Conscription in Quebec

John Bayne Maclean October 1 1917

Conscription in Quebec

John Bayne Maclean October 1 1917

Conscription in Quebec

John Bayne Maclean

Hie articles by 1’oloncl Unci.eon have attracted a great deal of attention and have aroused variously warm commendation, bitter criticism and intolerant skepticism. Some publications have brushed aside his statements as unbelievable and neet weerthy of srrietus consideration. Unpleasant truths are never popular and always hard to drive home. Hole,net Mad.ran foretold in August, 11*12. the money stringency and coming let up ,in trade. He started in October. 11*14. through the columns of THE ElX.Wt'lAL HOST, to give utterance to certain things £hat he knew to be true, but whie h mu contrary to publie■ e,pinion at the tim*. His farts were brushed aside and his'be/nclusions derided then by the some people and the same publications now expressing disapproval of hts articles in MacLean’s. Here are some of the things he put forward as early as October, 111 14 : (1* "That the War would last 5 or 6 years (at the time eren Hritish Cabinet Ministers said the Hermans would be defeated! in a Jew memths) ; (2» That Canada must not be contente et with the 25.000 mem then authorised, but must get another 100,000 men under arms right away; and make plans fe,r 2'&t;0.000 more, (lit That our rral danger was submeirinrs ; tins te as laughed at by many critics. 141 That the possible political developments out of this war are causing many Canadierns to do some serious thinking, but this is no tinte to dis, uss them. The duty neiw is te> support the Hritish arms tee the limit of our capacity.’' Within the last three weeks there has been an animated discussio*i e,n this subject. Um e,f the biggest men in Canada said frankly that we would breo,me independent, while another man, who occupies a very impeirlant peisition at Ottawa, thinks the ejute-omt will be union with the T.H, W ith neither of these victrs do we agree. &t;5i That the Hritish needed different headers than Asguith. Hrry Halfour and Churchill. MU That Lloyd He >rge was the man to take the helm. (7i That X at tonal Oorernment* must takt the place or purely party administrations and leading business men be giren portfolios calling for cxV, ulive ability; Horden and Laurier now a>rrce to this. *** That conscription should come in Canada,, il» That Hussin might *, « k a separate peace. On all these points and many others hr had the truth at least two years IM adí an,, of public opinion. This in not intended as a defence of u hat he has written in MaeLean's, but as a guide to such OS desire to judge between what he says now and what Ins critic* say.—The Editors.

CONSCRIPTION is not a novelty in Quebec. French-Canadian conscripts helped in 1775 to save Canada for the British, and Quebec for the Roman Catholic Church and French language.

The occurrences then are being repeated, almost exactly, in these days; excepting that then they had real wartime conscription. Then men were enlisted at the point of the bayonet and not after elaborate court proceedings.

Brigadier-General Allan Maclean had been authorized to organize two battalions of Highlanders in the States,

Quebec and -Maritime Provinces—the

Royal Highland Emigrants, they were called. He was given power “to get them by beat of drum, or otherwise.” The settlements and the farmsteads on the St. Lawrence were visited and each able-bodied man was seen in turn. Many volunteered, but finally when conditions became desperate, as they are with us to-day; when only Quebec City remained British—Benjamin Franklin was cn his way from Philadelphia to start his newspaper in Montreal—French-Canadians were forced to join; roundejl up by detachments of the Emigrants with fixed bayonets.

They proved very good soldiers. They made their way to Quebec in canoes. It is recorded that they had to pass the American sentries below Three Rivers by paddling with their hands. They arrived just in time. There was disloyalty in the garrison. Quebec wás on the point of surrender. Articles of capitulation were being arranged, it was said, at a meeting of leading citizens in the Bishop’s Chapel. The Highlanders and French-Canadians at once took charge of this meeting. The Chairman, one Williams, was kicked out of the pulpit. Detachments from the regiment were placed at the gates of the city—to prevent surrender. Internal plotting was put down with a strong hand. When Arnold’s emissaries came forward with a flag of truce, expecting the surrender, they were fired on. They protested, but the old Highlander, now in full command at Quebec, said he could not recognize a flag of truce in the hands of rebels. The final effort, under Montgomery, on that stormy New Year’s eve, was met and repulsed mainly by these conscripts and their Highland compatriots. Two of the French-Canadians distinguished themselves in the good work they did. It was Washington Irving, was it not, who wrote, that but for Maclean and his “brigands” Canada would have been part of the States to-day, and Capt. Key, of the York and Lancaster Regiment in a paper read in 1912 before the Royal United Service Institution, sflí: “Had it not been for the Highland Emigrant Regt., Quebec would have fallen, and had Quebec fallen, the British prestige west of the Atlantic would have ceased to exist.” French-Canadians are misrepresented by the noisy

“With the whole united strength of our people, we will win. hut we shall only just win. It will need all our strength, so don't let us throw it away. It is a mighty foe which has set itself to destroy this Empire, and it will take all of our strength to heat it.”

