Harry S. Truman photo

Address Before the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa.

June 11, 1947

Mr. Prime Minister, Honorable Members of the Senate, and Members of the House of Commons of Canada:

This is my first visit to Canada as President of the United States, and I am happy that it affords me the opportunity to address this meeting of the members of both houses of the Canadian Parliament. Here is a body which exemplifies the self-government and freedom of the nations of the great British Commonwealth. The history of the Commonwealth proves that it is possible for many nations to work and live in harmony and for the common good.

I wish to acknowledge the many courtesies extended to me on this visit by the Governor General, Viscount Alexander, who paid me the honor of a visit in Washington a few months ago. His career as a soldier and as a statesman eminently qualifies him to follow his illustrious predecessors.

For the courtesy of appearing before you, as for other courtesies, I am sure I am largely indebted to my good friend, Prime Minister Mackenzie King. I was particularly happy to be present yesterday when he was honored in the rotunda of this Parliament building. It was a wonderful ceremony, and one which I think he richly deserved.

I also appreciate very highly his political advice which he gave me.

I have come to value and cherish his friendship and statesmanship. As our two nations have worked together in solving the difficult problems of the postwar period, I have developed greater and greater respect for his wisdom.

Americans who come to know Canada informally, such as our tourists, as well as those whose approach is more academic, learn that Canada is a broad land--broad in mind, broad in spirit, and broad in physical expanse. They find that the composition of your population and the evolution of your political institutions hold a lesson for the other nations of the earth. Canada has achieved internal unity and material strength, and has grown in stature in the world community, by solving problems that might have hopelessly divided and weakened a less gifted people.

Canada's eminent position today is a tribute to the patience, tolerance, and strength of character of her people, of both French and British strains. For Canada is enriched by the heritage of France as well as of Britain, and Quebec has imparted the vitality and spirit of France itself to Canada. Canada's notable achievement of national unity and progress through accommodation, moderation, and forbearance can be studied with profit by her sister nations.

Much the same qualifies have been employed, with like success, in your relations with the United States. Perhaps I should say "your foreign relations with the United States." But the word "foreign" seems strangely out of place. Canada and the United States have reached the point where we no longer think of each other as "foreign" countries. We think of each other as friends, as peaceful and cooperative neighbors on a spacious and fruitful continent.

We must go back a long way, nearly a century and a half, to find a time when we were not on good terms. In the War of 1812 there was fighting across our frontier. But permanent good came of that brief campaign. It shocked Canadians and Americans into a realization that continued antagonism would be costly and perilous. The first result of that realization was the RUSHBAGOT Agreement in 1817, which embodied a spirit and an attitude that have permeated our relations to this day. This agreement originally was intended to limit and to regulate the naval vessels of both countries on the Great Lakes. It has become one of the world's most effective disarmament agreements, and it is the basis for our much-hailed unfortified frontier.

I speak of that period of history to make the point that the friendship that has characterized Canadian-American relations for many years did not develop spontaneously. The example of accord provided by our two countries did not come about merely through the happy circumstance of geography. It is compounded of one part proximity and nine parts good will and commonsense.

We have had a number of problems, but they have all been settled by adjustment, by compromise, and by negotiations inspired by a spirit of mutual respect and a desire for justice on both sides. This is the peaceful way, the sensible way, and the fair way to settle problems, whether between two nations that are close neighbors or among many nations widely separated.

This way is open to all. We in Canada and the United States are justifiably proud of our joint record, but we claim no monopoly on that formula.

Canada and the United States will gladly share the formula, which rejects distrust and suspicion in favor of commonsense, mutual respect, and equal justice with their fellow members of the United Nations. One of the most effective contributions which our two countries can make to the cause of the United Nations is the patient and diligent effort to apply on a global scale the principles and practices which we have tested with success on this continent.

Relations between Canada and the United States have emphasized the spirit of cooperation rather than the letter of protocol. The Rush-Bagot Agreement was stated in less than 150 words. From time to time it has been revised by mutual agreement to meet changing conditions. It was amended as recently as last December.

The last war brought our countries into even closer collaboration. The Ogdensburg Agreement of 1940 provided for the creation of the Permanent Joint Board on Defense. It was followed by the Hyde Park Agreement of 1941, which enabled us to coordinate our economic resources with increased efficiency. Common interests, particularly after Pearl Harbor, required the creation of several joint agencies to coordinate our efforts in special fields. When victory ended the necessity for these agencies, they were quietly disbanded with a minimum of disturbance of the national economies of the two countries. Commonsense again.

The Permanent Joint Board on Defense will continue to function. I wish to emphasize, in addition to the word "permanent," the other two parts of the title. The Board is joint, being composed of representatives of each government. Canada and the United States participate on the basis of equality, and the sovereignty of each is carefully respected. This was true during the gravest dangers of the war, and it will continue to be true, in keeping with the nature of all our joint undertakings.

The Board was created, and will continue to exist, for the sole purpose of assuring the most effective defense for North America. The Board, as you know, has no executive powers and can only make recommendations for action. The record of the Board provides another example of the truly cooperative spirit that prevails between our two countries.

