Will Canada Support Britain?
"Self-interest as well as sentiment suggest that we should support Britain in the present crisis"
LT.-COL. GEORGE A. DREW
RAPIDLY CHANGING world events suggest that 1936 will go down in history as the year in which the most momentous choice was made between international anarchy and international co-operation. There are increasingly hopeful signs that the choice will be in favor of collective action to maintain peace, and that the principles for which so many men fought and died between 1914 and 1918 may at last be given more than lip service.
In the noble effort to fulfill the promise of international justice offered to the world in 1919 by the Covenant of the League of Nations, Great Britain has taken the leading part, and today there is no question of more concern to every Canadian than whether or not Canada as a nation will support Great Britain in her efforts to maintain peace.
Recent speeches by members of different political parties leave some doubt about what our course may be. It is argued that Canada should refrain from taking any part in European affairs. Strangely enough, those who are most emphatic in this argument are usually equally emphatic that there can be no prosjxjrity in Canada unless we find openings for what we have to sell in the markets of the world. This, then, would appear (o be the argument. By hook or by crook, we are to sell those things to Europe upon which our prosperity depends, but we are to make no effort to maintain peace so that the markets may remain open. This can only mean in the final analysis that Great Britain shoulders the full responsibility while we take the cash. If that is to be our policy, at least let us be honest about it.
Such speeches have been too frequent to be ignored. The nature of the argument and the jargon in which it is sometimes phrased indicate the very real possibility that the flood of anti-British propaganda which has suddenly appeared in the United States, is having its effect here. Because of the increasingly large circulation of American publications in Canada, and the even more powerful propaganda influence of the radio, those who hold a different opinion should give due consideration to what is being said.
Since the Great War there have been three distinct phases of anti-British propaganda in the United States which, in each case, followed such a clearly defined formula that the similarity of argument and expression seems more than accidental. First came the widespread attempt in 1927 and 1928 to convince the people of the United States that Great Britain had failed miserably in her efforts during the Great War. In the best known and most widely circulated publications appeared feature articles belittling the British effort. The Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan and Liberty, all sought to prove that the British had played a comparatively unimportant part in the closing stages of the war, and that it was only through the excellence of American technical equipment and the weight of American man power that the war was won.
No intelligent Canadian has ever been unwilling to pay full tribute to the courage of our American cousins who served during the Great War, nor to the tremendous importance of the entry of the United States into the war; but, in fairness to the colossal effort of the British Empire, it was necessary at that time to point out that instead of the war being won by American equipment, not a single American tank or a single American combat plane ever crossed the lines in France, while the artillery used at the front was almost entirely of French or British manufacture.
The next organized attack was against Great Britain’s efforts to find some solution of the economic problems presented by the war debts. Great Britain’s proposal that if the United States would cancel the British debt still owing, Britain would, in turn, wipe out a very much larger debt owing to her by her Allies, was described as an ingenious attempt to force the United States to bear the whole cost of the war. So effective was this propaganda that although Great Britain had at that time made every payment due under the War Debt Settlement, the impression was created in the United States that Great Britain had, in fact, paid very little, and recent remarks by one of the provincial premiers in Canada indicate that this propaganda apparently had its effect here as well. The fact is that before the breakdown of European finance, Great Britain had paid to the United States more than two billion dollars—far more than was ever morally owing.
And now we come to the third phase of propaganda of a similar character. Over the radio, in the press and in periodical publications, a concerted effort is being made to convince the people of the United States that Great Britain
is using the League of Nations as its cat’s-paw for some sinister scheme of Imperial expansion.
We have for some time been accustomed to the anti-British venom of the radio priest who degrades the holy office of a great church by using it to give weight to his jxjlitical distortions. Fortunately, the arguments of such irresponsible demagogues have carried little weight in Canada, no matter what their effect may be in the United States.
But now we find these misrepresentations being spread by men whose word has previously been held in high regard. Perhaps the most notable of these is Frank H. Simonds, who was considered one of the greatest of American war correspondents. In The Saturday Evening Post, which enjoys a very large Canadian circulation, he has been making bitter attacks on Great Britain for the course she has adopted toward Italy. The most recent of his attacks in that magazine was an article entitled “John Bull’s Holy War.”