—David Lloyd-George.

agitators in the big centres of »pulation. The real habitants are a goodliving, industrious, loyal, contented, hard-working people. They are simple, honest, trusting, and, therefore, easily imposed upon. In those troublou! times, 142 years ago, and constantly since, this honest simplicity of the hubitaut has been taken advantage of by political carpet-baggers.

In 1775 the habitants knew their were vastly better off under British th in the former French rule, bug it is re lorded

“Asenta and friend» of the United Stat ■ Codwere very, busy all thronst* the aettled

portions of Quebec. By word or simple peasant minds were alienated from their English friends, armed stransers appeared in some of the parishes, and dias .

secretly as they had come. The rumor sained kround that the nrttwn Minister had formed plans to enslave the country folks: that »shtins would be incessant ; that their lives would be spent in foreisn w4r* *B® bloodshed.”

In consequence, writers of those days tell' us, the ] leople became .dupes to these pretensions, they are to-di ty the

victims of the oily-tongued orators—afrd^jßfttMry is one if the vanities sought by the ambitious young men of 4 certaii tyjSe in Lower Canada, just as tenor ^singing or bull fightings is to the same class in Spain.

The same condition has come down to our own time. lí 1896 during the election campaign, thousands of pieces of cam paigrn literature, supplemented by fiery speeches, conveyed the in pression that, if the Conservatives were returned to power, they would “send our children to Africa or Asia whence the; ’ will never return.” And this took so strong a grip on the eh ctors that, even with the church against him, Laurier received their overwhelming support.

This was repeated on behalf of the Conservatives in|th i last election. Uniformed agents traversed the rural districts taking the names of all the available men, explaining that La urier intended to put them into the British navy. And they votqd for Borden's friends.

IN all these generations since 1775, the terrors of conscription and foreign service, the dread of being wantonly and .forcibly torn away from his little family, has been drilled int&t; and is to-day haunting the French Canadian. This conditu n is pathetic. The French-Canadians are sincere in their oppos ition to conscription to-day. They do not believe that their homes are in real danger.

On aur part we have done nothing to count ract thitf unfortunate impression. This phase impn ssed ' another student of the situation, W. Sanford Evans. In his book, “The Canadian Contingents and Cana lian Imperialism,” published in 1901, he comes to the same conclusion, when he refers to the opposition stir ref up

against sending troops to South Africa. He says:

"A campaign of education judiciously conducted might have removed all difficulties, but it was not systematically attempted."

T N the early months of the war, the masses in -*■ England were quite indifferent when urged to join the army. Young men constantly answered the recruiting officers: “Why should we fight? We will be just as well off under the Kaiser as under King George. Both are German."

Two of my American friends had spent a week end in the home of a Cabinet Minister in September, 1914. They came back to London very much distressed. They had seen something of the war on the Continent. They knqw of Germany’s heartless designs. They were depressed. Yet they found the Minister and his friends most optimistic—rather pleased with the war. In three months at the longest, they had been told, Russia would be in Berlin. In any event, so this member of the Cabinet had declared, Germany would be starving by Christmas. The official foodstuffs statistics proved this. The war was going to be a good thing for Britain. The British were in no danger with the navy to protect them. They had done their part in sending 120,000 to the continent. “Business as Usual" was their policy; and they expected to completely capture Germany’s trade.

The leaders and the press—excepting Northcliffe and a few others-^positively refused to take the war seriously. Considering the opportunities they had of knowing the actual situation, their optimistic utterances were criminal. Perhaps the kindest explanation is that men with giant intellects, like Asquith, Grey and Balfour usually fail to understand the ordinary every-day affairs of life.

When the truth was told the masses they would not believe. It needed the Zeppelin raid and the atrocity stories to arouse them from the state of apathy which had been encouraged by the Government.

This being the situation in Britain, for many months after the outbreak of the war, it is not difficult to understand whv we are not yet aroused in Canada; why we have not yet made practical attempts to overcome the prejudice in Quebec.

