The United States, Great Britain, and British North America from the Revolution to the Establishment of Peace after the War of 1812

By A. L. Burt | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
TWO ABORTIVE CONVENTIONS

BEFORE turning to the causes of the War of 1812, we should examine two conventions negotiated in London in 1803 and 1807 to settle outstanding differences between the United States and British North America. They were designed to supplement Jay's Treaty, which had not wholly accomplished this end, but they accomplished nothing because extraneous circumstances blocked their ratification.

The convention of 1803 dealt only with boundaries that still required definition. Though Jay's Treaty effectively provided for a solution of the contentious St. Croix problem, it left a gap below the mouth of the river as determined by the joint commission in 1798. The question of the islands in Passamaquoddy Bay, then raised by Sullivan,1 had to be settled. Above the source of the St. Croix, also, difficulties unknown at the time of Jay's Treaty were calling for a drastic revision of the boundary definition of 1783. These too had begun to dawn on the shrewd Sullivan when he objected to Barclay's and Chipman's argument for their particular source of the St. Croix because it alone conformed to the wording of the peace treaty,2 which prescribed a line due north to the highlands dividing the rivers flowing into the St. Lawrence from those falling into the Atlantic. Less than twenty years after these highlands had been adopted as a boundary line, they turned out to be not a line at all, but a broad, rough plateau; and at the same time it was becoming evident that the line drawn north from the accepted source of the St. Croix would meet no highlands answering to the description in the treaty. Thus the boundary vanished at some unknown point north of the St. Croix and did not reappear until it approached the forty-fifth parallel of latitude. Out in the West it again vanished. As mentioned earlier,3 a practical line was to have been substituted for the impossible line of 1783 between the Lake of the Woods and the Mississippi. The new boundary there was to have been based upon a joint international survey for which Article IV of Jay's Treaty had provided, but for some hidden reason this article had remained a dead letter.

The initiative which produced the convention of 1803 came from the American government, which was quite natural because these boundary questions were of much more remote concern to the government in

____________________
1
Supra, p. 165.
2
Supra, p. 164.
3
Supra, p. 161.

-185-

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