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Title: Life is an Adventure

Date of first publication: 1936

Author: R.J. (Robert James) Manion, (1881-1943)

Date first posted: Mar. 3, 2015

Date last updated: Mar. 3, 2015

Faded Page eBook #20150305

This ebook was produced by: Marcia Brooks, Mark Akrigg, Iona Vaughan, Elizabeth S. Oscanyan & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net











R. J. MANION, M.D., M.C.


Author of A Surgeon in Arms

















Part One




Part Two




Part Three




Part Four




Part Five


PAGE 147


Part Six


PAGE 221



Part One



That life is an adventure is obvious to any man who has attained the age of fifty, and who has had opportunity of touching life at a few diverse points. Whether the adventure be glorious or tragic depends not only on the events themselves, but on the character and mental outlook of the individual. There probably occur in the lives of the majority of people events sufficiently interesting to provide material for a novel; but the tales remain unwritten, because the lights and shadows of life are so difficult to paint. In my twoscore years and ten of a somewhat varied career, I have met many men whose life story would make the most entrancing reading if they could but put it into readable form—men who have no realization that their history is so uncommon or so interesting. The difficulty seems to be, at least partially, that those who have a story to tell have not the gift of telling it, and those who have the gift have not the story.

Canada possesses large numbers of “self-made men” who started their lives in the humblest of surroundings, but who have risen to the top rungs of the ladder of business or statesmanship, during the years of attaining which they encountered most exciting adventures. It is indeed a pity that more of these leaders have not told their story. In a few brief sentences in the following pages a little of the romance of some of Canada’s lesser leaders will be told, all of the incidents being drawn from my own contacts with men and events. My boyhood days were spent in a pioneer Canadian town under fairly rough conditions. During those eighteen years I left school early and tried my boyish hand at numerous jobs. Six years of college life in Canada and Europe followed. Then came ten years of busy medical practice, that phase ending with service in two armies during the war—the whole being capped by nearly twenty years in the Parliament of Canada, during which time I have been a Minister in three Cabinets. Some of the interesting incidents of these changing scenes will form the warp and woof of the tale that is told.

In the early days of Canada as a Dominion, which it became on July 1st, 1867, the fulfilment of a pledge to link up East and West with the centre by railways brought about the construction of the Canadian Pacific system. From Montreal it ran for a distance of over 2,700 miles, across prairies which had more buffalo than people; then through the gorgeous grandeur of the Rocky Mountains into the Province of British Columbia, where barely ten thousand white people lived at that time. The vision and the courage of the men who conceived and carried to completion this transportation system by 1885 are indeed to be marvelled at. That task in itself placed a number of courageous railway adventurers in Canada’s “Hall of Fame.” Their daring enterprise and their conquest of almost insurmountable difficulties make an entrancing tale. It has been told by others, and it is mentioned here because, during the building of that railway, opportunities were afforded many young Canadians to leave the old homestead in Eastern Canada and try conclusions with life on a wider and more interesting scale. My father was one of these pioneers; a member of a large family, living on a farm in the Ottawa valley, he decided that farming was too drab for his somewhat adventurous spirit. So he left the farm, with the meagre education of those days, and followed the building of the Canadian Pacific. Playing the part of a general merchant at various stopping-places of construction, he supplied the needs of thousands of rough-and-ready workmen; and made his final stop at Chapleau, where he was joined by my mother and their four young children in 1886. The next year a serious outbreak of diphtheria wiped out most of the children in this new settlement—as this was the period before the discovery of diphtheria anti-toxin—and my father, to save his little family, threw up his business there, which consisted of a fairly large general store, and moved to the head of lake navigation, opposite Duluth, on the world’s greatest body of fresh water.

It is at this period that my memory begins to stir. The point at which our flight stopped, Fort William, is to-day a city of nearly thirty thousand population, but in 1887 it was a village of only a few hundred residents; and during the next twelve years, with all the intense curiosity of youth, I saw it develop from a border town into a modern city. During those twelve years one beheld much of that primitive pioneer life of civilization’s expanding fringe, and had intimate contacts with rough but interesting characters. In our early years we lived in hotels, not of the modern type with electric and sanitary conveniences of every kind, but rude, hastily-constructed frame buildings, none too well protected from the rigours of the cold northern climate. They were heated by big “box stoves,” illuminated by oil lamps or lanterns, and possessed only the roughest of furniture in the large dining-room, “sitting-room,” bedrooms and card-rooms. The bar, since it was the real money-maker of the institution, was the brightest, gayest (and roughest) section of the hostelry. How well I recall the bar’s long polished counter; the brass rail for the uplifted foot; the shining mirrors, glasses and bottles behind the bartender’s shoulders; the pails of water in which the glasses were rinsed, then turned upside down to drip themselves in readiness for the next customer; and the ringing “till,” opened by an easy-working combination, into which went far too much of the money which ought to have been used for family necessities.

Looking back upon those early days one is astounded by the wonderful conveniences supplied us by the scientific progress of the past threescore years—modern plumbing, the telephone and radio, electric illumination and refrigeration, automatic furnaces which maintain almost perfectly regulated temperature and humidity even in the Arctic climate of the northern Canadian winter—and all the other advantages of the modern well-to-do home, which make a tout ensemble of artistic luxury and abundance far surpassing that enjoyed by any monarch up to the middle of the nineteenth century.

How little these modern conveniences meant to our pioneer lives is well illustrated by an experience of my own when I was about nine years old. The Canadian Pacific decided to build a small but reasonably good stop-over hotel for its boat passengers, and the comparatively intricate construction work was a source of interest to us youngsters, certain absolutely new, and to us unknown, fandangles being put into the building. One of these particularly intrigued us, as we had never before encountered anything like it. We watched it being built into a small room, and as it neared completion the builders still further confused our childish minds by attaching a long chain to a lever which protruded from what appeared to be some sort of reservoir, and at the end of the chain was a porcelain handle with the word “Pull” burnt into the white surface. We finally decided that on the following Sunday, when the workmen took the day off, we should investigate this strange contrivance. True to our determination, and careful to avoid observation, we pried up the window of the small chamber, propped it open, and entered. After a thorough inspection which did not enlighten us, we decided to obey the injunction on the porcelain, and see what would happen. We pulled, and to our horror a noisy rush of water tore through the whole infernal machine. Convinced by the unexpected noise that we had started something which no one could stop, we clambered through the window and took off into the woods, fully expecting that the whole town would shortly be on our trail. A few hours later we sneaked back to the scene of our crime, and to our great astonishment the building still stood; so we struck on toward our homes to appease the hunger pangs that told us it was long past mealtime. It was our first contact with a modern sanitary convenience!

Living in a hotel in those far-off frontier-of-civilization days was not the quiet, easy existence enjoyed by the occupants of some wayside inn back in the old settled communities of Eastern Canada or in the villages of England or France. The hotel in these newer settlements was the only meeting-place of the rough, hardy frontiersmen, the bushmen, and the workers on construction gangs—an uncultured assortment of good and bad who knew little of the finer sides of life, but who, on the whole, were honest and reasonably decent—good friends, bad enemies, “straight shooters,” ready at all times for a test of strength or skill, or for a wager on anything that happened along.

The men who kept these hotels were, broadly speaking, of an excellent type of straightforward, frank, honorable citizen. Rarely did anyone, after spending his money in riotous dissipation, receive anything but the most charitable treatment from these men. And scores of times do I recall, with considerable sadness at the recollection, seeing some poor neglected wife, perhaps the mother of children lacking some of life’s necessities, sneaking a little fearfully in through the rear door of one of these hotels, and whispering into the sympathetic ear of the hotelkeeper that her Jim or Tom had not arrived home with the much-needed week’s wages. Shortly thereafter Jim or Tom would be quietly called by “the boss” from among his boon companions, and persuaded, if at all possible, to go back to his neglected loved ones. If he refused to go, the bartenders were usually instructed to “serve him no more drink.” And on all occasions where generous giving was in order these “liquor men,” as they were often called, contributed more freely than others, whether the contribution was for some poor waif, for the Salvation Army, for the Jesuit priest, or as a prize for a horse-race. In the House of Commons during my last Parliament were two members who, thirty or more years ago, carried on this business in other sections of that pioneer fringe. C. H. Dickie and David Beaubier held the respect of the whole Chamber because of their good common sense and their humanitarian outlook on all problems. Neither was a great speaker, but “Dick” had a natural eloquence and a genial, humorous philosophy which held the House intensely interested whenever he cared to express his opinions.

The life in the hotels was not an attractive one, at least there was something in my nature that made it repellent to me from my earliest memories. Away back somewhere in my subconscious childish soul I longed wistfully—probably without in any way analysing the longing—for the quiet peacefulness of a little home, instead of living as we did in the midst of rough, uncouth men, who too often cursed recklessly, laughed uproariously, or sang their unending “chanteys” in a monotone far removed from harmony. The “chantey” (the word being derived from the French, chanter, “to sing”) is a rhyme of very many verses, telling some tale of the seaman’s or the bushman’s life, sung in a monotonous voice, often to the accompaniment of a squealing fiddle. Next to the human voice a well-played violin is the medium of the most harmonious music, but I hark back with horror to the screeching noise of those frontier fiddles, and the associated unmusical songs and “hoe-down” dances in the barrooms of my childhood days. Often in the midst of these unholy noises I would slip away into the quiet solitude of the forest. Later, when the little wooden church was built, one thanked God in his childish words that the door of it was never locked, so that one could glide inside and sit on a crude rear bench to fill his soul with the peace and quiet found there. How still one sat, and how grateful one was to catch no strain of that noisy medley of raucous voices, scraping fiddle, and heavy-shod feet!

One of the periods most detested was the early springtime, when the lumber camps in the neighbourhood broke up and into the town came hundreds of men who had, for the past six months or more, been playing the part of “lumber-jacks.” In many cases they had no one depending on them, and therefore, having saved up quite a “stake” in cash, were ready to squander it on gay living, or what went for gay living in those early days—whiskey, women and gambling. In each of these camps there was as a rule a “bad man”—someone, in other words, who had made the reputation of being the “toughest” or ablest man in the camp by conquering physically any of his fellow workers who dared to face him. These men looked upon themselves as champions, and when two of them from different camps met it often meant a rough-and-tumble fight of the most brutal kind, unless, as sometimes occurred, each was a little fearful of the other man’s reputation, when both would veer off with nothing more dangerous than savage looks.

