The St. Lawrence Waterway: A Study in Politics and Diplomacy

The St. Lawrence Waterway: A Study in Politics and Diplomacy

The St. Lawrence Waterway: A Study in Politics and Diplomacy

The St. Lawrence Waterway: A Study in Politics and Diplomacy

Excerpt

More than three hundred years ago the St. Lawrence was described by Jacques Cartier, its first French explorer, as "the greatest river . . . to have ever been seen." And, judged by virtually any standard other than mere length, the St. Lawrence is in truth pre-eminent. "Its mouth and estuary are both so vast that their salt waters far exceed those of all other river systems put together. Its tide runs farther in from the Atlantic than any other tide from this or any other ocean. And its 'Great Lakes' contain more fresh water than all the world beside." With its lakes and tributaries, the river forms a waterway 2347 miles in length and drains an area of more than 300,000 square miles, rich in farms, factories, mines, and resources. Each second the river discharges some 262,000 cubic feet of water into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and its flow is so steady, and its daily fluctuations are so slight, as to provide almost ideal conditions for the operation of a powerhouse or a navigation canal.

That such a river system would play a significant role in the history of North America was inevitable. It was the highway to the heart of the continent long before the white man came. It remained the same until well into the second half of the nineteenth century, when it was forced into a position of secondary importance by the coming of the railway. It made possible the activities of the early French explorers and priests. It provided natural navigation for "the bark canoes of the picturesque voyageur and the savage redskin as they carried on their task of linking . . .

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