Who Represented the Canadian Press at the Recent Conference in London
M. GRATTAN O’LEARYSeptember11921
WILL CANADA BE LEFT OUT?
M. GRATTAN O’LEARY
Who Represented the Canadian Press at the Recent Conference in London
ON November 11, anniversary of the fateful flay when the Prussian dream of Weltmacht culminated in catastrophic defeat, there shall convene in Washington a congress of the statesmen of the great powers of the world. The purpose of the gathering will he two-fold. It will seek to achieve settlement of Pacific problems upon a basis of understanding and good will: and it will endeavor to attain what has
been for centuries the dream of humanity’s best minds— disarmament and peace in the world.
Of the transcendant importance of such a gathering, it is hardly necessary to speak. Destruction of wealth, inseparable from the war, has left the world impoverished. In Britain, in France, in Japan and even in our own Dominion, the peoples are staggering under taxation and debt. For them, as for most of the rest of the world, the prospect of continued naval and military expenditures holds nothing but misery and ruin. They were willing, even eager, to fight and pay for a mighty war in the hope that it would be the last, that it would make democracy more happy and safe; they abhor—and their abhorrence may conceivably be carried to a point of peril—the prospect of the same crushing yoke of armaments in a future which they hoped would be free. And so, quite apart from the danger that armament rivalry may lead to another and more desolating war, quite apart from the debt which the world owes to the millions who died for peace, the economic position of the nations decrees that such a Conference be held.
The momentous character of the gathering being thus clear, the question arises: Shall Canada have a voice in
its deliberations and decisions? To such a question, there can be, for Canadians, but one reply. It is that, judged by any vital test that may be applied, Canada’s right to be heard at Washington cannot be denied.
Canada, to begin with, is a Pacific Power. She has a thousand miles of seaboard, and two of her largest ports, on the Pacific; in any important conflict in that part of the world she would be a probable theatre of war. Manifestly, therefore, she has a direct and vital interest in any Pacific settlement or scheme; an interest more direct and vital than that of any other single nation outside of the United States and Japan.
Moreover, as a part of the British Empire, whose interests in the Orient are vast, Canada has an additional right to be heard. Her statesmen, having claimed a voice in the Empire’s foreign policy, having laid it down that no step which concerns the whole British Commonwealth shall be taken without the Dominions’ advice and consent, cannot now logically forego this claim in a decision of such moment and scope. Not unless the proclamations of national status, made loudly and often in the past two years, were mere pretensions and shams.
Canada was the Originator.
t»UT there is a claim more powerful still. It is that L) without Canada ’s stand at the Imperial Conference, and even at an earlier date, this Pacific-Disarmament conference might never have been held. The simple truth —and this can be substantiated by official and ascertainable facts—is that as early as February 14, 1921, the present government, acting through the Canadian Department of External Affairs, believing that the AngloJapanese Alliance ought not to be renewed, communicated its views to the British Government, and suggested that the United States Government be approached as to whether it would be willing to agree to a conference on Pacific affairs with Great Britain and Japan. The suggestion, it is known, was not acted upon at the time. The British Government, although favorable to what was proposed, evidently believed that the difficulties in the way were greater than the Canadian Government supposed; the position of Australia, believed at that time to be strongly in favor of renewing the Japanese Alliance, was cited as an obstacle; and the question was temporarily dropped.
Canada, however, adhered to its view. The debate in the House of Commons in April, indicating hostility to the Alliance, followed by editorials of similiar tone in the press, served to strengthen the Government’s position, and when Mr. Meighen reached London in June it was with mind firmly made up against renewal of the Treaty and for a Pacific Conference instead.
It cannot be said that he found London any too sympathetic to his views. Mr. Hughes, of Australia, and Mr. Massey of New Zealand, with opinions shaped—and perhaps pardonably so—by the geographical position of their Dominions, wanted the Alliance renewed. Their position was that the Treaty had worked well, that it had maintained peace in the Pacific, that Japan had been a faithful ally, that the substance of such a fact should not . be abandoned for a shadow, and that, above all, Japan, which had stood by the Empire during the war, and which had been faithful to its compact, should not now be “thrown to the dogs.” It was an argument not without strength; and it enlisted powerful supporters both in the British Government and press.
Mr. Lloyd George, there is reason to believe, favored the Alliance being renewed, as did Mr. Churchill and Mr. Balfour; practically every powerful British newspaper, including the Times, the Morning Post, the Daily Telegraph and the Observer, took the same view (they wanted a treaty in a modified form); and beyond question renewal would have triumphed easily had it not been for Canadian opposition. Mr. Meighen who secured a measure of support from General Smuts, put his case with great force and persistence. He said to the Conference in effect: /
Premier Meighen’s Cogent Reasons
“T AM opposed to this Alliance because it has outlived its purpose. It was entered into to curb the Pacific ambitions of Germány and Russia. Today those nations are impotent for evil; no nation menaces British or Japanese interests in the east. Moreover, the spirit of such an Alliance is out of harmony with the times. It is, as you have publicly admitted, out of harmony with at least the letter of the Covenant of the League of Nations and it is calculated to make both parties to it objects of antagonism and distrust. Finally, and most important of all, it is calculated to make more difficult the cultivation of friendship with the people of the United States.
