Oregon Country

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Map of Oregon Country
Contemporary map of the Oregon Country from: "Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition ". Philadelphia: 1845

Oregon Country was the name mainly used by the Americans for a region in western North America , which originally consisted of the land between 42 ° and 54 ° 40 'north and stretched west of the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific . The British name for the area was "Columbia District". Ownership of the area was controversial until the Oregon Compromise of 1846 . A part of today's Canadian province of British Columbia , the US states of Oregon , Washington and Idaho as well as parts of Montana and Wyoming emerged from the area . To a large extent it is identical to the Pacific Northwest .

In the London Treaty of 1818 it was agreed that the United States and the United Kingdom would share the area. At the time of the conclusion of the contract, however, the United States had no interests of its own in the area, so that the British had Oregon de facto alone at their disposal. The trappers and fur traders of the British Hudson's Bay Company were the only whites, the fur trade its only use. The number of Indian residents in London was estimated at 140,000 in April 1845.

With the expansion of American fur trade interests over the main ridge of the Rocky Mountains from 1824 by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and the start of the American Indian mission by Marcus Whitman from 1836 in Walla Walla , this situation became less and less acceptable for both sides. Both claimed the entire area for themselves. James K. Polk , Democratic candidate and later President of the United States , campaigned for the 1844 presidential election with the maximum area claim of 54 ° 40 ' as the northern boundary of the Oregon Country . This was later often attributed to him under the slogan "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight" ("Fifty-four-forty or war") as an election slogan , but was only coined in the Congress debates following the election. In return, the British demanded that the border line be placed at the 42nd parallel, which was then the border with Mexico. Both sides were essentially concerned with access to the Pacific Ocean. Had the entire Oregon Country fallen to Great Britain, the United States would not have had access to the Pacific (California was part of Mexico until the Mexican-American War of 1846–48 and Alaska was owned by Russia until 1867). Had the territory gone entirely to the United States, British North America (Canada) would be cut off from the Pacific coast.

In the Oregon Compromise of 1846 the area was divided between Great Britain and the USA.

Web links

Commons : Oregon Country  - Collection of pictures, videos, and audio files


  1. The Illustrated London News, April 19, 1845, p. 243, col. 1, section The Oregon Territory
  2. ^ Edwin A. Miles: "Fifty-four Forty or Fight" - An American Political Legend . In: The Mississippi Valley Historical Review . tape 44 , no. 2 , 1957, p. 291-309 . Hans Sperber : 'Fifty-Four Forty or Fight': Facts and Fictions . In: American Speech . tape  32 , no. 1 , 1957, pp. 5-11 .