Secret Map Shows Brits Considered Giving Lower Canada to U.S. in 1783
The secret Red Line Map that could have given Lower Canada to the U.S.
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
The so-called Red Line Map was so controversial that the British government kept it under lock and key for over a century. And with good reason: kept from American eyes during the Paris peace negotiations of 1783, it shows how much more territory the Brits considered giving to the newly-independent United States. As the northernmost line on this map suggests, the whole of Lower Canada might have gone to the U.S. But the Americans didn't get to see the Red Line Map until 1896.
Negotiating new borders on another continent without accurate maps was tricky business, as proven by the boundary disputes that arose after the Treaty of Paris . But at least both sides used copies of the same map: John Mitchell's authoritative map of North America, first published in 1755. Because of its use during the negotiations, and its continued relevance for border disputes well into the 20th century , it has been called the most consequential map in North American history.
The Mitchell Map annotated with Oswalt's red lines.
Mitchell (1711–'68), from a family of wealthy Virginia tobacco planters, trained as a physician and studied botany; unlikely antecedents for someone who would go on to produce such an important map. The crucial career change came when Mitchell, at that time working in London as a horticultural consultant, was commissioned by the Earl of Halifax to produce a map of North America that would clearly illustrate the French threat to the colonies.
Mitchell's "Map of the British and French Dominions in North America" was the most detailed map of North America yet produced, and the only one on that scale – approximately 1:2,000,000 – completed during British rule. It shows the various, often competing territorial claims not only of the British and French, but also of the individual colonies themselves.
The map was clearly partisan: it exaggerated British territories and claims to the detriment of Spanish, French and Indian ones. For example, French territory was depicted as much smaller than it actually was, notably by showing an enlarged Iroquois nation as subject to Britain. Ironically, Mitchell's overstatement of British positions in North America would later serve the Americans well during the Paris peace negotiations, giving them more territory to claim.
Could have been American: the territory between the northernmost red line and the current border.
During those negotiations, Richard Oswalt, secretary to the British delegation, annotated the British copy of the Mitchell Map with red lines to indicate various interpretations of the boundary between the U.S. and the remainder of British North America. That single copy of the Mitchell Map – which was not disclosed to the American delegation – was later known as the Red Line Map. On that map, the northernmost red line extends the straight-line border, at the 49th parallel, further east from Lake of the Woods, where it currently ends. At a point in the middle of present-day Quebec, that line bends northeast in another straight line towards a point on the northern coast of Labrador.
The territory between that line and the current U.S.-Canadian border comprises large parts of the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, almost all of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the entirety of the provinces of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. All other things being equal, those extra 600,000 square miles would make the U.S. and Canada trade places in the largest-country rankings: the U.S. would take second place after Russia, Canada would drop to fourth place, after China. Also, most of Canada's 36 million inhabitants would be citizens of the U.S. instead of subjects of the Queen.
What a greater U.S. could have looked like, if the American delegates had gotten wind of the British map - and assuming the rest of history would have produced the same borders as in 'our' universe.
But that is not how the dice rolled at Paris. Three border configurations were proposed; the last one, by Oswalt, was accepted by both sides in November 1782 and was written into the final Treaty of September 3rd, 1783. That Treaty was less favourable to the American side than Oswalt's map suggested; a lot of territory south of Oswalt's red line ended up in Canada.
After conclusion of the Treaty, Oswalt gave his Red-Line Map to King George III. Eventually, it came to in the possession of in the British Library, where it is also known as the 'King George Map' – under strict instructions forbidding unauthorised access and publication.
More info on the Red Line Map on this page at the British Library in London, which houses the original; and on this page at the Osher Map Library in Portland, which has one of the copies of the map after 1896. An excellently zoomable version of the map found here at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center in Boston.
Strange Maps #809
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 The map's historical significance as a treaty instrument continued to imbue it with authority; it was used to resolve border disputes between the U.S. and Canada as recently as the 1980s – in the latest case, a dispute over fisheries in the Gulf of Maine.
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Bernardo Kastrup proposes a new ontology he calls “idealism” built on panpsychism, the idea that everything in the universe contains consciousness. He solves problems with this philosophy by adding a new suggestion: The universal mind has dissociative identity disorder.
There’s a reason they call it the “hard problem.” Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them.
Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.
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