Living Up to Our Reputation
Canada’s Relations With Uncle Sam
Agnes C. Laut
Who wrote “The Canadian Commonwealth," “Lords of the North,” etc.
THERE is a story which I have told elsewhere—and it is true—of an American and a British army officer strolling along the boulevard of a hospital in France, where Red Cross nurses were wheeling their patients up and down in invalid chairs for air. Many blind and maimed soldiers were met and passed and re-passed as the two men sauntered, discussing the war. Incidentally was met an invalid swathed in bandages, eyes completely hidden and seemingly barely conscious. He was only one of dozens such; but the British officer suddenly paused and saluted the unconscious form. “Some celebrity?” asked the American. “No,” answered the Briton, “a Cana-
It was just after one of the terrific and vicious drives at Ypres, when the roughneck raw colonials, who were still said to persist in calling their officers by their first names and riding rough-shod through every rule and regulation that British convention established, had proved to the very last man that they did not know how to retreat. Celebrities were common to this British army officer, but men who stood up to hell without a quiver were something more than heroes. They were almost sacred.
AT one leap, Canada’s fighting men had come up in a new plane. As long as time lasts you will never hear Imperialists again refer to Canadians and Australians as “only Colonials.” Something had happened. It was*'»» if all colonials had been given a new form of passport endorsed royally and stamped with a red seal all right—the blood of heroes. The nations of the Outer Mere suddenly had to keep step with a new set of pace makers—men, or rather boys, who didn’t know how to flinch, and fought like crusaders, and died indifferent to death.
We involuntary stay-at-homes may not deserve the reflected glory; but the fact is that those troops of ours have set us a new pace. We have to live up to a new reputation; for the contagion has spread to every part of the United States and Canada is held to-day in an esteem that is almost idolatry. Watch a military parade or a Liberty Loan demonstration marching behind a band down Fifth Avenue. A favorite American regiment, and a little hand clapping! Comes a Canadian Highland regiment; and the avenue roars like a mountain canyon. Yes, hats off and reverence in all eyes when the band plays the national air; but shouts of applause when some one strikes up a Canadian song, as if say: “These
fellows have done what we are going to do. We are brothers in arms, brothers in life, brothers in death. We may have scrapped in the past as members of the same family scrap; but now we are shoulder to shoulder and our purses are pooled against the common foe”; though perhaps, the hand clappers and the shouters have hardly articulated what it is moves them so deeply when a Canuck or an Anzac touches their imagination.
Not a great while ago I went to a cheap vaudeville performance to see some war films. (Incidentally I want to say herethat purely Canadian war films have proved such an attraction that great departmental stores compete for them as the best gatherers of crowds). The particular films failed to come off and returned soldier speeches were substituted impromptu. Now it is well known there is hardly a vaudeville theatre on Broadway that is not directly or indirectly controlled by Germans; and the staging of a play favorable to the Allies has been a thing to break the hearts of the really big actors and actresses since 1914.
The impromptu speechifying to take the place of the films was a very dreary procession indeed till a rough young Anzac with both face and body terribly deformed from wounds came on the stage and proceeded to pass U.S. democracy his hottest cuss compliments for not having got into the fight sooner. A galvanic battery touched that audience’s collective spine. They sat up and howled themselves hoarse with applause; and it was a place notoriously pro-German, with a type of audience notoriously anti-British; but they could not help applauding a rough colonial who whipped them with the tongue of a scorpion for not jumping to fight to the death for democracy. There was laughter at his jibes at the old aristocracy of the Mayflower and William the Conqueror. Tears welled up when he told what raw boys barely out of their
teens were doing. “I do not give a-,”
he shouted, “for your old aristocracy and your yellow plutocracy! There will be only one aristocracy in all the world after this war—-the aristocracy of worth wearing the red badge of courage.” And because he wore that red badge in wounds that deformed face and body the audience were stirred as though a spirit of life had passed like a wind over those dead in democracy.
I need hardly add that the speaker was the author of “The Anzacs.” Two weeks later he died of the wounds at which that audience had heard him flout.
And he is only one of dozens of examples that could be given. It is not because of the wonderful winsomeness of her personality that Kathleen Burke has swept over a million dollars out of Amer-
ican pockets for Scottish hospitals and Serbian relief. It is because she is preaching a new crusade of consecration to our own ideal —democracy.
I can’t analyze it.
