I Went to See
A. Beverley Baxter, M.P.
HIS IS Washington, the shrine of American freedom, that fair city set upon the banks of the Potomac and dedicated to the proposition, more or less, that all men are born free and equal. This is Washington, the most courted city in the world, for is it not the heart of the U.S.A., the last great and rich neutral?
The courtship goes on by day and by night; new suitors arrive by every train and plane; Washington welcomes them all with a slightly weary rapture. It is rather like the second act of “Turandot” where the youth takes his chance in answering the high priest’s questions. If he finds the right answers, he gets the hand of the lovely Chinese Princess. If he bungles the answers he is politely decapitated.
There is no doubt which suitor Washington prefers. In fact she has so set her heart upon a marriage writh Britain that she tries in every way to tell her British favorite the right answers to the questions. Even then the British get mixed up a bit.
The Germans are still here but they have no ambassador and move like outcasts. The Italians have their gorgeous embassy but are out of favor. Vichy has a minister but he is a shadow representing a government of shades.
But do not imagine that the Germans, the Japanese, the Vichy French, the Roumanians and Italians are missed. Washington is so crowded with people that she is expanding like a balloon. The war has added thousands upon thousands to her normal population, which means a boom for cinemas, hotels, houses, flats and gasoline stations.
This has resulted in a quaint development. George Washington foresaw much when the city was planned but he failed to provide space for garages. As far as one can guess there are 200,000 motor cars in this city and perhaps 2,000 garages. As that is a demonstrably impossible proposition, practically every motor car parks all night—and during the day when it is not in use—against the curb in front of the owner’s house.
To drive through the streets of this lovely city with its leafy arches of trees and its pleasant houses is like inspecting a guard of honor of automobiles, an inspection which never leaves off.
If for nothing else, however, 1 shall always remember our visit to Washington for its revelation that somewhere the sun still shines. Canada put away the sunshine during our tour rather like a host who locks up the best silver when a doubtful guest is coming to dinner. Nor did Chicago alter the sequence.
We arrived on Wednesday in Montreal, spoke at a luncheon, then at a factory, and left lor Chicago by train that afternoon. I was curious to see Chicago which I had never visited before, and also to invade the centre of Isolationist activity. The audience for the speech would be provided by the convention of Life Insurance Executives representing all the principal American and Canadian companies. How would they react?
THERE was a happy augury at midnight when a U.S. immigration officer entered our compartment on the train and seemed to take a pretty low view of a Britisher entering the U.S.A.
“Why are you going to Chicago?” he demanded.
“To make a speech,” 1 humbly replied, “A pro-British speech.”
His hand reached up and seized mine. “Good luck to you !” he cried. “Give it to them hot. They need it there.”
It was so unexpectedly warming and so genuinely friendly . . . but then this whole tour has been full of unexpected moments like that.
It was raining in Chicago just as it had rained in Montreal and Vancouver. But even the rain could not hide the majestic materialistic beauty of this most American city. If the towering skyline of the great buildings lacks the magic of New York it is better planned and better spaced. Nor are the shores of Lake Michigan used for railway lines and
smoke-discolored sheds. The lake is co-opted to give elegance to the magnificent highways and parks that abound in Chicago.
There was a charming suite at the beautiful hotel where the doormen, somewhat inexplicably, wear huntsman’s costumes with white riding breeches and top boots. Flowers, chocolates, the offer of a motor car and driver for the day . . . nothing could exceed the thoughtfulness and warmth of our American hosts.
Except a small thing—at breakfast there was only one newspaper to read, The Chicago Tribune. In every possible way, by cartoon, by statement and misstatement, by innuendo, misinterpretation
and quarter truths, it sought to poison the mind of the public toward helping Britain to win the war. No wonder Lindbergh raises his yellow flag highest in Chicago. He has a powerful vassal—or master— in the Chicago Tribune.
