Sir Robert Borden was Plenipotentiary of Canada at the Peace Conference. The House of Lords Archives carry correspondence between Prime Minister Lloyd George (Plenipotentiary of United Kingdom at the Peace Conference) and Borden. As Documents on Canadian External Relations, Volume 2, The Paris Peace Conference of 1919 point out : Since Canada's role was played largely within the British Empire Delegation, much of the material consists of correspondence between the two Prime Ministers, Borden and Lloyd George, and extracts from Minutes of the Imperial War Cabinet and of its successor at Paris, the British Empire Delegation.Canada had very specific interests in reparations, the League of Nations and the International Labour Organisation. In particular Borden has been widely applauded for advancing the status of the Dominions at Versailles. President Woodrow Wilson of the United States may have been other worldly, but Borden did not lose sight of Canadian national interests. With the Versailles Treaty ratified by the Canadian Parliament, Borden largely believed his work was done. He retired as Prime Minister in 1920. Although Borden died in 1937, the great legacy for Canada that derived from Borden's attitudes towards the role of the Dominions in international affairs was the drive towards a constitutional recognition of Canada's international position. Canada's control of its own foreign policy had largely moved in advance of the position in international law. The recognition of Canada's foreign policy independence was finally delivered in a declaration by Balfour in 1926 and the Statute of Westminster in 1931 that created the British Commonwealth of Nations. Borden helped to produce a Canada with an autonomous and independent foreign policy, the seeds of this work led to the growth of a vigorous foreign policy for Canada within a United Nations and its specialised agencies. Some future Canadian Liberal politicians and also some members of the Department of External Affairs were influenced by the Conservative Borden and, coincidentally, had also been influenced by a Presbyterian upbringing.
Dr Martin Thornton is a senior lecturer in International History and Politics at the University of Leeds where he is affiliated to the Centre for Canadian Studies. He researches early Cold War history and 20th century Canadian and American Foreign policy.