Calhoun’s long and trembling fingers were nervously opening the document. He turned to her with eyes blazing with eagerness. “It is Oregon!” He dropped back into his chair.
“Yes,” said Helena von Ritz slowly. “It is Oregon. It is bought and paid for. It is yours!”
So now they all went over that document, signed by none less than Pakenham himself, minister plenipotentiary for Great Britain. That document exists to-day somewhere in our archives, but I do not feel empowered to make known its full text. I would I had never need to set down, as I have, the cost of it. These others never knew that cost; and now they never can know, for long years since both Calhoun and Doctor Ward have been dead and gone. I turned aside as they examined the document which within the next few weeks was to become public property. The red wafers which mended it—and which she smilingly explained at Calhoun’s demand—were, as I knew, not less than red drops of blood.
In brief I may say that this paper stated that, in case the United States felt disposed to reopen discussions which Mr. Polk peremptorily had closed, Great Britain might be able to listen to a compromise on the line of the forty-ninth parallel. This compromise had three times been offered her by diplomacy of United States under earlier administrations. Great Britain stated that in view of her deep and abiding love of peace and her deep and abiding admiration for America, she would resign her claim of all of Oregon down to the Columbia; and more, she would accept the forty-ninth parallel; provided she might have free navigation rights upon the Columbia. In fact, this was precisely the memorandum of agreement which eventually established the lines of the treaty as to Oregon between Great Britain and the United States.
Mr. Calhoun is commonly credited with having brought about this treaty, and with having been author of its terms. So he was, but only in the singular way which in these foregoing pages I have related. States have their price. Texas was bought by blood. Oregon—ah, we who own it ought to prize it. None of our territory is half so full of romance, none of it is half so clean, as our great and bodeful far Northwest, still young in its days of destiny.
“We should in time have had all of Oregon, perhaps,” said Mr. Calhoun; “at least, that is the talk of these fierce politicians.”
“But for this fresh outbreak on the Southwest there would have been a better chance,” said Helena von Ritz; “but I think, as matters are to-day, you would be wise to accept this compromise. I have seen your men marching, thousands of them, the grandest sight of this century or any other. They give full base for this compromise. Given another year, and your rifles and your plows would make your claims still better. But this is to-day—”
“Believe me, Mr. Calhoun,” I broke in, “your signature must go on this.”