Letter from America

Letter from America

YOU CAN’T BREAK A MOONBEAM

Beverley Baxter April 1 1953
Letter from America

Letter from America

YOU CAN’T BREAK A MOONBEAM

Beverley Baxter April 1 1953

Letter from America

YOU CAN’T BREAK A MOONBEAM

Beverley Baxter

IN A FEW hours I shall be leaving for Texas, then hopping to Kansas City, finally coming back to New York for a last speech, and departing for England, home and beauty. At the present moment I am so coffee-colored from the sun in Jamaica that I only hope that I shall not be refused a room in the Texas hotel, for they are still sensitive about chocolate complexions in that part of the world.

Before I left Jamaica there was tremendous excitement about the visit of Winston Churchill. Usually when he can steal a few days from the political treadmill he goes to the South of France and refreshes his spirit by painting Mediterranean scenes and enjoying the nourishment of the sun and the soft loveliness of moonlit skies. But this time he chose to holiday in one of Britain’s own tropic colonies.

Yet I have a feeling that the great Churchill will be faced with trouble even in this Coronation year when the Battle of Parliament resumes. Some time after he took office during the last war he said: ‘T have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.”

Yet the liquidation goes on at a pace which, if it does not actually accelerate, certainly does not lessen.

I remember so well, early in 1939, when a few of us were dining with Ribbentrop in London. He was not

the host but he could not have been more assured or pompous if he had

been paying the bill. Quite openly we discussed the possibility of war and he prophesied that a second world war, no matter which side won, would see the disintegration of the British Empire.

After all,” he said, "what holds your empire together? Nothing but moonbeams. He was obviously pleased with this pronouncement but we recovered some ground when a Tory MP said in reply, "You Germans believe in chains but when a chain is broken it is finished. Tell me, Herr Ambassador, when you have cut a moonbeam what have you accomplished? The moonbeam is still there.”

I thought of these words when I saw the wretched Ribbentrop, older ” than sin or death, sentenced to be hanged at Nuremberg. The moonbeams had outlasted the chains.

Yet now, in this year of 1953, this year of fate and uncertainty, I wonder if he was not nearer the truth than we believed. Was he merely being arrogant or was the spirit of prophecy upon him?

While lecturing across the U. S. in 1946 I conversed with Americans of all types and condition and was constantly asked why Britain did not give India her freedom. I told them that Churchill sent out Sir Stafford Cripps to promise India dominion status as soon as the war was over, but neither Gandhi nor Nehru would agree.

With their special gift for oversimplification the Americans argued that we ought to give the Indians their complete freedom right away. Nor was this a policy put forward merely by the man in the street, or should we say the man in the Cadillac? Who in heck were these British who felt themselves called upon to rule half the universe?

It was a hard question to answer in a sentence. I told them India was not a nation but a subcontinent of conflicting races and religions, with a caste system which actually included a section known as "thé untouchables” afterwards conveniently designated under the heading scheduled classes. Behind all this was the deep-rooted division between the Hindu and the Mohammedan, to say nothing of the independent states with their individual rulers. Undoubtedly our occupation of India had created the snobbery of the Anglo-Indians, especially on the lemale side, but the historical fact remains that under the British Raj we gave Indians the greatest colonial administration in all history and preserved them for a hundred years and more from internal and external war.

Hardly had the socialists come to power in Britain when, with almost indecent haste, the dark subcontinent was divided into the Republic of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. Lord Louis Mountbatten was the chosen instrument of this great reform, and so determined was he to accomplish it without delay that the newly created frontier left territories in which the Hindus and Mohammedans were inextricably mixed, and no longer were the British there able to maintain law and order. The slaughter broke out. Not only thousands, but tens and hundreds of thousands of people were j massacred. The crazy idealism which I thought that full freedom could be created overnight was crimson with I blood.

To be fair to Attlee and his party i they had always been ashamed of what is known as imperialism. It seemed wrong to them that nations should be divided into those that were saddled ; and those who rode.

I Although the British had fought back and forward in the war over the great spaces of Burma, the socialists : chucked that country to a political ! gang who claimed they had seized power and must therefore represent the people.

