History of the Pacific Northwest
Oregon and Washington 1889
Volume II
Page 32 -42

Copyright 1999 - 2003 - Janine M. Bork
 This page is part of the Union County, OR AHGP


Washington Territory from the Admission of the State of Oregon Till Its Own Admission as a State—Enlarged Area of Washington Consequent Upon Oregon  State Boundaries—Opening of the Walla Walla Valley to Settlement and Occupancy of the Upper Country—Discovery of Gold in Southeastern Washington—Setting Off of the Territory of Idaho—Followed by the  Settlement of Montana Territory—Settlements and Development of the Puget Sound Region an Incident of the Frazer River Excitement—The San Juan Island Imbroglio Settled Finally by the Award of William I., Emperor of Germany—Piracies and Depredations of Northern Indians—The Northern Pacific Railroad—Oregon, Progress and Completion—Convention to Frame State Constitution, and Efforts to Secure Admission as a State—Efforts to Exclude Chinamen—Condensed Political history—Admission of the State of  Washington.

IN THE fall of 1858, by the express instructions of General N.S. Clarke, U.S. Army (who had succeeded Major-General Wool in the command of the Department of the Pacific), the Wool interdict against white occupancy of Eastern Washington had been rescinded; and the country was thrown open to settlers. During that fall, the short but vigorous campaign of Colonel George Wright had effectually subjugated the hostile
Indians in Eastern Washington, and had secured peace. The country at once commenced to develop. The rich tracts along the banks of streams were taken by farmers; and cattlemen occupied the rich and extensive grazing lands. The legislature of 1859, recognizing the former creation of the county of Walla Walla, provided for its organization by the appointment of the necessary county officers. The growth of the “Inland
Empire” was assured. Upon the admission of the State of Oregon with its present boundaries, the area of the territory of Washington had been vastly increased by the annexation, upon its southern border, of all of the territory lying between the eastern boundary of Oregon and the Rocky Mountains. during the year 1859, numbers of settlers, mostly farmers and stock-raisers, settled in the Walla Walla valley.

     But the discovery of gold, in 1860, proved to be the great magnet which gave impetus to settlement. The rapid succession of gold excitements, consequent upon new discoverie  in a contiguous region, made that region almost as attractive; the stampede to it was as
notable as had marked the two great predecessors, viz.: California in 1848-49, and Frazer river a decade later. A Nez Perce Indian had visited California. He met with Captain E.D. Pierce, an old prospector who had devoted much of his life to gold hunting. To him the Indian told an Indian story colored with the mixture of superstition and imagination peculiar to the race. The Nez Perce, with two of his people, had been
traveling. At night they came to a cañon, deep, dark and dismal and walled in by


                                   DISCOVER OF GOLD IN SOUTHEASTERN WASHINGTON                                     33

perpendicular rocks, from which jutted irregularly out-spreading smaller rocks. Here they camped for the night. In the dread darkness they observed a brilliant light like that of a star break forth among those projecting rocks. They steadily watched that steady light, not daring to remove their eyes from it. They regarded it as the eye of the Spirit of the place. Morning came at last; and they repaired to the spot where the light had appeared. it seemed like a ball of crystal so solidly embedded in the surrounding rock that they could not detach it from its place of deposit. In their superstitious belief that it was “medicine,” they feared to use any violence to remove it, and so came away allowing  it to remain. Enough had been told to excite the curiosity of Captain Pierce. He at once determined to find the “ball of light,” the brilliant star seen by the Nez Perces in that cañon. He settled at Walla Walla. In the spring of 1860, with a party of five others, he started for the Nez Perce country. Those Indians wanted no gold discoveries to be made in their territory to attract white settlers; and they ordered Captain Pierce and his little party to leave their vicinage. Captain Pierce, however, secured a Nez Perce woman for a guide, and passed for the Lo Lo trail to the north fork of the Clear water river. Here his party went into camp to recruit and rest the animals. Bassett, one of the number, went to a meadow-stream close to the camp, and prospected the earth. His first pan returned three cents. This was in July. When satisfied of the existence of gold in paying quantities, the party returned to Walla Walla.

