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The following correspondence, between the Chairman of the Committee of the Senate on the Oregon Territory and the Secretary of State, together with extracts from the Journal of the Senate, will serve to show the circumstances under which this Memoir has been written and published.
WASHINGTON, January 25, 1840. SIR: I am informed that your department is in possession of much information relating to the territory of Oregon, its geography, resources, and the title of the United States to the same. If consistent with your duty, I would be pleased to be put in possession of such papers and documents as you may think proper to send me, requesting that you will mark such as you would rather not have printed or made public.
Your obedient servant,
L. F. LINN,
on the Territory of Oregon. Hon. John FORSYTH, Secretary of State.
Washington, January 25, 1840. SIR: I have had the honor to receive your letter of this day's date, asking for information relative to the territory of Oregon, its geography and resources, and the title of the United States to the same. Mr. Greenhow, the translator and librarian of this department, has been for some time past, by my direction, employed in collecting and arranging historical information on the subject of the northwestern coasts of America; I send you the result of his labors, and submit it to the discretion of the committee to be printed or not, as they may think most advisable. Not having had the leisure to compare the statements in the Memoir with the various works and documents upon which they are founded, I can vouch only for the zeal, industry, and good faith of Mr. Greenhow, by whom they were prepared.
I am, sir, your most obedient servant,
Secretary of State. Hon. LEWIS F. LINN,
Senator of the United States.
From the Journal of the Senate of the United States. “ MONDAY, February 10, 1840.-On motion by Mr. LINN,
“ Ordered, That a history of the northwest coast of North America and the adjacent territories, communicated to the Select Committee on the Oregon Territory, be printed, with the accompanying map; and that two thousand five hundred copies, in addition to the usual number, be printed for the use of the Senate."
“WEDNESDAY, February 12, 1840.—On motion by Mr. LINN,
“ Ordered, That the history of the northwest coast of North America, ordered to be printed on the 10th instant, be printed under the direction of Mr. Greenhow."
The Memoir relates principally to the southern and middle portions of the northwest coast of this continent and the adjoining territories, which have for many years formed the subjects of discussions between the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, and Russia; and it is designed to show the origin, nature, and extent of the several claims, in order to afford the means of correctly estimating the justice of each. In prosecuting these objects, it has been found necessary to trace the whole progress of discovery and settlement, not only in the territories above mentioned, but also in those farther north, in which the exclusive right of the Russians to form establishments has been recognised by the other Powers, and in the region called California, on the south, which constitutes a part of the Mexican republic. With this view, the original authorities have been carefully examined and compared, and the facts thus elicited are here related concisely or at length, as their general importance or their bearing upon the chief objects of the Memoir appeared to justify
Expeditions for the purposes of discovery, trade, or settlement, and disputes between the Governments or the people of distant civilized nations, have afforded, as yet, the only materials for the history of this section of America; and those materials have remained scattered through the annals of other countries, the journals of voyages and travels, and official or private reports and letters, the correctness of which could not be ascertained without great labor and research. Accounts of all these expeditions and discussions are here presented, arranged in the form of a regular narrative, so as to embrace a complete history of the western portion of our continent—if it be allowable to speak of the history of à country which still remains almost entirely in a state of nature.
This work is, however, not strictly a history; nor is it merely an argument in support of the title of the United States to the possession of the territories in dispute. The writer has endeavored, agreeably to the directions of Mr. Forsyth, to afford a clear and distinct view of the pretensions of each of the claimant Powers, and of the circumstances on which they are based. Although he has, for the sake of completeness, introduced some facts and reasonings not directly relevant to those objects, he has, on the other hand, suppressed none which, if given, might have led to conclusions more nearly just.
In illustration of the Memoir, a geographical account of the western section of North America has been prefixed to it, together with a map of those countries, drawn from the best authorities which could be procured. The geographical account has been necessarily much compressed, the limits of the work not permitting details; while the map is, on the whole, much fuller than any other of that part of the world which has yet been published. With regard to the correctness of the descriptions, the coast will, it is believed, be found represented with sufficient accuracy, both in the account, and on the map; but the interior of the continent, from the Pacific to the Rocky Mountains, and, indeed, to the vicinity of the Mississippi, has been as yet so imperfectly examined, that very little precise topographical information respecting it can be procured.
Great care has been taken to present the dates of the several occurrences, and the authorities on which they are recounted, so that the reader will have the means of satisfying himself as to the truth of each statement; with regard to the reasonings and deductions, he must rely upon his own powers of discrimination.
WASHINGTON, May 12, 1840.