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Sir John A MacDonald
The Washington Treaty, 1871


THE outbreak of the war of secession in the United States and the events which marked its progress had, as we have seen, forwarded the work of confederating Canada. The conclusion of that war left questions of great difficulty and delicacy to be settled by the statesmen of Great Britain, the United States and the young Dominion. In this settlement Macdonald was compelled to take a prominent part. Scarcely any other portion of his political career was subjected to more hostile criticism than this; on no other point in his public life was he more confident that the ultimate judgment of history would ratify his conduct and acknowledge the patriotism by which it had been actuated.

Great Britain's largest and most immediate interest in the questions at issue lay in the large claims for damage made against her by the United States on account of the injury inflicted on American trade and shipping by the Southern cruiser Alabama, which had been fitted out at a British port, and, it was claimed, had been allowed to escape through lack of the precautions due on the part of a friendly government. The questions which more immediately concerned the Dominion were the San Juan boundary dispute on the Pacific coast; the settlement of claims for damages inflicted on Canada by the Fenian Raids of 1864-5-6, organized and directed from American territory in violation of international law; and above all the recognition of her exclusive right to the inshore fisheries of all Dominion waters. Intimately, though indirectly, connected with the last question was that of trade relations between the United States and Canada.

The prosperity of the Dominion had been profoundly affected by the change in American trade policy adopted after the war, in order to deal with the vast debt accumulated during its progress. The reciprocity treaty negotiated by Lord Elgin in 1854 had proved of great advantage to Canadian trade ; nor can it be doubted that it had corresponding advantages for the United States. But even if its retention had been possible under the strongly protective system now adopted by that country, the anti-British current of feeling prevalent at the time would probably have determined its abrogation; and in March, 1866, this was finally effected at the instance of the American government.

With the denunciation of the treaty, the right of American fishermen to pursue their occupations in Canadian waters passed away. Repeated attempts to secure a renewal of reciprocal trade having failed, Canada was now bent on asserting her exclusive right to all the inshore fisheries off her coast, which, are among the most valuable of her national assets, and had been the chief consideration granted in 1854 in return for commercial reciprocity. American fishermen, on the other hand, showed the greatest reluctance to give up the privileges they had temporarily enjoyed under the treaty; they omitted to take out licences as required by the Dominion government; and the danger of collision between them and the marine force established for fishery protection was constant and great.

The destruction wrought by the Alabama had caused much irritation of national feeling in the United States, as had the Fenian raids in Canada. An attempt had been made to settle the Alabama question by what was known as the Johnson-Clarendon Treaty, but this treaty the senate at Washington had refused to ratify, thus leaving unsettled what threatened to be a permanent source of ill-feeling and a possible cause of war between the two countries. The fishing disputes were now added as a further cause of irritation. While there was a prevailing sense of insecurity on all sides and much anxiety to remove every cause of international friction, the failure of the first treaty made it difficult for England to reopen the negotiations. The initiation of renewed discussion came from the Dominion government, which saw clearly that any prolonged delay in asserting Canadian rights might prejudice the just claims of the Dominion in the matter of the fisheries, while other questions equally required imperial consideration. During the year 1870 the Hon. Alexander Campbell was sent to England under an order-in-council which directed him to consult the imperial government concerning "the proposed withdrawal of troops from Canada; the question of fortifications ; the recent invasions of Canadian territory by citizens of the United States, and the previous threats and hostile preparations which compelled the government to call out the militia and to obtain the consent of parliament to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; the systematic trespasses on Canadian fishing grounds by United States fishermen, and the unsettled question as to the limits within which foreigners can fish under the treaty of 1818." The strong representations which Mr. Campbell was instructed to make gave the British government an opportunity to take action, and it suggested, through the British ambassador at Washington, the appointment of a joint high commission to "treat and discuss the mode of settling the different questions which have arisen out of the fisheries, as well as all those which affect the relations of the United States towards Her Majesty's possessions in North America." In reply the opinion was expressed that to settle the differences generally known as the "Alabama claims" would also be "essential to the restoration of cordial and amicable relations between the two governments " and should therefore be one of the subjects treated by the commission.