     J.C. Smith, an old pioneer of that region, known and universally esteemed as Sergeant Smith, had the greatest faith in the prospect. With his accustomed energy, he tried to enlist the co-operation of the Walla Walla merchants; but failing in that, on his own personal credit he fitted out a party of fifteen, who arrived at the Oro Fino mines in November. The winter was occupied in building five log cabins, and in working the
mines under the snow. About the first of January, two of the miners returned to Walla Walla, coming out on snowshoes. Sergeant Smith himself returned to Walla Walla in the early part of March with eight hundred dollars. The dust was sent to Portland. In 1861, the rush began. Other discoveries followed, - Rhodes creek, Elk City, Powder river, and the Salmon river mines, usually called the Florence.

     Probably the “Salmon river excitement,” as it was called, exceeded in importance and widespread influence either of the associate excitements or preceding discoveries. We cannot follow farther this romantic narrative of mining excitements and the spontaneous growth of little communities and territorial development far and near engendered by them. Lewiston and Wallula (the site of the old Hudson’s Bay Company’s Fort Walla Walla) had already grown into important towns, or centers of trade. The territorial legislature, at its session in 1858-59, had cut off from Walla Walla county the territory north and west of Snake river, and established the county of Spokane. That county, too, was feeling the effect of the growing importance and recognition of the inland empire. Settlers were distributing themselves in that county, and establishing communities and points of trade. In the latter part of 1862, the Boise mines had been discovered. The immediate and direct result of the growing condition of affairs was the establishment of the new territory of Idaho by the act of Congress of March 2, 1863, which subtracted from the area of Washington all of the territory south of the forty-sixth parallel of north latitude, and all east of the one hundred and seventeenth degree of west longitude. A year later, a continuous and spreading growth of the territory west of the Rocky Mountains led to the setting off, by the act of Congress of March 2, 1864, of the territory of Montana. For detailed information as to the continued remarkable progress and development of that

34                                                HISTORY OF PACIFIC NORTHWEST—OREGON AND WASHINGTON.

interesting region, the reader must consult the respective local histories of the several counties into which the country has been divided as popular necessities have demanded.

    We now recur to events upon Puget Sound. The Fraser river excitement had continued (1859). Its influence as an impetus to settlement had been an agency in attracting population to the northern points of Western Washington. Many of those who were en route to British Columbia would stop at some port on Puget Sound, and remain there. Many, as they returned, became permanent settlers of the territory. There had been,
there was yet continuing, a great influx of population to Puget Sound, directly consequent upon that wondrous episode in our territorial history. One of its speedy results was the increased number of American settlers upon the Island of San Juan, one of that famous archipelago so long in dispute between Great Britain and the United States. In the summer of 1859, the attempted exercise of criminal jurisdiction over a citizen of the United States, an American settler on the island, by a British magistrate appointed by Sir James Douglas, Governor of British Columbia, for a time seriously threatened the peace of the two nations. In the previous volume has been fully detailed all the features
of the Oregon boundary question, - the adjustment of the northern boundary of Oregon territory between the United States and Great Britain, which was temporized by the abortive treaty of limits of June 15, 1846.

     “That boundary line was defined, “Westward along the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver Island, and thence southerly through the middle of the said channel and of Fuca’s Strait to the Pacific Ocean.’  That treaty yielded to great Britain, as a measure of peace and conciliation, the southern extremity of  Vancouver Island, the portion south
of the said forty-ninth parallel. Such and such alone was its true intent, and the intention of every officer of the United States government who had any connection with the negotiation, adoption or ratification of the treaty. Lord Aberdeen, the British author of the original draft of that treaty, and of the phraseology as it was adopted, in submitting that draft to Louis McLane, the United States Plenipotentiary at London, in express language proposed to run the line on the forty-ninth parallel to the Gulf of Georgia, and thence ‘by the Canal de Haro and Strait of Fuca to the pacific ocean’ (1). The negotiations and discussions at the time fully corroborate the statement, that the part of Vancouver Island south of the forty-ninth parallel, and nothing else south of that line, was contemplated to be surrendered by the united States by the treaty of June 15, 1846. That line gave to the United States the Haro Archipelago, of which San Juan Island forms a part.