“Today broadly speaking, there are three great Powers in the world—the British Empire, the United States and Japan. If any two of these enter into a separate alliance, then there can be but one result. The third—in this case it would be the United States—will arm, which means we too, will have to arm, the consequence being a race in armaments that can produce only misery, if not ruin.
“It is not that I desire to reject the friendship of Japan: it is that I do not wish to purchase that friendship at the price of making enemies of other nations. What I aim at, and what the British Empire should desire, is that we be friends with all nations. I therefore urge that we have a conference with both the United States and Japan, that the three Governments sit down together and see whether they cannot solve whatever difficulties exist on a basis of understanding and good will.”
The logic of this appeal was. irresistible, and in the end it triumphed. The devotees of the “Old Diplomacy” could summon little enthusiasm for a step so foreign to the traditions of the European chancellories, and had little faith in its results. Nevertheless, the United States and Japanese embassies were asked to “sour. , out” their respective Governments regarding what ' ' : ei-
ghen proposed; and a week later Presiden arding issued his history-making invitation for a Conference. Thus Canada’s position had achieved a
signal victory. Mr. Meighen’s fight, however, was not over. For reasons not quite clear some of the Dominions’ statesmen, not without strong backing from some of their British colleagues in the Conference, at once conceived the idea that it would be a good thing to hold a preliminary conference on Pacific problems in London. Such a conference, of course, would have been fatal to the larger gathering. It would have sent the representatives of the nations to Washington tied up to various schemes; it would have prejudiced the work of the main gathering; and it involved the danger of a dispute or a deadlock before anything of moment could be done. In a word it exposed the entire plan to the gravest peril. _ Mr. Meighen realized this, and immediately threw his whole strength against the idea. On this occasion, fortunately, he had the support of the British press, and of the British public, and his view quickly prevailed.
Will Canada be left Out?
IT IS surely the essence of irony that the nation which thus clearly originated the idea of a Conference, which fought for it and which alone made it possible, should now be excluded from that Conference’s deliberations. Yet such, at the time of writing at all events, is the position in which Canada finds herself. President Harding, in issuing his invitations, forgot about this Dominion. Perhaps he was ignorant of what took place at the Imperial Conference. Perhaps he overlooked the fact that we have a vital interest in the Pacific; perhaps he does not know that we claim to be a nation. At all events Canada was not included in the list of those invited, and the reason given, in a semi-official statement, was this:
“If the British Empire should be represented at the Conference by separate delegations of the Imperial Government and the Governments of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, with five delegates each, these twenty-five representatives would have the power to compel the United States, with five delegates, to accept any proposal advanced by the British contingent,”
This, of course, is absurd. It is absurd because it is . perfectly certain that nobody ever contemplated five delegates for each portion of the Empire, or anything like that number. On the contrary, it is not probable that the British Government will be represented by more than two or three delegates; and the Dominions would never ask more than one delegate each. However, the myth of the “six British votes” in the League Assembly, is resurrected in another form. Canada, for the moment, is barred.
The situation, therefore is this: that the only way by which Canada can gain admittance to this Conference which she originated, and whose decisions shall mean much to her, is by securing a place on the British delegation. It was by such means, it will be remembered, that Sir Robert Borden, acting as one of the British panel, sat in the Peace Conference at Versailles; and the same plan can be followed again. Direct representation would, of course, be more satisfactory, more in keeping with our part in promoting the Conference and a greater concession to our national pride, but on the international stage, as in other spheres, half a loaf is better than no bread. Hence it is to be hoped that the placing of a Canadian representative on the British delegation has already engaged Mr. Meighen and Mr. Lloyd George.
Nor should this country be kept from Washington by the pressure of problems at home. Nothing that any ministry can do in the way of domestic policy can possibly compare in importance with the decisions that are possible there; not even at Versailles itself was a greater opportunity offered for the promotion of good for the world. Because of this, because of what took place in London, and because Canada would stand at the Conference as an interpreter of British ideas to Americans and of American ideas to Britons, thus soothing the way toward agreement, —in this case so vital to the world—a Canadian voice must be heard at Washington.
must Canada be independently represented at the Washington Conference? Be* * cause, as a Pacific Power, with more than a thousand miles of Pacific sea-board, Canada has vital interests at stake, and would be a probable theatre of war in a Pacific conflict. .Also, Canada is the author of this Conference idea. Her voice must be heard.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.