Chapter 19: Paris again.—March to April, 1839.—Age, 28.
Changing the plan of his journey, in which a visit to Germany
was to follow his visit to England
turned towards Italy
, and crossed the Channel
, by way of Dover
, on the night of March 22.
During four weeks in Paris
, he renewed his intercourse with friends1
from whom he parted the year before; and was kindly received by Lord Granville, then British ambassador, to whom he had been commended by Lord Morpeth.
He also saw much of Lord Brougham,2
who was then making one of his frequent visits to that city.
He undertook at this time a patriotic service, which interfered with the pursuit of the special objects of his journey,—the defence of the American
title to territory included in the ‘Northeastern Boundary’ controversy between the United States
and Great Britain
The friendly relations of the two countries were then disturbed, not only by the territorial dispute, but also by the affair of the ‘Caroline.’
Partisans on both sides were indulging in recriminations and threats of hostilities.
The State of Maine
had erected forts along its frontier, and armed a civil posse
to maintain possession of the disputed district.
The controversy grew out of the uncertain language by which the treaty of 1783 defined the line between the two countries, as running ‘from the North-west angle of Nova Scotia
; namely, that angle which
is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of St. Croix River
to the Highlands; along the said Highlands, which divide those rivers that empty themselves into the river St. Lawrence
from those which fall into the Atlantic Ocean
, to the North-westernmost head of Connecticut River
The application of the terms ‘North-west angle,’ ‘Highlands,’ ‘Atlantic Ocean
’ (whether including or not the Bay of Fundy
), and ‘the North-westernmost head of Connecticut River
,’ was much contested by the parties.
, under her interpretation, asserted title to the northern part of Maine
,—a pretension stoutly resisted by the United States
The conflicting claims were considered in 1814 in the negotiations at Ghent
, but without any result.
They were referred, in 1827, to the King
of the Netherlands as arbitrator; but his award was unsatisfactory to both parties, and was not carried into effect.
The longer the controversy lasted, the more it imperilled the peaceful relations of the two nations.
It was thought important by Americans
, particularly by General Cass
, that the American
argument, which was not as yet well known in England
and on the Continent, should be stated in a form best calculated to reach foreign opinion.
At a meeting held at the American Legation
proposed that Robert Walsh
should prepare a paper on the subject.
This was agreed to; but Walsh
, when waited upon by Sumner
next undertook the work, but did not persevere; and, at his request, Sumner
finally prepared the argument.
It was an elaborate paper, the materials of which were confessedly drawn from an article in the New York Courier and Enquirer; but original sources were also examined.
It reviewed at length the history and points of the dispute, and particularly the speeches in Parliament at the time of the treaty of 1783.
It was printed in ‘Galignani's Messenger,’ April 12, filling six and a half columns.
A large number of copies, at the instance of General Cass
, were sent to England
, addressed to members of Parliament and other leaders of public opinion; and thus the American
view was diffused in that country.
The paper is largely documentary and critical; the concluding paragraph shows the spirit in which it was prepared.
In it, as also in his correspondence at the time, one observes thus early strong convictions upon the peace question:—
In the negotiations which finally closed this ancient controversy, questions of title were not argued.
The parties, wearied with the hopeless task of attempting to convince each other, at length, in 1842, by the treaty of Washington
, established a conventional line,—a line by compromise,—each abating its pretensions, and parting with alleged rights for supposed equivalents.
The United States
gave up a large territory, for which it compensated the State of Maine
by the grant of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and the payment of the expenses of its civil posse
. Mr. Webster
, when assailed, four years later, with the charge of having failed, as Secretary of State
, in his duty to his country, defended the treaty in the Senate in an able speech; and his name and that of Ashburton
, the British
representative, are associated on one of the most honorable pages in the history of diplomacy.4
's article was well received in this country.
It was reprinted in full in the Boston Courier,5
where it was commended as ‘a clear and able statement of the American
A correspondent of the ‘Advertiser,’6
writing with the signature of ‘Senescens,’ said:—
The article is written by our townsman, Mr. Charles Sumner, whose name makes any particular commendation superfluous. . . . It is a learned,
perspicuous, and satisfactory view of the subject, presenting the American argument to the European public more clearly than it has heretofore been presented in any form equally compendious, and for that reason calculated to render important public service. . . . The copy of the letter before us was specially transmitted to this country by our Minister at Paris, General Cass, to whom, when it first appeared, the article was attributed in Paris.
Nor was the praise bestowed upon it confined to the Americans.
Avowedly temperate in its tone and candid in its manner of handling the subject, it received the approbation of liberal Englishmen.
The British ambassador at Paris, Lord Granville, spoke of it in decided terms of commendation. . . . In conclusion, allow me, sir, as an individual citizen, to express my obligations to Mr. Sumner for the worthy use which in this and other ways he has made of his residence abroad.
wrote, May 17:—
I ran my eye rapidly over your article on the North-eastern Boundary in “Galignani's Messenger.”
The impression it gave me was delightful.
They ought at least to give you a secretaryship of legation for it.
wrote, May 20:—
I am greatly indebted for the paper containing your admirable article on the North-eastern Boundary.
wrote, May 24:—
Your article does you great credit. . . . Its tone and spirit are just what they ought to be,—manly, patriotic, and decided; but courteous, dignified, and bland.
You seem to make the argument as clear as a proposition in geometry.
wrote, May 29:—
I read attentively your argument, which is conclusive, I think, on the two points,—that “Mars Hill” is not the Highlands, and that the “Bay of Fundy” is the ocean; and these points being decided against the British claims, there is nothing in the text of the treaties to support them.
I believe that the desire for continued peace and amity between the two countries is sincere and fervent with all of those whom Cobbett used to call our “thinking people.”
was much annoyed by a personal incident connected with the publication.
, a sensitive and disappointed person, was not quite pleased with the credit which the authorship had given to another; and besides disparaging Sumner
's article in an American newspaper, he furnished for the London Times an incorrect report of Lord Brougham's conversations in Paris
, which tended to weaken the effect of his remarks in the House of Lords favorable to the American
view; giving as authority, ‘an
American who was in the habit of seeing him (Lord Brougham) frequently when he was recently in Paris
, who had talked too freely with Walsh
, was the only American
to whom the description could apply, and soon after he received a note from Lord Brougham, kindly in terms, but complaining of the report of his conversations.
wrote a letter to the ‘Times’7
, May 23, stating Walsh
's account to be ‘entirely false,’ and giving the true version.
His relations with Brougham
were not disturbed by the affair.