The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador (Geddes)
Excellency: With your confidential communication No. 887 under date of November 28, 1922, you were good enough to transmit to me at the request of the Canadian Government a copy of a draft treaty designed to supplant the Rush-Bagot Agreement of April 28, 1817, and also a memorandum concerning the strength of naval vessels now stationed on the Great Lakes. You informed me also that the Dominion Government would be glad to receive in due course the views of the Government of the United States in response to the terms of the draft treaty.
I now have the honor to inform you that after the most careful consideration of the terms of the Canadian draft treaty, the Government of the United States, in order to facilitate the negotiation of an arrangement acceptable to both countries, has deemed it expedient to embody its own views in the provisions of a fresh draft treaty. A copy of that draft is transmitted to you herewith, and in parallel columns a copy of the Canadian draft17 is set forth.
The following explanatory statement will make clear the position of the United States and will, it is hoped, reveal its effort to give practical effect to the high purpose animating both Governments by means of provisions enabling each to carry on its own domestic activities unhampered by unnecessary restraint.
The Preamble, adverting to the bond of peace happily long subsisting between the two countries, refers to their desire to “perpetuate the spirit” of the Rush-Bagot Agreement by an appropriate convention. [Page 491] It is believed that this simple yet definite statement suffices. The reference in the Canadian draft of the Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armament, signed at Washington, February 6, 1922, seems to be hardly necessary, as there is no real connection between the two and it is deemed to be desirable to preserve the historic independence of the agreement relating to the Great Lakes.
Article One follows the Canadian draft except that there are added the words “the waters tributary to the Great Lakes,” thereby somewhat enlarging the area of the waters designated.
The first clause of Article Two is identical with the Canadian draft. The second clause of the former, however, concerning the passage of vessels from the sea to the Lakes differs from the Canadian draft. The plan proposed by this Government does not forbid the passage of vessels of the two classes referred to in Article Three (those necessary for the enforcement of police laws and regulations, and naval vessels or merchant vessels converted to naval use); but it simply confines the class for the passage of which a mutual agreement beforehand is requisite to naval vessels other than of the character described in Article Three. Thus this clause when read in connection with Article Three has a twofold purpose. It gives sufficient latitude with respect to the passage of vessels which ought to be permitted to have access to the Lakes without special consent; and further, it excludes passage without that consent to the type of vessels normally not entitled to the privilege. It is believed, moreover, that the precise terms of the second paragraph of Article Three with respect to naval vessels or merchant vessels converted to naval use amply suffice to cover treatment to be accorded those ships.
The Canadian draft of Article Two which is framed on a different theory would serve to bar passage without previous consent not only to naval vessels whose presence on the Lakes was permitted, but also to any vessels well outside of that service, and used for public or private purposes, if they had been previously designed, built or ever used for any naval end. It is suggested that the American draft contains all sufficient safeguards and imposes no unnecessary restriction.
In Article Three the American draft makes differing provisions for two distinct class of vessels concerned. The first paragraph relates to such vessels “as may be necessary for the enforcement of police laws and regulations”. These are ships employed for purely domestic purposes, such as enforcement of revenue laws, police protection, rescue work and the like. It is firmly believed that their number, specifications and armament should not be subjected to international agreement from time to time. On the other hand, to allay all possible fears or misconception as to their use, the American [Page 492] draft provides that their armament is to be limited to such as is appropriate to the purpose to be served, and also that they shall not be used on the waters designated for militia training, for naval maneuvers or for naval training other than that of their regular crews. It is also declared that they shall never be used for hostile purposes—even in time of war. Thus this first paragraph as it stands forbids every improper use of such vessels contrary to the spirit of the treaty, yet at the same time gives reasonable latitude for the enforcement of police laws and regulations which impose a peculiarly heavy burden on the authorities of the United States.
The second paragraph of Article Three concerns naval vessels or merchant vessels converted to naval use. It is provided that they may be maintained “for training purposes only”, that they shall never be used for hostile purposes on the Great Lakes—even in time of war, and that “the number, specifications and armament of such vessels shall be the subject of agreement from time to time between the American and Canadian Governments.”
It is believed that the foregoing distinctive treatment accorded the two classes of vessels referred to in Article Three is closely responsive to the actual requirements of the present day. For that reason it is calculated to eliminate all unnecessary friction and thus to enable both countries to unite the more strongly for the abolishment of warlike acts on the Great Lakes.
According to Article Four no vessel built on the waters designated in Article One for naval service in other waters shall have any offensive or defensive armament placed on board, while in the waters designated in that Article. It will be noted that the words “in other waters” are a variation from the corresponding paragraph of the Canadian draft. Other differences in the phraseology between the two drafts of this Article are slight and require no comment.
Articles Five and Six of the two drafts are substantially alike.
In conclusion permit me to add that the Government and the people of the United States have been profoundly impressed by the practical value of the Rush-Bagot Agreement which despite its terms long since unresponsive to actual conditions has, through liberal and friendly interpretations on both sides of the boundary, served the real purpose for which it was concluded. It is with the warm desire to perpetuate the spirit of that Agreement by a fresh convention which by the reasonableness and flexibility of its terms may in no way weaken the common purpose of the two Governments that the accompanying draft treaty has been prepared.
I have the honor to request that you be good enough to transmit the treaty together with the views expressed in this communication to the Canadian Government.