Oregon Treaty

The Oregon Treaty[1] is a treaty between the United Kingdom and the United States that was signed on June 15, 1846, in Washington, D.C. The treaty was signed under the presidency of James K. Polk, the treaty brought an end to the Oregon boundary dispute by settling competing American and British claims to the Oregon Country; the area had been jointly occupied by both Britain and the U.S. since the Treaty of 1818.

Oregon Treaty
Treaty between Her Majesty and the United States of America, for the Settlement of the Oregon Boundary
Map of the lands in dispute
Typebilateral treaty
Signed15 June 1846
LocationWashington, D.C., United States
Oregon Treaty at Wikisource


The Treaty of 1818 set the boundary between the United States and British North America along the 49th parallel of north latitude from Minnesota to the "Stony Mountains"[2] (now known as the Rocky Mountains). The region west of those mountains was known to the Americans as the Oregon Country and to the British as the Columbia Department or Columbia District of the Hudson's Bay Company. (Also included in the region was the southern portion of another fur district, New Caledonia.) The treaty provided for joint control of that land for ten years. Both countries could claim land and both were guaranteed free navigation throughout.

Oregon Treaty - NARA - 299808.pdf
Original manuscript of the treaty (transcription), as kept by the U.S. National Archives.

Joint control steadily grew less tolerable for both sides. After a British minister rejected U.S. President James K. Polk's offer to settle the boundary at the 49th parallel north, Democratic expansionists called for the annexation of the entire region up to Parallel 54°40′ north, the southern limit of Russian America as established by parallel treaties between the Russian Empire and the United States (1824) and Britain (1825). However, after the outbreak of the Mexican–American War in April 1846 diverted U.S. attention and military resources, a compromise was reached in the ongoing negotiations in Washington, D.C., and the matter was settled by the Polk administration (to the dismay of its own party's hardliners) to avoid a two-war situation and a third war with the formidable military strength of Great Britain in less than 70 years.


The treaty was negotiated by U.S. Secretary of State James Buchanan, who later became president, and Richard Pakenham, British envoy to the United States and member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom for Queen Victoria; the Earl of Aberdeen was at the time Foreign Secretary, and it was he who was responsible for it in Parliament.[3] The treaty was signed on June 15, 1846, ending the joint occupation with Great Britain and making most Oregonians below the 49th parallel American citizens.[4]

The Oregon Treaty set the U.S. and British North American border at the 49th parallel with the exception of Vancouver Island, which was retained in its entirety by the British. Vancouver Island, with all coastal islands, was constituted as the Colony of Vancouver Island in 1849. The U.S. portion of the region was organized as Oregon Territory on August 15, 1848, with Washington Territory being formed from it in 1853. The British portion remained unorganized until 1858 when the Colony of British Columbia was declared as a result of the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush and fears of re-asserted American expansionist intentions. The two British colonies were amalgamated in 1866 as the United Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. When the Colony of British Columbia joined Canada in 1871, the 49th Parallel and marine boundaries established by the Oregon Treaty became the Canada–US border.

Treaty definitions

The treaty defined the border in the Strait of Juan de Fuca through the major channel. The "major channel" was not defined, giving rise to further disputes in the San Juan Islands in 1859. Other provisions included:

  • Navigation of "channel[s] and straits, south of the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude, remain free and open to both parties".
  • The "Puget's Sound Agricultural Company" (a subsidiary of the Hudson's Bay Company) retains the right to their property north of the Columbia River, and shall be compensated for properties surrendered if required by the United States.
  • The property rights of the Hudson's Bay Company and all British subjects south of the new boundary will be respected.[5]

Issues arising from treaty

Ambiguities in the wording of the Oregon Treaty regarding the route of the boundary, which was to follow "the deepest channel" out to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and beyond to the open ocean, resulted in the Pig War, another boundary dispute in 1859 over the San Juan Islands. The dispute was peacefully resolved after a decade of confrontation and military bluster during which the local British authorities consistently lobbied London to seize back the Puget Sound region entirely, as the Americans were busy elsewhere with the Civil War. The San Juans dispute was not resolved until 1872 when, pursuant to the 1871 Treaty of Washington, an arbitrator (the German Emperor) chose the American-preferred marine boundary via Haro Strait, to the west of the islands, over the British preference for Rosario Strait which lay to their east.