     “The treaty having been concluded, and the exciting controversy of forty years having been settled, the government of the United States remained, for a time, without any further interest in the boundary, awaiting the settlement of the country before exhibiting any anxiety to have the line definitely marked.

     “In November, 1846, Mr. Bancroft, then minister of the United States at London, communicated to the Secretary of State his apprehensions of a design on the part of Great Britain to claim the boundary line to be through the Rosario Strait instead of the Canal De Haro, so as to throw the Island of San Juan and the other islands of the Haro Archipelago within the limits of British jurisdiction. Mr. Bancroft met this pretension
promptly; and for a time it was apparently abandoned. He was then under the impression

     (1) Official report by Louis McLane, United States Minister to London of the interview, May 18, 1846, between Lord Aberdeen, British Secretary of State, and Minister McLane, in which was submitted by Lord Aberdeen the draft of the treaty accepted by the United States. It is cited in “Memorial of United States Government to William I., Emperor of Germany, Arbitrator,” by George Bancroft.


that the Hudson’s Bay Company were the parties who sought to possess that valuable group of islands, and that the British ministry did not favor their proceedings.

     “In January, 1848, Mr. Crampton, the British diplomatic representative accredited to the United States, under instructions from his government, made a proposition to the United States to appoint joint commissioners for the purpose of determining the water boundary. With this proposition was presented a draught of joint instructions to the  commissioners, framed so as to leave but little for them to do except to run the line through the channel, which would give to Great Britain all the islands of the Haro Archipelago.

     “In 1852, the territory of Oregon, by an act of their legislature, included the Haro Archipelago in one of its counties; and, after the passage of this act, the Hudson’s Bay Company established a post on San Juan Island. When the territory of Washington was created, these islands were declared by the legislature of that territory to form a part of Whatcom county. In 1855, the property of the Hudson’s Bay Company on San Juan
Island was assessed in the same manner as other property within the territory; and, upon their refusal to pay the taxes, their property was advertised and sold, in the usual way, to satisfy the demand. This led to a correspondence between the governors of Vancouver Island and Washington Territory, in which the former declared that he had the orders of Her Majesty’s government to regard the islands of the Haro Archipelago as a part of the British dominions. This correspondence, with a heavy claim for damages, was laid before this department by John F. Crampton, Esq., the British Minister here at the time, with a renewal of his proposition for the appointment of a joint commission to determine the boundary line; and, in the event that the proposal could not be met by the government of the United States without difficulty or delay, he suggested ‘the expediency of the adoption, by both governments, of the channel marked as the only known navigable channel by Vancouver, as that designated by the treaty.’ In other words, the United States were requested to run the line through Rosario Strait, and give up to Great Britain the Haro Archipelago.

     “The Executive complied with Mr. Crampton’s proposal so far as to recommend to Congress the creation of a commission to determine the boundary line; and, on the 11th of August, 1856, an act was passed authorizing a commission, on the part of the United States, to unite with similar officers to be appointed on the part of the British government. Instead of adopting the proposed joint instructions to the commissioners, each government instructed its own commissioner as to the duties he was to perform.

     “In 1857, the commissioners met at Esquimalt Harbor, Vancouver Island, and exchanged credentials, with the understanding that they were mutually invested with full powers; and the discussion of the boundary question took place with this understanding  on the part of the United States commissioner.

     “The discussion thus entered into, in connection with the subsequent diplomatic correspondence on the subject, merits careful attention as an exposition of the views of the two governments in relation to the channel contemplated by the treaty. The United States commissioner based his claim to the Canal de Haro on the ground that it was the main channel south of the forty-ninth parallel leading into the Strait of Fuca, and that it accomplished the sole object for which the line was deflected south from the forty-ninth parallel, instead of being extended on that parallel to the ocean, namely, to give the whole of Vancouver Island to great Britain. His first position was based upon the charts and maps extant at the date of the treaty and those of latest dates, which show the Canal de

  36                                     HISTORY OF PACIFIC NORTHWEST—OREGON AND WASHINGTON.

Haro to be by far the widest and deepest channel. The second view seems quite as strongly supported by the contemporaneous evidence of those who took part in negotiating the treaty.

