Less Petty Politics, More Common Sense
Lieut.-Col. J. B. Maclean
WHEN my last article was written the campaign against the representation of Canada in Imperial Councils in London was just beginning. The thought had such a tremendous appeal to the prejudices that it was certain to be developed by agitators and by the unthinking chatterers on the daily press. It was. It has occupied more editorial space than any other topic. And one seldom sees any subject handled with such ignorant pettiness; chiefly appeals to prejudices; sane arguments noticeably absent on both sides.
The Winnipeg Free Press took a practical view, but the best article of all came, as frequently happens, from the rural press, The Packet, Orillia, which said:
“The complaint used to be that Canada had no voice in Imperial affairs. Now that Canada’s statesmen have been called into consultation, and the Premier is actually a member of the war cabinet that is deciding Britain’s war policy, the same grumblers loudly demand that he should come home and attend to business at Ottawa. It is childish to contend that the discussion in which Sir Robert Borden is taking part could be carried on as well by correspondence. When an Orillia manufacturer has important business to transact with a firm in Toronto, or Montreal, or New York, he jumps on the train, and goes to the city, because he knows that more satisfactory results may be obtained in half an hour of personal interview than in weeks or months of correspondence. The same principle is even more true in connection with the questions now under consideration in London, in which there are so many interests and points of view to be considered that it would be a hopeless task to come to any conclusion by correspondence. Sir Robert Borden and his colleagues are doubtless getting an insight into the war situation, the peace terms, and the plans for reconstruction which will be invaluable to them in planning Canada’s war programme. It is hard to imagine how they could be more usefully employed from Canada’s point of view. The Dominion is part of the Empire, and also one of the Allies, and our own statesmen must from time to time get into close touch with those with whom they have to co-operate. For the same purpose, Mr. Lloyd George frequently visits Paris, and some times goes as far as Rome; Lord Kitchener was on his way to Russia when he met his tragic end and Mr. Arthur Balfour, Sir Frederick E. Smith, and other British statesmen have come to America. Mr. Wilson doesn’t go overseas, but probably one reason that prevents him from doing so is that the United States constitution won’t let him leave the country. If as many Canadian ministers were at the summer resorts as are now overseas, there would be nothing said.”
THE most extraordinary course is that of the Globe and the Star, Toronto, the personal organs of Hon. Mr. Rowell. The President of the Council has not been the success in national politics his promoters had hoped for. He has antagonized his colleagues in Parliament and in the Cabinet. He quarrelled in his own department with the Mounted Police, and the Commissioner, Perry C.M.G.,resigned. He made enemies among his own friends —the Liberal-Unionists. I am giving
facts and only some of them, and not expressing my own opinions. As a matter of fact I supported Mr. Rowell in these columns and elsewhere. The Imperial Government did not invite him to the conference. But his promoters insisted that he go. Certain powerful interests wanted their affairs protected in London, and I think they deserved protection. Also, they hope he may replace Borden ere long and this trip would give him official prestige. A lively row took place in the Cabinet. Three ministers who were slated to go—who were particularly wanted in England—refused to accompany Sir Robert if Mr. Rowell were included. The fight lasted until sailing time. Mr. Rowell’s quiet persistency was rewarded. In England he was as necessary as a fifth wheel to a cart, and as unwelcome as Hon. Mr. Seely when the latter forced himself on French’s headquarters in France in 1914, and on the Canadian cavalry brigade later.
Ordinarily our space is too valuable to note these incidents, but they have become important because of their bearing on the future. They have led to an expression of Imperial policy; the reversal of old principles, which many of us cannot understand, which many of us think against the interests of Canada and the Empire, and particularly against our army overseas. They would leave our soldiers; they would leave our prisoners in their sufferings to the indifferent control of the self-seeking incompetents who are still at the British Military Headquarters. How anti-Canadian this is I will show further on.
