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Speech in Senate Chamber: Peace Making—Inquiry—Debate Adjourned

Peace Making

Inquiry—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Anne C. Cools rose pursuant to notice of October 28, 2014:

That she will call the attention of the Senate to November 11, known to all as Remembrance Day, of this, the centennial year of the July 28 start of hostilities in the 1914-1918 Great War, which day is given to the national and collective mourning of Canadians, on which we remember and honour the many who served and who fell in the service of God, King and Country, and, whose incalculable sacrifice of their lives, we honour in our simultaneous yet individual, personal acts of prayer and remembrance, wherein we pause and bow our heads together in sacred unity, at the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month, for the many who gave themselves, and:

To Canadian and British peace of mind, freed from the fear and sorrow of the possible sacrifice of their beloved sons to war, so soon again, and, to their "blessed relief," and, to Canadian unanimity in support of their Prime Minister Mackenzie King's stand against war at Chanak, and, to Canadian events, and, to Canadians such as John Wesley Dafoe, the great journalist-editor of the Manitoba Free Press, later the Winnipeg Free Press, who had attended the 1919 Allies' Paris Peace Conference with Prime Minister Robert Borden's Canadian delegation, and, who had supported Canada's position on Chanak, and, who had strenuously opposed Prime Minister Lloyd George's demands to the Dominions and Canada to send troops there, and, to John Dafoe's brilliant account of Canadians and the Canadian Government's desire to live without war against people who had done them no harm, and, to his historic Manitoba Free Press article, titled, The Rise of the Commonwealth Dominion Responsibility For External Affairs, and, to Canada's influence on British politics and the other Dominions, and, to Canada's firm, principled, and vindicated position not to send Canadian troops to the Dardenelles, at Chanak, and, to Canadian-born British Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law's negotiated and lasting peace with Turkey, in the Treaty of Lausanne, that is still in force, and, to the profound truth that the greatest act of peace is simply to make no unnecessary war, and, to make absolutely no war, for the purpose, that is the pursuit of ambition.

She said: Honourable senators, I speak to Remembrance Day and remembering those who served. In 1922, Chanak was Britain's call to the Dominions for troops to this Dardenelles seaport, soon after the Great War, as all still mourned their fallen, and as Canada was then dogged by large social problems.

Led by Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Canadians, not wanting a new war, were hostile to this cabled request, signed by Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, its draftsman. Canadians, like Americans, were then isolationists. They saw no reason why the Turkish peoples should be put out of their lands in Eastern Thrace and Anatolia, or why the Allies' stillborn Sèvres Treaty set such terms. Signed by the Ottoman Sultan, then lacking legitimacy to act for them, these peoples rejected the treaty. Not ratified by Britain, nor the Ottoman parliament, Mustafa Kemal never agreed to or signed it. He had repudiated it, as did the National Assembly, the two then the de facto government of Turkey. Their 1919 National Pact said that the lands inhabited by the Turkish-speaking peoples would remain a whole. To know Prime Minister Lloyd George's war drive at Chanak, is to know the state of his Liberal-Conservative Coalition Government, and British politics in 1921. British politics stopped his war. The Conservative Caucus vote to end their Coalition support brought his defeat and resignation. The man to whom Britons then looked was the Canadian, Andrew Bonar Law, their new Prime Minister.

Honourable senators, these political events had an important Canadian component. Here at home, there was Prime Minister Mackenzie King's refusal to send troops to Chanak, and his eagle eye on British politics. At the centre of British politics, there were two Canadians, Conservatives Andrew Bonar Law and Max Aitken, both devoted public men. Born in New Brunswick, September 16, 1858, Bonar Law moved to Britain in 1870, and was elected to the House of Commons in 1900 for Glasgow Blackfriars. Aitken, the younger, born in Ontario, May 25, 1879, had lived in New Brunswick. He moved to Britain and was elected to the Commons in 1910 for Ashton, which is near Manchester. Twice a cabinet minister, he was a great writer and press baron, owning the Daily Express, the London Evening Standard and the Sunday Express. In 1917, he became Lord Beaverbrook. He knew Prime Minister Robert Borden very well and corresponded with him.

Honourable senators, in the 1918 general election, Prime Minister Lloyd George had gone to the electorate with the Conservative Party Leader Bonar Law, as coadjutor in their Coalition Government. That election gave Bonar Law's Tory Party a majority in the Commons. In 1921, Lloyd George's Coalition was still kept, was still sustained mostly by Tories, Lloyd George's Coalition Liberals, and 12 Coalition Labour.

