Canada, the USA and the Korean Crisis
Copyright 2017 Darryl Hurly
Published by Darryl Hurly at Shakespir
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Table of Contents
Canada-US Relations: A Historical Sketch
Almost from the outset of European colonization of North America, the nations that were to become Canada and the United States developed a relationship as neighbors. However, for the first 150 years or so this relationship was decidedly un-neighborly.
Beginning in 1534, Jacques Cartier claimed the present-day Maritimes plus the territory draining into the St Lawrence River for France over the course of three voyages to the New World. Subsequently, over the course of a century of exploration into the continental interior, French adventurers added to New France the area draining into the Great Lakes and the length of the Mississippi River. Along the Atlantic seaboard to the south, Dutch and British colonies began to sprout at the dawn of the 17th century; after the expulsion of the Dutch by the British, the Crown consolidated these expanding settlements into the Thirteen Colonies.
Over the next century and a half, on-again-off-again conflict between France and England spilled into the New World as both sought to wrest colonies from each another. French troops and the French Navy repelled several invasions of New France by British regular troops and colonial militia, supported by the Royal Navy.
However, the final phase of the conflict, known as the Seven Years War in Europe, and its North American offshoot, the French and Indian War, began in 1754 and ended in 1759 with the defeat of the French, and the ceding to the British by treaty in 1763 that part of New France between the Atlantic coast and the upper Great Lakes. The territories drained by the Mississippi and its tributaries remained French until Napoleon Bonaparte sold them to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
The rural French habitants who were abandoned to their fate by France after the Conquest kept unto themselves a separate ethno-cultural heritage. Guaranteed their Roman Catholicism, their agrarian ‘seigneurial’ system, their Napoleonic code of civil law, and their language by a militarily weak but strategically astute British colonial government, this cohesive, numerically superior community remained indifferent to political sovereignty, content to be detached and ghettoized for the most part within Lower Canada under the stewardship of the Catholic clergy.
For its part the British colonial government was equally pleased to let sleeping dogs lie in the interest of neutralizing any potential internal dissention as the Mother Country half-heartedly and haphazardly prepared to deal with a deteriorating situation in the Thirteen Colonies where rebellion was in the air.
When hostilities between the American colonies and the Mother Country finally broke out in 1775, the colonials sought to enlist the French to the north in their revolt. However, the heritage of the Thirteen Colonies as co-invaders of New France, and their outspoken distain toward all things French and Catholic aroused deep-seated suspicion amongst the habitants, and the Catholic clergy who jealously watched over them. Consequently, not only was a badly-organized military expedition to capture British North America ignored by the French, but the combined columns of Generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold were defeated by British troops before the gates of Quebec in December, 1775.
Notwithstanding the presence of a proportionally significant, French populace that was inherited after the fall of New France, in the 18th century British immigration and, after the American Revolution, the emigration of the United Empire Loyalists from the ex-Thirteen Colonies, set the stage for the evolution of Canada’s mainstream society.
Moreover, after the Conquest, New France’s merchant and professional classes largely emigrated back to the Mother Country. This void was quickly filled by an entrepreneurial class from Britain, which was buttressed after the American Revolution by an Empire-Loyalist counterpart from the ex-Thirteen Colonies. Thus, an economic element was added to the ethno-cultural gulf that separated the French habitants and their clergy from a fledgling British North American population led by its commercial class.
The United Empire Loyalists believed so strongly in Britain, its constitutional monarchy, its parliamentary democracy, its British Common Law, and in its rich, centuries-old, cultural legacy, that they rejected the revolutionary ethos of their fellow colonials. Crossing into Britain’s Canadian possessions to seek the protection of the Crown, they proceeded to develop a colonial replica of British society.
Because they were the first non-French inhabitants to settle here, Protestant Englishmen, Scots and Irish from Britain and the Thirteen Colonies established their time-honored political and economic systems, plus their cultural traditions and customs, adapting them to the variegated geographic and environmental regions of the North American frontier.
Successive generations intermarried and, through a gradual winnowing process, either internalized or put aside elements of their respective cultural heritages. The Welsh and Gaelic languages, for instance, were officially displaced by English and relegated to informal use at personal discretion. On the other hand, these early settlers proceeded to inject into an evolving cultural melange more relevant traditions of dress, culinary arts, medicinal practices, songs and dances, music and theater. This vibrant, ongoing, ethno-cultural meld formed the foundation of a ‘Canadian’ culture, lifestyle and national identity.
It can be fairly argued that the historical American experience largely mirrored its Canadian counterpart. Originally, the ethno-cultural identity of the Thirteen Colonies was forged from the same British ancestral roots and tempered in the same way by generations of intermarriage among Protestant Englishmen, Scots and early Irish.
