THE FIGHT FOR EMPIRE UNITY
Personal reminiscences about the men who first battled for and against the aims the coming Economic Conference may achieve
J. B. MACLEAN
HARRY W. ANDERSON, Managing Editor of The Toronto Globe, had gained the impression that I am one of the surviving pioneers in, and an authority on, the Empire Unity, Trade and Preference movements. Late in December last he wrote me:
"That in view of your well known convictions on this important matter, and the crusading attitude of your publications regarding it, we would appreciate it very much if you would be good enough to contribute an article on this issue for The Globe's New Year’s Empire Trade Supplement.”
I told him that, in justice to his readers, he should give the assignment to some student of history or to one of the many parlor Imperialists or politically patriotic after-dinner orators; one of the many with an entertaining flow of words on Canada and the Empire, which, though lacking in constructive suggestions, generally bring pleasing thrills, and aid in keeping sentiment alive.
I had to admit that while I had all the intense, and sometimes stupid loyalty of my race, the Highland Scotch, I had never worked much on that more popular that is the sentimental and political—phase of the Empire problem. My half-century and more of service had not been of the flag-waving variety, though I very strongly believed in the Union Jack as our great rallying post.
I early realized that an Imperial flag and pleasing oratory of the parlor or political patriots would never build a great, prosperous Canada, or develop and maintain a permanent Empire. A King at the heart of the Empire; able, courageous leaders with a highly moral sense, and a business partnership only would do that. Hence, building an Empire partnership and bringing the United States gradually along with us, has been my persistent objective through all these years. But I have carried it on as part of the daily routine of a hard-working newspaperman, specially employed gathering useful information at home and abroad, interpreting it and basing such editorial policies thereon as we believed to be in the highest interest of our own readers and all Canada. Long distance policies that would lead to a greater prosperity and happiness within the Empire. A pretty serious job when one is serving over 3,000,000 selected readers, mainly in Canada but also scattered in sixty-six foreign nations. Often it has been an unpleasant
task, to bring news and interpretations which ran contrary to honest but adamant mentalities or short-visioned, selfish interests. Irritated by the latter, our great Prime Minister, Sir John Macdonald, once wrote:
“The usual blind cupidity of monopolists who calculate on the supply of our market for the present season, and trust to the chances of the future.”
I have been too busy to study the academic, technical status, constitutional, or other phases of the problem to be found in the loads of ancient and other textbooks and documents which the armies of public service experts brought, as a basis for theoretical debates, to the various
Imperial and other conferences. Conferences of this type have been going on for years without practical results. Mainly because so many of the men who tixik part were absolutely opposed to practical results; or were hopeless, uninformed, impractical professional politicians.
All I know I have learned from actual experience and observation among the men and women who have been doing the real construction work of the world while the political conferees have been debating. Like many other Canadians, I saw how the various separated states of America and of Germany and the provinces of Canada had each united into their own great free-trading units and how, in consequence, they had prospered beyond the dreams of their founders. I told Mr. Anderson that I had never taken any part, as far as 1 could remember, in any of the scores of political propaganding, patriotic associations; that I had given all my spare time and more to the Militia and to the British Red Cross, of which, with the late Sir John Gibson and General George Ryerson, I was one of the founders in Canada; that I had my original inspiration from the three men to whom more than any others is due our present Empire development—Sir John A. Macdonald, Jehu Mathews and Colonel George T. Denison; and, finally, that all I could give was an ordinary reporter’s story, bringing out a few of the high spots in my own experience, which I did not think he wanted.
All this I explained' as an excuse for sidestepping Mr. Anderson’s flattering and persuasive arguments. But he still insisted that it was the newspaperman's recollections he wanted.
A compromise was arranged. I was to dictate at length a series of personal recollections of actual incidents on which developments were based. I was not expected to submit any academic studies from musty documents, chiefly written by men who had no direct knowledge of happenings and experiences. The Globe was to select from these what was thought of interest to its readers. These editors treated my contribution with great generosity in space and editorial reference. Many comments since received show that the present generation in Canada and abroad are not informed as they should be, especially at this time, with regard to the great struggle for Empire that raged in Canada and the great sacrifices Canadians have made for Empire.
