The CAMPAIGN AGAINST BRITAIN
AGNES C. LAUT
Author of “Lords of the North,’’ “The Hudson Bay Co.,’’ etc.
PEACE was not one month old before many of us, who have given every moment of our time since the war began to combat and defeat German propaganda, became conscious
of a subtle and subterraneous influence running insidiously under cover of innuendo and rumor, like the red line of a prairie fire ready to fan to flame on the first whiff of wind. You could hardly call it German propaganda. It wasn’t—at least, not in the open, but only by indirection. You heard it everywhere and saw evidence of it everywhere. Sometimes it masqueraded under the German catch-phrase— •“Freedom of the Seas.” “Was England to be permitted to continue her tyranny over the seas?” “Were the United States to be bluffed out of building a navy one whit less powerful than England?” Or else a huge head-line in some pro-Irish daily insinuating that England’s -“dog-in-the-manger policy was starving Europe because she prevented the surplus wheat of Australia
and India reaching the starved nations of Europe.” (It was a representative of the Australian Government who drew my attention to this gross and mischievous misrepresentation.) Now there is not a schooi child in any Englishspeaking nation who does not know that, since the war of 1812, the seas of the world have been as free as air to any ship, flying any flag, in any port, on anjr sea route. True, during this war, Great Britain established a blockade against Germany; and that blockade .maintained by the British Navy really won the war. But, true also—and there isn’t an American school boy who does not know it—that, during the Civil War, the North established a similar blockade against the .South; and that blockade maintained by the North broke the power of the South. Neither blockade has the slightest bearing on the Freedom of the Seas maintained by the British Navy for exactly a hundred years. Yet the phrase—Freedom of the Seas—invented by German propaganda during 1915, and put out in a book by an American professor paid by the Germans—is now being used as xi red rag to inflame the Irish bull of hatred for the British. The insidious campaign of lies could hardly be called German Propaganda; for the German paymasters were off the map. Yet it was distinctly anti-British; and it was anti-British at a stage in preparation for the Peace Conference, when if a wedge could be driven between the two great English-speaking races, all the good effects of victory in the war would be lost to the world. V Some Facts For Canadians rI 'O show you just exactly where all true Americans stand on this question, I purpose laying before Canadians some inside facts; and if after examining those facts and convincing themselves they are true, all Canadians—all Canadians without exception of a single political jingo—do not take the same stand with face of flint against any and all misunderstandings between the two great nations, then we may as well accept the inevitable that the good effects of the war will be lost to the world. Within a few days of the evidence of this antiBritish propaganda being under way, two very quiet luncheons were held in New York City, and in less than twenty minutes at one luncheon $35,000 was subscribed towards the two British Empire days. This luncheon, as far as I know, was attended exclusively by Americans; bapkers, big labor leaders, civic authorities, employers. The two British Empire days—let us acknowledge facts; not what we want to be facts — were not an enthusiastic success. They were flat and a bit lame. Why? Because they were not backed by Englishmen and Canadians with the same enthusiasm that they were backed by Americans; and while Americans will go a full half way in a festival of friend-
ship, they can’t go all the w'ay. They particularly can’t go all the way during a Peace Conference, wThen certain loud and strident voices in their own country are screeching to High Heaven an anti-British propaganda. Within less than tw'enty-four hours from one of these luncheons, I left for Canada to see if we could not arrange an interchange of representative Americans to speak in Canada and representative Canadians to speak in the United States, in order to maintain crystal clear good understanding between the two countries. If German propaganda no longer has a royal paymaster, whence comes this sinister, dangerous, subtle anti-British propaganda? And what is its object? And what influences are secretly engineering it? I cannot answer these questions definitely. That is— I cannot answer them with facts established with the certainty of evidence in a court of law; but I can trace the currents that are running counter to good relations between Great Britain and the United States; and you can trace those currents back up to their turgid head waters for yourself; and when you have reached those turgid pools, I want you to recall the
sayings of a Polish philosopher, whom the Germans claimed as a German, though he has put on record his hatred of all things German, especially all things Prussian. He said that dishonest