To this proposal the British government agreed, "provided that all other claims, both of British subjects and citizens of the United States, arising out of acts committed during the recent civil war in that country, are similarly referred to this commission.

An agreement having thus been reached, both sides proceeded to name their commissioners plenipotentiary. [The representatives of Great Britain, on the commission were:—Earl de Grey and Ripon, president of the Privy Council; Sir Stafford Northcote, M. P. ; Sir Edward Thornton, British minister at Washington; Sir John A. 'Macdonald, premier of Canada; Montague Bernard, Esq., professor of international law in the University of Oxford. The American commissioners were the Hon. Hamilton Fish, secretary of state; the Hon. R. C. Schenck, United States minister to Great Britain; Judge Samuel Nelson, of the United States Supreme Court; ex-Judge E. R. Hoar, of Massachusetts, and George H. Williams, of Oregon.]

Under the circumstances it was only natural that the imperial government should wish that Macdonald should be one of the members of the commission. The request that he should so serve placed him, as leader of the Conservative party and premier of the Dominion, in an exceedingly delicate position. The wide extension of the subjects to be discussed and settled, beyond what had been originally suggested by the Canadian government, gave him diverse ground for anxiety and hesitation in accepting the appointment. No one knew better than he the importance of maintaining friendly relations between the empire and the republic, nor could any one have been more keenly alive to the certainty that, if a collision should come between the two great powers, Canada would be the chief arena of conflict and destruction. On the other hand, he knew how fixed was the belief throughout the Dominion that, in diplomatic contests with the United States, Great Britain had almost invariably been outwitted, and that in consequence Canada had suffered severely, especially in the delimitation of her territory. He was fully aware that any further sacrifice of Canadian interests, made even for the maintenance of peace, would be met by a storm of opposition throughout the Dominion, and that any public man in Canada who agreed to it would imperil his reputation and almost certainly wreck his political career. The personal risk taken in accepting the appointment would therefore be great. Another consideration could not but weigh heavily with him as leader of his party and of the government. The commission was to meet towards the end of February, and service upon it would entail prolonged absence from Ottawa at a time when parliament was in session, when critical questions were under discussion, and when a vigorous opposition was preparing for the general election soon to come on. To his absence at this time he was accustomed in later years to attribute the weakening of his parliamentary position in 1872, when a general election took place, and, indirectly, his defeat in 1873.

In the exhaustive speech with which, on May 3rd, 1872, he moved in the Dominion parliament the ratification of the clauses which depended on the consent of Canada, he dwelt upon the perplexities which surrounded him at this time.

"I had continually before me," said he, "not only the imperial question, but the interests of the Dominion of Canada, which I was there especially to represent, and the difficulty of my position was, that if I gave undue prominence to the interests of Canada, I might justly be held in England to be taking a purely colonial and selfish point of view, regardless of the interests of the empire as a whole and the interests of Canada as a portion of the empire ; and on the other hand, if I kept my eye solely on imperial considerations, I might be held as neglecting my special duty towards this my country, Canada. It was a difficult position, as the House will believe, a position which pressed upon me with great weight and severity at the time." And again: "When the proposition was first made to me I must say that I felt considerable embarrassment and great reluctance to become a member of the commission. I pointed out to my colleagues that I was to be one only of five, that I was in a position of being overruled continually in our discussions, and that I could not by any possibility bring any due weight from my isolated position. I felt also that I would not receive from those who were politically opposed to me in Canada that support which an officer going abroad on behalf of his country generally received, and had a right to expect." Writing to the governor-general, through whom the offer of a seat upon the commission had been conveyed to him, he says: "My first impression was that it would be better for Canada not to be represented in such a commission. But then we must consider that if Canada allowed the matter to go by default and left its interests to be adjudicated upon and settled by a commission composed exclusively of Americans having adverse interests and Englishmen having little or no interest in Canada, the government here would be very much censured if the result were a sacrifice of the rights of the Dominion. England would at once say that the offer to be represented on the commission was made to Canada and that it was declined." His colleagues in the cabinet, when consulted, were unanimously of the opinion that he should act upon the commission. Even then, before giving his final acceptance, he thought it necessary to fortify his position as a commissioner on certain points which he considered vital from a Canadian point of view. He secured from the imperial government a definite statement that it fully recognized and would firmly uphold Canada's exclusive right to the inshore fisheries, and a further declaration that no sale of these fisheries or concession in regard to them should be finally agreed upon until formally ratified by the parliament of the Dominion. On these preliminary conditions he consented to serve, though only then with many misgivings. "I contemplate my visit to Washington with a good deal of anxiety," he writes to his friend, Sir John Rose. "If anything goes wrong I shall be made the scapegoat, at all events as far as Canada is concerned. However, I thought that, after all Canada has done for me, I should not shirk the responsibility."

