Dwight D. Eisenhower photo

Remarks at the Formal Opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

June 26, 1959

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness, Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Roberts and Mr. Castle, Distinguished Guests, and Citizens of Canada and the United States:

It is a great personal privilege to be a part of the ceremony of the official opening and dedication of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The occasion gives to me the opportunity to express again to Your Majesty the lasting respect, admiration, and affection of the citizens of the United States for you, and for all the people of Canada for whom you reign as their gracious Queen. Moreover, I prize this renewal of my friendly contacts with your eminent Prime Minister who was so warmly hospitable when I visited Ottawa last year.

And because we are in this beautiful part of Canada where French is principally spoken, will you permit me a single halting sentence of my Western Prairie brand in that language:

Je suis tres heureux de me retrouver parmi vous au Canada ou, il y a un an, j'ai fait un si agreable sejour.

This waterway, linking the oceans of the world with the Great Lakes of the American continent, is the culmination of the dreams of thousands of individuals on both sides of our common Canadian-United States border. It is the latest event in a long history of peaceful parallel progress by our two peoples.

Side by side we have grown up together. Long ago we found solutions for many of the problems characteristic of pioneering peoples. We have built nations out of vast stretches of virgin territory and transformed a wilderness into one of the most productive areas on earth. We are still developing better means of production and communication and supporting measures needed for the welfare of our respective peoples.

A notable spirit of cooperation has been responsible for major steps in our past progress. That spirit animates both countries today. We enjoy between us a larger volume of reciprocal trade than do any other two nations in the world. Our peoples move freely back and forth across a boundary that has known neither gun nor fortress in over a century. Our citizen-soldiers have three times fought together in the cause of freedom and today we are as one in our determination to defend our homelands. We have lived in peace with each other for nearly a century and a half. We cherish this record.

There have been and are still problems to solve between us. But in the past, as now, we have never faltered in our conviction that these problems must be settled by patient and understanding negotiation, never by violence.

So today, our two nations celebrate another triumph in peaceful living. The St. Lawrence Seaway presents to the world a 2300 mile waterway of locks, lakes, and man-made channels. Its completion is a tribute to those far-sighted and persevering people who across the years pushed forward to their goal despite decades of disappointments and setbacks. We pause to salute all those who have shared in this task, from the architects and the planners to the artisans and the workers who have spent countless hours in its construction. Included among those who made possible this great development are statesmen and political leaders of the major parties of both countries, beginning with the administrations of Prime Minister Bennett of Canada and President Herbert Hoover of the United States.

The parade of ships already passing through the Seaway on their way to and from the heart of the continent, strikingly demonstrates the economic value of this new channel. But the Seaway is far more than a technical and commercial triumph. It has more significance than could just the successful construction of even this notable aid to commerce and navigation. It is, above all, a magnificent symbol to the entire world of the achievements possible to democratic nations peacefully working together for the common good.

So may this example be never forgotten by us, and may it never be ignored by others. For in the reasonable resolution of the acute international problems of our time rests the single hope for world prosperity and happiness in peace, with justice for all. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at ceremonies held in an area bordering the approaches to St. Lambert lock near Montreal following Queen Elizabeth's remarks. B.J. Roberts, President of the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority of Canada, and Lewis G. Castle, Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation of the United States, referred to in the President's opening words, participated in the ceremonies.

Queen Elizabeth's remarks follow:

Mr. President:

I am delighted that this occasion which marks the inauguration of a great joint enterprise between our two countries should afford me the first opportunity of welcoming you and Mrs. Eisenhower to Canada. It is with the warmest feelings of friendship that I do so on behalf of the Canadian people, myself and my husband. The President of the United States will always be welcome here, but today there is an added pleasure and a special warmth in our greeting. You will always be remembered as one of the great military leaders who brought the free world through the most severe crisis of modern times. The soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Commonwealth, including many thousands of Canadians, were proud to serve under your leadership until the ultimate victory was won. We welcome you here as a President of a great and friendly neighboring State; but we have a special welcome for you as General Eisenhower. Today Canada and the United States are celebrating a victory of another kind. This distinguished company has come together from the two great countries that border this waterway to mark the completion of a combined operation that ranks as one of the outstanding engineering accomplishments of modern times. We can say in truth that this occasion deserves a place in history. This is nothing new to the St. Lawrence River which from the times of Cartier and La Salle, of Wolfe and Montcalm, has been the scene of so much of North America's history.

