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frain from examining the subject, and offering such comments as it naturally demands. We are sensible that a discussion relative to a country so remote, having within its limits but few objects to excite the curiosity, and only connected with the civilized world by an extremely limited commerce, might not ordinarily, awaken much general interest. But it is also well known that particular causes have heretofore drawn to it the attention, both of statesmen and philosophers, and we are noi sure that the attempts to discover a northwest passage, or the dispute respecting Nootka sound, involved more serious consequences than the efforts now making by Russia, in that quarter of the globe, to monopolize commerce and usurp territory.
A trade to the northwestern coast of America, and the free navigation of the waters that wash its shores, have been enjoyed as a common right by subjects of the United States, and of several European powers, without interruption, for nearly forty years. We are by no means prepared to believe, or admit, that all this has been on sufferance merely; and that the rights of commerce and navigation in that region, have been vested in Russia alone. If such be the fact, however-if Russia has always possessed the right to interdict this trade, we cannot but wonder at her forbearance in permitting it to be carried on for so long a time, manifestly to the injury of her own subjects. Had a monopoly of the fur trade, which Russia now aims at, been secured to the 'Russian American Company' thirty years ago, that company, with any prudent management, might have attained at the present time the second rank, for wealth and power, in the commercial world, and been worthy not only of imperial protection, but of imperial attributes.
A short account of this trade, and sketch of its present state, may assist our readers in forming some estimate of the importance of this subject to the United States, merely in a commercial view, and independent of any question of territorial rights which it may be thought to involve. The third voyage of Cook having made us acquainted with countries of which little was before known ; several enterprising individuals, allured by the prospect of a profitable traffic with the natives, engaged in voyages to the northwest coast as early as 1784. The citizens of the United States, then just recovering from the entire prostration of their commerce by the revolutionary war, and possessing more enterprise than capital, were not slow in perceiving the benefits likely to result from the participation in a branch of trade, where industry and perseverance could be substituted for capital. In 1787, two vessels were fitted out in the port of Boston, the Columbia of three hundred tons, and the Washington of one hundred tons burthen ; the former commanded by Mr John Kendrick, the latter by Mr Robert Grey, since known as the first navigator who entered the river Columbia. Other vessels followed shortly after, and those entrusted with the management of these voyages soon acquired the necessary local knowledge to insure a successful competition with the traders of other nations (mostly English) who had preceded them. The habits and ordinary pursuits of the New Englanders qualified them
a peculiar manner for carrying on this trade, and the embarrassed state of Europe, combined with other circumstances, gave them, in the course of a few years, almost a monopoly of the most lucrative part of it. In 1801, which was perhaps the most flourishing period of the trade, there were sixteen ships on the northwest coast, fifteen of which were Americans, and one English. Upwards of eighteen thousand sea otter skins, besides other furs, were collected for the China market in that year, by the American vessels alone. Since that time the trade has declined, the sea otter having become scarce, iv consequence of the impolitic system pursued by the Russians, as well as by the natives, who destroy indiscriminately the old and the young of this animal, which will probably in a few years be as rarely met with on the coast of America, as it is now on that of Kamtchatka and among the Aleutian islands, where they abounded when first discovered by the Russians. There are at the present time absent from the United States fourteen vessels engaged in this trade, combined with that to the Sandwich islands, which for several years past has been carried on to a considerable extent in sandal wood. These vessels are from two to four hundred tons burthen, and carry from twenty-five to thirty men each, and they are usually about three years in completing a voyage. After exchanging with the natives of the coast for furs, such part of their cargoes as is adapted to the wants or suited to the fancy of these people, the ships return to the Sandwich islands, where a cargo of sandal wood is prepared, with which, and their surs, they proceed to Canton, and return to the United States with cargoes of teas, &c. The value at Canton of the furs, sandal wood, and other articles, carried thither the last season, by American vessels engaged in the trade, was little short of half a million of dollars. When it is considered that a comparatively small capital is originally embarked; that a great part of the value arises from the employment of so much tonnage, and so many men, for the long time necessary to perform a voyage ; and that government finally derives a revenue from that portion of the proceeds which is brought home in teas, equal at least to the amount invested at Canton, we believe this trade will be thought too valuable to be quietly relinquished.
The publication, of which the title is perfixed to this article, contains certain documents, communicated by the president of the United States to congress at their last session. The most important of them is the ukase, issued by the emperor of Russia in September 1821, and made known to our government in February of the present year. We shall devote most of this article to some remarks on this Russian edict, and the correspondence in relation to it between Mr Adams, secretary of state, and the chevalier de Poletica, the Russian minister to the United States.
