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

By William R. Willoughby | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
AMERICAN PRESSURE FOR THE NEGOTIATION OF A TREATY 1922-1927

The immediate reaction of President Harding to the International Joint Commission's report was to suggest the prompt initiation of discussions looking towards the signing of a Seaway treaty. State Department officials, however, were of the opinion that, since the first initiative had come from Congress, it might be well to await the pleasure of that body. 1

Congress, however, seemed incapable of assuming the initiative. For several days following the receipt of the IJC study, rival committees engaged in undignified wrangles for jurisdictional control over the St. Lawrence question. 2 Although compromises eventually were effected3 the bitterness engendered by the controversies, combined with divergences between the proponents of the St. Lawrence route and those favoring an all-American route, prevented Congress from taking any affirmative action and caused Department of State officials to decide that perhaps, after all, there could be no harm in opening unofficial negotiations with the government at Ottawa. 4 Accordingly, on May 17, 1922, a note was dispatched to the British ambassador in Washington, pointing out that the President favored a treaty framed on the basis of the IJC report, and asking whether the British and Canadian authorities were "disposed to undertake the negotiation of such a treaty." 5

The reply of the British ambassador was noncommittal. The cabinet -- which had come to power only six months previously -- had not had an opportunity to give the commission's report and the accompanying report of the Board of Engineers "that careful consideration which their importance merits." Moreover, "having regard to the magnitude of the

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