Transatlantic Diplomacy, North Atlantic Environments, and the Fisheries Dispute of 1852

Transatlantic Diplomacy, North Atlantic Environments, and the Fisheries Dispute of 1852 Abstract From American independence the fisheries of the North Atlantic were a sticking point between the United States and Great Britain. Diplomats met periodically to redefine when and where American fishermen could ply their trade in the hopes of easing transatlantic tension. Yet these agreements were out of date as soon as the ink had dried. The ever-changing marine environment, not the dictates of diplomats, shaped when, where, how, and for what Americans fished. The two countries nearly came to blows over the subject during the summer of 1852, showing how vitally important environmental concerns were, and continue to be, in understanding international politics. For many observers, at the time and subsequently, this episode was merely part of a larger history of Great Britain using this maritime resource as a carrot in its drive to incorporate the United States into the international free trade order. The conditions that created this context, however, were intimately tied to the nonhuman world. Across the first half of the nineteenth century, mackerel began to surpass cod in its importance in commercial fishing. The particular biology and ecology of mackerel predisposed the fish to dwelling in waters that were, by treaty, off limits to Americans. As Americans ignored those limitations in pursuit of their catch, the conditions were right for direct confrontation between the two nations. This article demonstrates the close linkages between the environment and diplomacy and in doing so shows the problems of expecting static treaties to regulate dynamic environments. INTRODUCTION The summer of 1852 witnessed the most pointed diplomatic exchange between the United States and Great Britain over the North Atlantic fisheries. British officials dispatched warships to the contested region with orders to bar American fishermen from the fishing grounds. The United States responded in kind by sending the steam frigate USS Mississippi, under the command of famed naval officer Matthew C. Perry, to the fisheries to investigate the situation and, if need be, protect American lives and property. But when the Millard Fillmore administration dispatched Perry, Washington had little inkling that his report would be as concerned with the fish as with the fishermen themselves. During his cruise along the coast of Cape Breton, the Magdalen Islands, and across the Bay of Chaleur—what Perry concluded to be the “most frequented resorts of the American Fishermen in the Gulf of St. Lawrence”—the naval commander came to the conclusion that of the “great number of American vessels,” most were “engaged in the mackerel fishery.” Noting how the American mackerel fleet “absolutely whiten[ed] the water of these coasts,” Perry was also struck by the paucity of cod fishermen in the region.1 The cod fisheries had dominated the Atlantic trade in fish for centuries, but changes in the ocean and in the fishing industry had made the small oily mackerel an increasingly valuable catch. Mackerel, unlike cod, congregated close to shore, thus enticing American fishermen to violate a decades-old arrangement. In the aftermath of the War of 1812, the United States and Great Britain reconsidered American fishing rights as outlined in the Treaty of Paris (1783). The resulting Convention of 1818 barred American fishermen from fishing within three marine miles of the coast of Britain’s North American provinces. But this redefinition of American fishing privileges did little to settle earlier problems. Instead, from the 1820s through the 1840s, hundreds of American fishing schooners were apprehended, lawfully or not, by British and provincial cruisers for alleged infractions of the convention, but only in 1852 did the larger political context allow the issue to reach the level of crisis and in doing so exposed the problems of expecting static treaties to regulate dynamic environments. Perry’s instructions directed him to give “prompt and effective protection to all fishing vessels of the United States” and “fully and timely explanations … to fishermen of the United States of the obligation which they owe equally to the laws of their own country and to the rights of the British Crown to avoid any infraction or violation of the stipulations of the treaty of 1818.”2 The Fillmore administration feared that fishermen would create an international incident. Similar situations, in which the federal government was forced to react to decisions by on-the-ground actors, were typical of antebellum foreign relations. Along the fringes of American sovereignty, in places like Maine, Oregon, Texas, and, increasingly, Cuba, the United States repeatedly faced confrontations with other international actors as American citizens moved into contested spaces beyond the nation’s borders. The United States had already gone to war over Texas, nearly did so over Oregon, and had recently stood by as American filibusters—soldiers on private military expeditions to Latin America—were executed after a failed attempt to conquer Cuba. The Fillmore administration hoped Perry’s presence would stabilize the situation and quash this trend of Washington reacting to changes in the on-the-ground situation along the nation’s fringes. British prime minister Lord Derby insisted that his ministry sent a naval squadron to the region to enforce the treaty stipulations that regulated access to the fisheries but failed to mention how such a decision made the fisheries a coercive element in Britain’s international commercial affairs. As the crisis unfolded, observers tried to blame the dispute on a British administration disdainful of a growing United States, on colonial leaders fed up with encroaching Americans, and on American fishermen oblivious to the international agreements in place. But it was not the vindictiveness of the British, the machinations of the provincials, or the ignorance of the Americans that created controversy in the summer of 1852. Instead, it was the fish. Centuries of climatic change and fishery pressures led in the middle decades of the nineteenth century to significant shifts in American fishing practices in the North Atlantic. These changes were as important as Britain’s diplomatic goals in how this conflict unfolded. The political and the environmental aligned to expose the fundamental nature of Anglo-American relations. The environment was inscribed, in however fleeting of traces, upon diplomatic correspondence and in official discourse. The confluence of these intertwined archives—that of humans and that of nature—demonstrates the degree to which diplomacy and the American and British states were deeply embedded in nature.3 At midcentury, Anglo-American relations seemed to be entering a new phase. The Webster-Ashburton treaty of 1842 assuaged border disputes that had simmered since independence; saber rattling over the Oregon Question ended in 1846; America’s convincing victory in the US-Mexican War seemed to announce to the world, Britain first and foremost, that the former colonials had become full-fledged imperialists. Quite simply the 1840s were a period of immense change in the tenor of Anglo-American relations. But British warships still arrived on the fishing grounds in the summer of 1852 in an effort to strong-arm the United States into accepting a trade agreement in which American leaders had shown little interest. While the 1840s suggested a fundamental shift in transatlantic relations, the fisheries issue showed that the United States remained the junior partner.4 How this situation came to a head in the summer of 1852, however, requires an environmental perspective. This maritime resource served as an arena for both national self-definition and acute anxiety born of a sense of inferiority.5 The fisheries issue exposed the confused position of the United States in a British world. While the environment may seem to be an issue far from the minds of diplomats, especially in an era before the age of environmentalism, the Fisheries Dispute of 1852 provides an excellent example of how foreign relations is rendered incomprehensible without acknowledging the environmental context.6 This episode does more, though, than merely demonstrate the link between diplomacy and environmental change by offering to explain why and when such events occur. The environmental conditions had been in place for decades. It was only in 1852, however, that the political climate was sufficiently fertile to allow those conditions to explode into controversy. CHANGES IN THE SEA Two important elements of the complex ecology of the North Atlantic, at least from the human perspective, are the Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus). The conditions created by the climate, geology, and chemistry of the North Atlantic made it a welcoming home for these fish. Cod and its gadoid relatives are largely nonmigratory, preferring to stay in the region’s relatively cool waters year round to feed on capelin and small crustaceans. While only those cod that live at the extreme northern and southern reaches of their geographic range regularly follow favorable ocean temperatures as the seasons dictate, all cod do make a vertical migration over the course of their lives as the juvenile fish spawn in open surface waters before descending to their preferred benthic habitat upon maturity. Cod most often spawn offshore, where they spend much of their life cycle.7 Atlantic mackerel, in contrast, are decidedly migratory. Like their tuna and bonito relatives, mackerel regularly range to warmer waters as far south as the Mid-Atlantic Bight. Mackerel follow a seasonal rhythm, traveling northeastward after overwintering in mid-Atlantic waters as the spring’s rising temperatures allow. In certain years with favorably warm temperatures, mackerel have ranged as far south as the Carolinas and as far north as the Strait of Belle Isle and the Labrador Sea. These fish are most at home in the open water but do not shy away from coming inshore, especially in the spring as they head north. Both cod and mackerel, like most all fish, have much of their life cycles dictated by ocean temperatures. Migrations, food availability, maturation, and reproduction are all processes that depend on the ever-fluctuating temperatures of the ocean.8 Over the past fifteen thousand years, the earth’s climate has shifted often. The climate history of the past millennia, as best understood, is marked by three distinct and dramatic climate swings. The first, lasting to about the onset of the fourteenth century, was a period of relative warmth known as the Medieval Warm Period. It was followed by a period of cooling, the Little Ice Age, that lasted well into the nineteenth century. Finally, the past few centuries have seen significant and unprecedented warming. But it was the Little Ice Age that most concerned the fisheries. During this period Europeans first began sailing further and further west in search of cod as their home stocks began declining. It was likewise during this period that fishermen of all provenances began the alteration or, perhaps more accurately, the destruction, of the northwest Atlantic’s fisheries.9 The Fisheries Dispute of 1852 came at the “last gasps” of the Little Ice Age. Across North America the second quarter of the nineteenth century was generally marked by a rapid decline in temperatures. Bioproductivity most likely declined as plankton responded to cooler temperatures with lower yields and cod bore the ill effects of this cooling. Cod, despite being a cold water fish, was unequipped to contend with such a significant cooling. As temperatures dipped below the optimal threshold for spawning and growth, the population of cod in the northwest Atlantic declined. By 1850 cod had disappeared from the western coast of Greenland with Newfoundland experiencing a dramatic decline as well. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the environment of the northwest Atlantic seemed unable to support such a large community of cod for fishermen of all nations to exploit.10 Mackerel were not as devastated by the cooling of the mid-nineteenth century. Although their migratory range was severely curtailed, failing to even reach Newfoundland, these fish could have remained in relatively warmer waters as the southern contingent overwintered and spawned in mid-Atlantic waters. While the northern contingent of mackerel may have been severely weakened by the cooling trend, mackerel continued to reach at least the Bay of Fundy, the shores of Nova Scotia, and some of the more southerly banks during their summer migration. The climatic cooling of the nineteenth century in all likelihood created an ecology that by the 1850s faced a significant decline in the cod population while allowing for a relative rise in mackerel. Fishermen responded accordingly. In 1800 the United States exported 392,726 barrels of cod; by 1850 that number had dropped to 168,600. Across roughly that same time period, mackerel catches grew enormously from 8,079 barrels to 329,242.11 This period could be characterized as one of crisis and tension among fishermen as new environmental realities forced them to change long-held practices. Yet the political practices that governed the fisheries failed to change alongside these new environmental realities.12 Amid the environmental changes that operated at centuries- and millennia-long scales was what historian W. Jeffrey Bolster calls a “fishing revolution.” This set of changes, often called “modernization,” intersected the shifting environments of the region with profound ecological and political ramifications. During an era of mechanization, fishing largely remained an industry dependent on the energies of wind and human muscle. But this in no way limited the destruction wrought by its practitioners. The most significant changes would prove to be those in the technology of the gear employed. Most important to the cod fishery was the adoption of long line technology. By long lining—also known as tub trawling and bultow fishing—individual fishermen could set lines, each with hundreds of hooks, on weighted ground lines, vastly expanding a fisherman’s footprint over single-hook hand lining. Growing catches, of course, came with a host of ecological consequences, and fishermen began to realize their unchecked efforts were changing the seas even as the seas themselves changed. Despite occasional calls for restraint, fishermen continued exploiting the environment with little regard for their piscine or political neighbors. When American citizens and British subjects confronted each other in the summer of 1852, they did so in a world where political and ecological changes made such tension possible.13 THE FISHERIES IN TRANSATLANTIC POLITICS While the environmental conditions that made the dispute of 1852 possible were long in the making, its proximate cause—free trade—was much more recent. Calls for political and economic reform proliferated in midcentury Britain as the concerned among the queen’s subjects attacked issues ranging from the empire’s embrace of slavery to the narrowness of the elective franchise. While these causes met success during the 1830s, it was during the 1840s that the reform minded aimed at no less than a revolution in the intercourse of nations. This was to be done through shedding the mercantilist-inspired trade restrictions that still burdened the empire. With the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, Great Britain’s most substantive free trade policy decision, some in Britain’s political community waxed rhapsodically. A writer in the Manchester Times and Gazette went so far as to claim that “free-trade is civilization, and prohibition is barbarism.” Such a policy, according to this observer, would do nothing short of remaking the world since with “liberty of commerce,” the world would “defy religious rancour, wars, famine, poverty, all the evils which have hitherto been the heritage of humanity to perpetuate their existence. Believe not this to be a question of purely material interests; it is one intimately connected with morality and intelligence.”14 As substantive a step as the repeal of the Corn Laws was, free trade remained a goal, not a reality, and a controversial one at that. Successive ministries used Britain’s commercial policies to advance their own agendas, both in support of and in opposition to free trade.15 With this sea change in Britain’s imperial policies, the British administration sought the world’s acquiescence, at times needing the Royal Navy to enforce this revolution in human sentiment. The loss of imperial preference meant Britain’s North American colonies stood to lose a great deal in a new world of free trade. Thus