Depuis le jour ou les intrepides explorateurs et colons francais ont jete les fondemerits du Canada sur les rives de ce fleuve, des hommes prevoyants ont reve d'une vole navigable en eau profonde depuis le port a maree de Montreal jusqu'a la tete des Grands Lacs. Plusieurs generations de Canadiens tant de langue francaise que de langue anglaise ont travaille a la realisation de ce projet grandiose. Meme au ieme siecle, il y cut deja des projets visant a contourner les Rapides de Lachine. Ces rapides doivent, incidemment, leur nora a la croyance generale de l'epoque qu'ils bloquaient la route vers la Chine. Dollier de Casson, des mille six cent quatre vingt, avait deja envisage la possibilite de surmonter cet obstacle. Sa tentative hardie etait cependant vouee a la defaite, car il etait bien en avant de son siecle. Il demeure cependant le pionnier de la canalisation du Saint-Laurent et nous nous devons aujourd'hui de lui temoigner notre reconnaissance.

Since the time of Dollier de Gasson men have dreamed and worked for two and a half centuries to make this river navigable, and now at last it is a reality. This waterway will carry ocean shipping from tidewater to the very heart of the continent, a distance of more than two thousand miles. It will affect the lives of many generations of our peoples; and it is bound to exercise a profound influence on the maritime trading nations of the world. It is right that we should acknowledge the foresight of those who first conceived this great plan. But we should also acknowledge the courage and persistence of those men in public life, in both countries, who brought about the political agreement essential to putting the project in hand. When their work was done, it rested on the engineers to design these vast and complex works, which finally began to take shape in the hands of the men who drove the trucks, poured the concrete and performed all the other tasks to complete the Seaway. To each and every one of them I offer my congratulations and the congratulations of their fellow citizens. Just ninety-nine years ago my great-grandfather, King Edward VII, then Prince of Wales, came to open the Victoria Bridge. In those days that bridge was regarded as a tremendous feat of engineering. It was obviously a good bridge because nearly one hundred years later it is still in use. In fact I shall sail under it shortly. It was also the final link in a new railway line more than two thousand miles long.

So in 1860 people thought of the Victoria Bridge as a striking symbol of Canadian progress and achievement. Today, within sight of the spot where the Prince of Wales stood in 1860, we are opening a project with exactly the same significance for our own age. In the context of a much larger and stronger Canada this enterprise reflects the same confidence and determination. The same creative vision has conceived and built a highway which will open the middle of this continent to the commerce of the world.

Je vois dans l'achevement des travaux de la canalisation du Saint-Laurent, une signification qui depasse les avantages economiques qui en decouleront. Cette realisation ouvre, en premier lieu, un nouveau chapitre de l'histoire de la Confederation en etablissant de nouveaux liens entre les deux principaux groupes ethniques dont la presence donne a la nation canadienne un caractere particulier. Le succes de cette entreprise demontre, en outre, qu'il est possible pour deux etats voisins de cooperer dans un esprit de confiance mutuelle a l'edification d'une oeuvre commune. Enfin, cette nouvelle route fluviale facilitera la rencontre de milliers de citoyens du nouveau et l'ancien monde, contribuant ainsi a dissiper les malentendus et a renforcer l'entente et la paix entre les nations.

This vast undertaking has been a cooperative effort of Canada and the United States, of the Power Authority of the State of New York and the Hydro-Electric Power Commission of the Province of Ontario. The two nations built it together and the two nations will share its benefits. Power will flow from the new turbines to drive factories on both sides of the River. Ocean-going ships will go up and down this waterway, taking goods to and from American and Canadian ports, and exchanging the products of North America for those from the rest of the world. More than all this, it is a magnificent monument to the enduring friendship of our two nations and to their partnership in the development of North America. That partnership is most agreeably symbolized, Mr. President, in the fact that you and I have joined together to perform this ceremony today.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Remarks at the Formal Opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/235070

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