Premier Mackenzie King of Canada

  1. Pillars of World Peace

“What can be done to put the Pacific situation upon a basis of settled peace?”

Light upon this question, upon the general question of world tranquillity, upon the nationalistic sentiments and policies involved, upon the spiritual and mental attitudes ofd public men likely, in due course, to affect the issue—light upon this intricate and vital congeries of material and immaterial problems was sought without bias and with entire catholicity of sympathy.

William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, is one of the constituents—and by no means an unimportant one—among the human factors of such an inquiry. He is such because he is a leader in a vigorous and growing modern State with a definite and tenaciously-held point of view touching world affairs. Canada has her place, her indefeasible rights, in the Pacific; and she has her living points of contact wherever a general conflagration might threaten humanity.

Influential in Canada, and holding a position of high responsibility there, Mackenzie King is of political consequence in a wider field. He is so for two substantial reasons, (1) because he is a Canadian of authority in British imperial councils, and (2) because, as an intermediary or liaison agency—a golden bridge—between Britain and the United States, he frequently can be of service to all concerned in serious matters of diplomacy. What decisive and weighty forms such service can take—the service of wise and well-disposed Canadian statesmen to the cause of English-speaking harmony—will be apparent when the archives of governments yield their records to history.

Canada’s Forceful Prime Minister.

What is Mackenzie King like personally?

He has had the goodness, in his snowy, picturelike capital, dominating the glory of the Ottawa valley and the hills beyond, to receive me and chat at length. Publicity Mackenzie King never has sought. Through all his party activities; though his remarkable work in adjusting industrial disputes in Canada and in the United States; in his contact with the problems of the Orient, his historic fights against sweating, abuse of the Canadian immigration laws, the opium traffic and other evils—from first to last, in these efforts, which revealed a vigilance and energy rare in the civic realm, Mr. King never was dazzled by the limelight.

My first sight of him was at the door of the House of Commons. It was the hour of adjournment at 6 o’clock, and members were pouring forth into the main corridors of the parliament buildings. Mackenzie King came last, in a brown business suit, a modest figure of medium height, solidly built, fair complexioned, clean shaven, hair thin on the crown, open countenance good humored, sympathetic, and grave. We went to his provate office—the one he had admired as leader of the Opposition and chose to keep when he became Premier, foregoing the office intended for the first minister—a compact room with an air of elegance, on the walls a series of pictorial symbolisms culminating in “Vision” and “Wisdom,” and in one corner a marble bust of Laurier, the lamented old Liberal chieftain.

The Man and His Surroundings.

But it was in the Prime Minister’s home—Laurier House, Laurier Avenue, a beautiful residence bequeathed to Mr. King by Lady Laurier, widow of Sir Wilfrid, and charmingly appointed and furnished—it was here that the opportunity was afforded for a study of the character, ideas and aspirations of Canada’s ministerial leader. That first impression of him as a man of good-humored seriousness, of sympathy, sincerity, occasional gravity, was confirmed. Qualities of this order color his whole speech and manner in public and in private—no flippancy, no cynicism, no fondness for biting epigram, no hint of shuffling or pretense, no uncharity.

Mackenzie King is a religious man—and old-fashioned religious man—who believes, as Lincoln believed, in asking the help of God when duties are heavy and when the path of right and wisdom is obscure or beset with danger. He inspires strong friendships without arousing bitter antipathies. Splendor of character, heroism, move him deeply, as is attested with beauty and power in his book, “The Secret of Heroism,” and in his introduction to a technical volume written by his medical brother when the latter was slowly dying of an incurable malady.

A Student of His Fellow Men.

Science and sentiment, industry and humanity, in Mr. King’s view, far from being incompatible, have an essential affinity. His education in economics—he obtained a master’s degree at the University of Toronto, did postgraduate work at the University of Chicago, where he was a resident at Hull House and formed a high opinion of the genius of Miss Jane Addams; received a doctorate of philosophy from Harvard, gained a Harvard fellowship, and pursued his economic studies in Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy—this scientific education, united with his experience in settling more than fifty trade disputes in Canada, his ten years’ administration as Deputy Minister and Minister of the Canadian Department of Labor, and his prolonged study of industrial warfare and problems in the United States under the auspices of the Rockefeller Foundation, led to the writing of his masterpiece, “Industry and Humanity,” wherein he shows the correlation of these elements, and develops the thesis that industrial peace depends upon the fair representation in executive authority of the four parties to industry—capital, management, labor, and the community.

So much for the spiritual, educational, and temperamental background of the statesman whose opinions concerning certain world problems this article will try to interpret. In the reality and conclusiveness of moral power, it should be remembered, he is an unquestioning believer. He sets not store by double dealing in statecraft. He believes honesty and the Golden Rule are the only standards for decent people in whatever walk of life. Ask him if the edge of these weapons can be turned by others less bright to him, and he will tell you morality, as he tests it, is more finely tempered and sharper than steel.