The Opposition was mostly Sinn Fein Party, 67 Labour, and Asquith Liberals. Bonar Law, known as the main prop of the Coalition, was firm on the Coalition's election pledges, and against any plans to defeat Lloyd George.

Honourable senators, Max Aitken and Andrew Bonar Law were very close. Both wanted strong cooperative ties between British Empire countries, which they thought should form a single economic and political unit, a view somewhat shared by Robert Borden. Aitken had bought the Daily Express to promote Empire solidarity. In his 1963 book, The Decline and Fall of Lloyd George, Beaverbrook wrote about Andrew Bonar Law, the great Canadian-born, British Conservative Leader, never of robust health and worsening, at page 17:

He was embarrassed by the masterful and arrogant conduct of Lloyd George, not only in the distribution of offices, but also in his insistence on building up a personal Political Fund by the sale of honours . . . .

Beaverbrook added, at page 17:

Meanwhile Bonar Law's health was suffering under the strain of trying to curb Lloyd George's ambition to undertake foreign projects and expeditions which might endanger the alliance with France and even the peace of Europe. In this unhappy atmosphere, Bonar Law was attacked by a bout of influenza. . . . His spirits were low. He resigned on March 17th, 1921. Lloyd George, though regretting the departure of his colleague, did not make any sustained effort to retain his second-in-command. Possibly the Prime Minister was somewhat wearied by the frequently repeated newspaper comment that the Government's fortunes depended upon the support of Bonar Law. The Prime Minister's friends said that he was confident he would reign successfully without the need for any helper to hold his arms on high.

Beaverbrook notes, at page 234:

Bonar Law was modest . . . . He and Lloyd George had first come together in 1916. Then . . . Bonar Law, called upon to form a Government, relinquished the honour to Lloyd George. . . . content that all the public glory and the triumph should go to his colleague, whom he served with unswerving loyalty. He had never sought the first place for himself. When confronted with necessity he accepted it with reluctance and laid it down with relief.

Honourable senators, by May 1921, Lloyd George was in steep political decline. Conditions were bad. Two million were out of work. Serious conflict had grown between the Tories and Liberals in Lloyd George's Coalition built in his displacement of the great Liberal Leader Herbert Asquith, which many still saw as treachery, saying that he "shed his friends like the ermine sheds its winter coat." He was in conflict with his cabinet. Edwin Montagu, Secretary of State for India, fought Lloyd George's support of Greek claims to Turkish lands, and the harsh Sèvres Treaty terms. Montagu wanted to resign on Lloyd George's policy to run the Turks out of Europe, and tried to force him to announce to the public that the British Government did not intend to turn the Turks out of Constantinople. There was also Lloyd George's abiding conflict with his Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon, who at the end of the day would craft the Lausanne peace with Mustafa Kemal. Lloyd George, undeterred, went straight ahead, full speed, and even planned for a fall election.

Honourable senators, Lloyd George's Coalition was as a house divided. Lord Beaverbrook writes, at page 53:

Lloyd George, in his growing isolation and falling popularity, longed for the days when Bonar Law had protected and fortified the Parliamentary reputation of the Coalition.

Lloyd George's Turkish policy fuelled Cabinet conflict, and also Britain's conflict with France and Italy, both countries eager for peace with Kemal and his new Turkey. Foreign war at Chanak was a large British public issue. In June 1921, Prime Minister Lloyd George wrote to Bonar Law. About his letter, Beaverbrook relates, at page 57:

In his letter the Prime Minister mentioned "Crises chasing each other like the shadows of clouds across the landscape." . . . He declared that he missed Bonar Law's counsel more than he could tell, concluding, "I want to see you."

Bonar Law replied that his health was better, but he did not wish to re-enter politics. About Bonar Law, Lord Beaverbrook said, at page 57:

He declared that Lloyd George had done "the best that was possible but even the best is not very good". And he promised to see Lloyd George on a visit . . . .