The prohibitions and regulations contained in this edict are very minute and particular, occupying nearly ten pages of a closely printed pamphlet, and divided into sixty-three sections; in the first and second of which, however, will be found the pith and marrow of the subject. These, together with the introduction, we transcribe. The others are of minor importance. They however authorize the forcible seizure, by Russian ships of war, by vessels belonging to the company, or by individuals in their service, of all foreign vessels which may be suspected of violating these regulations, and direct that they be sent to the port of St Peter and St Paul, in Kamtchatka, for trial; and if condemned, the crews are to be sent across Siberia, to some port on the Baltic, and permitted to return to their own country, if they can find the means !
· EDICT • Of His Imperial Majesty, Autocrat of all the Russias. • The Directing Senate maketh known unto all men : Whereas, in an Edict of His Imperial Majesty, issued to the Directing Senate on the 4th day of September, and signed by his Imperial Majesty's own hand, it is thus expressed : « Observing, from reports submitted to us, that the trade of our subjects on the Aleutian Islands and on the northwest coast of America appertaining unto Russia, is subjected, because of secret and illicit traffic, to oppression and impediments; and finding that the principal cause of these difficulties is the want of rules establishing the boundaries for navigation along these coasts, and the order of naval communication, as well in these places as on the whole of the eastern coast of Siberia and the Kurile Islands, we have deemed it necessary to determine these communications by specific regulations, which are hereto attached.
" In forwarding these regulations to the Directing Senate, we command that the same be published for universal information, and that the proper measures be taken to carry them into execution.” Countersigned
Count D. GURIEF,
Minister of Finances. “It is therefore decreed by the Directing Senate, that His Imperial Majesty's Edict be published for the information of all men, and that the same be obeyed by all whom it may concern." • The original is signed by the Directing Senate.
On the original is written, in the hand writing of His Imperial Majesty, thus:
“Be it accordingly.
ALEXANDER.” •Sec. 1st. The pursuits of commerce, whaling, and fishery, and of all other industry, on all islands, ports, and gulfs, including the whole of the northwest coast of America, beginning from Behring's Straits, to the 51° of northern latitude, also from the Aleutian islands to the eastern coast of Siberia, as well as along the Kurile islands from Behring's Straits to the south cape of the island of Urup, viz: to the 45° 50' northern latitude, is exclusively granted to Russian subjects.
Sec. 2d. It is therefore prohibited to all foreign vessels, not only to land on the coasts and islands belonging to Russia, as stated above, but also to approach them within less than a hundred Italian miles. The transgressor's vessel is subject to confiscation, along with the whole cargo.'
We doubt if pretensions so extravagant and unfounded—so utterly repugnant to the established laws and usages of nations, have been set up by any government, claiming rank among civilized nations, since the dark ages of ignorance and superstition, when a bull of the holy see was supposed to convey the rights of sovereignty over whole continents, even in anticipation of their discovery. Russia claims the exclusive possession of the whole American continent, north of the 51st degree of latitude ! We say the whole continent, for we search in vain for limits except the latitude of 51° on the south, and Behring's Straits' on the north. It is just possible that his imperial majesty' may be content, for the present, to take the Rocky Mountains for his eastern boundary, though we are not sure but we do bim injustice in ascribing to him such narrow views. Even the attempts of Spain, to usurp the exclusive navigation of the South sea in the vicinity of her American possessions, arbitrary as they were, and violating, as they did, the indisputable rights of other nations, must, when examined with reference to the different periods when they were made, yield in absurdity to the claims now before us. We cannot forbear expressing our surprise, that, in this enlightened age, when the general principles of national rights have been clearly defined, and are well understood, a government, possessing the highest influence in the political world, and constantly referred to as the arbiter of national disputes, should prefer claims which can only be supported by the extraordinary notion of considering the Pacific ocean a close sea,' where it is, at least, four thousand miles across.
Mr Adams, in answer to a note from M. de Poletica, accompanying a printed copy of the Russian edict, expresses the surprise of the American government at the extraordinary claims it sets forth, and after alluding to the friendly relations which have always existed between the two nations, says, 'it was expected before any act which should define the boundaries between the territories of the United States and Russia on this continent, that the same would have been arranged, by treaty, between the parties. We think this expectation a very reasonable one, and the different course which Russia has chosen to pursue evinces either ignorance of her own rights, or a disregard to those of others. Mr Adams inquires if M. de Poletica is authorized to give explanations of the grounds of right, upon principles generally recognized by the laws and usages of nations, which can warrant the claims and regulations contained in the edict.' M. de Poletica, in reply, declares himself - happy to fulfil this task.' But as this letter purports to be a complete vindication of the claims of Russia, we prefer giving it entire; and shall follow it with some comments on the historical facts' it contains, and the inferences which are drawn from them; and add some facts within our own knowledge, which may have a bearing on the subject.