New PDF release: Defence of the Undefended Border: Planning for War in North

By Richard Arthur Preston

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Additional info for Defence of the Undefended Border: Planning for War in North America, 1867-1939

Example text

For half a century, then, there had been not so much a balance of power as an equilibrium of weakness—with the British garrison standing as a cautionary force in Canada and the Royal Navy posing a threat in the background. At times peace had been precariously maintained only because British statesmen like Lord Aberdeen preferred to make concessions, conveniently at Canadian expense, rather than precipitate a major conflict, the consequences of which were uncertain; also because in the United States people were more concerned with developing what they possessed than with seizing territory from Canada.

He believed this would be so because the forces employed by both sides would essentially be militia and volunteers who would receive support at home and could fight better on prepared battlefields. "With regard to Canada . . "82 Nevertheless, the advisability of seizing the initiative inevitably came up for further discussion because from the naval point of view such a move was essential. Capt. William Hatt Noble of the Royal Engineers reported on harbours in the Great Lakes to Capt. Richard Collinson, RN, who had been instructed to recommend to the Admiralty what assistance the navy could give the Province of Canada in the event of war.

However, this preliminary step was taken only half-heartedly. Reluctance to do anything more immediately may have been due to lack of conviction that there was any real danger of invasion. As Lord Lyons, the British ambassador in Washington reported, "the weather is threatening but the storm may not improbably blow over"76—which indeed it did for a time. The conclusion to be drawn is that, although many Canadians were ready to fight to defend their country, even if an invasion were caused by imperial issues, most were still unconvinced that one was likely.

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