Honourable senators, most knew that Prime Minister Lloyd George's Coalition would not last long. Bonar Law visited London on June 16, 1921. He listened carefully to the copious reports of disaster. Lloyd George even offered him the foreign ministry. Bonar Law saw his dear friend Max Aitken, who believed in his potential to unite Britain and the Empire as one unit. Bonar Law was resolute not to re-enter politics, nor to join any plans to defeat Lloyd George or his successor, Austen Chamberlain, the Conservative Party Leader. Firm in his wish not to succeed Lloyd George, he was greatly concerned for his beloved Conservative Party's unity and future. Prime Minister Lloyd George, wrongly convinced that Max Aitken was behind his problems, launched a full-scale attack on Bonar Law. By 1922 fall, Lloyd George and Britain were at the brink of war with Mustafa Kemal's Turkish national forces at Chanak.

Honourable senators, on October 7, 1922, a letter noting the grave dangers of Lloyd George's reckless Chanak venture, appeared in The Times. Signed "A Colonial," it was known to all that Bonar Law was its author. By then, few in Lloyd George's cabinet supported him. The Dominions except New Zealand, his military advisors, the Foreign Office, the British public and the media were all opposed. Former British M.P. David Walder, in his 1969 book, The Chanak Affair, cites "A Colonial", Bonar Law's letter, at page 310:

. . . The prevention of war and massacre in Constantinople and the Balkans is not especially a British interest, it is the interest of humanity. . . .

What then in such circumstances ought we to do? Clearly the British Empire, which includes the largest body of Mahomedans in any state, ought not to show any hostility or unfairness to the Turks.

. . . The course of action for our own government seems to me clear. We cannot alone act as the policemen of the world. . . .

"A Colonial's" words quickened and crystallized British public opinion against this war.

Honourable senators, I come now to Lloyd George's Dominions cable, and its senior member, Canada's, refusal to send troops to Chanak. This was large in the October 19, 1922, Carlton Club vote, the name for the Conservative Caucus members of parliament's regular meetings at the club, just days after Prime Minister Lloyd George's foolish Chanak cable to Prime Minister Mackenzie King. The question at the Carlton Club was would the Conservative members end their support for Lloyd George's Coalition? The majority of Conservatives voted to end it. This was a vote for peace with Turkey. On Remembrance Day we must uphold the triumph of peace over war at Chanak by that single vote. War is the failure of politics. The Carlton Club vote was the success of politics.

Honourable senators, Bonar Law had at first declined to attend. The night before, after meeting with his close friend Max Aitken, Bonar Law, "A Colonial," was ready to face his greatest challenge. Lord Beaverbrook wrote about this, at page 198:

He calmly refilled his pipe and said . . .: "I am going to the meeting." It was a dramatic moment. . . . I asked if I might make a statement to the Press Association that he would be at the Carlton Club. He concurred. I fled. . . . I called . . . the Editor of the Press Association, . . ., and told him I was authorised to publish the statement: "Bonar Law will go to the Party meeting at the Carlton Club."

About next morning, Lord Beaverbrook notes, at page 199:

The front page of almost every newspaper displayed the statement that Bonar Law was going to the Carlton Club. Every political writer in Fleet Street knew that the announcement foreshadowed the fall of Lloyd George's Government that very day. And so it was.

Honourable senators, days before, on October 11, the insightful and worried Beaverbrook had written to an American friend about the next few days:

The failure of the Prime Minister's Greek policy had resulted in a complete collapse of his prestige with the Conservatives . . . The immediate future will decide whether the Conservative Party is to remain intact, or whether the Prime Minister is strong enough to split it. It will have been a great achievement to have smashed two parties in one short administration.

About the Carlton Club gathering, he said, at page 201:

Austen Chamberlain opened the meeting. . . ., he stressed the Socialist threat from Labour.

The Labour Party's strong growth, a menace to the older parties, was large. Beaverbrook describes "A Colonial," the Canadian Andrew Bonar Law's principled speech that morning, at page 201:

Bonar Law . . . was greeted with a great shout of cheering. He made it clear that the Party ought to come out of the Coalition and go to the country on its own. He said:

I confess frankly that in the immediate crisis in front of us I do personally attach more importance to keeping our party a united body than to winning the next election.

Arthur James Balfour spoke for the Coalition. Beaverbrook tells of the vote results at page 202:

Bonar Law was supported by 187 votes against 87.

Bonar Law had a clean and clear win, and his Near East peace prevailed. King George V was away. He rushed back to the Palace for 3 p.m. At 4:15 p.m. Lloyd George submitted his resignation, advising the King to send for Bonar Law, who arrived at 6:10 p.m. and agreed to form a government.