Mr. Rowell has two important sources of inspiration. One of them is Joseph E. Atkinson, of the Toronto Star—one of the men who intrigued at Ottawa for Mr. Rowell’s going to London. Yet since Mr. Rowell started for Canada that paper has inconsistently and persistently showed its readers how unnecessary it was for Canada to have any one in^London, but particularly Borden. It makes no reference to Mr. Rowell having been there. Of course this may be due to Mr. Atkinson’s outstanding characteristic — his restless intriguing. He intrigued against Laurier and when he was defeated he began to intrigue for him. But the Globe, which was established to fight the rights of a people to have a say ift their own affairs at the time Canada was in the hands of a “governing clique,” as Imperial affairs are to-day, also attacks Borden. Mr. Rowell is one of its directors. It lays down the principle that:
“The control and conduct of the British army is no business of the overseas premiers. . ¿ . If Premier Borden in Britain is taking part in any fight the British Premier is making in regard to the organization of the British army, its system of appointments, its internal economy, and other things upon which efficiency depends, then Premier Borden is not representing Canada or the Canadian people.”
It is hard to believe that this is the real policy of the great Liberal organ. Rather it now takes this course to belittle Sir Robert Borden and his colleagues, General Mewburn and Colonel Ballantyne, Ministers of War and Marine, now with him in London in order to play up Mr. Rowell, who has returned.
Leading British newspapers and public men freely admit it was the Colonial and American influences that enabled Lloyd George to accomplish the greatest things in this war.
Without going into the various important Imperial matters of political and general intrest to Canada let me give some experiences that will show how necessary it is for the colonies and India not to leave their men to the-antagonisms and neglects that still exist—despite the wishes of the British people who are most generous. Last month reference was made to the feeling in the United States over the removal of the most useful man Britain has had at Washington in recent years, to make way for a brother of Earl Derby. He was a colonial and he had not the pull with the “old gang.” Another case is one that is creating bitter comment among a few Canadians in France who know. A distinguished general three times endeavored to have an extraordinarily capable officer appointed to an important post under him. The War Office refused and insisted upon someone else. Finally the British general was told that no doubt - was a very capable officer, but it was "impossible to give him the appointment as he is a Canadian." That letter was signed by one of the “old gang” in the War Office, London, and no doubt a copy will be found there. If not, there is a Canadian in France who can show it. I will undertake to give Sir Robert a copy. It is not necessary to give names but it is important for the “old gang” to know that the Colonies are part of the Empire, and that our Premiers go there to see that our officers and men have justice. Canada has now enlisted about 570,000. We may require 750,000 before we are through. We have incurred suffering and taxes that may keep us poor for a couple of generations. We did the right thing. We went in, and will stay to the end, on behalf of the mother country.
' In the last issue I touched on the question of our prisoners. More detailed information has come since. A number of Canadian officers were permitted to leave Germany and are interned in Holland. It appears they held a meeting and generously urged the release of the N.C.O.s and privates in preference to themselves. The officers were fairly comfortable, but the privates were suffering untold tortures in Germany—so bad that the press is forbidden to publish the facts for fear of exciting reprisals. Some of the facts are leaking out and under pressure the British War Office has as a measure of reprisal withdrawn the jam ration issued to German prisoners in England and reduced the cheese rations from one ounce to four-sevenths! For their action these officers in Holland were attacked by Lord Newton, who called them ungrateful wretches. They had been brought out themselves and whyshould they worry about the privates? He is the flabby negotiator who so conspicuously failed in 1917 to secure an exchange. Time and again he told the House nothing could be done for Allied prisoners. Disgusted, the French and Italians took matters into their own hands. In a few days a treaty was made and nearly 350,000 had been exchanged. It was weeks later before Newton took any action on behalf of the Canadians and other British, and then he did so under pressure. The Germans were ready forjan exchange in 1917 but because of the red tape of British diplomacy and the slothful helplessness of officialdom in the War Office the Canadian prisoners are still burning in German hells, and Canadian officers are sneered at by a Cabinet minister for protesting. Yet the Toronto Globe and Star say Premier Borden and General Mewburn and Colonel Ballantyne must sacrifice these men and not interfere in any way on their behalf—a policy, it is to be hoped, Hon. Mr. Rowell has already repudiated by cabling his colleagues to remain in London until they see the last Canadian private out of Germany.
