Pen portraits of the Empire statesmen who are now making history at Ottawa
M. GRATTAN O'LEARY
OTTAWA, which likes to take on the airs of an Old World capital and to appear sophisticated and blasé, is all hot and bothered over the Imperial Conference delegates.
Never before has it had so many distinguished strangers within its gates; never has so much of human greatness been brought together in any Empire spot outside of old London itself. The paved walks to Parliament Hill might be the little narrow street that leads to historic number 10 Downing Street; the Château IMinier's verandah the terrace at Westminster where the world’s notables take tea. One could not cast a stone between Sparks Street and the Victory Tower without danger of hitting a great Imperialist.
And it is this side of the Conference, its pomp and circumstance, its human drama, which excites and interests Ottawa. Up in the committee rooms of the Parliament Buildings statisticians and tariff experts and a corps of secretaries pore and toil over rows of figures and decimals and percentages, become alternately lucid and bewildered over mysterious customs schedules do the real work of the Conference. But at the great public show places, at banquet tables, in plenary sessions under the public eye, at the Country Club and the Rideau Club, and in the drawing-rooms of Ottawa society, it is the delegates who are the window-dressing photographed, interviewed, sought after, looked upon with awe. They are the makers of history.
And. whatever the Conference does, whether it marks a new epoch or writes a dismal failure, its chief figures, speaking for a fourth of the world’s population, are a colorful lot, arresting. Sturdy, stolid New Zealanders, looking for all the world as though they were from Ontario or perhaps Ulster; breezy Australians, much like Yankees with an English accent; Dutchmen from South Africa who were cradled in rebellion; transplanted Englishmen and Irishmen from Rhodesia; picturesque, turbaned statesmen from Mother India; tall, scholarly Englishmen from Whitehall and Westminster it is a gathering which in itself is history.
A Typical Briton
TEADING the lot. most distinguished of them all. is that typical Briton, Stanley Baldwin. Business man, breeder of pigs, bookman and politician. Baldwin is a composite, a walking cartoon of John Bull. Unlike the Chamberlains and the Cecils, he isn’t of the great political families of England. Before the war, indeed, he was just a plain English business man, with a comfortable fortune, a back-bench seat in the House of Commons, and a place in the country where he raised pigs. No one then wrote about or knew of his famous pipe, or that he was a cousin of Rudyard Kipling, or that he read and knew good literature and amid talk with the whimsicality of a Barrie. Even when the Carlton Club threw Lloyd George from the battlements, with Baldwin helping in the throwing and later becoming Prime Minister, the London papers knew little about the latter. They suspected that he was a stop-gap leader, they hinted that cousin Rudyard Kipling wrote the literary allusions that lit up his best speeches, were sure that the brilliant, wayward Winston Churchill would sooner or later dethrone him.
The dethronement never came. Stanley Baldwin, with his pigs, became more and more a legend, looked upon as having the genius of the average Englishman.
The antithesis of the mercurial Lloyd George, without the hardness of the Chamberlains or the showy cleverness of a Churchill, Baldwin’s common sense and fairness, plus his tolerance of new ideas and of those who violently disagreed with him, increasingly impressed the British people. Lloyd George said not long ago that Baldwin’s chief resemblance to a volcano was that both of them smoked incessantly. The jibe was partly true, for Baldwin is not volcanic; yet he has kept the leadership of English Toryism through times more stormy than those which drove the gifted Balfour from the same post. Not an orator and despising oratory and rhetoric, his speeches are political literature, have truly something of the Kipling touch. And while, unlike most English politicians, he is neither author nor journalist, he is the most bookish man in English public life. A word of praise from him a few years ago sold tens of thousands of the novels of Mary Webb.
Politically, he is of what is known in England as the Tory Democracy; talks at times like a Gladstone Liberal. His son, Oliver Baldwin, a confirmed Socialist, denounces the stupidities of his father’s party, but is welcomed just as heartily under the paternal roof. It is one of the best possible sidelights upon the character of Stanley Baldwin.
