Canada Gets the Box but Not the Socks

Pointing Out Some of the Reasons Why Canada Hesitates to Enter Into Conventions with the United States

Arthur Conrad November 1 1910

Canada Gets the Box but Not the Socks

Pointing Out Some of the Reasons Why Canada Hesitates to Enter Into Conventions with the United States

Arthur Conrad November 1 1910

Canada Gets the Box but Not the Socks

Pointing Out Some of the Reasons Why Canada Hesitates to Enter Into Conventions with the United States


Arthur Conrad

IN that rollicking old song, which used to be whistled and sung by everybody some years ago, and which ended with the plaintive refrain,

“The Bowery, the Bowery, I’ll never go there any more,” there occurred a verse that described the sad experience of a stranger in New York for the first time. Going down the Bowery, a glib-tongued salesman enticed him into a shop where goods were being sold at auction. A box of fine socks was put up.

“How much for the box?” cried the auctioneer.

The green countryman’s bid was the highest and he paid the price. What was his dismay to find that he had been skillfully hoaxed, and instead of getting a box containing socks, an empty box had been palmed off on him. So he sings :

“I sold you the box, not the socks,” said he.

“I’ll never go there any more.”

This adventure of the hero of the song on the Bowery affords a fairly good illustration of the way in which the United States politicians have been dealing with Canada and Great Britain, ever since the United States became a nation. In the drama of international diplomacy Canadians feel that the States have always played the part of the Bowery auctioneer, and

have on many occasions succeeded in selling Canada an empty box. Shrewd and clever such dealing may be, but there is very little to admire in it, and certainly the men who pursue such a policy are unworthy of esteem.

What makes the situation all the more to be regretted is that the relationship of Canadians and Americans as individuals is so close and friendly. Any one who has traveled through the United States and met Americans in their homes and in their places of business must have been struck by their sincerity, their geniality, their kindliness and their generosity. The real American people are probably the most fair-minded and open-hearted on the face of the earth.

But, unfortunately, the characteristics, which are so charming in the individual American, are wholly lacking among the average run of their politicians. They do not seem to carry into public life the same high sense of honor which they hold in private life. As a result, American diplomacy has been guilty in the past of questionable tactics and reprehensible double-dealing.

It must not be supposed, however, that in the negotiations between the two countries, which have occurred at frequent intervals, during the past century and a quarter, Canada and Great Britain have always been honor-

able and above-board. Even the generally impeccable British Government was at one time guilty of spending huge sums to bribe United States Senators, while the production of a false map and the. suppression of a true map was all the villainy that could be laid to the charge of the Americans. Yet. this much may be said for the British side, that, when once a treaty' or agreement was made, its provisions and its intent have been strictly adhered to by them. On the contrary, the United States has on many occasions, by virtue at one time of the supervisory power of the Senate, and at another of the sovereign rights of the individual states, overridden and made of none effect, agreements which were entered into by her accredited representatives, after long negotiations with the British and Canadian commissioners.

It is this fact, viz., that the American negotiators’ work is subject to revision by the Senate and that ultimately state laws may be put into operation to annul the effect of treaties, that irritates Canadians so much and makes them timid about entering into any arrangement with their big neighbor to the south. Were they to feel that when their commissioners and the American commissioners in any negotiation met together and came to an agreement, that agreement would stand and be binding on both parties, the whole aspect of international politics would be changed very decidedly for the better.

There are not lacking many instances which may be brought forward to prove this contention. They will_ serve to show some of the difficulties with which Canadians have had to deal in the past, and will explain why many people in Canada are averse to entering into any further negotiations with the United States.

The Treaty of 1782 Was Flagrantly Violated.

The very first treaty made between the United States and Great Britain at the close of the War of Independ-

ence was violated in the most flagrant fashion by the United States. By Article V. of the Treaty of 1782, it was understood by the British negotiators that the estates, rights and properties of the Loyalists who had fled to Canada would be restored to them and that freedom to return to any part of the United States for this purpose would be accorded them. But this was never done. Property was not restored, nor were the Loyalists suffered to return to their old homes, without being subjected to all manner of indignities. This disgraceful treatment of thousands of men, who subsequently demonstrated their ability as nation-builders by laying the foundations of what is now the Dominion of Canada, has been a blot on the history of the American Republic, which will never be effaced. Had the provisions of the treaty been put into effect and the property of the Loyalists restored to them, the history of North America might have been very different from what it is to-day.

The fact of the matter is that the United States did not bind herself to restore the property of the Loyalists, however much her negotiators intended to convey the impression that such restitution would be made. There was a string to Article V. and the United States held it. This article did not state definitely that the property would be handed back ; it said merely : “It is agreed that Congress shall earnestly recommend it to the Legislatures of the respective states, to provide for the restitution of all estates, etc.” To recommend a course of action was very different from agreeing to it. Congress certainly did carry out its part of the agreement, and earnestly recommended the States to do their part, but the States simply laughed at the idea. They did not consider themselves bound by any such bargain.

