In 1790, Britain and Spain nearly went to war over an incident at Nootka Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Spain backed down, paid reparations and agreed to share Vancouver Island equally with Britain. Britain regained possession of Nootka officially on March 23, 1795.
In 1819, the United States bought Florida from Spain. The deal included all Spanish territory west of the Mississippi and north of latitude 42. Washington Irving was American ambassador to Spain at the time. He was supposed to have made a thorough search of documents in Madrid to find out exactly what territory was involved. Somehow, he missed the agreement giving Spain equal rights to Vancouver Island.
Fortunately for Britain and Canada, the Americans did not find out about this until years after the Oregon Boundary Treaty had been signed in 1846. It established the present boundary between Canada and the United States, dipping to give Canada all of Vancouver Island.
Another strange feature about the story was that Washington Irving was greatly interested in the romance of fur trading in Canada. He had visited the famous “Beaver Club” in Montreal, where the great fur traders gathered. He also wrote a story about Fort Astoria on the Pacific coast, when it was involved in the rivalry among the Hudson’s Bay Company, the Northwest Company and John Jacob Astor.
If it seems far-fetched that the States might own half of Vancouver Island, look at a map of the southern tip of the mainland of British Columbia. The strict boundary of the 29th parallel leaves Point Roberts as part of the States although for all practical purposes it is Canadian.
It is always a joke for residents of Greater Vancouver to go to the United States by entering the few square miles that form Point Roberts.
- Captain Cook (tkmorin.wordpress.com)