National Geographic : 1899 Nov
THE ALASKAN BOUNDARY Affairs, George Canning, to the British negotiators. At the very inception of the negotiations he directed the attention of the first negotiator, Sir Charles Bagot, to " the extravagant assumption of maritime jurisdiction" as the essential point to be adjusted, and as Russia was prepared to waive her pretensions, the mode and degree of disavowal was to be so made as to least offend the national dignity of Russia.* It was therefore determined that it would be made more easy for Russia to retire from its maritime claim under cover of a treaty of limits. This is made clear in the instruction given by the British Secretary for Foreign Affairs, December 8, 1824, to Sir Stratford Canning, who *hadsucceeded Mr Bagot in the negotiations. He says : t " The whole negotiation grows out of the ukase of 1821. So entirely and absolutely true is this proposition that the settlement of the limits of the respective possessions of Great Britain and Russia on the northwest coast of America was proposed by us as a mode of facilitating the adjust ment of the differences arising from the ukase by enabling the court of Russia, under cover of the more comprehensive arrangement, to with draw, with less appearance of concession, the offensive pretensions of that edict. " It is comparatively indifferent to us whether we hasten or postpone all questions respecting the limits of territorial possession on the continent of America, but the pretensions of the Russian ukase of 1821 to exclusive dominion over the Pacific could not continue longer unrepealed without compelling us to take some measure of public and effectual remonstrance against it. "You will . . . declare without reserve that the point to which alone the solicitude of the British government and the jealousy of the British nation attach any importance is the doing away (in a manner as little disagreeable to Russia as possible) of the effect of the ukase of 1821." Near the close of this instruction, which was quite lengthy, Secretary Canning, impressed with the importance of the main object, repeats himself in these words : " It remains only in recapitulation to remind you of the origin and principles of this whole negotiation. " It is not t on our part essentially a negotiation about limits. " It is a demand of the repeal of an offensive and unjustifiable arroga tion of exclusive jurisdiction over an ocean of unmeasured extent. .. " We negotiate about territory to cover the remonstrance upon prin ciple." i With this object in view and under these instructions, the negotiations were initiated at St Petersburg. It will not be possible to follow them in all their details, which are set forth in * Ib., 405. t Ib., 446. t The italics appear in the original. Ib., 448.