No. 941
Agreed Minutes of a Meeting Between President Truman and Canadian Representatives 1


Minutes of Discussion with the President on the St. Lawrence Project Held at the White House on April 14th

At the meeting in the President’s office at 12:30 p.m. on April 14th there were present from the Administration:

  • President Truman,
  • Mr. Dean Acheson, Secretary of State,
  • Mr. David Bruce, Under Secretary of State,
  • Mr. Stanley Woodward, U.S. Ambassador to Canada, and
  • Mr. Charles Murphy, Special Counsel to the President.

The Canadian representatives were:

  • The Hon. L. B. Pearson, Secretary of State for External Affairs,
  • The Hon. Lionel Chevrier, Minister of Transport, and
  • Mr. Hume Wrong, Ambassador to the United States.

The President opened the meeting by saying that there had been more than enough delay in getting the St. Lawrence Project under way and that he was anxious that it should be started as soon as possible. There was, however, some prospect that the Senate would act on the 1941 Agreement; the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was to consider the matter on April 22nd and it was expected that the Committee would report the joint resolution endorsing the Agreement.2 He therefore asked that the Canadian Government should consent to wait for thirty days in order to determine what action the Senate might take, adding that this was the last time on which he would make a suggestion for a further delay.

He asked Mr. Acheson whether he had any comment to make on his opening remarks. Mr. Acheson said that he fully agreed that [Page 2030] the patience shown by the Canadian Government was extraordinary, and he supported the views expressed by the President.

Mr. Pearson welcomed the remarks made by the President. The Canadian Government, however, was anxious that there should be no delay in taking the first step necessary to clear the way for the construction of the waterway by Canada, which was agreement on a reference to the International Joint Commission of the power phases of the project by both governments. Such a reference as soon as possible would not prejudice the joint project if Congress were to act before the end of the session.

Mr. Truman said that he had no objection whatever to the two governments proceeding to a reference to the International Joint Commission without any delay. He asked Mr. Murphy to speak on the problem of designating a U.S. agency to share in the construction of the power facilities.

Mr. Murphy said that it would not be necessary immediately to specify any particular agency. Later on a particular agency could be named after it became clear that the Congress would not act on the joint project. He asked whether the reference to the I.J.C. would cover the Canadian waterway as well as the power facilities.

Mr. Pearson said that it was not necessary to refer the Canadian waterway to the I.J.C. The Canadian Government, however, was prepared to give the most definite assurances that the waterway would be constructed by Canada. The engineers designated by Canada to sit on any engineering board set up for the power facilities by the I.J.C. would be the same men who would be responsible for the plans for navigation.

Mr. Acheson then inquired whether any issues concerning water levels in the St. Lawrence would arise in connection with the building of the canal in Canadian territory. Mr. Chevrier explained that in constructing the Canadian waterway the plans employed for regulation of levels were those embodied as Method No. 5 in the plans for the joint project and that these plans had been fully agreed by the engineers of both countries. Mr. Pearson remarked that if it was found that the building of a Canadian waterway involved matters coming within the scope of the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 the questions of levels in the river might have to be considered by the I.J.C.

In answer to a question by Mr. Acheson, Mr. Chevrier gave an assurance that the plans for power development would be the same as those worked out in the 1941 Agreement if the waterway was to be constructed by Canada.

Mr. Pearson and Mr. Chevrier remarked that it would be an advantage if the U.S. agency which would cooperate with Ontario were the New York Power Authority. They explained that Ontario [Page 2031] and New York had already worked out an agreement on the tricky question of the division of costs between power and navigation facilities and that it would be very convenient not to disturb this.

The President agreed that the two governments should go ahead at once in preparing an application to the I.J.C., remarking that this might stimulate the Congress to move on the joint project. He asked Mr. Murphy to urge the U.S. Departments and Agencies concerned to get on with the preparation of an application as rapidly as possible. He added that he would do anything that was legal, legitimate and fair to further the project at this time.3

Mr. Murphy observed that one of the things that would need doing would be to get before the Federal Power Commission an application of a U.S. entity for permission to construct the U.S. share of the power facilities.

Mr. Acheson then said that he wished to be quite clear on the agreement which had been reached. Was he correct in understanding the discussion as concluding that a period of thirty days would be left after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered the joint project on April 22nd before an application would be submitted to the I.J.C., and that later on if it became apparent that the joint project was dead a specific agency would be designated by the President to develop the U.S. part of the power works?

Mr. Pearson said that that was not his exact understanding. What he understood was that an application would be filed with the I.J.C. as soon as it could be prepared without any necessity for waiting thirty days from April 22nd if the application was ready before then. During the thirty-day period, the designation by the United States of a particular agency to undertake the power development was not expected, but this would follow in due course if Congress had taken no action. If the Congress were to approve the joint project within that time, or indeed at any time while the application was under consideration by the I.J.C, both governments would be ready to revert to the 1941 Agreement and withdraw the matter from the I.J.C.

The President endorsed the interpretation given by Mr. Pearson, and it was agreed to proceed as rapidly as possible with the preparation of the application to the I.J.C. It was also agreed that the press should be so informed at once.

  1. Source: This record, although it carries the date Apr. 14 on the source text, is the final version of an original draft by Wrong which was altered slightly according to suggestions made by Bruce on Apr. 16 and approved by Wrong on Apr. 21. The original draft, the Bruce suggestions, and the approval by Wrong are in files 611.42321 SL/4–1552, 4–1652, and 4–2152, respectively.
  2. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Apr. 22, 9–4, to report the St. Lawrence Seaway Bill (S. J. Res. 27) for the calendar without recommendation. After Senate debate, beginning June 12, the resolution was returned to committee on a 43–40 role call vote on June 18. For an account of the legislative action in 1953 on this joint construction project, see the Congressional Quarterly Almanac, vol. viii, 1952, pp. 338–341. A plea from President Truman not to kill the legislation was brushed aside.
  3. On Apr. 19, President Truman sent identical letters to Tom Connally, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and Charles Buckley, Chairman of the House Committee on Public Works, informing them of the substance of this Apr. 14 meeting and urging them to speed Congressional approval of the joint U.S.Canadian development plan under the 1941 Agreement. For the text of the letters, see Department of State Bulletin, May 5, 1952, p. 719.