Britain endeavored to entice the United States into offering its northern neighbors a favorable trade agreement in order to vent Canada’s surplus production of lumber, wheat, and coal. While this kind of trade reciprocity fell short of a more robust and all-encompassing free trade agreement, the liberal ministry of Lord John Russell hoped such would be a nudge in that direction. The United States, itself a producer of these commodities, was, however, slow to action. Secretary of State Daniel Webster made clear why Congress was disinclined to offer the British provinces any trading agreement, remarking to Henry Layton Bulwer, the Russell administration’s minister to the United States, that “the bill seems much more advantageous to Canada than to us,” since “we give her a large market, and she gives us a small one, for articles which are the common products of both.”16 The British minister sought to entice Webster with a carrot instead of the usual stick of British diplomacy. If the United States enacted legislation amicable to the commercial needs of Canada, Bulwer suggested, Americans would be guaranteed free access to the St. Lawrence and, more importantly, the expansion of fishing rights on the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.17 Still unmoved, Webster left the cause of North American reciprocity to flounder. Surprisingly enough, the newly installed Derby ministry took up the case of North American reciprocity in 1852. The conservative Lord Derby was no friend of the free trade agenda but was aware of free trade’s enormous popularity among those in Westminster. Upon Derby’s taking office, The Times of London declared that “the system of free trade” was an “unassailable … part of our present constitution.”18 Derby knew turning back the clock to the days of protection was impossible and therefore sought to accommodate the new order while maintaining face within conservative circles. Like the liberal Russell administration before him, Derby hoped to use trade reciprocity for his own ends. As the fisheries dispute unfolded, Derby agreed to discussions with France in an effort to conclude a commercial treaty that would include a mutual reduction in tariffs. Such a reciprocal agreement was not a harbinger of free trade but instead, as a Derby biographer observes, “would disrupt the parliamentary opposition unified in its advocacy of Free Trade.”19 Derby may have wished to use North American trade in a similar way to win over moderate free traders. But instead of using the fisheries as a carrot like his predecessor, Derby would use the maritime resource as a stick. In early July, in the midst of the fishing season, John Crampton, the new British minister to the United States, delivered to Daniel Webster notice that ships from the Royal Navy would be stationed in those waters in order to enforce a strict interpretation of the Convention of 1818 to prevent the unlawful encroachment of American fishermen into British waters.20 While Crampton failed to make an explicit connection between reciprocal trade with the British provinces and the fisheries issue, the two issues had been irrevocably linked. It was clear to Webster that British leaders sought to use the latter to accomplish the former. The fact that this episode came during a period when those coastal waters were particularly valuable, given shifts in the industry and changes in the sea, gave Britain’s decision a further material rationale. Two weeks elapsed before Webster made public his reaction to Britain’s heavy-handed tactics. At the heart of the matter was the status of bays and inlets. Britain asserted that the three miles of territorial waters extended from an imaginary line between the headlands of large bays—known as the headland doctrine—thereby excluding Americans from inlets such as the Bay of Fundy, whose mouths were greater than six miles. Webster, in his initial response, did not counter or dispute this British assertion, only lamenting “to make so large a concession to England” was “undoubtedly an oversight of the Convention of 1818,” even as the United States “considered that those vast inlets … ought to be open to American fishermen, as freely as the sea itself.”21 Conceding the point almost entirely, Webster observed “that by a strict and rigid construction [of the Convention of 1818] fishing vessels of the United States are precluded from entering into the bays or harbors of the British Provinces.”22 The secretary of state concluded his remarks with little reassurance to fishermen or other Americans. “The immediate effect” of British ships in North American waters “will be the loss of the valuable fall fishing to American fishermen; a complete interruption of this extensive fishing business of New England,” and “constant collisions … threatening the peace of the two countries.”23 Webster’s initial response seemed to indicate he was only reacting to decisions emanating from London.24 Webster’s editorial seemed to abandon the cause of the fishermen and in the process created much alarm among those in Washington as he articulated the administration’s initial response without the input of the president or any other cabinet members. President Millard Fillmore remarked to Webster that the publication of the editorial “has consequently created unnecessary alarm,” but that its content “is somewhat misunderstood.” To remedy the situation, Fillmore instructed his secretary of state to express that while negotiations with Great Britain over the fisheries would soon begin, “our citizens had the unquestioned right of fishing on the southern and western shore of the island of Newfoundland,” among other places.25 Webster’s next public pronouncement on the unfolding fisheries dispute, an address made from his home in Marshfield, Massachusetts, was a clear rebuke of his earlier timidity as he offered unequivocal support for American fishermen that verged on bellicosity. This address signaled a clear departure from Webster’s usual restrained approach to the nation’s foreign relations and his own Anglophilia. His actions and words throughout the crisis were indicative of an American foreign policy groping for direction in the aftermath of the territorial gains of the 1840s. “Be assured,” Webster told a crowd that welcomed him home, that “the fishermen shall be protected in all their right of property, and in all their rights of occupation … hook and line, and bob and sinker.” Webster positioned the fisheries as an integral component of national security and American state-building by declaring that “the fisheries were the seeds from which … glorious triumphs were born and sprung.” Any success enjoyed by the US Navy was owed to the fisheries and the skills its pursuit instilled in those who plied its waters.26 Again, Fillmore counseled against Webster’s extreme rhetoric. The president, recognizing the United States as the junior partner, instructed his secretary of state that the United States, “at the sacrifice of self-interest,” may have to submit to Britain’s wishes so as not to “unnecessarily stir up anger, cause popular agitation … [and] place us in the wrong by appearing before the world to have claimed that to which we were not entitled.”27 Fillmore confided to Webster that timidity and prudence were preferred to a hardline stance, out of a “fear [that] G[reat] B[ritain] is right in her construction of the treaty.”28 Fillmore’s insistence on a middle road resonated with a traditional Whig foreign policy that favored stability, commercial expansion, and an accommodation of Great Britain. Webster responded by declaring that his words were twisted by the press and imbued with a belligerent tone that could have served to upset their British counterparts. His remarks that the federal government would stand with American fishermen, right or wrong, were “jumbled and imperfect,” as a result of “the neglect of their [the editors’] appropriate duties.”29 As the Fillmore administration groped for a response to British actions, it seemed to settle on vacillation and poor communication. While Fillmore and Webster were abuzz, fretting about their interpretation of American rights in the face of British demands, and how such claims would resonate on the world stage, actual action was less hurried. Apart from a nebulous plan for Webster to begin a series of talks with the British minister to the United States with the aim of a comprehensive treaty to settle the fisheries and reciprocity issues, Fillmore settled on sending Matthew C. Perry to the contested region in the early days of August. Although Perry’s cruise along the coast of Nova Scotia and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence produced a series of detailed reports on fishing in the region, this was, more or less, the extent of the Fillmore administration’s actions. Despite perhaps unfounded fears, American fishermen and the British navy never came to blows, and the fishing season came to a quiet conclusion. The same, however, could not be said of how Congress and the press responded to that summer’s perceived British indignity. Beyond the tight circle of the executive department, the American political community made clear that the fisheries dispute was indicative of Britain’s deep-seeded disdain for the United States and the nation’s inferior status within that relationship. THE FISHERIES IN PARTISAN POLITICS That a dispute with Great Britain was unfolding during a Whig administration demonstrated the messy nature of American politics and diplomacy in the aftermath of the US-Mexican War. The Whigs were the more Anglophilic of the parties, long holding Great Britain as the exemplar of the industrial and economically vibrant kind of nation the United States could become. Naturally, though, it was a commercial issue that precipitated this crisis as the Whigs continued to advocate for higher tariffs to protect the nation’s infant industries. Britain’s recent embrace of free trade resonated with Democratic policies; the very year Britain repealed the Corn Laws, the Democratic administration of James K. Polk enacted the Walker Tariff, a remarkably low tariff passed under the direction of Polk’s treasury secretary Robert Walker. But twisting the lion’s tail during the summer of 1852 was fully in line with the Democrats’ brand of aggressive, Anglophobic foreign policy. The American political community did not hesitate to put this most recent British slight in the larger context of Anglo-American relations. While much over the previous decade had seemed to change, American statesmen were acutely aware how little things actually had. The United States, simply, continued to exist unequally in the transatlantic relationship. In Congress statesmen dwelled on the themes of British resentment and American inferiority. James Mason, the Virginia Democrat and chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, charged that the sudden dispatch of British warships to American waters was “a far higher offense than a breach of national courtesy” and an “insult and indignity to the American people.”30 The more bellicose among those in Congress were quick to find evidence that little over the past seven decades of American independence suggested Great Britain respected the United States, even as the events of the 1840s adjudicated numerous outstanding irritants. For those such as Solon Borland, Democrat from Arkansas, this example of British aggression was unprecedented. “Has it ever happened before,” Borland asked, “in the whole history of our country, from the day when our independence was acknowledged by Great Britain until this administration, that negotiations have been opened with us through the medium of cannon pointed against our citizens and our ships?”31 The Democrat Thomas Rusk of Texas echoed his colleague’s sentiment: “Can we negotiate at the cannon’s mouth?” An emphatic “no” was the senator’s answer.32 Moreover, American politicians claimed Great Britain ran roughshod over the norms of international relations. The British, at least in the eyes of Congress, sought a novel, if not illegal, interpretation of the international agreement. For American senators the headland doctrine was an unprecedented interpretation of the 1818 convention with no legal weight. Other senators disputed the notion that fisheries could even be regulated or demarcated at all. The Anglophobic Democrat of Michigan Lewis Cass plainly stated that “no nation can appropriate [the ocean] to itself,” for the seas are a “common highway,” and “a liquid field” “whose abundant supply of food for man is among the most wonderful and beneficent dispensations of nature.” Thus American access to these fisheries was not something granted by the British but was a right “from the Almighty God.”33 Any attempt by Britain to curtail or reinterpret that right was an example of arrogance and disdain. Despite claims that America would resist any British designs on the fisheries, Congress still recognized American inferiority in the maritime and military arenas. Tennessee Whig John Bell noted, “we are not in a condition either in regard to the fisheries or our interest in the States south of us, or in regard to the islands on the Pacific coast, to negotiate on precisely equal terms with such a Power as Great Britain… . She has great advantages over us.” Bell understood American shortcomings as cause for alarm in the short term but still had confidence that “the American spirit is ready to maintain the honor of this country against all odds.” Yet Bell conceded that “we would be in a condition to be overawed” by the superiority of British force if the nations came to blows.34 While a few voices in Congress urged restraint, insisting that Great Britain would not be so foolish as to alienate, let alone spark war with, a major commercial and financial ally, the popular press was not so nuanced. Across the Union, newspapers speculated as to why the British had insisted on this new construction of the Convention of 1818. Many, of course, pointed to reciprocal trade with Canada. But others felt that behind British actions lay a decades-old disdain for the United States on the part of the British ruling class. Less than a month after Crampton informed Webster of the Derby government’s decision to suspend American fishing rights in Canadian waters, the Whig-leaning Boston Evening Transcript offered harsh words for British leaders. Without mincing words, the article described the actions of Derby and his minsters as “manifestly unwarranted.” Behind these outrageous British actions lay the machinations of a class unable to live in peace with the American republic. While the author of this editorial had trouble believing that “Lord Derby has been guilty of the folly of putting forward these absurd pretensions as a cover to a scheme for fomenting a hostile feeling between the two countries,” the writings and speeches of “many individuals of the high Tory class in England” would confirm such a suspicion. Motivating Britain’s heavy-handed approach was a conservative desire to maintain its imperial foothold in North America. The ruling elites of Britain exhibit a “soreness at witnessing the growth of the republican spirit among the inhabitants of British America, and have declared it as their opinion that nothing but a timely war with the United States would save the colonies to Great Britain.”35 The Baltimore Sun, generally sympathetic to the Democratic Party, similarly suspected Lord Derby of harboring resentment of the United States. Even though Derby’s ministry acknowledged the importance of reciprocity between the United States and the provinces, the Sun asserted that Derby “cares a button about the Canadian project of reciprocity.” Instead Derby’s decision to curtail American fishing rights is but an example of “his contempt for the power and national character of the American Union.”36 Later the Sun would describe the feeling of disdain felt for Americans across all of Europe in declaring, “we know that the rapid advance of the United States in prosperity and importance, is regarded with jealous eyes by the legitimacy of Europe. Beneath the courtesies of national intercourse, we discern the cordial hate of despotisms.”37 The Picayune of New Orleans succinctly summed up the issue. This crisis did not arise from the substance of the fisheries dispute but from the “hot haste, arrogance and discourtesy of the British Ministry.”38 Americans remained suspicious of British actions and were still unprepared to live peacefully alongside the British Empire as an inferior. Although much of the rhetoric centered on the Anglo-American relationship, many Americans were equally suspicious of their northern neighbors. With a propensity for invading those British colonies, early Americans were never able to embrace their Anglophone border-mates in any way that approximated fraternal bonds. The