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Fifty-four forty or fight.

54° 40′ was the accepted southern limit of Alaska in the possession of Russia. The forty-ninth parallel was held by the United States to be the northern limit of the United States against which there could be no claim by England, and, further, that the territory between 49° and 54° 40′ on the Pacific coast was as much the property of the United States as that of England. In 1818 a treaty provided for the joint occupation of the disputed territory by Great Britain and the United States. In 1844 the watch-word of the Democratic party was “Fifty-four forty or fight.” Consequently when Polk was elected he claimed this as the boundary of the United States, thus shutting out Great Britain from access to the Pacific Ocean. On June 15, 1846, a compromise was made by which the northern limit of the United States was fixed at 49°.

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