Leaving Sir Georges Cartier, senior member of the cabinet, in charge of the leadership of the House of Commons, he left Ottawa for Washington, where the commission held its first meeting on February 27th. After anxious discussions, which extended over several weeks, the Treaty of Washington was signed on May 8th, 1871.

Throughout the progress of the negotiations Macdonald, having first received permission to pursue this course, kept his colleagues at Ottawa fully informed concerning the drift of the discussions in a series of letters addressed to Sir Georges Cartier and Sir Charles Tupper. From these documents and from the exhaustive speech in which, a year later, he submitted for the ratification of parliament, the clauses of the treaty which affected Canada, we are able to gather a clear idea of the extremely difficult part he had to play.

When he reached Washington he found among the American as well as the British commissioners, a genuinely sincere desire for the reconciliation of all differences. But behind the commissioners was the American senate, which it was well known would reject any treaty which interfered with certain fixed lines of American policy. Reciprocal trade was the equivalent given by the United States in1854 for the Canadian fisheries, and Macdonald knew that popular opinion in the Dominion looked upon this as the only adequate equivalent that could be given now.

The American commissioners, however, stated from the first, as had been anticipated, that under the newly-adopted trade policy of the country this was impossible. Equally prompt was the refusal to allow Canadians a share in the coasting trade. They offered instead one million dollars for the fisheries in perpetuity. To any such permanent sale Macdonald strenuously objected on high national grounds. He pointed out to the head of the British commission "that it would be out of the question to surrender for all time to come her fishery rights for any compensation however great. That we had no right to injure posterity by depriving Canada, either as a dependency or as a nation, of her fisheries, and in my opinion any surrender must be for a term of years renewable by either party, or, what would be preferable, for an unspecified period, but liable to be terminated by either party. That the fisheries were valuable in themselves, and would, with increasing population, become annually of more value; but the value of the catch was of less consequence than the means which the exclusive enjoyment of the fisheries gave us of improving our position as a maritime power. That Canada possessed infinitely more valuable fisheries than the United States, with better harbours, and if we pursued the exclusive system vigorously, we might run a winning race with the United States, as a maritime power. That were our fishing ground used in common by our own and American fishermen the latter would enjoy the same training as ourselves. . ."

One serious check, deeply affecting Canadian feeling in regard to the work of the commission, was met with at an early stage of the conference. It had from the first been fully expected that Canada's claims for compensation on account of the Fenian Raids would be one of the subjects brought before the commission. Through what was apparently an oversight on the part of the British ambassador it was found, when the commission met, that these claims had not been expressly included in the terms of reference formally agreed upon. When the question of their inclusion was brought up at the conference, the American commissioners stated that they had no authority to deal with them, and that they could only do so under revised instructions.

After some consultation by cable with Mr. Gladstone's cabinet which was then in power, definite directions were sent to the commissioners to withdraw these claims. At the same time the British government assumed entire responsibility for the losses Canada had sustained, and intimated that, if necessary, a money payment would be made by way of compensation. The reason for this withdrawal of claims quite as well founded as those created by the depredations of the Alabama, has never been made clear, but in all probability it must be referred to the strong desire felt in England to remove all hindrances to the completion of a treaty.

