No. 2
17 January 1859
I had the honor on the 12th of November last, in my despatch No 47 of acknowledging the receipt of your Confidential Despatch of the 21st of August, requesting me to furnish a report as early as practicable on the subject of the disputed line of Water Boundary between Vancouver'sManuscript imageVancouver's Island and the American Territory on the main land, and I now beg to submit the few fresh ideas that have since occurred to me on a question which has before been so closely investigated.
2. I had the honor of addressing His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, and of submitting the opinion which I entertained on that subject in the several Despatches of the numbers and dates noted in the margin.
No 10 24th Novr 1853
No 5 27th Feb 1854
3. In those Despatches I stated the reasonsManuscript imagereasons which induced me to assume that the Islands of San Juan, Lopez and Orcas, to which the United States have set up a claim did of right belong to Her Majesty the Queen, and come within the jurisdiction of the Government of Vancouver's Island, or in other words that "Vancouver's Strait" now more generally known as "Rosario Strait" is the true channel through which the line of Water Boundary was intended to be carried.
4. That conclusion wasManuscript imagewas founded in the first place on a fair construction of the language of the 1st Article of the Treaty of the 15th June 1846. Secondly—on the common opinion of the day. Thirdly—On the Maps published in both countries carrying the line of Boundary through the middle of Vancouver's Straits.
5. My opinion in reference to the true line of Water Boundary remains unaltered, or is rather confirmed by a circumstaceManuscript imagecircumstance not alluded to in my former reports on the subject. I mean the intention of the negociators of the Treaty, as may be inferred from the manner in which the Coasts of Vancouver's Island, and the Continent on the 49th Parallel of Latitude were represented in the best published Charts of the period when the Treaty was concluded.
6. I transmit herewith a section taken from Vancouver's Chart, showingManuscript imageshowing the Coast Lines in the Gulf of Georgia on the 49th Parallel and embracing all the information on the subject which Mr Buchanan and Mr Pakenham could possibly have had access to, in fixing and describing the line of Water Boundary.
7. It will thereby be observed that the line of Coast on the west side of the Gulf of Georgia, directly opposite Point Roberts, and where the Point is intersected by the 49thManuscript image49th Parallel of North Latitude—now known to be a group of Islands—was then supposed to be and represented in the Charts of the day, as the East Coast of Vancouver's Island.
8. It is therefore reasonable to infer that the intention of the negociators must have been to carry on the line of Boundary along the 49th Parallel to the middle of the channel which separates the land of Point Roberts from the landManuscript imageland shewn in the charts of that day as the East Coast of Vancouver's Island.
9. That point of the Boundary line being fixed as so described, in the middle of that channel the Treaty goes on to say that it is to be carried thence southerly through the middle of the said channel and of Fuca Straits to the Pacific Ocean.
10. The only channel to which that descriptionManuscript imagedescription can really apply is the channel followed by "Vancouver," with his two ships, by Strawberry Bay, as traced upon the accompanying section of his chart, before referred to.
11. That it was the intention of the negociators to carry the Boundary through that channel, is thus I think distinctly shewn, and I have heard no cause assigned on the part of the United States Boundary Commissioners why thatManuscript imagethat simple and obvious rendering of the Treaty should not be adopted as its true sense and meaning.
12. It would certainly not be advisable for Her Majesty's Government to adopt any other, than the above rendering of the Treaty, without very careful consideration of the effect of any new arrangement; lest we be thereby debarred from the use of a safe and accessible Ship channel to the British Possessions in the Gulf of Georgia.
TheManuscript image13. The American Coasts on the Gulf of Georgia, being accessible by a good Ship channel, even though the Islands of San Juan, Lopez and Orcas are confirmed to Great Britain; the acquisition of those Islands may be considered as a question of secondary importance to the United States; while to us their acquisition is of vital consequence, for securing a Ship communication with the most valuable and extensive portion of British Columbia.
ThatManuscript image14. That remark is especially meant to apply to a proposal which is said to have been made here, of treating the whole space between the continent and Vancouver's Island as one channel and running the Boundary line through the middle of that space without reference to any navigable channel, an arrangement which unless the position of the Islands be greatly misunderstood, would it appears to me, leaveManuscript imageleave on the British side of the line, no navigable communication with the Gulf of Georgia.
I have etc.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
This is the expected report. If I understand the Governor's meaning he objects to the middle line proposed by the Admiralty as the solution of the dispute.
ABd 15/3
Not exactly to the line proposed by the Admy but to a theoretical middle line running through land & sea Manuscript imagealike. The arguments however would apply equally to the Admiralty line.
HM Mh 16
Manuscript image
Sir Edward Lytton
We have now before us Govr Douglas['s] report & Captn Richard's views upon the Water boundary and I doubt whether we shall obtain any further material for coming to a decision. The F.O. ask for your opinion, but all things considered I do not see how that opinion can be more than a general one. I do not quite understand Govr Douglas' objection to a theoretical line drawn midway between Vancouver's I. and the Continent on the ground that this wd leave us no navigable channel. On the contrary failing to secure the Rosario as the mid-channel I doubt whether this wd not be the best to adopt as most defensible in arguments and as securing substantially for us what we may reasonably think ourselves Entitled to. But we might as a Manuscript imageModification of this principle of partition propose that whilst we retain exclusive possession of the Haro, and whilst we leave exclusive possession to the U.S. of the Rosario, the middle channel wh Capt. Richards admits to be as navigable as the two former, except that it is narrower, should be common to both parties & form the line of demarcation between the respective territories of the two nations. This it appears to me wd not be an arrangement which wd be inexpedient for British interests provided that we cannot obtain more.
At the same time it wd be desirable to say in answer to Lord Malmesbury that whilst it would be most advantageous to secure the adoption of the Rosario as the water boundary you wd be prepared to accept this principle of division (the Middle Channel) Manuscript image& that if the arrangement cd be concluded satisfactorily on that basis you wd not stand out for further concessions & incur by delay the risk of negotiating hereafter at a less favourable opportunity. If therefore in his opinion, and from a closer knowledge of our relations with the U.S. than is possible for us to have, he thinks that there is a reasonable prospect of defining the middle channel as the Rosario, you feel that the most material points wd be secured in favour of British interests in those waters. But under no circumstances could we accept the Haro channel as the mid-channel for purposes of navigation or as a boundary line between the two nations. The "Middle Channel" wd give us S. Juan, which is one of the main Manuscript imageobjects to be kept in view in any arrangement.
I have talked this matter over with Mr Merivale and I think that he agrees in this proposed reply. The only point in wh I think he may not quite agree with me is whether we gain more by pressing the question to an arrangement, when the circumstances of the Colony give us an advantage & so far entitle us to make our full claims at least—or by allowing the matter to stand over if we cannot obtain all that we consider ourselves fully entitled to. I sd be disposed to close a question wh is full of difficulties & contains the seed of greater embarrassments without delay if we cd secure the Middle Channel as the boundary line. But this is a point for your decision.
I annex a draft on a minor point wh this correspondence involves.
C Mch 23/59
Manuscript image
You will inform Lord M. that I consider the possession of St Juan so indispensable to the safety of B. Columbia, & if surrendered to the Americans so certain to result in feuds & even War, that its claim by the British must be fiercely adhered to. That for the rest I entirely approve of Captn Richard's views (which are strengthened by private letter from Col. Moody, this need not be stated).
EBL Apr 2 1859
Douglas, James to Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer 17 January 1859, CO 305:10, no. 2729, 2. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/V59002.html.

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