country in the vicinity of the Aroostook lying between its sources and the valley of the St. John is devoid of the character they have attributed to it. When properly represented upon a map it will appear as an extended undulating surface of moderate elevation above the level of the Aroostook River, sparsely interspersed with occasional detached elevations rising to heights of 600 to 900 and 1,400 feet above the level of the sea, but forming no continuous or connected chain whatever in the direction represented by the British commissioners, or that could be construed into the character of highlands such as are described in the treaty of 1783.*

*NOTE.--Since the above was written Major Graham's map and the computations of the barometric heights above alluded to have been completed.

This map exhibits in their proper positions the numerous altitudes which were determined throughout the country watered by the Aroostook and its principal tributaries, extending laterally to the heights which bound the basin of that river on either side; along the due west line traced in the year 1835 by Captain Yule, of the royal engineers, between Mars Hill and a point near the forks of the Great Machias River; along and in the vicinity of the road recently opened by the State of Maine from Lewis's (a point in latitude 46o 12' 20'', between the head branches of the Meduxnikeag and the Masardis or St. Croix of the Aroostook) to the mouth of Fish River, in latitude 47o 15' 13, being a distance, actually measured, of 79 miles; and along the new military road, embracing 40 1/2 miles of the distance from Fort Fairfield to Houlton and including the adjacent heights on either side.

The number of elevations within the territory watered by the Aroostook and claimed by Great Britain that have thus been carefully measured amounts to upward of 200.

This survey shows that although the prominent eminences which occur along that portion of the "axis of maximum elevation" of Messrs. Mudge and Featherstonhaugh which lies between the mouth and the source of the Aroostook correspond very nearly in height and position by our measurements with those reported by themselves, yet these eminences are separated one from another by spaces of comparatively low and very often swampy country, so extended as to preclude the idea of a continuous range of highlands in the direction represented upon the map of those commissioners.

If a range or chain of highlands is to be made to appear by drawing a strongly marked line over widely extended valleys or districts of comparatively low country so as to reach and connect the most prominent eminences which may fall within the assumed direction, then such a range or chain of highlands may here be made as plausibly in any other direction as in that chosen by Messrs. Mudge and Featherstonhaugh, for the detached elevated peaks are so distributed as under such a principle to favor any one direction as much as another, and might thus be made to subserve in an equal degree whatever conflicting theories the object in view might cause to be originated.

We may also refer, in further illustration of the character of the country through which a portion of this pretended "axis of maximum elevation" is made to pass, to a panorama view taken in October, 1841, by one of Major Graham's assistants from the summit of Blue Hill, where crossed by the true meridian of the monument, at the source of the St. Croix. This position is 1,100 feet above the level of the sea and 47 1/2 miles north of the monument. It commands a most satisfactory view of the whole country embraced within a radius of 40 to 60 miles, including, as the landscape shows, Parks Hill to the south; Katahdin, the Traveller, and Mars Hill to the southwest; Quaquajo, the Horseback, the Haystack, and one or two peaks beyond the Aroostook to the west; the heights upon the Fish River and the southern margin of the Eagle lakes to the northwest, and those south of the St. John (except a small angle obstructed by the Aroostook Hill) to the north.

The character of the great basin of the Aroostook, dotted with the detached peaks which rise abruptly from it at intervals of many miles apart, is here exhibited through at least two-thirds of its extent in so satisfactory a manner as in itself to preclude the idea of an "axis of maximum elevation" composed of anything like a connected or continuous chain in this region of country.

MAY 1, 1842.

In addition to the surveys upon the boundary line claimed by the United States, an exploring line was run under the direction of Professor Renwick, as is more particularly described in Appendix No. 1. This line extended to an eminence on the eastern side of Lake Matapediac, elevated 1,743 feet above the level of the sea. The views obtained from this eminence established the fact that a chain of highlands extended thence to the north shore of the Bay des Chaleurs. They are believed to terminate in an eminence, which from its imposing appearance has been called by the Scotch settlers at its foot Ben Lomond. This was measured during the operations of the summer of 1840, and found to rise from the tide of the bay to the height of 1,024 feet. This exploring line, coupled with the more accurate surveys, appears to establish the fact of the existence of a continuous chain of eminences entitled to the epithet of highlands from the north shore of the Bay des Chaleurs at its western extremity to the sources of the Connecticut River. Returning from the latter point, they exhibit the aspect of well-marked ranges of mountains as far as the sources of the Metjarmette. Thence to the sources of the Etchemin extends an undulating country whose mean height is 1,300 or 1,500 feet above the level of the sea. The boundary line is thence prolonged to the Temiscouata portage over well-defined ridges to the eastern side of Lake Temiscouata. At the sources of two of the streams which run into this lake the minimum heights of 651 feet and 676 feet have been observed.

