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The tie that binds—Warren G Harding and International Good Will

October 31, 2014

United States President Warren G Harding visited Vancouver in 1923 and gave a speech in Stanley Park emphasizing  the friendly relationship with Canada.  Two years later, the Harding International Good Will Memorial was unveiled at the spot where Harding made his last public address.

Following the examples of  Governor Laughton of Washington State  and Premier Robson of British Columbia in 1891, Harding sought first to disarm apprehension over closer relations with the U.S.,  stressing  a path of mutual self-determination, while emphasizing cooperation and amicable relations. He relaxed the crowd with  "Do not encourage any enterprise looking to Canada’s annexation of the United States."


"No, let us go our own gaits along parallel roads, you helping us and we helping you. So long as each country maintains its independence and both recognize their independence, those paths cannot fail to be highways of progress and prosperity. Nationality continues to be a supreme factor in modern existence.’"


The theme of commonality as enshrined on the Peace Arch at the international boundary is reflected in Harding’s compliment to Canada:


"You are not only our neighbor but a very good neighbor and we rejoice in your advancement and admire your independence no less sincerely than we value your friendship. We think the same thoughts, live the same lives and cherish the same aspirations of service to each other in times of need."



“Our very propinquity enjoins that most effective cooperation which comes only from clasping of hands in true faith and good fellowship."



"I stretch forth my arms in fraternal greetings with gratefulness for your splendid welcome in my heart and from my lips the whispered prayer of our famous Rip Van Winkle: ‘May you all live long and prosper.’"


Harding’s speech touched a chord with Canadians and Americans and his death in Seattle shortly after prompted a movement to commemorate the ideals expressed in his address at Vancouver.

AE Foreman was the local man chosen to see the project through.  As Chief Engineer for the Province in 1919, Foreman had let the first paving contract on the Pacific Highway to HP Peterson.  He was also President of the Canadian Good Roads Association.  Foreman worked with  architect RPS Twizell and sculptor Charles Marega.

Harding International Good Will MemorialThe Harding International Good Will Memorial was unveiled September 16, 1925 and is a splendid monument, dignified by the words of Harding and artistic vision of the sculptor Charles Marega.

Columbia and Britannia, representing the United States and Canada,  reach out to touch in a rather tentative manner, by means of the olive branch.  Unarmed, each bears a shield.  The expressions on the faces of the two figures suggest a deeper longing.  

At the front of the memorial, on either end, stand two eagles, symbolic of the power of the United States, while guarding the back, the fearsome head of the lion. It is both a friendship and an alliance.

On a medium more lasting than paper, the most oft-quoted part of Harding’s Stanley Park speech is engraved onto stone tablets shared by the two sides of the memorial, though ultimately the only guarantee to permanence lies in the hearts of the people.


"What an object lesson of peace is shown today by our two countries to all the world.
No grim-faced fortifications mark our frontiers, no huge battleships patrol our dividing waters, no stealthy spies lurk in our tranquil border hamlets.

Only a scrap of paper, recording hardly more than a simple understanding,  safeguards lives and property on the Great Lakes and only humble mileposts mark the inviolable boundary line for thousands of miles through farm and forest.

Our protection is our fraternity, our armor is our faith;  and the tie that binds more firmly year by year is ever- increasing acquaintance and comradeship through interchange of citizens and the compact is not of perishable parchment, but of fair and honorable dealing which, God grant, shall continue for all time." 


The Bicentenary of the Treaty of Ghent occurs December 24, 2014.

The steamship Beaver,  a piece of which is enshrined in the Peace Arch, was wrecked on the shore of Stanley Park in 1888, the year the park was founded,  and left to break up.  Lord Stanley was himself shipwrecked on the HMS Amphion on the way to his first visit to his namesake park in 1889.  The ship managed to get off the rocks and  returned  to Esquimalt in sinking condition. Arriving on the mainland of British Columbia, Lord Stanley received an address from James Punch of Brownsville and inspected construction  on the New Westminster Southern Railway, which was completed with ceremony at the first boundary arch in 1891.  

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