Feb 18: Legalese

As if the compilers of the DRG back in 1908 had mystical knowledge that someday there would be a Presidents' Day that wasn't Washington's Birthday, and that we would have extra time on this day to read sentences like:

It is further agreed between the two contracting parties, that in case any of the islands mentioned in any of the preceding articles, which were in the possession of one of the parties prior to the commencement of the present war between the two countries, should, by the decision of any of the boards of commissioners aforesaid, or of the sovereign or State so referred to, as in the four next preceding articles contained, fall within the dominions of the other party, all grants of land made previous to the commencement of the war, by the party having had such possession, shall be as valid as if such island or islands had, by such decision or decisions, been adjudged to be within the dominions of the party having had such possession.
Cue up the Lee Greenwood! We're reading the Treaty of Ghent! You know, the one that ended the War of 1812! There aren't enough exclamation points in the world to make this exciting!

If you're expecting to refresh your vague memories as to why they fought the War of 1812 (covered here), prepare to be disappointed -- it's basically a treaty of border disputes. In fact, there are two examples of the treaty-maker's art that all might admire here:

1. Kick the problem down the road. All the territorial disputes (such as, Where does Nova Scotia begin?) are referred to commissioners. If they can't agree, a "friendly sovereign or State" will decide. Which one? You're not going to catch them naming that person now.

2. The road to peace is paved with good intentions.. Here's Article X, in full:
Whereas the traffic in slaves is irreconcilable with the principles of humanity and justice, and whereas both His Majesty and the United States are desirous of continuing their efforts to promote its entire abolition, it is hereby agreed that both the contracting parties shall use their best endeavours to accomplish so desirable an object.
I can only imagine that the Americans must've really wanted the war ended even to agree to this language. The political climate I'm used to does not allow useless meaningless language that's opposed to our institutions. Maybe the Americans got confused because one of the British negotiators was the "Admiral of the White," and they thought that was a racial, as opposed to a naval, distinction.

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