The British Government, that is the new influences that have come in with Lloyd-George, are reversing the policy of the old gang. They believe in publicity. They want the men, that is, Canadian journalists, who aim to keep the Canadians informed on the war and political situation in Europe to visit them —to see and investigate conditions on the spot. They offered to transport them free of expense and afford them every facility. I am informed that the Globe and Star and their Toronto colleague, the Telegram, were the only papers that refused. They revel in their narrowness and jealously, in getting minus men in plus jobs. Uplifting the masses and lambasting the industrious interests them more than the great world events. Is it any wonder Toronto is being called the American Petrograd and the new headquarters of the Bolsheviki on this continent? It is not the fault of the citizens, but of their local press.
Iam told that the visit of the Canadian Premier to our army in France was looked forward to, prepared for and enjoyed as the greatest event of the year. The next was the visit of the Canadian journalists. It was tonic—a breath from th,e Pure unvitiated air of home. I said when Beaverbrook was appointed to the propagandist job that he was just the man for the place. Many papers sneered at him. They won’t do things themselves and attack those who do. By arranging these two visits Beaverbrook has performed great services for the men in France and the Canadian people at home.
CINCE this article was put into type Lloyd George has announced that Great Britain had enlisted 6,250,000 since war began while the Colonies and India contributed 2,250,000. Canada’s enlistments are now about 575,000. Nearly one-third of the British army comes from overseas and the new Globe-Star-RoweU anti-Borden policy is that we must have nothing to say “with its control and conduct. That it must continue in the hands oi the **01d Gang,” who are trying to undermine Lloyd George. Who kept a helpless failure like Gough in command after his second great defeat and stood by him in his third, the greatest reverse m the history of the British army. Who for three years prevented the appointment of an allied commander; who supplied Germany with cotton, cloth for uniforms, munitions, cement, Canadian nickel etc.; who suppressed facts and published lies, but who do not want to suppress the Kaiser. Lord Buckmaster, who was chief censor in Asquith’s Cabinet, protested when Major Putnam, an American officer speaking in the National Liberal Club, London, said the Americans “would fight until the world was freed of a military despotism which believes other peoples are only made to be enslaved.” “It is a mistake,” said Lord
Buckmaster, “to imagine that this war must be continued until we have dethroned the Hohenzollerns ***** I earnestly deprecate the idea that this war is to be waged until some moment at which you will awaken to find the Hohenzollern throne without an occupant.” The audience supported the American's views with general cheers. And these are they who would allow the Germans to maltreat Canadian prisoners without letting them know that worse would happen—not to the German soldiers, but to the German Kings and Princes and higher officers. This is what our men did in South Africa and there was no more ill-treatment of our prisoners.
DO not let us imagine because the war is going favorably that it is near its end or that defeat of the German army ends our fight writh the enemy. We must not forget that it was Premier Hughes of Australia after consultation at Ottawa and with the moral support of the Canadian Premier who forced out Asquith and a few of his pacificist incompetents, who played so prominent a part in bringing in Lloyd George. And when we utter praise of General Foch for his brilliant strategy, let us not forget that had it not been for Mr. Lloyd George’s persistence there would never have been any unity of command in France, and General Foch’s supreme talents might have been largely thrown away. Lovat Fraser, whom I have had occasion to quote before on this point, agrees entirely with the view. He is on the spot and should be better informed than I. He says: “I have said
some hard things of late concerning the Prime Minister, and unless his policy becomes firmer and more stable, especially in regard to the enemy alien question, I shall perhaps have to say a good deal more in the next few weeks. But let us always be just, and the British nation should never forget that the Versailles Council and the subsequent appointment of General Foch were almost exclusively the work of Mr. Lloyd George, who fought a lonely fight against the Army Old Gang. He took a long time to march up to the guns, his hesitation wasted months and cost us dear, and he left the work unfinished owing to influences which may still have to be frankly discussed; but he did much in the end, and in this respect his judgment has been amply vindicated.
