The Dangers Ahead

John Bayne MacLean August 1 1917

The Dangers Ahead

John Bayne MacLean August 1 1917

The Dangers Ahead

John Bayne MacLean

JUST as they are about closing the August issue the General Manager and the Managing Editor of MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE have come to me with a request that I write one or perhaps a series of articles on the war and the political situation.

This invitation is something of a triumph for me. It is an indication that the real truth is at last being absorbed by these young men. Several times, since the war began, I have offered to write such a series. I wanted Canadians to know the real facts, that they might see the serious possibilities. I was not encouraged. They said, and they were very sincere, that they could not afford to lose subscribers and make the magazine generally unpopular. As I am the owner of MACLEANS MAGAZINE, all this may sound very funny. It is. however, perfectly true. There are no more brilliant men in the Canadian publishing world. They were responsible for the Magazine—its success or failure. I have great respect.for their opinion, and I bowed, with regret and misgivings. True, they had experiences to back them up. In October, 1914, I wrote an article for The Financial Poet, urging greater preparations, the authorization of a 250,000 instead of a 25,000 fighting force. This article said the war would likely last for five or six years, unless the British Navy were defeated before we could wear the enemy down. It indicated an appalling increase in our national debt. It demanded that Canada have a voice in war management and Imperial affairs, etc: They re-

ferred to the storm this article raised in the press, at Ottawa and among many subscribers, who looked for ^ short and merry war with a glorious victory by Christmas. But it was not all discouraging. Many business men believed us and made their plans accordingly. It was for their guidance I Wrote.

However, I did not let up in The Poet, because I knew what 1 was writing about. We foretold Russian withdrawal, advocated kicking out the Asquith-Churchill-Greyt crowd; pleaded for the bringing in of Lloyd-George; for the filling of big jobs with big men, not party hacks. These were of vital importance to financiers and business men; who had such tremendous interests at stake. We printed information and .advocated policies that gave much offence to many readers; because they were so contrary to life-long beliefs. But we have been making history so rapidly the’ise times, that our whole course has already been vindicated. Sir Herbert Holt, one of the ablest and sanest financiers in Canada, visited Europe with Sir Robert Borden. He came back and the Montreal Gazette printed what he thought of. things. He confirmed in every particular wha‘ we had been saying. Within the past two months, letters or verbal communications have been received fronv two Bank Presidents ; from a senator who is President of a large Industrial Corporation; from the biggest business man in Canada; from a former Cabinet Minister, who is on the directorate of several important financial institutions; from one of the ablest lawyers in Canada. All came unsolicited. All conveyed appreciation of the information given, and they endorsed the stand taken, in publishing the actual facts; in making common-sense

deductions from them, and. in advocating unconventional policies as an absolute necessity of the hour.

I think the General Manager and Managing been reading my talks to financiers and big business had become convinced themselves. But they are converted. It outlined to them some things I might facts that ought to be known but are ndt essential at ent. They demurred. They doubted. Our readers believe. In fact they did not themselves. However,I some of these facts I am embodying in the article which follows; the rest I may tell later.

In the meantime I want to make it clear that political motive in what I write, or in what I have ing, in The Financial Poet. The General Manager r servative and I would perhaps be described as a Töryj —Hon. Mr. Lemieux, the Liberal ex-P.M.G., sfieaki House of Commons on June 19 last said I was Tory, a financial authority, but with a conscience**— the other hand I believe the Managing Editor is with a tendency toward radical views. The one object presenting this material in MACLEAN’S is to let the public know facts about the seriousness of the war sil which the metroplitan daily newspapers do not know, orldo give. Let me emphasize that point. The newspapers ei to give an optimistic view on everything that occurs public, believing them, is blinded to the menace that

THE facts I have had in.mind to tell would shatterIsome reputations and throw interesting sidelights on international jealousies, plottings and the criminal, incompetei ce of our Imperial Statesmen. Some well-informed men in England go further and assert openly that men occupying, or indi *ectly associated with high official positions, have been, and stil I are, under German control, having placed themselves in com »remising situations. These can be left until another time. They will make mighty interesting reading. I

Developments of the past three years have taught sot íe of us two important lessons. One that we inherit or acce tt as beyond discussion, many more things than our religion and our politics. The other, a realization that the world is gov« rned with very little wisdom.

