"My Canadian Critics"

Beverley Baxter December 15 1938


"My Canadian Critics"

Beverley Baxter December 15 1938


"My Canadian Critics"

Beverley Baxter

IT SEEMS to me that there comes a moment every now and then when it is the duty of a writer to let the other fellow have his say.

And it strikes me that this is such a moment.

For the last three years I have been writing these fortnightly Letters for Maclean's, with the result that there is hardly a town or village in Canada where someone has not written to me during that time in kindly and encouraging words. To me this correspondence has been a great joy, and as far as it has been humanly possible I have tried to acknowledge every letter without resorting to a mere perfunctory formula.

It would be quite wrong to pretend that all the letters were congratulatory. From time to time a sturdy citizen would rise up in his wrath and state that my articles made him sick. Not content with that, he would then outline his own view of world affairs at such length that it would seem he was determined to make me equally sick.

Quite obviously there is a school of thought in Canada mostly around Winnipeg — which distinguishes very clearly between Russia and Germany (to the latter’s detriment) and, while professing a strong loyalty to the England that was, has little use for the England that is.

They are full of slogans, these students of affairs. Any catch phrase is a blinding flash of truth to them. Any secret revelation of British public life, no matter how grotesque, is the “real low-down” to their trustful minds.

On the other hand, they regard loyalty to Mr. Chamberlain as either cowardice, sliminess or just paid lip service. A devotion to the British Empire is dismissed as Imperialistic bunk.

Well, they are entitled to their opinion.

Even if they occasionally lack humor or proportion and are swayed by a bitter prejudice, they are citizens of a free country and have the right to think what they like and say what they think.

I am sorry if my Letters and my weekly broadcasts have upset them.

True, they have the remedy in their own hands and need neither read nor listen, but apparently they prefer to do both in order to experience the fullest measure of disgust and resentment.

Since the Czechoslovakian crisis of last September, however, an entirely new wave of both kindly and critical correspondence has reached me. Obviously there are many people in Canada who believe that Mr. Chamberlain was bluffed at Munich, or that he surrendered like a coward to the threat of force.

Let me say at once that there is one type of critic whom I respect completely. I refer to the ex-serviceman who fought in the last war and was ready to fight again. lie has the right to raise a row, for he paid heavily enough for the privilege.

Roughly his point of view is this: “Wellington and Nelson and Drake never gave a damn for force of numbers. In the Great War we fought the Hun and beat him. We could do it again. Why has England gone soft all of a sudden, and why do you pretend that you think Chamberlain is a hero?” Good luck to you, old soldier ! It is good to hear the brave

voice of tlie C. E. F. once more and to know that you stand where you stood, “Come the three corners of the world ip arms.”

“Crisis Correspondence”

E) UT the strangest aspect of this “crisis correspondence” is the emergence of what might be called the Belligerent Female. Let me give you an example. The writer is Mile. M. D. Rouleau, of 4087 Boulevard Gouin West, Cartierville, Quebec.

Mile. Rouleau starts off by stating: “1 could be using this time in writing to you much better.”

(I do not know the lady’s activities, and must bow my head in humble gratitude for her condescension.)

“But I hate you to get away with the idea, in case you have it, that you are a Moses and that when you write articles for Canadian consumption we swallow them whole. And on the other hand, when you are writing for

British consumption, that you represent Canadian ideas at all. Don’t think if there happens to be a war over the return of the colonies, that we will be very enthusiastic about it.”

After this high-spirited beginning, Mile. Rouleau discusses the character of Hitler, and makes the point that since kindness to him in the past did not quieten him she sees no danger now in being rude to him.

Then she imparts the startling information that Britain induced France to break her treaty obligations with Czechoslovakia. Apparently as proof of this, she adds that M. Daladier, on returning from Munich, did not receive as great an ovation as Mr. Chamberlain.

Having given that explanation of recent history, she remarks: “If you weren’t prepared for war I don’t think it

is due to Duff COOJXT, who warned you several years ago when he was Minister of War and was criticized for being an alarmist.”

From that point my correspondent enters into a discussion of the characters of Hitler, Flandin, Pope Pius XI, Chamberlain (and his father and brother) Niemoller

and Carl Ossietsky. Nor are her observations without


It was Kipling who first wrote that the female of the species is more deadly than the male. Mile. Rouleau terrifies me. Her mind has no limitations. No public man has any secrets from her.

She declares that I do not represent Canadian ideals at all. That hardly seems likely, since l lived in Canada from the time of my birth until I was twenty-four. But we can let that pass.

Her picture of Duff Cooper as a warning prophet at the War OfTice is far more extraordinary. Mr. Duff Coo[>er, far from being ahead of Cabinet opinion on defense, was removed from the War Office because his reeruitmentof the army was not vigorous enough.

If we must have the truth, let us have it bluntly.

Then as to Britain urging France to break her pledges! On the Monday of the fateful week, D>rd Halifax informed lx»th Germany and France that if the French Army went to the aid of Czechoslovakia, Britain would march with her.

