The Presidents and the Prime Ministers; Washington and Ottawa Face to Face: The Myth of Bilateral Bliss 1867-1982


300 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-385-17981-2





Reviewed by Eric P. Mintz

Eric P. Mintz is an associate professor of political science and
environmental studies at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial
University of Newfoundland.


Long the subject of clichés about the “world’s longest undefended border,” Canadian-American relations have become increasingly tense in recent years. Even though a long period of harmony through the King and St. Laurent eras created an image of close friendship, Canada’s relationships with the United States have always been, and will continue to be, a fundamental issue of Canadian political life. While there is a large literature on Canada-U.S. relations, Lawrence Martin, a foreign affairs reporter for the Globe and Mail, sets out to make this topic interesting for the general reader. The book focuses on the personal relationships between the American presidents and the Canadian prime ministers since 1867. Underlying the public image of harmonious relationships, Martin finds that the presidents have (with the notable exception of FDR) been largely unconcerned and insensitive in their treatment of Canada and its prime ministers.

Using archival materials and interviews, Martin provides us with a large number of interesting stories about North America’s political leaders. But, although fragments of competent analysis are interspersed with the anecdotes, the book does not make a major contribution to our understanding of Canada-U.S. relations. Not only are personality and personal relationships often emphasized at the expense of broader social, economic, and political factors, but also the book lacks a conclusion that might encourage reflection on the basic issues. Instead, the book ends with a weak chapter on the Trudeau-Reagan relationship that does not adequately examine the “crisis” that developed in 1981.


Martin, Lawrence, “The Presidents and the Prime Ministers; Washington and Ottawa Face to Face: The Myth of Bilateral Bliss 1867-1982,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,