His Knowledge of Pacific Problems.

“What can be done to put the Pacific situation upon a basis of settled peace?”

Intimacy of touch with the task here suggested came to Mackenzie King in the course of some twenty years of official life, many months of which were given to special investigation of Oriental immigration in Canada, of the social strife resulting therefrom in Vancouver, and of related conditions and methods in Japan, China, and India. Out of this systematic examination of a problem of many aspects, and a problem affecting the deepest human emotions, has come a Canadian legislative and administrative position enabling Canadians to feel that the Dominion is safe, or reasonably safe, from the danger both of too large an Asiatic population and of embittered relations with the Orient.

“First,” to throw an interpretation of Mackenzie King’s thought into direct discourse, “those international relations inseparable from the Pacific, if they are to be discussed serviceably, must be discussed candidly; and, if they are discussed candidly, they must be discussed with a high degree of prudence and of sympathy. In them, it probably is not too much to say, are bound up not only the happiness of mankind but the whole course and character of future civilization.

“There is no reason why war should come in the Pacific; there is every reason why it should not—every reason from every angle of observation. Cultural interchange, friendly, free, continuous, progressive—this, not war, is what the Orient needs, and what the Occident needs, in the Pacific. Our civilizations, in other words, are not antagonistic, not mutually exclusive, but complementary. This is the great fact for statesmen and for all moral and intellectual leaders to grasp and to push powerfully to the front.

Value of Cultural Interchanges.

“War in the Pacific would be a cataclysm to our whole human heritage. Japan, China, all the nations and races of the East, can find means of progress in the West, particularly in the sphere of science as applied to human welfare; and the West can find means of progress in the East, particularly in the spheres of abstract thought and the fine arts. Set up a steady and increasing interchange of these reciprocal advantages, and we shall have a movement tending irresistibly against those sentiments and convictions which, left to drift too far from the influence of a true understanding, might issue in war.

“Critics of the Orient note what they term ‘lower standards of living.’ What they mean, of course, is that the Oriental masses are satisfied with less than will satisfy the masses of the Occident. Our people demand much in the way of food, clothing and shelter. They require a varied diet, have ideas of quality and style in dress and like comfortable, well-furnished homes. Their wants go far beyond the elementary necessities—to gramophones and pianos, to porcelain and glassware, to motor cars, to pleasant, healthful surroundings, and indeed to everything desirable they can afford. They also demand one rest day a week, with its attendant features of worship and social relationships.

Standards of Living East and West.

“All these things cost money, and outlay calls for income. Now, if a population of this kind—a population which has reached this stage of development as a result of generations or centuries of life and effort—finds itself in close juxtaposition and competition with a large population of simpler wants, of less exacting or fastidious tastes, enmity and conflict are sure to result. In such a situation it is economically inevitable that the people who are satisfied with less will displace, at least in great numbers of positions, the people who demand more.

“If the people with more expensive standards were economically superior to the others—sufficiently superior to redress the economic balance—then, to be sure, the likelihood od trouble would be diminished. But, in the contiguity of Orientals and Occidentals in the Western Hemisphere, it well may be argued that no such superiority has shown itself. Immigrants from the Far East, despite the extreme simplicity of their customs and tastes, generally have had efficient minds and bodies for the performance of most kinds of work, and for establishing themselves in trade, and consequently have become an economic and social pressure terminating in an approach to violence.

Simple Living and Efficiency.

“These so-called ‘lower standards of living,’ representing to Western peoples a grim reality, warrant serious thought in the Occident, not merely when they are close at hand, but when they are thousands of miles away on their native territory. In vast disparity of living standards there is the augury of nothing but anxiety to those who are striving for amity and serenity in the world. Disparity of living standards has produced domestic outbreaks; it contains the seeds ot international outbreaks, because there is an international as well as a domestic competition, and the larger struggle is engaging a growing proportion of the energies of men.

“What, then, is the lesson of the inequality of the standards of civilized life? Surely it is that these standards, so far as possible, should be equalized. If we do not want, as we should put it, to descend to the standards of the Orient, let us do all we can to lift those standards to the level of our own. How? By maintaining the friendliest relations with the Orient, extending our trade with it, sending out our missionaries, medical scientists, educators, and engineers to unfold our way of life to our Asiatic brethren—in a word, by spending money, energy, and educational ardor in an endeavor to make the Orientals think as much of our civilization as we think of it.

Equalization of Standards.

“Then there is a further way, and an effective one. We can welcome the international merchants of the Orient to our shores, as we are doing. We can welcome more and more their students and their intelligentsia generally. Japanese, Chinese, and Indian studnets in our universities are all to the good. They are a constantly expanding force for those adjustments and assimilations which alone can bring world harmony. The United States’ allocation of her Boxer indemnity to attract Chinese students to her seats of learning was policy truly enlightened and humane.