The failure to consider the claims for the Fenian Raids naturally caused great disappointment in Canada and seriously affected Macdonald's political outlook. Later, when stating the case in parliament, he had no hesitation in fixing the responsibility for the failure. "It was" he said, "the fault of Her Majesty's government in not demanding in clear language, in terms which could not be misunderstood, that the investigation of these claims should be one of the matters dealt with by the commission. . . . . England was responsible for that error. England had promised to make the demand, and England had failed to make it. Not only that, but Her Majesty's government had taken the responsibility of withdrawing the claims altogether ; and Mr. Gladstone fully assumed all the responsibilities for this step, and relieved the Canadian government of any share in it, when he stated openly in the House of Commons that the imperial government had seen fit to withdraw the claims, but that they had done so with great reluctance and sorrow for the manner in which Canada had been treated. Canada, therefore, had every right to look to England for that satisfaction which she had failed to receive. . . . She did not decline that responsibility. . . ."

He pointed out, however, the unwillingness of the Canadian government that the compensation should take direct pecuniary form. "We were unwilling that it should be the payment of a certain amount of money, and there were several strong reasons why we should prefer not to accept reparation in that shape. In the first place, if a proposal of that kind were made it would cause a discussion as to the amount to be paid by England, of a most unseemly character. We should have the spectacle of a judge appointed to examine the claims in detail, with Canada pressing her cause upon his attention, and England probably resisting in some cases, and putting herself in an antagonistic position, which should not be allowed to occur between the mother country and the colony. It was, therefore, in the last degree unadvisable that the relations between Canada and the mother country, which throughout have been of so pleasant and friendly a character, should be placed in jeopardy in that way."

The alternative which he proposed was that an imperial guarantee should be given by Great Britain for a considerable loan which the Dominion had to raise for public works and defence. This, he pointed out, would not cost the motherland a sixpence, but would confer a greater advantage upon Canada than any direct compensation likely to be given. This proposal was accepted, the guarantee was given by Act of Parliament, and, it need scarcely be said, has never put the slightest burden upon the British taxpayer. Even after the Geneva arbitration had mulcted her to the extent of fifteen millions of dollars, Great Britain never took steps to renew the Fenian claims, nor did the United States ever volunteer compensation.

It is not in the sphere of international diplomacy that we must look for ideals or very high examples of justice.

Another disputed question was soon eliminated from the discussions by an agreement which Macdonald fully endorsed as fair and reasonable. The San Juan boundary dispute had arisen from the ambiguity of a clause in the treaty of June 15th, 1846, by which the Oregon boundary was supposed to be finally settled. This clause read as follows: "From the point on the 49th parallel of north latitude, where the boundary laid down in existing treaties and conventions between Great Britain and the United States terminates, the line of boundary between the territories of Her Britannic Majesty and those of the United States, shall be continued westward, along the said 49th parallel of north latitude, to the middle of the channel, which separates the continent from Vancouver Island; and thence southerly through the middle of the said channel, and of Fuca's Straits, to the Pacific Ocean; provided, however, that the navigation of the whole of the channel and straits, south of the 49th parallel of north latitude, remained free and open to both parties." The imperfect direction laid down left it uncertain whether the Island of San Juan, near the coast of Vancouver, was British or American territory. The 34th Article of the Treaty of Washington provided that: "The respective claims of the two governments should be submitted to the arbitrament and award of the German Emperor, who should decide therefore, finally and without appeal, which of the claims is most in accordance with the interpretation of the treaty of June 15th, 1846."

Macdonald had no hesitation in defending this decision in the Canadian parliament when the treaty was under consideration. He said: "The only other subject of peculiar interest to Canada in connection with the treaty . . . is the manner of disposing of the San Juan boundary question. That is settled in a way that no one can object to. I do not know whether many honourable members have ever studied that question. It is a most interesting one, and has long been a cause of controversy between the two countries. I am bound to uphold, and I do uphold, the British view respecting the channel which forms the boundary as the correct one. The United States government were, I believe, as sincerely convinced of the justice of their own case. Both believed that they were in the right, both were firmly grounded in that opinion; and such being the case, there was only one way out of it, and that was to leave it to be settled by impartial arbitration. I think the House will admit that no more distinguished arbiter could have been selected than the Emperor of Germany. In the examination and decision of the question he will have the assistance of as able and eminent jurists as any in the world, for there is nowhere a more distinguished body than the jurists of Germany, who are especially familiar with the principles and practice of international law. Whatever the decision may be, whether for England or against her, you may be satisfied that you will get a most learned and careful judgment in the matter, to which we must bow if it is against us, and to which I am sure the United States will bow if it is against them."

