Ukase of 1821
The Ukase of 1821 (Russian: Указ 1821 года) was a Russian proclamation (a ukase) of territorial sovereignty over northwestern North America, roughly present-day Alaska and most of the Pacific Northwest. The ukase was declared on September 4, 1821. Its first section stated that "the pursuits of commerce, whaling, fishing and other industry, on all islands, ports and gulfs, including the whole north-west coast of North America to the 45°50′ north latitude, are all included in this edict for the purpose of granting the same exclusivity to Russian subjects". The second section "prohibits all foreign vessels not only from landing on the coasts and islands belonging to Russia, but, also, does not permit them to approach these islands and coasts within less than one hundred Italian miles, without the vessels being subject to confiscation, along with the whole cargo" (one Italian mile was 2,025 yards).
That southward limit of Russian territorial claim to south of the mouth of the Columbia was revised in light of initial protests by the US and Britain to 51° N latitude, known as "the line of the Emperor Paul", first having been established by the Ukase of 1799 during the reign of Paul I of Russia, but had been revised northward to 55° north latitude in 1802 (51° N latitude corresponds, roughly, to the northern tip of Vancouver Island at Cape Scott). American and British diplomats and commenters had strenuously objected to news of the Ukase of 1821, with it being noted that American, British and French fur trading vessels had frequented Norfolk Sound (Sitka Sound) before Russia had ever extended its claim eastward, and the British pointing out the landings and explorations of Captains Cook and Vancouver were prior to any Russian assertion of sovereignty, and that British vessels pioneered the region's fur trade before those of any other nation.
Extended negotiations and exchanges of diplomatic notes and missions by Great Britain and the U.S.A. led to the signing of both the Russo-American Treaty of 1824 and the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1825. In them Russia agreed to cede all claims south of 54°40′ N latitude. The 54°40′ N latitude line was proposed by the British, as general negotiations had focussed on 55° north latitude, but part of the Russian terms was a desire to retain all of Prince of Wales Island, the southern tip of which is at 54°40′ N latitude. British diplomats were less concerned about any eventual land boundary than they were about freedom of navigation in the North Pacific. In addition to the adjustment to include all of Prince of Wales Island within the Russian sphere, the British-Russian agreement also established the principle of the lisière, a vaguely-defined strip of mainland extending inland ten leagues from the sea, and also wording concerning the marine boundary north from Prince of Wales Island's southern tip. The latter items mentioned figured prominently in the Alaska boundary dispute.
The only attempt to enforce the ukase occurred in 1822, when the American ship Pearl was seized by the Russian sloop Apollon on its way from Boston to Sitka. When the American government protested, the vessel was released and compensation was paid for the detention.
- Nichols, Irby C, Jr (February 1967). "The Russian Ukase and the Monroe Doctrine: A Re-Evaluation". Pacific Historical Review 36 (1): 13–26. doi:10.2307/3637088.
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- Higginson, Ella (1908). Alaska, The Great Country. Macmillan. p. 37.
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- Haycox, Stephen W (2002). Alaska: An American Colony. University of Washington Press. pp. 1118–1122. ISBN 978-0-295-98249-6.
- Begg, Alexander (1900). "Review of the Alaska Boundary Question". http://www.nosracines.ca. Unknown. pp. 7–8, 12–13. Retrieved 12 December 2014. External link in
- Macmillan's magazine, Volume 77, Macmillan and Co., 1898, p. 68