Sunday, November 24, 2019

Review of "Albert Gallatin and the Oregon Problem," by Frederick Merk

Review of

Albert Gallatin and the Oregon Problem, by Frederick Merk

Five out of five stars

 This book covers an issue in the territorial expansion of the United States that does not receive enough attention. It is the dispute that the United States had with Great Britain over the sovereignty of what was then known as the Oregon Territory. Like nearly all land encountered by European travelers, once they set foot on it, it was claimed for their country. The fact that people were already living there was of little to no relevance.

 The first documented visit by Europeans of the area in dispute was by the Spanish in 1777, closely followed by the British and Americans. In the minds of those of European descent, this meant that all three countries would make a claim to ownership. The Spanish quickly dropped out as they were in the process of losing most of their American possessions. Therefore, by the second decade of the nineteenth century, the dispute was between the United States and Great Britain. This book covers the issues during the administration of James Monroe and into that of John Quincy Adams.

 What is most interesting about this book is the discussions of the roles of the two mighty companies of the time, The Hudson Bay Company and the mightiest of them all the East India Company. One of the most astounding facts of all time is that at one time the East India Company controlled half of the world’s trade. Their goal of a monopoly on Asian trade limited what the British government could do in their negotiations. The tendrils of the Hudson Bay Company also extended down to Oregon.

 Another interesting fact is that many of the political figures of the time considered the Oregon Territory to be so remote from the eastern United States that in their view it would eventually become an independent republic.

  The years after the War of 1812 were a time of reconciliation between the United States and Great Britain and while there were hotheads in the dispute over the Oregon Territory, one can discern the strong desire of both sides to settle their differences through negotiation. This is a good book about one aspect of Manifest Destiny.

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