My youthful hunger for new experiences gave me some strange acquaintances in those early days—“card sharks,” tough men, dope fiends, and others of that motley crowd. One card shark, Harvey by name, was among the most interesting. He was handsome, suave and well educated, yet he was a crook who could “stack” the cards, “load” the dice, “pull” a gun, or face with a smile any man, be he ever so much bigger and stronger, who chose to “call” any of his crookedness. He took a strange fancy to me, and showed me in a spirit of bravado his methods of marking the cards and loading the dice. He also gave me lessons in punching the bag and boxing, which served me well in after years. Later, as a student in Toronto, I took boxing lessons from old Jim Popp, who, although about sixty, could, I verily believe, have taken on two of my size and weight and given us the worst of it. Harvey stayed about a year in town, gathering in the shekels from the unsuspecting transient population, who were high livers, good spenders, and big earners. So he lived on the fat of the land until his too consistent winnings warned off even the unwary from his so-called games of “chance,” in which his opponents took most of the chance, and he took most of the money. He could fairly make the cards talk to him, and could take from the middle of the deck, in apparently honest dealing, good hands for everyone at the table, his own usually being just good enough when the pot was large to take it in. In a “show-off” spirit he would deal the cards in play with me, while he was blindfolded, and lay on the table as many hands as I called, but always give himself a just-sufficiently-good layout to win, had we been playing for money. In the same way he could “palm” his own loaded dice into the box, and “clean up” the unsuspecting gang at the bar.

On one occasion he paid for his friendship with me when I saw him using his crooked methods to take the winter earnings from a recent arrival who was foolish enough to gamble with a stranger. Not wishing to see barefaced robbery carried on, I, in a fifteen-year-old spirit of fair play, laid a note before him telling him that if he went on I would expose him. At the end of a couple of hands he threw down the cards, and said that he had had enough. When we were alone he looked at me with a good-natured smile.

“What a damn fool I was,” he said, “to tell a boy like you my tricks!” And that was the only resentment he showed.

At the end of a year, when others began avoiding games with him, he left for other fields, and I have never seen him since. But ten years later in Ottawa I met his sister, a trained nurse, and his sweet old mother, who assured me that whatever might be said of her son Harvey—and she “knew that tales were told”—so far as she was concerned, “no mother ever had a better son.” Quite believable, so strange is human nature!

When saying good-bye to me—rather affectionately, for I admired him in spite of his questionable way of earning a living—he expressed regret that he had been so frank in boasting of his expert methods with cards and dice, and in drawing attention to himself in boxing and singing, “for I might have gone on another year here in this land of milk and honey”; but he accepted the verdict quite philosophically. Anyhow,

There’s so much good in the worst of us,

And so much bad in the best of us,

That it hardly behoves any of us

To talk about the rest of us.

Another lovable companion of those days was one with whom I grew up, though he was three or four years my senior. He remained one of my closest and wisest friends until his death, thirty years later. Throughout all those years I profited frequently from his sane counsel and his brotherly affection for me. This was Joe Brown, bartender; then hotelkeeper; and later mining man; in all of which occupations he unassumingly and unconsciously came closer to practising the Golden Rule than has almost any other man of my acquaintance in all the intervening years. When I first really knew him Joe was nineteen or twenty years of age, though quite full grown to manhood. He stood nearly six feet in height, and was, as so many in that rough life were, splendidly formed, with a pair of square, powerful shoulders and a handsome face. He had outstanding ability in many ways, but was impeded by an extreme shyness which prevented him throughout life from attaining the success which his real ability would otherwise have assured, though in later years, while prospecting and mining, he made a couple of small fortunes. He was a popular member of the community with everyone who had the privilege of knowing him, but unfortunately, because of his shyness, few had that privilege. Harvey, of whom I have just written, had brought a punching-bag and boxing gloves with him, and had taught some of us the art of boxing, at which he was an adept, but Joe could never be coaxed to put on the gloves. In spite of this, however, he was one of the bonniest fighters one could meet, and as a bartender his prowess was often called for. His broad shoulders and exceptionally powerful frame made him dangerous to meet at any time, yet, like most good men physically, he never picked a quarrel and was difficult to draw into one, but when in he followed Shakespeare’s advice,—“Beware of entering into a quarrel, but being in bear it that the opposed may beware of thee.”

As a young fellow around the hotel he was forced into fights on numerous occasions by some quarrelsome customer who insisted on breaking things, and never but once did I see a fight last more than one blow—his—for his left arm had “dynamite in it.”

Joe had all the qualities of a good man, in addition to which he was generous almost to a fault. Even until he “went West,” as they expressed it at the front, he kept himself poor by his generous actions toward friends and relations. Nothing was too good for anyone he loved, and he loved me as a younger brother. When we went into the woods (as we often did, for he loved their solitude and peace very deeply, and he knew every tree and bird and animal as if he were a trained naturalist), he always managed the work at the portage so that he would carry the heavy end of the canoe; or if there was an extra bag to carry on our shoulders it was he who took it automatically. Later in life when I became a successful physician, army surgeon, or parliamentarian, his quiet pleasure at my success did not prevent his shyness showing through when he met me, for he seemed reluctant at times to show the old freedom when he met one whom he had come to look upon as much more worthy of the world’s respect than he. He would have preferred to sit back and enjoy his affectionate admiration in silence; in fact, it was a real effort at times to keep him on the old friendly footing, and if others came into the office he always slipped out very quickly, pretending he had other affairs to attend to—probably to go back to his reading, for he read widely.

While keeping his deep love of the simple and clean joys of the woodlands and the streams, he was full of fun in the real sense, and no one enjoyed better than he a bit of innocent “horse-play.” On those rare occasions when he took a glass or two of grog, his shyness became somewhat masked, permitting him even to take part in some innocent mischief. On one occasion when he was in this mood we were sitting in the public room of the hotel when a stranger entered, who, after glancing for some minutes at the headlines of the newspapers which were there for public reading, turned to us and suggested that if a war took place between Japan and Russia he hoped that Japan would be the winner.

“Well, I am not so sure that I agree with that,” said Joe, turning toward him. “After all, Russia has been a very good colony of Japan’s, and, since Russia refuses to co-operate with the Japanese, it might be as well for Russia to defeat Japan.”

“Russia a colony of Japan?” said the stranger, staring; “When did Russia take that position?”

“My friend,” said Joe laughing, “surely you know enough about the East to be aware that Russia has been a colony of Japan for a century. Isn’t that so, Bob?” he said, turning toward me for confirmation, which was given, seeing that he was up to some mischief. “Are you not aware,” he continued, “that nearly a century ago the Czars were removed and the Japanese Emperor has been in control of Russia ever since?” Again the stranger showed his surprise and contradicted Joe.

“I suppose,” Joe then added, “that you are not aware of the other events that have been happening in the last half-century. I suppose you would deny that France has become a possession of Italy?” Again the surprise and blank stare.

“For Heaven’s sake, my friend, where have you been?” Joe continued. “Do you know who is President of the United States?”

“Certainly I do,” replied the stranger; “McKinley is President of the United States.”

“McKinley President of the United States!” said Joe with a roar of surprised laughter. “Why, the man does not even know that Abraham Lincoln is President.”

The stranger at this turned away in absolute disgust, picked one of the papers off the table, and sat down at the other side of the room to read it, apparently deciding that he wanted no more such conversation. Joe noticed that he had the paper upside down, and turning to me he said with a gay laugh, “Why, he is reading the paper upside down!”

“Well,” the man replied, “any damn fool can read it the other way.”

The three of us joined in the laughter, and no one enjoyed the manner in which the stranger had got back at him more than did Joe himself.


But I have gone somewhat ahead of my story, and must retrace my steps a few years, for the men who have been briefly mentioned came into my ken during my later teen years. The early childhood years, during which the town was still but a rambling collection of settlers’ homes—only one degree from the wilderness itself—deserve mention. The village had been an old Hudson Bay trading post, indeed an old stone fort still stood, but a few years later we foolishly let it be removed to make way for a railway yard. This we called “progress!” As at this portal a river, coming from the westward, met the broad surface of the lake, some of those old and picturesque fur-traders made it, in their eighteenth century voyages, a resting-place on their way toward the setting sun; La Vérendrye wintered near here about 1738 on the journey on which his sons reached the foothills of the Rockies. Only two miles away was an Indian village with its accompanying mission and school, presided over by those civilizers and Christianizers, the Jesuit Fathers.

It may have been because of this conjunction of circumstances—added to the reading of Indian stories—that I have always considered the most romantic pages of Canadian history to be those dealing with our early years of exploration, in which those daring and fascinating Frenchmen, Marquette, Joliette, LaSalle, DuLhut, La Vérendrye and others, explored this continent from the Atlantic to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and from the Great Lakes to the mouth of the Mississippi. To travel in birch-bark canoes into the remote fastnesses of a new world, occupied only by savage Indians and wild game; to see opening out before their eyes day after day, lakes, rivers and woodlands upon which white men had never before looked; to face unhesitatingly attacks of Indian bands who were more cruel and cunning than wild animals; this must have made their adventurous life romantic beyond the dreams of the most visionary. The story of their glorious exploits has been fascinatingly told by Parkman, and here and there throughout Canada monuments have been raised to their heroic self-sacrifice.

Following these Frenchmen were some no less adventurous spirits of the English-speaking nationalities, such as Henry Hudson, who gave his name to the Hudson River in New York State and to the great bay which extends down toward the centre of Canada from the Arctic regions, as well as Mackenzie and Fraser and Thompson, who left their names upon our mighty rivers of the far Northwest. The entrancing story of the lives of these men fired my youthful imagination, and attracted me as no other historical studies ever have. In their exploits Canada has a romantic history, too often neglected by us in our boasting of the “achievements” of our “young country,” and too much overshadowed by the tales of kings and queens, their loves and their hates, their wars and their conquests. In accepting gratefully as our inheritance the inspiring history of the homelands of our forefathers, of the growth of British parliamentary institutions and British liberties, accompanied by the glorious literature of England, Ireland and Scotland, we should not forget the early, picturesque and significant story of Canada’s own development.

In that development the practical visionaries who built a railway across the continent, and the hardy men and women who accompanied that construction, had in their veins the same adventurous blood as the earlier pioneers of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes, who cut their homes from the bushlands, amidst dangers and hardships that to-day we know not of—and with a spirit which seems to have diminished. The tales of these rough men and rougher manners have indeed a heroic side; they lived and loved and struggled in their crude villages and towns, and yet were torch-bearers of a new civilization. In these early childhood days I saw much of the rough, hard life of those men and women, watching the while our Canadian West go speedily forward in population and prosperity.

In the town in which we had settled, the life was quite typical of that in other remote outposts which were springing up across the continent. It was a rough life, of much privation and hardship, but it gave a training and a knowledge of men which have served me well in the years since then.

Life in winter in a town such as this was far removed from the life of to-day, in which the moving picture, the radio, bridge and the dance have, even in the outlying portions of the country, come into being. In those early days none of these was known except the occasional barn-dance, enjoyed to the tune of a local fiddle and the cry of some “caller-off,” who was a necessary feature—those “square dances” which were so unlike the clinging, affectionate dances of to-day’s society ballrooms.

Swing that girl, that pretty little girl,

The prettiest girl in the ballroom!