When we add to this the fact that the British Censoi ship has forbidden the publication of the real story of events; rappressed the frightful blunders of incompetence; bluffed the publié into the impression that things were going well, when Cabinet Ministers' knew they were going very badly, it is to understand why the great majority of the people of fail to grasp Die seriousness of the situation at the pi time

1 came up' against these things very hard the week began—or rather I should say the week war was declared— Tor Britain and Germany were facing each other the week befe re; but that is another story which may not be told just yet. F srhaps the Censor will let me go as far as to say that some t; ne

in England was far sighted enough, energetic enough to rush

our heavy Artillery Brigade-

[I am leaving out some sentences here as I have no desire to » strain the friendly relations that have existed between Major Chambers, the Chief Censor, since the days, a quarter of a century ago, when he generously asked me to pass over his head to the command of his regiment.]

On August 1, 1914, I passed through the German Army as it was moving into Belgium. Two hours later we saw the British Artillery coming up to Liege. They gave the Germans the greatest surprise of the war and undoubtedly saved France and the British from prompt defeat. The staff-officer responsible for this deserves a Dukedom, but his name, whoever he is, has been carefully suppressed. A Cabinet Minister answering an enquiry in the House said the Government had no official knowledge of such an event. To personally claim the credit, the Minister of War had not the effrontery of Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, who for many months acknowledged the popular applause for quickly mobilizing the Navy, when as a matter of fact, he was entitled to no credit whatever. It has since transpired that the person responsible was Prince Louis of Battenburg, and he acted to some extent in opposition to Churchill who had gone away the day before to spend a week in the country.

It was my practice for many years to visit the leading centres of Europe and America and spend a couple of months among the financiers and business men that we might more intelligently deal with the bigger business and financial problems as they affected the readers in Canada of our various papers, and particularly The Financial Post. In time one forms a large circle of fairly intimate acquaintances, nearly all of them interested in and anxious to know all about the underlying conditions in Canada, as we are to know what is coming in Europe.

In these circumstances, one must be very stupid indeed if he fails to learn and understand—but I must confess I learned many things years ago that I did not understand then.

I did learn many facts in London, Paris, Berlin and Austria apd understood them too—too many perhaps for my own comfort. When trying to get to the bottom of things in 1912 1 learned that as far as Russia and France were concerned there would be no war before 1915. Colonel Denison warned me, just as I was sailing in 1914 that I would not be safe anywhere in Europe, I replied there was no danger for another year. He was right. I landed in Cuxhaven, July 25, and saw the German mine layers moving out, and my position was very unsafe for the next two months.

I was in Berlin when the war began—I learned a great deal. My sources of information were of the best—with one exception, our own Embassy. Had I followed their advice I would now, if alive, be a prisoner in Austria, or most assuredly in Germany. A chance friendly call at the U. S. Embassy—the former Minister and many of the attaches of which I had known intimately, warned and saved me. This was not my first lesson of the incompetence of our diplomatic service and the superiority of the American. Years of experience had taught me that as a rule, if I wanted an intellectual treat at a five o’clock tea,the British diplomat or Consul has no superior. If I wanted to get out of trouble, or have some business attended to, I have generally gone to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Of course, there are some notable exceptions among the British.

My best, and final source of information, was one of the greatest of German bankers—one of the ablest business men on the Continent. 1 spent nearly an hour with him. He explained things I had not understood until then. He spoke most freely and with perfect frankness, gave me some news, from, and about Canada, that surprised me. He speculated on the progress of the war and its effect on the future of business and finance. He sincerely believed war was forced upon Germany. They hoped for a short, but were prepared for a long, war. Within the next month I added to my general information very full details from three o^her 'sources, two of them being intimate acquaintances, a former Turkish Cabinet Minister, a distinguished American Naval Officer, very highly thought of in Germany—familiar with German Naval plans and aspirations; and the last a Swedish diplomatic attache who knew and hated Russia and seemed to be unusually well in-

formed on the German-Russian campaign—so weil that things happened just as he said they would.

In England, after the first excitement passed over, there was not only a feeling of absolute confidence in an early victory, but a belief that the war was going to be a tremendous source of profit to the nation, particularly as tne cry “Business as Usual” had received official endorsement It became a national motto. Russia was expected to do the trick. Its armies were to be m Berlin in two or at the most three months. Asquith confidently announced in November, 1914, that the war would be over sooner than most people expected, and most people expected, less than three months. My Turkish friend, who was also a soldier of fortune, and had taken part in many campaigns, and seemed very familiar with the Russo-German frontier, told me that, under the most favorable circumstances, Russian armies could not make Berlin in Six months, and the Asquith government was so informed. My Swedish acquaintance said the Germans were not worrying about Russia. “All the Russian army commanders were in German pay. They would advance victoriously to certain fixed points, when suddenly and without apparent reason they would retreat.”

