Sunday, February 15, 2015
Peace in the North
While the former Confederate States were to be forcefully brought back into the Union with compliant government, the Roosevelt Administration took a different route in dealing with America’s neighbors to the north. Canada, and its British master, were to be treated as equals at the negotiating table. In 1916, the two sides agreed to an armistice, that is a cease fire. Official peace did not arrive until after negotiations were complete in Halifax. Roosevelt’s primary goal was to regain territory lost in the Second and Third Anglo-American Wars, with the congressional delegation from Washington screaming for the past thirty years over ‘unredeemed Washington’, that is the land west of the Columbia River ceded to Canada in 1885.
The return of northern Maine, the Red River Basin and western Washington were an assumed term that neither side tried to dodge, though a number of Canadian and British settlers in the Puget Sound protested over being left to fend for themselves against the Americans. Along with the return of land, a precondition of the opening of negotiations would require a guarantee of property rights for all people who live in the exchanged lands. Roosevelt did not dispute it, saying that property rights were a sacred American institution.
President Roosevelt, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour and Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden met in Halifax during July 1917, to hammer our an agreement between the three nations with the ultimate goal being a permanent peace. For too long the English speaking word was divided against itself. With the C.S.A. no longer in existence there was no reason why a reconciliation could not be achieved. After all, mending the rift between North and South would prove a far greater challenge.
When the treaty was drafted and presented to the Senate, Senators balked at the idea of letting the hated British off so easily. At the very least, the United States should take ownership of all the Oregon Country or Britain’s Caribbean possessions. Roosevelt, not wanting to see his growing legacy as a peace maker destroyed, thundered to a group of Senators in private that the United States Army was already overburdened in the occupation and reconstruction of the South. It was quite impossible to occupy Canada as well, unless the Congress planned on raising more troops and thus raising taxes. With a massive war debt already on the books, the debate over ratification was short. Even then, Senators from Massachusetts, New York and Wisconsin voted against the Treaty of Halifax.
Terms of the treaty are summarizes as the following; 1) The northern border of the United States would have northern Maine, western Washington and the Red River Basin south of the 49th Parallel restored to the Union. Furthermore, the island of Vancouver and adjacent islands would be ceded to the United States without compensation. 2) The Great Lakes would be demilitarized. 3) Canada would be guaranteed right of passage through American Pacific Northwest waters and access to the Pacific would not be hampered. 4) The Grand Banks fishery would be neutralized, allowing fishing vessels from signatory nations free access. 5) Cession of the Bahamas to the United States in exchange for twenty-five million dollars. 6) Free Movement of nationals across the border of the United States and Canada. 7) Rights of citizens in ceded territories would not be abridged. Property would not be confiscated without due process of law. 8) Open (but not free) trade between the United States and British Empire. 9) A pact of non-aggression between signatory nations.
The demilitarization of the Great Lakes struck the United States Navy a minor blow. The success of the Great Lakes Campaign of 1913 was a great source of pride for the Navy, the first real victory in nearly a century, though it would pale in comparison with the annihilation of a Confederate battlecruiser squadron and battleship division in the Battle of Grand Bahama. Overseeing the dismantling of the lake monitors was Admiral Charles Vreeland. The USS Minnesota was towed to Duluth where the State of Minnesota purchased it as a floating museum. The rest of Vreeland’s fleet was consigned to the scrap heap, fated to be broken up, melted down and turned into plough sheers or automotive chases.
The non-aggression article caused a bit of a diplomatic unrest between the United States and its long standing ally Germany. Germany did not have such an arrangement with the British and was concerned that with North America concerned, their only useful ally would renege on Central Powers’ treaty obligations. Roosevelt suggested a similar peace between Britain and Germany, which was not as easy as the peace between Britain and America.
There remained concern in London that the Germans, not defeated in the Great War could still be a threat to the British Empire. Even without the US Atlantic Fleet, the High Seas Fleet would still offer the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet a formidable foe. The United States was on the other side of the Atlantic and had not the ability to occupy Canada. Germany was right next door and did have the potential to invade Britain. Just how successful the invasion would be is another matter. There could not be peace in the North Sea until the British felt secure on their island fortress.
As it was in part the Arms Race of 1900-10 that led to war, the recently returned American Ambassador in London suggested to Prime Minister David Lloyd George a general conference for arms limitation. As the war sunk all of its participants into debt, none could afford any massive military build ups for at least a generation. Even so, Germany and Britain would begin to rebuild if they saw the other as a threat. France was too battered by the war to fight and Austro-Hungary was in a poor state even during the war years. Russia faced its own internal troubles as revolutionaries both Red and White battled against the Tsar.
The first round of talks occurred in February 1918, taking place in neutral Rotterdam. The goal was to limit the size of all participating parties’ navies, a goal that all agreed upon in principle. What could not be agreed upon was the ratio that each nation would hold. Britain demanded the largest proportion, siting its geographical situation and its world-wide empire. American Secretary of State Seymour Loomis countered with the obvious question: would dominion navies be considered part of the Royal Navy or separate. Loomis then went on to point out that Canada was more than capable of defending its own coasts now that it was at peace with its only neighbor.
In order to gain concessions, the British conceded that Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand would retain independent navies with their own ratios. Without such an agreement it was quite possible that the arms limitation talks would have fallen apart as the Kaiser’s representatives insisted on being on par with the whole of the Royal Navy. With a smaller Royal Navy, the British would gain a smaller High Seas Fleet all the while knowing they could call upon the navies of their dominions to aid them if war again engulfed the world.
The delegations met again in Copenhagen in July 1918, this time to set ratios of battleships, battlecruisers and cruisers. Britain with its global empire and the United States with two oceans to defend would have the highest ratios, each nearly being equal to the other. Germany and France, with smaller empires were allocated an equal number with a ratio of 5:3 with the United States and British Empire. The growing Japanese Empire, a minor player in the Great War, was also brought into the talks by their British allies. They would gain a 5:3 ratio in battleships and battlecruisers as well.
The United States objected to a growing Combined Fleet, concerned that Marianas Territory would be threatened. In 1914, an Anglo-Japanese force landed on Guam and Saipan, holding the islands for the duration of the war. It was only British pressure that forced the Japanese out of the islands in 1916. In 1898, following the purchasing of the Marianas from Spain, the United States annexed Midway and Wake, handing them over to the Navy to use as coaling stations. These lesser, nominally unpopulated islands would equally be threatened.
Germany felt the same about its holdings in the Marshalls and Micronesia. Truk fell under British occupation in late 1913, with the British holding them until the end of the war. British occupation of German colonies was used at the European negotiation table to prevent Germany from demanding any of France’s colonies as concessions, though German and American pressure did force France to return independence to Morocco.
The final meeting of world naval powers took place in Versailles in November. With the ratios and tonnage of warships determined, all that remained was to determine a schedule of constructing new ships. Again, the 5:5:3:3:3 ratio was used, though France was in a poor position to achieve its full production. On November 12, 1918, the delegates signed the Treaty of Arms Limitation, popularly portrayed as the ‘Treaty of Versailles’ in American press. It was hoped the treaty, along with the Treaty of Halifax would issue in a new era of peace. It did not take long for the United States Navy to discover a loop hole in the treaty.