“What have these students done, and what will such students always do? They have returned, and always will return, to China as missionaries of the Gospel, and as missionaries also of the ideals, culture, and trade of this Continent. Traveling in China, one cannot fail to be impressed by the number and variety of American manufactures seen on every hand. These articles are in trains, in hotels, and in shops—glassware, cutlery, stoves, clocks, canned fruits and vegetables. China’s students well China of America’s goods. Great Britain, Canada, all Western peoples, well may extend to Oriental students the warmest welcome to their universities.

Western Ways of Orientals.

“It might be conjectured that one favoring the closest and happiest cultural relations among nations and races must favor a slow approach to uniformity. If world unity meant world uniformity, world unity would attract many persons far less strongly than it does. But unity is not uniformity—consider a bouquet, an ensemble of color, attaining a perfect whole; consider an orchestra of many instruments and melodies, but one magnificent harmony; consider a country, like Canada, of countless diversities of river, lake, prairie, and mountain, but with a unity, after all, that is Canada, and Canada alone.

“Cultural interchange, then—interchange of the things of the mind and soul—is good for the Orient and good for the Occident. We can intermingle in this way, and intermingle to the utmost, but we cannot intermingle physically on any wholesale or unlimited scale without mutual misfortune. Whether we have here an immutable truth few probably would venture to say, but it is a truth practical observers and lovers of peace must recognized as holding the field today. If we achieve tranquility we must solve the problem as among the races of relative bodily isolation and a wide spiritual and intellectual inter-communion. Preservation of tangible individualities will preserve those intangible individualities which are a source of universal enrichment.

Giving That Benefits the Giver.

“Let no one suppose that any gifts of science, any benefits of any kind, moral, mental, or mechanical, passed on from the Occident to the Orient, will be lost to the giver. Such gifts, such benefits, will return as the years and ages lapse to bless the civilization that sent them forth. This is history; it is the universal moral law—the principle of the certain return of bread cast upon the water. Its working in British-American history, for example, is unmistakable. Britian poured her science, scholarship, jurisprudence, the essentials of her civilization, into the New World and into regions more remote, and the result was an allegiance of ideas and ideals. This allegiance, tis comparatively homogeneous civilization, with its citadels in the colleges and universities of the Anglo-Saxon world, knew where it stood when an ambition of conquest and a formidable militarism threatened democracy.

“What a return we saw of bread cast upon the water! We saw the ideas and ideals, the culture of which I have spoken, take the form of rivers of wealth flowing back to Europe, and of millions of men moving from distant shores to European battle fields. Great Englishmen, great men of British blood, men trained in the schools and colleges of the Old World, men taught the incomparable honor of devoted public service, had not forsaken in vain home and country and comfort and life-long friends to lay the foundations of English-speaking civilization around the globe.

The Broad Exchange of Benefits.

“We of North America, citizens of the United States and citizens of Canada, well may recall this background of a history we possess in common. It is a permeating influence. It is a fertilizing power. It is the silent force that all unconsciously keeps us one in aim and purpose, and unites our efforts for man’s advancement. We live in a time of unrest. In our kindred sentiments and ways of reasoning lies our chief hope of that solidarity which warrants some sense of safety.

“This is no time for English-speaking women and men to cease casting their bread upon the water. Let the New World in its turn pour forth its inspiration and vigor for such service as these may render to other peoples, and especially to those great and virile peoples across the Pacific. In proportion to the impression we make, to the good we do, will be those permanent effects which will make for the unification of mankind in the rational pursuit of the happiness due to them all. And my conception, as I think I have made clear, is not a one-way conception. While we are ‘casting our bread upon the water’ I hope our fellow men of the Orient will be acting similarly—that is, teaching us all they can in philosophy, ethics, æsthetics, and all the arts of civilized life.”

Peace in the Pacific, therefore, and likewise world peace, in the opinion of Canada’s Premier, have two major pillars—(1) scrupulous mutual regard for racial and nationalistic virtues, rights, and susceptibilities; and (2) cultural and commercial intercourse making for all-around enlightenment and an ultimate equilibrium, or approximate equilibrium, of life-standards. These pillars, as Mackenzie King reads the outlook in the light of all he has seen and thought, can stand only through a common and amicable recognition of the principle that in the biological, sociological, and psychological situation as we have it today general physical or social blending on the part of widely different races is destructive of the universal interest.

Formula for Peace in the Pacific.