The spirit of common purpose and the impressive strength which we marshaled for action on all fronts are the surest safeguard of continental security in the future.

The people of the United States fully appreciate the magnificent contribution in men and resources that Canada made to the Allied war effort. The United States soldiers, sailors, and airmen in the heat of battle knew their Canadian comrades as valiant and daring warriors. We look back with pride on our association as stanch allies in two wars.

Today our two nations are called upon to make great contributions to world rehabilitation. This task requires broad vision and constant effort.

I am confident that we can overcome the difficulties involved, as we overcame the greater difficulties of the war. The national genius of our peoples finds its most satisfying expression in the creation of new values in peace.

The record proves that in peaceful commerce the combined efforts of our countries can produce outstanding results. Our trade with each other is far greater than that of any other two nations on earth.

Last year the flow of trade in both directions across the border reached the record peacetime total of $2 1/4 billion. We imported from Canada more than twice the value of goods we received from the United Kingdom, France, China, and Russia combined. The United States purchases from Canada were about 6 times our purchases from Great Britain, and nearly 10 times those from China, and 11 times those from France. We sold to Canada nearly as much as we sold to Britain and France together.

Gratifying as the volume of our trade now is, it is capable of even further expansion to our mutual benefit. Some of our greatest assets are still to be developed to the maximum. I am thinking of one particularly that holds tremendous possibilities, the magnificent St. Lawrence-Great Lakes System, which we share and which we must develop together.

The St. Lawrence project stirs the imagination long accustomed to majestic distances and epic undertakings. The proposal for taking electric power from the river and bringing ocean shipping 2,400 miles inland, to tap the fertile heart of our continent, is economically sound and strategically important.

When this program is carried out, the waterway that is part of our boundary will more than ever unite our two countries. It will stimulate our economies to new growth and will spread the flow of trade.

There have been times when shortsighted tariff policies on both sides threatened to raise almost insurmountable barriers. But the need to exchange goods was so imperative that trade flourished despite artificial obstacles. The Reciprocal Trade Agreements of 1936 and 1939 made possible a sensible reduction of tariff rates, and paved the way to our present phenomenal trade.

Something more than commercial agreements, however, is required to explain why Canada and the United States exchange more than $2 billion worth of goods yearly. Ambassador Atherton has aptly given the reason as not "free trade," but "the trade of free men." The record flow of goods and the high standard of living it indicates, on both sides of the border, provide a practical demonstration of the benefits of the democratic way of life and a free economy.

The benefits of our democratic governments and free economies operating side by side have spread beyond our countries to the advantage of the whole world. Both nations expanded their productivity enormously during the war and both escaped the physical damage that afflicted other countries. As a result, Canada and the United States emerged from the war as the only major sources of the industrial products and the food upon which much of the world depends for survival.

Canada has responded as nobly to the challenge of peace as she did to that of the war. Your wheat has fed millions who otherwise would have starved. Your loan strengthened Britain in her valiant battle for recovery.

The United States is particularly gratified to find Canada at our side in the effort to develop the International Trade Organization. We attach great importance to this undertaking, because we believe it will provide the key to the welfare and prosperity of the world in the years immediately ahead.

In sponsoring the International Trade Organization, the United States, with the cooperation of Canada and other countries, is making a determined effort to see that the inevitable adjustments in world trade as a result of the war will result in an expanding volume of business for all nations.

Our goal is a vast expansion of agriculture and industry throughout the world, with freer access to the raw materials and markets for all nations, and a wider distribution of the products of the earth's fields and factories among all peoples. Our hope is to multiply the fruitfulness of the earth and to diffuse its benefits among all mankind.

At this critical point in history, we of the United States are deeply conscious of our responsibilities to the world. We know that in this trying period, between a war that is over and a peace that is not yet secure, the destitute and the oppressed of the earth look chiefly to us for sustenance and support until they can again face life with self-confidence and self-reliance.

We are keenly aware that much depends upon the internal strength, the economic stability and the moral stamina of the United States. We face this challenge with determination and confidence.

Free men everywhere know that the purpose of the United States is to restore the world to health and to reestablish conditions under which the common people of the earth can work out their salvation by their own efforts.

We seek a 'peaceful world, a prosperous world, a free world, a world of good neighbors, living on terms of equality and mutual respect, as Canada and the United States have lived for generations.

We intend to expend our energies and invest our substance in promoting world recovery by assisting those who are able and willing to make their maximum contribution to the same cause.

We intend to support those who are determined to govern themselves in their own way, and who honor the right of others to do likewise.

We intend to aid those who seek to live at peace with their neighbors, without coercing or being coerced, without intimidating or being intimidated.

We intend to uphold those who respect the dignity of the individual, who guarantee to him equal treatment under the law, and who allow him the widest possible liberty to work out his own destiny and achieve success to the limit of his capacity.

We intend to cooperate actively and loyally with all who honestly seek, as we do, to build a better world in which mankind can live in peace and prosperity.

We count Canada in the forefront of those who share these objectives and ideals.

With such friends we face the future unafraid.

Note: The President spoke in the House of Commons chamber at 11:30 a.m. His opening words "Mr. Prime Minister" referred to W. L. Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada.

Harry S. Truman, Address Before the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231894

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