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270   HISTORY OF CANADA.

again made to Lafontaine and others of the popular leaders in the lower province, but they were content to await the result of the next appeal to the electors and declined to join the ministry. In the fall of 1845 Lord Metcalfe resigned, owing to extreme ill-health. He died in England in the following year. He was succeeded by Earl Cathcart, the senior officer in command of the British troops in America, who held the position until the end of January, 1847, when Lord Elgin became governor.

The Oregon Treaty. Earl Cathcart's appointment was owing to the threatening aspect of affairs in the United States. As already mentioned, the forty-ninth parallel of latitude had been fixed in 1818 as the northern boundary of the United States from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. To the west of the Rockies the Pacific coast region had been left "free and open" to the subjects of either power. This has been called a " joint occupation," although for many years the traders of the Hudson's Bay Company were the only occupants. Had the question been settled during those years the Columbia River, at least, would have been our southern boundary in that region. As it was, protracted negotiations took place, and the whole history of early exploration was studied and discussed by the contending diplomats. Mean-while, settlement from the older States was now extending into the Oregon territory. Friction developed, and it finally became necessary to fix the boundary westward to the Pacific in order to avert war. The agitation of this question had given rise to a party in the United States whose motto was "Fifty-four-forty or fight." To allow this extravagant claim to the country up to 54° 40' was practically to give the whole coast region as far as the southern boundary of Alaska to the United States. The Oregon Treaty (1846) put an end to the dispute, and fixed, not "fifty-four-forty," but forty-nine as the line westward from the Rocky Mountains to the channel separating Vancouver Island from the mainland ; thence the line was to follow this channel south-westerly to the Pacific Ocean.

By Way of Contrast.—The passing of a Militia Bill by the Canadian parliament in the session of 1846 was one good result of the war-scare. It was the practical beginning of our present militia force. In the early summer of 1845 two disastrous fires swept over the city of Quebec, leaving twenty thousand people


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