The Old-World heritage they brought with them included: parliamentary democracy, political representation by population, a common code of laws, fealty to the Anglican Church of both England and Ireland, and the Scottish Presbyterian Church, the Irish Orange Order and Freemasonry. An informal class system, capped by a socio-economic elite, parodied the more formal British system crowned by a titled aristocracy.
After the American Revolution, among other changes, parliamentary democracy was modified to a not-dissimilar congressional system which American founding fathers reckoned was more congenial to New World circumstances. The Churches of England and Ireland became the American Episcopal Church; Protestantism continued to reign supreme. Separate but similar – often identical – social and cultural practices evolved in both British North America and the United States.
Notwithstanding these very similar ethno-cultural heritages, a political gulf separated British North America from a fledgling United States. The US had been aided by France to secure its independence from Britain. When revolution led to the overthrow of the French monarchy and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, he embarked upon the conquest of Europe, and fought a war with Britain that began in 1803 and lasted until his final defeat at Waterloo in 1815.
During the course of the conflict, the Royal Navy established an economic blockade of continental Europe as part of a time-honored strategic tradition. Primarily for this reason, plus the arbitrary impressment of American sailors into the British Navy among other reasons, the British incurred the ire of the Americans who had developed a brisk commerce with their old revolutionary allies, the French.
Seeking to retaliate where it hurt, the Americans once more set upon the conquest of the adjacent British territory that today comprises the Niagara Peninsula and southwestern Ontario. To that end, they declared war on Britain in 1812.
The events of the war clearly show that neither the Americans nor the Canadians decisively won the conflict. More correctly, neither the Americans nor the British won the war, for the Canadian militia was a minor player; only once did it win a decisive battle on its own. And, ironically, it was a contingent of French-Canadian militia and its native allies that decisively repulsed an American invasion force at the Battle of Chateauguay on October 26, 1813 – the only clear cut British victory by citizen-soldiers in the War of 1812.
Once more, bellicose, anti-French, ranting on the part of the Americans, whose ancestors had fought several campaigns against New France on behalf of Britain, and had been repulsed at Quebec when they invaded French Canada during the American Revolution, simply alienated the French.
A fledgling US Navy won crucial control of the lower Great Lakes, which was symbolized by the capture and burning in late April 1813 of Fort York and the adjacent village (present-day Toronto). Conversely, the Royal Navy not only controlled the American coastline and blockaded US ports, but a British squadron sailed up Chesapeake Bay in late August, 1813 and set fire to most of Washington DC in retaliation for the burning of York, the capital of Upper Canada.
With the Americans in firm control of Lakes Erie and Ontario – and later, of Lake Champlain, British land forces were denied the offensive and kept on the defensive in Upper and Lower Canada while US troops remained free to attack anywhere along the frontier. However, if successfully repelling a series of military incursions into British territory constitutes a victory, then it was British regulars, with the limited aid of colonial militia and bands of loyal natives, who ultimately emerged victorious on land.
But before shouting, “Huzzah!” for the Redcoats, one should, in fairness, note that the oft-times bumbling Americans, whose army consisted of too many militiamen and too few regular soldiers, managed to exhibit moments of military prowess, even on land.
They captured Fort George at the end of May, 1813 before being checked at Stoney Creek in early June. The following year, US forces overran Fort Erie on July 3, and defeated an attempted British counterstroke two days later at the Battle of Chippewa. Despite a sanguinary reversal at Lundy’s Lane on July 25, they successfully beat off all subsequent British attempts to retake Fort Erie. And, for the record, the Americans under Andrew Jackson decisively defeated a much superior force of Redcoats at the Battle of New Orleans which, alas, was fought in 1815 – after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed to end all hostilities.
For the next half-century British North Americans and Americans lived peacefully side-by-side in mutual suspicion of each other’s strategic intentions. But the US Federal government’s attention was mainly focused on the south and west, not the north.
In the American south, an enormous plantation economy, driven by slave labor, thrived on the production of cotton, tobacco, coffee and sugar cane. When southerners tried to extend their plantation economy into new territories as the settlement frontier pushed westwards, they ran up against northerner free-holders who were developing a mixed agrarian-industrial, urban-oriented economy. The issue surrounding slavery versus paid, free labor simmered for a half-century until thirteen exasperated southern states seceded from the Union, and civil war broke out in 1861.
Well advanced in its industrial revolution which had been launched in the late 18th century, Britain depended heavily on southern agricultural produce to supply its mills and manufactories. When the North stole a march on the British and blockaded southern ports, this trade dried up. The Crown’s empathy lay with the Confederacy, which, in turn, looked to England for support; but the British stopped far short of entering the conflict on the side of the rebels, remaining officially neutral throughout the war.