A Political Realist
TYANKING next to Baldwin in the British delegation -*-N is Neville Chamberlain. Youngest son and only child of the second marriage of the late Joe Chamberlain, no one has the better right to be at a Conference dealing with Empire tariffs. Yet Neville Chamberlain, without the name and fame of his father, would have prospered in British politics. Hard, able, acute, he is that rare thing, a business man who is successful in Parliament and in public life. Like his father and his half-brother. Sir Austen Chamberlain, he served his apprenticeship in politics in the municipal service of Birmingham, was a member of its City Council as long ago as 1911, was its I^ord Mayor in 1915. Since then, having stepped into a bigger arena during the war. he has been Director of British National Service. Postmaster-General, Minister of Health, twice Chancellor of the Exchequer. There are those who predict for him the lYemiership.
Neville Chamberlain’s strength undoubtedly lies in his cold competence as an administrator, his thorough knowledge of finance and economics, in his Chamberlain characteristic of industry. He is without the imagination, color and driving power of his illustrious father, without the latter’s capacity for arousing passionate loyalties and bitter hatreds, but he has a colder judgment, a more disciplined mind, is trusted alike by friend and foe. A Conservative, he is no slave to doctrine or formula, is essentially a realist in politics. With his background of practical business knowledge—for he was trained in the great family business of Guest, Keen and Nettlefold—he is one of the powers of the Conference.
A Good-Humored Imperialist
TESS a power, but more picturesque and colorful, is JH. Thomas -“Jimmy.” A Welshman, like Lloyd George, and almost as romantic and crafty. Jimmy Thomas began life as a draper’s assistant, went on to Continued on page 38
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be an engine cleaner, rose to be a power in the British Railwaymen’s Union.
Unlike his Labor Leader, Ramsay MacDonald, Thomas is not an intellectual, has little use for the intelligentsia. But while he has remained a Trades Unionist through and through, and blatantly and outrageously dropped his “aitches,” it is said of him that he calls every peer in England by his first name; that he is as much at ease with the Prince of Wales as at a meeting of the Railwaymen’s Union. On most any evening in London one will find Jimmy Thomas at Nancy Astor’s dinner table, swapping repartee with Bernard Shaw, poking fun at the verbose and sometimes pompous J. L. Garvin.
Too much of a realist, perhaps too much of a humorist, to be a confirmed Radical, Thomas has always been suspect by the Left of Labor, and perhaps justly. Actually, his political leanings are toward Tory democracy. He is an Imperialist, a believer in tariffs.
Everybody remembers Jimmy’s speech about “humbug.” Many, including Premier Bennett, took it seriously; but it was just the sort of thing that trips lightly from the tongue of Thomas, a mild epithet compared with some things that he has said about his 1 present leader, who is really Stanley Baldi win. Thomas himself would be astonished that anybody should remember it or hold i spite.
Thomas’s rôle at the Conference is that of I negotiator, of fixer. Without Baldwin’s ! character or Chamberlain’s ability or Runciman's knowledge, his main job is to keep j everybody in good humor, to break up tense i moments with one of his droll stories. If it is a lesser rôle, it is decidedly not a useless one.
A Master of Tariffs
A POWER in a different way. perhaps in most ways, is Walter Runciman. Born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth - he is the son of Sir Walter Runciman, the famous shipowner—Walter Runciman has had all the advantages which family, education and wealth bring in British politics. Twenty-six years he has been at Westminster, eight of which he spent as an uncompromising Liberal in the Ministry of Mr. Asquith. A Nonconformist—he is a Wesleyan Methodist—Runciman was cradled in Gladstonian Liberalism; wrote a book on "Liberalism as I See It;” was a veritable Prophet of Free Trade. But although he was a disciple of Asquith in the feud with Lloyd George, and never had anything in common with the Tories, he last year entered the National Government under Ramsay MacDonald, thus giving great scandal to old Cobdenites. Just to what extent he has abandoned his Free Trade principles remains to be seen. His support of the new British tariff, plus his bargaining propensities since coming to Ottawa, suggest that he has abandoned them to a considerable extent.
Next to Neville Chamberlain, Runciman is probably the ablest of the British delegates in a practical way. In his political history and way of looking at things he resembles our own Mr. Rowell, with the exception, perhaps, that in business he is more of a realist. He is a millionaire, a
landowner, shipowner and bank director; knows all about tariffs. If the British delegation doesn’t take a good bargain back to England with it, it won’t be his fault.
