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The Treaty of Washington

The Treaty of Washington occurred on May, in the year 1871 in a meeting that took place in Washington DC between Great Britain, the United States of America and it had various significances. Perhaps this is considered the greatest diplomatic acts that have ever been carried out in the world since the Renaissance Period. This treaty had forty-three articles with five key controversial subjects between the US and the Great Britain (Cushing, 2008). The most important was the co-existence of the United States with other sovereign states like Great Britain especially when it came to Alabama claims, issues of war, and boundaries (Academic American History, 2010). There were three members from neutral nations at the Treaty. This essay discuses the significance of the Washington Treaty.

Alabama Claims

The federal government of the United States claimed that Great Britain had damaged confederate cruisers and Alabama in the American Civil War. These ships had been designed, constructed, and supported according to British interests (The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, (2007). Alabama was a Confederate cruiser, which was used to sink, burn, or capture Union ships during the Civil War. This ship alone destroyed about 69 Union ships (Cushing, 2008). The US claimed for indirect losses but those arbitrating refused the case. The case was forwarded to the International tribunal, which is located in Geneva, Switzerland. Great Britain confessed that they did wrong and expressed regret in their part in the Civil War. In 1872, arbitrators awarded the US some form of compensation for the major damages.

The other key agreement that came out of this Treaty was that both the United States and Great Britain had to agree to the Three Rules that had been set by the International Law in Geneva. These are the rules that were used to explain specific terms that had been used in the Washington Treaty. One of the most significant rules was that both governments had to observe "due diligence." This was very crucial in maintain of total neutrality, which is necessary for neutral governments in equal proportions to the risk that were exposed by arguments and the consequent breaches of law. The other two rules made clear the offense caused by letting vessels like Alabama, which had been constructed in Great Britain and were later used to cause damage in the United States (Cushing, 2008).

However, they were given $15M for the direct destruction that was caused by Alabama, Florida and Shenandoah. Great Britain was pardoned for the other damages that they had caused.

Settling of any injury that arose on any person of either Government from the Civil War

The other issue in this Treaty was to settle or make provisions for any through the establishment of a commission. Such claims were those that would have occurred during the Civil War. These claims were to come from either Great Britain or the United States or both. They included injuries to the citizenry of both Governments and were independent from the Alabama claims.

Definition of Fishing Boundaries on the Atlantic Coast

The other thorny issue in this Treaty of Washington was the violation of fishing boundaries off the Pacific and Atlantic Coast. This provided permanent regulation and provisions as to how far the US and Canada can fish especially on the Atlantic shores of British provinces like Nova Scotia, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward's Island and Newfoundland. In this case, the fishing grounds of Canada on the Atlantic Coast were opened to the anglers of United States but for only twelve years. A commission was established and because Canada had conceded with the US demands, they were given $5.5M.

Free Navigation across Lake Michigan and Saint Lawrence River

The other issue was free navigation across borders through lakes and rivers. American ships wanted to navigate Lake Michigan freely. Saint Lawrence River canals could be used by both Canada and the United States. Lake Michigan was to be navigated freely by either government without parting with any fee. On the other hand, Canada was also allowed to navigate rivers like the Yukon, which is found in the upper side of America. It was also allowed to navigate other small American Rivers, which are at the boundary of America and Canada.

Determination of the real Boundary between the United States and Great Britain

This was to determine which boundary-line was true on two different channels on Vancouver's Island of San Juan. This was famously known as the San Juan Dispute and it was forwarded for arbitration to the German Emperor. The German Emperor ruled that San Juan Island was under the territorial boundary of the United States.

Miscellaneous Issues

Compensation of Canada for the damage and injuries caused by Fenian Invasions or raids

Canada dropped this case for the sake of peace between the two neighbors. This brought many complaints from the Canadian people and government. They felt that those who represented Canada had failed in getting compensation. It portrayed as betrayal by those who had been sent to represents Canada. 

Impact of the Washington Treaty on International Law

The Three Rules that were used in this arbitration are applicable to neutrals. The "due diligence" law has to be exercised in equal proportion by all the neutrals involved. This will help in fulfilling the demands that are under the neutrality part and either side of belligerents have to do so. A commission that will be set up by that government cannot settle the net effects of violation of neutrality that were committed under the governance of a belligerent power. On the other hand, consummation of such a fraud or any arising fraud cannot be a basis of establishing innocence. The law of extraterritoriality has been accepted into the law of nations. It has been accepted as a proceeding that is based on mutual deference, principle courtesy between nations. This law can never be appealed or repealed for the sake of protection of acts that had or have been done in neutrality violation. In the 1878 Congress of Berlin, these Three International Laws were effectively applied and had a great impact on the outcome.

This Treaty succeeded in settling the boundary issues in a clear manner to the entire satisfaction of both nations. These boundaries had been a thorny dispute for close to 60 years before the treaty. This Treaty led to the establishment of peaceful relations between both parties. To some level, America alleviated its resentment towards Great Britain for its role of supporting the Confederacy during the American Civil War. Relations between the United States, Canada, and Great Britain improved. After settling the border dispute or demilitarization, war became a very unattractive thing for the three countries. The Washington Treaty laid the foundation for the union of interests between the British Empire and the United States. Even though, Canada and Britain got poor settlements. This Treaty laid a great foundation for future international arbitration.

This treaty perhaps was one of the things that signaled the beginning of America's growth and nurture of imperial ideas. It is observed that America got its way through the treaty. It got compensation and agreed to compensate none. It got the San Juan Island, free navigation and a huge compensation (Cushing, 2008). After getting almost everything in its favor, it felt "morally" endowed to influence other governments beyond its borders. This is what made it to get into Indochina, wars with Japan, the USSR and other South American nations like Cuba. Largely, imperialism is what has aided America in becoming a super power and the basis is the Washington Treaty of 8 May 1871!

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