Tag Archives: Pacific Ocean

Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!

Fishermen catching salmon on the Columbia Rive...

Fishermen catching salmon on the Columbia River using a seine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


On June 15, 1846, Britain and the United States signed the Oregon Boundary Treaty.  There was a good deal of give and take in the Treaty, which extended the frontier along the 49th parallel, dipping south on the Pacific to give Britain all of Vancouver Island.

Britain had hoped to make the Columbia River “the St. Lawrence of the Pacific.”  The Hudson’s Bay Company had pioneered the area and it had also been claimed by explorers Vancouver, Thompson and Broughton.  An amazing mistake by a Royal Naval officer in 1813 may have cost Britain this territory.

the Americans hoped not only to acquire the Pacific coast to the 49th  parallel, but all the way to Alaska.  They were ready to go to war, if necessary.  In 1844, the Democratic Party slogan was, “fifty-four forty or fight,” and fifty-four meant the boundary of Alaska.  The Democrats won the election.  President Polk said in his inaugural address that Britain had no rights to territory on the Pacific.  Britain, however, took a firm stand and American Secretary of State Buchanan (who later became president) warned Polk that there would be war if he pushed the matter too far.  War with Mexico was imminent and it would be dangerous for the States to be fighting Britain at the same time.

Under these conditions, the Oregon Boundary was signed.  The negotiations for Britain were carried out by Lord Aberdeen, the Foreign Secretary.  His firmness in the matter was not undermined by the opinions of his brother, Captain Gordon of the Royal Navy, who had been sent to survey the region.  Captain Gordon wrote to Lord Alberdeen that he would not give one barren hill of Scotland for what he had seen of the Pacific.  The country was worthless because neither salmon nor trout would rise to the fly!  Captain Gordon was obviously using the wrong kind of fly!

To learn more about the Oregon Boundary Treaty, I would suggest going to, and then the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, then after that X Timeline. Lastly, I would suggest a visit to the Internet Archives to read Treaty between Her Majesty and the United States of America for the settlement of the Oregon boundary : signed at Washington, June 15, 1846 (1846).


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How Much Rain Does Ocean Falls, B.C. Get??

Ocean Falls, British Columbia

Ocean Falls, British Columbia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ocean Falls, British Columbia has on average 330 days of rain per year. Yuck!



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Vancouver Island Leased

English: Hudson's Bay Company on Cordova Stree...

Hudson’s Bay Company on Cordova Street. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday‘s post mentioned that Britain and France sometimes entrusted the development of Canada to private enterprise rather than doing it themselves. An example of such enterprise was the company called “The Merchant Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay,” formed in 1670.

The Hudson’s Bay Company concluded a big deal on January 13, 1849 when it leased Vancouver Island from the British Government for seven shillings a year — in those days, seven shillings was worth about $1.75!

The reason the Hudson’s Bay Company made such a bargain was that Britain was in the throes of a depression, including a famine in Ireland. In addition, the United States had in the year before bought California from Mexico and now controlled the Pacific to the 49th parallel. Britain needed a naval base on the Pacific coast, and Vancouver Island was the logical place for it.

The Hudson’s Bay Company had exclusive trading rights on the island, but in return agreed to pay for the cost of defence and to bring in settlers. The agreement was supposed to last until 1859, but was kept in effect until 1866 when Vancouver Island was united with the mainland, and the whole area became British Columbia.

Some of the earlier settlers were quickly disenchanted. The first governor, Richard Blanchard, was sent out by the British Government. He agreed to serve without pay because he hoped the post would be the first step in a diplomatic career. However, he also expected that he would have a mansion and an estate of extensive lawns as in England. Not finding them, he lasted only a few months before asking to be recalled.

Other settlers arrived with coaches and horses, only to find that there were no roads. Some brought equipment for playing cricket, but, alas, it takes a long time to convert a forest into a cricket pitch!

Still, they were no more badly informed than tourists over one hundred years later, who often arrive in Canada in July bringing skis and winter clothing.


Posted by on January 12, 2013 in On This Day


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