Under this suggestive title he tells us, “British talk about organizing peace by a collective system, by the employment of the League machinery, is just so much eyewash . . . Europe is not getting ready for organized peace but for a coalition war.”
Elsewhere in the same article he tells us: “That’s the inner
meaning of the play which has been staged at Geneva over the Ethiopian affair, for the benefit of the United States. And today if the American people, listening to a new Holy War being preached from the Palace of the Nations, will but look closely, they will discover that while the voice is the voice of Geneva, the hand is the hand of John Bull.”
Mr. Simonds, in this article, points out the absurdity of any collective effort to enforce peace by joint effort. He explains that the suggestion that the United States should join members of the League in restraining Italy “was the same old propaganda game which had worked so well in 1914-17. It was, if one may employ the phrase, ‘the atrocity technique.’ The League had replaced the Allies, Ethiopia was now Belgium in her former unhappy situation, Italy occupied Germany’s place in the prisoner’s dock, but the objective in 1935 was identical with that of 1915. Uncle Sam was to be brought to Europe to play the game of one European nation against another.”
Mr. Simonds seems to forget that it was to prevent a repetition of these events that the United States fought, and that Great Britain is now acting. This is but an example of what scores of thousands of Canadians have been reading, and hearing over the radio, as supposedly intelligent opinion in regard to what Great Britain has done and the possible rôle of the League of Nations in preserving peace.
Frank H. Simonds was among those privileged to witness the crystallization of the ideals of those who believed that out of the horror and senseless slaughter of the Great War would come sanity and an effective attempt at international co-operation to prevent a repetition of that supreme folly. He was one of those who witnessed President Wilson’s great struggle to have the Covenant of the League of Nations incorporated in the Treaty of Versailles so that the signing of the Treaty of Peace might at the same time bring to an official termination the greatest war of all history and set up effective international machinery to preserve democracy and international justice for which men then believed they
were fighting. If Frank H. Simonds, and others who were in close touch with those events, really wished to serve the cause of peace, they would point out to the people of the United States that their refusal to join the League of Nations has contributed very largely to the situation which now threatens Europe with a war much more terrible than the last.
People of the United States should realize that Canadians and other British subjects throughout the world do not regard criticism of the British Empire in the United States in a spirit of natural antagonism, but that they are concerned with the effect of deliberate misrepresentation, both inside and outside of the United States. In Canada, particularly, there is the danger that such misrepresentation may mislead Canadians themselves if they remain uncontradicted, while throughout the whole Empire there is a feeling of dismay that the people of the United States should be so misled in view of the firm conviction generally held that the greatest assurance of peace lies in the close co-operation of the English-speaking people of the world. With national traditions growing out of the same historical events of many centuries ago, with a common language, with similar laws, and with the same ideal of democratic government, everything suggests that the United States and the British Empire standing together can become the effective foundation for real international co-operation through a League of Nations, a Society of Nations, or call it what you will. It should, therefore, be understood in the United States that when we criticize, and sometimes criticize rather bitterly, the malicious utterances of those who would destroy that feeling of mutual confidence upon which British and American co-operation must rest, it is
The U.S. and the Peace Treaty
IN VIEW of the concerted effort that is being made to create the impression that the League has become the instrument of some sinister Imperial policy of “perfidious Albion,” it is necessary to recall events which never should have been forgotten in the United States. When the United States declared war against Germany in 1917, President Wilson’s power of lucid expression quickly gave him a rôle of leadership in the enunciation of the ideals for which the Allies were fighting, and his famous Fourteen Points were accepted as the basis of negotiations after the Armistice. One of these points was the creation of a League of Nations to preserve those principles of international justice for which the peoples of nearly half the world then believed with the utmost sincerity that they were fighting.
Never in modem times had the head of a Government stood so high in the world’s esteem or temporarily possessed such an influence upon the world’s thoughts. When he went to Europe in 1919 ne was acclaimed as few men have been in the whole history of the world. His influence at Versailles was tremendous not only
clone on the one hand in the hope of counteracting the insidious effect of such propaganda outside of the United States, and also in the hope that well-informed Americans may appreciate the urgent need for immediate action if the people of the United States are to retain any reasonably accurate appreciation of those historical events which have a vital bearing on the wisdom or otherwise of their expressed policy of isolation.
because of the power and wealth of the United States, but because of the idealism which he expressed. It was sincerely believed not only in the Allied countries, but in Germany as well, that through him the United States had given leadership to a new era of justice and peace. It was consistent with the rôle which President Wilson had occupied in the negotiations that he was the first to sign the Treaty of Versailles on behalf of the Allied and associated powers.
