An exchange of notes between Britain and the United States on March 25, 1905, established the Alaska Boundary the way it is today. Canada was helpless to do anything about it, although it was one of the worst deals ever foisted on the nation.
The Alaska boundary had been a problem for years. Finally, Britain, who controlled Canada’s international affairs, and the United States agreed to have the boundary decided by an “impartial commission.” Britain appointed Sir Louis Jetté and A. B. Aylesworth of Canada to serve with Lord Chief Justice Alverstone. The United States appointed Elihu Root, Secretary of War, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, and Senator George Turner of the State of Washington. Root and Lodge had already opposed Canada’s claims, saying they were “baseless and trumped-up.” Turner represented the City of Seattle which compared with Victoria and Vancouver for trade in the Yukon. This was important because of the Klondike gold rush. Thus, the American members of the tribunal were far from impartial.
The commission began its work early in 1903, but nothing had been settled by the end of August. American President Roosevelt believed in the policy of the “big stick,” and sent a message to the British government stating that the boundary must be fixed the way the United |States wanted, or troops would be sent to enforce it. Britain had no desire to become involved in a war with the States and Lord Alverstone was instructed to side with the Americans. The boundary decision which was announced on October 20, 1903, was supposed to be a compromise, but Canada was blocked from any seaport in northern British Columbia or the Yukon.
One result of the decision was that the Laurier government decided that Canada must handle her own foreign affairs, and the Department of External Affairs was created in 1909.
To read more about the Alaska boundary affair, I suggest reading the United Nations report. To see an 1895 map of the area, there’s a good one on the Canadian Geographic website. Want more? How about a timeline of Theodore Roosevelt’s life from The Theodore Roosevelt Association. Or how about visiting the Government of Canada‘s website.
- Yukoner wants Klondike artifacts turned over to territory (cbc.ca)
- Oscar winner Chris Cooper to star in “Klondike” gold-rush drama (panarmenian.net)
- Yukon Gold – Part 2 (wildandwickedcowboys.wordpress.com)