Page images

he should deduce fairly their good or bad consequences, but not consider a thing as bad or dangerous, because it is not found at home, or as useful and important, because it is found there. He should become, for a time, a citizen of the world, adapt himself to the circumstances of the people he is among, and not find fault with what he sees, because it is uncommon, or because the contrast is great with that to which he is accustomed. If it be imperfect, and this be inevitable, from a cause or causes that could not be changed, is it not like cursing the heat of the sun, or the opposing winds and currents of the ocean, to depreciate or find fault with that which no power can alter? The disappointment might be much less, if expectations were distinctly defined before he comrnences his travels; then there would be no regret for the non-existence of things that are forbidden by circumstances, and none of that absurd discontent which worries the spirits, and creates a false medium for the judgment, and throws a false hue over every thing,

Is there no pleasure in discovering the effects of government on a people? how far it forms national character? or how much this determines the nature of the government? or in speculating on the vast future, through which they must move? and how far the past and the present influence the consummation of their destiny? If there be no pleasure in this kind of speculation, or one has not the mind to make it, it is an additional evidence of unfitness to travel any where; but more especially in this country. In other portions of the globe, there is little use in trying to imagine what a people are to be; they already have been, and one only looks on the ruins of cities and empires, and asks himself of the causes of their downfall—the questions of their decay, not of their prosperity; asks himself why nations have been swept away? why innumerable human spirits have inhabited the earth, and then passed off like shadows? In this desolation, this apparent annihilation of the existence of man, and obliteration of every vestige of human power, he is led to the question, what is man? what is the being whom Heaven itself seems almost to have forgotten-of whom, save a few monuments which time spares, and a few literary memorials to show the immortality of genius, there is not a trace? These gloomy questionings are such as come to us by the Nile or the Tiber, the Jordan or the Euphrates; by the Pyramids, the broken walls of the Colosseum, the solitary columns of Balbec, the diminishing fragments of God's holy city, and in all or every land except this, where the spirit of liberty has made her home, and the human soul rejoices in the free exercise of its powers and the glad hopes of their utmost development.


States, transmitting, in compliance with a Resolution of the Senate, sundry Documents relating to the Northeastern Boundary of the United

States. Washington : 1836.

The announcement of the president, at the opening of the last session of congress, that Great Britain declined to renew the negotiation, respecting the northeastern boundary, without certain preliminary conditions, which he deemed to be incompatible with a satisfactory and rightful adjustment of the controversy, has served, in some degree, to awaken the flagging interest attached to this still vexed question. It well invited the considerate call made by the senate for the diplomatic correspondence on the subject, with the usual deference to the opinion of the executive, in the first instance, as to its expediency; and the publication, by order of that body, of the communications which have passed between the successive secretaries of state, during the three years that the subject has engaged that department and the representatives of the British government at Washington, has tended to enlighten, if it has not entirely satisfied, the public mind as to those points, touching which its curiosity has thus been justly and sensibly excited. The view taken by the committee of the senate was, no doubt, correct, that it was better that the curtain should be lifted from the present state of the negotiation, than that it should be left in protracted concealment, and be made a matter of unnecessary mystery, especially as the business seemed to have arrived at a dead stand.

If it must be conceded that we lie under some disadvantages from the transparency of all our political relations, and of the intercourse of our government with foreign cabinets,-and under some inconvenience, also, from the checks which our system imposes on the depositaries of public power, and which prevent that greater directness, simplicity, and vigour of action, which a monarchical government is enabled to bring to bear upon subjects of its absolute and unquestionable authority, we may, nevertheless, find some compensation in the life and freshness that are thus imparted to the transaction of our important national affairs as a direct expression from the mint of public sentiment. It affords the more perfect benefit of an immediate responsible agency in those affairs; and it serves, also, to realise and fulfil to us the guarantee which the principles of our fundamental compact were designed to give us, through its constitutional forms, against any disposition to those masterly strokes of statesmanship, denominated, in the French phrase, coups d'état. It operates as a security against any exorbitant tendency vol. XX.--NO: 40.


of the head in advance and at the expense of the members of the Union.

But, without multiplying general remarks of this kind, we may observe two things ;-first, that we do not perceive, from what has been exhibited, that the interests of this question have undergone any material injury from the want of a regular minister of the highest rank, during this period, at the court of St. James; as, after all, and under all the varying phases which the negotiation has assumed, it is sufficiently apparent that it has substantially resolved itself into an almost direct intercourse between the two governments, the business having been conducted, on the other side, very niuch in the way it was at Ghent, in 1814, uuder immediate instructions, received from time to time, from the ministry at home. The intervals, to be sure, have been occasionally rather longer in keeping up the communication on that side-being interrupted, in the first place, by the absence of Mr. Vaughan, who returned, to resume his station in this country, as Sir Charles R. Vaughan, and by the longer time required for receiving new instructions,--and in some measure, also, it may be, by the necessarily extraordinary attention the British government has been obliged to give to its own domestic affairs. But, although this may have operated as some inconvenience, we do not know that it all amounted to much in point of fact. If the scene had been transferred to London, there would have been simply a reversal of the different positions of the parties, and, possibly, without much greater speed upon the whole. At all events, we do not discover much occasion of sensible regret in the loss of the opportunity with which any responsible functionary might have been charged -So far as can be judged from the views of the parties developed in the actual course of negotiation-in not having been engaged in what would seem to have been, at best, but an ineffectual service, except to manifest the amicable disposition of the government of the United States, in regard to an adjustment of the controversy. And, secondly, as has been just sug. gested, we have to remark, that there is the most entire and ample acknowledgment, by the British minister, of the favourable disposition which was brought by the president to the consideration of every reasonable expedient that could be proposed for the solution of this obstinate difficulty. From the nature and peculiarity of the kind of reconnoisances—if we may borrow this term of military art—into the field of the controversy, we are not sure, indeed, that time was very essential, or that the parties are any more likely to approach than they were at the outset. The dispute seems rather more to elude, and even defy, the resources of diplomatic ingenuity; and the

