Mr. Gallatin to Mr. Clay.
Sir: * * * * * * * *
Mr. Huskisson then asked me whether I was authorized to deviate from the forty-ninth parallel of latitude as a boundary. I did not think that he had any right to ask the question; but, as it was only from courtesy, and to avoid, at the opening of the negotiation, expressions at all savoring of harshness, that I had used the words “whilst insisting on the forty-ninth degree,” instead of the word “ultimatum;” and as, in fact, the United States had nothing to conceal, I answered the question: To the forty-ninth parallel of latitude the United States would adhere as a basis. If, on account of the geographical features of the country, a deviation founded on mutual convenience was found expedient, a proposal to that effect might be entertained, provided it was consistent with that basis; that is to say, that any deviation in one place to the south of the forty-ninth parallel should be compensated by an equivalent in another place to the north of that parallel. I must observe that what I had in view was the exchange of the southern extremity of Nootka’s Island, (Quadra and Vancouver’s,) which the forty-ninth parallel cuts in an inconvenient manner, for the whole or part of the upper branches of the Columbia River north of that parallel.Mr. Gallatin proposes to exchange Vancouver south of 49° for an equivalent on the mainland.
Hon. Henry Clay, Secretary of State.