Represented In The American Hemisphere: The United Kingdom, The Rise Of Pan-Americanism And The Canadian Question
Alex Bryne submitted his PhD in American Studies and History at the University of Nottingham in 2017. His thesis traces the history of the Monroe Doctrine during the early twentieth century and addresses the relationship between notions of national security, regional hegemony, and Pan-Americanism. This blog has been written as part of a special series from members of the British Association for American Studies (BAAS).
During the first two decades of the twentieth century, Pan-Americanism became a popular topic of debate within the United States and Latin America. Although Canada was excluded from traditional interpretations of Pan-Americanism, British policy makers grew concerned about the relationship between the two, and the Adam Matthew digital collection Confidential Print: North America, 1824-1961 provides valuable insights into their reasoning.
After the Second Pan American Scientific Congress of 1916, British policy-makers were prompted to investigate the rumour that President Woodrow Wilson was planning to establish an inter-American system of regional integration. The Ambassador to the United States, Cecil Spring-Rice, reported to Foreign Secretary Edward Grey that Wilson had begun efforts to establish a Pan-American treaty among the American republics that would guarantee the territorial status quo of signatories and provide for the arbitration of inter-American disputes. Spring-Rice outlined that the President was keen to solidify inter-American relations, but was encountering resistance from Chile, given its long-standing territorial dispute with Peru. (1)
Grey contacted the Chilean Minister to the United Kingdom, Agustín Edwards Mac-Clure, who believed that the United Kingdom ought to be an additional signatory, because it too was a ‘great American nation.’ He informed Grey that Pan-Americanism should be a vital consideration for British policy makers because of Canada’s geographic position. Mac-Clure was confident that Wilson would view British involvement as beneficial, because it would stave off potential German and Japanese designs in the hemisphere and allay the fear among Latin American nations of a United States dominated system. (2) Grey agreed and tasked Spring-Rice with raising the matter in Washington. (3)
Ultimately, Wilson did not consider the role of the United Kingdom with much sincerity. As events transpired, Wilson abandoned the treaty in 1917 due to Chile’s continual opposition and the more pressing matter of the League of Nations. Yet this exchange of correspondence demonstrated that British policy makers were concerned with the rise of Pan-Americanism and the future of inter-American relations. Indeed, in May 1916, Assistant Under-Foreign Secretary Ralph Paget informed the Colonial Office that Pan-Americanism needed to become a subject of official correspondence between the two governmental departments, stating that it was an issue that ‘cannot fail to affect the interests of British possessions in America, and particularly the Dominions of Canada and Newfoundland.’ (4) As Pan-American sentiment rose in the early twentieth century, the position of Canada complicated the notion of a shared American relationship.
Further Correspondence Respecting the Affairs of North America. Part XII, 1917 (FO 414/244)will be available to access free of charge for the next 30 days.
(1) Spring-Rice to Grey (25 February 1916), Further Correspondence Respecting the Affairs of North America. Part XII, 1917 (FO 414/244), The National Archives, Kew (TNA), p. 6. For information on Wilson’s Pan-American pact, see: Mark Gilderhus, Pan-American Visions: Woodrow Wilson in the Western Hemisphere 1913-1921 (Tuscon, AZ, 1986).
(2) Grey to Spring-Rice (7 March 1916) and Grey to Stronge (15 March 1916), FO 414/244, TNA, pp. 4-7.
(3) Spring-Rice to Grey (30 March 1916), FO 414/244, TNA, pp. 8-10.
(4) Paget to Colonial Office (6 May 1916), FO 414/244, TNA, pp. 14-15.