American-Canadian relationship gave the fisheries dispute a more obvious economic rationale given the direct competition between American and Canadian fishermen. Representative Zeno Scudder of Massachusetts was no doubt aware of the competition of Canadian fishermen given the importance of the fisheries to his constituents. The selling of Canadian fish not only threatened the economic well-being of American fishing interests on the international market, but Canada was poised to become the paramount supplier of fish within the United States. An “obstacle to the prosperity of our fisheries,” Scudder remarked, “is the unequal competition when we meet with those of the British colonies.” Not only were “the inhabitants of those Provinces … formidable competitors in the foreign market … [but] they are made rivals in our own.” Scudder, a Whig, introduced a partisan inflection to the debate by blaming the Walker Tariff for allowing Canadian fishermen to play such a predatory role in the American market. Additionally, Canadians, Scudder contended, could undercut American fishermen because of their lower standard of living. Demonstrating a certain disdain for his northern neighbors, Scudder remarked that “their habits of life, and social relations, permit them to pursue the business with a smaller profit than we can or do.” Canadian fishermen can be hired for far less than their American counterparts because the Canadian’s “manner of living and educating their children … is far below that of the fishermen of the States.”39 While men like Scudder looked down on Canadians because of their competition and perceived unrefined manner, others were suspicious that these British subjects were the ones driving British policy. New York Whig William Henry Seward observed that “provincial authorities” have always insisted upon the “technical and rigorous construction of the treaty” while American officials prefer the “more liberal and just” interpretation. Seward reduced the debate to its essential elements: “the British Colonists insist upon the rigorous construction of the convention of 1818, so as to exclude us from entering the large British bays, and distract and annoy our fishermen; and the people of the United States resist that construction, and they never will yield it.”40 John Davis, a Massachusetts Whig, concurred with Seward’s estimation of the role the Canadians played in driving British policy. For Davis, the decades since the adoption of the Convention of 1818 had witnessed a “pretty earnest and determined effort” on the part of Canadian authorities to establish an agreement between the British North American provinces and the United States that “they call reciprocity in trade.”41 The fisheries dispute exposed some of the fundamental aspects of Anglo-American relations. But this crisis also offered the rhetorical space for a wider ranging discussion about American foreign relations, allowing observers to locate the ongoing fisheries issue in the broader context of American diplomacy. A partisan tone, no doubt encouraged by election year politicking, pervaded such a discussion in an exemplification of the “paradox” of Anglophobia. While Britain could exert a galvanizing force in American politics, this unity exposed other divisions that rent the republic.42 Isaac Toucey, a Democrat from Connecticut, took the opportunity presented by the fisheries dispute to indict the Fillmore administration’s foreign policy more generally. The fisheries dispute was but the latest example of the administration’s failure to steadfastly defend American rights and honor. Toucey admitted that he had “not that confidence in the Executive which, perhaps, I ought to have” because the administration boasted a lackluster record on foreign affairs. Toucey lacked confidence in the administration “after what I have witnessed on the coast of Cuba.”43 Toucey made reference to the Fillmore administration’s timidity in responding to the execution of American filibusters who joined in Narciso Lopez’s ill-fated attempt to conquer Cuba in 1851. Democrats resurrected the failure of the Lopez expedition during the summer of 1852 in an attempt to show that Fillmore’s Whig administration lacked resolve in the realm of foreign affairs. A Democratic paper, the Daily Ohio Statesman, hammered away at this point and in doing so drew a connection between executed filibusters and North Atlantic cod. “In the Cuban affair from beginning to end,” this editorialist remarked, “American citizens were involved, American rights came into conflict with Spanish rights. Spain dictated and the American government instantly submitted.” In the view of this paper the Cuban affair was emblematic of Whig foreign policy and the propensity of Fillmore and Webster to stand by idly while insults were heaped upon America. “The whole diplomatic policy of the whig administration,” the Daily Ohio Statesman opined, “is one series of tame and quiet submission to British, French, and Spanish aggression, and not even so much as one firm protest is to be found in all the archives of the times.” Given the past conduct of the Fillmore administration, the paper could only predict more disgrace to beset the United States: “If a whig administration allows an errant insult to the American Flag to pass over unexplained, they cannot be presumed to care more about an American Cod Fish.”44 Other nations, so the Democrats claimed, took their cues from the Spanish and the British. Recent instances of French, Greek, and Mexican disregard for American rights added greater detail to what the New Hampshire Patriot described as a “graphic but humiliating picture of the disgraceful position in which our country has been reduced, in its foreign relations, by the truckling imbecility of the present federal administration.” The fisheries dispute came at a time when the flag seemed to sag. Through the eyes of the paranoid and jealous, American honor was attacked on all sides and showed the inability of the nation to contend with such problems. As the New Hampshire Patriot remarked, the conduct of American foreign policy could only be described as “weak, timid, truckling and pusillanimous”—indeed the “source of extreme mortification to every true-hearted American.”45 SCALY OPERATIVES Many in the American political community made clear that the fisheries dispute stemmed from Britain’s long-held desire to cow the United States to the British world order. But the view from the fisheries showed how political and environmental imperatives came together. As reports from American diplomatic and military agents indicated, the clash that spiraled into a wide-ranging conversation about the place of the United States in the world needed what was, more or less, an accident of nature. Changes in the sea demanded changes in American fishing practices; environmental changes ran up against the politically and ecologically outdated agreements Great Britain and the United States reached decades beforehand. The pretext for this diplomatic confrontation was created by the mere fact that during the mid-nineteenth century, American fishermen began catching more mackerel than they previously had. This fact was not lost on the American diplomatic agents stationed in the region. The second quarter of the nineteenth century witnessed an unprecedented uptick in the number of mackerel fishing ventures launched from American shores. Part of this surge was a result of changes in the dynamics of the fishing industry. Beginning in the second decade of the nineteenth century, Yankee fishermen devised a method of catching mackerel that relied on a new kind of fishing jig that did not require the laborious process of baiting each and every hook.46 With increasing efficiency American fishermen soon overran the mackerel stocks nearest to American shores, thus forcing skippers to sail further and further afield in search of their prey. Although the federal cod-fishing bounty gave American fishermen the capital necessary to penetrate British waters initially, the law’s stipulations and regulations—that fishermen pursue cod and cod alone—further encouraged more mackereling as fishermen avoided such constraints of the cod bounty. Reaching a peak in the early 1830s, mackerel fishing was, on the eve of the 1852 Fisheries Dispute, once again in its ascendency as American fishermen invaded North Atlantic waters with seemingly little regard for decades-old treaty stipulations.47 These changes, however, were not solely the result of increased technological efficiency but had an environmental component as well. Mackerel fishing was, despite its booming popularity in the 1820s to 1840s, a precarious endeavor. Lorenzo Sabine, a contemporary observer of the fisheries, noted that “serious depressions and ruinous losses … are not uncommon” in the pursuit of such a “capricious and sportive fish.” This fickle fish followed a seasonal pattern of migration as summers brought about warmer temperatures and rich phytoplankton blooms. Yet despite this seasonal pattern, year-to-year variations were significant, leaving New England fishermen with little concept of what was normal. Such an ill-defined baseline was even more susceptible to radically shifting expectations and demands. As more and more Americans outfitted boats specifically designed for the needs of the mackerel fishery, environmental conditions favored the proliferation of these fish. Changes in ocean temperature and chemistry during this period—changes most likely driven by the North Atlantic Oscillation—helped create huge hauls that led, in subsequent years, to huge busts. For a time at least, the environment accommodated human pressures. The year 1831 was a particularly productive one as fishermen brought in loads of mackerel unparalleled until the 1880s. Yet five years later those numbers fell by half, hobbling the industry as it entered the financial panic of 1837. Mackerel, unlike the longer lived cod, were prone to more radical fluctuations in responding to the changes in the sea. The industry responded in the 1840s with a desperate search for this erratic fish.48 The relative rise in the number of mackerel fishers had political consequences. Unlike the benthic-dwelling codfish that had for so long occupied the attention of New England’s fishing fleets, the mackerel was a migratory species that moved into coastal waters during the course of the summer fishing season. This ecology was poised to create trouble in a diplomatic regime that barred American fishermen from the waters nearest the shores of Britain’s North American provinces. Perry witnessed this tension firsthand; although ignorant of the ecological changes that were most likely occurring in the sea, the naval officer could certainly observe its ramifications. “The mackerel,” Perry explained, “usually resort in shoal to the Bays, and indents of the coasts,” leaving fishermen little choice but to pursue their catch to the imaginary line that demarked Britain’s exclusive waters. But, as to be expected, in the “engrossing and exciting occupation of taking them in thousands with the hook, they frequently follow the fish into forbidden waters, doubtless in many instances … when the weather is thick or hazy, and when distances, computed by the eye … are deceptive.”49 The natural “fickleness” of those scaly operatives did much to create these tense diplomatic circumstances. The remedy to this situation was, of course, political. Perry “presumed that the mackerel will continue their periodical visit to their usual haunts” and thus render the status quo of the Convention of 1818 untenable. American fishermen complained of the difficulties imposed by the arbitrary maritime boundary. Residents in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, at least as Perry surmised from his cruise, likewise sought to alter the status of American fishing rights, as they were “anxious to draw tight the bonds of neighborly friendship.” Although Perry remarked on the friendly disposition of some of the residents of British North America, like many in Congress, he reserved a certain, although more restrained, suspicion of his continental neighbors. Perry remarked that “a number of these vessels particularly those employed in the codfishery are commanded and partly manned by citizens of the Provinces in contravention of the law who embark their capital in American bottoms to secure not only the bounty granted by Congress but the privileges also of introducing their fish into the United States free of duty.” The situation that emerged on the fisheries affirms historian Brian J. Payne’s observations concerning the importance of transnational connections resulting from American expansion into British colonial waters. The development of an informal economy between American fishermen and colonial bait sellers depended on what Payne calls “informal codes of conduct.” Relations between the two were smoothest when operating apart from the influence of outsiders and larger geopolitical concerns. While the ad hoc nature of these kinds of relations defined day-to-day operations, this episode goes beyond Payne’s observations to demonstrate the importance of larger diplomatic contexts to influence, and at times disrupt, the fishing industry.50 Perry advocated for a reappraisal of the Anglo-American convention and urged those in Washington to make any concession necessary to secure expanded fishing rights. “Any concession of interest,” like trade reciprocity, Perry remarked, “would be cheap for the inappreciable privileges of taking fish … within the entire waters of the Provinces.” The shores of Newfoundland and Labrador provided an example of where the “right to fish is better defined by the Treaty,” and consequently a place devoid of the confrontations that marked the littoral of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Perry even suggested that a treaty that aligned political needs and ecological realties would ensure the continued health of this ecosystem. While “these sources of wealth seem to be exhaustless,” they “will be seriously injured in consequence of the wanton destruction of the fish, and the disturbance of their fishing grounds, and hence the necessity of stringent laws for their preservation.”51 Perry’s cruise on the contested waters of the North Atlantic demonstrated how the environment was a crucial component of transatlantic relations. Any political arrangements failing to comport with this ecology would do little more than sow Anglo-American discord. Perry was not alone in observing the ecological origins of this dispute. Israel Andrews, the American consul at St. John, likewise made the connection between mackerel fishing and the outbreak of hostilities in Britain’s provincial waters. Situated on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, Andrews was well positioned to comment on the American fishing industry. In a communiqué to Secretary of State Daniel Webster, Andrews bemoaned how the ongoing fisheries dispute seemed poised to disrupt the cordial relations between the United States, Great Britain, and Britain’s North American colonies. While the American consul remarked to the secretary of state on the esoteric and legalistic interpretation of the Convention of 1818 as it related to the American right to enter the Bay of Fundy—merely more rhetorical wrangling on the disputed headland doctrine—something far more material undergirded his interpretation of this most recent dispute. “From the commencement of this fishing season … the American fishing vessels pursue their business at some distance from the land,” yet, Andrews declared, “after the first of September the fish draw in to the shore and are followed by the fishermen.” The fish that enticed American fishermen to transgress the statutory limit of American waters was doubtless mackerel, given its proclivity to retreat shoreward during the course of the fishing season. Andrews even cited the words of the Commissioners of the Fisheries in the Province of Nova Scotia who, in a report to the provincial governor, claimed that “the nature of the Fall fishing renders it absolutely necessary for pursuit of fish within three miles of the shore.” As fishermen, forced by the nature of the fish themselves, pursued their prey into forbidden waters, they faced capture and potential ruin at the hands of a British ministry that sought to use the situation to further the reciprocity agenda.52 Without alteration to the status quo, American fishermen would remain vulnerable to being preyed upon by the British and provincial navies. As long as fish like mackerel traversed the arbitrary three-mile boundary, Anglo-American relations would be subject to periodic diplomatic confrontations. Andrews remarked that “there is no doubt whatever of the fish remaining in the shore after the first of September, particularly mackerel,” thus giving the consul “positive certainty of more seizures being made.”53 The “failure” of mackerel to comply with the dictates of transatlantic relations exposed the fatal flaw of fisheries diplomacy—namely that disputes were a product of the gulf that existed between ecology and politics. The connection between changes in the fisheries and diplomatic disputes was obvious to men like Matthew Perry and Israel Andrews, who had firsthand experience with the fishing industry, who had sailed those waters, and who interviewed those fishermen. The point was not lost in its transmission to Washington. Writing to the American minister to London, Secretary of State Edward Everett, Webster’s successor, penned the Fillmore administration’s most complete response to the fisheries dispute. Dated early December, after the passions aroused that summer had time to settle, Everett’s missive explored the myriad misunderstandings and contingencies that led to Great Britain’s decision to bar American fishermen from provincial waters. Of course the secretary of state singled out the reciprocity issue as a central irritant in this dispute. But Everett also attacked Britain’s support for the spurious headland doctrine, suggested that the dispute was mere “electioneering” on the British ministry’s part, and reiterated the genuine alarm Americans felt in response to Britain’s aggressive tactics. He even went so far as to claim that colonial leaders were really the ones responsible for British action as provincial authorities had, for decades, wanted to rein in American fishermen. But amid commercial politics, legal arguments, and subtle paranoia, Everett gave credit to the fish for the role they played in the dispute. Everett understood how the pursuit of mackerel by American fishermen seemed to be the inevitable cause of the numerous violations of the convention line. Everett remarked that by “inadvertence or even design” American fishermen “pass[ed] the line of the Convention in the eager pursuit of a shoal of mackerel.” Casting a suspicious eye on the motives of US colonial neighbors, Everett accused Canadians of “too keenly” enforcing “their monopoly of the best fishing grounds,” with the implication that provincial leaders, not those in Whitehall, were responsible for this newly vigorous policy. But Everett’s appreciation for the environmental elements of the fishery dispute did not necessarily mean the secretary of state grasped the ecological complexities of the region. In an interpretation that resonated with the day’s scientific understanding, not to mention America’s political goals, Everett claimed that admitting American fishermen to these waters would do little to hurt the provincial fishing industry or the sea’s ecological health. Citing the “resort of two centuries and a half,” the secretary of state claimed the “inexhaustible abundance” of those “prolific waters” remained “undiminished,” and that “the gain of one implies no loss to another.”54 American statesmen were consistent in articulating the need to align international agreements with ecological realities, at least as these politicians understood them. CONCLUSION The dispute would fizzle come fall as fish, mackerel in particular, retreated to their overwinter grounds, and politicians, at least those in the United States, turned their attention to the presidential contest. Soon, but not simply, the trade reciprocity issue would be settled as the nations came to an agreement in 1854 with the Marcy-Elgin treaty whereby the US market was opened to Canadian goods and Canadian waters were opened to fishermen from the United States. But despite the fisheries issue receding to the back pages, questions about Anglo-American relations and the place of the United States in a British Atlantic world remained. The fisheries issue, as it had before and would again, exposed elements fundamental to this relationship. And as the summer of 1852 showed, the United States remained sensitive to Britain’s heavy-handed international policies. Mutual respect and the British recognition of American parity were necessary for a more tranquil transatlantic relationship. That November the New Orleans Picayune observed that the transatlantic relationship could only be put on a constructive footing if Great Britain came to the realization that the “American continent is no longer a sphere for the planting of British colonies” and that “America is to belong to the Americans and be governed by American ideas.”55 Yet such handwringing about British recognition of American equality in international affairs was not only, or even primarily, about the continent. Since American independence questions about American sovereignty were in greatest relief in maritime contexts, making the peculiar nature of the oceanic environment and of marine ecology integral to those political questions. As policymakers in the United States set about defining the nation abroad and crafting a foreign policy to fit those demands, the maritime environment became not just a setting but a central player. The Fisheries Dispute of 1852 demonstrated how deeply implicated the natural world could be in the process of American diplomacy and how the men who sought to control world affairs from the cabinet rooms of Washington and London were limited, indeed constrained, by what the environment would allow. Thomas Blake Earle is a postdoctoral fellow with the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. Footnotes I would like to thank Caleb McDaniel and Randal Hall for reading early drafts of what would become this article. My appreciation also goes to Lisa Brady and the staff at Environmental History along with Kurk Dorsey and an anonymous reviewer for their keen insights. This article benefited from the combined expertise of and helpful questions from my colleagues at the Center for Presidential History including Jeff Engel, Brian Franklin, Lindsay Chervinsky, Paul Renfro, Aaron Crawford, and Tom Knock. Finally, I would like to thank the anonymous member of a prize committee who once called this article “boring” and inspired me to make it better. 1. Matthew C. Perry to John P. Kennedy, Secretary of the Navy, August __ 1852, Despatches from U.S. Consuls in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, 1835–1906 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T485, roll 2); Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives, College Park, Md. 2. “Order to Investigate Fisheries Dispute with Canada,” John P. Kennedy to Matthew C. Perry, July 28, 1852, in The New American State Papers: Naval Affairs, ed. K. Jack Bauer, vol. 2, Diplomatic Activities (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 1981), 63. 3. For the “human archive and natural archive,” see Geoffrey Parker, Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013), xvi–xvii. 4. For the midcentury Anglo-American rapprochement, see Charles Campbell, From Revolution to Rapprochement: The United States and Great Britain, 1783–1900 (New York: Wiley, 1974); Francis M. Carroll, A Good and Wise Measure: The Search for the Canadian-American Boundary, 1783–1842 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001); Howard Jones and Donald Rakestraw, Prologue to Manifest Destiny: Anglo-American Relations in the 1840s (Wilmington: SR Books, 1997); Howard Jones, To the Webster-Ashburton Treaty: A Study in Anglo-American Relations, 1783–1843 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977); Donald Rakestraw, For Honor or Destiny: The Anglo-American Crisis over the Oregon Territory (New York: P. Lang, 1995); Kenneth R. Stevens, Border Diplomacy: The Caroline and McLeod Affairs in Anglo-American-Canadian Relations, 1837–1842 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1989). 5. The fisheries issue goes beyond the so-called postcolonial readings of the antebellum United States by showing how the environment was yet another space where Americans confronted both the pride of independence and revulsion at their inferiority and continued reliance on Great Britain. See Kariann Yokota, Unbecoming British: How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), and Sam W. Haynes, Unfinished Revolution: The Early American Republic in a British World (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010). 6. For diplomatic environmental history, see Kurkpatrick Dorsey, Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy: U.S.-Canadian Wildlife Protection Treaties in the Progressive Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998); Dorsey, Whales and Nation: Environmental Diplomacy on the High Seas (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2013); Thomas Robertson, Malthusian Moment: Global Population Growth and the Birth of American Environmentalism (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2012). Diplomatic-environmental histories remain a small, but quickly growing, subfield, with Dorsey even calling the environment the “the great untapped vein of American diplomatic history.” “International Environmental Issues,” from Robert Schulzinger, ed., A Companion to American Foreign Relations (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003), 33. 7. George A Rose, Cod: The Ecological History of the Atlantic Fisheries (St. Johns: Breakwater Books, 2007), 60–70; Bigelow and Schroeder’s Fishes of the Gulf of Maine, 3rd ed., ed. Bruce B. Collette and Grace Klein-MacPhee (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002), 229–34; Deborah Cramer, Great Waters: An Atlantic Passage (New York: Norton, 2001), 51–53. 8. Rose, 117–18; Bigelow and Schroeder’s, 524–28; Geir Ottersen, Jurgen Alheit, Ken Drinkwater, Kevin Friedland, Eherhard Hagen, and Nils Chr. Stenseth, “The Response of Fish Populations to Ocean Climate Fluctuations,” in Ecosystems and Climate Variation: The North Atlantic—A Comparative Perspective, ed. Nils Chr. Stenseth, Geir Ottorsen, James W. Hurrell, and Andrea Belgrano (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 72–84. 9. Brian Fagan, The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History (New York: Basic Books, 2001); Bolster, “Putting the Ocean in Atlantic History: Maritime Communities and Marine Ecology in the Northwest Atlantic, 1500–1800,” American Historical Review 113 (February 2008): 19–47. 10. Rose, 70–71, 284–86; Ottersen et al., 74–77; Bolster, Mortal Sea, 122–24; Kenneth F. Drinkwater et al., “The Response of Marine Ecosystems to Climate Variability Associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation,” in The North Atlantic Oscillation: Climate Significance and Environmental Impact, Geophysical Monograph 134 (Washington, DC: American Geophysical Union, 2003), 221–22. 11. Lorenzo Sabine, Report on the Principal Fisheries of the American Seas (Washington, DC: Department of the Treasury, 1853), 176–77, 189. 12. Rose, 117–18; Ottersen et al., 80; Bolster, Mortal Sea, 103–4; Bigelow and Schroeder, 234, 527–28. 13. Bolster, Mortal Sea, 163–67 (quotation on 163); W. Jeffrey Bolster, Karen E. Alexander, and William B. Leavenworth, “The Historical Abundance of Cod on the Nova Scotian Shelf,” in Shifting Baselines: The Past and Future of Ocean Fisheries, ed. Jeremy B. C. Jackson, Karen E. Alexander, and Enric Sala (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2011), 80. 14. “Progress of Free-Trade in Foreign Countries,” Manchester Times and Gazette, April 4, 1846. 15. For the selected historiography of free trade in nineteenth-century Great Britain, see Bernard Semmel, The Rise of Free Trade Imperialism: Classical Political Economy, the Empire of Free Trade and Imperialism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1970); Anthony Howe, Free Trade and Liberal England, 1846–1946 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997); Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey, From Corn Laws to Free Trade: Interest, Ideas, and Institutions in Historical Perspective (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006); and Frank Trentmann, Free Trade Nation: Commerce, Consumption, and Civil Society in Modern Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). 16. Daniel Webster to Henry Laytton Bulwer, September 14, 1850, in The Papers of Daniel Webster: Diplomatic Papers, 1850–1852, 2 vols., ed. Kenneth E. Shewmaker et al. (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1987), 683 (hereafter, Webster Papers). 17. Webster to Bulwer, June 24, 1851, Webster Papers, 684–85. 18. The Times, February 27, 1852. 19. Angus Hawkins, The Forgotten Prime Minister: The 14th Earl of Derby, vol. 2, Achievement: 1851–1869 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 42. 20. John F. Crampton to Webster, July 5, 1852, Webster Papers, 685–86. 21. “Daniel Webster’s Editorial on the Fisheries Question,” Boston Courier, July 19, 1852, in Webster Papers, 689–94 (quotation on 693). 22. Ibid. 23. Ibid., 694. 24. For Webster’s diplomacy during this crisis and more generally, see Kenneth E. Shewmaker, “Daniel Webster and the Politics of Foreign Policy, 1850–1852,” Journal of American History (September 1976): 303–15; Shewmaker, “Daniel Webster and American Conservatism,” in Traditions and Values: American Diplomacy, 1790–1865, ed. Norman A. Graebner (Lanham: University Press of America, 1985), 129–51; Shewmaker, “‘Hook and Line, and Bob and Sinker’: Daniel Webster and the Fisheries Dispute of 1852,” Diplomatic History (Spring 1985): 113–29; and Shewmaker, “‘Congress Only Can Declare War’ and ‘The President Is Commander in Chief’: Daniel Webster and the War Power,” Diplomatic History (Fall 1988): 383–409. Also see Jay Sexton, Debtor Diplomacy: Finance and American Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era, 1837–1873 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 31–40. 25. Milliard Fillmore to Webster, July 20, 1852, Webster Papers, 695. 26. “Hon. Daniel Webster’s Reception at Marshfield,” Boston Daily Atlas, July 26, 1852. 27. Fillmore to Webster, July 25, 1852, Webster Papers, 698. 28. Ibid., 699. 29. Webster to Fillmore, August 1, 1852, Webster Papers, 705. 30. Congressional Globe, 32nd Cong., 1st sess., 1890. 31. Ibid., 1892. 32. Ibid., 1893. 33. Congressional Globe, 32th Cong., 1st sess., app., 894–95. 34. Congressional Globe, 32th Cong., 1st sess., 1895. 35. “The Fishery Troubles,” Boston Evening Transcript, July 21, 1852. 36. “Probable Settlement of the Fishery Difficulties,” Baltimore Sun, July 30, 1852. 37. “The Fishery Treaty,” Baltimore Sun, July 31, 1852. 38. “The Fisheries Again,” New Orleans Picayune, July 31, 1852. 39. Congressional Globe, 32nd Cong., 1st sess., app., 923. 40. Ibid., 915, 917. 41. Congressional Globe, 32nd Cong., 1st sess., 1891. 42. Haynes, 294–95. 43. Congressional Globe, 32th Cong., 1st sess., 1893. 44. “Cod Fishery and Whiggery,” Daily Ohio Statesman, August 9, 1852. 45. “The Imbecility of Whiggery in Power,” New-Hampshire Patriot, August 4, 1852. 46. Bolster, 88–92, 102–5. 47. For the ebb and flow of mackerel catches and the expanding footprint of American fishermen during the middle decades of the nineteenth century, see Bolster, 106–8, 286; Wayne M. O’Leary, Maine Sea Fisheries: The Rise and Fall of a Native Industry, 1830–1890 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1996), 96–107, 344–49; Harold Innis, The Cod Fisheries: the History of an International Economy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1954), 323–31; Sabine, 179–91; and Brian J. Payne discusses how American expansion into previously unutilized waters was underwritten by the fishing bounty and federal support. See Payne, Fishing a Borderless Sea: Environmental Territorialism in the North Atlantic, 1818–1910 (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010), 7–14, 21–26. For more on the bounty also see O’Leary, 40–77. 48. Sabine, 184–86; Bolster, 102–9. 49. Perry to Kennedy. 50. See Payne, xi–xvii, 1–7. For labor migration, and the consequential growth of smuggling, between the British provinces and New England, see Innis, 333–35. 51. Perry to Kennedy. 52. Israel Andrews to Daniel Webster, August 21, 1852, Despatches from US Consul in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, 1835–1906 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T485, roll 2); Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives, College Park, Md. 53. Ibid. 54. Edward Everett to Joseph R. Ingersoll, December 4, 1852, Diplomatic Instructions of the Department of State, 1801–1906 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M77, roll 75); Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives, College Park, Md. 55. “Some British Liberalism,” Times-Picayune, November 12, 1852. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Environmental History and the Forest History Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices) http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Environmental History Oxford University Press