That afternoon the British Fleet was mobilized, and trenches were dug in all the London parks. A strange way of persuading France not to be firm.

Why did Chamberlain receive a greater ovation in Britain titan Daladier in France? F'irst, because Chamberlain was the central figure of the drama, since it was he who flew alone to Germany. Secondly, because Britain had no special commitments to Czechoslovakia, whereas France had.

No wonder that a sense of humiliation tempered the relief of the French people at being saved from another war.

Surely these facts must be evident even to those who take all their knowledge of European matters from American publications edited and written in Hoboken. There must be a limit to the credulity even of Mile. Rouleau of Cartierville.

I am not pretending for a moment that there was not humiliation as well as magnificence about the Munich Agreement. I do not claim that our worries are over, or that Germany will become the gentle lamb of Europe overnight.

I do contend though that the problem is many sided, and that it is utterly absurd to make up a case consisting of legends and deductions which cannot stand the test of common sense for a moment.

“The Geneva Mind”

HERE IS another feminine correspondent, from Toronto, Miss Alice Chown, who is related to that grand old figure of Canadian Methodism, Dr. Chown. After the familiar arraignment of British foreign policy. “Manchuria, Abyssinia. Spain, Czechoslovakia” (I wonder why they always leave out Bolivia, which was a member of the League when she fought Paraguay), Miss Chown comes right down to business:

“The record of the British Conservative Party is rooted in dishonor, and you try to cover it over with soft words. Why do you not go into retreat and face the records of history? Nations win a short-lived victory through dishonorable dealings. If the British people support Chamberlain in his shortsighted policy, then Britain is doomed and you will have played your part in the destruction of the British Commonwealth. I wrote the Department of External Affairs at Ottawa last April that Chamberlain would destroy the British Commonwealth. We, who love Britain, feel your part in her destruction most keenly."

If I may say so with respect. Miss Chown is a perfect example of the Geneva mind. I know this mind like the letters of the alphabet. It is sincere, well meaning and scornful. There are no half-lights in its gallery of pictures. Everything is shrill white or funereal black.

This is their invariable arraignment of Britain:

1. The British, with the aid of the League, should have fought Japan so as to save Manchuria.

Comment: The French would not have sent a ship. The British Navy would have had to act alone unless America came in. The Singa pore Naval Base was not ready. After defeating Japan we would have had to garrison her until she was ready to fight again. In the meantime there was Europe.

2. In the first part of her letter Miss Chown denounces Sir Samuel Hoare for having concluded the “infamous” HoareLaval Pact to betray Abyssinia.

Comment: The Hoare - Laval Pact

would have divided Abyssinia between Italy and the Negus. The Pact was overthrown by the outcry of the League of Nations enthusiasts in England, who were of the same mind as Miss Chown. They prevailed—and the Abyssinians were duly crucified and deprived of their entire country.

Had the Misses Chown of Britain in their uncontrolled idealism not swept aside the wise and farseeing action of Sir Samuel Hoare, Italy would have been saved from the German sphere of influence and a substantial part of Abyssinia for the Abyssinians. Let the denouncers of the Hoare-Laval Pact ask themselves with absolute honesty if they have no responsibility for the ultimate fate of Spain, Austria and Czechoslovakia.

But I shall not labor the point or go over this much plowed ground. The arraignment of British foreign policy during the last eight years is a document that has been itemized so frequently that we all know it by heart.

Yet I would in all gentleness put one query to Miss Chown:

“Why, madam, do you invariably express intense sympathy for the Chinese, the Abyssinians, the Government side of Spain and the Czechs, yet never express even a passing human interest in the fate of the people of Japan, Italy and Germany unless they be the unhappy persecuted Jews?

“Japan has fought this last war with a barbaric savagery, but have you ever thought of the overcrowded Japanese people on an island constantly swept by typhoons and ravaged by earthquakes? Do you think that Hitler and Mussolini could ever have risen except from people rendered desperate and hopeless?”

I am not condoning the brutal methods of the dictators or their enslavement of human liberty. But I am condemning all those forces of so-called idealism that can weep for an Ethiopian killed in a battle, and remain dry-eyed over a German family

that is hungry and despairing, or a Russian family tortured and exterminated by the insensate cruelty of the Bolsheviks.

This morality, madam, is too selective for my taste. It has more intolerance than mercy in it.

“None of Us Want War”

MISS Mary J. McKinnon, writing from the Mount Royal Hotel. Montreal, thinks that I have become intolerant in my broadcasts toward any who criticize Mr. Chamberlain.

“Let me tell you,” writes Miss McKinnon, “that in this country many who criticize Mr. Chamberlain are precisely those who made heavy sacrifices in 1914-18 and feel that Mr. Chamberlain regarded those sacrifices so lightly he was willing to hand over hard-won advantages without even an argument . Is it possible that your rather frantic defense of Mr. Chamberlain precedes an announcement that after sacrificing Spain and Czeckcslovakia he is ready to sacrifice further and hand over the former German colonies won in the Great War? That will be the last straw.”

