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   Chapter 3 IIIToC

The Red Watch By J. A. Currie Characters: 10492

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


"I suppose now that Great Britain has declared war on Germany, Canada will throw in her lot with the United States," so laughingly spoke an American friend that I met the day Great Britain declared war on Germany.

"Not a bit of it," I said. "Before the week is over you will hear the drums beating and see recruits foregathering here. Canada is at war as well as Great Britain."

"But won't you have difficulties with Quebec?"

"Nothing of the kind. Depend upon it, the last gun in favor of British connection in Canada will, if necessary, be fired by a French-Canadian. They marry young and may be a trifle slow in volunteering on that account. It requires a great effort for a man to tear himself away from a young, helpless wife and a large small family, but they come of good fighting stock, and when it comes to war, blood will tell."

"Well, you can depend on the Monroe-doctrine anyway."

"Yes, we believe in the Monroe-doctrine just the same as you do. We are going to fight for it on the Plains of Flanders."

"But you don't mean that Canada is going to take an active part in the war?"


"Well, nobody ever thought you would."

In this he was expressing the traditional view of Colonial connection. At the time of the break with the American colonies, Turgot, the great French economist, coined a phrase which has been accepted by the chancelleries of Europe as a truism: "Colonies are like fruit, when they become ripe they drop from the parent stem."

When Germany decided to cross the Meuse into Belgium the Emperor had been assured by his foreign office that Great Britain would not take part in the war. There were the disturbing questions of Home Rule for Ireland, Socialism and anti-Militarism, and the Colonies had grown in wealth and population to such an extent that they were ready to drop from the parent stem if ever they would do so. Would Great Britain risk civil war at home and the loss of her Colonies abroad in order to vindicate her pledge given years before, to keep inviolate the frontiers of Belgium? The answer was the prompt declaration of war on Germany, the cessation of political warfare at home, abroad the splendid enthusiasm of the Colonies with offers of men and money.

Previous to the break with the American Colonies, Great Britain had adopted a colonial policy very much on what we would call Imperial lines. The Navigation Laws of Cromwell gave her virtually command of all trade by sea, protective tariffs and bounties built up inter-Imperial and home trade.

At the end of the Seven Years' War, the Empire, judged from the world's standard, was far greater than it is now. The Colonies were vaster and comparatively more powerful. The general impression now is that Britain's Colonies in America were in those days managed the same as Germany managed her African Colonies, that they were oppressed and had nothing to say about how they were governed and that the mother country played the part of a despot. Such was not the case. The constitutions of the American Provinces were most democratic, more so than many colonial constitutions of to-day. All the provinces in America possessed a parliament elected by the people, and three of them, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, elected an upper House or Senate. Rhode Island and Connecticut elected their own Governors, and these two provinces, along with Maryland, could enact laws without the veto or interference of British legislators or the Crown. In 1762 Great Britain had 337,000 men under arms, and of these over 25,000 were Colonials from America. Fifteen thousand New England seamen volunteered for the Spanish War, and during the Seven Years' War the Colonials manned over 400 privateers or ships of war, and the State of Pennsylvania spent £440,000, a great sum of money in those days, for military purposes.

With the Colonies so loyal and so willing to assist Great Britain in time of trouble and danger, how was it that in a decade the Empire was shattered and the major portion of the Colonies were busy building up a nation of their own? At this distance of time it is still hard to view the question dispassionately.

Who was responsible for this great criminal folly?

Was it some individual?

Was it the old Colonial policy?

Or, was it petty parish politics?

The trend of political thought in the Colonies has generally been the antithesis of political thought in Great Britain. Colonial thought has always been an enigma to the British. Of recent years it has been both disturbing and confusing. The Colonial, who, with his own eyes, within the span of a few years in his own country, views the transition of a bit of landscape from barbarism to civilization, the hunter giving way to the shepherd, the herder to the farmer, cities and towns springing up over night with factories and banking established in a few months, seldom arrives at the same political conclusion as the theorist who tries to conjure up the genesis of political economy from books and musty documents. His is the school of hard experience, which teaches lessons that fine-spun theories cannot upset. It is so with his Colonial theories of economics and government

. The dead weight of tradition does not hang around his neck where State affairs are concerned and precedent only counts when it is right and just.