The emperor gave his decision in October, 1872. It was unreservedly in favour of the American claims, and the Island of San Juan was thereupon evacuated by the British troops.

The Fenian claims having been dismissed and an agreement reached on the question of the San Juan boundary, the matter in debate narrowed down mainly to the Alabama claims and the Canadian fisheries. Macdonald had never anticipated, nor had the Canadian government thought, when making its original suggestions in regard to the fisheries, that these two questions would be grouped together and dealt with as a whole, as they now were, for the purpose of the treaty. When the commissioners had finally come to an agreement to submit the Alabama claims to arbitration, it was urged that if the fishery question were not settled, the ratification of the whole treaty by the senate would be endangered.

Instead of the full reciprocity, which had been given in return for the use of the fisheries by the United States in1854, their commissioners now offered to admit free of duty coal, salt, lumber and fish. With the exception of Macdonald all the British commissioners were willing to agree to this proposal, but he strenuously opposed its acceptance, holding that the compensation was wholly inadequate.

He pointed out that the import duty on coal and salt was so unpopular throughout the States that it would soon, in any case, be taken off, and that Canadian fish and lumber were both necessities to the American consumer, who would himself have to pay the duty, so that this concession conferred little advantage upon Canada.

He therefore claimed that, in the absence of reciprocal arrangements, only a considerable money payment by the United States could make the bargain equal. Standing between the American commissioners keen to make the best bargain, and the English commissioners equally keen to secure a final treaty, he writes: "The absurd attempts of the United States commissioners to depreciate the value of our fisheries would be ridiculous if they were not so annoying. They found our English friends so squeezable in nature that their audacity has grown beyond all bounds." A proposal was now made to submit the amount of additional money payment to arbitration. But to arbitrate about the value of one's own undisputed property was a very different thing from arbitration about a disputed and doubtful right of possession. Against this Macdonald's colleagues at Ottawa took strong ground. They telegraphed: "We are sensible of the gravity of the position and alive to the deep interest which Canada has in the settlement of all disputes between Great Britain and the United States. The queen's government having formally pledged herself that our fisheries should not be disposed without our consent, to force us now into the disposal of them for a sum, to be fixed by arbitration, and free fish, would be a breach of faith, and an indignity never before offered to a great British possession. The people of Canada were ready to exchange the right of fishing for reciprocal trade rights to be agreed upon; but, if these cannot be obtained, she prefers to retain her fisheries, and she protests against the course which, against her will, is being pursued with reference to her interests and property. We were never informed that the fisheries would be inextricably mixed up with the Alabama question, and could not have apprehended that an attempt would be made to coerce us into an unwilling disposal of them to obtain results, however important, on other points of dispute. Our parliament would never consent to a treaty on the basis now proposed. . . ." But this strong expression of opinion came too late to influence the decision of the home government, which sent direct instructions to the commissioners to agree to the proposal for free fish and a money compensation to be settled by arbitration, subject, however to ratification by Canada.

Macdonald was now in an awkward dilemma in view of the opinion of his cabinet and the warmth of Canadian feeling on the question. His first impulse was to withdraw from the commission rather than subscribe to terms which he did not approve and which he believed the Canadian parliament would reject. Against this step his colleagues on the commission strongly protested, as it would probably wreck the treaty on which so many hopes had been based. His second and wiser thought was to remain on the commission in order to watch over the interests of Canada in regard to the navigation of the St. Lawrance and of the canals, the bonding privilege, and other minor matters which had come under consideration, while reserving his freedom of ulterior action on the main issue. Further reflection convinced him that, in the interests of the empire and of Canada itself, the treaty should be maintained, even though it involved sacrifices on the part of Canada. On April 29th, two days after a decision had been reached, he writes to Dr. Tupper at Ottawa: "The rights of Canada being substantially preserved by reserving to her the veto power as to the fisheries, I am sincerely desirous that a treaty should be made, as it is of the greatest importance that the Alabama and San Juan matters should be settled, especially the former. The expectations by the American people of a settlement of these matters have been strung to a very high pitch, and the disappointment, in case the negotiations end in nothing, will be very great. If this attempt to settle the Alabama question should fail, no peaceable solution of it is possible, and the war cloud will hang over England and Canada .... "

