Today, the Maine Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers when the commissioners agreed upon the source of the St. Croix river on October 25, 1798, one of the boundary points determining the border with Canada.
From the Collection of Pamphlets, 1885-1897 collected by Burke Aaron Hinsdale, published in 1892:
The treaty of 1794 between England and the United States, commonly called “Jay’s treaty,” provided (Article 5) that “whereas doubts had arisen what river was truly intended under the river St. Croix” in the treaty of 1783, the question should be referred to the final decision of three commissioners, one to be named by his Britannic Majesty, one by the President of the United States, and the third to be chosen by these two, or by lot if the two could not agree.
This commission decided the quarrel in favor of the Americans; it surveyed the true St. Croix to its source, which it marked with a monument.
The report of the commission is dated October 25, 1798.
Serious doubts having arisen since 1783, as to the practicability of reaching the Mississippi by a due-west line from the northwesternmost point of Lake of the Woods, Jay’s treaty also provided that measures should be taken in concert to survey the upper Mississippi, and that in case the due-west line was found impracticable, the “two powers would thereupon proceed by amicable negotiation to regulate the boundary in that quarter,” etc.
I have found no trace of such a survey being made, and the boundary was not fixed for more than twenty years hereafter.
A convention was signed, May 12, 1803, by the representatives of the two powers, which contained arrangements for determining the boundary from the St. Croix monument to the head of the Connecticut, and from the Lake of the Woods to the Mississippi.
But at the same time that Rufus King was negotiating this treaty in London with Lord Hawkesbury, Messrs. Livingston and Monroe were negotiating a much more familiar one in Paris with the ministers of the First Consul.
This was the treaty for the cession of Louisiana to the United States, signed April 30, 1803.
When the London treaty came before the senate, the argument was made that the Louisiana cession would affect the line from the Lake of the Woods to the Mississippi river; the senate accordingly struck out article 5, which the British government resented, and so the whole treaty fell.
When the war of 1812 began no progress had been made in fixing the northern boundaries beyond the short one from the mouth to the source of the St. Croix.
The treaty of Ghent, signed December 24, 1814, contained full arrangements for determining the rest of the line, providing for this purpose three several commissions and dividing the line into four several parts.
Commission one should pass on the conflicting claims of the two nations to certain islands in Passamaquody and Fundy bays (Article 4); commission two should run and mark the line from the head of the St. Croix to the point where the forty-fifth parallel strikes the St. Lawrence river (Article 5); commission three should run and mark, first, the boundary from the intersection of the parallel just named and the St. Lawrence to the water communication between Lakes Huron and Superior (Article 6), and afterwards the remainder of the line extending to the north westernmost point of the Lake of the Woods (Article 7).
Each commission should consist of two men, one appointed by his Britannic Majesty and one by the President of the United States.
If the said commissions should agree in their decision, both parties should consider their decisions as final and conclusive.
And in the event of the two commissioners in any case differing, or in the event of either or both of them declining or omitting to act, the two governments agreed to refer the case with the papers to “some friendly state or sovereign, to be then named for the purpose,” who should be requested to decide it, they engaging to consider the decision of such friendly state or sovereign as final and conclusive on all the matters so referred.
Due pains were taken in each article to state that the commissioners and arbitrators, if any should be appointed, should act in conformity with the treaty of peace of one thousand seven hundred and eighty.
More than one half of the treaty of Ghent was thus occupied with arrangements for settling the boundaries described thirty-one years before.
The war of 1812 was not, in any way, to disturb the original boundaries.
On November 24, 1817, the first commission reported its decision touching the islands in the two bays.
On the eighteenth of June, 1822, the third commission reported that it had surveyed and marked, as well with material monuments as on maps, the third section of boundary as divided by the treaty: viz, from the intersection of the forty-fifth parallel to the water communication between Lakes Huron and Superior.
The commissioners were unable to agree as to the fourth or Lake Superior section, and it was left to the treaty of Washington, 1842, to establish that part of the line.
The second commission explored a part of the section of the boundary covered by Article 5, viz, that from the head of the Croix to the St. Lawrence; and as the British commissioner persisted in finding the highlands south, and the American commissioner north of the St. Johns, they could not agree.
In due time this section of the boundary was referred to an arbiter…
It would be 1842 before the countries agreed upon the Maine and Canada boundary, however other boundaries toward the west continued in dispute for several more years.
The Maine Centennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an image of a boundary map between Maine and New Brunswick, circa 1817.