Imperial unity and Empire preferences have been held back for nearly half a century by the secret pressure of foreign influences and selfish short-sighted British interests
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upon public men, and supported by vociferous propaganda from the foreign financed Cobden and allied clubs, misinforming and misleading British mass opinion. Lord Northcliffe investigated the Cobden Club in 1897 when, with much publicity, they presented our Sir Wilfrid Laurier with a medal. Northcliffe found that the membership was composed almost entirely of foreign commercial interests, who secretly financed their propaganda. The officers, of course, were English—probably innocent, sincere dupes.
In the last issue of Maclean’s I dealt mainly with the great sacrifices we Canadians had made for Empire maintenance and military defense at home, in South Africa and in the late war; and, next, the continuous trade and tariff concessions to the Mother Country, particularly during the last thirty-five years with until recently little response.
For the benefit of our Canadian and Empire readers, I shall, with the kind permission of The Globe, use my recollections, as referred to above, as a basis for this article with occasional gossipy sidelights by way of explanation.
7'he Story As I Have Known It
/^\UR greatest national problem in the past seventy years has been a stable political future upon which we native-born Canadians could remain in our own country and build with confidence. The Confederation movement in the ’6()’s and the protective tariff of the 70’s were the first steps toward a practical solution.
Progressive Canadians 'saw that we could j not continue as we were. We must develop in one of three directions:
2. Commercial union with the United States.
3. An Empire commercial union.
Each had its strong supporters, who carried on intensive campaigns. The annexationists were the strongest, for they had powerful United States support, while Brit; ish support was negative.
Independence would give us no sure.
; permanent trading alliances. I lence. it would not get us anywhere in the years to I come.
i Commercial union with the States, which would and should lead to political union, would give us an immediate tremendous i imix:tus. Our growth in population and I prosperity would make world’s records. It , would not unreasonable to guess at a j Canadian population today away beyond , 25.000.000. Taking a short view, union I with the States was easily our best choice for my own and the next generation at least. But after all. our material development would be limited to the northern half of this continent, which would mean greater home competition; and. hence, as time went on. our trading opportunities would be limited to perhaps not more than 150,000.000. 7'hree years ago I heard a much i travelled, well informed American. Hon. \\. S. Penfield. I think, tell how dependent the United States were on foreign countries for hundreds of essential products. He named dozens of these and their sources. The great majority were under the Empire flag.
Empire commercial union through tariffs j against the world and free trade within 1 the Empire would give us a great diversified and steadily growing market of hundreds of millions of trading partners -now estimated over 500,000,000 —for generations to come.
Canada's markets, home and foreign, were i something I knew more about than probably I anything else, both as regards our exports j and imports, for I specialized in a commercial and industrial journalism, knowing j mainly the trading side of our three great ; departments of business—Agriculture, Com| merce and Industry. My work brought me
into personal and intimate contacts with all classes from farmers to bank presidents, from great industrial chiefs to prime ministers and presidents. Quite apart from my strong British sentiment, there was no question but that Empire union was by far our greatest hope. For this my pen and my newspapers have campaigned for nearly half a century.
I was seeing many business men, buyers of our products, from other parts of the Empire—Australia, Ceylon, India, South Africa. New' Zealand. There was no question about w'here they stood on the future of the Empire. But from the talks with the numerous salesmen, heads of firms and representatives, who came to us from the Mother Country, I was not so sure of them. They were chiefly of the commercial classes, i.e.. bankers and insurance heads, vesselowning export merchants—many of them foreign born. Their interests were international. Their policy w'as to prevent British names appearing on British goods, and particularly to prevent Canadians from getting into personal touch with the British producers. To the latter, and to the British business press, it was their persistent policy to decry Canadian credit and constantly play up the dishonesty of Canadian importers.
I had many readers, advertisers and acquaintances among the commercial and industrial interests in Great Britain and Ireland, and shortly after Sir John Macdonald's death in 1891, I decided to visit Europe :—
1. To-meet these jxîople in their offices and plants and gossip with them, that I might get a better understanding of their conditions; and to learn if possible why there was so much mistrust of and antagonism to Canadian business and why so much pessimism over Canada’s future.