     “The British commissioner lay claim to Rosario Strait on the ground that it answered to what he designated as the ‘very peculiar wording’ of the treaty; that is, he assumes that the Rosario Strait specially meets the requirement of the language, ‘separates the continent from Vancouver Island;’ whereas, the Canal de Haro merely separates Vancouver Island from the continent. And he intimated that the name of the Canal de
Haro was omitted in the working of the treaty, and the usual mode of expression (separating the lesser object from the greater) was designedly reversed in order to carry the boundary line through the Rosario Strait. He presented no contemporaneous evidence, however, to support either his peculiar argument in relation to the language used, or his statement concerning the omission of the Canal de Haro.

     “The two commissioners disagreed in regard to the boundary channel. The British commissioner, having failed to produce any evidence to substantiate his claim that the Rosario Strait was the channel intended by the treaty, or to produce rebutting contemporaneous evidence to that presented by the United States commissioner in favor of the Canal de Haro, offered as a compromise an intermediate narrow channel, which
would throw the island of San Juan, the most valuable of the whole group, on the British side of the line. This compromise the United States commissioner refused to accept.

     “A perusal of the instructions of the two governments to their commissioners, respectively, will throw much light upon the discussion and its result.

     “The commissioner of the United States was left untrammeled by those addressed to him, and sought to carry out the intentions of the negotiators of the treaty by consulting all the evidence that could be found for his guidance, determined to carry the treaty into
effect by running the line through the channel intended by them, wherever that channel was to be found.

     “The instructions to the British commissioner, however, were in substance the same as those proposed by Mr. Crampton for the two governments to the joint commission, -  to run the line through the Rosario strait, - allowing him the discretionary power to
adopt an intermediate channel, provided that the United States commissioner could not be induced to accept the channel claimed by the British government. Under no circumstances, however, does he appear to have had the power to accept any channel that would not give his government the island of San Juan. this is clearly ascertained from his instructions; and the British commissioner leaves no doubt on the subject when he writes, in his letter offering a compromise channel, “Beyond what I now offer I can no further go.’

     “From the correspondence which took place between Mr. Cass, Secretary of State, and Lord John Russell, the British Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs, after the discussion between the joint commissioners had closed, it appears that the British government renewed the proposition for compromise made by their commissioner, but that it was declined. Mr. Cass, as will be seen by the note of the 25th of June, 1860, to Lord Lyons, then called upon the British government to make a proposition for the adjustment of the difference between the two governments” (1).

     Such was the status of the claim between the two governments as to territorial jurisdiction. Several instances had occurred where conflicts of authority had arisen

     (1) Report of William H. Seward, Secretary of State, February 20, 1868, communicating to the United States Senate information relative to the occupation of San Juan Island.

                                                       THE SAN JUAN ISLAND IMBROGLIO                              37

between officials of Whatcom county and the representatives of the Hudson’s Bay Company in occupancy of the Island of San Juan under their license of trade from the British Crown, growing out of the attempted levy and collection of taxes; and custom-house officials had been resisted in the collection of duties. The earliest complaint by a citizen of the United States, the earliest assertion of British jurisdiction,
 as in July, 1853. It is briefly stated in the report of Captain James Alden, U.S. Navy, commanding the United States surveying steamer Active, and is as follows:

     “From all I could learn, the English government has decided that the boundary between us and them should pass down Rosario strait, and claim therefore, all the islands west of that line, overlooking the fact that there is a channel much nearer home, better in almost every respect, and, to them, far more convenient. I mean the Canal de Haro.

     “Their action seems already to have interfered with the peace and comfort of one individual who claims to be an American citizen. He came to me with a long complaint; and the facts, as near as I could get at them, are as follows: His name is R.W. Cussans. He located a tract of land on Lopez Island, and made improvements to the cost of about $1,500, but, owing to the action of the governor of Vancouver Island, was obliged to
abandon everything. He was compelled to take a license to cut timber (a copy of which I herewith inclose), and, after he had cut and squared some 30,000 feet, was informed that it would be necessary for the vessel, when she took it away, to go to Victoria and clear at the custom-house. He asked me what he should do under the circumstance, - go to Victoria or not. I told him that, if the governor brought force enough to divert his vessel from the course he thought proper to steer, he must submit. I was exceedingly anxious, at a subsequent interview with Governor Douglas, to lay this matter before him and obtain his views on the subject; but I was deterred from doing so by the nature
of my instructions, and from the fact that I considered the license granted to Cussans as showing conclusively the position assumed by the English government in regard to those islands.”

