The Minister in Canada (Phillips) to the Secretary of State

No. 756

Sir: With reference to my despatch No. 711, of October thirtieth in connection with the proposed arbitration treaty between the United States and Great Britain, I have the honor to report that I had occasion to discuss the matter again with Dr. Skelton with the idea of ascertaining whether there had been any further action by the British or Canadian Governments in that regard. The Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs told me that both the Prime Minister and he himself had considered that it would be very advantageous if questions of a purely Canadian-American character should be dealt with by the International Joint Commission, rather than under the general Arbitration Treaty. They both were of the opinion that the Boundary Waters Treaty12 clearly permitted, if not indeed encouraged, the handing over to the International Joint Commission of a wide range of subjects. Articles 9 and 10 of the Treaty provided both for conciliation and arbitration inasmuch as action by only one of the high contracting parties could elicit the examination and a report on “any other questions or matters of difference arising between them (the high contracting parties) involving the rights, obligations or interests of either in relation to the other or to the inhabitants of the other along the common boundary”, while Canada and the United States jointly could refer the same subjects to the Commission for a decision.

According to Dr. Skelton, Sir Wilfred Laurier13 had always described the Commission as a miniature Hague Tribunal for the United States and Canada, and Mr. King14 believed in the desirability of making the most of this idea to the mutual advantage of both Canada and the United States. It appears that when Sir Austen Chamberlain15 was. recently in Ottawa the Prime Minister talked the matter over with him.

Dr. Skelton gave me the impression that his Government strongly favored dealing with the matter in the manner described above as [Page 950] that calculated best to provide for American-Canadian relations, and expressed the hope that the Legation would give it consideration, and even approval.

If the Department views the Canadian thesis favorably I venture to suggest that I might be instructed to convey this fact informally to the Dominion authorities. It would appear that the proposed arrangement might be desirable because in employing the machinery already provided by the Boundary Waters Treaty further emphasis is given to the unique cooperation which has existed between Canada and the United States in the settlement of their respective difficulties. The Department may also find a further argument in favor of the matter under discussion in the fact that to do otherwise might appear to run counter to the Canadian policy of independence in foreign affairs when embracing questions that are of immediate concern to the Dominion.

I have [etc.]

William Phillips
  1. Foreign Relations, 1910, p. 532.
  2. Leader of the Liberal party in Canada and former Prime Minister.
  3. Mackenzie King, Canadian Prime Minister.
  4. British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.