2. That I might get their views on the future of Empire trade;
3. And. finally, and almost as a sacred duty, to look up Sir John Macdonald’s ancestors and their surroundings, his birthplace and old associations, on which to write a story.
Incidentally, among other facts which I discovered was the original entry of Sir John’s birth in Glasgow which showed that all records, tombstones and monuments in this country are wrong.
In the matter of trade I secured enough information on that tour to satisfy me that the Empire policy was sound; was worth our making sacrifices for; worth fighting for; that under the right leadership it could be brought about. The most important and encouraging of all the information I gathered, it seemed to me. was that Empire preferences had been fully discussed and definitely decided upon by important British Labor leaders at Sheffield as a Trade Union policy in the late ’70’s. That is. English Labor Unions were leading the movement for commercial union as the basis of Empire development long before we had done much about it in Canada. I gossiped with some of these men. carried back with me copies of their speeches, resolutions, etc.
Another incident on that trip left a lasting impression as to the agricultural attitude.
I had spent a week-end with some relatives near Edinburgh. Returning Monday morning I was introduced at the station. Dunbar, to a local landowner, the Earl of Haddington. We travelled together to Edinburgh. United States agricultural imports were then becoming a factor in competition. I spoke of Empire preferences. He remarked that no one of importance in the Mother Country would favor such a policy. I said: “Lord Rosebery does.” I saw that this information created upon him a deep impression. I also told him that Rosebery had said, regretting the 1775 United States revolution, that, but for it. Queen Victoria would at that time probably be reigning over a
British Empire from Washington instead of London. W hen we parted, Haddington was considering the idea more favorably, which proves the value of national leadership in whose moral sense and ability the people can place confidence. Haddington trusted Rosebery.
It is difficult for most of us to say what influenced or inspired our action or policies, but it was this statement of Rosebery’s that gave me the vision that I have ever since held of the United States joining us and forming a greater Empire. It may be their salvation as well as ours, and all of us working in friendly co-operation with a Central Europe under German domination—a policy to which I found French nobility, estate owners and business leaders most sympathetic from 1920 to 1925. Their view was: they had had enough of useless wars down through the generations, and their best hope was in getting together economically and then politically. The more I observe, the more I learn, the more strongly do I believe that this development is the best hope for the future of the world.
TN 1882 I had completed my military F course at Kingston: had abandoned all hopes of an army commission: had immediately taken up newspaper work by choice as the next most interesting and fascinating career. I have had more thrills, more continuous fighting, more successful wars, resulting in more good constructive work and great Canadian and Empire development than could ever have come to me as a soldier. It is true newspapermen seldom get into the public eye as do soldiers when they win campaigns. But they get something that is much more pleasing, the thrills of journalistic accomplishment.
A group of Ottawa M.P.’s were recently discussing the exposures of graft and waste in high places, amounting to hundreds of millions and now' being paid by way of taxes on all Canadians. One of them, with more courage than the others, suggested the getting together of the decent M.P.’s on both sides to force a clean-up of the mess, the exposure and punishment of the culprits and some return of the money.
“The idea is good.” said one of them, “but I do not propose to be a martyr. It’s not my fight, and the public will not thank you.
All the same there is a lot of fun in a fight, and it seems to me that if we would elect more fearless soldiers to public office w'e would have less crookedness and much lower taxes.