I am not quite sure I can express it; but it is very poignantly touching and spurs colonials up to keeping step with heroes, who left their lives in France but sent their spirits back to quicken us who were becoming deadened in democracy.
American and Canadian flags fly together intertwined. Robert Service’s Red Cross Ballads are quoted more than Kipling. Julia Arthur, herself a Canadian, who is working like a Trojan to stir America to the meaning of this war, tells me her soldier audiences at the various cantonments rise to Service’s ringing call with a lift of the spirit that touches her to her depths. The International Boundary of 3,849 miles—along which there is not a single fort—is no longer regarded as a fence, but rather as a great thoroughfare along which two nations fighting for the same ideal may march and toil to victory.
I wish I could help Canada to understand this. I wish I might help Canada to glimpse what it may mean. It would stop a lot of our little Canadians and our little Englanders “girding” and nagging and snapping at Uncle Sam with cheap sneer and acidulated scorn. Surely if there is one thing more than another proved by this war it is the spawn of crime that has come from the cult of hate. It is hate that is keeping the Kaiser and his crew of criminals in power to-day; for it is hate carefully inculcated and fanned in the hearts of the German people towards England that keeps them fighting a hopeless war to their own infinite loss. Unite Canada with her exhaustless food power and the United States with its exhaustless man power and machine power and money power and Great Britain with her dauntless navy and army power; and there is no enemy on earth could down the union of such democracies consecrated to the highest ideals of humanity. But whosoever by as much as the utterance of a sneering word promotes ill-feeling, distrust, resentment among the three great democracies is doing the Kaiser such a signal service he should be presented with an Iron Cross; and I sometimes wonder if Canadians, who jibe at Americans, realize this. One thing the Kaiser counted on before the war was Canada falling away from England and on no account ever pooling aims with the United States.
MUCH of this may sound too vague and intangible for practical people. Put it in plain brutal terms! There is a little clique in Canada that is always uttering cheap snarls and fault findings at Uncle Sam. There is a little clique of powerful moneyed men in the United States who are to-day seriously considering whether
this country ought not to remit the Allies borrowings capital and interest free as Uncle Sam’s contribution to the war for the three years he was not in. Do you know what the Allies’ debts—loans, bonds, purchases of food, equipment and munitions—are supposed to total? Over eight billions! No, the proposition is not to encourage repudiation of the debts. It is for this nation to buy them up, pay them and cancel them as Uncle Sam’s share of the first three years of the war, not at all in the nature of a gift, but only as a share in the world nations’ great pool of all interests for democracy. This applies to Russia, Servia, Belgium, the smaller as well as the greater nations fighting for democracy.
I do not know whether anything will come of the suggestion or notIf the war should last many years, the United States might have to assume the entire financial burden, when the weaker nations might have to drop out altogether ; but the astounding proposal is utterly unique in world history and to date it has been hostilely opposed by only one group— a German-American group that formerly handled German propaganda funds; and that opposition seems to me a very fine criterion of the real sentiment beneath the movement. I give this as an example of the sweeping change in sentiment throughout the United States towards the Allies, especially towards Canada. It is a fine flower of international courtesy that I should deplore to see blighted by blasts of small hate.
Before the war we used to talk of hundreds of millions of a national debt with bated breath. The first year of the war I recall telling an Ottawa finance official that before Canada was out of it her debt would go over the billion mark. He gave me one look of contempt and almost called me a fool. (I had been talking the war over the week before with the Wall Street banking house that was handling the Allied loans). Yet here is Canada’s debt over the billion mark, and here is Uncle Sam talking of cancelling debts of eight billions—as much as all the capitalization of all the railroads in the United States.
I give this as the crudest, rawest and most selfish reason why Canada should stop “girding” at Uncle Sam and stop playing into Kaiser plots by fomenting distrust of America’s motive—why, in a word, at a time our soldiers are being almost worshipped over here it becomes us to keep step with our hero pace makers. Realize clearly right now! Every little sneer you utter at this country just now ÍS a cash contribution to the Kaiser.