How that cry and others akin to it float back to my ears from those days when as a youngster I stood in a group along the wall, or peered in through the window at the hoeing-down which took place on those occasions! Beyond that, and perhaps a school concert put on by the pupils once a year, amusements were few and far between. Yet the people were, in all probability, as happy and contented as they are in our modern surroundings. Indeed, they may have been happier, for they demanded less, and did not expect that a paternal Government would take care of all their needs—as seems to be the case to-day on all sides. They had the independent spirit of an earlier and truer Canadianism, through which they faced hardship and trial with a gallantry and confidence all too rare now, when even those on relief expect luxuries unknown to the pioneers.

The Indian band in our neighbourhood was, I presume, much like Indian bands elsewhere in Canada. In character they are a good deal like grown-up children, whose ambitions rarely extend beyond the needs of the present moment. So much is this the case that the expression, “He lives like an Indian,” (taking no precautions for the future), is quite appropriate. As a class, Indians seem to lack the vitality to resist either the sicknesses or sins of the white race. As a medical man later in life I observed what so many have observed—that when a white man’s disease of any severe kind invades the Indian tribes, it frequently almost obliterates them. Measles, for example, when it breaks out among their children, so often leads to pneumonia and later perhaps to tuberculosis that the death rate is very much heavier than among the white race. Tuberculosis itself has been a brown plague as well as a white plague, having been much more fatal to the Indians than to the whites.

Regarding morals, it always appeared to me that some of the full-blooded Indians were rather unmoral than immoral; they did not seem to recognize right from wrong. As a result of this, the lowest class of traveller coming into the port did a great deal of damage among them, assisted by “fire-water.” Due to the excitable character of the Redskin, it has been recognized since the early days of Canada that the effect of whiskey upon the savage is very much greater than upon his white brother, and as a result there are laws against the giving or selling of whiskey to the Indians. These laws, however, did not prevent the lower type of whites from supplying the Indians with something for which they had a passion, partly, no doubt, because it was forbidden.

Nevertheless, there were among them many who resisted this temptation and were worthy citizens. There comes back to my memory one of these for whom we, even as young boys, had the utmost respect at all times. Ambrose Cirette was a handsome, dignified man with a proud carriage and a really distinguished air, and he spoke English almost perfectly. Some years before my arrival as a child in this section he had discovered a gold mine in the neighbourhood which he had sold to some Americans for fifty thousand dollars. The stories told of his use of the money were understandable in view of the unthrifty habits of Indians. It was said, for example, that he had rented a private car in which he had gone to Chicago, and there, instead of hiring a cab he would purchase one from the driver, then in a grandiose manner give it back to him as a gift. He veritably threw his money around “like a drunken Indian.” The stories of his foolish spending while the money lasted were mostly of this type, but, in spite of these tales, he always gave the impression of being “a gentleman of the old school.” Never, in all the years I knew him, did he do anything that any gentleman should not do; and years later, having gone back to my own section to practise the profession of medicine, I had the opportunity of checking up some of the stories. The village by that time (in 1906) had become a progressive little city of about ten thousand people, and occasionally some of the Indians known by me as a child called in their old companion at shinny to act as a medicine man. On one of these occasions I saw my old friend Ambrose on the road, and, as the distance was six or seven miles to the Indian Mission, invited him to drive with me. After discussing general matters for a few moments, my curiosity got the better of me on this first occasion on which one felt the right to speak to him on a basis of equality.

“Ambrose, tell me the story of that gold mine which you discovered, and of which we used to hear so much in my childhood here.”

He confirmed the discovery and the amount mentioned.

“Tell me what you did with the money. You know the stories that go about as to how you spent it.”

“Well, Doctor,” he said, “some of those stories of course are true, but they tell only the foolish things of me. They do not tell you, for example, that I had a little niece whom I put in the Indian School at the Soo, whose education I paid for, and who is to-day a school-teacher among my people. They do not tell you of some Indian boys whom I not only educated, but to whom I gave a little start in life; and of course they do exaggerate very much the tales of my foolish spending of thousands of dollars. However,” he added, “I did spend the money, a good deal of it uselessly and unwisely, but a good deal of it I also spent wisely and generously.”

Knowing that the old man had nothing but a little cabin at the Indian Mission to live in, and existed somewhat precariously, I asked him whether he had any regrets as to the squandering of the money.

“Not a regret in the world,” he replied. “I got the money easy; I spent it easy. I did a few things that were useful, and I squandered the rest; but I have been entirely happy without it, and I desire nothing in the world that I do not possess.”

He said this proudly, as an Indian chief might declare his faith, and one must admire his philosophy. Two or three years later, when old Ambrose died, there was genuine regret among all the people who had known him and respected him for so many years.

Of course there were not many like Ambrose, but here and there among them were admirable characters. One whom we called “Old Ogema” was another for whom most of us felt real friendship, and in whom we had great confidence. Like so many white men, Old Ogema was anxious to discover a gold mine, and was always confident that he could walk to the end of the rainbow and bring back a pot of gold. As the country in that neighbourhood was rocky and as many of the out-croppings in this portion of the pre-Cambrian shield showed “free” gold, some of us gladly “grub-staked” Ogema on many occasions. By “grub-staking,” one means giving prospectors sufficient money to buy their supplies, implements, and food (the latter being described as the “grub”), in return for which the prospectors spend some months in the woods, and, if they discover anything that might become a mine, they share with the contributors to the pool in its ownership. Old Ogema brought us samples at various times, but none of his prospects ever turned out of any great value. In this he was no less unfortunate than most of the white prospectors. I have been taking part in these pools now for nearly thirty years, and on only one occasion was a valuable mine discovered. But Ogema kept the habit of searching for the rainbow’s end, and at the same time retained the confidence of his white fellow-Canadians, until he, too, passed on to the Happy Hunting Grounds to which Ambrose had recently preceded him.

The common greeting between us boys and any of the Indians whom we met was, “Bon joo nitchee,” which we had been told by some of the Indians meant, “Good-day, friend.” The “Bon joo” was a modification of “Bon jour,” though I have no idea where the “nitchee” comes from. It may be a Chippewa word.

One of the interesting and happy results of the fact that Indians inhabited Canada before we did, is that we have wisely chosen Indian names for many of our rivers, lakes and mountains, some of which names are both musical and appropriate. “Kaministiquia” was the name of the river in which we had our swimming hole. At first a little difficult to pronounce, it really is more musical than many of our English names. Other Indian names in the neighbourhood were: “Nipigon,” “Kakabeka,” “Shabaqua,” “Mokomon”; and other sections of Canada have “Toronto,” “Niagara,” “Chippewa,” “Okanagan,” “Capilano,” and many others as sweet.

The Indian tribe in our section lived to a large extent by fishing, trapping, hunting and berry-picking, with occasional financial assistance earned by odd jobs such as piloting or guiding white men on canoe trips, on which they were most valuable additions to the party. Rather an interesting fact is that in almost every activity in which the Indians took part, the white men ultimately surpassed them. The birch-bark canoe itself has been bettered by the wooden canoe of the white manufacturer. In athletics such as paddling, swimming, lacrosse-playing (originally an Indian game), running, or jumping, our white boys usually surpassed the Indians. There were exceptions, but they were very rare. Tom Longboat, the great long-distance runner, was one of the exceptions. Even in daring out onto Lake Superior in canoes or skiffs we took chances that the Indian would not face, though this may have been more from ignorant recklessness than courage on our part.


In the summer, life was much easier than in winter.

We always had the old swimming-hole in the warm days, or Mount McKay to climb, or possibly a freight train to swing onto when the trainmen were not looking. Most of us boys ran wild. Our fathers were occupied with the ever-present necessity of earning a living for their wives and little ones, and frequently considered it beneath the dignity of fathers to be on a too familiar footing with their children. The mothers (at least in my own case) were of a sweet, gentle, patient disposition which prevented their asking wild young sons to make efforts that too often were resented, and as a rule were satisfied with the care of our physical needs. So long as the mothers thought that their children were safe from unnecessary dangers, and so long as we could succeed in hiding from them the foolish risks which we took, they were, as mothers have been since time immemorial, content to be rewarded by seeing their boys come safely home at night. Yet, from such an environment many have come into prominence in a better day and, perhaps, in a better Canada, in spite of the physical and moral dangers involved.

As a result of spending most of our summer days in the water, all of us became expert swimmers, and often dared each other to long and dangerous swimming contests, sometimes when the water was really too cold for such efforts. In one such contest I nearly lost my life after swimming nearly a mile in water that was much too cold for such a feat. Although I had never before taken cramps, I somehow realized that cramps were coming upon me, and yelled to two chums, Ed and Don Deacon, some little distance away in a rowboat, to come to my assistance. They did this just in time to permit me to pull myself into the boat before my legs and arms stiffened out in the most painful type of cramps—the experience teaching me why even good swimmers occasionally go to the bottom. It was one of many narrow escapes from drowning.

One of our most dangerous games was that of “Follow the Leader,” in which some daring youth would carry out the most foolhardy stunts, and all the rest of the “gang” were expected to follow suit. Extraordinary things were done by us in those days, either following the leader or leading the gang, and many a time lives were risked in the most reckless fashion, demonstrating so well that youth always seems to value life much less than does age. As a medical practitioner in later years, and during war service, I have realized over and over again that the closer one comes to the grave, the less one wants to deprive himself of the few remaining years of existence that he may enjoy. Shakespeare was right when he said:

The weariest and most-loathèd worldly life

That age, ache, penury and imprisonment

Can lay on nature, is a paradise

To what we fear of death.

Very many years later I was attending, during her illness, a Sister of Charity who was well on in age.

“Why should you care so much? You will go straight to Heaven,” I said to her jocularly after she had expressed her anxiety for recovery.

“Oh, yes,” she replied, “but Heaven is always there, and I am in no particular hurry.”

Lake Superior had always a great attraction for us youngsters, and repeatedly, both in winter and summer, we risked our lives on its broad bosom. When the ice formed in the early winter, before the snowfall, we would venture over the glassy surface far beyond the safety zone, the ice bending downward beneath our gliding feet, only the speed with which we flew saving us. The water of Lake Superior is almost ice-cold at all times of the year, and therefore, except in the shallows near the shore, we had to confine our swimming to the river, though now and then we dived out of a boat near some of the islands, but these dips never lasted more than a minute or two. Because of the icy temperature of the water the body of a man drowned in Lake Superior does not come to the surface, since the gases of decomposition which ordinarily bring a body to the surface are prevented from forming by the refrigerating temperature of the lake.

After a long trip on the lake, often in a boat or canoe to which we had no rights of possession, we would search about on some favourable point to gather up the materials for a feast. Some would collect turnips and potatoes from a near-by garden; others would be given the duty of getting a chicken which was appropriated from any chicken-raiser in the neighbourhood; and with these we would make what we called “bouillon,” but what was really a chicken stew. We enjoyed this feast as only hungry boys could enjoy it, and it is doubtful whether any of the banquets attended since have given me the pleasure of those “stolen-fruit” bouillons of boyhood years!