people had a crafty trick of stirring up mud puddles to conceal the snakes in the bottom of the pool. The philosopher was Nietzsche, who hated Prussianism as His Satanic Majesty is reputed to hate Holy Water. Whence comes this sinister, dangerous, subtle anti-British propaganda? First, comes the Irish vote; and don’t forget the late Mr. Parnell declared that the Irish-American politician was far more anti-British than the IrishIrishman. ' He is anti-British for the most self-evident reasons. It elects him to power as a boss; and it provides him with an exhaustless purse of campaign funds that never reaches Ireland. When Jeremiah O'Leary, who is now under indictment by a Federal Grand Jury for his pro-German activities, was conducting a cam-
was conducting a campaign early in 1915-16 against the Federal Reserve Banks to try to prevent the first big American Loan to the Allies, all under cover of the American Truth Society, I was asked by the Governor of one of the Federal Reserve Banks to drop casually into O’Leary’s office and try to find his motive. O’Leary may have mistaken my name for German, as some other proGermans did on a very comical occasion, whereas the name is really a perversion of Loche—the people of the lakes in Scotland and Wales. Anyway, I found O’Leary in a Broadway office close to Veireck and Dernberg. There was, however, no visible connection; but when I asked O’Leary how the organization, established solely in the interests of Truth, then trying to prevent loans to the Allies, was financing itself, he opened his mouth and spread his feet wide apart and roared at me in the gentle accents of a bull, that it was solely sustained by voluntary contributions from loyal sons of Ireland; and he showed me a sheet of the contributions for that day, which totalled $50. The fact that the most of subscriptions were in $1 amounts identified the character of the poor gulls. The American Truth Society was doing a land boom business under the masquerade of anti-British. The Case of Roger Casement Or take the mass meetings to raise funds in the sacred name of the martyr, Sir Roger Casement. I knew exactly the brand of martyr Sir Roger Casement was. I knew why the Englishmen, who first signed a petition for the commutation of his sentence, afterwards withdrew their names from that petition. I waS offered a verbatim reading of the documents, though I was warned I would need disinfection and fumigation after the reading. Mass meetings to collect funds in his name were coming on. I went to every single big editor of New York likely to act and begged them to expose the fake. They refused point blank, nnd for perfectly legitimate reasons. To make these charges without the documents to sustain them would only antagonize the Irish vote; and if the British Government would not give out the documents and stop the fake proceedings, why should American editors suffer loss for what the British Government would not do? I then prepared to issue an expurgated statement in a magazine, which 1 happened to be editing at the time, when the owner of thut magazine, whose lawyer chanced to be the lawyer for certain Irish political leagues, came to me personally and asked the very same question—why should we do what the British Government was not doing? So the mass meetings for the martyr, Casement, went on. How much was raised in those meetings—I do not know. One Irish leader, furious at the dishonesty of the whole proceedings, told me not less than $275,000. The thing finally reached the proportions of such a scandal that Continued on page 60
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federal attorneys warned these collectors of fake funds to cease their activities and get out of the country, or they would be arrested; but they did not act till huge sums had already been collected, for which not one single public accounting has yet been given. Please note the words—not one single public accminting has yet been given.
The Freedom of the Seas
THIS should explain to Canadian readers why an anti-British campaign is always a paying proposition in the United States.
Put the Irish vote, then, down as one cause!
But the thing cuts deeper. It cuts so dangerously deep I am frankly afraid of a severed artery. Get right down under the surface of the German catch phrase—Freedom of the Seas.
The American Seaman’s Law practically trebles the operating costs of an American Merchant Marine. It trebles costs by establishing three shift crews, standards of living, and unionized labor. Now the American public will have spent five billion dollars building an American merchant marine. Under war freights, it could stand the heavier overhead operating charges in competition with other merchant marines. Under normal rates, it cannot, unless—unless—please mark well— other nations, especially Great Britain, will also establish similar high overhead operating expenses. Will other nations with merchant marines privately owned give away their advantage by trebling their operating expenses? Not on your life will they. It would wipe their merchant marines from the seas. Hurley of the U.S. Shipping Board knows this. Yet he goes to the Peace Conference to ask this very thing, which he knows will be flatly refused, and when it is flatly refused, what will the anti-British propaganda in this country howl at the top of its lungs? What are they howling now? “Freedom of the Seas”—a German catch-word—English tyranny dominating “Freedom of the Seas.”
