842.154 Seattle-Fairbanks Highway/174

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

No. 972

Sir: I refer to the Department’s instruction no. 228 of January 30, 1936 and to subsequent correspondence regarding our efforts to obtain the consent of the Canadian Government to the construction of a highway to connect the northwestern part of continental United States with British Columbia, the Yukon Territory and the Territory of Alaska.

It has long been a source of disappointment to the President that the Canadian authorities have not found it possible to cooperate with us in the initiation of this project. He has recently written to me50 of his eagerness to have the highway completed as soon as possible, and of his hope that negotiations to this end may proceed vigorously.

At the same time, the President suggested the possibility of the establishment, by the two countries, of an international park in the region north and west of Skagway, Alaska. Such a park might include the Canadian territory lying directly north of the international boundary between the 141st and 135th meridians of longitude, with not only our own St. Elias and Fairweather Ranges, but Mt. Logan, second highest peak in the northern hemisphere. For our part the park might properly include the territory from the boundary to the coast lying between the 141st and 136th meridians of longitude, Malaspina Glacier in the West, Glacier Bay National Monument, and as far as Lynn Canal on the East and Icy Strait and Cross Sound on the South. The northern boundary of the park might follow a straight line from Mt. Foster, near Chilkoot Pass, to the 141st meridian, passing just north of Kluane Lake.

For your guidance, I am transmitting under separate cover a map on which is outlined, roughly, the area referred to.

Under the terms of an Act of Congress, approved on August 26, 1935, [Page 195] a copy of which was transmitted to you with the Department’s instruction no. 228 of January 30, 1936, the President was requested

“through such channels as he may deem proper, to negotiate and enter into an agreement or agreements between the Governments of the United States and of the Dominion of Canada, for the survey, location, and construction of a highway to connect the Pacific northwestern part of continental United States with British Columbia and Yukon Territory, in the Dominion of Canada, and the Territory of Alaska; in cooperation with the Government of the Dominion of Canada to cause a survey or surveys to be made to determine the most practicable route for such highway, as well as specifications and estimates of the probable cost thereof, and plans for financing its construction and maintenance.”

No formal reply has been received from the Canadian Government to the representations which you made in accordance with the provisions of law just quoted. You have been given to understand, however, that although both the Dominion Government and the Provincial Government of British Columbia are sympathetically disposed towards the project, doubts concerning the means whereby the Canadian share might be financed have been primarily responsible for the reluctance of the Dominion Government to enter into formal negotiations. These doubts are understandable, but they do not in our opinion form a valid basis for a refusal to initiate studies designed, among other things, to arrive at an equitable distribution between the two countries of the cost of the combined project, and to determine how the financial burden to both countries may be minimized.

You are therefore instructed to take this matter up again with the Canadian authorities, preferably in a formal note supported by oral representations, with the purpose of obtaining their immediate consent to the appointment of a Commission, on which both Governments would be represented, to explore the possibilities of the early construction of the proposed highway and the establishment of an international park.

It should not be difficult for the Governments to reach agreement on the terms of reference to such a Commission and, if the Dominion Government is sincere in its statement that it is sympathetically disposed towards the highway project, it is difficult to see how it can take objection to this proposal.

The following observations are added for your own information, but, in your discretion, you may use such of them as will be useful in your conversations with the Canadian authorities.

In the proposed combined project, the construction of the international highway is the objective to which this Government attaches by far the most importance. By itself, the proposed international park would obviously be of little utility, but this Government feels that it [Page 196] would be a useful adjunct to the highway and might serve as an added attraction to win the consent of the Canadians to the highway project. In particular, a simultaneous study of both projects might point the way to a method whereby the cost to Canada of its share of the highway project alone could be materially lessened.
The boundaries of the proposed international park, as set forth in this instruction, are tentative and are only indicated in order to give the Canadian authorities a general picture of what we have in mind. Should the Canadians feel that the proportion of Canadian territory in the proposed park is too great, we would be prepared to consider the expansion of the park westward to include Bering Glacier, and the Wrangell Mountains, which contain half a dozen peaks higher than any in continental United States and form a region of singular beauty.
You will observe that the city of Skagway, Alaska, and the territory in its immediate vicinity, are not included within the borders of the proposed international park. The omission is intentional. We realize, however, that for many years the question of the freer passage of ocean-borne goods into the Yukon has been of interest to the residents of that Territory. After your preliminary conversations with the Canadian authorities, should you consider it helpful in gaining their consent to the highway project, you are authorized to inform them that this Government is prepared to give sympathetic consideration to any suggestion which they may care to make having as its object the freer movement of goods between the Yukon and British Columbia.
It is contemplated that one of the requirements which we would impose upon the proposed Commission would be to submit definite recommendations to the two Governments upon the completion of its studies. Although we will naturally give the most careful and sympathetic consideration to any recommendations which the Commission may make and have no reason to believe that they will not be wholly acceptable to both Governments, we are prepared to reserve the right of each Government to propose changes in or reject the Commission’s recommendations, in whole or in part. A realization of the fact that the recommendations of the Commission need not be rigidly binding upon the Governments should make it easier for the Canadian authorities to agree to the appointment of the Commission. This point should not be stressed, however, unless it appears that your efforts will otherwise fail.

Please keep me fully and promptly informed of the progress of your representations.

Very truly yours,

Cordell Hull
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