In September, 1914, my American Naval friend told me that the gossip in the higher German command was that they would win the war with their submarines and unless the British wakened up, he thought that is what would happen. Early this year he told me that Germany had realized the failure of Zeppelins and was preparing to raid England with sea-plahes. He used the word “sea,” not “aero.”

'T'HE above is only a brief outline of much of the information A I had gathered. Summed up. it meant that Germany was fully prepared, Russia and France were a year late in their plans, Britain indifferent, overconfident and in the hands of two men—Asquith, a brilliant orator, lazy, incompetent, easily led, in the hands of the slick, unscrupulous, conceited, Churchill. Lloyd-George and Northcliffe were two wise voices, crying in a wilderness of ignorance and prejudice. Kitchener had said the war would last three years but, m official circles in London, I was told this was regarded as the usual exaggeration of a military mind. By comparisons and deductions from the information I had, it was impossible for anyon? with common sense, and ordinary business experience, to arrive at any other conclusion than that the outlook was very serious; that we could win the war, only if we could stave off defeat long enough to make tremendous preparations. To do this it would be necessary to place our national affairs in the hands of the ablest men in the Empire—war is just a complicated business on a big scale. Therefore the men to handle it are not the orators, like Asquith, Balfour, Grey, but the great executives who have shown a capacity to do things and get things done. Our Imperial and Dominion affairs should be placed in their hands that they might arrange the whole empire into one vast fighting machine. /Since the war broke out, week after week, in The Financial Post we have presented facts, and suggested and urged remedies. Lloyd-George has done splendidly; but in spite of his efforts he has had to accept in many cases, politicians instead of capable executives. In co-operation with Kitchener, Robertson and Haig he has reorganized the army, until to-day it is the most wonderfully efficient business machine in all \he world’s history. It is really marvellous. This is no exaggeration. The thoroughness of preparation, the accuracy, resourcefulness and effectiveness in execution, of the general military campaign that has been under way since last December, surpasses anything the greatest and most capable business executive ever dreamed of. Haig has had the great advantage over big business executives in civilian life, in that he was able to enforce perfect discipline. Then he has had splendid enthusiasm in all ranks.

The Navy is equally well manned; is fully capable of doing equally good work ; but is still suffering from the disorganization at the top produced by Churchill’s incompetence, ignorance and vanity. It failed fearfully in the Dardanelles because Asquith and Churchill ordered it to do things which the. higher naval authorities said^ were inadvisable, impossible and against all experiences. Military experts like Kitchener, Robertson and Haig have been given a free hand to organize and plan campaigns, but naval experts have been constantly subject to political interference which prevented a well defined general Continued on page 66.

The Dangers Ahead

Continued frory page 14

plan of campaign. This has given the Germans time to prepare. In the early months of the war we controlled the sea and the Germans the land. To-day the positions are reversed. On water, the initiative rests with the Gagmans, all because of our incompetent politicians.

That we have not been defeated, we have to thank the splendid tactics of the fighting units, not the strategy of the political chiefs at the admiralty. If the fighting units break, the British Empire is doomed. New enemies will arise. In Canada, we will be attacked on both coasts, Eastern Canada will become a German colony and Canada and the United States will be taxed, for generations to come, to pay the war costs. This is not a sensational story. It is in the realm of practical politics to-day.

IF WE do not want these things to happen, it is absolutely necessary that we exert ourselves to the limit of our capacity. The outcome may depend upon the last reinforcement of men or cargo of grain, we are able to platee in Europe.

Two things we must do. Reorganize our Governments—Imperial and1 Colonial—* filling the important cabinet places with the ablest of our tried executives, regardless of politics. For the present and future of Canada, we must now have the biggest men we can get at the head in our departments of Agriculture, Trade, Labor and Immigration and, in conjunction with these and the other Ministers, the country must be thoroughly organized on the lines now being worked out in the United States. The first step President Wilson took, was to organize the country on a business basis. He called iiv the big leaders in finance, business, labor, agriculture, transportation. To-day hundreds of these men are giving all their time, free of charge, to public affairs. With some few exceptions, our Imperial affairs are»in the hands of the idle rich and professional politicians, who are utterly incompetent to deal with the big problems. Not only that, but a powerful and unfortunate influence has been exerted by a little grpup of women in London. Appalling loss of lives and monéy is directly traceable to this state of affairs.

in Canada we still have a cabinet, made

u p of most charming, high-principled politicians, but most of them utterly unfitted for the positions they fll. Their incompetence has been a drag on progress. It is said that Sir Robert Borden lacks initiative and energy; but no greatbusiness or military leader can do things, when he is compelled to leave his most important work in the hands of helpless incompetents. Our political system compels him to accept as his heads of departments some men who are simply orators, wire pullers, petty politicians. They fill business jobs, but they know nothing of practical business. The Premier is not allowed to select the best men in the country, as is the President of the United States.