This was the first instance where the sovereign states refused to adhere to an undertaking of the Union.

But if there was some excuse for the non-fulfillment of Article V., there was none for Article VI., which stipu-

lated “that there shall be no future confiscation made, nor any prosecutions commenced against any person or persons for, or by reason of the part which he or they may have taken in the present war, etc.” This solemn obligation was violated with malice and premeditation.

Article IV., which “agreed that creditors on either side shall meet with no lawful impediment to the recovery of the full value in sterling money, of all bona fide debts heretofore contracted,” was also ignored. When the British creditors, after the establishment of peace, sought to proceed in the state courts, they found the treaty unavailing, since those tribunals held themselves bound by the local statutes.

In referring back to this far-distant period, some allowance must necessarily be made for the feelings of revenge and passion which must have animated the revolutionists. They had thrown off British law, and it took them some time to evolve a new sysr tern. For the time being they were unrestrained, and national honor had not as yet taken form.

Surveying the course of diplomatic relations between the two countries, ever since the Treaty of 1782-83, it is apparent that the field is divisible into two distinct sections. In the first place, the settlement of the boundary line has exercised the attention of the people of both nations on several occasions, and has been the subject of arbitration and treaty. And in the second place, the establishment of reciprocal arrangements in trade and commerce has led to frequent negotiations between commissioners from the two countries. Of the first of these it is not the intention of the present article to deal at any length. If .Canada has had grievances in the past with respect to her boundary, these can be attributed rather to Great Britain’s desire to strengthen her friendly relationship with the United States by making concessions to her, than to any sharp practices on the part of the Republic. But under the second head-

ing, that of trade and kindred agreements, Uncle Sam has been repeatedly guilty of unfair tactics, which must have an important bearing on the future. The boundary line has been settled, but there will be many opportunities for trade negotiations in the years to come.

The Famous Treaty of Washington Disregarded.

Of all the treaties of the past, that of Washington, framed in 1871, has been the most disregarded by the United States.

This treaty, which provided for the creation of a tribunal to assess the damages inflicted by the famous cruiser “Alabama” and her sister ships during the war between the North and South, contained also some interesting provisions dealing with trade and commerce between Canada and the United States. One of the most notable of these was Article XXL, which provided, with one or two minor limitations, for the free importation of fish from one country into the other. The purpose of this article was plain enough ; there could be no misunderstanding it. Yet there was a string even to this simple agreement. Four years later, Congress enacted that a duty should be imposed by the United States customs on cans or packages made of tin or other mater als, containing fish. The amount of the duty was one cent and a half on each can or package. The imposition of such a duty, intended, no doubt, to prevent further free importation of fish, was a distinct violation of the spirit of the treaty, and was naturally resented by Canadians, who were allowing the uninterrupted importation of American fish into the Dominion.

In the case of another article of this same treaty, an equally reprehensible trick was played on Canadians by the United States Government. After considerable negotiation, the American commissioners secured for the people of the United States the continued use of the Welland, St. Lawrence, and other canals in the Domin-

ion. As a quid pro quo, the Government of the United States was to allow the use of the St. Clair Flats canal to Canadians on terms of equality with the inhabitants of the United States, and was further to urge upon the State Governments to secure for Canadians the use of the several state canals connected with the navigation of the lakes or rivers traversed by or contiguous to the boundary line.

Canada immediately complied with the requirements of this article, and all her canals were thrown open to American ships. But for a time no attempt was made by Canadians to make use of either the Erie Canal or the Champlain Canal, both of which belonged to the State of New York, and a feeling grew up that Canadian vessels would be prevented from entering them. In fact, this feeling became so pronounced that the subject of the navigation of these canals was taken up by the Canadian Government. The result was that the State of New York formally declared that there was no law which prevented the free navigation by Canadian vessels of the canals within that state.

So far, so good, but the United States Government held another string. Once more the Customs Department was made the instrument by Congress to prevent Canadian ships from enjoying the use of these canals, notwithstanding the fact that no obstacles were put in the way of the navigation of any Canadian canals by United States vessels. Congress enacted that all vessels arriving in the United States from contiguous territory on the northern frontier were obliged to make entry at the first port, and it further enacted that all vessels, not of the United States, which made entry, must unload where they made entry. These enactments successfully put a stop to the use of either the Erie or Champlain Canals by Canadian vessels.

When representations were made to the United States Government that this treatment was unfair, the reply was made that Article XXVII. of the

Washington Treaty did not specify that all the state canals were to be opened to Canadian ships, but only those connected with the navigation of the lakes or rivers traversed by or contiguous to the boundary line. It was held that the Champlain Canal was not of this class. Such a distinction was a very narrow one, and, in view of the fact that all Canadian canals are open to American ships and that the State of New York herself saw no obstacle to the navigation of the canal by British ships, the action of the United States Government was most unfair.