When the Treaty was finally ready for signature on June 28, 1919, Clemenceau opened the final session of the conference with these words: “An agreement has been
reached on the conditions of the Treaty of Peace between the Allied and associated powers and the German Empire.
“The signatures about to be given constitute an irrevocable engagement to carry out loyally and faithfully in their entirety all the conditions that have been decided upon.”
The hopes and expectation of those momentous days were well described at the time by the great French historian, Gabriel I Ianotaux.
“The Fourteen Articles of President Wilson, to which our conquered enemies proclaim their allegiance with high fervor, promise us a new world in which humanitarian faith shall reign . . .
“France, it is true, can count uj)on her strong friends from beyond the Channel and beyond the seas; they will fly to her aid. At the least peril, the Society of Nations will warn them; they will hasten hither, otwdient to their oath, to their fidelity of heart, and to their Treaty pledges.”
These words represented the genuine belief of those who had witnessed the signing of the Treaty in the famous Hall of Mirrors in Versailles. France, it will be remembered, had at first insisted upon Germany’s western frontier being moved back to the Rhine. With memories of three invasions within a century she felt that she was entitled to the protection of that natural barrier against her ancient foe. But President Wilson was insistent that greater security lay in the collective obligation to prevent aggression which was promised by the Covenant of the League of Nations. The French finally accepted this argument. They believed, with Clemenceau, that “the signatures about to be given constitute an irrevocable engagement to carry out loyally and faithfully in their entirety all the conditions that have been decided upon.”
The people of the United States do not yet seem to understand the stunning effect in Europe, and particularly France, of the repudiation by the Government of the United States of its solemn obligation to fulfill those undertakings because of which France and her Allies had foregone assurances of security upon which they would have insisted but for the expectation that the United States would acc.pt in their literal interpretation the promise to join in a collective effort to maintain peace, which Wilson had offered as the alternative to the old order of secret covenants and the anarchy of competitive armaments. It is no use pointing out that Wilson had no power to bind his government. He spoke as the representative of the United States, not as an individual.
When it appeared in the following November that there was some doubt that the Government of the United States would ratify Wilson’s signature, General Smuts of South Africa issued this appeal to the American Senate: “No nation put more faith, more effort into the construction of the League than America. It now only remains to ratify and pass the Covenant. Other nations have approved it. Even distant Asia is represented; Japan has given her approval, while America alone hesitates and falters. Will the great leaders now lag behind the ranks? I cannot believe it. I cannot believe that America will, after all, block the way—that the purely American viewpoint will be allowed to override the wider interests and necessities of our own civilization in the greatest crisis in history.”
Effects of U.S. Attitude
V\7HEN the United States repudiated Wilson’s VV undertaking, France was deprived of the security of collective action for which she had foregone her demand for more immediate forms of security upon which she undoubtedly would have continued to insist had it not been for President Wilson’s assurances. France, then, saw no course but to maintain her
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armaments. In the face of those armaments other nations retained theirs. The undertaking given to Germany to carry out a similar disarmament to that imposed upon her, became increasingly difficult, if not impossible of fulfillment. It is thus no exaggeration to say that the most direct cause of the failure to carry out the disarmament undertaken at Versailles was the repudiation by the United States of undertakings which had been the fundamental condition of the promises given by the Allies. When Governments repudiate solemn obligations given by their accredited representatives, justice based on agreements becomes impossible, and today the United States faces a grave responsibility for the blow which it dealt to practical idealism in international politics to which Wilson had given such effective leadership.
