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DEVAU, Retor, CLAUDE – Volume IV (1771-1800)

d. 14 April 1784 at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade (La Pérade, Que.)


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

Relations with the United States
Original title:  Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska - June Allen

Source: Link


The government of Sir Wilfrid LAURIER maintained generally cordial relations with the United States. Nevertheless, those relations included a share of troubles, as mentioned in the following excerpt from Laurier’s biography:

“The basic challenge for [Laurier] was to establish Canada’s position in relation to Great Britain and to the United States, the powerful, overly aggressive neighbour that considered it a mere appendage to the mother country. The issues between Canada and the United States had to do with trade, fishing rights, and, most serious, the determination of the Alaska boundary.”


Commercial reciprocity was a major issue in relations between Canada and the United States. It arose repeatedly during Laurier’s political career, both in internal party discussions and in public opinion [see The Pragmatist: Canada after Confederation]:

“Until 1891 [Laurier] did his best to resist the attack on unrestricted reciprocity, regarded by many as equivalent to commercial union, which they believed could deprive Canada of its identity. He held out against Blake and other influential Liberals, and against the members of the Imperial Federation League, who were constantly crying treason to the empire and conjuring up annexation to the United States. He even had to defend himself against the Americans, who were shutting themselves off in a policy of narrow protectionism. Despite his efforts, reciprocity did not become as effective a tool for mobilizing the rank and file as he would have liked.”


After completing a tour of the Canadian west in 1910 and hearing the demands of farmers (a large economic pressure group) Laurier returned to Ottawa more convinced than ever of the need for Canada to reach a reciprocal trade agreement with the United States. However, the prime minister encountered fierce opposition:

“On 26 Jan. 1911 Fielding triumphantly announced to a stunned house the details of an agreement that would permit free trade between the two countries in most so-called natural products but only a small number of manufactured goods. Borden’s crestfallen Conservatives were convinced they would languish in opposition for a long time to come. Laurier’s beautiful dream soon faded, however. A couple of weeks were enough to reinvigorate the Conservatives and arouse opposition outside parliament. In February financiers and manufacturers, along with a few Liberal mps, began a savage attack on the bill as destructive of Canadian prosperity and identity. They formed an alliance with the Conservatives and raised the spectre of annexation to the United States and disloyalty to the empire. Sifton, who was still an mp, and 18 Liberal businessmen and financiers in Toronto made a private pact with Borden to defeat Laurier.”


To learn more about relations between Canada and the United States at the time of the Laurier administration, we invite you to explore the following lists of biographies.


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