I had been on the Toronto Daily Mail about a year, getting a wonderful basic training in current life from top to bottom, including Conservative ward politics. One day in 1883, I was ordered to report to the chief editor, Mr. Griffin. He was most cordial; told me he had decided to promote me to the assistant financial editorship. From then until his death he continued to be one of my dearest and most inspiring friends. Martin J. Griffin w'as one of the most sincerely charming, lovable, cultured persons I have ever know'n. A little visit with him in later years in his home or office at Ottawa was always a tonic. This office, in the Library tower, was the choicest in the Parliament Buildings, for it looked out over a view far grander than anything at Naples or from the top of Penna Castle, Cintra, of which the poets have raved, and I know all three well. He was bom in Newfoundland of Irish Catholic ancestry; educated in Halifax and Montreal. He was intensely British in sentiment, a tone which he imparted to The Mail s editorial columns. It w'as a great misfortune that Sir John Macdonald took him to Ottawa as librarian of Parliament, for he was succeeded by an entirely different type, Edward Farrer, born in Ireland, also a Roman Catholic, educated at Rome. He was strongly anti-British with no sympathy whatever for his predecessor’s Imperialism. He w'as unusually well-informed, most entertaining and a crafty, convincing writer, intrigue, mainly political, was his favorite pastime. He revelled in it. The Mail’s
editorials began to show' it. Finally Sir John felt compelled to publicly disown The Mail, though up to that time it was his chief organ. Perhaps Mr. Farrer’s greatest editorial achievement was in stirring up Protestants against Catholics, but chiefly a British Ontario, including the Irish Catholics, against the Catholics of Quebec. What w'as his great objective in this? Was it the Irish in him that made him attack the French-Canadians and start the feeling that now unfortunately exists between these two splendid groups of Canadian citizens and which to this day compels each to maintain its representatives in Rome for protection from the other? Or, was his objective to create a discontented Canada by setting ' class against class, and finally against British connection? Perhaps both, and he was fairly successful. Was he of the De Valera group?
The financial editor, my new' chief, was Jehu Mathew's, a North Irishman by birth. His room was the second beyond Farrer’s. Mr. Mathews was a crusading Imperialist and w'as, so far as I know, responsible for the first British Empire propaganda association. He had written much during the ’60’s on Empire problems, and finally, in 1872, he put forth his ideas in a 224-page book, published in England, “A Colonist on the Colonial Question.” The British press and public men gave it a remarkably cordial reception, and the clippings of that era show that it started a discussion which went on for some years.
Farther dow'n the hall for a time w'as E. E. Sheppard, editor of The Mail's evening subsidiary, and one of the active leaders in the Canadian independence movement. He had an independent Canadian flag which later floated over the office of his paper. The News.
Beyond Sheppard was a very sound I native-born Canadian, the tall, lithe, athletic j P. D. Ross, sporting editor, who learned from each of his neighbors but expressed no opinions then. He was a McGill graduate, a man of very high character and much common sense. He is owner, and has for many years fearlessly directed the public policies of the Ottawa Journal. But, far more important, he has been one of the greatest powers for good in the background ; at Ottawa. In the past thirty years he, along with Sir Clifford Sifton, of all Canadians has been the most frequently consulted by Dominion premiers and ministers and governors-general.
Start of National Policy
ALSO on The Mail’s editorial staff in the ’70’s was John Maclean, father of the late W. F. Maclean, who for so many years represented East York in the House of Commons as a Conservative with very strong radical and protectionist tendencies. They used to say that the Managing Editor of The Mail had to be constantly on the watch to eliminate editorials or paragraphs written by Mr. Maclean arguing for protection for Canada. It was not then a Conservative policy. It was the common belief that it was Mr. Maclean who inspired Sir John to adopt it as a national policy. I w'ould doubt this, for Sir John was a man of great imagination and far-seeing vision. I think, however, that it was not improbable that he was greatly encouraged, if not influenced, by both Maclean and Mathew's. He swept the country and was returned to Parliament on his national protective policy, and a year later, 1879, he made his first representations to the British Government in favor of Imperial Federation and preferential trade but got no sympathy at the time.
Finally, about 1882, Rt. Hon. W. E. Forster, who had read Mr. Mathews’ book, seemed deeply interested and opened correspondence with him. Soon after, I understand, under Mr. Mathews’ inspiration, and gathering about him a group of important men, he organized in London the first Empire group, the Imperial Federation League, with objectives as laid down in Mr. Mathew's’ book.
Unfortunately, like so many patriotic
societies started with best intentions, the Mathews-Forster Imperial Federation League soon got into the hands of the battleship and munitions crowd, became a subsidiary of the then Navy Leagues, and instead of Empire Federation, and particularly Empire Trade, it adopted as its main objective Colonial contributions to be sent to England to build guns and battleships and maintain an army. All this quite regardless of the fact that Canada had then begun under arrangement with the Mother Country to build her owm army. Paid propagandists, some with high titles, went about Canada establishing branches which were officered by strong ultra-loyalists. Mr. Mathews became its busy press propagandist, contributing not only to the campaign in Canada but mainly in the Old Country. The Canadian end of the League was headed by D’Alton McCarthy. K.C.. M.P.