In my earlier years in that section, churches were conspicuous by their absence and schools by their primitive character. Religious services were performed by missionaries, who visited us about once a month, usually in the homes of the people. My earliest memory of such a missionary was that of old Father Baxter who, during a very long life, visited his scattered flocks in an area as large as the British Isles, frequently carrying on his back medicines and fresh foods for some far-off white or Indian child. His name was a synonym for Christian charity during those early days in that section of Canada. Our only school at that time was a parody indeed on modern schools, and most of our early teachers were unsuitable. There comes back vividly one of them who had probably lost his former positions through liquor. He was an old man, no doubt an excellent scholar, but dissolute habits had deprived him of any ability to impart knowledge to the few wild young animals who attended the one-room schoolhouse. Often he would arrive late after lunch, obviously the worse for its liquid accompaniments. Then he would propound a very difficult mathematical problem which none of us could solve, and doze contentedly in his chair for an hour, during which almost anything was likely to happen in the schoolroom. He chewed tobacco, and our boyish admiration was great for his ability in shooting the juice down the hot-air register!

Needless to say, we learned little from him or from some other teachers of less learning, so that in our early years only the barest rudiments of education were acquired. But one recalls that Lincoln—of whose life I have been a fascinated student—when asked the story of his youth, stated that it could all be written in one line of Gray’s Elegy, “The short and simple annals of the poor.” One remembers that, due to his family poverty, he had but three months of schooling, yet he is recognized as the highest type of manhood produced in the great American Republic. His Presidential messages and speeches are couched in classical diction and express the noblest thoughts—proving that real education often comes after school days, if one has the desire to know something of the history and literature of past ages.

As the years rolled on and the town developed into a small city, the schools of course vastly improved, so that even before our “high-school” age, some of the teachers were of the most competent type. I look back with gratitude and appreciation to “Andy” McCullough and John Morgan for the splendid instruction and for the inspiration they gave us. Foolishly, I did not take full advantage of the opportunities that these teachers offered, for the higher classes demanded an amount of “homework” which was childishly resented. As a result of the labour involved in more and more of the much-disliked homework, I left school at about fifteen, against the wishes of my parents, and until eighteen filled various positions, from teamster up through office and store clerk, insurance agent, and finally reporter on a small daily which had sprung up in our midst. It was a short-sighted policy on my part, but one had a boyish notion that he was advancing in this way. My general reading was of the dime novel variety, and I read in those few years perhaps hundreds of these thrillers. To my mind they are not as harmful as they are usually painted, and it is altogether likely that from some of them, which dealt with college life, the inspiration was implanted in my mind to aim at a college course. This ambition my father and mother, who had become quite well-off in the intervening years, encouraged. Dime novels were not always easy to obtain in our hard-up times, so another chap and I worked out a scheme of getting three copies of the paper-covered blood-curdlers for the price of one, by inserting two of them among the leaves of the third. This scheme worked for a long time, until the storekeeper one day grimly extracted the hidden copies, much to our pained surprise! No longer could we improve our young minds at his expense!

The town developed, and more scientific and systematic games came into vogue, hockey in winter replacing shinny, with lacrosse, Canada’s national game, our favourite summer sport. Being of an active temperament, possessing a particularly strong frame for my age, and skilled in running and jumping a little above the ordinary, I early took my share in these games and in other athletic contests. Among my proud possessions are a number of medals won in foot-races, swimming, lacrosse and hockey. The training obtained in those contests is most valuable, for games teach the necessity of co-operation or team-play, of unselfishness, quick-thinking, patience, and good temper. These necessary qualities are difficult of attainment without that youthful experience of playing games. Of recent years in public life I have known rather intimately two statesmen of outstanding ability, neither of whom ever consistently took part in games, as a consequence of which they lack a good deal of that team-play spirit which is so necessary in public life, that skill in “playing the game” with their fellow-workers without which a public man’s character is not quite complete.

In all-round athletics I was above the average in my neighbourhood. In running various distances up to a quarter of a mile I won a few local championships, and on one occasion this gave me the opportunity of running against one who, had he so chosen, might well have been the world’s hundred-yard champion. A well-known promoter of local athletic contests, during one of my holiday periods from college, informed me that there was a runner in the city who wished someone with whom to compete for training purposes.

“May I tell you at once,” he said, “that this man is a much better runner than you are, so don’t be surprised at his showing you his heels.”

That afternoon we three drove out to a quiet spot on a hard country road where we could measure off the hundred yards. My competitor was one of the handsomest of athletes, being six feet three inches in height, and being built like a Greek god. We stripped, dressed in running togs and spiked shoes, and he told me to take a five-yard start before the gun was fired. In a hundred-yard race this is a pretty good handicap, but after the gun went off, while making my best speed, he passed me so easily at about the fifty-yard mark that I burst out laughing, so much did he give me the impression of standing still. For a few days I took him on for training purposes, and learned that his habit was to float around under an assumed name from one city to another, boast a bit in the hotels as to his running abilities, and thereby succeed in getting up a contest with the best local runner in each city for perhaps fifty dollars a side. There are always those in each community who strongly believe that their own local champion is a “world-beater.” The first race would likely be almost a dead heat, but the local runner usually nosed out a victory. Then, after a good deal of squabbling and disagreement as to his having stumbled or slipped, another race would be arranged for perhaps five hundred dollars a side, in which invariably the Greek-god athlete carried off the money. Not being fast enough at my best to challenge anyone who might be a professional, I had been chosen only for training purposes to run against this chap, whom we will call Bill. But as I could then do a hundred-yard dash in a little under eleven seconds, it was clear that my opponent was of the world’s best, and I asked him why he did not make a world record.

“Why, there is no money in that, old man,” he laughingly replied, “for if I made a record such as you suggest, which I think I could easily do, my opportunities for making easy money would be gone.”

He passed on to other cities, but another year came back to my home town, and the usual gold-brick game was put over, with the result that some good money changed hands in his favour. The game was, of course, a very dishonest one; and some three or four years later in a western American city he was shot and killed by one of his victims in a drunken row after the contest. A great athlete had allowed his love of money to destroy his love of clean sport, and had paid a severe penalty for his lapse.

In the absence of theatres or other similar forms of amusement, one of the chief pastimes of the town was in putting up “jobs” on each other, usually harmless, but as a rule those which would give a hearty laugh to the local population. One old bar-keeper, short-sighted and bad-tempered, was the butt of many a joke, and on one occasion two citizens played a trick on him which has given on a couple of occasions much amusement to audiences to whom I have been speaking, when the story fitted appropriately into the circumstances. A story that is not apropos to a speech is (as the French express it) like a hair in the soup. The two friends obtained from a men’s clothing store one of those dressed-up plaster dummies, or lay figures, which are put into show windows, and walking one on either side of the dummy they came into the bar-room of old Jerry. All three leaned up against the front of the bar and drinks were called for. Jerry served them. The two jokesters drank theirs, departed, and left the dummy to pay the shot. Jerry waited a few moments, and then asked the manikin if he were going to pay for the drinks, to which, of course, Jerry received no reply. Getting a little angry, he repeated his query, but still no reply.

Stooping down behind the bar, he picked up a beer bottle, and once more demanded payment for the drinks. Then he flew into a rage, hitting the figure a heavy blow on the side of the head and knocking it over. The two younger men, who had been peeping in at the front window to see what would happen, rushed in.

“Jerry, you have killed this man,” they said.

“I don’t give a damn,” replied Jerry, “he drew a gun on me!”

It was not until I studied medicine that I really knew anything, from a scientific viewpoint at any rate, about the use of habit-forming drugs, such as opium and cocaine. In my boyhood years there came into our midst some of the misfits of life—those unfortunate people who are bent upon their own destruction, from which intention nothing seems to divert them—who used one or other of these drugs instead of whiskey. Of late years the eating or smoking of opium has been so common in all countries that the League of Nations has a special branch whose duty it is to study methods by which its use for other than medical purposes may be restricted; but long before the League of Nations was thought of there was the occasional hanger-on about the hotels, and later the drug stores, who was the victim of this habit, which is even less controllable than the liquor habit. The use of cocaine as a snuff was not uncommon, in fact those who used it came to be called “snow birds,” because of the fact that cocaine used for this purpose was in the form of a white powder. I saw more of this later while practising my profession when occasionally young men, who had in some low dive learned the habit, came into my office and pleaded, with a trembling, furtive look, “for God’s sake” to be given something to relieve the terrible craving from which their nervous systems were obviously suffering. On some occasions, to get them out of my sight as gently as possible, I played the rather unkind trick of giving them some boracic acid powder, which had sufficient resemblance to cocaine to take them off.


It may safely be asserted that mine was a strange upbringing for one destined later to deal with large affairs of state, for those early boyhood years were surely spent in primitive surroundings. The chief redeeming feature to counteract the example of rough men, most of whom were uneducated, was the influence of good women—my own mother and the mothers of my boy chums. Many of these women were of the very noblest character—patient, kind, generous and good; seeing no evil and telling no evil; ready at all times to sacrifice themselves for the physical comfort, the moral improvement, and the general happiness of their husbands and children. Most of them were ladies in the highest sense of that word, for the term ought to refer more to the qualities of heart than of head. They might not know (except by gentle instinct) the niceties of polite society in a modern drawing-room, and they might not always use the proper spoon or fork at a society dinner; but the manner of their gracious spirit was impeccable, for their minds were always bent on serving others. Never would they intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings; thoughtful of their loved ones, their neighbours also felt the vital warmth of a self-sacrifice that was of the noblest character. By their unselfish actions they unconsciously inspired their children to better things. During the years that have gone I have had the opportunity of meeting people of all classes, titled and untitled, and I have met few who equalled them. No doubt the women of to-day would measure up to the old standards of nobility of character; but they are fortunate in not having to develop their virtues by enduring the same hardships and denials.

My own mother talked much to her children. She told us of the old stone farm-house in the Ottawa valley where she was born, and in which house forty or fifty years later I visited the son of the man who bought it from her father, though it was built by her grandfather on his arrival from Ireland in 1824. In those days it was a common statement that the Irish did well everywhere but in Ireland, and the house illustrates it, for descended from that same Patrick O’Brien, her grandfather, came Tim Foley, the great American railroad contractor; Nick Bawlf, who built up the Bawlf Grain Company; John Hourigan, successful business man and mayor of Port Arthur; Dr. David O’Brien, my mother’s brother, and his son, Dr. Jack O’Brien, outstanding physicians of Ottawa—among others.

