C. P. Stacey on relations between US and Canada
June 7, 2011 8:57 AM Subscribe
The Undefended Border: the myth and the reality (PDF). In 1812, the US invaded Canada. Today, the US and Canada share the world's longest undefended border. What happened in between? Canadian historian C. P. Stacey discusses the history of relations between the US and Canada from the War of 1812 to the Treaty of Washington in 1871.
Forts were built on the American side of the border too, but the situation here was quite different from Canada's. Anyone who had read the history of 1812-14 or looked at a map knew that if there was another war between Britain and the United States it would be fought on two main fronts: the Canadian-American border and the United States' Atlantic coast. On the former the Americans had great advantages: vast superiority in numbers, more industries, better communications. Every soldier who ever considered the problem came to the conclusion that British strategy on the border could never be anything but basically defensive. Locally the British were weaker than the Americans; therefore they had far more need for fortifications and other artificial preparations.
On the seaboard it was different. Americans remembered the British blockade that had clamped down during the war; the roving cruisers and battleships that seemed to threaten every coastal town; above all, the crowning humiliation of the capture of Washington and the burning of the Capitol and the White House. This was the front where Britain could act offensively. She had the largest navy in the world; she had convenient bases at Halifax and Bermuda. So it was on the Atlantic coast, not on the border, that the United States made its main defensive preparations. As early as 1815 a large programme of coastal fortifications was launched, and the work went on for decades.
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments