Our New Tariff Chairman
As author, publisher, lawyer, agriculturist and railway magnate, William Henry Moore is a man of many parts
IN THE foyer of Hart House Theatre, Toronto, there is a photograph of the actor, Bourchier, as the detective in a play called ‘La Villa Rosa’. At first glance I thought it was a portrait of W. H. Moore, chairman of the Tariff Board in Ottawa. There was the same broad face, large head, sloping brow, tilted smile and penetrative glint of the eye from behind an inscrutable mask; only the mask of the actor was less subtle than the one usually by the chief priest of the Tariff in Canada.
For a few years I used to hear Moore talk about three times a week. He was always smoking. He could visit half a dozen offices a morning, each with a different sample of the old-fashioned habit of arguing for its own sake. Those who agreed with him were dull people; those who differed must be made to agree. With his boots on a desk, or leaning over a chair-back, he smoked and talked, seeing the world as a vast, bewildering show.
In one office he may have built up a thesis of pure optimism. In the next he might prove that the particular business method used by those in charge was fundamentally wrong. In the next he might argue that no matter how hopefully one might contend for a reasonable solution of a problem, no such solution could be found.
“Don’t you see how the whole business of conventional thinking comes down in this case like a child’s house of blocks?” he would say, as he swept the whole edifice away with an amused grin, grabbed his stick and thumped out of the room, down to his motor which he never drove himself, to spend the rest of the day being very practical.
Of all problems in Canadian politics the tariff is most like the man who lost his donkey by trying to please everybody. Maybe the elusive tariff has at last met its match.
To a few Canadians Moore is best known as an author; but not to the Canadian Authors’ Association. He has written three books. His first, ‘The Clash’, was written during the first excitement over Regulation 17, and was not intended to be diplomatic. I reviewed the’ book for the Canadian Courier of which Moore was then the financial backer—with the comment that it was a fine brief for the French Canadian, and, therefore, a poor judgment on the question. He took it as a compliment.
An expert in practical diplomacy, he did not care to be the j udge of such a picturesque, large minority, containing so many of his friends.
I often wondered why he never learned to sing the chansons populaires. ‘The Clash’ helped to keep Moore from getting an ultimate Cabinet portfolio.
Son of a Baptist preacher, part of Moore’s boyhood was spent in the town of Blenheim, Ontario, near which is Shrewsbury, an offshoot of the Chatham negro colony founded in 1861. Moore always has been interested in black men. For years he had a black sphinx door-man at the Canadian Northern, whom once he financed as editor of a little Negro paper. His sympathies are always with the underdog.
When Gipsy Smith first came to Canada with his weird song-sermon revivals, Moore spent half an hour one morning discussing the evangelist.
“Why, I could weep with Gipsy Smith over people who want to get to heaven,” protested the secretary of the Canadian Northern Railway, who yesterday might have been conferring with Sir William Mackenzie on a new line from somewhere to nowhere in Canada.
He once had a series of Hindu janitors in whose studies he took a keen personal interest. He had a high regard for the culture of these brown men, and he often talked about the magnificent futility of sixty million white folk in the British Empire trying to manage the eternal affairs of the other four hundred millions. He loved to contemplate paradoxes.
Keen Student of Economics
ELL—the Tariff awaits him.
At the University of Toronto he once was lecturer in political science. He graduated in ’94, a year ahead of the present Premier of Canada. Both these tariff experts were among the first students of political
science under Prof. Ashley. Tariffs at that time must have seemed as fantastic to this young visionary as Tories were to Mackenzie King.
As one regular preacher in a family was enough, Moore chose law. His first shingle hung out in the block next the old Toronto Street Railway office, bore the
inscription ‘Beeton and Moore’. As a criminal lawyer he would have made a hobby of keeping penitentiaries empty. The law to him was simply a curiosity, to be investigated—like a tariff.
Early in his career he took up a side line as the first editor of Gagnier’s Cigar and Tobacco Journal.
“An early expert with the scissors and the paste pot and the wicked weed” said this consumer of a hundred thousand cigars, who has always been a votary of the pipe.
Later he was assistant editor of the Monetary Times, and in 1904 he became the first and only secretary of a corporation that no financial paper could ever reduce to common dimensions—the Canadian Northern Railway. The Canadian Northern Railway was spreading its tentacles at that time up the Saskatchewan Valley from Winnipeg, and down it from Edmonton.
“I suppose you know Billy Moore?” I asked Charlie Cross, Attorney-General, when I met him in Edmonton in 1907, soon after the fur-town became capital of Alberta.
“Do I?” Cross gave a slanting smile. “Yes, I’ve met a good many clever lawyers, but I never knew one that could sew up a municipality as tight as Moore did this one over the Canadian Northern deal.”
The secretary of the Canadian Northern Railway was
then a lean, young man, whom no ‘Mackenzie and Mann' trail ever could tire. He grew up with the system. He knew every item in its abnormal psychology—even William Mackenzie. At the game of railroading in adversity, Moore discovered that any man’s inherited party politics was a vain thing for safety.
In the latest Morgan he is set down as a member of the Albany Club, but not as a Conservative. But if ever I knew a Liberal who could assimilate the fine points of Tories, Radicals, Progressives, Ultramontanes, Freemasons and bucking bronchos, it was W. H. Moore. He could talk with passionate enthusiasm to any politician when, for the time being, old party lines all ran over the Canadian Northern. Mackenzie found the money, Mann built the roads, Hanna managed the lines. Moore managed the politicians, whose prime business sometimes was to see that governments guaranteed the bonds, without which loans, roads and lines were impossible.
At that time Moore became well acquainted with Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who, to him, was not only a great personality, but the golden gate to Quebec. It was part of his program for the Canadian Northern Railway now and then to argue before the Quebec Legislative Assembly in French. The members always rose gravely when he spoke. But his knowledge of Quebec was much more intimate than he could get from any crowd. He could talk to a curé about his flock, as fervently as to an avocat about the rights of the Quebec minority, or to an Ontario minister about Regulation 17. He was on as good terms with Godefroy Langlois, who, in his Le Pays, was the enemy of bishopridden schools, as he was with Sir Lomer Gouin, the great friend of bishops. Langlois became friendly the moment I mentioned the name of Billy Moore; so did Gouin; so did Aime Geoffrion, Rodolphe Forget, Mederic Martin—all with varying angles of interest. So did others whose names I have forgotten: the little judge from the small town down near the border; the red-nosed bon viveur alderman boss; le grand seigneur ex-Mayor. Armand Lavergne was the only French-Canadian I met, who seemed critical of Moore. At Lavergne’s summer home on a Sunday afternoon, I heard an excited pow-wow in French led by a fiery avocat from the Cabinet, who, the moment the name of Moore was mentioned broke into a broad smile repeating the name ‘Billy Moore’ with obvious affection, as he began to speak in English.
To all and sundry in Quebec, except extreme Nationalists, Moore was the big brother from the Anglo-Saxons, who got behind the mask of common business into the camaraderie of bigger things. Hence there emerged ‘The Clash’ which with all its prejudices is a glowing book of romantic history.
A Hectic Career
DURING his period with Mackenzie and Mann, Moore also was an active official of the Toronto Street Railway, one of the many offshoots of the Canadian Northern Railway, along with ore from Moose Mountain, Ontario, metals in Ungava, and coal in Nanaimo, British Columbia. For years he was manager of the York Radiais running out of Toronto; and he was president of the first automobile company in Toronto. No man in Canada has had quite so hectic a life. The fixed ideas of yesterday became the explosions of to-morrow, when Mackenzie wanted as much of the earth as possible for his railroads. Banks, parliaments, cabinets, boards of trade, manufacturers’ associations, newspapers, city councils, law courts, labor unions, immigration agencies and elections were to him so many helps or hindrances to new lines. Moore was the one man expected to co-relate these things; and he had his troubles. He probably thanked heaven for a tireless, big body, a nimble brain, and a sense of humor in predicaments. So many things about the Mackenzie epic were so obviously paradoxes— and predicaments.
Yet his chief interest, when at home, was among his books, and it was his great delight to hold after-midnight symposiums from which one could never feel sure, as the Continued on page 57
Continued on page 57
Continued from page 12
smoke grew thick and the fire burned low, whether the secretary of the Canadian Northern Railway was not more capitalist than socialist.
Moore made a habit of diagnosing society as though it were a comedy of disease. To him the aspirations of backward races were more inspiring than the achievements of successful nations. He had traveled a good deal in Canada— and not much anywhere else, until he went to Mexico a few years ago in the interests of Sir William Mackenzie. At that time he escaped from a pot-shot civil war, and never bothered to give any newspaper an interview on the subject.
New York never interested him. When the Royal Edward first docked at Montreal under Canadian Northern ownership, Moore stayed in Toronto. He had no romantic interest in a new steamship line up the St. Lawrence; the romance was in the people along the river.
A Laurier victory always pleased him, though had the Liberal leader been an Ontario man, he might have been just as pleased over the Borden victory in 1911. Trained by habit to be, as far as possible, all things to all men, he chose for selfprotection his own individualistic thinking. On the eve of any election he might choose to be profoundly interested in Charlie Chaplin, though he seldom goes to a movie and never to a play.