Transatlantic Diplomacy, North Atlantic Environments, and the Fisheries Dispute of 1852

Loading next page...
 
/lp/ou_press/transatlantic-diplomacy-north-atlantic-environments-and-the-fisheries-aGOlHyDFKZ
Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Environmental History and the Forest History Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com
ISSN
1084-5453
eISSN
1930-8892
D.O.I.
10.1093/envhis/emy006
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Abstract From American independence the fisheries of the North Atlantic were a sticking point between the United States and Great Britain. Diplomats met periodically to redefine when and where American fishermen could ply their trade in the hopes of easing transatlantic tension. Yet these agreements were out of date as soon as the ink had dried. The ever-changing marine environment, not the dictates of diplomats, shaped when, where, how, and for what Americans fished. The two countries nearly came to blows over the subject during the summer of 1852, showing how vitally important environmental concerns were, and continue to be, in understanding international politics. For many observers, at the time and subsequently, this episode was merely part of a larger history of Great Britain using this maritime resource as a carrot in its drive to incorporate the United States into the international free trade order. The conditions that created this context, however, were intimately tied to the nonhuman world. Across the first half of the nineteenth century, mackerel began to surpass cod in its importance in commercial fishing. The particular biology and ecology of mackerel predisposed the fish to dwelling in waters that were, by treaty, off limits to Americans. As Americans ignored those limitations in pursuit of their catch, the conditions were right for direct confrontation between the two nations. This article demonstrates the close linkages between the environment and diplomacy and in doing so shows the problems of expecting static treaties to regulate dynamic environments. INTRODUCTION The summer of 1852 witnessed the most pointed diplomatic exchange between the United States and Great Britain over the North Atlantic fisheries. British officials dispatched warships to the contested region with orders to bar American fishermen from the fishing grounds. The United States responded in kind by sending the steam frigate USS Mississippi, under the command of famed naval officer Matthew C. Perry, to the fisheries to investigate the situation and, if need be, protect American lives and property. But when the Millard Fillmore administration dispatched Perry, Washington had little inkling that his report would be as concerned with the fish as with the fishermen themselves. During his cruise along the coast of Cape Breton, the Magdalen Islands, and across the Bay of Chaleur—what Perry concluded to be the “most frequented resorts of the American Fishermen in the Gulf of St. Lawrence”—the naval commander came to the conclusion that of the “great number of American vessels,” most were “engaged in the mackerel fishery.” Noting how the American mackerel fleet “absolutely whiten[ed] the water of these coasts,” Perry was also struck by the paucity of cod fishermen in the region.1 The cod fisheries had dominated the Atlantic trade in fish for centuries, but changes in the ocean and in the fishing industry had made the small oily mackerel an increasingly valuable catch. Mackerel, unlike cod, congregated close to shore, thus enticing American fishermen to violate a decades-old arrangement. In the aftermath of the War of 1812, the United States and Great Britain reconsidered American fishing rights as outlined in the Treaty of Paris (1783). The resulting Convention of 1818 barred American fishermen from fishing within three marine miles of the coast of Britain’s North American provinces. But this redefinition of American fishing privileges did little to settle earlier problems. Instead, from the 1820s through the 1840s, hundreds of American fishing schooners were apprehended, lawfully or not, by British and provincial cruisers for alleged infractions of the convention, but only in 1852 did the larger political context allow the issue to reach the level of crisis and in doing so exposed the problems of expecting static treaties to regulate dynamic environments. Perry’s instructions directed him to give “prompt and effective protection to all fishing vessels of the United States” and “fully and timely explanations … to fishermen of the United States of the obligation which they owe equally to the laws of their own country and to the rights of the British Crown to avoid any infraction or violation of the stipulations of the treaty of 1818.”2 The Fillmore administration feared that fishermen would create an international incident. Similar situations, in which the federal government was forced to react to decisions by on-the-ground actors, were typical of antebellum foreign relations. Along the fringes of American sovereignty, in places like Maine, Oregon, Texas, and, increasingly, Cuba, the United States repeatedly faced confrontations with other international actors as American citizens moved into contested spaces beyond the nation’s borders. The United States had already gone to war over Texas, nearly did so over Oregon, and had recently stood by as American filibusters—soldiers on private military expeditions to Latin America—were executed after a failed attempt to conquer Cuba. The Fillmore administration hoped Perry’s presence would stabilize the situation and quash this trend of Washington reacting to changes in the on-the-ground situation along the nation’s fringes. British prime minister Lord Derby insisted that his ministry sent a naval squadron to the region to enforce the treaty stipulations that regulated access to the fisheries but failed to mention how such a decision made the fisheries a coercive element in Britain’s international commercial affairs. As the crisis unfolded, observers tried to blame the dispute on a British administration disdainful of a growing United States, on colonial leaders fed up with encroaching Americans, and on American fishermen oblivious to the international agreements in place. But it was not the vindictiveness of the British, the machinations of the provincials, or the ignorance of the Americans that created controversy in the summer of 1852. Instead, it was the fish. Centuries of climatic change and fishery pressures led in the middle decades of the nineteenth century to significant shifts in American fishing practices in the North Atlantic. These changes were as important as Britain’s diplomatic goals in how this conflict unfolded. The political and the environmental aligned to expose the fundamental nature of Anglo-American relations. The environment was inscribed, in however fleeting of traces, upon diplomatic correspondence and in official discourse. The confluence of these intertwined archives—that of humans and that of nature—demonstrates the degree to which diplomacy and the American and British states were deeply embedded in nature.3 At midcentury, Anglo-American relations seemed to be entering a new phase. The Webster-Ashburton treaty of 1842 assuaged border disputes that had simmered since independence; saber rattling over the Oregon Question ended in 1846; America’s convincing victory in the US-Mexican War seemed to announce to the world, Britain first and foremost, that the former colonials had become full-fledged imperialists. Quite simply the 1840s were a period of immense change in the tenor of Anglo-American relations. But British warships still arrived on the fishing grounds in the summer of 1852 in an effort to strong-arm the United States into accepting a trade agreement in which American leaders had shown little interest. While the 1840s suggested a fundamental shift in transatlantic relations, the fisheries issue showed that the United States remained the junior partner.4 How this situation came to a head in the summer of 1852, however, requires an environmental perspective. This maritime resource served as an arena for both national self-definition and acute anxiety born of a sense of inferiority.5 The fisheries issue exposed the confused position of the United States in a British world. While the environment may seem to be an issue far from the minds of diplomats, especially in an era before the age of environmentalism, the Fisheries Dispute of 1852 provides an excellent example of how foreign relations is rendered incomprehensible without acknowledging the environmental context.6 This episode does more, though, than merely demonstrate the link between diplomacy and environmental change by offering to explain why and when such events occur. The environmental conditions had been in place for decades. It was only in 1852, however, that the political climate was sufficiently fertile to allow those conditions to explode into controversy. CHANGES IN THE SEA Two important elements of the complex ecology of the North Atlantic, at least from the human perspective, are the Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) and Atlantic mackerel (Scomber scombrus). The conditions created by the climate, geology, and chemistry of the North Atlantic made it a welcoming home for these fish. Cod and its gadoid relatives are largely nonmigratory, preferring to stay in the region’s relatively cool waters year round to feed on capelin and small crustaceans. While only those cod that live at the extreme northern and southern reaches of their geographic range regularly follow favorable ocean temperatures as the seasons dictate, all cod do make a vertical migration over the course of their lives as the juvenile fish spawn in open surface waters before descending to their preferred benthic habitat upon maturity. Cod most often spawn offshore, where they spend much of their life cycle.7 Atlantic mackerel, in contrast, are decidedly migratory. Like their tuna and bonito relatives, mackerel regularly range to warmer waters as far south as the Mid-Atlantic Bight. Mackerel follow a seasonal rhythm, traveling northeastward after overwintering in mid-Atlantic waters as the spring’s rising temperatures allow. In certain years with favorably warm temperatures, mackerel have ranged as far south as the Carolinas and as far north as the Strait of Belle Isle and the Labrador Sea. These fish are most at home in the open water but do not shy away from coming inshore, especially in the spring as they head north. Both cod and mackerel, like most all fish, have much of their life cycles dictated by ocean temperatures. Migrations, food availability, maturation, and reproduction are all processes that depend on the ever-fluctuating temperatures of the ocean.8 Over the past fifteen thousand years, the earth’s climate has shifted often. The climate history of the past millennia, as best understood, is marked by three distinct and dramatic climate swings. The first, lasting to about the onset of the fourteenth century, was a period of relative warmth known as the Medieval Warm Period. It was followed by a period of cooling, the Little Ice Age, that lasted well into the nineteenth century. Finally, the past few centuries have seen significant and unprecedented warming. But it was the Little Ice Age that most concerned the fisheries. During this period Europeans first began sailing further and further west in search of cod as their home stocks began declining. It was likewise during this period that fishermen of all provenances began the alteration or, perhaps more accurately, the destruction, of the northwest Atlantic’s fisheries.9 The Fisheries Dispute of 1852 came at the “last gasps” of the Little Ice Age. Across North America the second quarter of the nineteenth century was generally marked by a rapid decline in temperatures. Bioproductivity most likely declined as plankton responded to cooler temperatures with lower yields and cod bore the ill effects of this cooling. Cod, despite being a cold water fish, was unequipped to contend with such a significant cooling. As temperatures dipped below the optimal threshold for spawning and growth, the population of cod in the northwest Atlantic declined. By 1850 cod had disappeared from the western coast of Greenland with Newfoundland experiencing a dramatic decline as well. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the environment of the northwest Atlantic seemed unable to support such a large community of cod for fishermen of all nations to exploit.10 Mackerel were not as devastated by the cooling of the mid-nineteenth century. Although their migratory range was severely curtailed, failing to even reach Newfoundland, these fish could have remained in relatively warmer waters as the southern contingent overwintered and spawned in mid-Atlantic waters. While the northern contingent of mackerel may have been severely weakened by the cooling trend, mackerel continued to reach at least the Bay of Fundy, the shores of Nova Scotia, and some of the more southerly banks during their summer migration. The climatic cooling of the nineteenth century in all likelihood created an ecology that by the 1850s faced a significant decline in the cod population while allowing for a relative rise in mackerel. Fishermen responded accordingly. In 1800 the United States exported 392,726 barrels of cod; by 1850 that number had dropped to 168,600. Across roughly that same time period, mackerel catches grew enormously from 8,079 barrels to 329,242.11 This period could be characterized as one of crisis and tension among fishermen as new environmental realities forced them to change long-held practices. Yet the political practices that governed the fisheries failed to change alongside these new environmental realities.12 Amid the environmental changes that operated at centuries- and millennia-long scales was what historian W. Jeffrey Bolster calls a “fishing revolution.” This set of changes, often called “modernization,” intersected the shifting environments of the region with profound ecological and political ramifications. During an era of mechanization, fishing largely remained an industry dependent on the energies of wind and human muscle. But this in no way limited the destruction wrought by its practitioners. The most significant changes would prove to be those in the technology of the gear employed. Most important to the cod fishery was the adoption of long line technology. By long lining—also known as tub trawling and bultow fishing—individual fishermen could set lines, each with hundreds of hooks, on weighted ground lines, vastly expanding a fisherman’s footprint over single-hook hand lining. Growing catches, of course, came with a host of ecological consequences, and fishermen began to realize their unchecked efforts were changing the seas even as the seas themselves changed. Despite occasional calls for restraint, fishermen continued exploiting the environment with little regard for their piscine or political neighbors. When American citizens and British subjects confronted each other in the summer of 1852, they did so in a world where political and ecological changes made such tension possible.13 THE FISHERIES IN TRANSATLANTIC POLITICS While the environmental conditions that made the dispute of 1852 possible were long in the making, its proximate cause—free trade—was much more recent. Calls for political and economic reform proliferated in midcentury Britain as the concerned among the queen’s subjects attacked issues ranging from the empire’s embrace of slavery to the narrowness of the elective franchise. While these causes met success during the 1830s, it was during the 1840s that the reform minded aimed at no less than a revolution in the intercourse of nations. This was to be done through shedding the mercantilist-inspired trade restrictions that still burdened the empire. With the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, Great Britain’s most substantive free trade policy decision, some in Britain’s political community waxed rhapsodically. A writer in the Manchester Times and Gazette went so far as to claim that “free-trade is civilization, and prohibition is barbarism.” Such a policy, according to this observer, would do nothing short of remaking the world since with “liberty of commerce,” the world would “defy religious rancour, wars, famine, poverty, all the evils which have hitherto been the heritage of humanity to perpetuate their existence. Believe not this to be a question of purely material interests; it is one intimately connected with morality and intelligence.”14 As substantive a step as the repeal of the Corn Laws was, free trade remained a goal, not a reality, and a controversial one at that. Successive ministries used Britain’s commercial policies to advance their own agendas, both in support of and in opposition to free trade.15 With this sea change in Britain’s imperial policies, the British administration sought the world’s acquiescence, at times needing the Royal Navy to enforce this revolution in human sentiment. The loss of imperial preference meant Britain’s North American colonies stood to lose a great deal in a