Britain had created a mandate for Palestine, thus providing a sanctuary i for Jews fleeing from persecution — but, when Hitler was defeated, the Jews in Palestine shot British troops who had done so much to give them their freedom.

Egypt took the cue. What right had Britain to keep troops in the Canal Zone? It is true that the British, owning the controlling shares, had internationalized the Suez Canal and given safe passage to all ships of peaceful ! intent but why should they act as if j they had been appointed to rule the I universe?

Human nature does not alter greatly through the centuries and few of us weep bitter tears when a man who has enjoyed great wealth and privilege is brought down to the common level. In fact, we find something rather satisfying in seeing the old aristocrat on a bus instead of in his coach or limousine. The instinct to blow a pea at a top hat is still strong in the urchinminded. As with men, so with nations.

It is true the Americans were sorry for us, nor did they want us to go out of business altogether. They gave socialist Britain a great loan on the condition we would sign the Bretton Woods agreement which would sharply curtail the ability of Britain and the dominions and colonies to trade with each other on a preferential basis. I took part in the parliamentary rebellion against the American loan but we were outnumbered not only by the socialists ; but by half of our own Tory party led by Churchill who abstained and would not vote one way or the other.

Churchill hated the whole thing, but : believed that the loan was necessary i even if the conditions were galling.

1 disagreed with my leader then and I i do not see any reason now to change ! that view.

The Americans could see nothing wrong in Nebraska trading with Illinois behind a tariff barrier because these were component states within the Union. Yet why should there not j be component states held together by the great waterways of the world? What is there so sacred about land as opposed to water? But apparently it was wrong, very wrong indeed for Britain to think that she could put a j tarif! wall around the British union of nations scattered across the seas.

Not that the Americans were ungrateful for what Britain had done in j the past hundred and more years. The Monroe Doctrine which proclaimed the sanctity of American territorial waters would have had no more value than a Micawber IOU if the British fleet had not underwritten it.

When the U. S. was exhausted by the war of the North and South the British poured in millions upon millions of'

, capital to build up the standard of life in the republic. I agree it was good business for the British but 1 also

affirm that it was world statesmanship as well. ’The British have many faults but they possess a sense of destiny that makes them wise in their generation.

But in the two world wars of 191-1 and 1939, which were wars of barbarism against civilization, the Americans claimed a vast proportion of' those British investments in payment for arms sent to Britain to fight civilization’s battle. Nor did the Americans merely acquire the shares. They took over British-owned companies with their patents and secrets to compeí, against the British parent companies in world markets. It is not a pretty story no matter how you examine it.

I do not deny the generosity and warmth of America in the months that Britain and her empire held the line alone against Hitler. When, in London, we were being bombed night after night and the Germans were rushing through their plans for invasion, the Americans acclaimed us as if we were the ancient Romans.

But you cannot go on pitying or congratulating a nation for ever and, when the war was over, poor old John Bull was rather a bore. He wasn’t working hard enough. He wasn’t putting his house in order. He was wasting millions upon a silly health service, he was holding out his cap for money, he was hanging onto his empire as if he thought that Britain was still a great imperial power.

Why Candles at the Altar?

In Britain we even began to feel the change in our own kinsmen overseas. In spite of the fact that the selfgoverning dominions had been formed with Britain into a commonwealth there were a lot of imperialists who still spoke of “the Empire.” We all know how a father thinks his sons need his advice even when they have reached manhood’s estate, but the idea that stricken, tired, lazy Britain could imagine that she was still the heart and pulse-beat of the English-speaking world was just silly. There was a place for her, an honored place, hut only as an honored relic.

It is true the monarchy was still in England—a fact which gave a special dignity to the Old Country that could not be taken from her. But even in the attitude to the monarchy there had to be a realization that everything is subject to change.

What about this old - fashioned custom of sending out a governorgeneral to the dominions? It is true that the dominions were always consulted but why should an Englishman be selected when there were plenty of able local men available?

Perhaps one might ask —Why the candles at the altar? Why the singing of God Save The King or Queen? Why should there be a mystique of royalty when common sense is all that is needed? 1 have neither the right nor the desire to criticize the action of any of our kinsmen in saying that the Queen’s representative should be a citizen of the particular dominion. In fact there were many people in Britain who thought that the change was advisable and inevitable.