At her knee not only did we learn our prayers (for she had the deep piety of the Irish people), but one of my sweetest remembrances is of the fairy tales she told us, and other stories based upon her Celtic superstition, in many of which I think she half believed, though I have always been impressed with the thought that they were recited for their moral effect. For example, in addition to the stories which she had been told by her mother and her grandmother of the fairies playing on the green lawns of Ireland at the first peep of dawn, she told us of a young man who was so pure and good that he could walk into a room when the sun was shining through the window, throw his coat across a sunbeam, and it would hang there—a proof on the part of the good God that He appreciated the innocence and goodness of the young man’s character. Then having, as the Irish have, a deep reverence for the clergy, she told of a priest in the Ottawa valley who while driving along a road was intentionally covered with mud by the galloping feet of a “heretic’s” horse. The following winter the heretic met a violent death in the woods, as a punishment, she verily believed, for his irreverence—and incidentally, we assumed, to instil into us the deep respect which she felt for the priesthood.

Another tale amused us and at the same time had its moral. She reminded us that in Ireland, in the olden days, farmers marked off their land with large stones at each corner to show the boundaries between the properties of neighbours. One dishonest Irishman had moved the stones so that he took part of the land of the next farmer. Dying without confession and repentance, and without having corrected the injustice which he had done to his neighbour, his soul could not rest in peace, so that all those who passed that way by night were frightened by the wailing of the lost soul, which kept chanting, “Where shall I put it? Oh! where shall I put it?” But one night a countryman passing that way—one who had taken, as Irishmen sometimes do, a little too much poteen—heard the wailing query, and replied that he should “put the damn thing back where he got it.” This apparently answered the question of the unrepentant sinner, for the voice was heard no more in the lonely hours of night.

The softening influence of this gentle, sweet mother, and the moral effect which she had upon us all, did much to counteract the indiscipline which was engendered by so many other sides of our life. Her sway over us was the greater because we always felt that her life had not been a very happy one, though she never complained. Her dreamy Irish blue eyes seemed always to be gazing wistfully to that quiet, peaceful childhood in the far-off Ottawa valley—so different from the coarser existence on the frontier. Her name was that sweet one, Mary—Mary O’Brien—and her mother’s was a lovely, quaint one which I have never known since—Nanora. God rest both their souls!

My father, on the other hand, while showing on every occasion a deep and real affection for all of us, seemed ruled by that old notion that a father should not be too intimate with his children. He was one of those who apparently think that to show one’s real feelings is somewhat effeminate; and consequently we rarely got inside his guard. A father is always at a disadvantage in dealing with his children, particularly if he has to compete with a mother who is affection personified. Therefore, we were fully grown to manhood before we knew him at all well; for even when I was leaving for college (and returning after vacations) to avoid any show of emotion he always remained in bed that morning, forcing me to go to his room to say good-bye to him. He would ostensibly rouse himself from sleep, utter a gruff “Good-bye, and good luck, son!” and I would pass from his room. Of a very frank, straightforward disposition—so much so, that if he disliked one he did not wish even to speak to him—and being always strictly honest in his dealings with others, he had the friends as well as the enemies that the plain, blunt, honest man usually has.

Even in his most prosperous days, and they were much in the majority as we grew older, he rarely gave us directly any pocket money; but he would ask one of us to count the cash register and remove the money from it for deposit in the bank the next day, during which task it was understood that the one doing it would take what he required. Needless to say, we were exceedingly generous to ourselves, and no questions were ever asked of us so long as times were good and money abundant. Or he would throw to one of us a huge roll of bills, telling the chosen one to deposit it in the bank. To the query as to how much the roll contained the reply would be that he did not know, and again the one handling the roll was expected to take sufficient to supply his own needs. It was a very careless system, but it ultimately taught us a sense of honour and responsibility in our dealings with money matters. The possession of this sense of honour, despite my early association with boyish banditti, is proven by the anger and disgust with which I repelled an attempt at bribery offered me when only fifteen, while handling the records of grain cars received in the Canadian Pacific offices where I was working for thirty dollars per month. A grain merchant, to whom the records were of value, offered to double my earnings if given certain information from these records. A shamed blush overspread his face as I answered, in a somewhat melodramatic manner, that he had “made a mistake in his man”—a man of proud and honest fifteen!

Nevertheless my father’s peculiar method of allowing us to use our own judgment in handling his money well illustrates the rather careless and haphazard manner in which we received disciplinary training of any kind. One cannot help but conclude that whatever good qualities we finally developed (and one knows no reason for feeling that they were less than those exhibited by others in different surroundings and with far greater opportunities) were the result of the inherent high ideals that actually dominated the actions of both parents, thereby providing us with examples worthy of imitation. For each one’s character is the result of his environment, as it affects his inherited qualities—inherited quite likely, as Dr. Adami once said, one-half from parents, one-quarter from grandparents, one-eighth from great-grandparents, and so on ad infinitum—so that one may, by atavism, be the victim of some vicious tendency in a tree-climbing ancestor; or, on the contrary, be the inheritor of virtues of someone who died in the crusades!

In those days there was a great deal of begging by tramps (or, as we called them, “hoboes”) who came into and went out of the village on freight trains. These regular callers at the kitchen door gave to both my parents their opportunity of teaching us the virtues of charity, for there was an unwritten rule in our home that none of these men must ever be turned away hungry—in spite of the fact that at times we could ill afford to display this generosity. Though my father was not a religious man, in charity toward the poor he was always quite as keen as my mother. In later life he often expressed the opinion that anything given to the poor is returned somehow, somewhere. Bread cast upon the waters!

Both my parents were of pure southern Irish descent. I have found trace of no admixture of any kind. Indeed, on my arrival in Ottawa to attend the House of Commons, an old librarian with a rich Irish brogue asked me if I knew that I was descended from an Irish king.

“Sure I do,” said I. “All Irishmen are descended from kings.”

But he haled me into the library, and showed me, to my surprised amusement, that my name is derived from that of a King of Ulster—by all the Powers! Was it an ancient bar sinister, or was it merely a love of travel and adventure (inherited honestly by myself) that had changed us into southerners from Cork and Tipperary?

One learned useful lessons from many and varied teachers—men and women of splendid type, who devoted their lives to hewing homes out of the wilderness, while building up characters of the fullest and richest qualities. They were “rough diamonds” so far as their contacts with their fellow-men were concerned. The hardships experienced, the tragedy or near-tragedy encountered, the temptations resisted, the sins committed, the poverty endured without complaint—all had their place in moulding character, all helped to achieve a broad, human background which produced in later life sympathetic understanding and self-discipline in dealing with larger affairs. This continent has produced, and will continue to produce, from such simple surroundings many boys of sterling character who, through hard work and honest ambition, attain the highest pinnacles of business or public service. In newer countries such as ours, one generation of educational opportunity often lifts him who takes advantage of it out of the humdrum of ordinary life to the adventure and romance of a much wider sphere. Any young man who has average ability, and who takes advantage of his opportunities, will profit by disciplinary hardships in his youth. Indeed, my conclusion, long since arrived at, is that a little hardship in one’s early life does much to help him in later life. He discovers in both periods that as he meets difficulties which he must surmount, the nearer he gets to them the easier they are to conquer, resembling in this the hills which he approaches in an automobile and which lower their peaks as he comes towards them.

Canada has gone far since those days before the turning of the century. Often do I ask myself whether we are happier now, or if we are healthier, morally and physically. Has it been real progress which we have made by our scientific and mechanical development? While it is true that happiness is largely a state of mind, one may well doubt whether our children are morally and physically richer than were those boys who led the life of the primitive frontier. Hollywood vulgarity and Chicago law observance; war threats and increased armaments; a world economic crisis in which millions have been in need of food and clothing and shelter—all these things may well make one ask himself whether the world has progressed or retrogressed since those days of forty years ago! And one finds himself wishing that, in times of depression and hardship such as the present, a little more of the pioneering spirit might be displayed which was so bravely shown by many worthy Canadians in unfolding the map of this dear land.

Part Two



Perhaps the most delightful period of any man’s life is that comprised in the carefree days of college—carefree at least until examination time comes round. The youthful mind is so elastic that responsibilities are not taken too seriously, and at any rate are rarely taken in advance of their time. For most men, worry as to future difficulties puts the greatest strain upon the mental forces, but to most students this period of anxiety has not yet arrived. Add to this irresponsible habit of the student’s mind the fact that he is in the spring-time of life—

When all the world is young and all the fields are green,

And every goose is a swan and every lass a queen,

and one has a happy combination which gives to those far-off student days a glamour to the older mind which perhaps no other period in his life possesses. Someone has said that “memory was given us so that we might have roses in December,” and the roses of memory that bloomed in the years from eighteen to twenty-two or twenty-three are those which we cultivate most diligently in the gardens of our mind.

My first student days were spent at Queen’s University, Kingston, and the second and third years at Trinity University, Toronto. Between the third and fourth years Trinity amalgamated with Toronto, so that I graduated from the University of Toronto itself; and, finally, a couple of years later, a year of my life passed at the University of Edinburgh. Thus I have had a cosmopolitan experience in universities, which has appeared to me to be an advantage, inasmuch as it prevented the growth of that somewhat narrow-minded idea, possessed by so many men, that their university surpasses all others.

Studying medicine thirty-five years ago took up much less of a student’s lifetime than it does to-day, when it takes some seven years to graduate as a “Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery.” Four years of study was the ordinary course at that time, the pre-medical work of to-day not being looked upon as important, but perhaps more attention was given to anatomy, physiology, biology, and such subjects. In the anatomy course we almost immediately began dissecting, which brings in the question of supplying the “subjects” for dissection—the human bodies which are necessary if students are thoroughly to understand their anatomy. In larger cities, such as Montreal or Toronto, so many derelicts are left for public burial that there is not the difficulty in this regard which exists in a small city like Kingston. In my freshman days stories were freely circulated as to the “snatching of bodies.” I very well remember a jovial fellow-student with curly brown hair and blue eyes who had the reputation of being a body-snatcher on a fairly large scale; for while we were still at the university he was before the courts on a charge of having possessed himself of a newly-buried corpse, and he had a great deal of difficulty in escaping from the clutches of the law.

There is perhaps no branch of medical studies which is more interesting than that of dissecting the human body and knowing intimately its various parts. In my library is a steel-engraved copy of Rembrandt’s famous painting, “A Dissection in Anatomy,” which is as true to life as if it were done in a dissecting-room—as it may well have been. It was picked up long ago at an auction sale, and a few years ago on a trip to Holland we saw the original painting in a gallery at the Hague.

Medical students are no worse than other men of their age in their lack of respect for the niceties of life, yet occasionally they take part in escapades which might better be avoided. One of these, which occurred in the city of Toronto a couple of years before my arrival, was a crude Hallowe’en trick of some thoughtless students who took one of the “subjects” from the dissecting-room and hung it upon a butcher’s hooks in front of his shop. A scandal naturally ensued, and as a result the butcher was not able to continue his business, becoming a saloonkeeper in another section of the city. A backwash of this incident came to me a couple of years later, when with a fellow-student we went into his house to have a glass of beer, and, some remark of ours showing him that we were students, he angrily ordered us out, referring very heatedly to the episode, of which we were quite innocent.


