The Lawless Border With Canada Was Once America’s Main Security Concern

Via:  kavika  •  one week ago  •  30 comments

The Lawless Border With Canada Was Once America’s Main Security Concern

S E E D E D   C O N T E N T


Near the westernmost point of the border between the United States and Canada, the Peace Arch straddles the world’s longest undefended international boundary. The inscription atop the monument honors the friendship between two “children of a common mother,” but this was not always the case. The U.S. and Canada may be peaceful neighbors now, but they had a violently contentious relationship in their early years.

In the aftermath of the American Revolution, the United States and the British colony of Canada endured “more than a century of suspicion, hatred and bloodshed,” writes John Boyko in Blood and Daring: How Canada Fought the American Civil War and Forged a Nation

America’s northern border was once a lawless no-man’s-land frequented by counterfeiters, transnational criminals and outlaw gangs smuggling alcohol, produce, opium, gypsum and livestock. These smugglers deprived the American government of its fiscal lifeblood—import duties—but were popular with people along the border since they generated jobs and kept prices low.

america_border_canada_getty-185011092.jpThe Peace Arch at the United States and Canada border between the communities of Blaine, Washington and Surrey, British Columbia. 

After the Embargo Act of 1807 closed American ports to foreign trade, United States revenue agents could do little to stop the deluge of pirated goods that crossed the border from Canada. During the War of 1812, British troops responded to the American invasion of Canada by launching repeated border raids, even burning Buffalo to the ground.

Throughout the 1800s, the United States had very lax control of its northern border as customs officers resided in village centers miles from the dividing line. Part of the border security problem was that oftentimes no one was exactly sure where the boundary was. In fact, when President James Monroe ordered construction of a fort on the New York shoreline of Lake Champlain after the War of 1812, it was inadvertently built a half-mile inside enemy territory due to a surveying error.

america_canada_border_library_of_congresBritish North American Boundary Commission survey crew members clearing and marking the boundary line between Canada and the United States, along the right bank of the Moyie River, circa 1860.

A lack of official treaties and federal extradition powers also emboldened lawbreakers along America’s northern boundary. “Criminals could cross and re-cross the border at will, shielding themselves from the territorial reach of the law that pursued them,” says Bradley Miller, a University of British Columbia history professor and author of Borderline Crime: Fugitive Criminals and the Challenge of the Border, 1819-1914.

Miller says that with no formal procedures in place, local police took justice into their own hands. “From the beginning of the 19th century until at least the time of World War I, police officers, other state officials and community members participated in an informal system of cross-border abductions in which fugitives were found, arrested and returned to the jurisdiction whose laws they had violated outside of any formal legal system. There were no treaties or statutes that regulated, empowered or limited this system.”

During the Civil War, Union draft-dodgers and escaped Confederate prisoners of war streamed north across the border to find safe haven in Canada. Although most Canadians viewed slavery as abhorrent, Boyko says many Canadians also hoped a Confederate victory could shatter the monolith of the United States, which threatened to absorb Canada as it continued its march toward its Manifest Destiny.

In the aftermath of defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the Confederacy established a spy ring in Toronto and Montreal that exported terror across the border. From their Canadian sanctuary, Confederate agents raided St. Albans, Vermont, in October 1864 and weeks later attempted to set New York City afire. “They were trying to distract the Northern troops,” Boyko says. “Every soldier dealing with the border was one less fighting in the South.”

John Wilkes Booth (TV-PG; 3:00)

In fact, weeks before he assassinated Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth spent time in Montreal meeting with Jacob Thompson, head of the Confederate Secret Service, and amassing money for the operation, says Boyko. In the days following the shooting, conspirator John Surratt Jr. fled north, where a Catholic priest in Quebec gave him asylum before he absconded to Liverpool. 

“When the trial of Booth’s conspirators began, a vast majority of the questions asked were seeking to link Canada to the assassination,” Boyko says. “It was clear that Canada was not officially involved, but the conspirators used Canada to plan the assassination and escape justice.”

Widespread smuggling continued after Canada became a self-governing entity in 1867. During Prohibition, bootleggers employed fleets of automobiles, boats and sleighs to illegally transport alcohol from Canada to its thirsty neighbor to the south. It was a lucrative enterprise. A case of whiskey purchased in Quebec for $15 could be sold for $120 on the other side of the border.

A virtual pipeline of alcohol flowed across the Detroit River from Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit. By some estimates, three-quarters of all liquor smuggled into the United States from Canada during Prohibition crossed through the aptly-nicknamed “Detroit-Windsor Funnel.” Miller says creative smugglers built warehouses with trapdoors over the Detroit River so that boats could pull up underneath to load their contraband, out of view of customs and police officers. Bootleggers modified Great Lakes fishing boats with specially designed holds for kegs and even installed an underwater cable system that could deliver 40 cases of liquor an hour across the river.

