THE ADVOCATE 941
VOL. 78 PART 6 NOVEMBER 2020
Once meetings of the joint commissions were initiated, Prevost did raise
this issue in his first official meeting with Campbell, the U.S. commissioner.
Prevost reported back to Lord Clarendon in December 1857 that he had
“mentioned to Campbell the subject of the boundary line cutting off the
promontory at Point Roberts and showed how convenient it would be for
both parties if the line were deflected so as to give the point to Great Britain”.
It did not appear that Campbell initially ruled out this idea. Prevost
reported to Lord Clarendon that “Campbell informed me that he did not
think it was competent for him to treat upon this particular but suggested
that the matter might be settled by the two Governments”. However, by
December 1857 significant tensions had arisen with respect to the water
boundary, and Prevost continued his report to Lord Clarendon by noting:
“Since the discussions we have had as to the Channel of the Treaty I have
not deemed it expedient to renew the subject”.
What, if any, discussions then occurred is not clear, but by 1859 it appears
to have been recognized that Point Roberts would remain on the American
side of the border. In February 1859, R.C. Moody, our Lands and Works
Commissioner, wrote to Governor James Douglas of the Americans being
“tenacious of Point Roberts”. In September 1859, the United States established
a military reserve at Point Roberts, though no personnel were stationed
and no equipment was placed there.
In retaining Point Roberts, were the Americans interested in more than
upholding the principle and (from one perspective) simplicity of adhering
to a 49th parallel western boundary right up to the Strait of Georgia? It is
possible that one or more additional interests were being served. First, in
line with their establishment of a military reserve at Point Roberts, the
Americans may have valued having territory close to both the Fraser River
and the still-disputed San Juan Islands as a potential strategic and military
asset. Second, they may have rightly perceived the importance of fishing
rights in the area, in relation to which retaining Point Roberts could be helpful.
10 Third, there was a potentially even longer-term possibility that
Moody, when corresponding with Douglas, identified as “one concealed
reason” for the American tenacity to which he referred:
The whole process of Nature now going on is to silt up Semiahmoo Bay
especially the British portion of it and by and by we shall have no ‘shoreline’
on that side. The 49th Parallel and not the features of the Country
being the boundary.
If this occurred, Point Roberts could be accessed directly from the United
States over land.
Although in 1859 it appeared that there was still some British concern
about American retention of Point Roberts,11 by 1861 Hawkins—the British