But the way of the transgressor is not easy even in Chicago. On every hand I was told that the Marshall Field interests were planning a new Chicago morning paper to compete with the Tribune and to support the “all aid to Britain” policy. The Tribune may want the U.S. to stay at peace but it is going to find a hot newspaper war on its hands in Chicago.
Two hours later a most generous and responsive audience listened to the story of Britain at war. In every way they showed that their hearts were solidly with our cause.
But the rain did not stop for a mere speech and we had to get back to Montreal for three speaking engagements next day. After an exciting low' ceiling flight we reached Montreal at 4 a.m. It w;as raining!
A Round With Wheeler
BUT Washington is all sunshine. It is still summer here in October, while in the evening the soft cool air would stir the imagination of a corporation lawyer. It even stirred mine last night when we were dining with friends.
At 9.30 it occurred to me that I would like to see Senator Wheeler, the soul mate of Lindbergh and the leading figure in the Isolationist camp. My host was horrified.
So I telephoned the Senator, found he was at home and suggested a meeting. “Why not come up to my house?” said the Senator in an agreeable voice. “I am not doing anything except reading Churchill’s book: ‘The Aftermath.’ ” ,
The Wheeler home is a modest one compared with the many mansions in Washington, but a Japanese servant was waiting for us at the curb so that we should not be put to the task of ringing the bell. The Senator greeted my wife and myself warmly and introduced us to his daughter who is about seventeen. Wheeler has six children, three sons and three daughters. He himself looks about fifty-five, is round-faced, sandy-haired with a good figure and an intelligent expression.
Without any delay we entered upon a discussion of his attitude toward Britain.
“I am one of Britain’s best friends,” he said, “and you people would be wiser to listen to those w'ho think with me rather than the politicians w'ho tell you what you want to hear. You’re indulging in wishful thinking over there. I want Britain to survive. I’m a real friend of Britain. That’s why I think you ought to know that America is never coming into this war.” Continued on page 45 A young man of about twentythree came in and wTas introduced. He was tall, slight with a narrow intelligent face and thick unruly hair. He was the youngest of the three sons.
I Went to See Senator Wheeler
Continued from page 13
“I’ve just come back from a six weeks tour,” continued the Senator. “In one city there was an open-air crowd of 30,000 to hear me. In another the local hall was closed to me but 1 got another place and 10.000 people lined up for admission. The newspapers said 3,000 but they were a long way out. Everywhere I went there were these huge crowds to hear Isolation preached.”
I suggested to him that curiosity was part of the reason. “For example, 1 have come to see you tonight purely out of curiosit y and not at all because of sympathy with your views.”
He admitted the point but plunged again into his declaration of the Isolationists’ faith.
“This country,” he said, “knows that it never should have gone into the last war. That brought all our troubles on us. The slumps came and they were terrible, and now, before we have recovered, we’re going through the whole business all over again. 1 tell you, if we have war there will be a revolution after it’s over. Now I’m not anti-semitic. I’ve got lots of friends who are Jews and what’s more I don’t hate Roosevelt, although he hates me. But the people of the United States refuse to be drawn into a war which the Jews want out of revenge.”
SO IT WAS the Jews again! “Do you think,” I asked, “that we in Britain have gone to war at the behest of the Jews? If so, what Jews?” “I don’t know,” he said, rather aimlessly, “but the people of the U.S.A. just won’t have it.”
The young man leaned toward me. “If the President declared war,” he said, “and tried to send an expeditionary force to Europe the boys in the Army would refuse to go. They know too much, because ever since the last war they’ve been taught that we were fools and that war gets you nowhere.”
No one could doubt the boy’s sincerity. Even if he was merely repeating one of his father’s points he had embraced it without question.
“Your Army must have strange ideas of discipline,” I said.
“My brother is right,” said young Miss Wheeler, coming to the lad’s aid as sisters have always done. “American soldiers think for themselves.”
So the dialogue went on for an hour with nothing very subtle or compelling.