Moore is a fine host, even to taking a hearty interest in musical programmes at home, though he has no particular ear for music. He never goes to art galleries. As a merely social figure he does not care to function. An invitation to a five o’clock tea to meet an actress would develop a sudden business meeting downtown. He would go blocks out of his way to avoid meeting any average lord, and for years before he ran for parliament he could not have been induced to take a seat on a political platform or to speak at a banquet.
This sort of man keeps you guessing— without suspicion. Many people to Moore are projections of his own state of mind. He understands them as far as necessary at the time; seldom completely. He even may understand himself.
I am only guessing when I say that most of his life Moore has been conscious of many parts he might play; that he chose for 'success to be a corporation agent, as he might have become a great corporation legal expert; that the essential part of himself he kept for his friends outside of business; that he has been most of his life conscious of the enormous spread between success and individualism; that he had a great love of the crowd, but no direct means of reaching it with a message.
About twenty years ago Moore began to carry out a college dream of some sort when he established a weekly of opinion, the Canadian Courier, of which John A. Cooper, a Varsity classmate, became the first editor. Despite years of association with Moore on that paper I never felt quite certain as 'to his precise motive in starting it. He often wrote for the paper. His ideas sometimes appeared on the editorial page, and in special articles. But he was often more interested in a column of jokes. He spent half an hour one day demonstrating just how an artist should have drawn a cover picture of a man who has suddenly kicked an April Fool hat and before he finished he had the whole staff taking part.
He wanted to make his paper an omnibus, even to a sporting page, and at one time he had a series of articles by himself translated into French for a Quebec edition. But he only once allowed it to become an advocate for the policies of Mackenzie and Mann. One of his popular ideas was a forum vote on the ‘Ten Greatest Men in Canada’; another was ‘Unheralded Heroes’, men who do big work without public recognition. Once he
came in panting with excitement over some diaries of Captain Vancouver that he had picked up at a bookstall. Again he became absorbed in the arrival of a family of European musicians in Canada. In Montreal, I met him at the Windsor Hotel, when he was powerfully interested in a certain aged Swami with a new doctrine from India.
An Expensive Toy
rVURING the war he flung the Daily Courier into the arena of Toronto, modelled after the daily illustrated papers of London. For a few months this new, but expensive, toy obsessed him. A few years before, the Canadian Farm had seemed to him a new way to arouse interest in agriculture all over Canada, when he held daily sessions on thoroughbred stock, and the menace of urban migration in Canada. This paper also cost him a fair-sized fortune, till he sold it to Gagnier, his old associate on the Cigar and Tobacco Journal.
He bought a farm near Pickering, in Ontario County, where he sometimes took Sir William Mackenzie out on hot days to pitch hay. He studied the rotation of crops, the idioms of Jersey cows, the idiosyncrasies of Tamworth hogs, and the best method of operating silos. For the first time in his life he found himself neighbor to aristocracy, when Lord Somers and Mr. Somers Cox took up farms near him. One day a farm hand captured a hedgehog, which he brought to Moore, in order that the owner might gaze upon one of the animals that had been destroying his crops. Moore grinned and said: “Let him go boys. He probably has as much right to live as we have.”
He took an active interest in racetrack promotion, though I never could tell from any word he said about races that he had ever bet on a horse. He organized the Scarborough Amusement Park, as a street railway rival to Hanlan’s Point; but he continued to be a friend of ‘Lol’ Solman, his rival in summer amusements. Once he wrote an article on the Trade Guilds of Europe. Within a year he built a press-room which, with a composing room, he made into a Printers’ Guild.
When he wrote ‘Polly Masson’, Moore summed up his years of studying politicians and parliaments. Few read this series of political conversations as he himself called it, because the author knew too much about politics to express his more vivid interest in people.
His latest book, ‘The Commandments of Men,’ printed by his own guild; is a mildly caustic analysis of the relations between the individual and the state; not widely read, because it takes too much thinking; typical of Moore’s later faculty for finding things as they are in a rotten mess and, like Sinclair Lewis, after he has kicked over all the old barrels in the yard to see what kind of bugs are under them, asking: ‘Well, now that we have all got into such a predicament what are you going to do about it?’
As a sample of destructive criticism this book is not to be recommended to the further use of the chairman of the Tariff Board, who, in his new capacity as a servant of the public instead of a corporation, will need all his old savoir faire-, who as one of the agents chosen to make things better than they are for as many people as possible, will be entitled to a public monument if he resigns from the board with as much enthusiasm about the whole of Canada as he used to have for Quebec and the Hindus.
But if W. H. Moore ever finds himself ¡ becoming so conventionally good as to be in danger of a monument probably he will ' write a book to prove that statues are a | species of idolatry. I