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Canada and the United States, having completed more than a century of friendship with growing mutual respect and increasing co-operation, are closer together today, economically and spiritually, than any other two important nations in the world.

These two countries are active participants in world affairs, custodians of 13 per cent of the world’s area and home of seven per cent of the world’s population.

Few figures are necessary in an essay about Canada and the United States. Despite their liking for statistical data, these people are more interested in the vital aspects of life, in thinking and feeling and doing. Here is a comparison, in three lines, of some numerical features:

  Canada The United States
Area (square miles) 3,695,189 3,022,387
Population (1956) 16,081,000 168,174,000
National Income (1956) $23,049,000,000 $343,600,000,000

The per capita national income is $1,433 in Canada and $2,043 in the United States, but the disparity does not mean that Canadians are indigent neighbours. Their standard of living does not differ greatly from that across the line.

Some persons go to the length of thinking that Canadians are just like Americans except that they did not have sense enough to settle farther south where it is not so cold, and that their population clusters along the border because Canadians wish to get as close to the United States as they can.

It is true that hall the Canadians live within 100 miles, and 90 per cent within 250 miles, of the border, but it is also true that more than half the population of the United States lives within 250 miles of the same border.

The explanation is simple; in the early days there were no highways or railroads, and the pioneers were compelled to travel by water. Settlements grew up beside the rivers and the lakes they connected, and many of these waterways extend along what is now the boundary.

A shadowy boundary line

Once these two peoples were enemies, and now they are friends. They didn’t make the change by thinking high and obscure thoughts about the brotherhood of man, but by learning in the uneasy school of experience that it is better business to be friendly, and only common sense to be neighbourly.

Both nations are proud of their record in having one of the most artificial boundary lines in the world, a boundary whose shadowy quality is attested by many amusing incidents. In Rock Island, for instance, a man may get his hair cut in Canada and his shoes shined in the United Statcs at the same time; and nearby a car driving along the highway from east to west is in Canada, but if it is going from west to east it is in the United States.

This boundary is crossed by more trade, travel, tourists, money, television and radio programmes, trains, cars, newspapers, hockey, and goodwill than any other frontier in the world. Canadians and Americans do much the same things, and frequently do them together.

If anyone wishes to really understand the completeness of the disregard shown the border line, he should stand anywhere along the Niagara-Buffalo boundary on the first or fourth of July. Whether it be the celebration of American Independence or of Canadian Confederation, the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jacks are all mixed up together, as tourists pour back and forth over the international bridges.

It took a hundred years to lay out this boundary, about 3,300 miles in length between Canada and the United States, and an additional 1,540 relies between Canada and Alaska. It was not done without mistakes, some of them laughable now, though headaches at the time. For example, after the Americans had erected a fort at great expense near Rouse’s Point, a survey revealed that it was on the Canadian side of the line. Did the countries go to war about the fort? The solution was simpler than that: they just moved the boundary line, so that the fort was on United States soil.

Northwest, where Ontario, Manitoba and Minnesota come together, a mistake in draughtmanship caused a little jog in the line, which encloses a section of mainland 10 by 12 miles, and about 100 islands. It contains the most northerly post office in the United States, and has a population of 100, but it can only be reached through Canada or by boat over Lake of the Woods.

The flow of ideas

Obviously, neither nation can distrust very much another with which it has such relations; which goes into similar hysterics over the World Series, uses the same shave lotions and lipsticks, cures its colds and poison ivy with the same nostrums and creams, and twists the language into queer forms to express indignation at having to stand in street cars and trains.

But this does not mean that the people are the same. Actually each nation has its own peculiarities and characteristics. It is not a two-dimensional matter only, a length of border line and the traffic across it. The question is no longer as to where an invisible line runs; it has moved into the realm where men on both sides are wondering how the flow of people, rivers, harvesting machines, and trade across this line may be added to by the flow of ideas, so that the well-being of both peoples may be promoted.

A little history

Canadian-American history is not made up of wars, reigns of kings and terms of presidents. It is composed of the play of constructive forces in culture, economics and politics.

The flurry which grew out of objections to the stamp tax and the duty on tea back in the 1770’s changed into a dispute on the principle of the right of Great Britain to legislate for the colonies. This was fanned by the ineptitude of the king, who did not learn until the battle of Yorktown that his attempt must be abandoned. Then he found that he had also lost his royal supremacy over parliament, so the uprising in America contributed in no little measure to the victory of the principle of parliamentary government in Great Britain, and may be regarded as the primary element in colonial self-determination.