new world of free trade. Thus Britain endeavored to entice the United States into offering its northern neighbors a favorable trade agreement in order to vent Canada’s surplus production of lumber, wheat, and coal. While this kind of trade reciprocity fell short of a more robust and all-encompassing free trade agreement, the liberal ministry of Lord John Russell hoped such would be a nudge in that direction. The United States, itself a producer of these commodities, was, however, slow to action. Secretary of State Daniel Webster made clear why Congress was disinclined to offer the British provinces any trading agreement, remarking to Henry Layton Bulwer, the Russell administration’s minister to the United States, that “the bill seems much more advantageous to Canada than to us,” since “we give her a large market, and she gives us a small one, for articles which are the common products of both.”16 The British minister sought to entice Webster with a carrot instead of the usual stick of British diplomacy. If the United States enacted legislation amicable to the commercial needs of Canada, Bulwer suggested, Americans would be guaranteed free access to the St. Lawrence and, more importantly, the expansion of fishing rights on the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.17 Still unmoved, Webster left the cause of North American reciprocity to flounder. Surprisingly enough, the newly installed Derby ministry took up the case of North American reciprocity in 1852. The conservative Lord Derby was no friend of the free trade agenda but was aware of free trade’s enormous popularity among those in Westminster. Upon Derby’s taking office, The Times of London declared that “the system of free trade” was an “unassailable … part of our present constitution.”18 Derby knew turning back the clock to the days of protection was impossible and therefore sought to accommodate the new order while maintaining face within conservative circles. Like the liberal Russell administration before him, Derby hoped to use trade reciprocity for his own ends. As the fisheries dispute unfolded, Derby agreed to discussions with France in an effort to conclude a commercial treaty that would include a mutual reduction in tariffs. Such a reciprocal agreement was not a harbinger of free trade but instead, as a Derby biographer observes, “would disrupt the parliamentary opposition unified in its advocacy of Free Trade.”19 Derby may have wished to use North American trade in a similar way to win over moderate free traders. But instead of using the fisheries as a carrot like his predecessor, Derby would use the maritime resource as a stick. In early July, in the midst of the fishing season, John Crampton, the new British minister to the United States, delivered to Daniel Webster notice that ships from the Royal Navy would be stationed in those waters in order to enforce a strict interpretation of the Convention of 1818 to prevent the unlawful encroachment of American fishermen into British waters.20 While Crampton failed to make an explicit connection between reciprocal trade with the British provinces and the fisheries issue, the two issues had been irrevocably linked. It was clear to Webster that British leaders sought to use the latter to accomplish the former. The fact that this episode came during a period when those coastal waters were particularly valuable, given shifts in the industry and changes in the sea, gave Britain’s decision a further material rationale. Two weeks elapsed before Webster made public his reaction to Britain’s heavy-handed tactics. At the heart of the matter was the status of bays and inlets. Britain asserted that the three miles of territorial waters extended from an imaginary line between the headlands of large bays—known as the headland doctrine—thereby excluding Americans from inlets such as the Bay of Fundy, whose mouths were greater than six miles. Webster, in his initial response, did not counter or dispute this British assertion, only lamenting “to make so large a concession to England” was “undoubtedly an oversight of the Convention of 1818,” even as the United States “considered that those vast inlets … ought to be open to American fishermen, as freely as the sea itself.”21 Conceding the point almost entirely, Webster observed “that by a strict and rigid construction [of the Convention of 1818] fishing vessels of the United States are precluded from entering into the bays or harbors of the British Provinces.”22 The secretary of state concluded his remarks with little reassurance to fishermen or other Americans. “The immediate effect” of British ships in North American waters “will be the loss of the valuable fall fishing to American fishermen; a complete interruption of this extensive fishing business of New England,” and “constant collisions … threatening the peace of the two countries.”23 Webster’s initial response seemed to indicate he was only reacting to decisions emanating from London.24 Webster’s editorial seemed to abandon the cause of the fishermen and in the process created much alarm among those in Washington as he articulated the administration’s initial response without the input of the president or any other cabinet members. President Millard Fillmore remarked to Webster that the publication of the editorial “has consequently created unnecessary alarm,” but that its content “is somewhat misunderstood.” To remedy the situation, Fillmore instructed his secretary of state to express that while negotiations with Great Britain over the fisheries would soon begin, “our citizens had the unquestioned right of fishing on the southern and western shore of the island of Newfoundland,” among other places.25 Webster’s next public pronouncement on the unfolding fisheries dispute, an address made from his home in Marshfield, Massachusetts, was a clear rebuke of his earlier timidity as he offered unequivocal support for American fishermen that verged on bellicosity. This address signaled a clear departure from Webster’s usual restrained approach to the nation’s foreign relations and his own Anglophilia. His actions and words throughout the crisis were indicative of an American foreign policy groping for direction in the aftermath of the territorial gains of the 1840s. “Be assured,” Webster told a crowd that welcomed him home, that “the fishermen shall be protected in all their right of property, and in all their rights of occupation … hook and line, and bob and sinker.” Webster positioned the fisheries as an integral component of national security and American state-building by declaring that “the fisheries were the seeds from which … glorious triumphs were born and sprung.” Any success enjoyed by the US Navy was owed to the fisheries and the skills its pursuit instilled in those who plied its waters.26 Again, Fillmore counseled against Webster’s extreme rhetoric. The president, recognizing the United States as the junior partner, instructed his secretary of state that the United States, “at the sacrifice of self-interest,” may have to submit to Britain’s wishes so as not to “unnecessarily stir up anger, cause popular agitation … [and] place us in the wrong by appearing before the world to have claimed that to which we were not entitled.”27 Fillmore confided to Webster that timidity and prudence were preferred to a hardline stance, out of a “fear [that] G[reat] B[ritain] is right in her construction of the treaty.”28 Fillmore’s insistence on a middle road resonated with a traditional Whig foreign policy that favored stability, commercial expansion, and an accommodation of Great Britain. Webster responded by declaring that his words were twisted by the press and imbued with a belligerent tone that could have served to upset their British counterparts. His remarks that the federal government would stand with American fishermen, right or wrong, were “jumbled and imperfect,” as a result of “the neglect of their [the editors’] appropriate duties.”29 As the Fillmore administration groped for a response to British actions, it seemed to settle on vacillation and poor communication. While Fillmore and Webster were abuzz, fretting about their interpretation of American rights in the face of British demands, and how such claims would resonate on the world stage, actual action was less hurried. Apart from a nebulous plan for Webster to begin a series of talks with the British minister to the United States with the aim of a comprehensive treaty to settle the fisheries and reciprocity issues, Fillmore settled on sending Matthew C. Perry to the contested region in the early days of August. Although Perry’s cruise along the coast of Nova Scotia and into the Gulf of St. Lawrence produced a series of detailed reports on fishing in the region, this was, more or less, the extent of the Fillmore administration’s actions. Despite perhaps unfounded fears, American fishermen and the British navy never came to blows, and the fishing season came to a quiet conclusion. The same, however, could not be said of how Congress and the press responded to that summer’s perceived British indignity. Beyond the tight circle of the executive department, the American political community made clear that the fisheries dispute was indicative of Britain’s deep-seeded disdain for the United States and the nation’s inferior status within that relationship. THE FISHERIES IN PARTISAN POLITICS That a dispute with Great Britain was unfolding during a Whig administration demonstrated the messy nature of American politics and diplomacy in the aftermath of the US-Mexican War. The Whigs were the more Anglophilic of the parties, long holding Great Britain as the exemplar of the industrial and economically vibrant kind of nation the United States could become. Naturally, though, it was a commercial issue that precipitated this crisis as the Whigs continued to advocate for higher tariffs to protect the nation’s infant industries. Britain’s recent embrace of free trade resonated with Democratic policies; the very year Britain repealed the Corn Laws, the Democratic administration of James K. Polk enacted the Walker Tariff, a remarkably low tariff passed under the direction of Polk’s treasury secretary Robert Walker. But twisting the lion’s tail during the summer of 1852 was fully in line with the Democrats’ brand of aggressive, Anglophobic foreign policy. The American political community did not hesitate to put this most recent British slight in the larger context of Anglo-American relations. While much over the previous decade had seemed to change, American statesmen were acutely aware how little things actually had. The United States, simply, continued to exist unequally in the transatlantic relationship. In Congress statesmen dwelled on the themes of British resentment and American inferiority. James Mason, the Virginia Democrat and chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, charged that the sudden dispatch of British warships to American waters was “a far higher offense than a breach of national courtesy” and an “insult and indignity to the American people.”30 The more bellicose among those in Congress were quick to find evidence that little over the past seven decades of American independence suggested Great Britain respected the United States, even as the events of the 1840s adjudicated numerous outstanding irritants. For those such as Solon Borland, Democrat from Arkansas, this example of British aggression was unprecedented. “Has it ever happened before,” Borland asked, “in the whole history of our country, from the day when our independence was acknowledged by Great Britain until this administration, that negotiations have been opened with us through the medium of cannon pointed against our citizens and our ships?”31 The Democrat Thomas Rusk of Texas echoed his colleague’s sentiment: “Can we negotiate at the cannon’s mouth?” An emphatic “no” was the senator’s answer.32 Moreover, American politicians claimed Great Britain ran roughshod over the norms of international relations. The British, at least in the eyes of Congress, sought a novel, if not illegal, interpretation of the international agreement. For American senators the headland doctrine was an unprecedented interpretation of the 1818 convention with no legal weight. Other senators disputed the notion that fisheries could even be regulated or demarcated at all. The Anglophobic Democrat of Michigan Lewis Cass plainly stated that “no nation can appropriate [the ocean] to itself,” for the seas are a “common highway,” and “a liquid field” “whose abundant supply of food for man is among the most wonderful and beneficent dispensations of nature.” Thus American access to these fisheries was not something granted by the British but was a right “from the Almighty God.”33 Any attempt by Britain to curtail or reinterpret that right was an example of arrogance and disdain. Despite claims that America would resist any British designs on the fisheries, Congress still recognized American inferiority in the maritime and military arenas. Tennessee Whig John Bell noted, “we are not in a condition either in regard to the fisheries or our interest in the States south of us, or in regard to the islands on the Pacific coast, to negotiate on precisely equal terms with such a Power as Great Britain… . She has great advantages over us.” Bell understood American shortcomings as cause for alarm in the short term but still had confidence that “the American spirit is ready to maintain the honor of this country against all odds.” Yet Bell conceded that “we would be in a condition to be overawed” by the superiority of British force if the nations came to blows.34 While a few voices in Congress urged restraint, insisting that Great Britain would not be so foolish as to alienate, let alone spark war with, a major commercial and financial ally, the popular press was not so nuanced. Across the Union, newspapers speculated as to why the British had insisted on this new construction of the Convention of 1818. Many, of course, pointed to reciprocal trade with Canada. But others felt that behind British actions lay a decades-old disdain for the United States on the part of the British ruling class. Less than a month after Crampton informed Webster of the Derby government’s decision to suspend American fishing rights in Canadian waters, the Whig-leaning Boston Evening Transcript offered harsh words for British leaders. Without mincing words, the article described the actions of Derby and his minsters as “manifestly unwarranted.” Behind these outrageous British actions lay the machinations of a class unable to live in peace with the American republic. While the author of this editorial had trouble believing that “Lord Derby has been guilty of the folly of putting forward these absurd pretensions as a cover to a scheme for fomenting a hostile feeling between the two countries,” the writings and speeches of “many individuals of the high Tory class in England” would confirm such a suspicion. Motivating Britain’s heavy-handed approach was a conservative desire to maintain its imperial foothold in North America. The ruling elites of Britain exhibit a “soreness at witnessing the growth of the republican spirit among the inhabitants of British America, and have declared it as their opinion that nothing but a timely war with the United States would save the colonies to Great Britain.”35 The Baltimore Sun, generally sympathetic to the Democratic Party, similarly suspected Lord Derby of harboring resentment of the United States. Even though Derby’s ministry acknowledged the importance of reciprocity between the United States and the provinces, the Sun asserted that Derby “cares a button about the Canadian project of reciprocity.” Instead Derby’s decision to curtail American fishing rights is but an example of “his contempt for the power and national character of the American Union.”36 Later the Sun would describe the feeling of disdain felt for Americans across all of Europe in declaring, “we know that the rapid advance of the United States in prosperity and importance, is regarded with jealous eyes by the legitimacy of Europe. Beneath the courtesies of national intercourse, we discern the cordial hate of despotisms.”37 The Picayune of New Orleans succinctly summed up the issue. This crisis did not arise from the substance of the fisheries dispute but from the “hot haste, arrogance and discourtesy of the British Ministry.”38 Americans remained suspicious of British actions and were still unprepared to live peacefully alongside the British Empire as an inferior. Although much of the rhetoric centered on the Anglo-American relationship, many Americans were equally suspicious of their northern neighbors. With a propensity for invading those British colonies, early Americans were never able to embrace their Anglophone border-mates in any way that approximated fraternal bonds. The American-Canadian relationship gave the fisheries dispute a more obvious economic rationale given the direct competition between American and Canadian fishermen. Representative Zeno Scudder of Massachusetts was no doubt aware of the competition of Canadian fishermen given the importance of the fisheries