     “Copy of License: ‘The bearer, Richard W. Cussans, having given security for the payment of the duty of ten pence sterling for each load of fifty cubic feet of timber, I hereby license you to cut and remove timber on and from any public lands within the district of Lopes Island for six months from this date.
                                                                                   “JAMES DOUGLAS, GOVERNOR.

     “Government House, VICTORIA, July 25, 1853.

     “This license must be produced whenever demanded by me or any other person acting under the authority of the government.”

                                                           “ROSARIO STRAITS, September 11, 1853.

     “I hereby certify that the above is a true copy of the original now in my possession, and also that I am an American citizen; have located a tract of land on the island above referred to, believing it to be the property of the United States; and that I have never given any security for the payment of any dues whatever to the British government.

     “Witness:     R.W. CUSSANS.
         “’ISRAEL C. WAIT,
             “’Lieutenant United States Navy’” (1).

     (1) Executive Document No. 29, Fortieth Congress, second session (Senate), page 87.


     On the 14th of July, 1855, William L. Macy, Secretary of State, addressed a letter to
Governor Isaac I. Stevens, in which he said:

     “The President has instructed me to say to you that the officers of the territory should abstain from all acts on the disputed grounds which are calculated to provoke any conflicts, so far as it can be done without implying the concession to the authority of great Britain of an exclusive right over the premises. The title ought to be settled before either party should exclude the other by force, or exercise complete and sovereign
rights within the fairly disputed limits. Application will be made to the British government to interpose with the local authorities on the northern borders of our territory to abstain from like acts of exclusive ownership, with the explicit understanding that any forbearance on either side to assert their rights, respectively, shall not be construed into any concession to the adverse party.”

     This conservative and conciliatory dispatch was occasioned by the attempt on the part of the count authorities of Whatcom county (which included San Juan Island) to collect taxes by distraining a lot of sheep belonging to the Hudson’s Bay Company.

     In 1859, General William S. Harney, U.S. Army, was in command of the Department of the Columbia. On the 11th of July of that year, twenty-two citizens, representing their fear of incursions from Northern Indians, and recounting certain depredations and murders which had been committed by Clallam Indians, petitioned General Harney to station on the island a company of United States troops for the protection of the citizens. A circumstance of trivial character in itself also materially influenced the action of General Harney, and well nigh precipitated war. on the 15th of June, Lyman A. Cutler, an American settler who had resided on the island and taken a pre-emption of one hundred
and sixty acres, shot a hog belonging to the Hudson’s Bay Company. The hog had provoked him by destroying a part of his garden. Cutler immediately reported his act, and offered to replace the animal or pay a fair valuation. Charles Henry Griffin, Agent of the company, demanded one hundred dollars, to the payment of which Cutler demurred. In the afternoon, several of the prominent company officials called, among whom was Chief Factor Dallas, and demanded the payment, in default of which they threatened to convey him to Victoria, Vancouver Island, for trial. These proceedings were communicated to General Harney on the 9th of July. That officer visited San Juan Island. In a letter to the commanding general of the United States army, dated July 19, 1859, General Harney said:

     The Hudson’s Bay Company have an establishment on this island for the purpose of raising sheep, which they export at eight dollars a head. Twenty-five Americans, with their families, are also living upon the island; and I was petitioned by them through the United States Inspector of Customs, Mr. Hubbs, to place a force upon the island to protect them from the Indians, as well as the oppressive interference of the authorities of the Hudson’s Bay Company at Victoria with their rights as American citizens. Mr. Hubbs informed me that, a short time before my arrival, the chief factor of the company at Victoria, Mr. Dallas, son-in-law of Governor Douglas, came to the island in the British sloop-of-war Satellite, and threatened to take one of the Americans (Mr. Cutler) by force to Victoria, for shooting a pig of the company. The American seized his rifle and told  Mr. Dallas if any such attempt was made he would kill him on the spot. The affair then ended. The American offered to pay to the company twice the value of the pig, which was refused. To prevent a repetition of this outrage, I have ordered the company at Fort Bellingham to be established on San Juan Island for the protection of our citizens; and

                                                           THE SAN JUAN ISLAND IMBROGLIO.        39

the steamer Massachusetts is directed to rendezvous at that place with a second company to protect our interests in all parts of the Sound.”