At this point Miss McKinnon inserts the sentence that is never missing from the literature of belligerency: “Of course none of us want war.”

Mr. Chamberlain did not want war— and is a coward.

Miss McKinnon does not want war— and is a brave woman.

It is a nice distinction.

Miss McKinnon says that the British Premier thought little of the sacrifices of the great conflict of 1914-18. Is it not jx)ssible that he thought so deeply about them that he decided to accept humiliation rather than see the streets filled again with limbless young men and sightless boys groping their way along the road that has no end? Is it not possible that his conscience revolted against the thought of the flag of victory being raised once more on the new graves of five million men?

To say that he gave everything away without an argument and cared nothing for the sacrifices of the past, is not worthy of any man or woman.

It may be that we should have fought over Czechoslovakia. The agreement of Munich may yet prove a British disaster of the first magnitude. Because many of us think otherwise, does not alter that possibility. But to infer that Mr. Chamberlain did what he did through personal timidity or without the utmost agony of mind, shows a tragic ignorance of human nature itself.

There are many things about the present British Government which I do not like. Their neglect of the Empire, their failure to organize the civilian population for defense and their tardiness in bringing about the economic appeasement of Europe, are matters which I have openly criticized both in Parliament and the press.

On the other hand, I urged an openhanded approach to Italy and Germany more than two years ago and never ceased to continue advocating it.

Why. then, condemn me for being a mere party hack because I support Mr. Chamberlain for doing what I would most certainly have done were I in his place?

I hope that Mesdames Rouleau, Chown and McKinnon will not think me discourteous in what I have written in this article. On the contrary, I am grateful for the compliment they paid me in being so frank. Yet I would beg them to ponder over this final thought:

A strong Germany dominating Central and Southeastern Europe is what 1 would describe as a danger to Britain plus a reasonable hope that there will be a lasting peace.

A cramped and frustrated Germany would have eventually been consumed by

counter-revolutions or have gone to war. representing in either case a danger to Britain— without any hope of j>eace ensuing.

Chamberlain has declared war on war.

He has yet to be proved right in doing so.

I challenge any man or woman to say with absolute conviction that he was wrong.

A Critic Replies

npo THE EDITOR: 1 was not aware

that it was customary for gentlemen to print personal letters received by them without first securing the consent of the writer. However, if Mr. Baxter in his wisdom felt it necessary to use me as a whipping horse, he might have had the grace to use the whole of my letter.

Mr. Baxter sneers at what he calls my “selective morality.” Then with all the unction of a patent-medicine spieler, he voices a selective morality which only a politician could devise.

He accuses League of Nations enthusiasts of having crucified Abyssinia. What a travesty of the truth! The National Government—of which Mr. Chamberlain was a member—was elected on a platform which supported the League policy of collective action against aggressors. Secured by an overwhelming majority at the polls, the National Government betrayed that policy—and Abyssinia was crucified to “satisfy” a Mussolini who promptly went on to further “satisfaction” in Spain.

Mr. Baxter condones British policy in Manchuria on the ground that Britain could get no support from France. But lie omits any mention of the fact that the United States could get no supjxirt from Britain for action against Japan. I le weeps over “overcrowded Japanese on an island

. constantly ravaged by earthquakes.” Has he no tears for the millions of Chinese, yes and of Japanese, now being slaughtered because in the beginning League principles were betrayed to “satisfy” the war lords of Japan?

At Munich Mr. Chamberlain again bowed to the threat of force, and undertook to “satisfy” Hitler by partitioning Czechoslovakia. Now Germany is seeking further “satisfaction" through return of colonies; and in the meantime is engaged in the “satisfaction” of inflicting untold suffering on the Jews.

Does Mr. Baxter really believe that a Germany strengthened by domination of Austria, of Czechoslovakia, of Jugoslavia, Hungary and Roumania, will he less likely to invoke war than the Germany which achieved all this by threat of war?

Mr. Baxter declares that Mr. Chamberlain has declared war on war. and challenges anyone to say he is wrong. Here at least is one woman who has the courage to voice the conviction that Mr. Chamberlain is wrong, and that before and since Munich he has followed a policy which will produce war. Alice A. Chown, Toronto.

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Linoleum Repairs

'VYT’HEN THE cement under linoleum W loosened and allowed the latter to bulge slightly in spots, new cement was applied under the bulges, without lifting the linoleum, by means of a grease gun. Just cut a small slit in the linoleum to take the nozzle of the gun and force cement in place. Then take a rolling pin and roll it in all directions to spread the cement underneath. Wipe up the adhesive that works out of* the hole, letting some of it remain in the opening to seal it. The hole usually can be cut in some part of the pattern where it is not noticeable. The repaired spot is covered with paper and a weight applied until the cement dries.— Popular Mechanics.