Britain did look the other way, however, when the South built several commerce raiders in British shipyards. These warships subsequently wreaked havoc amongst US shipping around the world, drawing Union warships away from the blockade to chase them down. Also, a band of Confederate irregulars, using Montreal for their base, launched a nuisance raid on St. Albans VT in 1863, further incensing the North. Once again, Britain’s North American colonies found themselves vulnerable to American invasion – this time by a powerful, experienced army.
But cooler heads prevailed, and the only incursions were a few desultory post-bellum forays by the Irish Fenian Brotherhood. These raids simply served to drive the Canadian colonies into the arms of the Mother Country, reinforcing their political, economic and cultural bonds with Britain.
But the danger from across the border hastened the decision to create a new nation out of four colonies with the Confederation Act of 1867. The danger to Canada ceased altogether after 1872 when the Mother Country paid US claims for losses incurred in conjunction with the Confederate commerce raiders.
In fact, before the war of secession broke out, headway was already being made in the development of commercial relations between the British colonies and adjacent American states.
Upon witnessing the early phase of the Industrial Revolution in nearby New England, and in particular the exodus of both Anglo and French working classes from Lower Canada into the adjacent American manufacturing communities, an Anglo-Canadian commercial class resolved to undertake the economic diversification of Britain’s North American colonies. The immediate agenda of these entrepreneurs was to bring the Two Canadas into the Industrial Revolution.
In Lower Canada this Anglo-dominated commercial/professional elite – the ‘Chateau Clique’ – gained control of the colony’s non-elected, consultative Executive Council. It also controlled the Legislative Council which was a non-aristocratic, equivalent to the British House of Lords. Sidestepping the colony’s elected Legislative Assembly when it suited them, they proceeded to further the interests of the banks, the timber trade, a fledgling industrial and manufacturing sector, and growing railway and canal networks.
Not unlike the experience of Lower Canada after the Conquest, a commercial elite gained early political control over Upper Canada’s non-elected Executive and Legislative councils. Here, too, the Executive Council was an appointed consultative body representing the captains of the colony’s commercial and professional sectors. The appointed Legislative Council was loosely similar to the British House of Lords, with the aristocracy replaced by an equivalent socio-economic elite drawn from the colony’s ruling class. Neither of these bodies answered to the popularly elected Legislative Assembly. This institutionalized ‘Family Compact’ had an entrepreneurial agenda that virtually mirrored that of the Chateau Clique.
It was the similar, self-serving agendas of the Chateau Clique and the Family Compact that unintentionally resulted in a significant step toward achieving closer economic bonds with the US. To combat the growing north-south trade developing between British North America and the industrializing US, these commercial elites lobbied for the political unification of the two Canadas which, in turn, would enable the rationalization of their combined economies and facilitate the industrialization process in competition with that of the US. The fiscal affairs and economic welfare of British North America had begun to dominate colonial politics.
In response, the British Crown proclaimed the Act of Union of 1841 which created the United Province of Canada. Unification mostly benefitted a bankrupt Canada West by giving it access to the tax revenues of a more-densely populated Canada East, which the former used primarily to expand its internal railway network.
The unification of British North America’s two central colonies into the United Province of Canada, coupled to the granting of responsible government in the colony in 1849, set a precedent for further efforts to unify all of Britain’s North American possessions. But the French faction’s reactionary stance in defence of its own interests largely stymied the implementation of Anglo-backed economic initiatives by Canada’s government.
Moreover, a British trade preference for colonial natural resources was abrogated in 1846 with the repeal of Britain’s Corn Laws, which had a negative impact on British North American agrarian producers. Under pressure from the North American colonies, the defunct Corn Laws were eventually replaced with a British-ratified Reciprocity Treaty between The Canadas and the US in 1854. The treaty did away with a 21% tariff on the import of British colonial timber, wheat and other commodities into the US. Exports south from British North America rose by 33% while the increase in the export of manufactured goods from the US to the colonies never surpassed 7%.
Thus, the favorable trade balance provided a cash surplus which was used to boost the colonies’ own industrialization. However, bad blood between the US and Britain during the Civil War due to the latter’s empathy with the Confederacy, plus negative lobbying by American industrial and manufacturing interests, led to the reciprocity treaty’s abrogation in 1866.
Consequently, entrepreneurs in the province of Canada sought to better develop British North America’s own internal economy. Although railways joined Canada East from Montreal to Canada West as far as Windsor, there was no rail link from The Canadas to the Maritime colonies to facilitate internal trade. And with American animosity smoldering by the end of the Civil War, an Intercolonial Railway was also urgently needed as a matter of strategic self-defence in case of a US invasion that could come anywhere along the International Boundary.