/A^E of the newest developments in business is “investigations.” The word has a new specific meaning. A concern finds its goods are not selling in some fields. Perhaps there is a prejudice against them. Other makes may be preferred. Smith can’t sell his products in Quebec. Jones has that market, but he can’t sell a pound in Ontario. The Ontario consumers won’t have any but Smith’s. Or it may be a new market is to be tried, or a new article. They see the leading merchants and families in scores of business centres; and away out on the farms. When they get through they will have answers to or explanations on, every topic the manufacturer needs, to enable him to decide upon the best plan for creating a sentiment for, or overcoming the prejudice against, his goods or methods of business. Sometimes a manufacturer will find a prejudice has been created against him by unscrupulous competitors— agitators—blackmailers perhaps. The criminal courts and the jails are then the remedies.

This intensive, scientific method was developed more generally in Germany than anywhere else. It is steadily growing in the United States.

Germany, through a New York business house, asked a Toronto firm to make an investigation in Canada a few months before the war. They had not the men to do the work and a corps of investigators sent from New York covered the leading centres from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

We, of the British Empire, as a result of our long years of. power and prosperity have been in a rut. We have been accustomed to fight first and investigate afterwards, as Lord Salisbury said.

The usual method of big business concerns for overcoming a prejudice or creating a favorable sentiment is by talks to the people they desire to influence. As it is impossible to secure orators or other good advocates and still more impossible to personally see more than a very small fraction of

the people, the most successful concerns put their talks in writing and place them before every person interested in the literature they read. Even the most uninteresting matter eventually succeeds. It is often a hard, long campaign, for wrong information, prejudices and falsehoods travel fast and are magnified as they go. Corrections movq with the tortoise. ;

In Canada we are too far from the war to be seriously influenced. And, besides, the competitori the agitator, the pacifist, has been among our people, spreading false stories, playing upon their prejudices.

UR Government, even in Parliament, has done nothing to counteract wrong impressions or to develop right sentiment. Yet they had a splendid series of talks to send out. Why were not the Belgium-Bryce report and the French atrocity report printed in full in every daily and weekly newspaper in Canada?

A perusal of “When the Prussians came to Poland,” by the Countess Turczynowicz—the Canadian woman, who, with her children, went through it ail—could not fail to impress the people who think the dangers magnified. Lloyd George’s speeches and Northcliffe’s important articles should be placed in every home in the Empire. Balfour should have sent out a straight business talk to the people of Canada—told us the actual conditions as he told them in Washington—that we were being defeated; and that final defeat would mean a German Quebec, that the rapings of Belgium and Poland might be repeated.

No foreigner ever created so profound an impression on a whole natron as did Balfour at Washington. His story was a revelation to the American leaders. He said the Allies could not hold out much longer. The enemy submarines were succeeding only too well. Unless the United States came in and assisted them in directions hé named, they would assuredly be defeated.. If they were defeated, Germany would make the Americans pay the cost of the war and Canada would become a German colony. The Americans knew he told the truth. The seriousness of the situation stunned them. It was what they needed to arouse them. Before Mr. Balfour left Washington the 'United States had agreed to the first effective steps to curb the submarines.

Canada got no such straight talk. Instead, Mr. Balfour sent us a message of beautifully expressed sentiments, and those of us who have tried to arouse the country to the dangers ahead, by telling the actual truth are, as Frederick Palmer, the leading Allied war correspondent, recently so well said,*

B«»ine suhjectid to an amuwii condescension which had formerly warned you of the folly of proven experience tilting at an adamant state of mind.'"

A LL Canada, and particularly Quebec, needs to to be told all the truth about this war, in ordi

be educated, order that there may be given the moral backing to the conscription which cànnot be enforced too soon.

The real truth is never popular. Therefore, the men who know, and the papers which ought to know, keep quiet. The idle rich and professional boliticians whom we elect to rule— particularly in London—the men whose duty it is to tell—suppress the facts, because they would expose their own great incapacity and failures. Lloyd George said recently: “The people óf this country are all the better for being told even unpalatable truths. It is essential they should know the facts, whether they are cheering or whether they are discouraging. Unless they get both they cannot possibly exercise reasonable judgment and discretion, or come to any useful decision in regard to the facts of the case.’’

•' The public otherwise get an entirely erroneous impression, and when the real truth is told they do not want to hear*it. They suspect the motives of the people who tell them; and they do not believe them. They demand action by the Censor, instead of the elimination of the incompetent politicians.