Canada was the last to make the change and was fortunate to have so distinguished a public servant as Vincent Massey to become the first Canadian-born governor-general. And yet, as a Canadian, I had hoped that Canada would choose the moment to say: “We are so strong in our manhood as a nation, so rich in resources and so fortunate in our British kinship and our American neighbors that we do not need to proclaim our maturity to the world. The Sovereign resides in Britain and is the living symbol of' that Now that you have eaten the new “enriched” bread—how do you like it? Delicious, isn’t it? Just the sort of light, delicate, white bread most Canadians have insisted upon having—but with such an important difference!

NEW ENRICHED BREAD is BOON for CANADIANS

Serve it for more enjoyment — more food value —

at no more cost !

Today you can put white bread on the table with the comfortable knowledge that it will take on increased responsibility for the proper nourishing of your family. That is very satisfying knowledge to have, since bread goes on many family tables for every meal of the day.

It was for this reason that, in their all-out search to improve nutrition standards, scient ists turned t heir at tenlion to bread. They learned, beyond question, that public preference was strongly for the white loaf with a delicati; inner crumb and a crisp and golden crust. Breads of other color, texture and ingredients hold a share of Canada’s affection, but the leader has long been the light white loaf.

They also knew, however, that in the process of milling the fine white flour for such bread, certain vitamins and minerals natural to the wheat were inevitably reduced.

So they tackled the problem of giving back to the flour—without changing its popular character—nutritionallyimportant elements that had been removed, with other parts of the wheat, during the milling process. They found a way to supplement the fine white flour with three of the B vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine and Riboflavin) and one mineral, iron. This gave us today’s “enriched flour”, from which all “en riched bread” is made.

“Enriched” bread, the result of long years of study, experiment and observation, is the delicious new white bread which is now available from your own baker or favorite shop.

“Enriched” bread is the same in appearance, the same in flavor, the same in cost, as the white loaf that has been given so many other improvements throughout the years.

But now, along with everything bread has meant as an energy food of great importance, there are these additional vitamin and iron factors available to you in every “enriched” loaf.

Thiamine to promote growth, maintain appetite, assist normal digestion and aid metabolism.

Niacin to help keep tissues healt hy.

Riboflavin to promote growth and help keep the skin, eyes and other body tissues healthy.

Iron to help build the red blood cells.

These supplements in the “enriched” bread can assist you in your constant effort to feed your family wisely and well.

Budget Help Here

“Enriched” bread protects your budget, too! At. no additional cost, you give your family the important, supplements now contained in the new loaf—and you can do so in a hundred ways!

For bread is not only I he most widelyused food when served just, in its natural form as bread or toast. It is a low-cost stretcher for higher-cost foods making them go further and often giving them added at t ract ion or even establishing much of their character. Serve your poached or scrambled eggs on golden toast . . . make

toast cases in your muffin pans, to be filled with creamed leftovers of meat or fish, and

vegetables . . . use big fluffy crumbs or small dice of bread as the base of flavorsome stuffings to go between fish fillets or into a steak roll or between thinly-sliced chops or to stuff a bird . . . cover your casseroles with a thick layer of bread crumbs tossed in melted butter or margarine . . . scallop fish, fowl, meat or vegetables with layers of finely-diced bread . . . improve the texture and enlarge the volume of your meat or fish loaves and patties, with a generous proportion of bread . . . make exquisite bread custards for dessert, and enhance your tea-tray with cinnamon toast , honey toast or maple toast ... in every case, you can use the new “enriched” bread.

undying greatness of a people which has spread wisdom, toleration and glory to the world. Therefore we ask Her Majesty to continue to send her representative to Rideau Hall and we shall greet him with that same warmth that we have always shown to his predecessors.”

But it was not to be. Great Britain had been cruelly injured and impoverished by the war. Her cities were stricken by enemy action. Her people were tired and undernourished. She needed food and raw materials and economic co-operation but, above all, she needed the sustaining of her prestige. I agree that the Socialist Experiment was unfortunate inasmuch as it seemed that the British had grown soft and that the United Kingdom had lost its soul in pursuit of free medicine, subsidized food and the pension mind. And certainly the socialist philosophy appeared to argue that imperialism was dead and that the liquidation of the British Empire was at hand.