Canada has been twice invaded by Americans (1775 and 1812), when the southern neighbours thought they were going to conquer Canada for Canada’s good. A “friendly invasion” was launched upon Montreal and Quebec with the idea of carrying the country into Union as a fourteenth state. Chateau de Ramezay, which still stands as a museum a few city blocks from the Head Office of The Royal Bank of Canada, was headquarters for the American General Montgomery. To it there came Benjamin Franklin, armed with arguments of permanent peace, in an effort to coax the ministry into transferring Quebec to the United States.

A half century later, in the war of 1812, the Americans burned York, now Toronto, at a time when of the total 80,000 population of what is now Ontario only 35,000 were Loyalists and 25,000 were American settlers. In true reciprocal fervor, the British burned Washington a year later.

These things seem old and remote. Canadians have long ago wiped from the slate of their memory the feeling of an old feud in which blood ran high at the time, and both nations refuse to allow judgment on present-day relationships to be warped by ancient memories. In this they show the Old World a sterling example.

There lingered for many years a feeling on the American side that Canada’s “manifest destiny” was union with the United States, though belligerency gave way to a complacent wait-fulness which was quite irritating to the Canadians.

This attitude dated from the very beginning of the United States. In one section of the Articles of Confederation a special dispensation was given Canada, alone among the nations, to join the Union: “Canada, acceding to this Confederation, and joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this Union; but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine states.”

As MacCormac writes in America and World Mastery, Americans were “astonished and even pained to find that Canadians preferred the shackles of monarchy.”

Consultation and arbitration

Thus developed the relationship of these two countries, from single sovereignty through revolution to separation; from attempts by arms to return the Loyalists to the fold of the republicans to negotiation for union as one of the new states; from predictions that the Dominion would fai1 to function in its new status to the present-day union of friendship which needs no constitution.

Only an occasional lonely, and to Canadians rather silly, voice is raised in these days in favour of the old annexationist ideas. Such expansionist aspirations are at odds with the desire of the people of United States and Canada for a world in which small nations shall be safe from molestation.

How the two nations work together in harmony, even in deciding difficult matters, is shown by their wholesale introduction of the principles of consultation and arbitration into practically all affairs. The long habit of peaceful settlement has consolidated friendship on a base of realism which passes the test of practicality as well as the test of idealism.

Part of the secret of continued amity seems to be that these countries do not wait for irreconcilable ideas to collide at the border. They tackle them early, and use common sense, ingenuity, and a blind eye to get around, over or under obstacles.

Invest in each other

The rest of the world looks with respect, and sometimes envy, upon the economic development of the North American nations. Life on this continent is not the simple, frugal undertaking it is in older countries, devoid of comforts and conveniences.

Geography and the pressure of events have combined to intertwine closely the business structures of Canada and the United States. The unusual degree of similarity in the economy of the two countries has meant that business men and capitalists have been attracted by opportunities across the line.

The latest available figures report the following long-term foreign investments in Canada: United States $11,785 million, Great Britain $2,661 million, others $1,110 million: total $15,556 million. In 1956, Canadian investments abroad totalled $4,466 million, of which $2,042 million was in the United States and $1,344 in the United Kingdom.

Canadians are naturally more conscious of United States investments in Canada than are Americans of Canadian investments in the United States, though per capita the investments in the United States by Canadians are nearly twice as great as those of the United States in Canada.

Trade over the border

These two countries are each other’s best customers, with a total volume of trade exceeding the total of trade between any other two countries.

Canada’s economic experiences have not been easy. She is rich in resources, and her people are energetic and efficient, but her home market of consumers is too small to absorb the production of her farms, forests and factories.

Her darkest days, probably, were in the middle 1800’s, when Great Britain adopted free trade, because that action deprived her of a favoured position in the colonial empire. So black was the outlook that talk of annexation to the United States sprang up, and a manifesto was published in Montreal in 1849 calling for union of the two countries.

Five years later a reciprocity treaty with the United States relieved Canadians of their fears, but in 1866 it was cancelled, largely due to Washington’s resentment toward British sympathies with the South during the civil war.

By 1897, after many futile attempts to regain reciprocal treatment, Canada adopted imperial preference, and switched to ideas of trade with the Empire. In 1911 a second reciprocity treaty was rejected at a Canadian election.

The tariff war had its greatest flare-up in the Fordney-McCumber and Smoot-Hawley tariffs of 1922 and 1930, which reduced Canadian access to American markets, and Canadians retaliated with large tariff increases of their own. In 1932 Canada entered into the “Ottawa” agreements designed to make the Empire more self-sufficient.