The colonies of Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island joined in Confederation in 1867 to develop, thereby, British North America’s internal economy, and promote homeland security. All of the nation’s manufacturing and commodities production could now be better rationalized; the expansion of an intercolonial railway network could facilitate the exchange of products among the provinces, and better defend against any hostile action on the part of the US. Longer-range plans for a transcontinental railway into the virgin lands of Canada’s newly-acquired western territories would attract immigration and further develop the nation’s internal economy.
It was the iconic National Policy of 1879 that marked the ultimate emergence of Canadian economic nationalism.
In the post-Civil-War era, when the animosity between Britain and the US began to simmer down, the Liberal government of Alexander Mackenzie hoped to renew the pre-war reciprocity agreement with the US. To curry American favor, it kept import tariffs on manufactured goods down to 20% since it saw these import duties as little more than a source of revenue anyway. But by 1876, the Liberals still hadn’t managed to negotiate a new free-trade agreement with the US.
By then things had changed. With Canada’s industrialization getting underway, and the country’s vast hinterland about to be opened up by a transcontinental railway, manufacturers wanted to monopolize this burgeoning home market. So, they now clamored for more protection against the import of cheaper American manufactured products.
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Canada and the United States have been neighbors since colonial times. For 250 years their relations were mired in conflict. But in the second third of the 19th century, a neighborly rapprochement with the US began to evolve – primarily economic down to WWII, which saw the armed forces of the two nations work in unison to defeat the AXIS. Both Canada and the US were thrust upon the world stage by their exceptional participation in WWII. As the Cold War settled over the globe with the rise of the Soviet Union and Red China, both nations stood together within a UN umbrella to repulse a North Korean invasion of South Korea. The creation of NORAD to provide hemispheric defence against manned bombers carrying nuclear payloads symbolized the apogee of their strategic cooperation. But whereas the US was propelled to center stage as leader of the Western World in opposition to Communist expansion, Canada found it difficult financially to live up to its status as a major supporting player in an expensive arms race. Unable to keep pace while the world teetered on the brink of a nuclear holocaust, it scrapped the CF-105 Avro Arrow project for a supersonic jet interceptor, and rearmed with relatively inexpensive ex-US CF-101 Voodoos, plus the obsolescent Bomarc missile system, for homeland security, and CF-104 Starfighters for its NATO contingent. Canada’s emasculated aerospace industry devolved temporarily into an aeronautical industry, producing STOL transport planes like the Cariboo, and doing subcontract work for Boeing in return for the RCAF’s purchase of Chinook helicopters. Later reinvigorated, it built the Northrop F-5 (officially CF-116) interceptor under contract, and designed the famous ‘Canadarm’ for use in space. As Canada watched the US get drawn into a controversial war in Vietnam, its views regarding military commitment abroad on behalf of the Free World diverged from its neighbor’s. Canadians began to question the policy of superpowers maintaining buffer states/zones against one another, seemingly in defiance of, or at least indifferent to, the trend of nationalist inspirations within the countries involved. Content to be a junior partner in hemispheric defence, Canada continues to march to a US drumbeat in NORAD, while scaling back its NATO commitment to defend Western Europe against Soviet aggression. With the collapse of the USSR, however, the focus of Canada’s contribution to UN peacekeeping shifted to the Middle East and Afghanistan, where the Canadian military played minor but significant roles in combatting the new threat of Jihadist terrorism. Having since pulled out and shrunk its UN commitment to miniscule, non-combatant roles, it contents itself with humanitarian aid to war zones. But the resurgence of North Korea under a roguish despot, and its newfound, peace-threatening, nuclear capability, finds Canada at a crossroads. In 1950 Canada dutifully sent army, navy and air force units to help the UN repel an invasion of South Korea by the North. Today its meager military permits little room to aid a US-led campaign to keep North Korea in check. Worse, North Korea’s developing ICBM capability, and its threat of a nuclear exchange with the US, finds Canada in the periphery of a gun sight whose crosshairs target the US mainland. After urging Canada to upgrade its NORAD commitment by rearming with a nuclear-tipped missile system to counteract any ICBM or submarine-launched missile threat from North Korea, the US has separated continental defence into Canadian and American zones. It no longer feels obliged to defend Canada against ICBM/ballistic missile attack. But so far, the Canadian government has been backpedalling on its need to bring its weapons arsenal into the 21st century to uphold its end in hemispheric defence and homeland security against missile attack. Sooner or later, however, Canada must face the music – better now, before it’s too late!