Other British Delegates
TXIFFERENT again from Runciman yet one of the most brilliant minds at the Conference is Lord Hailsham, Minister of War. This is the former Douglas McGarrel Hogg, the able, keen-witted English barrister who rose to the top of his profession, became Attorney-General, then Lord Chancellor, then, in the National Government, Minister of War.
Hailsham, in Parliament, belied the tradition that lawyers are failures in the House of Commons. When he sat in Opposition he loved to bait his rival before the bar, Sir Patrick Hastings, Attorney-General for Labor. More than once bested that brilliant, romantic figure. Hailsham’s own career has not been without romance. His early days were spent on a sugar plantation in the West Indies. A great friend of Justice Duff of the Supreme Court of Canada, Hailsham is a genial, companionable man. has become a great favorite in Ottawa. But his geniality is no proof that he isn’t leaving the mark of his intelligence on the proceedings of the Conference.
Last of the British delegates and least known is Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister. He is an j expert in politics, his success due ta the fact ' that he has concentrated upon problems of trade and commerce. He has been President of the Overseas Trade Department, also a President of the Board of Trade, is now Secretary for the Colonies. Comparatively young, ambitious and able, he knows all about tariffs, knows much about the Dominions, is proving a formidable figure.
Men From the Antipodes
ZOOMING from the other Dominions, the ^ most imposing of the delegates, if not the ablest, is Australia’s Stanley Bruce. Sportsman, soldier, politician and business man, Bruce, with his distinguished presence, would be a personage in any conference. Son of a wealthy Australian father whose fortune was built up in the dry goods business. Bruce was educated at Cambridge, was a Cambridge Blue, became a barrister, was admitted to the Temple, practised in London. The war saw him at Gallipoli, where he was wounded, given a lame leg, and the Peace saw him return to Australia as a lieutenant of Billy Hughes. He was one of Hughes’ “Young Men.” In time the pupil turned out the master. Bruce becoming Prime Minister.
Bruce was never personally popular. A bit stiff and aloof, he was looked upon as a "superior person;” and his spats and cane— | he is the best dressed man at the Conference. not excepting our own Mr. Bennett —became a target for the cartoonists. Three years ago Scullin, Labor Leader, dethroned him, and when his party returned to office some six months ago it had another leader. Bruce, however, remained one of its influen' tial figures, and is proving himself influential j at Ottawa.
Bruce is ably seconded by Henry Somer Gullett, competent Australian politician..
likewise a capable journalist. Gullett was on the staff of the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s greatest newspaper, was London correspondent of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, has worked also for the Sydney Sun. During the war he was Australian official correspondent with the British and French armies in France; returned home to study agricultural problems; became a considerable figure in Australian politics.
Not as imposing as the Australian delegates but no stranger to trade conferences, is the New Zealand delegate, Downie Stewart. It was Downie Stewart who met our Harry Stevens at Honolulu last winter and negotiated the Canada-New Zealand treaty. Familiar with Canada and almost equally familiar with other parts of the Empire, Stewart knows what he wants, has a knack of getting it. Quiet in manner, almost shy, Stewart is the typical New Zealander, as different from the Australian as the typical Ontario politician is different from the Down East Yankee.
Supporting Stewart is a New Zealand ex-Premier, Joseph Gordon Coates. It was Coates who succeeded Massey when that veteran politician relinquished his long reign. He is a lawyer and a war veteran; is a tall, dark, distinguished figure who looks as though he might be a prosperous broker, if there be such a thing in these days. Coates was Premier of New Zealand from 1925 to 1928, when he was defeated by the late Sir Joseph Ward, who was perhaps the ablest of all New Zealand’s politicians. Lacking in the arts and gifts of the hard-bitten politician, Coates is trusted in New Zealand, is respected at this Conference.
South African Delegates
PERHAPS the most arresting delegates— and for a reason—are those from South Africa and from the Irish Free State. Ottawa, good-humoredly, has dubbed them “the rebels.” And rebels some of them were not long since. There is South Africa’s Grobler, Minister of Lands. Dutch of the Dutch, and looking it from head to toe. Grobler not merely fought against the Empire during the Boer War, he fought against it during the Great War. His mother a niece of Oom Paul Kruger, Grobler was in the thick of the fighting during and after 1900; was present at the siege of Mafeking. Although he accepted the peace and became a follower of Botha, he soon veered over to extreme nationalism; and when the Great War broke out he opposed South Africa’s participation in it, joined General Beyers and Delarey in their rebellion against the Botha Government He is the General Beyers who, according to General Seely, engaged in a fist fight with Sir Sam Hughes in the presence of King George. The rebellion failing, Grobler was captured, imprisoned, fined $2.500, temporarily deprived of citizenship. The war over, he resumed active politics, became a follower of Hertzog, secured a place in his Ministry.