The treaty also had the unintended consequence of putting what became Point Roberts, Washington on the "wrong" side of the border. A peninsula, jutting south from Canada into Boundary Bay, was made by the agreement, as land south of the 49th parallel, a separate fragment of the United States.

See also

References and footnotes

  1. ^ officially titled the Treaty between Her Majesty and the United States of America, for the Settlement of the Oregon Boundary and styled in the United States as the Treaty with Great Britain, in Regard to Limits Westward of the Rocky Mountains, and also known as the Buchanan-Pakenham (or Packenham) Treaty or (sharing the name with several other unrelated treaties) the Treaty of Washington
  2. ^ "Convention of Commerce between His Majesty and the United States of America.—Signed at London, 20th October 1818". Canado-American Treaties. Université de Montréal. 2000. Archived from the original on April 11, 2009. Retrieved 2006-03-27.
  3. ^ Churchill 1958
  4. ^ Walker, Dale L. (1999). Bear Flag Rising: The Conquest of California, 1846. New York: Macmillan. p. 60. ISBN 0312866852.
  5. ^ "Treaty between Her Majesty and the United States of America, for the Settlement of the Oregon Boundary". Canado-American Treaties. Université de Montréal. 1999. Archived from the original on November 13, 2009. Retrieved 2007-01-12.


  • Winston S. Churchill (1958). The Great Democracies. A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. 4.

External links

49th parallel north

The 49th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 49° north of Earth's equator. It crosses Europe, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America, and the Atlantic Ocean.

The city of Paris is about 15 km (9 mi) south of the 49th parallel and is the largest city between the 48th and 49th parallels. Its main airport, Charles de Gaulle Airport, lies on the parallel.

Roughly 3,500 kilometres (2,175 mi) of the Canada–United States border was designated to follow the 49th parallel from British Columbia to Manitoba on the Canada side, and from Washington to Minnesota on the U.S. side, more specifically from the Strait of Georgia to the Lake of the Woods. This international border was specified in the Anglo-American Convention of 1818 and the Oregon Treaty of 1846, though survey markers placed in the 19th century cause the border to deviate from the 49th parallel by up to tens of meters.

From a point on the ground at this latitude, the sun is above the horizon for 16 hours, 12 minutes during the summer solstice and 8 hours, 14 minutes during the winter solstice This latitude also roughly corresponds to the minimum latitude in which astronomical twilight can last all night near the summer solstice. Slightly less than 1/8 of the Earth's surface is north of the 49th parallel.

Columbia District

The Columbia District was a fur trading district in the Pacific Northwest region of British North America in the 19th century. Much of its territory overlapped with the disputed Oregon Country. It was explored by the North West Company between 1793 and 1811, and established as an operating fur district around 1810. The North West Company was absorbed into the Hudson's Bay Company in 1821–under which the Columbia District became known as the Columbia Department. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 marked the effective end of the Hudson's Bay Company's Columbia Department.

Fort Colvile

The trade center Fort Colvile (also Fort Colville) was built by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) at Kettle Falls on the Columbia River in 1825 and operated in the Columbia fur district of the company. Named for Andrew Colville, a London governor of the HBC, the fort was a few miles west of the present site of Colville, Washington. It was an important stop on the York Factory Express trade route to London via the Hudson Bay. The HBC for some time considered Fort Colvile second in importance only to Fort Vancouver, near the mouth of the Columbia, until the foundation of Fort Victoria.

Under the Treaty of 1818, the Great Britain and the United States of America both claimed rights to the Oregon Country. This contentious dispute for ownership of the land was ended by the Oregon Treaty of 1846. The boundary between British North America and the United States was extended to the Pacific Ocean on the 49th Parallel, with all of Vancouver Island considered British. During the gold rushes of the 1850s and 1860s, Fort Colvile in 1860 especially became an important centre for mining activity and supplies. Abandoned in June 1871, some buildings stood until they burned in 1910.

