National Geographic : 1899 Nov
THE ALASKAN BOUNDARY interests were involved were, on the British side, the Hudson's Bay Company, which was pushing its posts across the Rocky mountains towards the coast, and the Russian American Com pany, which was in possession of the islands and maintaining a profitable trade with the natives on the mainland, and that un less the latter was protected by a strip of the coast on the main land, that company would be without a support [point d'appui], and would be exposed to the competition of establishments on the mainland which it was their purpose to exclude.* The motive of the Russian negotiators in insisting upon a strip of the coast is also shown in the report of M. Poletica, one of the Russian plenipotentiaries, to the ministry for foreign affairs of the earliest conferences with Mr Bagot, in which he said the Rus sian American Company " had mainly in view the establish ment of a barrier at which would be stopped, once for all, to the north and to the west of the coast allotted to our Amer ican company, the encroachments of the English agents of the . . . Hudson's Bay Company " (M. Poletica to Count Nesselrode, November 3, 1823). On the other hand, the main purpose of the British plenipo tentiary in the particular negotiation above referred to was to secure for British traders a foothold on the Pacific ocean as far above the latitude of 54° 40' as possible. In reporting the re sult of his conferences to the British foreign office, he says: " Our chief objects were to secure . . . the embouchures of such rivers as might afford an outlet for our fur trade into the Pacific."t He further states that his object in presenting the line of Clarence strait was to " preserve uninterrupted our access to the Pacific ocean," and he adds that the line of the Portland channel " would deprive His Britannic Majesty of sovereignty over all the inlets and small bays lying between latitude 560 and 540 45', . .. of essential importance to its [Hudson Bay's] commerce." t The negotiators were brought face to face with their conflicting claims, the one side insisting that it must have a strip of territory on the mainland in order to keep the Hudson's Bay Company from the ocean opposite their islands, and the other insisting that the Hudson's Bay Company must have possession of such part of that territory and the inlets as would afford it access to the ocean. Mr Bagot informed the Russian negotiators that he had made his " ultimate proposition," and, being told by them * Ib., 428, 430. - Ib., 424. f Ib., 425, 429.