340. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Merchant) to the Secretary of State 2


  • St. Lawrence Seaway—Difficulty with the Canadian Government

We foresee real trouble in a situation which is developing over the St. Lawrence Seaway. Deputy Secretary Anderson, who has responsiblity for supervision of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, may be in touch with you today. The essential background is set out below.

The Wiley–Dondero Act, approved May 13, 1954,3 required our St. Lawrence Corporation to construct (a) canal and lock at Point Rockway, N.Y., (b) canal and locks at Barnhart Island, N.Y., and (c) dredging in Thousand Islands section. This was followed by negotiations with the Canadians resulting in exchange of notes on August 17, 1954.4 These negotiations were necessary because on June 30, 1952,5 we had agreed with the Canadians that they would build the entire Seaway on their side of the boundary. The Canadians were then pressing us to go ahead on the joint power development in the St. Lawrence. The Administration felt that we should not agree to the [Page 844] joint power development without insuring that the Seaway got built and it did not then seem likely that Congress would ever authorize our participation.

During the August 1954 negotiations the Canadians made clear that when, in their judgment, conditions (increased traffic OR “unreasonable” restrictions imposed by us on Canadian and foreign shipping) warranted, they would duplicate on the Canadian side all the 27 foot facilities, i.e., have an all-Canadian Seaway. They also said that they intended now to build on their side opposite Point Rockway, N.Y., a canal and lock which would duplicate the facilities noted under (a) in the previous paragraph. The Canadians said they had to do this in order to reassure the opinion in Canada which wanted an all-Canadian Seaway that there would be one at some time in the future. We agreed to their doing it although our legislation directed us to build on the opposite side at Point Rockway. Our intention then was to get authority from Congress in due course to omit the construction at Point Rockway. The plan now is to get this authority in a few months. Mr. Anderson and Mr. Castle 6 do not, however, want to go to Congress for this authority until construction is actually started on our side, for fear that the historic opposition to the entire Seaway project will in some way confuse the issues and once more delay it.

One tactic which this opposition will use is the argument that the indications are that Canada intends to build complete 27 foot facilities on her side of the boundary and that there is therefore no need for the U.S. to do anything. There have been rumors that Canada is making plans to duplicate now our other major facilities (canal and locks near Barnhart Island). Mr. Anderson and Mr. Castle therefore want to get a flat assurance from the Canadian Government that they do not intend to build parallel facilities on their side of the boundary until the increased traffic warrants it.

On January 6, 1955, C.D. Howe7 and Lester Pearson came to Washington for another purpose and, while here, talked to Deputy Secretary Anderson. Mr. Elbrick was present and, during that meeting, the Canadian Ministers gave flat assurances along the lines we wanted and agreed to an exchange of letters to the effect that they did not intend to construct facilities paralleling our own until the traffic required them and that we, on our side, intended to get legislative authority to forego the construction at Point Rockway, N.Y., which would duplicate the facilities which the Canadians have already started to construct on their side at that point.8

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Working on a draft initiated by Mr. Castle and cleared by him with Mr. Anderson, the White House, Senator Wiley and Congressman Dondero, we have been trying for nearly a month now to agree on a text which would be satisfactory. For reasons which we cannot fathom, the Canadians are being extremely difficult and Mr. Castle and Mr. Anderson are sufficiently concerned to feel that they should talk again with the Canadian Ministers.


Our suggestion is that you call Mr. Anderson, tell him that you have been told of the problem in general terms and ask him if he and Mr. Castle could come and talk to you or Mr. Hoover as a preliminary to either (a) your calling in the Canadian Ambassador and laying the problem before him in frank terms, or (b)9 Mr. Anderson and Mr. Castle going to Ottawa and, with Ambassador Stuart, talking direct to Messrs. Pearson and Howe and, if necessary, Prime Minister St. Laurent.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.42321–SL/2–1455. Official Use Only. Drafted by Outerbridge Horsey and cleared with EUR and H.
  2. For text, see 68 Stat. 92.
  3. For texts, see 5 UST (pt. 2) 1784. For further information, see Foreign Relations, 1952–1954, vol. VI, Part 2, p. 2134.
  4. Texts of the Canadian and U.S. notes, June 30, 1952, are printed in Department of State Bulletin, July 14, 1952, p. 65.
  5. Lewis Castle, Administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.
  6. CD. Howe, Canadian Minister of Trade and Commerce.
  7. A memorandum of conference recording the substance of these conversations, January 6, is in Department of State, Central Files, 611.42321–SL/1–655.
  8. A marginal note indicates that Merchant favored (b). Subsequently, a meeting was held in Ottawa on February 18 during which the U.S. proposal made on January 6 was adopted, and notes incorporating this agreement were exchanged on February 21 and 22. (Despatch 588 from Ottawa, February 23; Department of State, Central Files, 611.42321–SL/2–2355)