A fact which impressed me in those years was the importance of steady work and common sense rather than brilliancy. Throughout my life since then I have been fortified in the conclusion that it is much more important for a young man to be a worker, even though not brilliant, than to be brilliant and not a worker. As one looks back at some companions who attended lectures, and follows the records of their lives, one is strengthened in this belief because the facts show that the steady plodders have gone further than have some of those brilliant lads of other days. “The gods sell all things for labour.”

One of the plodding type comes particularly to my mind. He was not a brilliant student, though he was blessed with more than his share of what we call “common sense,” but which might better be called “uncommon sense.” His health was not good, for he was troubled with a painful condition of the eyes which prevented him from studying for weeks at a time. Yet, because he attended to his duties conscientiously and consistently, and because he loved his work, he has risen to real heights in his profession, while men who were companions of us both and who seemed to learn their lessons always with the greatest ease, but who depended rather on quick mental qualities than on steady work, have lagged far behind him. Recently I visited my plodding friend for a week-end in an institution in the United States, where he has made an outstanding reputation for himself in the treatment of tuberculosis. He is still the same quiet, retiring, modest student that he was in earlier days, but his research work in this institution, and the inspiration which he has given to his assistants, have led to a number of advances in the treatment of this “white plague” scourge of humanity. Two of these advances may be of interest.

Through careful observation he and his assistants noted that consumptives who, in the early stages of the disease, were suffering very great inconvenience through intestinal infection, leading to colic and diarrhoea, were much more greatly benefited by cod-liver oil when it was given in orange juice. At first they could not believe the evidence, as at that time the vitamins contained in orange juice were unknown, vitamins not having been discovered in our student days. However, by a series of experiments on different groups of patients, it was found that the first observation was correct; that those who were given cod-liver oil in orange juice were rapidly relieved in their symptoms; and as a result all patients who required it were given this “Cod-Liver Oil Cocktail” with almost complete elimination of these troublesome symptoms. To-day tomato juice has been substituted for orange juice, as it contains the same vitamins and is very much cheaper. This advance in the treatment of a troublesome symptom has been adopted all over the world as a result of the conscientious work of a student who in college was not at all brilliant.

One of his assistants was performing some experiments upon rabbits, large numbers of which, as well as guinea-pigs, are kept at the institution for this type of work. After inoculating the rabbits with the germ of tuberculosis, X-ray photographs are taken of their lungs for the purpose of learning the progress of the disease. But due to the fact that the rabbit breathes very rapidly, the quick up-and-down movement of the chest prevented these X-ray photographs from being of very much use. One of my friend’s Jewish students, inspired by the example of his chief, studied the possibility of the removal of this difficulty, and one day suggested two changes in the procedure which have revolutionized the X-ray photographic work. In the first place, he held the rabbit up by the ears, which action permitted the intestines and other abdominal organs (because of the soft, elastic belly muscles of the rabbit) to descend well out of the way of the X-ray pictures that were being taken of the little animal’s chest. Secondly, he pinched the nostrils of the rabbit for a moment, preventing it from breathing at all; then he gradually removed the pressure from the nostrils, and the rabbit slowly drew in a deep breath, when, just at the moment of deepest inspiration, the X-ray photograph was snapped. As a result of this simple procedure clear photographs were developed which have given a real impetus to work of this kind. I am hoping that some day my friend may have the good fortune for humanity (and himself) of producing through his research work a cure for this malady, which has been for centuries such a scourge to mankind.

My own work in college was apparently somewhat spasmodic, though the irregularity was more apparent than real. I found myself able to pick quickly the salient points out of almost any subject, throwing aside irrelevant matters. By means of this ability one was able to synopsize text-books so that one could, with a minimum of effort, learn the important features of the subject. As I always believed that anything worth doing was worth doing well, I worked when I worked and played when I played, in the superlative of each. Since most of my friends saw me only in my play-time, those who knew me not too well were of the impression that I was a loiterer. As a matter of fact, my practice was to work systematically and regularly, giving four nights per week to hard work, planning my tasks thoroughly and synopsizing my subjects carefully, so that long before the examinations were due my efforts were limited to my synopses (throwing aside almost entirely the text-books), until at examination time there was clearly in my mind the important aspects of almost every subject that we were studying. Still having three nights a week for theatres, calls on fellow-students, and other things, many of my casual acquaintances, seeing me chumming with the more free-and-easy group of students, came to the conclusion that I would likely fail in my examinations. As a matter of fact I was usually at the top of the honours list.

One recalls very well indeed (with perhaps a little pardonable pride), that many of the nurses whom one met, and even sometimes flirted with, were greatly worried about my results in the final examinations. They apparently had good reason for their worries, because at times some clinician seemed so dull that one deserted his clinic to hobnob with nurses in other wards, forcing them to the conclusion that one was neglecting duties. Consequently, toward the time of examinations a number of them pleaded with me to give at least enough attention to my work to get my degree. Knowing that I was really, in my working hours, giving intense application to my studies, and feeling quite sure of getting into the honour class in my final examinations, I derived a good deal of fun in letting them conclude that I was likely to have great difficulty. When the final results were published in the morning papers, showing—very much to my own surprise and much more to theirs—that I had carried off the gold medal, fifteen or twenty letters were delivered to me at my rooming place by special delivery early in the morning, letters of congratulation and apology from these kind, good women who had offered me so much sisterly advice in the hope that I would forswear my wayward ways long enough to get my examinations. I experienced a great boyish thrill out of these letters—boyish, for I was the youngest member of my year.

This is not told with any intention of boasting, but for the purpose of emphasizing to any young man who may read these pages that systematic study and conscientious work are of first importance. In my own case my well-planned system of study, faithfully carried out four nights a week, was most important to me in its ultimate results; for one was assuredly wiser to take off three nights a week (enjoying the theatre or visiting friends, and coming back refreshed) than were some fellow-students who worked six or seven nights, thus giving little time to the brain for its needed rest.

I have mentioned that some of the clinicians were dull, and that consequently one often felt like dodging their bedside lectures. On the other hand, some of them were fascinating, one particularly recurring to my memory—an English surgeon who insisted on being called “Mr.” He was not only an expert surgeon, but he was perhaps the best-informed man on general topics on our staff. In the midst of his lectures at the bedside of a patient while he was demonstrating the symptoms of the disease, he continually interjected information of all kinds on the most varied subjects, making his clinical lectures a continual delight.

“You mind your p’s and q’s, you chaps,” he said on one occasion. “Oh, by the way, do any of you fellows know the origin of 'p’s and q’s?”

Of course none of us did.

“Well, you know,” in his delightful English accent, “in the pubs in England the customers would buy a pint or a quart of ale, and the barmaid often kept a blackboard on which she jotted down so many 'p’s’ for pints or so many 'q’s’ for quarts against each of the customers; and so she would sometimes tell them to remember their p’s and q’s.”

On another occasion he asked one of us to close a near-by window as he uncovered the patient, suggesting that the patient might catch cold from the draught.

“Oh, by the way, can any of you chaps tell me why this patient might lie on the verandah in the open air and not catch cold, yet if I leave that window open he is liable to have an inflammation of one kind or another?” We rarely attempted to answer his questions, so he continued: “Well, the reason is, of course, that the draught hits this man perhaps on the chest and later a congestion of the pleura occurs and he has a pleurisy; or it strikes one of his knees and an inflammation occurs giving rise to an arthritis of the knee; or perhaps it impinges on the side of his face and an inflammation of the facial nerve gives him a facial paralysis.”

A witty Irishman who was in the class said on this occasion: “But, Mr. Cameron, how is it that when I get wet feet I get a cold in the head?”

“Oh, that is simply because your head is weak,” was the quick reply. It was some time before the Irishman cross-questioned this surgeon again.

Needless to say Mr. Cameron was always surrounded by a delighted and interested group of students; other lecturers please copy!

Another of our professors who possessed the affection of the students to a marked degree was also a surgeon—“Old Luke” we called him. He was an exceedingly clever and able teacher—perhaps in his day the neatest and quickest surgeon on the staff—but he resented very much what he called “the new-fangled ideas” that were being proposed, and which long since have been accepted as part of surgical technique. These proposals included the wearing of rubber gloves and linen cap and mask. Up to about that time a surgeon preparing for an important operation scrubbed his hands for five minutes under running water, and then operated with his bare hands. It is obvious that gloves which may be boiled or dry-sterilized can be made much more germ-proof (aseptic) than the hands with any amount of scrubbing; and as thin rubber gloves do not interfere with the tactile sense to any great extent, a vogue required that all surgeons should wear them. This is so much the custom at the present day that if a surgeon attempted any serious operation without gloves it would be thought almost criminal. As to cap and mask, these are worn for the purpose of preventing any dust from the hair or any saliva from the breath infecting the wound. Their use is now considered almost as essential as the wearing of gloves, though at that time these new styles were just coming into fashion. Old Luke thought them merely silly ideas of untrained men, though before he died he adopted them.

As a matter of fact he had a higher percentage of first-intention surgical recoveries than many of his competitors despite his not wearing, in their early adoption, these helps toward asepsis. Probably the reason for such good results was that he operated very rapidly, knew his anatomy perfectly, was a splendid wielder of the scalpel, and had a gentleness often possessed by large men—in other words, he counteracted his lack of gloves, cap and mask by his exquisite surgery. Those were the days when it was considered master surgery to remove an appendix through a one-inch abdominal wound, and no one could do it more perfectly than Old Luke. To-day no good surgeon would remove an appendix without making a sufficiently large opening to explore the other organs in the neighbourhood, in order not to leave something behind more troublesome to the patient than the appendix, so that small abdominal wounds are not now subjects of pride among surgeons. A long wound heals just as securely and rapidly as does a short one, and is, generally speaking, much more useful to both the surgeon and the patient. After all, the abdomen is not for public exposure—or should not be!

Other professors there were who possessed the confidence and esteem of the students, not only because of their outstanding ability as teachers and practitioners, but because they had never forgotten their own youth, and therefore understood our occasional erratic tendencies, and accepted them good-naturedly. One of these, who was at that time among the youngest yet ablest of all the surgeons on the staff, has in the past few years, after having become one of Canada’s most distinguished surgeons, filled one of the highest public positions in the gift of His Majesty; and, though he came from an Ontario farm, I venture to assert that no one of the old school aristocracy of England could fill the position with more grace, courtesy and distinction than does this brilliant Canadian, Herbert A. Bruce. He is one of the few teachers of that time who still remain with us, and it is the wish of every student who ever saw his graceful and skilful surgical technique, or who ever listened to his splendid lectures, that he continue long as an inspiration to other Canadian youngsters from our hinterlands.