Threatened with the final collapse of the principle of collective effort, Great Britain has assumed dangerous responsibilities in an attempt to revivify the League before disaster is once more upon us. In seeking to attach sinister motives to the leadership of Great Britain which has been supported by fifty-two of the world’s sixty-four nations, Simonds and others like him forget the simple facts upon which the issue is based. If Italy was justified in making an unprovoked attack upon Ethiopia for the purpose of conquest, then the fifty-two nations which support Great Britain’s policy are wrong. If Italy’s undertakings given at Versailles and subsequently ratified, and her voluntary signature of the Kellogg Pact meant anything whatever, then Ethiopia is entitled to protection. Whether mistakes were or were not made in the actual procedure followed in attempting to give that protection, the fact remains that the first nation in the world to acclaim the British course should be that nation which places such emphasis on freedom and justice.
Criticism of Great Britain for its last desperate effort to bring order out of chaos comes with bad grace indeed from the nation which gave the greatest emphasis to the principle that Great Britain now supports—a principle which its leader enunciated as a fundamental condition of peace.
In the face of these arguments, which undoubtedly have had some effect in Canada, surely the time lias come for Canada to say quite definitely how far it
will go in supporting Great Britain in the collective effort to maintain peace. If Canada is to justify its boast of being a nation among nations, this issue cannot longer be evaded, no matter how delicate it may be. In the trying days that are before us, Canada must speak as one nation with one strong voice, not in w'hispers that are intended to be heard and interpreted differently in different parts of the country.
WE HAVE only two courses before us.
Those who accept the arguments propounded by Simonds will support a policy of isolation which sooner or later must inevitably lead us to closer political association with the United States. Quite apart from such propaganda there are undoubtedly those in Canada who already believe that is the course we should follow. The other course is to support Great Britain in maintaining the principles laid down by the Covenant of the League of Nations as fundamental to the maintenance of peace. There are risks involved if we adopt that course. What we must determine is whether it is not better to take those risks in seeking to maintain that peace upon which our prosperity, if not our very existence as a nation, depends.
In making the decision one important consideration should never be forgotten. If we withhold our support, our apparent desertion of Great Britain in this crisis will greatly weaken the prestige of the British Empire in the eyes of the world. The successful operation of the loosely knit British Empire has been one of the strongest arguments that the League of Nations, operating on somewhat similar lines, could achieve a reasonable measure of success. If it appears that the British League of Nations is failing to function as a world organization, those who argue in favor of a policy of isolation for the United States will receive their strongest possible support.
One course we must choose, and in fairness to the people of Canada as well as to those of the rest of the British Empire, our position should not be left in doubt. Those who believe that we should play our part within the British Empire in accepting the obligations which that entails as well as the manifold advantages which have been so willingly accepted, should assert their views and proclaim their faith to counteract anti-British propaganda from without or within. Silent loyalty is not enough. In a world which the magic of the radio has made increasingly vocal, argument must be met with argument and misrepresentation with effective correction.
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Young Canadians should be taught that Canada’s greatest effort as a nation was made during the Great War—that fact should be recalled not as evidence of what the Empire can do in war, but as the most
effective evidence of what can be done in time of peace if the same spirit of co-operation and self-sacrifice is applied to the pressing problems that we now face.
Let those who have forgotten the part the British Empire really played, recall these words of the same Frank H. Simonds, which appeared in the New York Tribune in 1918.
“Having made Ludendorf anxious for both his flanks, Foch was now ready for his master-stroke. Already the British between the Scarpe and the Somme, between Douai and St. Quentin, had been active, had pushed forward and taken many valuable jumping-off places. But, on October 8, on the front between Cambrai and St. Quentin, aided by Debeney’s French Army between St. Quentin and the Oise, three British Armies, those of Home, Byng and Rawlinson, struck. What happened was the greatest British achievement in all the centuries of British warfare on the Continent. All the past disappointments were banished, all the old defeats were avenged; in three days the British drove straight through the twelve miles of the Hindenburg line, on the front where it was strongest, and pushed out into the open country beyond. By October 12 they were in Le Cateau; St. Quentin had fallen, the fall of Cambrai was assured, the old battlefield of First Cambrai had been crossed by the victorious British, the Hindenburg line was a memory ;k this fact, too, should be emphasized, the British thrust was the final thrust of the whole battle. In the decisive battle of the World War, Foch had called upon Haig’s armies, as Napoleon was accustomed to call upon his Old Guard, and the British had made the response of the Old Guard.”