Yet it would be historically unfair to state that the socialists were indifferent to the colonies which were still under British control. Many brave projects were launched and many attempts made to raise the standard of living among the subject races moving haltingly toward self-government.

Nor should anyone decry the swiftness of the Labour Government in declaring full support to the United Nations in the Korean War, nor the courage shown when the government turned its back upon the very soul of the socialist faith and brought in compulsory two years military service.

But, no matter what Britain did, whether she was governed by socialists or eventually in 1951 by the Conservatives, an entirely new factor had arisen in the world. By the very fact of her existence America had become an alternative leader of the British Commonwealth and Empire. The American dollar had replaced the crusader’s cross. Not even the cry for water from the Black Hole of Calcutta was more anguished than the world cry for dollars. America dazzled men’s thoughts; Britain was little more than the retired company chairman who, for old association’s sake, still sat on the board.

During the war America secured permanent bases on British territory. After the war an American admiral was made commander-in-chief of the combined fleets in the Atlantic; and the same process was about to be repeated in the Mediterranean when the British lion let out a pretty good roar, considering its condition.

American bombing squadrons were stationed in Britain in peacetime. Had there been only one of those squadrons in Britain in 1938 Munich would have been impossible. If there had been one American naval squadron in the Mediterranean in 1939 there might well have been no war.

But all this belongs to the past. American isolationism died in the Hitler holocaust. After the war America assumed the leadership of the Western world and poured out her treasure to create military security against Russia. So conscious was the U. S. of its supremacy that it even entered into a Pacific naval defense pact with Australia and New Zealand

without, inviting Britein to be a partner or to attend the discussions. We raised the matter at Westminster yet neither Australia nor New Zealand seemed to think there was anything wrong in leaving the British out.

America had become the great policeman of the world, the great investor and the great producer, but not the great importer. Britain built her empire by keeping her home market open to the world. America wants to sell but not to buy, except in the matter of necessary raw materials. Today the prosperity or impoverishment of the British colonies is heavily linked with the economic situation in the U. S.

Canada in her growing strength could have done much to hold the balance between the British Empire and the American commercial hegemony, but Canada is also on the dollar and is being drawn more and more into the American orbit. In the years ahead if the British influence continues to decline Canada may well have a long grim struggle to keep her independence on the North American continent.

I HAVE SET DOWN these words today because I feel it necessary that we of the British family of nations should look at facts with a clear eye. I believe that the weakening of Britain is a world tragedy and that the decline and fall of Britain would bring the civilized world down in ruins.

Britain is not finished. Britain is not lazy. Britain is not living on her past but is facing the modern world with high courage. Unhappily there is no great empire figure in British politics to create a new era of prosperity and glory in the colonial territories.

These colonies belong to Britain in conjunction with their own people. It was British treasure, British imagination and British courage that developed them and it was British doctors and scientists and missionaries who conquered disease, built roads and steadily advanced the standard of living.

It is to the colonies that Britain must look for her economic power. The potential wealth of the British colonial territories is beyond the comprehension of the lay mind, and unhappily beyond the comprehension of many British members of parliament.

The dollar cannot save us. Economic union with Western Europe would only drag us down. It may even be that the British dominions, now renamed realms will go their own ways until they retain no connection with Britain more tangible than sentiment and a common loyalty to the crown.

Yet in the character and skill of the British people and in the vast resources of the colonial territories there is the promise of a mighty renaissance. It will need men of vision, audacity and courage to give inspiration to the movement, and it may even cut across existing political divisions.

I prophesy that this resurgence will come about, that the ghost of Joe Chamberlain will walk again, and that those two sturdy veterans of the empire struggle—Lord Beaverbrook and Leo Amery—will cheer them on.

The world has found no substitute for the leadership of Britain. Neither the American dollar nor the tyranny ot Communism can supply the inspiration, the wisdom and the greatness which alone can guide the world to peace and sanity. Independent of America, yet in close communion with America, the British may once more give to the world a new conception of life.

Britain was born to leadership just as she was born to be the mother of nations, and her story is not ending.