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Canadian Review of American Studies/ Revue amadiem1e d'etudes amerirni,zes Volume 25, Number 2, Spring 1995, pp. 1-25 Borders that Divide and Connect: Capital and Labour Movements in the Great Lakes Region David R. Smith The Canadian imperialist is ever on guard ... discovering even in the harmless agent of commerce the disguised spy of political union with the American Republic. Yet if anything could make annex;,1tion a living force it will be the prevention of closer trade and social relations between Canada and the United States. (Albert J.Beveridge, A111erin111 Review olReuiews, 1911) The recent passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the introduction of other free-trade initiatives have prompted a host of debates about the impending results of economic integration on internation,11 borders (Herzog 1992; Randall 1992; and Widdis, forthcoming). For instance, will economic integration necessarily lead to political integration? Despite the seemingly recent rise of free trade to the forefront of public policy debates, a study of the economic development of the Great Lakes region since the mid-1860s reveals that the current debates reflect long established concernsthat Senator Beveridge and others before him had-about economic integration in such transnational regions as the Great Lakes basin. The Great Lakes region provides an unique opportunity better to understand the parameters .rnd dynamics of economic integration trnnscending national boundaries. Moreover, just as capital moves with little reference to its nationality, a regional context for the study of migration in the Great Lakes basin suggests that nationality necessarily docs not have the most 2 Canadian Review of American Studies Revue amadiemte d'etudes americaines immediate influence on the movement of labour. Political boundaries that create national structures (and identities) only complicate the migration process . Removing nationality as a variable allows an understanding of the more direct connection between capital movements and the migration of labour across political boundaries. Throughout the last qtrnrter of the nineteenth century a debate over continentalism developed in North America: would Canada develop northsouth links that would further the movement toward continental ism, or eastwest links that would promote nationalism? (Mercer 1888).While continentalism as an official national policy did not develop in Canada or the United States until the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, capital investments and labour crossed the international border much J earlier, allowing a de facto continental economy to emerge by the late nineteenth century. Samuel D. Pace, a U. S. consular agent at Port Sarnia, Ontario , commented in 1880 on the emerging role of commerce in uniting the Great Lakes region. "The wall of prejudice which for many years seemed to hold the people of Canada aloof from us," wrote Pace, "is no longer a prominent feature .... The young Canadian, whose introduction to us comes only through the friendly avenues of commerce, gradually [has] lost whatever odd dislike or animosity he may have inherited from his father" (1881, 41-43). While consul Pace's remarks suggest a distinct division between the citizens of Canada and the United States, the most expansive study of population movements between the two neighbours to date, Marcus Lee Hansen's The Mi11gli11go(the G1m1dian and American Peoples,found that "North American men and women moved about with little regard for political allegiance 11 (1940, 1). A student of Frederick Jackson Turner, Hansen suggested that Canadians, like Americans, moved westward in response to the expanding American frontier. "To leave Ontario," Hansen wrote, usually meant to leave Canada .... It was [however] all part of the continental westward march; and that the son of an Ontario or Quebec farmer should set out from his paternal home was no more of a reflection upon the society and politics of the Dominion than that the depar- David R. Smith I 3 ture of the young people from the eastern United States was an indication that something was wrong with the Republic. (1940, 185) Hansen stressed the individual's desire to migrate and argued that becau~e the border presented few restrictions, cultural similarities encouraged migration between Canada and the United States. Along with Marcus Lee Hansen, Canadian historian Fred Landon has argued that the permeability of the border fostered...


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