     The orders to Captain George E. Pickett, Company D, Ninth Infantry, commanding Fort Bellingham, were given the day previous (July 18th): “You are directed to establish your company on Bellevue or San Juan Island, in some suitable position near the harbor at the southeastern extremity. The General commanding instructs me to say the object to be attained in placing you thus is two-fold, viz.:

      “First. To protect the inhabitants of the island from the incursions of the Northern Indians of British Columbia and the Russian possessions. You will not permit any force of those Indians to visit San Juan Island or the waters of Puget Sound in that vicinity
over which the United States have any jurisdiction. Should these Indians appear peaceable, you will warn them in a quiet but firm manner to return to their own country, and not visit in the future the territory of the United States; and, in the event of any opposition being offered to your demands, you will use the most decisive measures to enforce them; to which end the commander of the troops stationed on the steamer
Massachusetts will be instructed to render every assistance and co-operation that will be necessary to enable your command to fulfill the tenor of these instructions.

     “Second. Another serious and important duty will devolve upon you in the occupation of San Juan Island, arising from the conflicting interests of the American citizens and the Hudson’s Bay Company establishment at that point. This duty is to afford adequate protection to the American citizens in their rights as such, and to resist all attempts at interference by the British authorities residing in Vancouver Island, by
intimidation or force, in the controversies of the above-mentioned parties.

     “This protection has been called for in consequence of the chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Mr. Dallas, having recently visited San Juan Island with a British sloop-of-war, and threatened to take an American citizen by force to Victoria for trial by British laws. It is hoped a second attempt of this kind will not be made; but, to insure the safety of our citizens, the General commanding directs you to meet the authorities from Victoria at once, on a second arrival, and inform them they cannot be permitted to interfere with our citizens in any way. Any grievances they may allege as requiring redress can only be examined under our own laws, to which they must submit their claims in proper form.

     “The steamer Massachusetts will be directed to transport your command, stores, etc., to San Juan Island, where you are authorized to construct such temporary shelter as the necessities of the service demand.”

     On the 31st of July, Lieutenant-Colonel Silas Casey, commanding the District of Puget Sound, dispatched the Massachusetts, with Major Haller’s Company I, Fourth Infantry, for San Juan Island, and, by steamer, Lieutenant Arthur Shaaff and twenty men, to report at Semiahmoo to the United States boundary commission. In communicating such fact to department headquarters, he inclosed the correspondence between Captain Pickett and the British officials. That officer demanded the immediate presence of the Massachusetts at San Juan, as “the Tribune, a thirty-gun frigate, is lying broadside to our camp; and, from present indications, everything leads me to suppose that they will attempt to prevent my carrying out my instructions.”

     On the 30th of July, Charles John Griffin, Agent of the Hudson’s Bay Company, notified Captain Picket that the island on which his camp was pitched was the property and in the occupation of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and requested that he and the


whole of his party who had landed from American vessels would immediately cease to occupy the same; and that, should Captain Pickett be unwilling to comply with the request, he (Griffin) “would feel bound to apply to the civil authorities.” Captain Pickett promptly replied of the same date, that he did not acknowledge the right of the Hudson’s Bay Company to dictate his course of action; that he was there by order of his government, and would remain till recalled by the same authority. On the 3d of August, Captain Pickett reported the situation to General Harney:

     “The British ships Tribune, Plumper and Satellite are lying here in a menacing attitude. I have been warned off by the Hudson’s Bay agent. Then a summons was sent to me to appear before a Mr. DeCourcey, an official of Her Britannic Majesty. To-day I received the inclosed communications, and I also inclose my answer to same.

     “I had to deal with three captains; and I thought it better to take the brut of it. They have a force so much superior to mine that it will be merely a mouthful for them; still I have informed them that I am here by order of my commanding general, and will maintain my position if possible.

