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U.S. Northern Border Treaty with Britain

The Ashburton treaty, which had just been signed with Great Britain, the boundary between Maine and New Brunswick had been settled. But, fortunately, nothing had been said about Oregon. The news of Whitman’s daring ride, and of his desire to people Oregon with Americans, rapidly spread all over the country. Before long, many pioneers were ready to accompany him, and when he began his return journey two hundred emigrant wagons followed him across the plains and over the mountains.

Although the British made sundry attempts to stop them, they were followed by so many others that, three years after Whitman’s famous ride, no less than twelve thousand Americans had passed into Oregon. Our countrymen thus proved so much more numerous than the English that they soon claimed the whole territory, asking that the boundary be drawn at the parallel of 54” 40’. The British, however, did not wish to give up so much land. So, before long, a quarrel arose, and the Americans began to cry that they would fight Great Britain unless it consented to what they wished. Many people justly considered that this was a very foolish way of acting, and Webster made one of his fine speeches to show both parties that it would be wiser to settle the dispute in another way. After a great deal of talk, and many threats about “fifty–four forty or fight,” the United States finally thought best to accept the 49th parallel as its northern boundary from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean (1846).