The construction of Grand Coulee Dam resulted in the site being flooded in 1940, as was Kettle Falls. When Lake Roosevelt was drawn down for construction of Grand Coulee Dam's Powerhouse #3 in the late 1960s and early 1970, Fort Colvile and Kettle Falls were revealed. After archaeological work was performed by Washington State University and the University of Idaho, the Fort Colvile site was again inundated by Lake Roosevelt. In 1974, Fort Colvile was added to the National Register of Historic Places for its historic significance.

Fort Nisqually

Fort Nisqually was an important fur trading and farming post of the Hudson's Bay Company in the Puget Sound area, part of the Hudson's Bay Company's Columbia Department. It was located in what is now DuPont, Washington. Today it is a living history museum located in Tacoma, Washington, USA, within the boundaries of Point Defiance Park. The Fort Nisqually Granary, moved along with the Factor's House from the original site of the second fort to this park, is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. Built in 1843, the granary is the oldest building in Washington state and one of the only surviving examples of a Hudson's Bay Company "post on sill" structure. The Factor's House and the granary are the only surviving Hudson's Bay Company buildings in the United States.

Fort Okanogan

Fort Okanogan (also spelled Fort Okanagan) was founded in 1811 on the confluence of the Okanogan and Columbia Rivers as a fur trade outpost. Originally built for John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company, it was the first American-owned settlement within Washington State, located in what is now Okanogan County. The North West Company, the PFC's primary competitor, purchased its assets and posts in 1813. In 1821 the North West Company was merged into Hudson's Bay Company, which took over operation of Fort Okanogan as part of its Columbia District. The fort was an important stop on the York Factory Express trade route to London via Hudson Bay.

In 1846, the Oregon Treaty was ratified, ending the Oregon boundary dispute and the joint-occupation of the Pacific Northwest, though the HBC was allowed to continue use of the fort. However, due to the decline of the transport business in the area, the HBC abandoned the fort in June 1860. The fur post's primary use became transportation between other HBC posts, as according to Lloyd Keith and William Brown after 1821 there was no "considerable amount of fur obtained there."The site of the fort was flooded in 1967 by the reservoir Lake Pateros due to the construction of Wells Dam.

Fort Vancouver

Fort Vancouver was a 19th-century fur trading post that was the headquarters of the Hudson's Bay Company's Columbia Department, located in the Pacific Northwest. Named for Captain George Vancouver, the fort was located on the northern bank of the Columbia River in present-day Vancouver, Washington. The fort was a major center of the regional fur trading. Every year trade goods and supplies from London arrived either via ships sailing to the Pacific Ocean or overland from Hudson Bay via the York Factory Express. Supplies and trade goods were exchanged with a plethora of Indigenous cultures for fur pelts. Furs from Fort Vancouver were often shipped to the Chinese port of Guangzhou where they were traded for Chinese manufactured goods for sale in the United Kingdom. At its pinnacle, Fort Vancouver watched over 34 outposts, 24 ports, six ships, and 600 employees. Today, a full-scale replica of the fort, with internal buildings, has been constructed and is open to the public as Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Haro Strait

Haro Strait, often referred to as the Haro Straits because it is really a series of straits, is one of the main channels connecting the Strait of Georgia to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, separating Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands in British Columbia, Canada from the San Juan Islands of Washington state in the United States.

Haro Strait is a critical part of the route of the international boundary between Canada and the United States from the western terminus of the 49th parallel segment of that boundary, and was chosen by the arbitrator in the San Juan Islands dispute (Pig War) over the other main candidate, Rosario Strait, which lies on the east side of the San Juans.

History of Oregon

The history of Oregon, a U.S. state, may be considered in five eras: geologic history, inhabitation by native peoples, early exploration by Europeans (primarily fur traders), settlement by pioneers, and modern development.

The term "Oregon" may refer to:

Oregon Country, a large region explored by Americans and the British (and generally known to Canadians as the Columbia District);

Oregon Territory, established by the United States two years after its sovereignty over the region was established by the Oregon Treaty; and

Oregon, a U.S. state since 1859The history of Oregon, and of the Pacific Northwest, has received little attention from historians, as compared to other regions of the American far west.