to his constituents. The selling of Canadian fish not only threatened the economic well-being of American fishing interests on the international market, but Canada was poised to become the paramount supplier of fish within the United States. An “obstacle to the prosperity of our fisheries,” Scudder remarked, “is the unequal competition when we meet with those of the British colonies.” Not only were “the inhabitants of those Provinces … formidable competitors in the foreign market … [but] they are made rivals in our own.” Scudder, a Whig, introduced a partisan inflection to the debate by blaming the Walker Tariff for allowing Canadian fishermen to play such a predatory role in the American market. Additionally, Canadians, Scudder contended, could undercut American fishermen because of their lower standard of living. Demonstrating a certain disdain for his northern neighbors, Scudder remarked that “their habits of life, and social relations, permit them to pursue the business with a smaller profit than we can or do.” Canadian fishermen can be hired for far less than their American counterparts because the Canadian’s “manner of living and educating their children … is far below that of the fishermen of the States.”39 While men like Scudder looked down on Canadians because of their competition and perceived unrefined manner, others were suspicious that these British subjects were the ones driving British policy. New York Whig William Henry Seward observed that “provincial authorities” have always insisted upon the “technical and rigorous construction of the treaty” while American officials prefer the “more liberal and just” interpretation. Seward reduced the debate to its essential elements: “the British Colonists insist upon the rigorous construction of the convention of 1818, so as to exclude us from entering the large British bays, and distract and annoy our fishermen; and the people of the United States resist that construction, and they never will yield it.”40 John Davis, a Massachusetts Whig, concurred with Seward’s estimation of the role the Canadians played in driving British policy. For Davis, the decades since the adoption of the Convention of 1818 had witnessed a “pretty earnest and determined effort” on the part of Canadian authorities to establish an agreement between the British North American provinces and the United States that “they call reciprocity in trade.”41 The fisheries dispute exposed some of the fundamental aspects of Anglo-American relations. But this crisis also offered the rhetorical space for a wider ranging discussion about American foreign relations, allowing observers to locate the ongoing fisheries issue in the broader context of American diplomacy. A partisan tone, no doubt encouraged by election year politicking, pervaded such a discussion in an exemplification of the “paradox” of Anglophobia. While Britain could exert a galvanizing force in American politics, this unity exposed other divisions that rent the republic.42 Isaac Toucey, a Democrat from Connecticut, took the opportunity presented by the fisheries dispute to indict the Fillmore administration’s foreign policy more generally. The fisheries dispute was but the latest example of the administration’s failure to steadfastly defend American rights and honor. Toucey admitted that he had “not that confidence in the Executive which, perhaps, I ought to have” because the administration boasted a lackluster record on foreign affairs. Toucey lacked confidence in the administration “after what I have witnessed on the coast of Cuba.”43 Toucey made reference to the Fillmore administration’s timidity in responding to the execution of American filibusters who joined in Narciso Lopez’s ill-fated attempt to conquer Cuba in 1851. Democrats resurrected the failure of the Lopez expedition during the summer of 1852 in an attempt to show that Fillmore’s Whig administration lacked resolve in the realm of foreign affairs. A Democratic paper, the Daily Ohio Statesman, hammered away at this point and in doing so drew a connection between executed filibusters and North Atlantic cod. “In the Cuban affair from beginning to end,” this editorialist remarked, “American citizens were involved, American rights came into conflict with Spanish rights. Spain dictated and the American government instantly submitted.” In the view of this paper the Cuban affair was emblematic of Whig foreign policy and the propensity of Fillmore and Webster to stand by idly while insults were heaped upon America. “The whole diplomatic policy of the whig administration,” the Daily Ohio Statesman opined, “is one series of tame and quiet submission to British, French, and Spanish aggression, and not even so much as one firm protest is to be found in all the archives of the times.” Given the past conduct of the Fillmore administration, the paper could only predict more disgrace to beset the United States: “If a whig administration allows an errant insult to the American Flag to pass over unexplained, they cannot be presumed to care more about an American Cod Fish.”44 Other nations, so the Democrats claimed, took their cues from the Spanish and the British. Recent instances of French, Greek, and Mexican disregard for American rights added greater detail to what the New Hampshire Patriot described as a “graphic but humiliating picture of the disgraceful position in which our country has been reduced, in its foreign relations, by the truckling imbecility of the present federal administration.” The fisheries dispute came at a time when the flag seemed to sag. Through the eyes of the paranoid and jealous, American honor was attacked on all sides and showed the inability of the nation to contend with such problems. As the New Hampshire Patriot remarked, the conduct of American foreign policy could only be described as “weak, timid, truckling and pusillanimous”—indeed the “source of extreme mortification to every true-hearted American.”45 SCALY OPERATIVES Many in the American political community made clear that the fisheries dispute stemmed from Britain’s long-held desire to cow the United States to the British world order. But the view from the fisheries showed how political and environmental imperatives came together. As reports from American diplomatic and military agents indicated, the clash that spiraled into a wide-ranging conversation about the place of the United States in the world needed what was, more or less, an accident of nature. Changes in the sea demanded changes in American fishing practices; environmental changes ran up against the politically and ecologically outdated agreements Great Britain and the United States reached decades beforehand. The pretext for this diplomatic confrontation was created by the mere fact that during the mid-nineteenth century, American fishermen began catching more mackerel than they previously had. This fact was not lost on the American diplomatic agents stationed in the region. The second quarter of the nineteenth century witnessed an unprecedented uptick in the number of mackerel fishing ventures launched from American shores. Part of this surge was a result of changes in the dynamics of the fishing industry. Beginning in the second decade of the nineteenth century, Yankee fishermen devised a method of catching mackerel that relied on a new kind of fishing jig that did not require the laborious process of baiting each and every hook.46 With increasing efficiency American fishermen soon overran the mackerel stocks nearest to American shores, thus forcing skippers to sail further and further afield in search of their prey. Although the federal cod-fishing bounty gave American fishermen the capital necessary to penetrate British waters initially, the law’s stipulations and regulations—that fishermen pursue cod and cod alone—further encouraged more mackereling as fishermen avoided such constraints of the cod bounty. Reaching a peak in the early 1830s, mackerel fishing was, on the eve of the 1852 Fisheries Dispute, once again in its ascendency as American fishermen invaded North Atlantic waters with seemingly little regard for decades-old treaty stipulations.47 These changes, however, were not solely the result of increased technological efficiency but had an environmental component as well. Mackerel fishing was, despite its booming popularity in the 1820s to 1840s, a precarious endeavor. Lorenzo Sabine, a contemporary observer of the fisheries, noted that “serious depressions and ruinous losses … are not uncommon” in the pursuit of such a “capricious and sportive fish.” This fickle fish followed a seasonal pattern of migration as summers brought about warmer temperatures and rich phytoplankton blooms. Yet despite this seasonal pattern, year-to-year variations were significant, leaving New England fishermen with little concept of what was normal. Such an ill-defined baseline was even more susceptible to radically shifting expectations and demands. As more and more Americans outfitted boats specifically designed for the needs of the mackerel fishery, environmental conditions favored the proliferation of these fish. Changes in ocean temperature and chemistry during this period—changes most likely driven by the North Atlantic Oscillation—helped create huge hauls that led, in subsequent years, to huge busts. For a time at least, the environment accommodated human pressures. The year 1831 was a particularly productive one as fishermen brought in loads of mackerel unparalleled until the 1880s. Yet five years later those numbers fell by half, hobbling the industry as it entered the financial panic of 1837. Mackerel, unlike the longer lived cod, were prone to more radical fluctuations in responding to the changes in the sea. The industry responded in the 1840s with a desperate search for this erratic fish.48 The relative rise in the number of mackerel fishers had political consequences. Unlike the benthic-dwelling codfish that had for so long occupied the attention of New England’s fishing fleets, the mackerel was a migratory species that moved into coastal waters during the course of the summer fishing season. This ecology was poised to create trouble in a diplomatic regime that barred American fishermen from the waters nearest the shores of Britain’s North American provinces. Perry witnessed this tension firsthand; although ignorant of the ecological changes that were most likely occurring in the sea, the naval officer could certainly observe its ramifications. “The mackerel,” Perry explained, “usually resort in shoal to the Bays, and indents of the coasts,” leaving fishermen little choice but to pursue their catch to the imaginary line that demarked Britain’s exclusive waters. But, as to be expected, in the “engrossing and exciting occupation of taking them in thousands with the hook, they frequently follow the fish into forbidden waters, doubtless in many instances … when the weather is thick or hazy, and when distances, computed by the eye … are deceptive.”49 The natural “fickleness” of those scaly operatives did much to create these tense diplomatic circumstances. The remedy to this situation was, of course, political. Perry “presumed that the mackerel will continue their periodical visit to their usual haunts” and thus render the status quo of the Convention of 1818 untenable. American fishermen complained of the difficulties imposed by the arbitrary maritime boundary. Residents in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, at least as Perry surmised from his cruise, likewise sought to alter the status of American fishing rights, as they were “anxious to draw tight the bonds of neighborly friendship.” Although Perry remarked on the friendly disposition of some of the residents of British North America, like many in Congress, he reserved a certain, although more restrained, suspicion of his continental neighbors. Perry remarked that “a number of these vessels particularly those employed in the codfishery are commanded and partly manned by citizens of the Provinces in contravention of the law who embark their capital in American bottoms to secure not only the bounty granted by Congress but the privileges also of introducing their fish into the United States free of duty.” The situation that emerged on the fisheries affirms historian Brian J. Payne’s observations concerning the importance of transnational connections resulting from American expansion into British colonial waters. The development of an informal economy between American fishermen and colonial bait sellers depended on what Payne calls “informal codes of conduct.” Relations between the two were smoothest when operating apart from the influence of outsiders and larger geopolitical concerns. While the ad hoc nature of these kinds of relations defined day-to-day operations, this episode goes beyond Payne’s observations to demonstrate the importance of larger diplomatic contexts to influence, and at times disrupt, the fishing industry.50 Perry advocated for a reappraisal of the Anglo-American convention and urged those in Washington to make any concession necessary to secure expanded fishing rights. “Any concession of interest,” like trade reciprocity, Perry remarked, “would be cheap for the inappreciable privileges of taking fish … within the entire waters of the Provinces.” The shores of Newfoundland and Labrador provided an example of where the “right to fish is better defined by the Treaty,” and consequently a place devoid of the confrontations that marked the littoral of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Perry even suggested that a treaty that aligned political needs and ecological realties would ensure the continued health of this ecosystem. While “these sources of wealth seem to be exhaustless,” they “will be seriously injured in consequence of the wanton destruction of the fish, and the disturbance of their fishing grounds, and hence the necessity of stringent laws for their preservation.”51 Perry’s cruise on the contested waters of the North Atlantic demonstrated how the environment was a crucial component of transatlantic relations. Any political arrangements failing to comport with this ecology would do little more than sow Anglo-American discord. Perry was not alone in observing the ecological origins of this dispute. Israel Andrews, the American consul at St. John, likewise made the connection between mackerel fishing and the outbreak of hostilities in Britain’s provincial waters. Situated on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, Andrews was well positioned to comment on the American fishing industry. In a communiqué to Secretary of State Daniel Webster, Andrews bemoaned how the ongoing fisheries dispute seemed poised to disrupt the cordial relations between the United States, Great Britain, and Britain’s North American colonies. While the American consul remarked to the secretary of state on the esoteric and legalistic interpretation of the Convention of 1818 as it related to the American right to enter the Bay of Fundy—merely more rhetorical wrangling on the disputed headland doctrine—something far more material undergirded his interpretation of this most recent dispute. “From the commencement of this fishing season … the American fishing vessels pursue their business at some distance from the land,” yet, Andrews declared, “after the first of September the fish draw in to the shore and are followed by the fishermen.” The fish that enticed American fishermen to transgress the statutory limit of American waters was doubtless mackerel, given its proclivity to retreat shoreward during the course of the fishing season. Andrews even cited the words of the Commissioners of the Fisheries in the Province of Nova Scotia who, in a report to the provincial governor, claimed that “the nature of the Fall fishing renders it absolutely necessary for pursuit of fish within three miles of the shore.” As fishermen, forced by the nature of the fish themselves, pursued their prey into forbidden waters, they faced capture and potential ruin at the hands of a British ministry that sought to use the situation to further the reciprocity agenda.52 Without alteration to the status quo, American fishermen would remain vulnerable to being preyed upon by the British and provincial navies. As long as fish like mackerel traversed the arbitrary three-mile boundary, Anglo-American relations would be subject to periodic diplomatic confrontations. Andrews remarked that “there is no doubt whatever of the fish remaining in the shore after the first of September, particularly mackerel,” thus giving the consul “positive certainty of more seizures being made.”53 The “failure” of mackerel to comply with the dictates of transatlantic relations exposed the fatal flaw of fisheries diplomacy—namely that disputes were a product of the gulf that existed between ecology and politics. The connection between changes in the fisheries and diplomatic disputes was obvious to men like Matthew Perry and Israel Andrews, who had firsthand experience with the fishing industry, who had sailed those waters, and who interviewed those fishermen. The point was not lost in its transmission to Washington. Writing to the American