WHY THE WARSHIPS WENT.
Story Of The Clearing Of The Lakes Of Hostile Craft.
The recent war excitement and the suggestion that Canada has constructed revenue cutters which may easily be converted into war vessels has attracted attention to the provisions of laws, treaties, and agreements as to the defences of the lakes.
An investigation of the records seems to make it plain that the United States took the initiative in the matter of disregard of the treaty of 1817.
An act of congress, passed Sept. 9, 1841, provided: "For the construction and armament of such armed steamers or other armed vessels for defence on the north-western lakes as the president may think most proper." Under this authority the Michigan was built at Pittsburg and carried in pieces to Lake Erie, where she was launched in 1844, with a tonnage and armament far in excess of treaty stipulations. This drew forth a protest from the British minister, Mr. Packenham, on July 23, 1844. Mr. Calhoun responded on Sept. 5th, in a conciliatory tone, but he called Mr. Pakenham's attention to certain "reports" received from United States naval officers to the effect that the British had at that moment on the lakes two formidable war vessels - the Cherokee and the Mohawk.
Lord Napier Makes A Complaint.
Matters rested in this shape until 1857, when Lord Napier, on April 8th, addressed Mr. Cass with a representation that his government was advised "that an American armed vessel lies in the Detroit river, from which it makes frequent incursions into the lakes." He complained that this vessel was of dimensions and armament inconsistent with the treaty of 1817. The subject was dropped until July 2, 1858, when Lord Napier complained of the reported construction by the United States of six armed revenue cutters. To this complaint no written response was made. In 1861 Lord Napier again complained of the Michigan, but Mr. Steward, in a note, allayed his apprehensions.
On April 22, 1864, the British minister had an interview with the secretary of state concerning the proposed construction by this country of certain revenue cutters for the lake service, but this also was smoothed over and dropped. About this time a motion was made in congress looking to the termination of the treaty of 1817, and on Aug. 4th, 1864, Lord Lyons stated that his government would view its abrogation "with great regret and no little alarm."
On Oct. 24, 1864, Mr. Seward notified the British government that it was apparent that Canada was being used as a basis for hostile operations against the United States, and that under the provisions of the treaty of 1817, at the expiration of six months, the United States "will deem itself at liberty to increase the naval armament upon the lakes." On June 16, 1865, Mr. Seward withdrew this notice, and by the consent of both governments the status of the 1817 agreement was revived. The detailed correspondence on the subject which preceded the action which fixed the present status is as follows:
Mr. Bagot To Mr. Rush.
Washington, D.C., April 28, 1817 - The undersigned, his Britannic majesty's envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, has the honor to acquaint Mr. Rush that, having laid before his majesty's government the correspondence which passed last year between the secretary of the department of state and the undersigned upon the subject of a proposal to reduce the naval force of the respective countries upon the American lakes, he has received the commands of his royal highness, the prince regent, to acquaint the government of the United States that his royal highness is willing to accede to the proposition made to the undersigned by the secretary of the department of State in his note of the 2nd of August last. His royal highness, acting in the name and on behalf of his majesty, agrees that the naval force to be maintained upon the American lakes by his majesty and the government of the United States shall henceforth be confined to the following vessels on each side. That is:
On Lake Ontario, to one vessel not exceeding 100 tons burthen and armed with one eighteen-pound cannon.
On the upper lakes, to two vessels not exceeding like burthen each and armed with like force.
On the waters of Lake Champlain, to one vessel not exceeding like burthen and armed with like force.
And his royal highness agrees that all other armed vessels on these lakes shall be forthwith dismantled, and that no other vessel of war shall there be built or armed.
And his royal highness further agrees that if either party should be hereafter desirous of annulling this stipulation and should give notice to that effect to other party, it shall cease to be binding after the expiration of six months from the date of such notice.
The undersigned has it in command from his royal highness, the prince regent, to acquaint the American government that his royal highness has issued orders to his majesty's officers on the lakes directing that the naval force so to be limited shall be restricted to such services as will in no respect interfere with the proper duties of the armed vessels of the other party.
The undersigned has the honor to renew to Mr. Rush the assurance of his highest consideration. - Charles Bagot.
Mr. Rush To Mr. Bagot.
Department of State, April 29, 1817.
The undersigned, acting secretary of state, has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Mr. Bagot's note of the 28th of this month, informing him that, having laid before the government of his Britannic majesty the correspondence which passed last year between the secretary of state and himself upon the subject of a proposal to reduce the naval forces of the two countries upon the American lakes, he had received the commands of his royal highness, the prince regent, to inform this government that his royal highness was willing to accede to the proposition made by the secretary of state in his note of the 2nd of August last.
The undersigned has the honor to express to Mr. Bagot the satisfaction which the president feels at his royal highness, the prince regent, having acceded to the proposition of this government as contained in the note alluded to. And, in further answer to Mr. Bagot's note, the undersigned by direction of the president has the honor to state that this government, cherishing the same sentiments expressed in the note of the 2nd of August, agrees that the naval force to be maintained upon the lakes of the United States and Great Britain shall henceforth be confined to the following vessels on each side, that is:
On Lake Ontario, to one vessel not exceeding 100 tons burthen and armed with an eighteen-pound gun.
On the upper lakes, to two vessels not exceeding the like burthen each, and armed with likeforce.
On the waters of Lake Champlain, to one vessel, not exceeding like burthen and armed with like force.
And it agrees that all other armed vessels on these lakes shall be forthwith dismantled and that no other vessels of war shall be there built or armed. And it further agrees that if either party should hereafter be desirous of annulling this stipulation and give notice to that effect to other party, it shall cease to be binding after the expiration of six months from the date of such notice. (rest of column missing)