New Caledonia (Canada)

New Caledonia was a fur-trading district of the Hudson's Bay Company that comprised the territory of the north-central portions of present-day British Columbia, Canada. Though not a British colony, New Caledonia was part of the British claim to North America. Its administrative centre was Fort St. James. The rest of what is now mainland British Columbia was called the Columbia Department by the British, and the Oregon Country by the Americans. Even before the partition of the Columbia Department by the Oregon Treaty in 1846, New Caledonia was often used to describe anywhere on the mainland not in the Columbia Department, such as Fort Langley in the Fraser Valley.

Oregon Country

The Oregon Country was a predominantly American term referring to a disputed region of the Pacific Northwest of North America. The region was occupied by British and French Canadian fur traders from before 1810, and American settlers from the mid-1830s, with its coastal areas north from the Columbia River frequented by ships from all nations engaged in the maritime fur trade, most of these from the 1790s through 1810s being Boston-based. The Oregon Treaty of 1846 ended disputed joint occupancy pursuant to the Treaty of 1818 and established the British-American boundary at the 49th parallel (except Vancouver Island).Oregon was a distinctly American term for the region. The British used the term Columbia District instead. The Oregon Country consisted of the land north of 42°N latitude, south of 54°40′N latitude, and west of the Rocky Mountains—with the eastern border generally running on or close to the Continental Divide—westwards to the Pacific Ocean. The area now forms part of the present day Canadian province of British Columbia, all of the US states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, and parts of Montana and Wyoming. The British presence in the region was generally administered by the Hudson's Bay Company, whose Columbia Department comprised most of the Oregon Country and extended considerably north into New Caledonia and beyond 54°40′N, with operations reaching tributaries of the Yukon River.

Oregon Territory

The Territory of Oregon was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 14, 1848, until February 14, 1859, when the southwestern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Oregon. Originally claimed by several countries (see Oregon Country), the region was divided between the UK and US in 1846. When established, the territory encompassed an area that included the current states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana. The capital of the territory was first Oregon City, then Salem, followed briefly by Corvallis, then back to Salem, which became the state capital upon Oregon's admission to the Union.

Oregon boundary dispute

The Oregon boundary dispute or the Oregon Question was a territorial dispute over the political division of the Pacific Northwest of North America between several nations that had competing territorial and commercial aspirations over the region.

Expansionist competition into the region began in the 18th century, with participants including the Russian Empire, the United Kingdom, Spain and the United States. By the 1820s, both the Russians, through the Russo-American Treaty of 1824 and the Russo-British Treaty of 1825, and the Spanish, by the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819, formally withdrew their territorial claims in the region. Through these treaties the British and Americans gained residual territorial claims in the disputed area. The remaining portion of the North American Pacific coast contested by the United Kingdom and the United States was defined as the following: west of the Continental Divide of the Americas, north of Mexico's Alta California border of 42nd parallel north, and south of Russian America at parallel 54°40′ north; typically this region was referred to as the Columbia District by the British and the Oregon Country by the Americans. The Oregon dispute began to become important in geopolitical diplomacy between the British Empire and the new American republic, especially after the War of 1812.

In the 1844 U.S. presidential election, ending the Oregon Question by annexing the entire area was a position adopted by the Democratic Party. Some scholars have claimed the Whig Party's lack of interest in the issue was due to its relative insignificance among other more pressing domestic problems. Democratic candidate James K. Polk appealed to the popular theme of manifest destiny and expansionist sentiment, defeating Whig Henry Clay. Polk sent the British government the previously offered partition along the 49th parallel. Subsequent negotiations faltered as the British plenipotentiaries still argued for a border along the Columbia River. Tensions grew as American expansionists like Senator Edward A. Hannegan of Indiana and Representative Leonard Henly Sims of Missouri, urged Polk to annex the entire Pacific Northwest to the 54°40′ parallel north, as the Democrats had called for in the election. The turmoil gave rise to slogans such as "Fifty-four Forty or Fight!" As relations with Mexico were rapidly deteriorating following the annexation of Texas, the expansionist agenda of Polk and the Democratic Party created the possibility of two different, simultaneous wars for the United States. Just before the outbreak of the Mexican–American War, Polk returned to his earlier position of a border along the 49th parallel.

