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Location, Area, and Population.
The Territory of Alaska, lying in the extreme northwestern corner of the North American Continent, on the Bering Sea and North Pacific, comprises an area of about 577,390 statute square miles, with a seacoast of 26,000 miles, or nearly two and one-half times the seacoast of the balance of the United States. Territory was acquired by purchase by the United States from Russia, and the boundaries, as laid down in the treaty of cession of March 30, 1867, are: Commencing from the southernmost point of the island called Prince of Wales Island, which point lies in the parallel of 54 degrees 40 minutes north latitude, and between the 131st and the 133d degree of west longitude (meridian of Greenwich), the said line shall ascend to the north along the channel called Portland Channel as far as the point of the continent where it strikes the 56th degree of north latitude; from this last-mentioned point, the line of demarcation shall follow the summit of the mountains situated parallel to the coast as far as the point of intersection of the 141st degree of west longitude (of the same meridian); and finally, from the said point of intersection, the said meridian line of the 141st degree, in its prolongation as far as the Frozen Ocean.
IV. With reference to the line of demarcation laid down in the preceding article, it is understood
1st. That the island called Prince of Wales Island shall belong wholly to Russia (now, by this cession, to the United States).
2d. That whenever the summit of the mountains which extend in a direction parallel to the coast from the 56th degree of north latitude to the point of intersection of the 141st degree of west longitude shall prove to be at the distance of more than ten marine leagues from the ocean, the limit between the British possessions and the line of coast which is to belong to Russia as above mentioned (that is to say, the limit to the possessions ceded by this convention) shall be formed by a line parallel to the winding of the coast, and which shall never exceed the distance of ten marine leagues therefrom.
The western limits, within which the territories and dominion conveyed are contained, passes through a point in Bering Straits on the parallel of 65 degrees 30 minutes north latitude, at its intersection by the meridian which passes midway between the islands of Krusenstern, or Ignalook, and the island of Ratmanoff, or Noonarbook, and proceeds due north, without limitation, into the same Frozen Ocean. The same western limit, beginning at the same initial point, proceeds thence in a course nearly southwest through Bering's Straits and Bering's Sea, so as to pass midway between the northwest point of the Island of St. Lawrence and the southeast point of Cape Choukotski, to the meridian of 172 west longitude; thence, from the intersection of that meridian, in a southwesterly direction, so as to pass midway between the island of Attou and the Copper Island of the Kormandorski couplet or group in the North Pacific Ocean, to the meridian of 193 degrees west longitude, so as to include in the territory conveyed the whole of the Aleutian islands east of that meridian.
The treaty ceding to the United States the territory of Russian
America, as it was then called, was concluded March 30, 1867. The sum of $7,000,000 was originally agreed upon; but when it was understood that there was a fur company and also an ice company enjoying monopolies under the existing government, it was thought best that these should be extinguished; and the United States added $200,000 to the purchase money, in consideration of which the Russian Government formally declared the cession of the territory to be free of all incumbrances.
Although there is no record of official correspondence on the matter, the eastern boundary line appears to have been the subject of informal consultation between the United States and Great Britain soon after the territory was annexed. In his annual message to Congress, December 2, 1872, President Grant recommended the appointment of a joint commission to determine the line; but no action upon the matter was taken by Congress. On May 17, 1886, President Cleveland transmitted to Congress copies of correspondence on the question between Secretary Bayard and Minister Phelps, and recommended the appropriation of $100,000 for making a preliminary survey of the frontier territory. During the winter of 1887-88, informal conferences were held in Washington between Prof. W. H. Dall, of the United States Geological Survey, and Dr. George M. Dawson, both authorities on the Territory of Alaska, but the conferences led to no result. On August 20, 1895, Lord Gough inquired of Secretary Olney if a joint surveyor could not be appointed to act with Mr. William Ogilvie, who was then about to survey the intersection of the one hundred and forty-first meridian and the Yukon River. The Acting Secretary of State asked if the proposed survey could not be delayed until Congress had had an opportunity to consider the question. This suggestion was transmitted to the Canadian government, which answered that the season was so far advanced that it would not be possible to communicate with Mr. Ogilvie before the next summer, when a considerable portion of
the one hundred and forty-first meridian would already be marked on the ground. An extract from a letter by Secretary Olney, dated March 11, 1896, was as follows:
"So far as the recent and existing surveys on either side have progressed, they exhibit a close coincidence of results. At one point, as I am informed, the difference between Mr. Ogilvie's location and that made by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey is only about 6 feet 7 inches. In another point the difference is in the neighborhood of 500 or 600 feet, and at other points even closer coincidence than this latter is expected when the comparison of calculations shall have been worked out."
Mr. Olney proposed that the two Governments should agree upon certain points of the one hundred and forty-first meridian at the intersection of the principal streams, locating the same at points midway between the determinations of the Coast and Geodetic Survey and of Mr. Ogilvie, and providing for the junction. of the points so located by convenient joint surveys, as occasion should require, until the entire line should be established. This would supply a permanent line which for international purposes would be coincident with the one hundred and forty-fifth meridian, stipulated under existing treaties, and would require no further immediate arrangement than the dispatch of a joint surveying party to set up monuments at the points defined, with perhaps the survey of a traverse line connecting the monuments on the Yukon and Forty Mile Creek, and farther south if necessary.
The Canadian government agreed to this proposition, and the convention is now pending before the Senate of the United States.
No definite idea of the population was obtained until the census of 1890. In 1868, in a report by Maj. Gen. H. W. Halleck, the number given was 82,400. In the same year Rev. Vincent
Collyer, in his report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, added 11,900 Thlinket Indians to the number given by General Halleck, making 94,300, while Ivan Petroff, Special Agent for the Tenth Census (1880), states the population as 33,426. The census of 1890, which is the first detailed statement, fixes the number at 32,052, which is made up of 4,298 white, 23,531 Indians, 2,288 Mongolians, and 1,935 mixed blood.