The personal touch of a professor who sincerely desires to develop his students is an inspiration of the first order to young men. At Toronto we were blessed among our teachers with some of the ablest men in the profession, men who took a fatherly interest in the students whom they met, and an affectionate pride in the accomplishments of any of them. In return for this, these masters received the loyalty and confidence of the young men who studied under them. As the years have passed, one of my greatest delights has been the opportunity of renewing acquaintance with some of these early teachers, whose busy professional lives were interrupted by their lectures and demonstrations in the college of which they formed a part.

It would, of course, be an exaggeration to state that all our instructors were either outstandingly able, or particularly popular with us. There are always professors who think and act as if dealing with children—not with young men and women, as in the case of teachers in a university. One such recurs to my mind. He was a splendid lecturer, but insisted on treating us as if we were in the lower grades of a public school, and we resented his martinetlike attitude. On one occasion, when the majority shouted a boisterous welcome to him on his entry to the lecture-room, he heatedly stated that if such unseemly behaviour occurred again he would leave the room. On his next teaching period the uproar much exceeded that of the previous day. True to his word he left the room, and sent a message that until the class apologized he would lecture no more. As it was our final year, and he was a professor in a most important subject, at the class meetings which followed some pleaded for an apology. I led the opposition; and, although for some ten days no professor appeared, at length he returned without any apology, claiming (quite insincerely) that he had learned that a few juniors had been in the classroom on the day of the occurrence and had been responsible for the disturbance. As he had climbed down off his dictatorial eminence, we received him quietly, and no more trouble ensued. It was probably a wholesome lesson to him, and useful to the students who followed us.

I have not gone into details of the interesting years when we studied anatomy on the human subject in the dissecting-room, neither have I dealt with the other interesting laboratory work in chemistry and biology, nor have I elaborated the fascinating work of our last two college years, studying at the bedside where symptoms and signs were demonstrated upon the patients themselves. On one occasion we visited a smallpox hospital under the eye of the Medical Health Officer of Toronto, himself a brilliant speaker and exceedingly learned professor of physiology, who faced severe criticism by going contrary to general opinion in permitting us as students to examine at first hand this highly-contagious disease, without (fortunately for his reputation and our health) any of us developing it thereafter. Since then, I believe, it has become a regular custom to visit these cases.


A few comments on extra-mural activities may not be amiss, for much of the real education of a student is obtained outside the college halls. The training of the universities is merely the foundation upon which one builds a culture-edifice in later years. Education helps to ripen the character that one possesses, and as one’s contacts outside the university are more real than the disciplined contacts within it, extra-mural associations are equally as important in completing the educated product.

In Toronto there were five theatres—the Princess, to which went the best dramatic and operatic companies; the Grand; which got the next grade; the Toronto, where one might enjoy the thrills of extreme melodrama; Shea’s which specialized in vaudeville; and the Star, with its rough variety shows, at which was offered what then passed for indecent exposure of shapely girls, but which to-day on our beaches would be laughed at as old-fashioned.

Henry Irving frequently visited Toronto in the London off-season, and, as he was looked upon as the world’s greatest actor, it gave the students a chance to see a superb artist for the price of a seat in “the gods.” Oft do I remember being one of a long line of students standing outside the rush entrance before a performance of The Merchant of Venice, or The Bells, in which Sir Henry came and went upon the stage. His Shylock comes back vividly to me now, as do also the splendid characterizations by E. S. Willard in The Cardinal or David Garrick. Willard always appeared to me to be an even greater actor than Irving. Another performance of which I can recall every incident was that of Otis Skinner in Francesca da Rimini, in which he played the hunchback prince who was betrayed by his favourite brother. The final tragic act (in which the hunchback kills his wife and her lover, then, after spurning his wife with his foot, casts himself in grief on the breast of his brother) is as vivid to me to-day as it was the night I saw it. E. H. Sothern and Julia Marlowe in Shakespearean rôles; Forbes Robertson in The Light that Failed; Martin Harvey in The Only Way; George Alexander in Monsieur Beaucaire; Richard Mansfield in Cyrano de Bergerac; Lulu Glaser in Dolly Varden, and other musical comedies such as Floradora and The Prince of Pilsen—all these gave us the chance of seeing and hearing world leaders on the dramatic and operatic stage, delights which I naturally never had had the opportunity of experiencing in my boyhood, and the memory of which is still fresh after thirty years. At present one must go to London or New York to enjoy good drama, and as a rule we give ourselves a ten-day treat annually in New York, enjoying there as well the magnificent musical performances of the Metropolitan Opera House.

On the musical stage Paderewski (who, after the peace treaties, became the first President of Poland) gave piano recitals in Massey Hall, though I never have been able to get the thrill from piano music which is given me by the human voice or the violin. I also remember in those days hearing Madame Melba and our own Madame Albani in their splendid vocal recitals.

The ability to appreciate beauty is possessed by any man with reasonably good taste, and this applies to all branches of art. Good paintings are admired by any intelligent man who is not frightened from attempting to estimate them by the jargon of the critics. Again and again on our visits to some of the world’s famous art galleries, we checked this up by entering salons of Italian, or Dutch, or French, or British paintings, and choosing from among the treasures on the walls what appeared to us to be the real masterpieces of the salons. Invariably, on consulting the guides or guide-books, we found that our selections were justified, and yet we had no training whatsoever in painting. It may not be quite so easy in sculpture or in architecture, but in a general way the beauties of either are recognized, without any technical knowledge, by anyone who loves the beautiful in nature and in art.

One of the amusing and instructive memories of those days deals with a boarding-house at which we stayed and an incident in connection therewith. In the period spoken of none of us “lived in” at the university, all having rooms in private homes and taking our meals in other private homes, the reason for separating these two services being, that when one tired of the food (as one often did) it was easier to change boarding-houses than to change rooms, though even changing rooms was not so troublesome, as on these occasions we helped each other lug our trunks from place to place.

The incident occurred at the home of an old woman who kept a rather good establishment. I was about twenty, strong and healthy, accustomed to plain, wholesome food, and blessed with that best of mealtime sauces, a good appetite. Therefore the meals, which usually consisted of plenty of meat and vegetables, with pie or pudding and tea or coffee, quite satisfied me. But most of the other students were not blessed with my healthy outlook on food, and as a result complaining at table was almost continuous among the thirteen or fourteen who took meals with Mrs. Gee. After some months I became impatient with this continual fault-finding at table, accompanied by a lack of courage to say anything to the woman who catered to us. Being of a frank disposition, and not lacking the courage to express my thoughts, I suggested that if they were all dissatisfied, as they appeared to be, one of them should be deputed to talk to Mrs. Gee. As she was a sharp-tongued old lady, none of them cared to take it on, while nearly all of them admitted that they were displeased with the food.

“Well,” I said, “if you chaps are all dissatisfied, I shall tell Mrs. Gee what we think of it,” to which proposal they acceded, suggesting that they go across the street to await the result at old Teddy Byron’s bookshop, which was a club for us all. This I agreed to, finishing my meal slowly while the table gradually emptied. After they had all gone I walked in to Mrs. Gee in her parlour where she sat with a Queen Victoria air of dignity watching us come and go.

“Mrs. Gee,” I said respectfully, “the boys are all displeased with the food, and have asked me to express to you their disapproval of it.”

“It’s too damn good for them,” she heatedly returned.

“Well, it may be, Mrs. Gee,” I answered, “but we don’t think so; and we merely wish to advise you that if it does not improve we are going to leave the house.”

To which she angrily replied that it would not be improved, and, if we did not like it, we knew what we could do. When I gave them her answer the boys were somewhat panicky, as they really liked the old lady, and probably enjoyed the food more than they admitted.

This was a Saturday evening; and on Sunday morning at breakfast-time she stood majestically in the doorway and accosted each as he came in.

“Mr. Smith,” she would say, “are you satisfied with the food in this house?”

“Perfectly, Mrs. Gee.”

“You pass on,” she would reply.

“Mr. Jones, are you satisfied with the food?”

“Entirely, Mrs. Gee.”

“You pass on.”

Some nine or ten had come in before I arrived, and not one of them had supported my protestations to the landlady, so that by the time of my arrival she was in good fettle to meet me. She wasted no words. As I opened the door, she stood before me with arm outstretched toward the street.

“You get to hell out of here,” she said. “I want you in my house no longer.”

How well I remember grinningly paying her the balance of my account and going off down Yonge Street to a restaurant to have my breakfast. It was a lesson to me in after years in regard to frank speaking and its not uncommon reward, though I never succeeded in curbing my sometimes too outspoken habits to any great extent.

However, I should not finish the story of the incident without (in justice to my fellow-students) adding that when they learned what had happened, all of them but one left the house; and we moved down Parliament Street a couple of blocks to another table. Poor old Mrs. Gee (whom I really liked very much, and to whom I had given the protest with the best of intentions) hated me most vindictively, and repeatedly stated to the one student who remained that “that fellow from out West” had wrecked her boarding-house. The frank and fearless friend is rarely appreciated, for, with the generality of mankind, candid words cannot compete with candied words!

The one student who remained was a native of the West Indies, a charming chap, about one-fourth native, the other three-fourths giving him very pleasing English manners. He apologized to me for staying, stating that he had been with Mrs. Gee for two or three years, and, as he was graduating in the spring and did not care to move, he asked me if I would resent his remaining. To this, of course, my reply was heartily in the negative, being only too happy to see the old lady retain one of us.

There is a strange sequel to this incident. The one student who remained went back to practise in the West Indies, and we met no more for twelve years. The World War had broken out, and I had gone across on my own and enlisted with the French army as a surgeon, being sent to a casualty clearing station about a mile behind the lines north of Compiègne. Within an hour of my arrival the French Surgeon-General asked me to trephine the skull of a soldier who had been kicked on the head by a horse, depressing about three square inches of skull. The man was brought immediately to the casualty clearing station from some sector in the neighbourhood where he had been injured, and, as I walked into the library-operating-room of this old château-hospital for the first time, the anaesthetic was being given by my West Indian friend who had stayed at Mrs. Gee’s boarding-house. The patient upon whom we operated made what surgeons call a “first-intention” recovery, and my erstwhile student friend and I worked and played there together for some months thereafter, I as surgeon in charge, and he as one of my assistants.

As student escapades have been told in books innumerable, and are much alike from generation to generation—only the details being altered—no further space need be given to them.

One conclusion reached since then in meeting men who deal with public affairs is that a medical training is one of the best mental disciplines which it is possible to obtain, for it teaches one to think out any problem from cause to effect in a systematic and logical way. Education has for its object the formation of ideas and ideals, not the giving of information; the acquirement of tastes, not the imparting of knowledge; and, as a result of these tastes and ideals, character develops and ripens. If in the formation of character the mind is trained to think independently, to follow a problem from cause to effect, the foundation has indeed been laid for success in whatever walk of life the scholar may tread in later years.

Though few medical men go into public life, those who do so almost invariably analyse questions competently and present their views in a clear-cut and well-defined order, due to their scientific training. Some of them have attained in Canada high positions in our legislative halls, despite the lack of business or legal experience. Sir Charles Tupper, a country physician, is perhaps the best example of this.

