The Crisis of 1830-1842 in Canadian-American Relations

The Crisis of 1830-1842 in Canadian-American Relations

The Crisis of 1830-1842 in Canadian-American Relations

The Crisis of 1830-1842 in Canadian-American Relations

Excerpt

This volume is one of the most important in the series on Canadian- American relations, though it is a small book and one largely confined to but five years of the history of those relations a hundred years ago. In the first place, it is important for the corrective which it offers to that superficial reading of Canadian-American history which overemphasizes the "unarmed frontier" as the guarantee of peace between the two nations. This myth which has been so often exploited by those who think of disarmament as a prime cause of peace does not stand the test of history. The real achievement, as narratives like this remind us, lies in the development of trust and confidence in the good will of nations. That confidence, now so thoroughly established between Canada and the United States as to seem almost like a law of nature, was by no means their constant possession throughout the history of the last century and a quarter, since the Rush Bagot agreement set the program for disarmament on the joint waterways of the two countries, with the corollary of extension across the continent. It was a development that grew out of the success of peaceful settlements of a whole series of difficult crises. The War of 1812 had not settled some of the most serious sources of contention between the United States and Canada, and the flame of conflict was fanned at different times and places on both sides of the border, from Maine to Oregon. It was but natural, therefore, and in line with this ominous trend of history, that when rebellion broke out in Canada in 1837, and the expressed aims seemed so much like those of the American Revolution, the disorders consequent upon it should extend far across the border. How near to war this brought the Government of the United States and Great Britain will surprise many a reader of the pages that follow. Incident after incident gave the hotheads and the jingoes in each country their chance to stir latent antagonisms. Under such circumstances the provision for disarmament along the border was of little effect. Fearing attack, the British Government strengthened its military establishment in Canada until it definitely outranked that of the United States available for action. What ultimately saved the peace of the American continent in that crisis was not the mechanical device of disarmament but statesmanship which arose above conten-

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