Rush–Bagot Treaty

Kingston, Ontario Toronto Royal Military College of Canada
Rush–Bagot Treaty
Bronze plaque containing two human figures holding the seal of the United States and the coat of arms of Great Britain with a description of the treaty in between them.
Historical marker where the Rush–Bagot Agreement was made in Washington, D.C.
TypeArms control
ContextAftermath of the War of 1812
SignedApril 28 and 29, 1817
Location2425 L Street NW, Washington, D.C.
EffectiveApril 28, 1818
NegotiatorsUnited States Richard Rush
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Charles Bagot
SignatoriesUnited States James Monroe
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland George III
Parties United States
 United Kingdom
Rush-Bagot Treaty at Wikisource

The Rush–Bagot Treaty or Rush–Bagot Disarmament was a treaty between the United States and Great Britain limiting naval armaments on the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain, following the War of 1812. It was ratified by the United States Senate on April 16, 1818,[1] and was confirmed by Canada, following Confederation in 1867.

The treaty provided for a large demilitarization of lakes along the international boundary, where many British naval arrangements and forts remained. The treaty stipulated that the United States and British North America could each maintain one military vessel (no more than 100 tons burden) as well as one cannon (no more than eighteen pounds) on Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain. The remaining Great Lakes permitted the United States and British North America to keep two military vessels "of like burden" on the waters armed with "like force". The treaty, and the separate Treaty of 1818, laid the basis for a demilitarized boundary between the U.S. and British North America.[2]


Plaque to Richard Rush, U.S. diplomat, at Old Fort Niagara
Plaque to Charles Bagot, British diplomat, at Old Fort Niagara

The origins of the Rush–Bagot Treaty can be traced to a correspondence of letters between Acting United States Secretary of State Richard Rush and the British Minister to Washington Sir Charles Bagot, which were exchanged and signed on April 27 and 28, 1817. After the terms of the notes were agreed upon by Rush and Bagot, the Rush–Bagot Agreement was unofficially recognized by both countries. On April 6, 1818, it was submitted to the United States Senate and formally ratified on April 16, 1818. The treaty eventually led to the Treaty of Washington of 1871, which completed disarmament. The United States and Canada agreed in 1946, through an exchange of diplomatic notes, that the stationing of naval vessels for training purposes was permissible provided each government was fully notified in advance.[3]

In 2004, the U.S. Coast Guard decided to arm 11 of its small cutters stationed on Lake Erie and Lake Huron with M240 7.62 mm machine guns. The U.S. decision was based on a climbing number of smuggling operations as well as the increased threat of terrorist activity after the September 11, 2001, attacks. The Canadian government decided that the armament did not violate the treaty, as the guns were to be used for law enforcement rather than military activities. Canada reserved the right to arm its law enforcement vessels with similar weapons.[4]

Military installations

HMCS Stone Frigate, located at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, was constructed during 1820 to store part of the dismantled British fleet from the War of 1812, which had been dismantled pursuant to the Rush–Bagot Treaty.[5]

There are still military facilities near or next to the Great Lakes:


The Canada–United States border was demilitarized, including the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain. The U.S. and the British agreed to joint control over the Oregon Territory. The Rush–Bagot Agreement laid the foundation for the world's longest east–west boundary—8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), and the longest demilitarized border in the world.[6][7]

Although the treaty had caused difficulties during World War I, its terms were not changed. Similar problems occurred before World War II, but Secretary of State Cordell Hull wanted to preserve the agreement because of its historical importance. In 1939 and 1940, Canada and the United States agreed to interpret the treaty so that weapons could be installed in the Great Lakes but could not be operable until the ships left the Lakes. In 1942, the United States, by then having entered the war and allied with Canada, successfully proposed that until the end of the war weapons could be completely installed and tested in the Lakes. After discussions in the Permanent Joint Board on Defense, in 1946, Canada similarly proposed to interpret the agreement as permitting using ships for training purposes if each country notified the other.[8]


Rush–Bagot Treaty plaque at Kingston, Ontario
Memorial terrace to the Rush–Bagot Treaty at Old Fort Niagara

An Ontario Heritage Trust plaque in Kingston, Ontario recognizes the Rush–Bagot Agreement (44°13′48″N 76°27′59″W / 44.229894°N 76.466292°W / 44.229894; -76.466292). A plaque also stands at the former site of the British Legation in Washington, D.C. (38°54′13.7″N 77°3′8.4″W / 38.903806°N 77.052333°W / 38.903806; -77.052333) where the agreement was negotiated. A monument stands on the grounds of Old Fort Niagara as well (43°15′48″N 79°03′49″W / 43.263347°N 79.063719°W / 43.263347; -79.063719), featuring reliefs of both Rush and Bagot, as well as the words of the treaty.[9]


  1. ^ Norton, Mary Beth (2001). A People and a Nation. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 246. ISBN 0-618-00550-1.
  2. ^ "Rush-Bagot Convention Facts, information, pictures | articles about Rush–Bagot Convention". 2005-01-08. Retrieved 2011-05-05.
  3. ^ Christopher Mark Radojewski, "The Rush–Bagot Agreement: Canada–US Relations in Transition." American Review of Canadian Studies 47.3 (2017): 280-299.
  4. ^ Associated Press (11 March 2006). "Coast Guard cutters on Great Lakes are packing machine guns". Journal Times.
  5. ^ Gilbert Collins Guidebook to the Historic Sites of the War of 1812 p. 201
  6. ^ Naval Marine Archive – The Canadian Collection. "Rush-Bagot Agreement".
  7. ^ Charles P. Stacey, "The Myth of the Unguarded Frontier 1815-1871." American Historical Review 56.1 (1950): 1-18. online
  8. ^ Dziuban, Stanley W. (1959). "Chapter X, Co-operation in Other Fields". Military Relations Between the United States and Canada, 1939-1945. Washington DC: Center of Military History, United States Army. pp. 278–280. LCCN 59-60001.
  9. ^ "Rush-Bagot Agreement". Archived from the original on 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2011-05-05.