Alaskan Boundary Dispute

Alaskan Boundary Dispute
   A Canadian-American dispute arising from the discovery of gold in the Klondike region in August 1896. The Canadian government unearthed the Anglo- Russian treaty of 1825, upon which the Russian-American Treaty of 1867 was based, to support its claim to a boundary that enabled Canada to keep a strip of land in the so-called Alaskan panhandle, thus cutting it off from the rest of Alaska. The main motivation on the Canadian side was to facilitate access by sea to the gold sites. A temporary agreement was reached in 1899 and passions cooled off until this modus vivendi was questioned three years later. In March 1902, American President Theodore Roosevelt, who regarded the Canadian claim as unfair and fraudulent, had troops sent to the disputed territory - the Lynn Canal - in southern Alaska. A convention - the Hay-Herbert Treaty - reluctantly negotiated in 1903 provided that “six impartial jurists of repute,” three for each party, would meet and settle the issue by a majority vote. For Roosevelt, this arrangement was simply meant to help Canadian and British leaders save face, for it was out of the question to yield any territory whatsoever. The Canadians were angered by his choice of fake jurists, who could not possibly be impartial in view of their connection with the Roosevelt Administration, but the British government was unwilling to antagonize the United States.
   The Alaskan Boundary Tribunal that sat in London from September 3 to October 20, 1903, vindicated the American position. The two Canadian members voted as expected, but Lord Chief Justice Alverstone sided with the three Americans, to Roosevelt’s intense satisfaction. In so doing, he did not so much heed the Rough Rider’s waving of the Big Stick as he chose to incur the Canadians’ wrath for the sake of his own country’s policy of friendship with the United States. Despite occasional bickering, the late nineteenth century had been an era of Anglo- American rapprochement. To Roosevelt, who admired the British Empire and believed in the civilizing mission of “the English-speaking race,” an Anglo-Saxon entente was a valuable asset in world politics in an age of imperial rivalries, and many Englishmen shared his views, which accounted for British moderation in the dispute.
   See also <>.
    Beale, Howard K. Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of America to World Power. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press Paperbacks, 1984;
    Campbell, Charles S., Jr. Anglo-American Understanding, 1898-1903. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1957;
    Marks, Frederick W., III. Velvet on Iron: The Diplomacy of Theodore Roosevelt. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979;
    Tansill, Charles C. Canadian-American Relations, 1875-1911. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1943;
    Tilchin, William N. Theodore Roosevelt and the British Empire: A Study in Presidential Statecraft. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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