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TheCanadianReview of American Studies, Volume 12, No. 2, Fall 1981 Harrison andBlaine: NoReciprocity for Canada Allan B. Spetter Infourshort years, 1889-93, President Benjamin Harrison and Secretary of State JamesG. Blaine launched the most ambitious program of commercial reciprocityof the late nineteenth century. The effort centered on the reciprocityamendment attached to the McKinley Tariff of_1890 as part of a comprehensiveattempt to strengthen ties with all the nations of the hemisphere -except Canada. The legendary Blaine indeed made the struggle to establish commercial reciprocity "the last great political effort of his career .... " Yet he also fought for a "hemispheric system based on peaceful intercourse,arbitral procedures for the settlement of disputes, and conferencesthat would deal with general inter-American issues." He had the unqualified commitment of Harrison, "the first President since the Civil War whofullyrecognized the need to coordinate the strategic, diplomatic, and economicfactors of [foreign! policy." 1 But Harrison and Blaine had separate plansfor Canada. As long as Canada remained part of the British Empire, thetwostatesmen could not integrate it into a hemisphere dominated by the UnitedStates. DavidPletcher has called the reciprocity treaties concluded in the Harrison administration "a foretaste of dollar diplomacy." He identifies the goals \\hichaccompanied the search for larger markets in Latin America: the effortto prevent increased British influence in the Caribbean, an area con- 144 Allan B.Spetter sidered vital to the security of the United States, and the attempt toreduce British economic domination of the more distant parts of South AmericaCanada provided the most convenient target of all for an economic tug-o[war with Great Britain. Caught in the middle, Canadians might be forc;dto decide whether they could afford to remain bound to the Empire. The Harrison administration obtained eight treaties in all, and Andrei Carnegie, who had served Harrison as a delegate to the Pan·American Conference of 1889in Washington, had this to say about the agreementwit~. Spain which covered Cuba: "Cuba will hereafter be of as little good toSpain as Canada is to Britain, nay, may and probably will become the sourceot serious trouble and danger to Spain." 3 In one sentence he had dealtwiththe two most visible projections of European influence in the hemisphere,but while Harrison and Blaine used reciprocity to help dislodge the Spanish,the\ took a completely opposite approach as part of a much more complicated relationship with Canada. Relations with Canada had been less than cordial since the CivilWar. Ir. 1866 the United States had chosen to terminate the reciprocity agreement with Canada which had been in effect since 1854 as the first and onlvone ever entered into. The inevitable result followed: the Canadians madelife increasingly difficult for fishing vessels from the United States. Nothinghad changed. The Canadians consistently tied the fisheries to reciprocity, andthe United States seemed steadfastly determined not to give in again tosuch. pressure. In fact, Blaine, in his Twenty Yearsof Congress, devoted anentire chapter to the fisheries and severely criticized the 1854 treaty whichhad reaffirmed the rights of the United States in Canadian waters for a ''great price." He charged that "reciprocity of trade (so-called)" established by the treaty had worked almost e°'tirely to the benefit of Canada. 4 The best that might be said for the 1854 treaty is that it "inaugurated a period of a half decade of smooth and friendly relations" between the United States and Canada. But various historians have detailed the growing dissatis· faction in the United States, capped off by two blows to the treaty: by18~4 Canada raised tariffs on manufactured goods not covered by the treaty;t.hi~ was followed by the serious problems which developed between the United States and Great Britain-Canada during the Civil War.5 When Great Britain created the Dominion of Canada in 1867 (not includ ing Newfoundland), the new nation suffered through an immediate economic slump which improved for only a brief period until hard times returnedin the early 1870s. Lawrence H. Officer and Lawrence B. Smith have argued in their quantitative study of the 1854 treaty that its abrogation did notreall: hurt the Canadian economy. Apparently, however, Canadians did not see it that way. The United States also entered into a depression by 1873, yet...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 143-156
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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