On the point of courtesy to foreign governments and peoples—the point of the value of caution and consideration on the part of every citizen, and especially of every person in a place of public responsibility, in commenting upon or handling international and interracial questions—on this head Mackenzie King has been uniformly insistent. Throughout his inquiries under royal commission into the causes of immigration from Japan, China, and India, and into the riotous sequel of that immigration, his unvarying civility and fairmindedness won the confidence and esteem of Orientals and Occidentals alike; his fellow-feeling and sense of justice were color blind.

In similar spirit have been conceived all his speeches, State papers, and appeals to Parliament. With what effect? With the effect, as already indicated, that Canada’s legislation and regulative procedure are comparatively unobjectionable to Japanese, Chinese, and Indians, though giving what is deemed adequate assurance against anything resembling a submergence soon or late of white civilization in the Dominion. To explain this legislation and regulative procedure in detail would require much space. In a nutshell, Canada has kept the bald and offensive principle of explicit exclusion out of her laws and has narrowed her gates by administrative constriction until she has come within approximate complete control of the types and numbers of immigrants she wants.

Courtesy in Statesmanship.

“Understand!” I should call it the paramount verb of Mackenzie King’s philosophical grammer. His public career has been a sustained effort to understand, to know, to apprehend all pertinent feeling and opinion, before decision and action. He has read William James responsively. “One half of our fellow countrymen,” wrote that philosopher, “remain entirely blind to the internal significance of the lives of the other half.” “It is so!” exclaims the successor of Laurier, and the observation illumines for him the whole range of individual and social discords, national and international, racial and interracial. Mackenzie King puts down to William James’ “certain blindness in human beings” the origin of “every dispute and controversy” of which he has had any “intimate knowledge.”

It follows that he approves and anticipates beneficial effects from international co-operation such as that of the League of Nations. He thinks it should be educative and consequently of use in reducing that “certain blindness in human beings” which he has found so evil an influence in industrial and social relations. But Mackenzie King would not have the League mix too minutely in international affairs. He would have it confine its attention to the broadest international questions and keep as its sole object the enforcement of the accepted principles of sportsmanship, of fair play, in world controversies. Mr. King is an individualist. Individualism and liberty to him are synonymous terms. Domestically, in his reasoning, the power of the State should be exercised to “keep the ring”—to see that all classes and all citizens have justice—and, internationally, some organization such as the League of Nations should perform a corresponding function for independent peoples.

National Individualism and Liberty.

To the fundamental tenet of democracy—that of each nation’s right to shape its destiny—Mackenzie King is resolutely devoted. For the sanctity of this tenet he has been a valiant champion in British imperial council chambers, in dispatches from Ottawa to London, and on the floor of the Canadian House of Commons.

What he would be unwilling to concede to the government of the homeland of the British Commonwealth of Nations, namely, domination of the Dominions, he is not likely to concede to any centralized authority aspiring to rule the world. Rule of the British peoples, says Mackenzie King, must spring from a concurrence of policy indorsed by the British peoples in their separate and free qualities. Rule of the world, he goes on logically to observe, must spring from a concurrence of policy indorsed by the world’s separate and several sovereignties.

World Rule by Broad Agreements.

Nor does he see any inherent impracticability in the conception of world rule based upon national voluntarism. It is, in his judgment, all a matter of understanding and of the eyesight born of understanding—all a matter of curing that “certain blindness in human beings” which struck the philosophical intelligence of William James and which confronted Mackenzie King in every capital-and-labor dispute he grappled with in Canada and in the United States. His primary political theses is that humanity as a whole is reasonable, that it is just, that it loves orderly evolution, that it is human, and consequently that only familiarity with facts is needful to harmony and constructive policy in furthering the prosperity and fortifying the peace of the world.

“Democracy” is a big word. He who graps its full meaning I think will hold the master key to Mackenzie King’s philosophy of industry, nationalism and internationalism. He believes precisely the same thing about all of them—that they can have order, prosperity, and progress only if their theory and practice give due recognition to every right and every interest concerned. Would you have peace in industry? Then do justice by all the parties to industry. Would you have peace in the nation? Then do justice by all the elements of your citizenship. Would you have peace in the Pacific and throughout the world? Then understand the Pacific. Appreciate its realities. Understand the world. Make room in your heart and mind for all the emotions, all the faiths, all the convictions, all the interests of the infinitely diversified multitudes of our planet. Do this and then join soberly but with firmness of purpose in support of those laboring to construct a skeleton of civilization within which these emotions, faiths, convictions, and interests can find a commodious and stable home.

Justice Through Understanding.

In this last paragraph, to my mind, we have a fairly faithful portrait in ethics and in politics of William Lyon Mackenzie King, grandson of the famous Canadian rebel and patriot, William Lyon Mackenzie, who, if he displayed a certain faculty for indiscretion, at least saw clearly the constitutional road of Canadian advance and had the intrepidity to point out that road and to call in clarion tones to his compatriots to follow it.

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  1. Pillars of World Peace