With these exceptions, the sources of the streams which rise to the north of the Temiscouata portage and between the lake of that name and Lake Matapediac average more than 900 feet above the level of the sea. For the purpose of describing this portion of the line claimed by the United States, we may take this height of 900 feet as the elevation of a horizontal plane or base. On this are raised knolls, eminences, and short ridges whose heights above this assumed base vary from 300 to 1,300 feet. The more elevated of these are universally designated by the hunters who occasionally visit the country and the lumberers who search it for timber as mountains clothed to the summit with wood, which, in consequence of the rigor of the climate, attains but a feeble growth. They have an aspect of much greater altitude than they in reality possess, but their character as highlands is indisputable. This term, which the first English visitors ascribed without hesitation to the hills of New Jersey,* whose altitude is about 300 feet above the level of the sea, is much better merited by a group of eminences rising from 300 to 1,300 feet above a base itself 900 feet in height, and which exceed in elevation the well-known highlands of the Hudson River.

*The highlands of Neversink.

Not to rest merely on instances drawn from the language of those of English birth who first settled or traded on the coast of the present United States, there are in the immediate vicinity of the region in question a range of eminences the highest of which is no more than 1,206 feet above the level of the sea. These, on the authority of a distinguished officer of Her Britannic Majesty's navy,** are named the "highlands of Bic," and have long been thus known by all the navigators of the St. Lawrence who use the English tongue.

**Captain Byfield.

To sum up the results of the field operations of the commissioners:

(1) The meridian has been traced by astronomic observations from the monument, established by the consent of both nations in 1798, at the source of the St. Croix to a point 4 miles beyond the left bank of the St. John in the neighborhood of the Grand Falls. In the course of this not only has no highland dividing waters which run into the St. Lawrence from those which run into the Atlantic been reached, but no common source or reservoir of two streams running in opposite directions.* No place has, therefore, been found which by any construction proposed or attempted to be put on the words of the treaty of 1783 can be considered as the northwest angle of Nova Scotia. This point must, in consequence, lie in the further prolongation of the meridian line to the north

*The levelings carried along this meridian line by means of spirit levels, alluded to in the note at bottom of page 121. passed Mars Hill at a depression of 12 feet below the level of the base of the monument which stands (except at seasons of extreme drought) in the water at the source of the Croix

(2) The streams whose title to the name of the northwesternmost head of the Connecticut River is in dispute have been explored, and the line of the highlands has been traced from their sources to the point at which the lines respectively claimed by the two nations diverge from each other.

(3) The line claimed by Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge, on the part of Great Britain, has been in a great measure explored.

(4) The line of highlands claimed by the United States has, with some small exceptions, been thoroughly examined, and its prolongation as far as the north shore of the Bay of Chaleurs reconnoitered. The parts of the line which have not been actually reached have been seen from a distance, and streams flowing from them crossed and leveled. From the former indication it is probable that the average height of those parts exceeds that of the neighboring parts of the line. From the heights of the streams it is certain that the lowest gaps in the unexplored portion of the line can not be less elevated than 1,000 feet above the level of the sea.

That part of this line of highlands which lies east of the sources of the Rimouski fulfills to the letter the words of the royal proclamation of 1763 and the contemporaneous commission of Governor Wilmot. The first of those instruments defines the mouth of the river St. Lawrence by a line drawn from Cape Rozier to the St. John River (on the Labrador coast), and therefore all to the eastward of that line is "the sea." The height of land thus traced by the commission, rising from the north shore of the Bay des Chaleurs at its western extremity, divides waters which fall into the river St. Lawrence from those which fall into the sea, and is the southern boundary of the Province established by the proclamation of 1763 under the name of Quebec. The identity of the line defined in the proclamation of 1763 and the boundary of the United States in the treaty of 1783 has been uniformly maintained on the part of the United States, and is not merely admitted but strenuously argued for in the report of Messrs. Featherstonhaugh and Mudge.

The undersigned therefore report that they have explored and in a great measure surveyed and leveled a line of highlands in which the northwest angle of Nova Scotia lies, and which in their opinion is the true boundary between the States of Maine and New Hampshire and the British Provinces.


The progress which has been made in the first portion of the duties of the commissioners has been set forth in the preceding part of this report.

Although, as will be there seen, the task of running the meridian line of the monument marking the source of the St. Croix and of exploring and surveying the lines of highlands respectively claimed by the Governments of the United States and Great Britain has not been completed, yet enough has been done to furnish materials for an examination of the argument preferred by Messrs. Mudge and Featherstonhaugh in support of the novel form in which the claim of Great Britain has been presented by them.