These words of Simonds’s should be ! before us today. Haig’s armies, which had I suffered the heaviest losses in stopping the j German attack in the spring of 1918, were i the most efficient fighting force on the Western front in the closing days of the I war, and were called upon by Foch to make j the final thrust which brought Germany j to her knees. British units from all parts j of the world fought shoulder to shoulder, pooling their strength and their resources s without restraint. If the same spirit of co-operation and unselfishness can be recaptured today, the British Empire may j still lead the world out of the chaos which j confronts us. If we refuse to accept that j lesson, the sacrifice of those men who won ! such unstinted praise, even from Frank H. j Simonds, has been in vain.
Can this spirit be recaptured? The radio j has opened up new possibilities which ! others have already seized. Last Sep! tomber Italy witnessed a dramatic expres| sion of loyalty when, in every public ! square throughout the nation, the people joined in the “Adunata.” By means of the radio Mussolini appealed simultaneously to the members of each community for a declaration of faith, and from every part of Italy came a willing response.
The Call to Sacrifice
TS THERE NOT in that event a valuable A suggestion for us? In the public squares of cities, towns and villages, and at country crossroads, the youth of the Empire could gather once a year to hear an appeal from the King, and then solemnly affirm their faith in the higher justice and nobler ideals of the British Empire.
These inspiring words in the late King George’s message to the Empire on May 6 last, offer a stimulating suggestion of the txjssibilities of such an Empire gathering:
“To the children I would like to send a special message. Let me say this to each of them whom my words may reach; The King is speaking to you. I ask you to remember that in
the days to come you will be the citizens of a great Empire. As you grow up, always keep this thought before you; and when the time comes be ready and proud to give to your country the service of your work, your mind, and your heart.”
The rich voice which carried these words to us last year is now for ever silent, but the spirit of that appeal must live so that when the time does come the youth of the Empire may be ready and proud to give unselfishly to their country the service of their work, their mind, and their heart.
What are we to do to make that spirit live? Let us first decide where our faith shall turn. Some sincerely believe we should have faith in ourselves alone. Others apparently believe that we should rest our faith on the United States. But if we believe that the principle of international co-operation offers greater hope than national isolation, which is only another term for international anarchy, then self-interest as well as sentiment suggest that we should support Great Britain in the present crisis and that we should tell the world in no uncertain words what we propose to do. Unless we are prepared to go that far, there cannot be effective British co-operation within the League, and then the League itself must perish.
The only alternative is to resign ourselves hopelessly to a doctrine of despair and deny that there is any possibility of controlling the present mad race in armaments which must lead us all to destruction.
In the face of the criticism of British policy which so many Canadians are reading and hearing, we must not take public opinion for granted. Propaganda became one of the most effective weapons during the war. It is not less effective today, and propaganda such as that appearing in The Saturday Evening Post must be counteracted by education.
It should not be necessary to point out that no people in the world have more clearly demonstrated their desire for peace than have the British. But Canadians should be told that mere negative pacifism defeats its own purpose. Those who are most opposed to the bloody and meaningless slaughter of war will best achieve their purpose if they teach that disarmament and organized peace can only be the result of a vigorous and positive loyalty to the principle of world co-operation.
The British Empire can still give leadership that may convince the United States of the wisdom of our course, but that is only possible if Canada and the other nations of the Empire give the example of effective co-operation within our own political sphere. The thought can never be better expressed than in the words of King George in his last radio message to the Empire at Christmas:
“In Europe and in many parts of the world anxieties surround us. It is good to think that our own family of peoples is at peace in itself and united in one desire to be at peace with other nations—a friend of all, an enemy of none.
“May the spirit of good will and mutual helpfulness grow and spread. Then it will bring not only the blessing of peace, but a solution of the economic troubles which beset us.”
There can be no more fitting tribute to the memory of our beloved sovereign than for those of us who believe in these words to express our abiding faith in the British Empire and those British institutions which have stood the test of time, and which can lead us forward by well-tried paths to prosperity and peace.
Editor’s Note—Maclean's regrets to learn of the death of Frank H. Simonds, to whose articles Colonel Drew makes reference. The above article was written before Mr. Simonds died.