By 1935 everyone was tired of the tariff battle. The reciprocal trade agreement reached in that year was revised and renewed in 1938, when Great Britain also completed a trade pact with the United States.

Just how important the bilateral exchange of goods can become is indicated by comparing 1939 with 1957. In the year war broke out, Canada bought United States goods valued at $497 million, and in 1957 her purchases from the United States totalled $4,003 million; in 1939 United States purchases in Canada amounted to $380 million, and in 1957 they totalled $2,943 million.

It may be seen, therefore, that the interchange of capital and the growth of bilateral trade have reached proportions which make them important to both countries. They have come into being in a normal way in the course of business, and not by forced culture.

Canada’s problems

Canada has her own problems. Being a small nation with enough wealth for a large one she faces special responsibilities and dangers.

To those who have learned to view the globe from the top, it is clear that Canada is at the centre of world power, surrounded by the United States, Great Britain and Russia. That position used to mean safety, but the strategy of air war has made her land mass a critical area in event of war.

Her political integrity is assured, her external relationships are clean of all selfish imputations, and she has many friends throughout the world. Her innate conservatism keeps the nation a political sobersides; her racial dualism gives her a tolerance and an understanding important in international dealings; her national feeling, based upon pride in her industrial, agricultural and military achievements, prevents her from becoming a drag upon progress. She is playing her part on international committees and in conferences and international work.

All this indicates that Canada has an importance in the world of nations far beyond her meagre population. She stands erect as an autonomous nation. Full stature was reached in 1931, when Canada accomplished peacefully the same result that the War of Independence achieved 155 years earlier for the United States: recognition as an independent nation. The extent of this independence was illustrated by the fact that Canada declared war on Germany seven days later than Great Britain; she declared war on Japan before either Great Britain or the United States; and she need not have declared war on anybody if she had wished to stand aside.

The Commonwealth

At the same time, Canada is a partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations, which stands by itself in history as a remarkable political institution. It is a world wonder that the British mother country, a mere dot on the map, con inspire such tenacious loyalty as to bind far-off nations such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa to herself in spire of powerful attractions of environment and difference in living.

Commonwealth members enjoy all the elements of freedom, and yet are bound together by loyalty to the Crown, by a great inheritance of political and social and moral precepts, and by traditions that time has been unable to weaken.

Canada’s position in the British Commonwealth does not make her less an American nation, and she pursues a friendly and mutually helpful cultural and business relationship with all the nations in the Americas.

Mixed national base

Canada is a bilingual country, with nearly 31 per cent of its population of French origin. In the Province of Quebec this large minority has maintained a cohesion of custom, religion and language which distinguishes it nationally and internationally.

The French Canadian was cut off almost completely from Europe by the fall of New France in the Seven Years’ War and the gulf produced by the anti-clerical aspects of the French Revolution. He regards himself as truly Canadian.

Because of its dual base and subsequent mixed immigration, Canada will never produce a narrow racial nationalism. The trend is evident in these figures of population:

Origin: 1871 1931 1951
  % % %
British 60.5 51.9 47.9
French 31.1 28.2 30.8
Others 8.4 19.9 21.3

Information needed

One thing is much needed by Canada and the United States: information. Publicity of each country in the other has not been noticeably brilliant. Politicians and public servants often fail to understand that resentment to change, and opposition to new ideas, do not spring from cussedness but from failure to understand the reasons.

Education and information of the general public, not on partisan or emotional lines but on facts and logic told interestingly, would avert many headaches. Continental thinking is a necessary prelude to international thinking, something to be fostered in both countries. It can be done if the immediate and temporary pleasure of recounting the more sensational and lunatic aspects of life is supplanted by features vital to the future and the permanent.

There are, of course, obstacles in the way of the most complete correlation of effort by these two countries for their own advancement and the good of the world. But there exist in the hearts and minds of their people powerful generative impulses which need only to be set free by interest to bring about wonders.

The need for striking off restraining shackles is more important now than ever. The international collaboration in which the United States and Canada are engaged with other nations extends to all human activities, and involves every citizen, and is not any longer the prerogative of ambassadors and foreign office officials.

There are few sceptics in these countries among patriotic and thinking people, because it would be very un-American (in the broad sense of “American” which includes Canada) to entertain any doubt that this continent will come out all right.

But realization is needed of the truth that a happy future does not lie in the path of do-nothing-ism. Having agreed on ideals which are the outgrowth of centuries of experience, and having planned how the ideals are to be sought in a world passionately realistic, then the people of Canada and the United States must face actualities, think intelligently and pronounce intelligibly, build durably, and work without ceasing.