Later he writes to his friend Sir John Rose: "I at first thought of declining to sign the treaty. That would have been the easiest and most popular course for me to pursue quoad Canada and my position there, and, entre nous, my colleagues at Ottawa pressed me so to do. But my declining to sign might have involved such terrible consequences that I finally made up my mind to make the sacrifice of much of my popularity and position in Canada, rather than run the risk of a total failure of the treaty. . . . I am quite prepared for the storm of attack which will doubtless greet my return to Canada. I think that I should have been unworthy of the position and untrue to myself if, from any selfish timidity, I had refused to face the storm. Our parliament will not meet till February next, and between now and then I must endeavour to lead the Canadian mind in the right direction."`

The full storm of opposition criticism which he expected, and even more, fell upon him during the months which elapsed between the conclusion of the treaty and the meeting of parliament. He was freely denounced as a traitor who had sacrificed the interests of Canada to gain imperial approval. Contrary to all expectation, however, the people of the Maritime Provinces, who were more deeply interested than any others in the fishery clauses, accepted this portion of the treaty as likely to work out well in practice. Meanwhile Macdonald had laboriously striven to convince his colleagues in the cabinet that the treaty as a whole should be heartily endorsed. Difficulties had arisen between the United States and England in regard to the Geneva arbitration of the Alabama claims, and in consequence the meeting of the Canadian parliament was delayed till the last possible moment to see whether these difficulties would be overcome. When an agreement had been reached and the House met in 1872, Macdonald moved the ratification of the clauses, to which Canadian assent was necessary, in one of the most carefully prepared and weighty speeches of his public life. "I believe," he said, "that the sober, second thought of this country accords with the sober, second thought of the government, and we come down here and ask the people of Canada, through their representatives, to accept this treaty, to accept it with all its imperfections, and to accept it for the sake of peace, and for the sake of the great empire of which we form a part."

One of the closing paragraphs from a closely reasoned speech, which occupied more than four hours in delivery, must here suffice to illustrate the breadth of view with which he recommended the treaty to the approval of the Canadian people.

"I shall now move the first reading of this bill, and I shall simply sum up my remarks by saying that with respect to the treaty I consider that every portion of it is unobjectionable to the country, unless the articles connected with the fisheries may be considered objectionable. With respect to those articles I ask this House fully and calmly to consider the circumstances, and I believe, if they do fully consider the situation, that they will say it is for the good of Canada that those articles should be ratified. Reject the treaty, and you do not get reciprocity; reject the treaty, and you leave the fishermen of the Maritime Provinces at the mercy of the Americans; reject the treaty, and you will cut off the merchants engaged in that trade from the American market. Reject the treaty, and you will have a large annual expenditure in keeping up a marine police force to protect those fisheries, amounting to about eighty-four thousand dollars per annum. Reject the treaty, and you will have to call upon England to send her fleet and give you both her moral and physical support, although you will not adopt her policy; reject the treaty, and you will find that the bad feeling which formerly and until lately existed in the United States against England will be transferred to Canada: and the United States will say, and say justly, 'Here, when two nations like England and the United States have settled all their differences and all their quarrels upon a perpetual basis, these happy results are to be frustrated and endangered by the Canadian people, because they have not got the value of their fish for ten years.'

"It has been said by the honourable gentleman on my left [Mr. Howe] in his speech to the Young Men's Christian Association, that England had sacrificed the interests of Canada. If England has sacrificed the interests of Canada, what sacrifice has she not made in the cause of peace between those two great nations, rendering herself liable, leaving out all indirect claims, to pay millions out of her own treasury? Has she not made all this sacrifice, which only Englishmen and English statesmen can know, for the sake of peace? For whose sake has she made it? Has she not made it principally for the sake of Canada? Let Canada be severed from England—let England not be responsible to us, and for us, and what could the United States do to England? Let England withdraw herself into her shell, and what can the United States do? England has got the supremacy of the sea—she is impregnable in every point but one, and that point is Canada; and if England does call upon us to make a financial sacrifice ; does find it for the good of the empire that we, England's first colony, should sacrifice something, I say that we should be unworthy of our proud position if we were not prepared to do so. I hope to live to see the day, and if I do not, that my son may be spared to see Canada the right arm of England, to see Canada a powerful auxiliary to the empire, not, as now, a cause of anxiety and a source of danger. And I think that if we are worthy to hold that position as the right arm of England, we should not object to a sacrifice of this kind when so great an object is attained, and that object a lasting one.

