Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

XLVI
Franklin D. Roosevelt and some important bargains between Canada and the United States--Meighen loses a by-election--The plebiscite

FOR all their much proclaimed understanding of the United States there is one thing about the American people that few Canadian people have been able to comprehend. How could so many of them have hated Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

It is probably no exaggeration to say that at any time between 1932 and 1944, Roosevelt, had he been eligible, could have been elected Prime Minister of Canada by a margin much more overwhelming than any of those by which he was elected President of the United States. Canadians sensed only obliquely, if at all, the real depths of alarm and disruption that Roosevelt was spreading among his country's businessmen, isolationists, and conservatives. Not being directly privy to the costs or risks of the New Deal, they recognized only its rewards and returns. They saw it as a rallying point for all humanity and heard its gospel as a mighty shout amid the sour gloomy silences of Herbert Hoover, the uncertain waffling of Mackenzie King, and the ceaseless sermons of R. B. Bennett on the sanctity of hard money and happy bondholders.

During the Depression years millions of Canadians had listened as eagerly to Roosevelt's fireside chats as had his own countrymen. And the Canadians had listened a good deal less critically. Neither Bennett nor King had the magnetism to serve as a father figure in an age during which the world cried for father figures (and got as mixed a bag as Hitler, Mussolini, Baldwin, Chamberlain, and Chiang Kai-shek). For Canada, Roosevelt was the natural and inevitable surrogate. After 1940 the larger part of the role was transferred to Winston Churchill, but even during the two years when the Dominion was at war and the United States was not, many

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