In the surveys made by direction of the commissioners under the fifth article of the treaty of Ghent the difficult character of the country had prevented any other method of exploration than that of ascending rivers to their sources. It was believed on the part of the United States that the determination of the position of these sources was sufficient for the demarcation of the line of highlands in relation to which the controversy exists, and no attempt was made to meet the British argument by the exhibition of the fact that the lines joining these sources run in some cases along ridges and in other cases pass over elevations to which in any sense of the term the epithet of" highlands" may be justly applied. The denial of this mode of determining the line of highlands by Great Britain has made it important that both the lines claimed by Great Britain and by the United States should be explored and leveled--a task which until recently had not been attempted on either part. The examination of the lines claimed by the two nations, respectively, has been in a great measure accomplished, as will be seen from the reports of the field operations of the commission, while such of these determinations as have a direct bearing on the argument will be cited in their proper place in this report.

It is to be regretted that the document now under consideration exhibits many instances of an unfriendly spirit. Charges of direct and implied fraud are made, and language is used throughout that is irritating and insulting. It is fondly hoped that these passages do not express the sentiments of the British nation, as in a state of feeling such as this report indicates little hope could be entertained of an amicable adjustment of this question. Any inference to be drawn from the language of the report under consideration is contradicted by the official declarations of the British Government, and may therefore be considered as the individual act of the authors, not as the deliberate voice of the nation by which they were employed.

It might have been easy to have retorted similar charges, and thus have excited in the Government of Great Britain feelings of irritation similar to those which pervaded the whole population of the United States on the reception of that report. While, however, it is due to the honor of the United States to declare that no desire of undue aggrandizement has been felt, no claim advanced beyond what a strict construction of their rights will warrant, it is trusted that the pretensions of Great Britain, however unfounded in fact or principle, have been advanced with a like disregard to mere extension of territory, and urged with the same good faith which has uniformly characterized the proceedings of the United States.

It is not to be wondered that the claims of Great Britain have been urged with the utmost pertinacity and supported by every possible form of argument. The territory in question is of great value to her, by covering the only mode of communication which can exist for nearly six months in the year, not only between two valuable colonies, but between the most important of all her possessions and the mother country. The time is not long past when the use of this very communication was not an unimportant part of the means by which that colony was restrained from an attempt to assert its independence. It is not, therefore, surprising that the feelings of British statesmen and of those who desired to win their favor have been more obvious in the several arguments which have appeared on that side of the question than a sober view of the true principles, on which alone a correct opinion of the case can be rounded.

To the United States in their collective capacity the territory in dispute is, on the other hand, of comparatively little moment. No other desire is felt throughout the greater part of the Union than that the question should be settled upon just principles. No regret could, therefore, be widely felt if it should be satisfactorily shown that the title of Great Britain to this region is indisputable. But should it be shown, as is beyond all question the fact, that the title is in truth in the United States, national honor forbids that this title should be abandoned. To the States of Maine and Massachusetts, who are the joint proprietors of the unseated lands, the territory is of a certain importance from the value of the land and timber, and to the latter, within whose jurisdiction it falls, as a future means of increasing her relative importance in the Union, and a just and proper feeling on the part of their sister States must prevent their yielding to any unfounded claim or the surrender of any territory to which a title can be established without an equivalent satisfactory to those States.

To show the basis on which the title rests--

It is maintained on the part of the United States that the territory they held on the continent of North America prior to the purchase of Louisiana and the Floridas was possessed by a title derived from their own Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July, 1776, the assertion of that independence in a successful war, and its acknowledgment by Great Britain as a preliminary to any negotiation for a treaty of peace. It is admitted on the part of Great Britain that a territory designated by certain limits was granted to the United States in the treaty of 1783. As a matter of national pride, the question whether the territory of the original United States was held by the fight of war or by virtue of a grant from the British Crown is not unimportant; as a basis of title it has not the least bearing on the subject. From the date of the treaty of 1783 all pretensions of the British Crown to jurisdiction or property within the limits prescribed by the provisions of that instrument ceased, and when a war arose in 1812 between the two nations it was terminated by the treaty of Ghent, in which the original boundaries were confirmed and acknowledged on both sides.

The treaty of 1783, therefore, is, in reference to this territory, the only instrument of binding force upon the two parties; nor can any other document be with propriety brought forward in the discussion except for the purpose of explaining and rendering definite such of the provisions of that treaty as are obscure or apparently uncertain.