"It is said that amities between nations cannot be perpetual. But I say that this treaty that has gone through so many difficulties and dangers, if it is carried into effect, removes almost all possibility of war. If ever there was an irritating cause of war, it was from the occurrences arising out of the escape of those vessels, and when we see the United States people and government forget this irritation, forget those occurrences and submit such a question to arbitration, to the arbitration of a disinterested tribunal, they have established a principle which can never be forgotten in this world. No future question is ever likely to arise that will cause such irritation as the escape of the Alabama did, and if they could be got to agree to leave such a matter to the peaceful arbitration of a friendly power, what future cause of quarrel can, in the imagination of man, occur that will not bear the same pacific solution that is sought for in this? I believe that this treaty is an epoch in the history of civilization; that it will set an example to the wide world that must be followed; and with the growth of the great Anglo- Saxon family, and with the development of that mighty nation to the south of us, I believe that the principle of arbitration will be advocated as the sole principle of settlement of differences between the English-speaking peoples, and that it will have a moral influence in the world. And although it may be opposed to the antecedents of other nations, that great moral principle which has now been established among the Anglo-Saxon family will spread itself over all the civilized world. It is not too much to say that it is a great advance in the history of mankind, and I should be sorry if it were recorded that it was stopped for a moment by a selfish consideration of the interests of Canada."

It only remains to be mentioned that a decision more satisfactory to Canadians than the San Juan boundary award, more satisfactory, indeed, than any previously arrived at in arbitration with the United States, awaited the clauses of the Washington Treaty providing for compensation for the use of the fisheries. A commission appointed to consider the question met at Halifax in 1877, and after prolonged enquiry conducted by some of the most brilliant counsel of the United States and Canada, awarded to the Dominion the sum of $5,500,000 as a reasonable equivalent for the excess in value of the Canadian over the American fisheries mentioned in the treaty. In spite of a strong minority protest made by the American commissioners, and much grumbling in the press of the United States and in congress, the sum was finally paid into the Dominion exchequer. This award furnishes the fullest justification of the firm attitude taken by Macdonald throughout the whole affair in establishing the value of what Canada was asked to relinquish. It gives special point to his own confident prediction made in parliament, that "when as a matter of history, the questions connected with this treaty are enquired into, it will be found that upon this, as well as upon every other point, I did all I could to protect the rights and claims of the Dominion."

The Washington Treaty marked the opening of a new era in the history of imperial negotiations. Treaties affecting Canada had hitherto been made for her by the mother country alone, which was alone responsible for their execution. Now for the first time a colonist, acutely alive to the special interests and claims of his own section of the empire, qualified better than anyone else to represent them, and responsible for his action to the electorate of Canada as well as to the Crown, was asked to accept plenipotentiary power, along with colleagues from the United Kingdom, in framing a treaty which affected the empire as a whole in its relation to another great power.

Doubtless the precedent is one which should, and will, become the rule in dealing with the concerns of those vast territories and increasing communities which in various parts of the world are growing to a national status under the British Crown. It is impossible to imagine that these great dependencies of the empire can allow affairs in which they have a supreme interest to be settled without that full voice in arriving at decisions to which their interests entitle them. But it is equally impossible to imagine, in the present condition of the world, any system by which the treaty-making right can be divorced from the power, based on naval and military strength, which executes treaties and gives them efficiency. Cooperation seems therefore the only possible future of national diplomacy for British people. It implies an increasing breadth of view in the colonial statesmen, as well as a clear grasp of the new relations of the empire on the part of the statesmen of the motherland. Macdonald's experience in connection with the Washington Treaty proves that, for the new tasks laid upon the colonies, men are needed with political courage as well as clear insight. It required a strong man to hold the balance justly between interests which were local and those which were broadly imperial. Canadian opinion has now, as he fully expected, ratified his judgment. But at the moment he accepted great responsibilities and faced great risks.


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