After the War of 1812, tensions between the U.S. and Britain were still high. One reason was militarization of the Great Lakes. U.S. Minister and future president John Quincy Adams had proposed the idea of disarmament of the Great Lakes; the British government, liking the idea, sent diplomat Sir Charles Bagot to the United States to help reduce tensions.

Bagot initially met with Secretary of State James Monroe and later with his successor, Richard Rush. Together, they crafted an agreement that limited each nation to one or two ships per lake for military navigation, such as map-making and surveying. It set the foundation for what has become the longest peaceful border in the world.

The D.C. monument to the Rush-Bagot Agreement was placed in 1935 by Kiwanis International on the former site of the British Legation at the time, where the two men met to develop the treaty. It’s where 25th Street, L Street, and Pennsylvania Avenue NW meet, near Trader Joe’s.

There is also a historical marker on the grounds of the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario.

“A naval arms limitation agreement negotiated to demilitarize the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain after the War of 1812, this convention was concluded between the United States and Great Britain, represented respectively by Richard Rush and Charles Bagot, in 1817. Under its terms each country agreed to dismantle all armed vessels on the lakes with the exception of four retained for policing purposes and to construct no new warships. During the 19th century there were occasional infractions of the terms and during the Second World War they were somewhat modified, but the spirit of the convention has, in general, never been violated. Still technically in force, the Rush-Bagot Agreement has become a symbol of the long-standing, peaceful relations between Canada and the United States.”

Another monument to this treaty is at Old Fort Niagara, near Youngstown, New York. It was dedicated in 1934. This location was strategic because it controlled fur-trade routes from the eastern Great Lakes and afforded an entry to the Northwest frontier.

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