When the munitions crowd found they could get no support via the league for Empire cash contributions for more guns j and ships, all activities were suddenly stopped with much secrecy. All funds, documents and papers were mysteriously removed from London headquarters by order of the local committee. Canadians could get no information, and all efforts to revive the work were vigorously and offensively frowned upon.. How much antiimperial interests had to do with this was not known on this side. At any rate, the old League crowd in England showed themselves absolutely opposed to any form of Empire federation or preference.
However, the movement, unimportant and small as it was in Canada, had had good press publicity which stirred to increased activity the annexationists. Of this commercial union group, Mr. Farrer was chief press propagandist, and we had for a time the interesting spectacle of the propagandists for the three policies employed on the same newspaper and occupying almost adjoining rooms.
Canadian Empire Unionists now found themselves ‘‘up in the air.” Ill-treated and deserted by their supposed allies in the Mother Country, they were stunned. They did not know where they were at. Annexationists had become extremely busy. At this juncture came a Canadian leader in Colonel George Taylor Denison, a man of unusual ability and courage. He and his ancestors had suffered heavily at the hands of British officialdom. One of them, a British Loyalist driven from the States in 1776, built a mansion here and made a will which forbade his descendants to ever entertain therein an American or an English officer. Our Colonel Denison also had his troubles with minor British officials. He was in constant conflict with selfish interests in London. He was a cavalryman and wrote much thereon. His works became textbooks for the armies of the world. The Emperor of Russia offered a prize for the best history of cavalry. Denison desired to enter, but he needed the endorsement of the British military authorities. The British general in Canada. Sir Selby Smythe, turned him down flat. He went to London. The War Office refused to see him, so did the Colonial Office, but he had a friend in Lord Salisbury. He got to St. Petersburg, was recognized, cordially received by the Emperor, and won the great prize, thousands of roubles, which he at once turned over to Russian charities. He had a world reputation. Time and again in Europe, on being introduced, as from Canada, to German. Austrian and French cavalrymen, I would be asked if I knew Colonel Denison. When reporting for duty at the War Office to be attached to the Cavalry Brigade at Aldershot in 1899, Sir Evelyn Wood, V.C., asked me the same question. Reporting later to General French in command at Aldershot, after a few words he walked over to his mantel, picked out one of Denison’s books and asked if I knew him. He spoke highly of his views and said he was following them out in the training of his brigade, and added that if they knew in
London he would get an awful wigging. But he adopted them soon after in South Africa. Again in 1902. passing through Washington. Mr. Roosevelt, then President, had asked a few old Harvard friends of my wife in to meet us that evening. On being introduced, almost at once very brusquely he asked me: “Do you know Colonel
Denison in Canada! Great man!” On saying that he was one of our best friends he became most cordial. I found the two men very much alike in character and mannerisms.
Roosevelt was the first American President to treat Canada decently and completely changed the relations between the two countries, as I shall show in a later article. I have sometimes thought his admiration for the fighting Denisons and the reading of his Ixxiks was something of a factor.
It was this man. Colonel George Taylor Denison, who became our fighting leader. Supporting Sir John Macdonald at Ottawa and our agent in the Mother Country, Sir Charles Tupper. he laid the foundations and made possible the developments which have led to the coming Empire Conference.
Canadians of the present day would be surprised to know how close we were to the parting of the ways, would be surprised at the leading men on both sides of the border who believed sincerely that the best interests of both countries lay in a United States and not a British union, and were plotting to bring it about, and through misinformation from Canada, by armed forces if necessary. Some little incident might easily have brought it on.
Editor's Note: This is the second of a series of articles by Colonel Maclean. In the next article, he will relate from personal contacts the exciting experiences that followed soon after the seizure of Farrer's treasonable documents invoicing Canadian and United States cabinet ministers and public men.