The desire of full and ample illustration, which has actuated both parties, has led to the search among neglected archives for documents almost innumerable, and their force and bearing upon the question have been exhibited in arguments of great ability. Such has been the talent shown in this task of illustration and so copious have been the materials employed for the purpose that the great and only important question, although never lost sight of by the writers themselves, has to the eye of the casual observer been completely hidden. In the report under consideration this distinction between treaties of binding force and documents intended for mere illustration has not been regarded, and the vague as well as obviously inaccurate delineations of a French or a Venetian map maker are gravely held forth as of equal value for a basis of argument as the solemn and ratified acts of the two nations.

In pursuance of this desire of illustration, every known document which could in any form support either claim has been advanced and set forth in the statements laid before His Majesty the King of the Netherlands when acting as umpire under the fifth article of the treaty of Ghent. If not yet given entire to the public,* they are in the possession of both Governments in a printed form, together with the opinion of the arbiter in respect to them; and although it is necessary that the arguments then adduced in favor of the American claim should be in part repeated, and although new illustrations of the correctness of that argument have since been brought to light, the present document will be confined as closely as possible to the provisions of the treaty itself, and will adduce no more of illustration than is barely sufficient to render the terms of that treaty certain and definite.

*A considerable part of the papers, together with the argument, has been published by Mr. Gallatin in his Right of the United States to the Northeastern Boundary. New York, 1840. 8 vol. pp 180.

The boundaries of the United States are described in the treaty of 1783 in the following words: **

**The words here appearing in italics are not italicized in the original treaty.

"And that all disputes which might arise in future on the subject of the boundaries of the said United States may be prevented it is hereby agreed and declared that the following are and shall be their boundaries, viz: From the northwest angle of Nova Scotia , viz, that angle which is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of St. Croix River to the highlands; along the said highlands which divide those rivers that empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean to the northwesternmost head of Connecticut River; thence down along the middle of that river to the forty-fifth degree of north latitude; from thence by a line due west on said latitude until it strikes the river Iroquois, or Cataraquy; thence along the middle of said river into Lake Ontario; through the middle of said lake until it strikes the communication by water between that lake and Lake Erie; thence along the middle of said communication into Lake Erie through the middle of said lake until it arrives at the water communication between that lake and Lake Huron; thence along the middle of said water communication into the Lake Huron; thence through the middle of said lake to the water communication between that lake and Lake Superior; thence through Lake Superior northward of the Isles Royal and Phelipeaux to the Long Lake; thence through the middle of said Long Lake and the water communication between it and the Lake of the Woods to the said Lake of the Woods; thence through the said lake to the most northwestern point thereof, and from thence on a due west course to the river Mississippi; thence by a line to be drawn along the middle of the said river Mississippi until it shall intersect the northernmost part of the thirty-first degree of north latitude; south by a line to be drawn due east from the determination of the line last mentioned in the latitude of 31onorth of the equator to the middle of the river Apalachicola, or Catahouche; thence along the middle thereof to its junction with the Flint River; thence straight to the head of St. Marys River, and thence down along the middle of St. Marys River to the Atlantic Ocean; east by a line to be drawn along the middle of the river St. Croix from its mouth in the Bay of Fundy to its source and from its source directly north to the aforesaid highlands which divide the rivers that fall into the Atlantic Ocean from those which fall into the river St. Lawrence; comprehending all islands within 20 leagues of any part of the shores of the United States and lying between lines to be drawn due east from the points where the aforesaid boundaries between Nova Scotia on the one part and East Florida on the other shall respectively touch the Bay of Fundy and the Atlantic Ocean, excepting such islands as now are or heretofore have been within the limits of the said Province of Nova Scotia."

So far as the present question is concerned, five points of discussion are presented by this article of the treaty of 1783:

I. What stream is to be understood by the name of the river St. Croix ?

II. The determination of the line due north from the source of that river.

III. What is the position of the northwest angle of Nova Scotia?

IV. The delineation of the line passing through the highlands from that angle to the northwest head of Connecticut River.

V. What is to be considered as the northwestern head of Connecticut River?


Doubts in respect to the particular river intended to be understood by the name of the St. Croix having arisen, an article was inserted in the treaty of commerce signed in London in November, 1794, by Lord Grenville on the part of Great Britain and by John Jay on the part of the United States.* This article, the fifth of that treaty, provided for the appointment of a joint commission with full powers to decide that question. This commission was constituted in conformity, and the award was accepted by both Governments.+ The river designated in this award became thenceforth the true St. Croix, however erroneous may have been the grounds on which it was decided so to be. When, therefore, in the fourth article of the treaty of Ghent it is declared that the due north line from the source of the St. Croix has not been surveyed, and when in this and the other articles of the same treaty all other uncertain parts of the boundary are recited, the validity of the decision of the commissioners under the fifth article of Jay's treaty is

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

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