UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The growth of Canadian control over external affairs, 1867-1939 Frith, Elizabeth Aldon


This thesis has two main purposes. The first is to trace those particular facets of the development of Canada from the British colony of 1867 to the modern nation-state of 1939 that have to do with the gradual growth of Canadian control over external affairs. The second is to bring together as much as possible of the vast body of writing that has appeared over the years on this part of Canadian development. All aspects of the growth of control over external affairs have been treated many times, often far more thoroughly than has been possible within the bounds of this study, but no one, within the knowledge of the writer, has attempted to make a single study of this vital portion of Canadian history. An extensive bibliography is included. The section entitled "General Works" is not intended to be anything more than a useful list of background reading. In the sections entitled "Primary Sources" and "Secondary—Specific" as far as possible everything available in the Library of the University of British Columbia with direct bearing on the problem is listed, with comments where it has seemed these would be helpful. Throughout the thesis it has been taken as fundamental that this development has been the result of the free urge to growth inherent in a vital democratic society. The point of view has been taken that once Canada was conceded responsible government, the development of full Canadian control over all matters, both internal and external, was bound to follow, and that no schemes, such as Imperial Federation, for keeping Canada permanently in a position subordinate to Great Britain could have succeeded. Throughout, those attitudes, not only in Canada and Britain, but also in the rest of the world, that have encouraged or discouraged this development, have been discussed. This is done in particular detail in the first chapter, which describes the extent of Canadian control over external affairs at Confederation, and the attitudes towards the future of the new Dominion then prevalent in Britain and Canada. The first area in which Canada achieved full control over her external relationships was in commercial matters. The second chapter covers this, from the first inclusion of a Canadian to assist a British plenipotentiary to the final achievement of the Halibut Treaty, signed by the Canadian negotiator alone. To control her external relations, it was necessary for Canada to control her own defence. This is covered in chapter three. In chapter four are discussed the developments of status and the first real international recognition of that status achieved during World War I and at the Peace Conferences. Through the part she played in the League, Canada gained further international recognition of her new status, as described in chapter five. Chapters six and seven cover the development of machinery adequate for growing Canadian control over external affairs, both at Ottawa, in the Department of External Affairs, and in representation abroad, culminating in the right of legation. The final two chapters trace the changing position of Canada in the Empire-Commonwealth. During the period to 1922, the tendency towards centralization of foreign policy appeared dominant, but always it was faced with the growing strength of Canadian nationalism. In the period 1922-1939, full control over external affairs was achieved and it was recognized that Canada was bound by no international obligations that she had not assumed by her own act. Even the final control over war and peace was achieved. Finally, a brief attempt is made to evaluate this development in the light of the attitudes that produced it and of the place of Canada in the modern world.

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