But the thing goes deeper yet—don’t mistake this for a mob yell!
At one of the luncheons to which I have referred, a speaker, who had made special personal investigations of conditions in Russia, told us that of the one billion and a half Russian gold, which the Bolsheviki stole from the Imperial
Government Reserve, at least half a billion was assigned for secret propaganda work in America and Canada. It would finance policemen’s strikes. It would attempt to tamper with soldier and sailor. It would never attempt to buy or to dominate the labor unions, but it would attempt to place secret agents in every union. It would attempt to do in this country what it had done in Russia and was now doing in Germany. It would not necessarily call itself I.W.W. or Bolshevik, for that would only invite Government action; but crush it in one form, and it would only come up protean in a new form. That was his prediction. Now what are the facts? Call it by any name you like, the Bolshevik doctrine is now shouting from the house tops, where it formerly whispered in cellars. It is hiring public halls, which it never before was able to afford. It is getting its propaganda into a section of the press, which it never before could touch ; and it is sending out its propaganda in tons. It is no longer poor.
If you add this element to the seaman’s argument and the professional Irish politician, you can trace the streams of anti-British propaganda back to the turgid pools concealing the snakes all right.
rr'HERE is still another element, which -t is perfectly legitimate from their point of view. It is not necessarily propaganda. It is a fight for commercial existence. I have touched on this in another article for MACLEAN’S. German interests in this country are not agricultural. They are trade and finance. Before the war, they were proGerman. After the United States went to war, they were avowedly pro-American and pro-Ally. I know German banking houses that contributed frequently to German organizations before this country went to war, who, when this country went to war, at once switched, stumped the country for the Allies and contributed lavishly for the Allied cause.
But the war is over. The very existence of these firms, their discounts and charges on bills of exchange, depend on resumption of trade with Germany. Whether their influence is cast in consciously or unconsciously with the present anti-British propaganda—I do not know. Some, I do know, are avowedly pro-British ; but that does not prevent them wanting a resumption of trade with Germany.
Where Canada Comes In
What is it to Canada whether this anti-British propaganda goes on or not? Can any human being in his, or her, right mind ask that question? Do people in Canada know that it was the American Navy which guarded Canada’s coast for six months and drove off the German submarines? Whatever conditions exist on the American side for railroads, for wages, for price of metals, for price of wheat, must also exist on Canada’s side. The Allies owe the United States nearly nine billions of dollars. Take the case of wheat! Under stress of war, the United States can export 300 million bushels of wheat; but out of stress of war, her exports of wheat seldom exceed 100 to 200 million bushels. They are in fact such a diminishing quantity that the country was importing wheat from Argentina before the war, just as she is now importing wheat from Australia via Japanese bottoms. So whether the price of wheat stays at $2.20 in the United States for ten years will not entail a greater burden on the U.S. Treasury than a couple of hundred million dollars. But how about Canada? She will, and in fact must, export 300 million bushels of wheat to pay her war debts. If the price stays up at a pegged $2.20, where will that put her Treasury? And if the U.S. price stays up, and the Canadian price drops to $1, and an anti-British propaganda here puts up a wall against Canadian wheat, how long do you think farmers would stay on the Canadian side raising wheat at $1, when they could step across to the American side and raise it at $2.20?
Such a contingency would knock Canada’s immigration into a cocked hat. It would throw Canada back into the conditions of the ’80’s and ’90’s. Canada’s future commercial prosperity depends in no small degree on the good relations maintained between the United States and the British Empire.
I take it the end of the Peace Conference will see only two supremely great and powerful nations left intact as to manhood and finance—the British Empire and the United States. Shall they be friends or enemies? If friends, the peace of the world is ensured. If enemies, or even nagging rivals, then the good of the war has been lost before the roar of the guns has died to silence.