“But if there is an Old Gang in the Services, still more is there an Old Gang in politics. Mr. Lloyd George’s choice of Mr. Austen Chamberlain as a member of the War Cabinet is Old Gangism at its worst, and it has been almost universally condemned. Public feeling is outraged for a very simple and all-sufficient reason. Mr. Chamberlain was named by the Mesopotamia Commission as partly responsible for the advance to Baghdad, which was declared to be ‘an offensive movement based upon political and military miscalculations and attempted with tired and insufficient forces and inadequate preparation.’ Thereupon he resigned, because, as he said on July 12 of last year, ‘my conduct has been censured.’ Nine months afterwards, when the Germans are within forty miles of Calais. Mr. Lloyd George promotes him to be a member of the War Cabinet.
“In more than one long analysis of the Commission’s report I expressed the view that Mr. Chamberlain had been excessively blamed, and I ventured to hope that he would soon return to public service. At the India Office he did excellent work on the civil side, and we made a bad exchange when we got Mr. Montagu in
his stead. But both the censure and the responsibility remain, and if there is one place to which he ought not to have been appointed it is to a seat in the War Cabinet. The reasons which should for ever exclude Mr. Asquith from any War Ministry apply with almost equal force to Mr. Chamberlain. Both have been tried in war and been found wanting. Mr. Chamberlain possesses high character but not strong character, and the public feel instinctively that he is not a war-winner. It is good that Lord Milner should be at the War Office, but bad that his capacity for decision should be eliminated from an already weak Cabinet. As for Lord Derby, I should not have said that diplomacy was his long suit.”
SO far I have dealt only with the particular interests of our own army. Their needs are most pressing. My fight has been primarily on their behalf. Scores of them who lie in foreign lands, suffer agonies in German torture houses, or lie helpless on hospital beds, have served with me. Many of them came to my command as boys.
We are in the grip of the Old Gang just as Russia is in the hands of the TrotzkyLenines.
But there is the material side. After all our sacrifices are we to allow this gang to have any say on the Peace Terms?
Have you noticed how the anti-alien interests have taken heart since the Colonial Ministers have been in London? With Premier Hughes as their spokesman they have put life and energy into the movement. More progress has been made in dealing with aliens in high places in the last two months than in the three and a half years since war began, and the good work goes on. And it has come none too soon. A feeling of unrest has begun to show itself irj the army where they are suffering most but saying least. A year ago and again in my last article I referred to the rottenness of our foreign office and consular service—the German influence therein. Lord Beresford taking this up the other day showed that before the war 900 of our 1,200 consuls were German and many of them are still German. Hundreds of persons of enemy birth, protected by influential friends are filling public positions in war, navy and foreign offices. Some are confidential secretaries. A censor at the war office was a Holstein Dane, pronouncedly a pacificist and pro-German. As a result of recent agitation they have decided to intern all male enemy aliens over 18.
Review all naturalizations since 1914 and before if suspicion is well grounded.
Discharge all men and women of enemy origin in Government employment. ' Close the German banks at once.
This under colonial pressure after four years. Will much be done if that influence is withdrawn as proposed?
Sir Charles Tupper brings back word that as a result of Premier Hughes’ agitation, a sentiment is developing in England in favor of the retention of the captured German Colonies. And he urged that “CANADA ALSO SHOULD MAKE HER VOICE HEARD IN THIS REGARD, AS THE HANDING BACK OF TERRITORY WHICH HAD BEEN GAINED LARGELY THOUGH COLONIAL EFFORT WOULD BE EXTREMELY DISTASTEFUL TO THE MEN OVERSEAS.”
And there is a clique of public men and newspapers in Canada who want Borden, Mewburn, Ballantyne to come right home and say nothing on this topic.