Honourable senators, Lloyd George and Co. thought that Bonar Law, "A Colonial," would fail, and they would soon be back in power. At the November 15 general election, just days after the Carlton Club vote and weeks after Lloyd George's Dominions cable, Bonar Law's Conservatives won a clear majority by over 70 seats. The big surprise was the Labour Party became the Official Opposition. There went Lloyd George, and the great British Liberal Party. I, "a Colonial," heard much of this as a child in the British West Indies, where Asquith Liberals had been strong. Three Canadians, three colonials, were large in the sacred act of avoiding war and bloodshed. Beaverbrook wrote, at page 224:

I praised Bonar Law's judgement and discretion. The public had shown strong approval and immense confidence. . . . He must now determine his policy and follow it resolutely. He spoke of the difficulties . . . he emphasized his Near Eastern policy. He had come to power on its success. . . . The country wanted peace and he must give it peace. He knew the temper of the people and that war was averted by popular will. He said that he must deal with the French. . . . Relations were strained.

Honourable senators, Canada's Prime Minister Mackenzie King stopped war at Chanak and claimed our power in foreign affairs, never again dictated by Whitehall. On August 3, 1925, the Manitoba Free Press printed a piece by its editor, John Wesley Dafoe, headed "The Rise of the Commonwealth Dominion Responsibility For External Affairs." He wrote, at page 6:

The theory of Empire government by means of the Imperial cabinet . . . was tested and destroyed by the Chanak episode . . . . The British members . . . having given the signal, their Australasian colleagues came back with the required automatic reply; whereupon they waited for the instantaneous rallying behind them of all the peoples of the Empire. Which did not come. Instead, Canada explicitly declined to "play up" to the lead given her; South Africa marked time in a mood of masterly inactivity; Anglo-Indian opinion . . . was hostile . . .; while in Great Britain it needed but this . . . adventure to crystallize the general feeling that the country would be better served by a more sober-minded administration. Lloyd George fell and Bonar Law came in, pledged to a regime of "tranquility."

Political dissensions in Great Britain attendant upon the destruction of the Coalition government provided the revelation that the cablegram to the Dominions summoning them . . . to a new conflict was not the . . . policy of the British government; . . . . These were the work of a section of the government: . . . . Owing to time differences . . ., the Canadian government learned of the summons and of New Zealand's acceptance from the public press before its own message was decoded. . . .

When the Canadian government, instead of replying "Ready-aye-ready" to the cablegram, . . . declared that no decision could be reached until parliament was consulted, the scheme of government . . . by an Imperial cabinet broke down, South Africa contributing to this end by a judicious marking of time made possible by Gen. Smuts' opportune absence in the wilds of Zululand. . . . The possible mischances of such a system had been . . . revealed. Had it operated in September, 1922, . . ., the people of Great Britain might . . . have found themselves involved in a war to which they were opposed; with the Dominions committed by the act of the Prime Minister of Great Britain to a course of action which would have been repudiated by the people the moment they could set the necessary constitutional machinery in motion. . . .

Honourable senators, I close now with Lord Beaverbrook's most sensitive words about the great Andrew Bonar Law, who was never very healthy, and who was in office for about seven months, and died about a year after taking office. I close with Lord Beaverbrook, at page 232:

The advantages of Bonar Law's Administration remained to benefit all mankind. And the greatest benefit is the story of the threatened war with Turkey. Here was a crisis. The British Government was ready to take arms. An alternative leader arose. The public rallied to his support. They were determined to pursue the paths of peace. The results were swift and certain. Where we had been threatened with war, where the storm clouds had darkened the sky, we now followed paths of peace with the bright sunshine of tranquility. And to Bonar Law we give credit for that blessed relief.

We will remember them. Lest we forget.

I thank honourable senators for sharing in this beautiful story of this man, Andrew Bonar Law, who was born in Canada and the important role that Canadians played in the Turkish peace, and in Remembrance Day when we uphold and remember the multitudes of those who served and of those who fell. It is important that we remember this particular episode and this particular Canadian, Andrew Bonar Law's efforts of peace. This man, who lost his two sons to the Great War. Thank you.

(On motion of Senator Martin, for Senator Meredith, debate adjourned.)

The remainder of this day's Senate Debates are available here.