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Rush-Bagot Agreement

One of the shortest Agreements defining peace/disarmement terms ever written 1 , started with HRH the Prince Regent agreeing on 2 August 1816 to a proposal by President Munroe, was negociated as an exchange of notes during 1817, ratified by the US Senate on April 28, 1818 and by Great Britain on October 2, 1818. This Agreement led to the "longest undefended border" which has only begun to crumple since 11 Septeber 2001.

     The naval force to be maintained upon the American Lakes by His Majesty and the Govermment of the United States shall henceforth be confined to the following vessels on each side, that is

  • On Lake Ontario, to one vessel not exceeding one hundred tons burden, and armed with one eighteen pound cannon.
  • On the upper lakes, to two vessels, not exceeding like burden each, and armed with like force.
  • On the waters of Lake Champlain, to one vessel not exceeding like burden, and armed with like force.

     All other armed vessels on these lakes shall be forthwith dismantled, and no other vessels of war shall be there built or armed.

     If either party should hereafter be desirous of annulling this stipulation, and should give notice to that effect to the other party it shall cease to be binding after the expiration of six months from the date of such notice.

     The naval force so to be limited shall be restricted to such services as will, in no respect, interfere with the proper duties of the armed vessels of the other party.

 

In 1864, during the American Civil War, strained relations with Canada caused the Secretary of State, William H. Seward, to announce that the United States intended to abrogate, but before the six months of grace had elapsed the announcement was canceled.

 

Exchange of notes (November 18 and December 5, 1946) between Canada and the United States of America relating to the application and interpretation of the (Rush-Bagot) agreement of 1817 concerning the naval forces on the Great Lakes 2 :

The Canadian Ambassador to the United States to the Secretary of State of the United States
CANADIAN EMBASSY
Washington, November 18, 1946.
Note 421

Sir,

You will recall that the Rush-Bagot Agreement of 1817 has been the subject of discussion between our Governments on several Occasions in recent years and that notes were exchanged in 1939, 1940 and 1942 3 relating to the application and interpretation of this Agreement. It has been recognized by both our Governments that the detailed provisions of the Rush-Bagot Agreement are not applicable to present day conditions, but that as a symbol of friendly relations extending over a period of nearly one hundred and thirty years the Agreement possesses great historic importance. It is thus the spirit of the Agreement rather than its detailed provisions which serves to guide our Governments in matters relating to naval forces on the Great Lakes.

Discussions have taken place in the Permanent Joint Board on Defence with regard to the stationing on the Great Lakes of naval vessels for the purpose of training naval reserve personnel. The naval authorities of both our Governments regard such a course as valuable from the point of view of naval training and the Board has recorded its opinion that such action would be consistent with the spirit of existing agreements. The Canadian Government concurs in this opinion.

In order that the views of our two Governments may be placed on record, I have the honour to propose that the stationing of naval vessels on the Great Lakes for training purposes by either the Canadian Government or the United States Government shall be regarded as consistent with the spirit of the Rush-Bagot Agreement provided that full information about the number, disposition, functions and armament of such vessels shall be communicated by each Government to the other in advance of the assignment of vessels to service on the Great Lakes. If your Government concurs in this view, this note and your reply thereto shall be regarded as constituting a further interpretation of the Rush-Bagot Agreement accepted by our two Governments.

Accept, Sir, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.

[signed]
H. H. WRONG,
Canadian Ambassador.

The Acting Secretary of State of the United States to the Canadian Ambassador to the United States
Department of State
Washington, December 5, 1946.

Excellency:

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note No. 421 of November 18, 1946, in which you advised me that your Government has proposed a further interpretation of the detailed provisions of the Rush-Bagot Agreement. My Government is in complete accord with yours as to the historic importance of this Agreement as a symbol of the friendship between our two countries and agrees that it is the spirit of this Agreement which guides our Governments in matters relating to naval forces on the Great Lakes.

I am now pleased to inform you that my Government concurs with your proposal, namely, that the stationing of naval vessels on the Great Lakes for training purposes by either the Canadian Government or the United States Government shall be regarded as consistent with the spirit of the Rush-Bagot Agreement provided that full information about the number, disposition, functions and armament of such vessels shall be communicated by each Government to the other in advance of the assignment of vessels to service on the Great Lakes.

Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.

[signed]
DEAN ACHESON,
Acting Secretary of State.

Notes:

General: see "The Rush-Bagot Agreement of 1817" E.H. Scammell, Papers and Records of the Ontario Historical Society, Volume XIII, Toronto, 1915; and "150 years of Peace under a Six-Month Pact" E.R. Battenfeld, Inland Seas, Vol. 23 No 2, Cleveland, 1967

1.   Signed by Richard Rush, Acting Secretary of State of the United States, and Charles Bagot, British Minister in Washington

2.   For the text of the Rush-Bagot Agreement of 1817, see "Treaties affecting Canada in force between His Majesty and the United States of America". Ottawa. King's Printer, 1927, p. 12.

3.   For the text of the Exchange of Notes see Canada Treaty Series, 1940, No. 12 and 1942, No. 3

 

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