No. 5.
General Schenck to Mr. Fish.


No. 148.]

Sir: * * * * * * * * One of these debates, they say, was, in part at least, in the hearing of the United States Minister, who was present in the House of Lords, and was doubtless communicated to his Government; and all the debates on [Page 428] that occasion must have been carried to the knowledge of the Government of the United States by the printed and published reports, and yet no protest or other communication objecting to such interpretation was made by the United States to this Government. It is held, therefore, that there was on one part an implied acquiescence in that meaning given to the instrument. Now, I had supposed that the treaty having been concluded and published, and its provisions and language carrying with them their own meaning, to be interpreted with or without resort to the light supplied by the protocol and the history of the negotiation, we were hardly obliged to go further and watch for what might be said on the subject, pro or con, in a legislative body engaged in discussion on it. Indeed, it appears to me that remonstrances or criticisms directed from our Government at the speeches made in Parliament might possibly have been regarded as an impertinence. In this instance we were certainly not called upon to take either the side of Lord Cairns or of Lord Granville in the difference between them.

It seems to be admitted even here that such notice of what was said would have been uncalled for, except for the circumstance that the Lords and Members of Parliament who argued for the same British interpretation now put forward were the principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and two of the negotiators of the Treaty.

It would keep the diplomatic agents of the United States in London and of Great Britain in Washington rather busily occupied during the sessions of Congress and of Parliament if they were required to note and report, for comment or answer by their respective Governments, whatever might be said in those assemblies, at the risk otherwise of being bound and concluded by all the declarations made by legislators.

In point of fact, so far as I am personally concerned, although of the least possible consequence, I can state that I was only present at, and heard, the speech of Lord Russell in the House of Lords, and the first speech of Lord Granville in reply. Our interest on both sides, as you will see from my dispatches of that date, was at that time concentrated on the question of interpretation and defense of the second rule in the sixth article.

But if from silence is to be argued consent, mark how infinitely stronger a case on this principle we had against Great Britain, but which she never would admit the force of, on another branch of the negotiation of the Treaty of Washington. Near two years and a half after the treaty of 1846, Mr. Bancroft, then our Minister here, sent to Lord Palmerston, then British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, a copy of the United States surveys of the waters of Puget Sound and those dividing Vancouver’s Island from our territory, accompanied by a note in which he said, “Your Lordship will readily trace the whole course of the channel of Haro, through the middle of which our boundary-line passes.” Lord Palmerston wrote to Mr. Bancroft in reply, thanking him for the surveys, but not taking the slightest exception to the statement as to the position of the boundary-line which they have since so fiercely contested, and which we have had to submit to arbitration.

* * * * *

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,