Sir George Foster is one of the most delightful speakers on the Continent— and long may he live to represent Toronto in the House—but in practical business, he is a child. Yet he is our Minister of Trade. That is, he has to promote the sale of Canadian products. He is the Sales Manager ofCanada. As an orator, working for a Lecture Bureau, he could be a brilliant success and command $20,000 a year. As a salesman, he could not develop the sales of a corner candy store or earn $10 a week as a retail salesman.

One of the most charming men in Parliament is the Minister of Agriculture. He is a gentleman farmer. An English college-bred man, and a most delightful companion. Increasing our farm production is more important than increasing our army in France—and maintain our army we must. The need of greater production has beien dinned into Mr. Burrell’s ears for nearly three years. The Prime Minister has impressed him with, the. necessities of the situation. He conscientiously tried to do his duty, but his training and disposition render him helpless in a great emergency. He is worse, bedp.use the country depended upon him, and he has failed. The cry was for wheat, and more wheat, yet the 1917 crop, according to figures recently published, is 1,446,750 acres less, than in 1916. We are told that Mr. Burrell made speeches and issued bulletins to the farmers; and what more could a Cabiryet Minister do! The

Financial Post has been telling him, since the Autumn of 1914, what to do, 'and how to do it. Let us see what has been done by capable man under similar circumstances. When Lloyd George came into power last December, he found things bad enough, but not as bad, in England, as they are in Canada. Their 1917 crop was 250,000 acres short. Lloyd George had stronger national support, than we are giving Sir Robert Borden, and he kicked out the Burrells of the Imperial Agricultural Department He put in good executives. By tremendous efforts, such as ploughing at night, they succeeded in making up the loss, and getting an increase of 1,000,000 acres. And this wjth a shortage of labor. But the new Minister did not stop there, as did Mr. Burrell, when, under the Premier’s spur, he increased the 1915 acreage. Mr. Prothero at once made plans for the 1918 crop, which will provide an increase of 8,000,000 acres, which Lloyd-George tells us will make Britain self-supporting. Duncan Marshall, Minister of Agriculture for Alberta, says it is quite possible, yet, for us to increase the Western Canada wheat by 5,000,000 acres in 1918.

Viewing these happenings in England . from purely selfish Canadian standpoint, our political system is mighty bad business for the country. Through no fault of his, a quiet, retiring, little gentleman of unblemished character, with no business experience aptitude, or inclination is compelled to assume the duties of a great business executive. This system has produced a man who has failed. Our system says, a Cabinet Minister must be one who can get the votes from his district for his party, or he must belong to a particular church, or be a noisy labor agitator. We do not produce the wheat. We subject our armies to the danger of starvation. We compel our best customer* Britain, to 'look for supplies elsewhere. She does fool things in the Dardanelles, to bring wheat from our greatest competitor, Russia. We force our best customer to produce for herself, and in future she will not need Canadian wheat. Our system thus cuts off one of the most important sources of our national development and wealth.

Our system actually discourages good men. N. W. Rowell is leader of the Ontario Liberals. He is a lawyer and his advice and assistance have been sought by the big corporations. Corporations do not employ any but the best brains and ability. They are hunting for them all the time. Therefore, Mr. Rowell must be “a man worth while”; just the kind o^ man needed, at this time, in public life. Some of the Liberals thought so and his name was suggested. Instantly the cry, all along the party ranks, “He won’t do. He has worked for corporations* He will prejudice the party among the voters.” It is fhe party, the system,'not the best interests of the country all theitime. ■*«.

I trust, that, in this hurriedly written article, I have been able to make clear that everything is not going well; that things cannot go well, until we reorganize our National Government. Pin-headed demagogues are talking of conscripting wealth; as if that would settle our troubles. Wealth conscription, ifor this, and for the next, generation is here now. It is unavoidable. It is conscription of brains—the sane, brainy men and women of the country, we need, and must have, if we would win this war, and save something from the debris.