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The 1818 Convention - 49th parallel

James Monroe

The 1818 Convention - 49th parallel: James Monroe was the 5th American President who served in office from March 4, 1817 to March 4, 1825. One of the important events during his presidency was the Convention of 1818 in which the 49th parallel was set as the border with Canada.

Definition and Summary of the The 1818 Convention - 49th parallel
Summary and definition:
The Convention of 1818, aka the Convention of Commerce, was a meeting held in October 1818 to negotiate a treaty between the Monroe administration and the British. The aim of the Convention of 1818 was to settle outstanding boundary issues and disputes between the US and British North America following the War of 1812.

The Treaty of 1818  set the 49th parallel as the border with Canada from Rupert's Land west to the Rocky Mountains. The treaty and Convention of 1818 also established a joint occupation of Oregon by the British and the US for the next ten years. The Convention of 1818 marked the beginning of improved diplomatic relations between the US and Great Britain.

Convention of 1818 for kids: What is the 49th parallel?
What is the 49th parallel? Definition: The 49th parallel of north latitude forms part of the international boundary between Canada and the United States. The word 'parallel' refers to an imaginary line that represents degrees of latitude that encircle the earth parallel to the plane of the equator. The 49th parallel is used as an informal name for the Canadian border with the USA, which is marked out by the parallel line of latitude at 49°N.

The Convention of 1818 and the 49th parallel: Background History
After the US acquired the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, a boundary was agreed between the new lands and Rupert's Land (British Lands in North America). The boundary was along the watershed between the Missouri River and Mississippi River basins on one side and the Hudson Bay basin on the other. However, it is difficult to precisely determine the location of a dividing line in a region of level plains, such as in central North America. The British and Americans had concluded a successful meeting in 1817 with the Rush-Bagot Treaty and the scene was set to meet again at the Convention of 1818.

When was Convention of 1818 and the 49th parallel set?
The Convention of 1818 was held in the October of that year and the Treaty of 1818 was signed on October 20, 1818. Ratifications were exchanged on January 30, 1819.

The Convention of 1818 and the 49th parallel: Who conducted the negotiations?
The negotiations at the Convention of 1818 were conducted by Albert Gallatin and Richard Rush on behalf of the Monroe administration and Frederick John Robinson and Henry Goulburn on behalf of Great Britain.

Where was the Convention of 1818 held?
The Convention of 1818 was held in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. The official name of the treaty was The Convention Respecting Fisheries, Boundary and the Restoration of Slaves Between The United States of America and The Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The reference to slaves was due to American claims that the British still held some slaves on British ships or territories after the War of 1812 had ended and contravened the terms of the peace Treaty of Ghent . The Americans were demanding either the return of these slaves or compensation for them.

The Convention of 1818 and the 49th parallel: What were the terms of the Treaty of 1818?
There were six articles to the Treaty of 1818:

  • Treaty of 1818: Article I secured fishing rights off the shores of Newfoundland Labrador for the U.S.

  • Treaty of 1818: Article II set the boundary between British North America and the US “along a line from the most northwestern point of Lake of the Woods along the 49th parallel of north latitude to the Stony Mountains (Rocky Mountains)

    • Article II also included that Great Britain also ceded the part of Rupert’s Land and the Red River Colony south of the 49th parallel.

  • Treaty of 1818: Article III called for the joint control of the Oregon Country (Colombia District of the Hudson Bay Company) for 10 years.

    • It was agreed that both countries could control the territory and guarantee free navigation through the territory without any interference from the other country.

  • Treaty of 1818: Article IV confirmed the regulation of commerce between the 2 countries for an additional 10 years.

  • Treaty of 1818: Article V agreed to defer differences over the U.S. claim in regards to the Treaty of Ghent would be resolved by “some Friendly Sovereign or State to be named for that purpose.”

  • Treaty of 1818: Article VI stated that ratification would occur within 6 months after the treaty was signed.

Significance of the Convention of 1818 and the 49th parallel
The Significance of the Convention of 1818 and the 49th parallel was that:

  • The Convention of 1818 marked the beginning of improved diplomatic relations between the US and Great Britain

  • The 49th Parallel was set as the border between Canada and the western U.S.

The Convention of 1818 and the 49th parallel: Future Changes
The agreements made during the Convention of 1818 and the setting of the 49th parallel were indefinitely extended in 1827. However, by the middle 1840s the political policies of Great Britain and America had changed. U.S. immigration had increased and America wanted to claim the entire territory. This led to a renegotiation of the agreements made in the Convention of 1818. The 1846 Oregon Treaty permanently established the 49th parallel as the boundary between the United States and British North America to the Pacific Ocean and heralded the westward migration of many settlers along the Oregon Trail. The next issue was
over the question of whether Oregon should be free soil or slave soil.

US American History
1801-1828: Evolution Era

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