I have deemed it most convenient to reserve for the conclusion of this history a short review of the relations that have existed for more than a century between the provinces of the Dominion and the United States, whose diplomacy and legislation have had, and must always have, a considerable influence on the material and social conditions of the people of Canada.—an influence only subordinate to that exercised by the imperial state. I shall show that during the years when there was no confederation of Canada—when there were to the north and north-east of the United States only a number of isolated provinces, having few common sympathies or interests except their attachment to the crown and empire—the United States had too often its own way in controversial questions affecting the colonies which arose between England and the ambitious federal republic. On the other hand, with the territorial expansion of the provinces under one Dominion, with their political development, which has assumed even national attributes, with the steady growth of an imperial sentiment in the parent state, the old condition of things that too often made the provinces the shuttlecock of skilful American diplomacy has passed away. The statesmen of the Canadian federation are now consulted, and exercise almost as much influence as if they were members of the imperial councils in London.
I shall naturally commence this review with a reference to the treaty of 1783, which acknowledged the independence of the United States, fixed the boundaries between that country and British North America, and led to serious international disputes which lasted until the middle of the following century. Three of the ablest men in the United States—Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay—succeeded by their astuteness and persistency in extending their country’s limits to the eastern bank of the Mississippi, despite the insidious efforts of Vergennes on the part of France to hem in the new nation between the Atlantic and the Appalachian Range. The comparative value set upon Canada during the preliminary negotiations may be easily deduced from the fact that Oswald, the English plenipotentiary, proposed to give up to the United States the south-western and most valuable part of the present province of Ontario, and to carry the north-eastern boundary up to the River St. John. The commissioners of the United States did not accept this suggestion. Their ultimate object—an object actually attained—was to make the St. Lawrence the common boundary between the two countries by following the centre of the river and the great lakes as far as the head of Lake Superior. The issue of negotiations so stupidly conducted by the British commissioner, was a treaty which gave an extremely vague definition of the boundary in the north-east between Maine and Nova Scotia—which until 1784 included New Brunswick—and displayed at the same time a striking example of geographical ignorance as to the north-west. The treaty specified