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FRANK K. HIPPLE
JOHN H. CONVERSE
WEIR MITCHELL, M. D.
JOSEPH DE F. JUNKIN
WILLIAM W. PORTER
WILLIAM A. PATTON
SAMUEL F. HOUSTON
ART. I.-1. Exchange of Notes between the United Kingdom
and the United States of America providing for a Provisional Boundary between the Dominion of Canada and the Territory of Alaska near the Head of Lynn Canal, October 20, 1899. Treaty Series, No. 19, 1899. Presented
to Parliament November 1899. 2. The Alaskan Boundary. By the Hon. John W. FOSTER,
Ex-Secretary of State of the United States. National Geographic Magazine' for November 1899.
Washington. 3. Alaska and the Klondike. By ANGELO HEILPRIN,
F.R.G.S., F.G.S.A., Professor of Geology at the Academy
of Sciences at Philadelphia. London: 1899. THE HE questions at issue between Great Britain and the
United States in respect of the Alaska boundary are not new, though for many years the remoteness of the region, and the general ignorance which prevailed in regard to the character and resources of the disputed territory, prevented the subject from attracting attention outside a narrow circle.
Nor even now can there be said to be much knowledge of it gone abroad, especially in the United States, whose press, for the most part, betrays a lack of acquaintance with the facts material to the controversy, quite incompatible with its intelligent discussion. be useful, therefore, if we, in regard to a somewhat intricate matter, give, in a necessarily condensed form, an account of what is commonly known as the Alaska boundary question.
The territory in dispute is a strip of land, so far as at present known of small inherent value, bordering the northwest coast of America, between latitude 55° and 60°. No con
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siderable deposits of gold or other minerals have been found therein. The extremely rugged formation of the country renders intercommunication difficult. Its rivers are navigable only by steamers of light draught, while the climate is such that neither cereals nor fruits can be successfully cultivated. Indeed, with the exception of a week or so in the months of May and September, the sun rarely pierces the mantle of fog and mist which envelopes this inhospitable coast.
This strip is deeply indented by inlets, one of which, called the Lynn Canal, forms the natural gateway to the newly discovered Canadian gold-fields of the Yukon. In this circumstance lies the immediate importance of the Alaska boundary controversy. Lynn Canal, or channel, penetrates the mountains bordering the western coast and runs eighty miles into the interior. At about sixty miles from the ocean it bifurcates, forming two inlets, the Chilkat and the Chilkoot, each receiving rivers at its head. The valleys of these rivers lead to the passes affording access to the British hinterland beyond. While the boundary line is contested at almost every point throughout its entire length, the interest of the question for the moment centres in the heads of the Lynn Canal.
The United States claim that the international boundary runs round the heads of all inlets, including the Lynn Canal, and that, consequently, the three ports of Dyea, Skagway, and Pyramid Harbour, at the mouth of the Taiya, Skagway, and Chilkat rivers respectively, are within American territory. The Canadians contend that the dividing line crosses the Lynn Canal within thirty miles from its mouth, leaving the whole upper part well within British jurisdiction. So long as the hinterland was believed to be valueless no one cared much how it was reached, but with the announcement of gold discoveries in the Klondike region the means of access thereto became at once an object of actual and pressing concern.
In the year 1867 the United States purchased Alaska from Russia for 1,440,0001. As manifestly Russia could only convey to the United States that of which she stood possessed at the date of sale, it becomes important to ascertain on what her title to Alaska was founded. This the treaty of cession itself discloses, for Article 1 declares that the eastern limit (of the territory of Alaska) is the • line of demarcation between the Russian and the British • possessions in North America as established by the con• vention between Russia and Great Britain of February 18, • 1825. Before quoting the language of the treaty, it may be well briefly to recall the circumstances which led to its negotiation.
