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Photograph of Sir John A. Macdonald with the British high commissioners, Washington, D.C., 1871
Discours de l'hon. sir John A. Macdonald, C.C.B., en présentant le projet de loi pour mettre à effet le traité de Washington en ce qui concerne le Canada dans la Chambre des communes du Canada, May 3, 1872
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Negotiated in 1871 and implemented in 1873, the Treaty of Washington was an early test of executive power in Canada. Formally a dialogue between Britain and the United States, the negotiations dealt with several matters of particular concern to Canada. These included American fishing privileges off the coasts of Canada and Newfoundland, and the matter of restitution for the Fenian raids, which involved armed incursions of Irish-American soldiers into Canadian territory between 1866 and 1870. The Americans refused to consider the Fenian question, and Sir John A. Macdonald (1815-1891) did not fare much better on the question of fishing rights. The final agreement would open American markets for Canadian fish, and open Canada's inshore fishery to American vessels for a period of twelve years. In order to diminish international tensions, Britain also withdrew its troops from Canadian territory. Although the treaty was not generally perceived as having served Canada's best interests, it was the first international agreement to be ratified by the Canadian Parliament, and as such marked an important expression of political independence from Britain.