Attention was also given in the Treaty of 1871 to the bonding privilege. For instance, Article XXX. made it unlawful for British ships to transport goods from the ports of Chicago or Milwaukee to points in Canada, whence the goods would be railed through Canada and re-shipped in vessels destined to the ports of Oswego and Ogdensburg. This provision applied equally to British or American vessels, but, so far as the former were concerned, it was made of none effect by a regulation of the Customs Department, which required its collectors to refuse to issue clearance papers to Canadian ships proceeding to a Canadian port, with goods destined for an American port.

Some Other Examples of Unfair Tacties.

The Behring Sea arbitration of 1892 is still fresh in the minds of adult Canadians. An award was made on that occasion in favor of Great Britain covering claims for damages. Instead of paying up promptly, as did Great Britain in the case of the Alabama Award, the United States dillydallyed for years until the outbreak of the Spanish-American war, when, in a panic to retain the friendly support of England, .she rushed her payment through. It is even a question whether all the damage claims have yet been liquidated, and on this point the Canadian Government could, if they would, throw some interesting

light. How different this behavior to that of Great Britain. An immense sum of money was paid over to the United States Government to cover damages inflicted by the Confederate warship “Alabama” and her consorts, and of this sum a large part still rests in the United States treasury, because no claimants have come forward to demand it.

While not directly affecting Canada, the Bond-Hay convention, entered into between Newfoundland and the United States, has a bearing on the subject of this article. In this case Premier Bond of Newfoundland, and Secretary Hay of the United States, came to an agreement on a treaty, which would settle differences between the two countries arising out of the fisheries. The parties to the agreement both secured what they considered the utmost concessions, the one from the other. In its final form the President of the United States expressed his agreement with the articles of the convention. In all fairness, the treaty should have been immediately ratified by both Governments. But what happened? The United States Senate took hold of the treaty, and, after expunging practically every stipulation in favor of Newfoundland, passed it over to the Newfoundland Government, and said in effect, “Take it or leave it.” Newfoundland, under the circumstances, had little choice in the matter, and was virtually bullied into accepting it.

A somewhat similar state of affairs resulted in the case of the more recent Waterways Convention, entered into by representatives of the two countries to govern water power and kindred problems arising on the boundary. This convention was the studied work of experts, and was an eminently fair arrangement, agreed to, in its final form, by both parties. Canada» was ready to accept it as it stood. But once again the United States Senate stepped in. A senator from Michigan, representing interests which would be prejudicially affected by the enforcement of the regulations proposed, sub-

stituted an amendment, and the Senate accepted the amended document. Rather than destroy the whole convention, Canada reluctantly consented to the change, but in so doing she considered herself most unfairly treated.

Warships on the Great Lakes.

Any article on international relationships between Canada and the United States would be incomplete without some reference to the vexed question of the maintenance of warships on the Great Lakes. Here another excellent illustration of the strange workings of U. S. politicians’ minds is to be obtained.

On the 28th day of April, 1818, the then President of the United States, James Monroe, issued a proclamation which gave the effect of law to an agreement that had been drawn up in the previous year by representatives of the British and United States Governments, now known to fame as the Rush-Bagot Treaty. By this agreement, the naval force to be “maintained” by each Government on the Great Lakes was to be limited, on Lake Ontario to one vessel not exceeding 100 tons burden and armed with 18-pound cannon, and on the upper lakes to two vessels, not exceeding the same burden and armament. All other armed vessels on the lakes were to be forthwith dismantled, and “no other vessels of war” were to be “there built or armed.” Six months’ notice was to be given in case either party desired to terminate the agreement.

This now famous treaty was in reality the outcome of a fear on the part of the United States that Great Britain was going to increase its naval force on the Great Lakes. It was proposed by the United States, sanctioned by the United States, and received with applause by the United States at the time of its negotiation.

But what is the situation to-day? The nation which in 1815 was about to create a strong navy on the Great Lakes has stood by the Rush-Bagot

agreement and has practically no warships on the lakes, while the nation which in 1817 was so anxious to stop the construction of any warships at all, has in commission ten vessels, aggregating 8,000 tons. The six months’ notice of the termination of the RushBagot agreement has never been made by the United States, and yet she has practically ignored all her obligations under it.

If remonstrance were to be made, she would probably explain that, as her ten vessels were intended simply for training ships, the agreement had not been violated, and possibly, following the letter of the treaty, this is the case. But there can be no denying the fact that the United States has violated the spirit of a solemn agreement, which she herself was the first to propose, in bí nging to the Great Lakes ten armed ships, capable in a few hours of annihilating Canada’s entire lake traffic.

There are in Canada to-day many people who are strongly of the opinion that, in view of the way the United States has treated the Dominion for many years, the Canadian Government should refuse politely, but firmly, to enter into any further negotiations with the American Government. Notwithstanding, the course being followed by Sir Wilfrid Laurier and his colleagues is to be commended, but he should demand a provision in case any agreement be arrived at that the United States abide by the spirit, that there be no equivocation or mental reservation on the part of that country. He should make his demand public in order that the people of the United States have a chance to read a lesson to those of her political diplomats, who prefer the questionable methods of the Bowery, to the straight-forward business methods of the twentieth century.