T ET us make plain what " I mean ! If the war continues all the world is going to be under such a financial strain as men cannot estimate—the United States the least of all because it is the richest to stand it. All the world must borrow from this country, but borrowings carry interest and must be paid. And paying debts after a war is like paying loans on land after a land boom collapses. We’ll suppose a workman goes in debt a thousand dollars just now. At $5 a day, he can pay that debt in 200 days, but after the war " the debt remains $1,000 and wages may drop to $2 a day. It is going to take him 500 days to
pay that debt. Extend the analogy to the national debts of the warring nations, to debts of perhaps fifty billions! As long as wheat brings $2.25, and cheese 23 to 26 cents, and oats $1.25, we can pay Canada’s international debts by exports; but comes the end of the war and a slump in prices. With wheat at 70 cents and oats at 40 cents, and Europe’s buying power almost eliminated—how about our trade balances? To whom shall we sell if not to the United States? Purely for business reasons, is it wise to keep the sneer on tap for the one country to whom we must go for financial help?
Perhaps some of our small resentment would die down if we put ourselves in Uncle Sam’s place and tried to realize why he did not go in sooner. Why didn’t he go in sooner, as he should have—as Roosevelt and General Wood and thousands of true Americans urged? Superficially because elections come once every four years; but that was not necessarily playing politics. Take facts! Only one out of three people in this country is of pure American ancestry. The rest are of alien descent or birth. Of the alien in descent and birth one out of three is German. Of 33 millions of foreign born, 14% millions are from the enemy Central Powers. Were they Americans, or were they still aliens? A democracy can go ahead only as the votes authorize it to go ahead. How would these aliens vote on a war? Irony of fate, Wilson was elected because “he kept us out of the war.” Of the foreign born in our generation, look at these figures :
As an aggregate voting unit, do you see where Canadian-born come in that group? Outvoted four to one.
Where do you suppose the Irish would vote in any of these groups?
MOW, you know why Uncle Sam was 4 ^ slow about going in ; for a democracy moves only as the votes give it authority to spend. But this democracy is now in, pledged to its last man, its last pound of food, and its last dollar; and to no one of the Allies is the United States bound so closely in aims and ideals as to Canada. Canada is a name to conjure with over in Uncle Sam’s land just now. It is the first time in the history of the United States when enthusiastic love and kinship have displaced Irish rancor, German in-
trigue, bitter memories. Don’t think for a moment that such memories have not been fomented for ulterior ends! It was Parnell who once said that the Irish-American was more Irish than Ireland and if these Irish-American politicians would keep out of it the Irish question could be settled. But the Irish-American politicians won’t keep out of it. It is worth votes and it is worth money for votes, when the elections come round. Leaders of the Irish vote in this country know very well why Sir Roger Casement, the spurious conspirator of the Sinn Feiners’ uprising, was executed and all pleas of clemency denied. Copies of his outrageously obscene daily entries in his diary had been sent across to America; but do you think they were permitted to be published? Not they! Sympathy with the dead martyr (?) was worth $275,000 two years ago in contributions to election funds, which never went forward to Ireland. To-day all that is changed— thanks to the blood of Canadian heroes, sealing the pact of a brotherhood in democracy.
It seems almost desecration to translate the fine sentiment in which Canada is now held in still more commercial terms; but take two factors to Canada’s financial solvency—land and manufac-
With Europe, not decimated, but bled white of man power by this war, where does Canada expect to get her colonists to settle the lands to raise the crops to pay her war debt? From the Western States, of course. Is the cheap jibe good colonization literature? It would not attract me. It is well known in certain munition buying circles that Canadian factories could have had and could yet have a very much larger share of munition orders from the United States if there had been some definite agency to go out scouting for them. The cities of Ontario and Quebec would be the centres built up; but jibes do not make a good magnet to attract orders; and it is an actual fact that one very powerful metal concern was diverted from building a plant in Toronto by what they thought was a sentiment hostile to American enterprise. This factory business goes deeper than mere munitions. After the war, the world will have to be rebuilt. Canada is one of the few countries that still has exhaustless supplies of raw material—metals, lumber, cereals. Shall the factories to manufacture that raw material be built on the American side of the line, or the Canadian? They will not locate in Canada if our public prints sputter out little snarls at American enterprise. I do not believe there is any real sentiment in Canada hostile to American enterprise; but a common scold can become a public nuisance; and at a time when Canadian valor in Flanders field has made of Canada a password to the most fervid kind of favor, at a time when two great nations have come together in ideals and action for the first tine in a century, at a time when Canada must look to the United States for man-power and money power, for colonist and factory, it seems to me short shrift should be given the international scold, whose voice makes a great noise chiefly because the sentiments are entirely empty. The cult of hate is bad enough with Germany. Amid members of the same race it is a folly too great to be tolerated.