While American border security concerns today are focused on the boundary with Mexico, smuggling is still a problem to the north along the 5,525-mile border with Canada. The United States Drug Intelligence Center estimates that Canadian gangs smuggle $56 billion in drugs across the border every year.  

  

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Kavika
1  seeder  Kavika     one week ago

Interesting article/history. Having been born and raised on the Minnesota Canadian border much of this continued even when I was there...We used to cross the border at all different points without ever going through customs...Nothing illegal just hunting or visiting friends and relatives on the Canadian side. (most of the time.LOL) Also we were covered by the Jay Treaty..

Actually there was a  bit of smuggling going on as well, using Lake of the Woods as a crossing point into and out of Canada via water. 

While American border security concerns today are focused on the boundary with Mexico, smuggling is still a problem to the north along the 5,525-mile border with Canada. The United States Drug Intelligence Center estimates that Canadian gangs smuggle $56 billion in drugs across the border every year.  

Seems that the drug problem isn't only on our southern border. 

Border control in the ''NW Angle''....It's not a joke, I've been there many times.

th?id=OIP.It6uAKFiS5HQtU-eU8FGrAHaEJ&pid

 
 
 
Nowhere Man
2  Nowhere Man    one week ago

I don't think they are ever going to fortify the border, or even put up a fence for that matter....

Our mutual defense treaties with Canada allow their military and ours to cross the border at will in times of emergency or for any military defense issue....

The longest completely undefended national border on the planet.... 

As far as the drug problem? Mexican border interdiction has been so successful that a little more than half of all illegal drugs have come thru Canada for decades...

Not likely to end anytime soon....

 
 
 
Kavika
3  seeder  Kavika     one week ago
I don't think they are ever going to fortify the border, or even put up a fence for that matter....

I don't think that anyone is calling for that. 

Our mutual defense treaties with Canada allow their military and ours to cross the border at will in times of emergency or for any military defense issue...

Yes, it happened under Bush/Harper in 2006.

The longest completely undefended national border on the planet.... 

True

As far as the drug problem? Mexican border interdiction has been so successful that a little more than half of all illegal drugs have come thru Canada for decades...

Not sure where you getting that information but illegal drugs have  been coming through Canada for decades. Much of it from SE Asia and China. 

US Border Patrol is concerned with terrorist crossing into the US from Canada.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/fbi-reports-show-terror-suspects-coming-from-canada-while-trump-stares-at-mexico

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
3.1  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Kavika @3    one week ago
"US Border Patrol is concerned with terrorist crossing into the US from Canada."

No surprise due to Trudeau's immigration policies.

 
 
 
Perrie Halpern R.A.
4  Perrie Halpern R.A.    one week ago

I took the 'Adirondack" from NYC to Montreal. When we came to border control, they stopped us in the middle of nowhere. I looked to the east, nothing but trees. I looked to the west, the same thing. It was not long after 9/11 and I was still somewhat traumatized and I remember asking Matt, "What can stop a terrorist from crossing over. He looked at me and said "Absolutely nothing".  It was only years later that I heard about drug trafficking. 

 
 
 
Kavika
4.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4    one week ago

Those same open ''in the middle of nowhere exist all along the 5,000 mile plus border. 

I crossed it numerous times in the ''middle of nowhere''...

 
 
 
Split Personality
4.2  Split Personality  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4    one week ago

I briefly had a cousin who live at the end of the road, on a cul-de-sac in Vermont ( or NH to protect his privacy )

There was a dirt road from a lot in the cul-de-sac with no home o it, which ran in to the woods towards the Canadian border.

We took the dog for a walk down the path and lo & behold there was  a manual arm blocking the path ( like an old time train barricade across a road. )

We went around it following the dog as she decided where to do her business.

Suddenly we heard over a loud spear, "Mr. xxxxx" you have entered Canada, please take your dog "Meme" and companions back beyond the barrier, or else, blah, blah,blah".

Freeeeeeeeeked my cousin out that they knew his name and his dog's name.

As soon as we got back to his apartment he started lookibg for a different place to live, lol

 
 
 
Kavika
4.2.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Split Personality @4.2    one week ago

It was a recording and since his was the only house they used his and his dogs name...Mighty smart Canadians...LOL

 
 
 
Split Personality
4.2.2  Split Personality  replied to  Kavika @4.2.1    one week ago

Weeks later he actually met the guy, by doing the exact same thing and making them, well at least one of them show themselves, while the Canadian reported to someone else over the radio.