Governor Pownall, of New Jersey, immediately previous to the time of the Revolutionary war, wrote a book, entitled: "The Administration of the British Colonies." In this work he pointed out the necessity of closer political union between the Colonies and the mother country; in fact, he outlined an Imperial constitution. He pointed out that there had always existed two lines of thought among English-speaking people. One favored unity, centralization, Imperialism, the other disunion, or individualism, claiming that in the absolute independence of each small unit of the Empire rested liberty and freedom. This struggle is still on.

Capt. R. Clifford Darling, AdjutantToList

Had Pitt followed up his idea of uniting the Colonies into a Dominion, or into an even greater union such as he was pressed then to do, the American Revolution would in all probability have been averted.

But Pitt's energies were turned to the war then being carried on in Germany, and the Colonies were for the time-being neglected with disastrous results.

The historical philosophers of modern Germany cherished the delusion that history would repeat itself.

Ever since the American Revolution, Great Britain had adopted a different Colonial policy from the policy of Pitt. The navigation laws had been repealed, protection and bounties had been withdrawn, the doctrine of laisser faire prevailed.

When the American Colonies secured their independence, each colony of the thirteen was a helpless independent unit. They had united for the war of Independence, but the union was one of sentiment, there was no constitution, no common ground on which they could unite for political action. Fortunately, the war had produced such wise patriotic men as Washington, Franklin and Hamilton, and through their efforts a political union of the Colonies was accomplished. It took the better part of ten years to do this. It was part of the policy of reconstruction. Later on, the Colonies in Canada followed suit. They united under a constitution which, at the same time, guaranteed the autonomy of the provinces within and solidarity in external affairs. Australia and South Africa followed suit. The policy of Imperial unity had been gathering force and momentum, but when the great war came it had not yet reached that point where the pressing of a button would set machinery at work which would marshall all the financial, mechanical, political and military resources of the Empire. That day will come.

The example of the Colonies in rallying immediately to the aid of the mother country proved the saying that after all it is the horse, not the harness, that pulls the load. The Imperial harness is an aggregation of shreds and patches, not yet even a conception, but when the time of trial came, the Imperial spirit rose superior to all obstacles, surprising the German Emperor and the whole world.

In vain were the seeds of sedition sown in various parts of the Empire and in neutral countries.

An old Irish woman voiced the Home Rule sentiment abroad thus: "The English have not used the Irish right, but we will forget that for the moment, for we will never be able to lift our heads again in New York if we let the Germans bate us."

The most preposterous thing in connection with the German program was the propaganda of anti-militarism preached among the British people, and the most amazing thing was that the British were so lacking in self-respect that they would listen to such doctrines. A noble and unsullied past has given the British people the right to be in the highest sense a military nation. For a century the sun has never risen, but its rays have fallen on the face of a Briton who has died for liberty. Wherever Britain has been compelled to draw the sword there has followed freedom and peace. There is the record of India, Canada, of Egypt and of South Africa to point to. No person unless steeped to the eye-brows in pro-Germanism can, in the face of that record, assert that Great Britain ever used her military power to oppress the weak, or tyrannize over the people she, of necessity, had to conquer. Why then should Britain be asked to disarm and turn over the business of maintaining the world's peace to the Hun and the Turk? To preach anti-militarism to a British people is to insult their intelligence. Britain alone of all nations has brought peace with her sword. The interests of Christianity, of humanity and of civilization demand that she be always a great military power. Had she not listened to the pro-German pleas of the so-called anti-militarists, Austria-Germany would not have dared to dream of conquering the world. Much suffering would have been avoided, and life and treasure would have been saved. This war is fairly laid at the door of those who practised and preached anti-militarism in the British Empire. If Great Britain had possessed a national army of half a million men in 1913, there would have been no war.

Somebody has to police the world and the best policeman is the man who wears khaki and speaks the English tongue.

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