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Image above: The U.S.S. Constitution captures the British war ship Guerrier, War of 1812. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Right: Battle of New Orleans, E. Percy Moran, 1910. Image courtesy Library of Congress.
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1817 - Detail
April 28-29, 1817 - The Rush-Bagot treaty is signed. This would limit the amount of armaments allowed on the Great Lakes by British and American forces.
It was an arms treaty brought on by the conclusion of the War of 1812, a necessary agreement between the nations of the United States and Great Britian, ne the British Empire, to end the war of both the American Revolution and that subsequent war. It had been long enough for the colonial power and its former colony to make permanent peace. With the Rush-Bagot treaty, that peace began to take shape.
What were its goals? To eliminate the tension along the northern border of the United States and British North America, i.e. Canada, by removing their fleets, except small patrol boats, from the Great Lakes. This had been the goal of the United States for a long time, since negotiations for the Jay Treaty in 1794, but prior to the end of the War of 1812, the British disagreed. In fact, the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812, did not cover disarmament in any way. With the United States in control of the Great Lakes at the end of the war, and the desire of both sides to see themselves as allies and trading partners, negotiations began.
On January 25, 1816, John Quincy Adams in his role as U.S. Minister to Great Britain, proposed the disarmament idea; his counterpart, Viscount Castlereagh, and the British Minister to the United States, Sir Charles Bagot, agreed. Bagot met with two Secretary of States, James Monroe and successor Richard Rush. They agreed to limit naval vessels to one on Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain (plus one cannon) and two on the other Great Lakes. With an exchange of letters on April 28-29, the agreement was essentially in effect. On April 16, 1818, it was ratified by the U.S. Senate. Once British North America became the Confederation of Canada in 1867, the treaty was once again confirmed.
Full Text, Rush-Bagot Treaty, Exchange of Notes
Exchange of Notes Relative to Naval Forces on the American Lakes
Exchange of Notes Relative to Naval Forces on the American Lakes, signed at Washington April 28 and 29, 1817. Originals in English. Submitted to the Senate April 6, 1818. Resolution of approval and consent April 16, 1818. Proclaimed April 28, 1818.
WASHINGTON April 16, 1817
The Undersigned, His Britannick Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, has the honour to acquaint Mr Rush, that having laid before His Majesty's Government the correspondence which passed last year between the Secretary of the Department of State and the Undersigned upon the subject of a proposal to reduce the Naval Force of the respective Countries upon the American Lakes, he has received the Commands of His Royal Highness The Prince Regent to acquaint the Government of the United States, that His Royal Highness is willing to accede to the proposition made to the Undersigned by the Secretary of the Department of State in his note of the 2d of August last.
His Royal Highness, acting in the name and on the behalf of His Majesty, agrees, that the Naval Force to be maintained upon the American Lakes by His Majesty and the Government 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 burthen and armed with one eighteen pound cannon.
On the Upper Lakes to two Vessels not exceeding like burthen each and armed with like force.
On the Waters of Lake Champlain to one Vessel not exceeding like burthen and armed with like force.
And His Royal Highness agrees, that all other armed Vessels on these Lakes shall be forthwith dismantled, and that no other Vessels of War shall be there built or armed.
His Royal Highness further agrees, that 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 Undersigned has it in command from His Royal Highness the Prince Regent to acquaint the American Government, that His Royal Highness has issued Orders to His Majestys Officers on the Lakes directing, that 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.
The Undersigned has the honour to renew to Mr Rush the assurances of his highest consideration.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
April 29. 1817.
The Undersigned, Acting Secretary of State, has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Mr Bagot's note of the 28th of this month, informing him that, having laid before the Government of His Britannick Majesty, the correspondence which passed last year between the Secretary of State and himself upon the subject of a proposal to reduce the naval force of the two countries upon the American Lakes, he had received the commands of His Royal Highness The Prince Regent to inform this Government that His Royal Highness was willing to accede to the proposition made by the Secretary of State in his note of the second of August last.
The Undersigned has the honor to express to Ms Bagot the satisfaction which The President feels at His Royal Highness The Prince Regent's having acceded to the proposition of this government as contained in the note alluded to. And in further answer to Ms Bagot's note, the Undersigned, by direction of The President, has the honor to state, that this Government, cherishing the same sentiments expressed in the note of the second of August, agrees, that the naval force to be maintained upon the Lakes by the United-States and Great Britain 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 the like burden each, and armed with like force, and on the waters of Lake Champlain to one vessel not exceeding like burden and armed with like force.
And it agrees, that all other armed vessels on these Lakes shall be forthwith dismantled, and that no other vessels of war shall be there built or armed. And it further agrees, that 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 Undersigned is also directed by The President to state, that proper orders will be forthwith issued by this Government to restrict the naval force thus limited to such services as will in no respect interfere with the proper duties of the armed vessels of the other party.
The Undersigned eagerly avails himself of this opportunity to tender to Mr Bagot the assurances of his distinguished consideration and respect.
Image above: Battle of Lake Erie, William Henry Powell, 1873. Courtesy U.S. Senate Art Collection, U.S. Capitol, Washington, D.C., Image courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Image below: Plaque of the Rush-Bagot Agreement at the Royal Military College of Canada, 2005, Aaron L. Brown. Courtesy ontarioplaques.com via Wikipedia Commons. Source Info: Office of the Historian, U.S. State Department; Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America.
Edited by Hunter Miller, Volume 2, Documents 1-40: 1776-1818.
Washington: Government Printing Office, 1931, via Avalon Project, Documents in Laws, History, and Diplomacy, Yale Law School; Wikipedia Commons.
History Photo Bomb
Resolution for federal aid from the Missouri Territory during
the time of the New Madrid earthquakes in 1811-12. Courtesy National Archives.