William Lyon Mackenzie King: 1932-1939: the Prism of Unity

William Lyon Mackenzie King: 1932-1939: the Prism of Unity

William Lyon Mackenzie King: 1932-1939: the Prism of Unity

William Lyon Mackenzie King: 1932-1939: the Prism of Unity

Excerpt

In the Summer of 1932, Mackenzie King was already a veteran politician. He was one of the few survivors of the far-off Edwardian days of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, he had been leader of the Liberal party since 1919, and his ten years as Prime Minister was a record surpassed only by Laurier and Sir John A. Macdonald. Before the next election he would be sixty years old. Liberals might well assume that they would soon have to face the problem of choosing his successor.

A change of leaders seemed even more probable because change was the order of the day. The dust-storms and the bread-lines had shaken confidence in the old order. Three long depression years had passed and conditions, instead of improving, were getting worse. Men no longer talked confidently of a temporary recession. Many had concluded that instead of being a regrettably deep and prolonged swing of the business cycle, the depression marked the end of an era. Some argued that overproduction and unemployment were the inevitable result of a free-enterprise system based on profits; others blamed democracy, in which politicians competed for power by catering to the gullibility and greed of the majority. For these people only the radical transformation of the economic or political system could end the depression. Those who rejected radical solutions were still forced to admit that something had gone wrong. If it was not the system it was logical to blame the leaders; new men with new policies might succeed where traditional leaders had failed. In a time when neither life nor property seemed secure, a politician who held out hope for a brave new world could achieve almost instant popularity. Even the more conservative Canadians saw the need for change. They watched the spread of radical ideas and feared social disorder or even revolution; the society they knew was in danger and strong and resolute leadership would be needed to preserve law and order and the values they cherished.

When Canadians looked abroad in 1932 the end of the old order seemed even more certain. Canada was not directly menaced by any foreign . . .

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