Scarce two hundred years have elapsed since the advance guard of the Cossack horde commissioned by Peter the Great to explore and conquer the north-eastern portion of Asia reached Kamschatka and penetrated to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Within fifteen years thereafter the whole of this immense region was incorporated in the Russian Empire. These vast acquisitions served but to incite the ambitious Czar to further conquest. Vessels were built at Kamschatka by his command, and expeditions led forth by Behring, Tchiricoff, and other explorers, planted the Russian flag at various places along the northwest coast of America. The Russian traders, who followed in their wake, speedily established trading posts on the Aleutian Islands, and gradually crept down the coast.
At this period the most uncertain notions prevailed as to the nature of the connexion between America and Asia. To Captain Cook belongs the honour of having made known the true conformation of that distant shore and the relative proximity of the two continents. His journals, first published in 1784-5, captivated public attention by their accounts of the numbers of fur-bearing animals in the waters and along the coasts of the North Pacific Ocean, and the high prices paid for their skins in China. The excitement became contagious, and soon a host of rival traders-English, French, Portuguese, East Indian, and American-flocked to those northern seas.
In 1799 an association of Siberian merchants was granted a charter by the Emperor Paul, under the title of the • Russian American Company.' To this association was given for twenty years the exclusive enjoyment of the north-west coast as far south as the 55th degree of north latitude, in virtue of alleged discovery by Russian navigators. These privileges were subsequently confirmed and extended by the Emperor Alexander, under whose protection the power and influence of the Russian American Company, to which had been entrusted the control and management of the country, rapidly increased.
This assumption of sovereignty on the part of Russia over that portion of the coast lying between the 55th and 60th degrees conflicted with prior claims of Great Britain and Spain to the same region. The Russians, however, continued to encroach, and, not content with claiming jurisdiction on land, sought to extend their dominion over the sea as well.
On September 19, 1821, the Emperor Alexander issued an imperial ukase, in which the whole west coast of America north of the 51st parallel was declared to belong exclusively to Russia, foreign ships being probibited from approaching within 100 Italian miles of the shore under penalty of confiscation.
Great Britain and the United States at orce protested against this assumption of exclusive sovereignty over the territories described in the ukase, as well as against the claim to a monopoly of navigation and trade within the maritime limits therein set forth. Out of this protest grew the treaty of 1825, by which Russia abandoned her extravagant pretensions as regards the high seas, and withdrew on land within the limits prescribed in Articles III. and IV. of the treaty, which read as follows :
• III. La ligne de démarcation entre les possessions des Hautes Parties Contractantes sur la côte du continent et les îles de l'Amérique nord-ouest sera tracée ainsi qu'il suit:
• A partir du point le plus méridional de l'île dite Prince of Wales, lequel point se trouve sous la parallèle du 54e degré 40 minutes de latitude nord, et entre le 1310 et le 1330 degré de longitude ouest (méridien de Greenwich), ladite ligne remontera au nord le long de la passe dite Portland Channel, jusqu'au point de la terre ferme où elle atteint le 56° degré de latitude nord: de ce dernier point la ligne de démarcation suivra la crête des montagnes situées parallèlement à la côte, jusqu'au point d'intersection du 141° degré de longitude ouest (même méridien); et finalement, dudit point d'intersection, la même ligne méridienne du 141° degré formera, dans son prolongement jusqu'à la Mer Glaciale, la limite entre les possessions Russes et Britanniques sur le continent de l'Amérique nord.ouest.
'IV. Il est entendu, par rapport à la ligne de démarcation déterminée dans l'Article précédent :
* 1. Que l'ile dite Prince of Wales appartiendra tout entière à la Russie:
. 2. Que partout où la crête des montagnes qui s'étendent dans une direction parallèle à la côte depuis le 56° degré de latitude nord au point d'intersection du 141° degré de longitude ouest, se trouveroit à la distance de plus de 10 lieues marines de l'océan, la limite entre les possessions Britanniques et la lisière de côte mentionnée ci-dessus comme devant appartenir à la Russie, sera formée par une ligne parallèle aux sinuosités de la côte, et qui ne pourra jamais en être éloignée que de 10 lieues marines.
The questions at issue between Great Britain and the United States turn upon the interpretation of the language of this treaty of 1825