Page:Frontiers.djvu/52

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50
Frontiers

for calling them into being. The earliest instance of a Frontier Commission that I have come across is that of the Commission of six English and Scotch representatives who were appointed in 1222 to mark the limits of the two kingdoms, and it is symptomatic of the contemporary attitude about Frontiers that it broke down directly it set to work, leaving behind it what became a Debatable Land and a battle-ground of deadly strife for centuries. Even in the seventeenth-century treaties, by which the map of Europe was practically reconstructed, there is no express provision for demarcation. It is not till after the middle of the eighteenth century that we find Commissioners alluded to in the text of treaties, and reference made to topographical inquiries and surveys of engineers. What seems to us now the first condition of a stable Frontier appears to have been then regarded as the least important. Perhaps one reason was that no one expected and few desired that stability should be predicated of any political Frontier.

Contrast this with the methods now employed. Local surveys or reconnaissances, where one or the other has been found possible, precede the discussions of statesmen. Small Committees of officials are frequently appointed in advance to consider the geographical, topographical, and ethnological evidence that is forthcoming, and to construct a tentative line for their respective Governments; this, after much debate, is embodied in a treaty, which provides for the appointment of Commissioners to demarcate the line upon the spot and submit it for ratification by the principals. Geographical knowledge thus precedes or is made the foundation of the labours of statesmen,