     “They wish to have a conjoint occupation of the island. I declined anything of that kind. They can, if they choose, land at almost any point on the island; and I cannot prevent them. I have used the utmost courtesy and delicacy in my intercourse; and, if it is possible, please inform me at such an early hour as to prevent a collision. the utmost I could expect to-day was to suspend any proceeding till they have time to digest a pill which I gave them. They wish to throw the onus on me, because I refused to allow them to land an equal force, and each of us to have military occupation, thereby wiping out both civil authorities. I said I could not do so until I heard from the General. I have endeavored to impress them with the idea that my authority comes directly through you from Washington.

     “The Pleiades left this morning for San Francisco with Colonel Hawkins.

     “The excitement in Victoria and here is tremendous. I suppose some five hundred people have visited us. I have had to use a great deal of my peace-making disposition in order to restrain some of the sovereigns.

     “They seem to doubt the authority of the General commanding, and do not wish to acknowledge his right to occupy this island, which they say is in dispute, unless the United States government have decided the question with Great Britain. I have so far staved them off by saying that the two governments have without doubt settled this affair. But this state of affairs cannot last; therefore I most respectfully ask that an
express be sent me immediately on my future guidance. I do not think there are any moments to waste. In order to maintain our dignity, we must occupy in force, or allow them to land an equal force, which they can do now, and possibly will do in spite of  my diplomacy.”

     At the instance of Captain G. Phipps Hornby, commanding Her Britannic Majesty’s ship Tribune, on the 3d of August an interview was held at Captain Pickett’s camp, between Captain Pickett and the commanding officers of the three British ships, the Tribune, Plumper and Satellite. After the verbal interview had ended, at Captain Pickett’s request, Captain Hornby reduced to writing the substance of the declarations and propositions. Captain Hornby demanded the terms on which Captain Pickett occupied the island; to which the latter replied, “By order of the General commanding, to protect it as a part of the United States territory.” Captain Hornby presented the protest of Governor Douglas, made August 2, 1859, reciting that: “The sovereignty of

                                                    THE SAN JUAN ISLAND IMBROGLIO.                   41

the Island of San Juan, and of the whole of the Haro Archipelago, has always been undeviatingly claimed to be in the Crown of Great Britain; and I solemnly protest  against the occupation of said island, or any part of said archipelago, by any person whatsoever, for or on behalf of any other power.” He urged that occupancy of a disputed island by an United States military force necessitated a similar action by the British
authorities, and that such course involved the risk of collision between the forces, there being a magistrate of each nation now acting on the island, either of whom might call  upon those of their country for aid. To prevent such collision, Captain Hornby  suggested joint military occupation, until replies could be received from the two governments. Captain Pickett replied that he had no authority to conclude such terms,
and suggested a reference of the proposition to General Harney and Governor Douglas.

     Captain Hornby then urged that the officers of the United States government had committed an aggressive act by landing an armed force on San Juan Island pending the settlement of the title, and that that government must be held responsible for any  consequences, either immediate or future. On the receipt of this version by Captain Hornby of the conversation between Captain Pickett and Captains Hornby, Prevost and
Richards, Captain Picket replied instanter, acknowledging the correctness of the statements as far as they went’ but Captain Pickett called attention to one point urged by him, but overlooked by Captain Hornby. Captain Pickett replied: “There is one point, however, which I dwelt upon particularly, and which I must endeavor, as the officer representing my government, to impress upon you, viz.:  That, as a matter of course, I, being here under orders from my government, cannot allow any joint occupation until so ordered by my commanding general, and that any attempt to make any such occupation as you have proposed, before I can communicate with General Harney, will be bringing on a collision which can be avoided by waiting this issue. I do not for one moment imagine that there will any difficulty occur on this island which will render a military interference necessary; and I therefore deem it proper to state that I think no discredit can reflect upon us, or our respective flags, by remaining in our present positions until we have an opportunity of hearing from those of higher in authority. I hope, most sincerely, sir, you will reflect on this, and that you may coincide with me in my conclusion. Should you see fit to act otherwise, you will then be the person who will bring on a most disastrous difficulty, and not the United States officials.”