“I speak for America,” said Wheeler, not dogmatically but with the courtesy which had characterized his manner the whole time. “We will not send an Army to help you so you had better make the best terms you can with Germany. I want Britain to survive.”
“Let me ask you a question, Senator,” 1 said. “Supposing we are beaten, as we may be without U.S. participation, and Canada is attacked —”
‘Then we’d send an army because Canada would come under the Monroe Doctrine.”
“Or South America?”
“We’d send an army there too.” “But you would not send an army to fight while you have powerful allies still in the field, such as Britain and Russia?”
Thus spoke American Isolationist Number One. It was pleasant to have the soft cool air on our faces when we got outside for I was feeling rather warm.
The taxicabs in Washington have no partition between passenger and driver. What is more the average intelligence of Washington taxi drivers is remarkably high. The result is that conversation with them is both natural and instructive.
Coming from Senator Wheeler’s house we asked our driver what he thought about war and an American expeditionary force.
“Well, I’m an administration man,” he said in a pleasing Southern voice, “I believe the President is right in everything he has done. If he says war and wants an army for overseas, then that would be good enough for me. I don’t want to go to a war but 1 just don’t like seeing those other democracies fighting our battle for us. I reckon we should be in it and we’re just waiting for the President to say the word.”
Which is the voice of America? Wheeler or the ordinary man driving a cab?
The Lonely Halifax
LORD HALIFAX, HÍS Majesty’s
J Ambassador to Washington, sat in his huge room at the Embassy and talked of many things. Our conversation switched from one side of the Atlantic to the other, and his word pictures of Churchill, the President, Beaverbrook and others were penetrating and full of observation.
He had come to America in succession to a man who had been a glittering success. He had been assailed as an “appeaser” and a “stuffed shirt.” He had left the Foreign Office where his word was law to become suitor-inchief at the court of Roosevelt.
“I felt very lonely at first,” he said, “but now it is different. 1 like the men I have to do business with and 1 like the ordinary men and women across the country. Instead of any hostility in the Middle West I met with the greatest of kindness everywhere.”
He did not claim, like Wheeler, that his trip had been a triumphal progress. He merely said that the people had been kind and anxious to hear what he could tell them. A strange man, this rich, devoutly religious English aristocrat. Once Edward Wood and a member of the British House of Commons, then Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India with all the pomp of that glittering office, then Lord Halifax, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairsand now His Majesty’s Ambassador to Washington.
Deeply religious and deeply humorous, shy but determined, human without being warm, understanding but without great eloquence, dignified but modest, purposeful yet never arrogant—Halifax may win out yet. His heart is clean and his spirit is good.
But I still think he is a lonely man for all his crowded life.
An off-the-record luncheon at the Overseas Writers’ Club which comprises many of the famous journalists of Washington. Walter Lippmann, well-dressed and with a fine idealism on his brow, was one of them.
“There has been a great advance in this country during the last five weeks,” he said. “American public opinion is really on the move now.”
Raymond Clapper was there and many others. A twenty minute speech and then questions fired at me from all angles. But it was “off the record” so we had better pass on.
This much, though, should be recorded; no newspaper men in the world have a higher average of professional honor than the political correspondents of Washington. It was good to meet them. We who believe in the justice of our cause have much reason to be grateful to them.
The rake’s progress nears its end. The sentimental journey has only a few more hours and a few more miles to go. One last speech in New York and then the Clipper will spread its wings and make for the old world with all its sorrows and excitements.
Whatever lies ahead it will be easier to endure with the memory of the crystal clear loyalty of Canada and the infinite goodwill, if troubled purpose, of the American people.
We live in dreadful times but— by St. George! —they are not dull.
Editor’s Note:—This article was written before Mr. Baxter, interviewed by New York newspaper men, told of his meeting with Senator Wheeler. The Senator called Mr. Baxter by several names. From this account of the meeting, set down immediately after it took place, the reader can form his own opinion.