With Grobler, and reputed to be equally anti-imperialist, is N. C. Havenga, Minister of Finance. Like Grobler, Havenga fought for Kruger in 1900; and while he was not a rebel in 1915, he is a staunch Nationalist, putting South Africa first.
Taken all in all, South Africa’s delegates are being closely watched by Ottawa. Their voices and the weight of their votes may mean much to the Conference.
'"PHEN there are the Irish. From Ulster there is Finance Minister Hugh MacDowell Pollock. Pollock, a typical Ulsterman, is one of those hard, competent business men who have built up Belfast. He has been chairman of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Belfast Harbor Commission. For eleven years Pollock has looked after the finances of
the Government of Northeast Ulster, has done a good job with them. A Conservative, a Unionist and a strong Imperialist, he will make no trouble for Empire trade, is likely to help it greatly.
It is the delegation from Southern Ireland, from the Free State, which challenges Ottawa’s curiosity. J. H. Thomas may not be disposed to treat with them in the Conference, but there is no indication that he isn’t on the best of terms with them outside the Conference. Particularly true is this in the case of Sean Lemass, De Valera’s Minister of Commerce and the ablest of his representatives.
Lemass, it is said, comes of one of those Huguenot families that went to Ireland in the long ago, became more Irish than the Irish themselves. A comparatively young man, showing marks of unusual culture, Lemass was out with Michael Collins during the “trouble” between 1916 and 1922; sided with De Valera in the matter of the Treaty. Years spent “on the run” didn’t prevent him from studying economics; and theConference has already noted his ability.
With Lemass are Sean O’Kelly, | De Valera’s Vice-President, and Dr. Thomas Ryan, his Minister of Agriculture. Ryan is a quiet, studious young man who attracts little attention, but O’Kelly is different. Even in Ireland, the name O’Kelly is a fighting one, and Sean O’Kelly, who is a journalist, was a militant Sinn Feiner as early as De Valera himself. In the days before the Treaty he used to be in Rome and Paris as an envoy of the “Irish Republic,” ¡ and since 1922 he has been in the Ddil, one of De Valera’s captains.
It may be that the Conference will leave the Free State and England, fiscally speaking, as they were. Yet one thinks that the comradeship of these weeks in Ottawa, with Saxon and Celt sitting down daily in the | same Conference room, breaking bread together, perhaps occasionally imbibing ; something less good than Guinness’s Stout | together, will make a difference. Ottawa, which has learned to like Mr. De Valera’s men, sincerely hopes so.
Indian and Other Delegates
ESS challenging than the Irishmen and Dutchmen but more picturesque, are the Indians. They are not Gandhi men, are remote from the Mahatma’s spinning-wheel ideas, but, with one exception, they are pure Indians with India’s dress and outlook and background. There is Sir Atul Chandra Chatterjee, K.C.S.I., K.C.I.E., one of the most eminent of Indian statesmen, yet educated at King’s College, Cambridge. There is Sir Shanmukan Chetty, acting leader of the Nationalist party in the Indian Legislative Assembly; Sir Padamji Ginwala, a prominent merchant and a member of the Indian Tariff Commission; and Sahibzada Abdus Samad Khan, veteran statesman, representative of those native Indian princes who still hold sway over so much of India.
With the Indians, of course, there is the inevitable Scotsman, Sir George Rainey, typical of the heads of the Indian Civil Service. He gives India’s delegation its fiscal knowledge, while the others give it its color.
There are other delegates—Newfoundlanders, Rhodesians, some others. And there is also an army of advisers—industrial magnates, field-marshals of finance, representatives of labor and capital, experts on tariffs, experts on currency and banking, experts on shipping and communications, i experts on minerals, experts on scores of things. This, in fact, is not merely a Parlia! ment of the Empire; it is a Parliament of Economics; the economists vastly outnumbering the politicians, which perhaps is as it should be.
No matter what happens at the Conference. it is unlikely that the British Empire can ever again be quite the same.