     On the 6th of August, General Harney addressed General James Douglas. Having referred to his receipt of Governor Douglas’ protest, together with Captain Hornby’s communication threatening a joint occupation of San Juan Island by the forces of Her Majesty’s ships Tribune, Plumper and Satellite, now in the harbor of San Juan by Governor Douglas’ command, he proceeds:  “As the military commander of the
Department of Oregon, assigned to that command by the orders of the President of the United States, I have the honor to state, for your information, that, by such authority invested in me, I placed a military command upon the Island of San Juan to protect the American citizens residing on that island from the insults and indignities which the British authorities of Vancouver Island and the establishment of the Hudson’s Bay Company recently offered them, by sending a British ship-of-war from Vancouver Island to convey the chief factor of the Hudson’s Bay Company to San Juan, for the purpose of seizing an American citizen and forcibly transporting him to Vancouver Island, to be tried by
British laws. I have reported this attempted outrage to my government; and they will doubtless seek the proper redress from the British government. In the meantime, I have

42                                            HISTORY OF PACIFIC NORTHWEST—OREGON AND WASHINGTON.

the honor to inform Your Excellency I shall not permit a repetition of that insult, and shall retain a command on San Juan Island to protect its citizens, in the name of the United States, Until I receive further orders from my government.”

     General Harney, through General N.S. Clarke, commanding the Department of California, addressed the senior officer of the United States navy commanding the squadron on the Pacific Coast:  “As we have no national vessel belonging to our navy in the waters of Puget Sound to observe the three vessels of war that have been placed in a threatening attitude over the harbor of San Juan Island, I have the honor to request
you to order to Puget Sound such force as you can render available to assist in the protection of American interests in that quarter, and to enable us to meet successfully any issue that may be attempted to be made out of the present impending difficulties.”

     General Harney, under the date of the 8th of August, in a letter to the general-in-chief of the United States army, supplemented his former letters by the further information: “The Island of San Juan has for months past been under the civil jurisdiction of Whatcom county, Washington Territory. A justice of the peace had been established on the island. The people had been taxed by the county; and the taxes were paid by the foreigners as well as Americans. An inspector of customs, an United States officer of the Treasury Department, had been placed upon the island in the discharge of his proper duties. The British authorities at Vancouver Island were aware of all of these facts, and never attempted to exercise any authority on the island, except clandestinely, as reported yesterday in the case of the pig which was killed. When Governor Douglas heard of the arrival of Captain Pickett’s command at San Juan, he appointed a justice of the peace and other civil authorities at Victoria, and sent them over in the British ship-of-war Plumper to execute British laws on the island. Captain Pickett refused to permit them to
act as such; and I have sustained him in his position. I believe I have now fully and fairly explained all the facts which have any bearing upon the occupation of San Juan Island, which was made an imperious necessity by the wanton and insulting conduct of the British authorities of Vancouver Island towards our citizens.”

     The number of troops forming Lieutenant-Colonel Casey’s command was four hundred and sixty-one: Companies A and C, Fourth Infantry; Company H, Ninth Infantry; Companies A, B, D and M of the Third Artillery; Company D, Ninth Infantry; Company I, Fourth Infantry; and a detachment of Company A, Engineers. He had eight thirty-two pounders landed from the steamer Massachusetts, one six-pounder
and five mountain howitzers. His position was near the Hudson’s Bay Company’s establishment, his heavy guns being so placed as to bear upon the harbor, as also upon vessels approaching the opposite side of the island. The camp of Colonel Casey was not, however, secure from the shells of the ships of war, though General Harney confidently reported to the headquarters of the army: “The annoyance from shells would be trifling. The English have no force that they could land which would be able to dislodge Colonel Casey’s command as now posted.”

     The fleet and forces of Her Britannic Majesty on service in Puget Sound consisted of five vessels of war, with combined armaments amounting to one hundred and sixty-seven guns, and two thousand one hundred and forty men, of which six hundred were marines and engineer troops.

     On the 14th of August, Archibald Campbell, the United States commissioner to run the boundary line under the treaty of 1846, wrote to General Harney: “However certain may be your conviction that the boundary line, according to the treaty, should run down

Page 43 - 59

Back to Volume II Index