Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

XXI
The Age of the Aging Turks--The departure of Robert Laird Borden

THE Aging Turks did not enter in a body. Nor did they emerge from the same points of the compass or proceed in step to the same unknown distances. They had no acknowledged leader; indeed, most of them were, or became, furious rivals. The one thing common to their philosophies was a sense of mission. Otherwise they were as motley as a band of Caribbean pirates. In their personal lives they were as respectable and careful as a gardenful of curates. A number of them actually were clergymen and most of the others were bachelors. Piety, rectitude, and celibacy never had so formidable a group of champions. The fire of youth was never more happily wedded to the God-fearing temperance of age. No large group of statesmen ever tried harder to follow, simultaneously, the stars of adventure and of safety.

Those who led most successfully were William Lyon Mackenzie King (bachelor) and James S. Woodsworth ( preacher). Those who pushed and urged on, urged back, and argued to the best effect were William Aberhart ( preacher) and Richard Bedford Bennett (bachelor). Those who arrived later, but still in time to confirm the main directions, were Tommy Douglas ( preacher), Maurice Duplessis (bachelor), and Ernest Manning ( preacher). Of all Canada's main political figures between the 1920s and the 1950s, the only one who was not either a bachelor or a preacher was Arthur Meighen, and in the face he presented to the people he was the most austere and priestly of them all.

But these patterns still lay ahead in the years just after the First World War. Before their heirs began rearranging the reins of

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