minister to London, Secretary of State Edward Everett, Webster’s successor, penned the Fillmore administration’s most complete response to the fisheries dispute. Dated early December, after the passions aroused that summer had time to settle, Everett’s missive explored the myriad misunderstandings and contingencies that led to Great Britain’s decision to bar American fishermen from provincial waters. Of course the secretary of state singled out the reciprocity issue as a central irritant in this dispute. But Everett also attacked Britain’s support for the spurious headland doctrine, suggested that the dispute was mere “electioneering” on the British ministry’s part, and reiterated the genuine alarm Americans felt in response to Britain’s aggressive tactics. He even went so far as to claim that colonial leaders were really the ones responsible for British action as provincial authorities had, for decades, wanted to rein in American fishermen. But amid commercial politics, legal arguments, and subtle paranoia, Everett gave credit to the fish for the role they played in the dispute. Everett understood how the pursuit of mackerel by American fishermen seemed to be the inevitable cause of the numerous violations of the convention line. Everett remarked that by “inadvertence or even design” American fishermen “pass[ed] the line of the Convention in the eager pursuit of a shoal of mackerel.” Casting a suspicious eye on the motives of US colonial neighbors, Everett accused Canadians of “too keenly” enforcing “their monopoly of the best fishing grounds,” with the implication that provincial leaders, not those in Whitehall, were responsible for this newly vigorous policy. But Everett’s appreciation for the environmental elements of the fishery dispute did not necessarily mean the secretary of state grasped the ecological complexities of the region. In an interpretation that resonated with the day’s scientific understanding, not to mention America’s political goals, Everett claimed that admitting American fishermen to these waters would do little to hurt the provincial fishing industry or the sea’s ecological health. Citing the “resort of two centuries and a half,” the secretary of state claimed the “inexhaustible abundance” of those “prolific waters” remained “undiminished,” and that “the gain of one implies no loss to another.”54 American statesmen were consistent in articulating the need to align international agreements with ecological realities, at least as these politicians understood them. CONCLUSION The dispute would fizzle come fall as fish, mackerel in particular, retreated to their overwinter grounds, and politicians, at least those in the United States, turned their attention to the presidential contest. Soon, but not simply, the trade reciprocity issue would be settled as the nations came to an agreement in 1854 with the Marcy-Elgin treaty whereby the US market was opened to Canadian goods and Canadian waters were opened to fishermen from the United States. But despite the fisheries issue receding to the back pages, questions about Anglo-American relations and the place of the United States in a British Atlantic world remained. The fisheries issue, as it had before and would again, exposed elements fundamental to this relationship. And as the summer of 1852 showed, the United States remained sensitive to Britain’s heavy-handed international policies. Mutual respect and the British recognition of American parity were necessary for a more tranquil transatlantic relationship. That November the New Orleans Picayune observed that the transatlantic relationship could only be put on a constructive footing if Great Britain came to the realization that the “American continent is no longer a sphere for the planting of British colonies” and that “America is to belong to the Americans and be governed by American ideas.”55 Yet such handwringing about British recognition of American equality in international affairs was not only, or even primarily, about the continent. Since American independence questions about American sovereignty were in greatest relief in maritime contexts, making the peculiar nature of the oceanic environment and of marine ecology integral to those political questions. As policymakers in the United States set about defining the nation abroad and crafting a foreign policy to fit those demands, the maritime environment became not just a setting but a central player. The Fisheries Dispute of 1852 demonstrated how deeply implicated the natural world could be in the process of American diplomacy and how the men who sought to control world affairs from the cabinet rooms of Washington and London were limited, indeed constrained, by what the environment would allow. Thomas Blake Earle is a postdoctoral fellow with the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University. Footnotes I would like to thank Caleb McDaniel and Randal Hall for reading early drafts of what would become this article. My appreciation also goes to Lisa Brady and the staff at Environmental History along with Kurk Dorsey and an anonymous reviewer for their keen insights. This article benefited from the combined expertise of and helpful questions from my colleagues at the Center for Presidential History including Jeff Engel, Brian Franklin, Lindsay Chervinsky, Paul Renfro, Aaron Crawford, and Tom Knock. Finally, I would like to thank the anonymous member of a prize committee who once called this article “boring” and inspired me to make it better. 1. Matthew C. Perry to John P. Kennedy, Secretary of the Navy, August __ 1852, Despatches from U.S. Consuls in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, 1835–1906 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T485, roll 2); Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives, College Park, Md. 2. “Order to Investigate Fisheries Dispute with Canada,” John P. Kennedy to Matthew C. Perry, July 28, 1852, in The New American State Papers: Naval Affairs, ed. K. Jack Bauer, vol. 2, Diplomatic Activities (Wilmington: Scholarly Resources, 1981), 63. 3. For the “human archive and natural archive,” see Geoffrey Parker, Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2013), xvi–xvii. 4. For the midcentury Anglo-American rapprochement, see Charles Campbell, From Revolution to Rapprochement: The United States and Great Britain, 1783–1900 (New York: Wiley, 1974); Francis M. Carroll, A Good and Wise Measure: The Search for the Canadian-American Boundary, 1783–1842 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001); Howard Jones and Donald Rakestraw, Prologue to Manifest Destiny: Anglo-American Relations in the 1840s (Wilmington: SR Books, 1997); Howard Jones, To the Webster-Ashburton Treaty: A Study in Anglo-American Relations, 1783–1843 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1977); Donald Rakestraw, For Honor or Destiny: The Anglo-American Crisis over the Oregon Territory (New York: P. Lang, 1995); Kenneth R. Stevens, Border Diplomacy: The Caroline and McLeod Affairs in Anglo-American-Canadian Relations, 1837–1842 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1989). 5. The fisheries issue goes beyond the so-called postcolonial readings of the antebellum United States by showing how the environment was yet another space where Americans confronted both the pride of independence and revulsion at their inferiority and continued reliance on Great Britain. See Kariann Yokota, Unbecoming British: How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), and Sam W. Haynes, Unfinished Revolution: The Early American Republic in a British World (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010). 6. For diplomatic environmental history, see Kurkpatrick Dorsey, Dawn of Conservation Diplomacy: U.S.-Canadian Wildlife Protection Treaties in the Progressive Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1998); Dorsey, Whales and Nation: Environmental Diplomacy on the High Seas (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2013); Thomas Robertson, Malthusian Moment: Global Population Growth and the Birth of American Environmentalism (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2012). Diplomatic-environmental histories remain a small, but quickly growing, subfield, with Dorsey even calling the environment the “the great untapped vein of American diplomatic history.” “International Environmental Issues,” from Robert Schulzinger, ed., A Companion to American Foreign Relations (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003), 33. 7. George A Rose, Cod: The Ecological History of the Atlantic Fisheries (St. Johns: Breakwater Books, 2007), 60–70; Bigelow and Schroeder’s Fishes of the Gulf of Maine, 3rd ed., ed. Bruce B. Collette and Grace Klein-MacPhee (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002), 229–34; Deborah Cramer, Great Waters: An Atlantic Passage (New York: Norton, 2001), 51–53. 8. Rose, 117–18; Bigelow and Schroeder’s, 524–28; Geir Ottersen, Jurgen Alheit, Ken Drinkwater, Kevin Friedland, Eherhard Hagen, and Nils Chr. Stenseth, “The Response of Fish Populations to Ocean Climate Fluctuations,” in Ecosystems and Climate Variation: The North Atlantic—A Comparative Perspective, ed. Nils Chr. Stenseth, Geir Ottorsen, James W. Hurrell, and Andrea Belgrano (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 72–84. 9. Brian Fagan, The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History (New York: Basic Books, 2001); Bolster, “Putting the Ocean in Atlantic History: Maritime Communities and Marine Ecology in the Northwest Atlantic, 1500–1800,” American Historical Review 113 (February 2008): 19–47. 10. Rose, 70–71, 284–86; Ottersen et al., 74–77; Bolster, Mortal Sea, 122–24; Kenneth F. Drinkwater et al., “The Response of Marine Ecosystems to Climate Variability Associated with the North Atlantic Oscillation,” in The North Atlantic Oscillation: Climate Significance and Environmental Impact, Geophysical Monograph 134 (Washington, DC: American Geophysical Union, 2003), 221–22. 11. Lorenzo Sabine, Report on the Principal Fisheries of the American Seas (Washington, DC: Department of the Treasury, 1853), 176–77, 189. 12. Rose, 117–18; Ottersen et al., 80; Bolster, Mortal Sea, 103–4; Bigelow and Schroeder, 234, 527–28. 13. Bolster, Mortal Sea, 163–67 (quotation on 163); W. Jeffrey Bolster, Karen E. Alexander, and William B. Leavenworth, “The Historical Abundance of Cod on the Nova Scotian Shelf,” in Shifting Baselines: The Past and Future of Ocean Fisheries, ed. Jeremy B. C. Jackson, Karen E. Alexander, and Enric Sala (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2011), 80. 14. “Progress of Free-Trade in Foreign Countries,” Manchester Times and Gazette, April 4, 1846. 15. For the selected historiography of free trade in nineteenth-century Great Britain, see Bernard Semmel, The Rise of Free Trade Imperialism: Classical Political Economy, the Empire of Free Trade and Imperialism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1970); Anthony Howe, Free Trade and Liberal England, 1846–1946 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997); Cheryl Schonhardt-Bailey, From Corn Laws to Free Trade: Interest, Ideas, and Institutions in Historical Perspective (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2006); and Frank Trentmann, Free Trade Nation: Commerce, Consumption, and Civil Society in Modern Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). 16. Daniel Webster to Henry Laytton Bulwer, September 14, 1850, in The Papers of Daniel Webster: Diplomatic Papers, 1850–1852, 2 vols., ed. Kenneth E. Shewmaker et al. (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1987), 683 (hereafter, Webster Papers). 17. Webster to Bulwer, June 24, 1851, Webster Papers, 684–85. 18. The Times, February 27, 1852. 19. Angus Hawkins, The Forgotten Prime Minister: The 14th Earl of Derby, vol. 2, Achievement: 1851–1869 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 42. 20. John F. Crampton to Webster, July 5, 1852, Webster Papers, 685–86. 21. “Daniel Webster’s Editorial on the Fisheries Question,” Boston Courier, July 19, 1852, in Webster Papers, 689–94 (quotation on 693). 22. Ibid. 23. Ibid., 694. 24. For Webster’s diplomacy during this crisis and more generally, see Kenneth E. Shewmaker, “Daniel Webster and the Politics of Foreign Policy, 1850–1852,” Journal of American History (September 1976): 303–15; Shewmaker, “Daniel Webster and American Conservatism,” in Traditions and Values: American Diplomacy, 1790–1865, ed. Norman A. Graebner (Lanham: University Press of America, 1985), 129–51; Shewmaker, “‘Hook and Line, and Bob and Sinker’: Daniel Webster and the Fisheries Dispute of 1852,” Diplomatic History (Spring 1985): 113–29; and Shewmaker, “‘Congress Only Can Declare War’ and ‘The President Is Commander in Chief’: Daniel Webster and the War Power,” Diplomatic History (Fall 1988): 383–409. Also see Jay Sexton, Debtor Diplomacy: Finance and American Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era, 1837–1873 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 31–40. 25. Milliard Fillmore to Webster, July 20, 1852, Webster Papers, 695. 26. “Hon. Daniel Webster’s Reception at Marshfield,” Boston Daily Atlas, July 26, 1852. 27. Fillmore to Webster, July 25, 1852, Webster Papers, 698. 28. Ibid., 699. 29. Webster to Fillmore, August 1, 1852, Webster Papers, 705. 30. Congressional Globe, 32nd Cong., 1st sess., 1890. 31. Ibid., 1892. 32. Ibid., 1893. 33. Congressional Globe, 32th Cong., 1st sess., app., 894–95. 34. Congressional Globe, 32th Cong., 1st sess., 1895. 35. “The Fishery Troubles,” Boston Evening Transcript, July 21, 1852. 36. “Probable Settlement of the Fishery Difficulties,” Baltimore Sun, July 30, 1852. 37. “The Fishery Treaty,” Baltimore Sun, July 31, 1852. 38. “The Fisheries Again,” New Orleans Picayune, July 31, 1852. 39. Congressional Globe, 32nd Cong., 1st sess., app., 923. 40. Ibid., 915, 917. 41. Congressional Globe, 32nd Cong., 1st sess., 1891. 42. Haynes, 294–95. 43. Congressional Globe, 32th Cong., 1st sess., 1893. 44. “Cod Fishery and Whiggery,” Daily Ohio Statesman, August 9, 1852. 45. “The Imbecility of Whiggery in Power,” New-Hampshire Patriot, August 4, 1852. 46. Bolster, 88–92, 102–5. 47. For the ebb and flow of mackerel catches and the expanding footprint of American fishermen during the middle decades of the nineteenth century, see Bolster, 106–8, 286; Wayne M. O’Leary, Maine Sea Fisheries: The Rise and Fall of a Native Industry, 1830–1890 (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1996), 96–107, 344–49; Harold Innis, The Cod Fisheries: the History of an International Economy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1954), 323–31; Sabine, 179–91; and Brian J. Payne discusses how American expansion into previously unutilized waters was underwritten by the fishing bounty and federal support. See Payne, Fishing a Borderless Sea: Environmental Territorialism in the North Atlantic, 1818–1910 (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2010), 7–14, 21–26. For more on the bounty also see O’Leary, 40–77. 48. Sabine, 184–86; Bolster, 102–9. 49. Perry to Kennedy. 50. See Payne, xi–xvii, 1–7. For labor migration, and the consequential growth of smuggling, between the British provinces and New England, see Innis, 333–35. 51. Perry to Kennedy. 52. Israel Andrews to Daniel Webster, August 21, 1852, Despatches from US Consul in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, 1835–1906 (National Archives Microfilm Publication T485, roll 2); Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives, College Park, Md. 53. Ibid. 54. Edward Everett to Joseph R. Ingersoll, December 4, 1852, Diplomatic Instructions of the Department of State, 1801–1906 (National Archives Microfilm Publication M77, roll 75); Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59; National Archives, College Park, Md. 55. “Some British Liberalism,” Times-Picayune, November 12, 1852. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Environmental History and the Forest History Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)

Journal

Environmental HistoryOxford University Press

Published: Oct 1, 2018

There are no references for this article.

You’re reading a free preview. Subscribe to read the entire article.


DeepDyve is your
personal research library

It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.

Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.

All for just $49/month

Explore the DeepDyve Library

Search

Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly

Organize

Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.

Access

Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.

Your journals are on DeepDyve

Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.

All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.

See the journals in your area

DeepDyve

Freelancer

DeepDyve

Pro

Price

FREE

$49/month
$360/year

Save searches from
Google Scholar,
PubMed

Create lists to
organize your research

Export lists, citations

Read DeepDyve articles

Abstract access only

Unlimited access to over
18 million full-text articles

Print

20 pages / month

PDF Discount

20% off