In the middle of night on 29 December 1837, Canadian militia commanded by a Royal Navy officer crossed the Niagara River to the United States and sank the Caroline, a steamboat being used by insurgents tied to the 1837 rebellion in Upper Canada. That incident, and the diplomatic understanding that settled it, have become shorthand in international law for the “inherent right to self-defence” exercised by states in far-off places and in different sorts of war. The Caroline is remembered today when drones kill terrorists and state leaders contemplate responses to threatening adversaries through military action.
But it is remembered by chance and not design, and often imperfectly.
This book tells the story of the Caroline affair and the colourful characters who populated it. Along the way, it highlights how the Caroline and claims of self-defence have been used — and misused — in response to modern challenges in international relations. It is the history of how a forgotten conflict on an unruly frontier has redefined the right to war.
About the Author:
Craig Forcese teaches public international law, national security law, administrative law and constitutional law. He also co-teaches advanced international law and relations at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He also co-organizes and instructs the Canadian component of Georgetown Law’s National Security Crisis Law course and simulation. In 2017, Professor Forcese and Kent Roach received the Canadian Civil Liberties Association Award for Excellence in Public Engagement (“for courage and commitment to human rights, human dignity and freedom”). In 2016, he was named jointly with Professor Kent Roach as among the “Top 25 most Influential in the justice system and legal profession” by Canadian Lawyer Magazine. In response to their work on national security law, Craig and Kent also received the Canadian Law and Society Association Book Prize (for their book False Security) and the Reg Robson Award (given annually by the BC Civil Liberties Association “to honour a community member who has demonstrated a substantial and long-lasting contribution to the cause of civil liberties in B.C. and Canada”). Professor Forcese was inducted as a member of the uOttawa Common Law Honour Society in 2016.