They knew their names because he talks about himself to the dog in the third person endlessly.

A source of much enjoyment for the bored Canadian Border Patrol, lol

They already knew where he lived and did not consider him a problem, lol

but they are out there ..............sometimes.

 
 
 
dave-2693993
4.2.3  dave-2693993  replied to  Split Personality @4.2.2    one week ago

That's funny.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
4.3  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Perrie Halpern R.A. @4    one week ago

I thought Canada agreed to build a wall from materials readily available in Canada - but the only problem is what happens to it in the summer.

512

 
 
 
Kavika
4.3.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.3    one week ago

Summer is a Tuesday afternoon in August in Canada...The wall is safe...jrSmiley_2_smiley_image.png

 
 
 
dave-2693993
4.3.2  dave-2693993  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.3    one week ago

I think I have seen something like that before.

It's still funny.

 
 
 
dave-2693993
4.3.3  dave-2693993  replied to  Kavika @4.3.1    one week ago

That's a good one.

 
 
 
Freefaller
4.3.4  Freefaller  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @4.3    one week ago
but the only problem is what happens to it in the summer.

Lol easy, you dig a trench in front of it, and voila in summer ya have an instant moat.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
5  Buzz of the Orient    one week ago
"During the War of 1812, British troops responded to the American invasion of Canada by launching repeated border raids, even burning Buffalo to the ground."

What was omitted from that was the burning of the White House.  When I toured the White House, the W.H. tour guide did include in his description that fact. The war turned into the Brits' favour at the Battle of Stoney Creek, (just east of Hamilton, Ontario, the city in which I was born and grew up), where the American troops were caught by surprise and fled.

 
 
 
Kavika
5.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Buzz of the Orient @5    one week ago

Indeed the British did burn the White House...The Canadian part of the War of 1812 really isn't covered well in our history books, IMO.

 
 
 
Split Personality
5.1.1  Split Personality  replied to  Kavika @5.1    one week ago

A real love hate relationship, lol

Oh , those Brits a& Cannucks

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
5.1.2  Buzz of the Orient  replied to  Kavika @5.1    one week ago
"The Canadian part of the War of 1812 really isn't covered well in our history books,"

Omitted due to embarrassment?

 
 
 
Kavika
5.1.3  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Buzz of the Orient @5.1.2    one week ago
Omitted due to embarrassment?

Could be, Buzz.

 
 
 
dave-2693993
5.2  dave-2693993  replied to  Buzz of the Orient @5    one week ago
What was omitted from that was the burning of the White House

The alternate White House is just a few miles from me and isn't very white.

 
 
 
Split Personality
5.2.1  Split Personality  replied to  dave-2693993 @5.2    one week ago

Camouflage, eh?

jrSmiley_91_smiley_image.gif

 
 
 
 
dave-2693993
5.2.3  dave-2693993  replied to  Split Personality @5.2.2    one week ago

That looks  good. A lot better than the last time I drove past.

 
 
 
Split Personality
5.2.4  Split Personality  replied to  dave-2693993 @5.2.3    one week ago

looks like the grade school joke about a newspaper

white, black and red all over, lol

 
 
 
dave-2693993
5.2.5  dave-2693993  replied to  Split Personality @5.2.4    one week ago

I haven't been past it in quite a while, but dad and I used to drive past it all the time on our way to some fishing holes.

I live about 10 - 15 miles to the west and north of it these days and no real reason drive that way anymore,

Those folks did a good job with it.

 
 
 
Bob Nelson
6  Bob Nelson    one week ago

Good seed.

A while back, I read about "illegal immigration" from Québec into Maine in the early 20th Century. An easy walk through the woods.

There were already a few small French-speaking towns in Maine, so the newcomers blended in easily. No official ID required, of course.

 
 
 
Kavika
6.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Bob Nelson @6    one week ago

Lot's of that in northern MN in the early 1900's as well Bob.

 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
7  Buzz of the Orient    one week ago

Before 9/11 driving across the border from Fort Erie, Ontario, to Buffalo meant stopping at the American side of the Peace Bridge and being asked by a U.S. Customs and Immigration official "Where were you born?" Answer: "Canada".  "Okay, go ahead."  After 9/11 everyone had to show their passport, the trunk often required to be opened, and the car was sometimes required to pull over for a complete inspection.

 
 
 
Kavika
7.1  seeder  Kavika   replied to  Buzz of the Orient @7    one week ago

It used to be much easier to cross the border before 9/11.

 
 
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