departure is only becoming wider, in such a situation of things, as while one of the parties perseveringly insists on the propriety of trying to discover the intentions of the treaty of 1783, in the terms employed by that instrument to describe the boundary, the other peremptorily demands to have the description discarded and abandoned, as altogether defective and impracticable, and as affording no correct guide for direction or determination. We must confess that, in this state of the question, we are more strongly reminded than ever of the ancient controversy about the limits of Acadia ; and we might be more and more led to despair of a satisfactory and peaceful determination of the question in debate, if we were not disposed to place a final reliance upon the prevailing principles of justice and wisdom in the moral government of human affairs.

It seems now to be matter of consent, that the king of the Netherlands, deeming himself unable to trace the line of boundary in conformity with the description contained in the treaty, abandoned the character of arbitrator, and substituted the office of mediator; and it appears to be equally clear, also, that he did not decide the question submitted to him at all, or that he decided it in a manner unwarranted by the terms of the reference. The failure, indeed, of the umpire to establish a boundary, according to the description of the treaty, is no less forcibly stated and insisted upon by the British government than it was asserted in the resolution of the senate; although the former considered it mutually obligatory on both parties to the submission to accede to the compromise which that sovereign recommended, while the view taken by the senate simply was that the decision of the arbiter, to be final and conclusive, and to be carried into effect, according to the convention of 1827, was, in fact, to be a decision, and that there was no obligation to accede to an expedient, such as proposed, upon the avowed principle of not being able to come to any decision. Some criticism, to be sure, is interposed by Sir Charles Vaughan upon the character and weight of the votes of the senate upon this point; but the subject is placed in a very clear light by the sensible exposition and well-supported remarks of Mr. M'Lane, founded on the whole record of the doings of the senate, in the final construction of which Sir Charles Vaughan seems to acquiesce with a very good grace.

By the refusal of our government to accede to this unexpected species of award, it was early signified that the British cabinet considered itself remitted to its former pretensions, which were declared to be revived, in consequence, to their full extent. And, at the close of the correspondence under review, it is distinctly announced by Mr. Bankhead, the British chargé d'affaires,

that Great Britain withdraws its consent to accept the territorial compromise recommended by the king of the Netherlands; so that that subject is for ever put to rest, the proposal of the arbiter for an adjustment being mutually discarded by the solemn acts of both parties, equally competent to its renouncement; and both parties again have reverted to the position in which they were placed by the treaty of Ghent. In the view taken by Mr. Livingston of this position, they were thrown back to the convention of 1827; and his idea was, that as the arbitrator selected under it had found himself incapable of fulfilling that office, it was apparently incumbent on the parties to the submission still to endeavour to carry the provisions of that convention into execution, by proceeding to agree upon some other suitable person or mode, such, for example, as selecting a commission, to be composed of accomplished and scientific Europeans. But this suggestion did not seem to find sufficient favour with the British government to obtain its concurrence or approbation. There can be no kind of doubt of the sincerity, and even earnestness, of the latter government to have the proposition of the arbiter adopted; and, after the prospect of its acceptance was extinguished, they still urged that there were several points belonging to the subject which the arbiter had fully established, (although he had failed to establish any certain and positive conclusion,) and which the American government were bound to acknowledge as being within the legitimate scope of his authority. In regard to the character of these specific points, we may have something more particular to say presently. But the fallacy, not to say futility, of this singular assumption was pointed out in the obvious remark of Mr. MʻLane, that it was requiring an acquiescence, on the part of the United States, in the dialectic course of reasoning adopted by the arbiter, while they were obliged to reject the result which he reached by these premises. Here, in fine, they parted; the government of the United States pressing a renewal of the experiment, and that the task of tracing the line intended to be pursued by the treaty should be continued until every reasonable expedient had been tried, and that of Great Britain insisting that those means had already been exhausted, that any further attempt would be fruitless, and that nothing, in fact, remained, but to lay aside the terms of the treaty, and to agree upon a new conventional line of boundary, most convenient to the contracting parties, in respect to their contiguous territories.

But the negotiation was not brought abruptly and absolutely to this conclusion on the part of the British governmentalthough its policy was pretty early disclosed in the course of it--without apparently considering and weighing the character and probable effect of every alternative presented by the Ame

« PreviousContinue »