The 1846 Oregon Treaty established the border between British North America and the United States along the 49th parallel until the Strait of Georgia, where the marine boundary curved south to exclude Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands from the United States. As a result, a small portion of the Tsawwassen Peninsula, Point Roberts, became an exclave of the United States. Vague wording in the treaty left the ownership of the San Juan Islands in doubt, as the division was to follow "through the middle of the said channel" to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. During the so-called Pig War, both nations agreed to a joint military occupation of the islands. Kaiser Wilhelm I of the German Empire was selected as an arbitrator to end the dispute, with a three-man commission ruling in favor of the United States in 1872. There the Haro Strait became the border line, rather than the British favored Rosario Strait. The border established by the Oregon Treaty and finalized by the arbitration in 1872 remains the boundary between the United States and Canada in the Pacific Northwest.

Outline of Oregon territorial evolution

The following outline traces the territorial evolution of the U.S. state of Oregon.

Outline of Washington (state)

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the U.S. state of Washington:

Washington is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, and is named after George Washington, the first President of the United States (it is the only U.S. state named after a president). Washington was carved out of the western part of Washington Territory which had been ceded by Britain in 1846 by the Oregon Treaty as settlement of the Oregon Boundary Dispute. It was admitted to the Union as the 42nd state in 1889. The state's population at the 2010 United States Census was 6,724,540. Washington is often called Washington State or the state of Washington to distinguish it from Washington, D.C.

Outline of Washington territorial evolution

The following outline traces the territorial evolution of the U.S. State of Washington.

Sidney Breese

Sidney Breese (July 15, 1800 – June 27, 1878), a lawyer, soldier, author and jurist born in New York, became an early Illinois pioneer and represented the state in the United States Senate as well as served as Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court and Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, and has been called "father of the Illinois Central Railroad".

Territorial evolution of Idaho

The following timeline traces the territorial evolution of the U.S. State of Idaho.

Territorial evolution of Montana

The following timeline traces the territorial evolution of the U.S. State of Montana.

Thomas Hart Benton (politician)

Thomas Hart Benton (March 14, 1782 – April 10, 1858), nicknamed "Old Bullion", was a United States Senator from Missouri. A member of the Democratic Party, he was an architect and champion of westward expansion by the United States, a cause that became known as Manifest Destiny. Benton served in the Senate from 1821 to 1851, becoming the first member of that body to serve five terms.

Benton was born in Harts Mill, North Carolina. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, he established a law practice and plantation near Nashville, Tennessee. He served as an aide to General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812 and settled in St. Louis, Missouri, after the war. Missouri became a state in 1821 and Benton won election as one of its inaugural pair of United States Senators. The Democratic-Republican Party fractured after 1824 and Benton became a Democratic leader in the Senate, serving as an important ally of President Jackson and President Martin Van Buren. He supported Jackson during the Bank War and proposed a land payment law that inspired Jackson's Specie Circular executive order.

Benton's prime concern was the westward expansion of the United States. He called for the annexation of the Republic of Texas, which was accomplished in 1845. He pushed for compromise in the partition of Oregon Country with the British and supported the 1846 Oregon Treaty, which divided the territory along the 49th parallel. He also authored the first Homestead Act, which granted land to settlers willing to farm it.

Though he owned slaves, Benton came to oppose the institution of slavery after the Mexican–American War, and he opposed the Compromise of 1850 as too favorable to pro-slavery interests. This stance damaged Benton's popularity in Missouri, and the state legislature denied him re-election in 1851. Benton won election to the United States House of Representatives in 1852 but was defeated for re-election in 1854 after he opposed the Kansas–Nebraska Act. Benton's son-in-law, John C. Frémont, won the 1856 Republican Party nomination for president, but Benton voted for James Buchanan and remained a loyal Democrat until his death in 1858.

Pioneer history of Oregon (1806–1890)
Oregon history

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