Part Three



Although having done well in my final examinations, I realized, as every student of medicine must, that one has no right to practise the profession until after a post-graduate course in a hospital under the eyes of well-trained men. The law should compel graduates in medicine to do this, since it is unfair to the public that a young man with little more than theoretical knowledge should immediately go into the practice of a profession in which human life is at stake. Having applied unsuccessfully to two of the Toronto hospitals for a “House” position, I obtained a post in a general hospital of another city, not so large as Toronto. This hospital accepted every class of case, including medical, surgical and obstetric. A splendid staff being in charge, and the work of a varied character, a year here gave me an excellent training. This was followed by another year in the University of Edinburgh, and in London and Paris—in Edinburgh taking what was called a “triple degree,” which made me a Licentiate of Edinburgh and Glasgow in medicine and surgery.

These two years were, from a professional standpoint, the most valuable that one could possibly have had. A house surgeon in a hospital not only comes intimately into contact with the patients, but is permitted to handle many of the cases himself under the watchful eyes of the staff, and therefore is in the best possible surroundings to obtain in a year as much well-directed experience as he would get in five years of actual practice outside, with the added advantage that the house surgeon’s errors are corrected by members of the profession who have been for years carrying on their activities. Without this experience the young medical man must perforce bury at least some of his mistakes. Referring to this, an undertaker in an eastern city, when asked his profession, replied that he “followed the medical profession!”

It will not be of interest to describe the routine work of a general hospital; suffice it to say that during the following twelve months I had a most varied and complete experience of all classes of medical, surgical, and special work, under the observant tutelage of a splendid group of well-trained medical men. My observations will therefore be limited to the mention of a few interesting contacts with staff or patients recalled because of some uncommon circumstance or peculiarity in connection with them. The regular medical and surgical staff was, as all staffs are, made up of some who were anxious to assist the house surgeon by permitting him to carry out a good deal of work himself, and of others who desired to retain for themselves all the work that came in. Naturally, those staff men who gave us a free hand under their direction were popular with us, and helped us to a greater extent than did the others.

In addition to a splendid all-round professional training in this hospital, one had the opportunity of associating with an outstanding group of physicians and surgeons, and profited by the mellowing influence that generally comes through contact with a patient, gentle group of women such as the Sisters in charge of the hospital. The conclusion came to me during my year in their hospital that they were about the happiest people in the world. It is true that they had given up the ordinary associations with the world; they renounced marriage and the joys of motherhood; but they obtained in return a peace of mind which is achieved probably by no other vocation. They were harassed by none of the worries of the ordinary housewife, their clothes and food being assured; they enjoyed regular hours of work and recreation; they had the peaceful minds of those who commit no sin. As a result they possessed a serenity of temper which was ideal indeed. As the dining-room in which we house surgeons ate our dinner, sometimes late in the evening, was not far from the recreation-room of the Sisters, there rang in our ears the gay, happy laughter of these women while they sat in groups about their simple room, chaffing each other, telling innocent stories, listening to the strains of a gramophone, or doing other harmless little things to while away their social hour. Even then one sometimes envied them their peace of mind, and more often since. Never have I heard more hearty or pleasing laughter in my life, except when in the midst of a roomful of children whose gay mirth is the sweetest sound in the world.

The memory of one of these Sisters comes back to my mind. On my arrival at the hospital one of the out-going house surgeons, who had been in college with me, was introducing me about, when we saw coming down one of the corridors a tall, somewhat severe-looking Sister of perhaps fifty.

“Now, Manion,” he whispered to me, “I am going to introduce you to the sternest woman in the hospital. She is hard-boiled and difficult to get along with, so keep your eyes open when you are dealing with her.”

Naturally, with such an introduction, I looked forward to difficulties with this “second-in-command,” instead of which I have rarely met a woman of more generous instincts. On one occasion when, in a spirit of youthful effervescence, I had returned to the hospital late at night, after having looked too long but not too wisely upon the wine when it was red, and had thrown myself of a cold evening upon my bed half undressed and in danger of a chill, she not only came and tucked me in as my mother might have done, but hushed the incident in order to protect my standing. On another occasion a young and very attractive American girl had come to the hospital to become a nun, and as this girl was an accomplished linguist she was frequently instructed to translate for me the medical history of some of the foreign patients, this during her probation period as to her fitness for the sisterhood. She gradually realized that her decision to enter this unworldly institution was a mistake. Our conversations became less and less professional, until one day a hawk-eyed Sister reported our dallyings to the second-in-command. Always believing in the offensive as the best defensive, and fearing that the attractive young novice might be harshly dealt with, I went directly to the supervising Sister. She at first flatly denied any report, but on my insistence admitted it, telling me that the hawk-eyed one had been told to attend to her own affairs.

“To think,” she added, “that a boy like you with a face like an open book should be reported for such a silly matter.”

I hope I blushed!

A few months later the young American gave up her intention of becoming one of the Congregation, perhaps her decision being inspired by the Sisterhood. And may I add in extenuation of my actions that these incidents occurred when I was barely twenty-two!

Two or three years later, in the early practice of my profession, I was the regular attending physician to another group of Sisters of Charity, who also were doing splendid work in looking after homeless children, while another branch of the same Order capably managed an excellent hospital near by. They were not of the same Sisterhood as those above mentioned, but they were of the same fine character, practising charity in its noblest sense, in the full realization that “prayer without good works is dead,” thus following the example of the Great Physician. Naturally one never charged them for the attention—they hardly could have paid had one done so—and as I had a good professional reputation in the neighbourhood, they good-naturedly listened to my often too frankly expressed opinions. Indeed, they usually laughed gaily at some of my ideas. I was young, a little garrulous, and probably sometimes shocked them with my unorthodox ideas. For instance, during some desultory talk I expressed the view to two of them, that my wife and other women like her who encounter the difficulties, temptations and tragedies of the world, really had a harder lot to bear than the Sisters—an opinion which in no way belittles the splendid charitable and religious works carried on by these devoted women. This was probably a new thought to them, especially coming from one of their own religion, but it seemed only to amuse, for they felt (no doubt, with some justification) that I was merely a youthful irresponsible.

On another professional visit I found that one of them had a very severe attack of appendicitis, and urged immediate operation, which proposal is the only proper one in early appendicitis, providing good surgery is within reach. But operations were not so common then as now, and they informed me that, before consenting, they were going to offer up some mass-prayers to St. Joseph.

“Well,” I replied smilingly, and all too confidently, “with all due respect to St. Joseph, he is going to have to call in a surgeon to help him out this time.”

The patient was immediately placed on a starvation diet, and given the so-called medical treatment for appendicitis which is carried out when for some reason surgery is impossible. At that time we kept the patient in bed, starved, and applied an ice bag. A little to my professional chagrin, the Sister rapidly recovered from her attack, and they indulged in some good-natured raillery at my expense, telling me that St. Joseph after all was not such a bad surgeon, to which my reply was that I did not deny this, but that St. Joseph had been working through me.

For many years of my active practice we were very good friends, and one trusts they still sometimes offer up some of the prayers which they used so kindly to utter in those days as a reward for my attentions; for surely no prayers can be more acceptable than those of good women and innocent children. Those who deny the efficacy of prayer would take from millions of human beings a consolation that can be given by nothing else. Sitting by the bedside of the dying, I have at times marvelled at the joy of the patient and his loved ones when they had made their last appeal and resigned themselves to the mercy of the Supreme Being. To those who have faith no consolation equals that obtained by supplication to the Most High, whether the prayer be for some loved one here below, or for the repose of the soul of one departed.

The memory of one of the most interesting patients met in those hospital days still brings a smile to my lips. A fairly prominent business man, he was one of those who could not take a drink of liquor of any kind without going off on a protracted spree—a disease which can be controlled in only one way, namely, the absolute refusal of the afflicted one ever to take a taste of alcohol in any form. The fact that these individuals can resist the temptation for weeks or months is proof that most of them can resist it for all time if they but so determine. This business man was afflicted with his uncontrollable desire about every three or four months, and after his spree had lasted for two or three weeks his nervous system was so undermined that only by going into some form of institution could he get back to normal. Thus he became a regular visitor to the hospital; and, as everyone was aware of his condition, and knew the necessary treatment, no outside physician was called in, but he was put in the hands of myself or one of the other internes. He had a dread of being shut off too suddenly from the alcoholic stimulant in which he had been indulging so freely, but his method of approach was always original.

“Doctor,” he said on my first visit to him, “did I ever tell you the story of the man who fell off the house? No? Well, it was not the fall that hurt him; it was the sudden stop. Do you get the point?” Which, of course, one got very quickly, and promised that we would not shut off his supplies too suddenly.

On one occasion, after he had been nearly cured of his condition and was almost at the stage where he could be deprived of alcohol altogether, I was called hurriedly by one of the Sisters who told me that Mr. Brown insisted on leaving the hospital as he had “important business to attend to down street”—this being the old story told by men who are anxious to get back to the flesh-pots. Going up and quite frankly telling him that he was only bluffing, I suggested that what he really wanted was a little increase in his alcoholic allowance. He admitted it frankly. Going out to the ante-room of the private ward which he was occupying, I whispered to the Sister that she could give him an extra half-ounce of whiskey, but instructed her to put a half-ounce of water in it to make it look like a larger drink. He heard the whispering and called me back.

“Doctor,” he said, “did I ever tell you the story of the woman who sent her little boy for a pint of milk, but sent him with two vessels? The milkman asked him why he brought two vessels, to which he replied that his mamma said that the milkman could put the milk in one and the water in the other, and she would mix them herself. Do you get the point?”

The Mother Superior of the hospital and all the others who knew Mr. Brown liked him very much, because he was not only a very witty chap, but, outside of his occasional lapses, was a very good citizen. They were always sorry to see him coming in, though he was one of the patients who paid his way and paid it well. The Superior in her motherly fashion once approached him with the intention of offering him some maternal advice.

“Mr. Brown,” she said, “when you go on these sprees of yours, what do you drink?”

“Usually whiskey and soda,” he replied.

“But, Mr. Brown,” the Mother replied, “when you have had enough whiskey and soda, why don’t you ask for ginger ale?”

“But, Mother dear,” he answered, “when I have had enough whiskey and soda I cannot ask for ginger ale.”

The Mother smiled in her kindly way, and for that time at least gave up her hope of his reformation.


After a year of hospital work as an interne, my father urged me to continue my studies for a year abroad, suggesting a course at the University of Edinburgh. I sailed from New York on one of the big liners, incidentally spending a couple of days in New York City, the first of very many visits. On my way to Edinburgh I dropped off the steamer at Queenstown, making a short tour up through Ireland, passing through Cork—it and Tipperary the home, a little over a century ago, of my ancestors on both sides—visiting the Lakes of Killarney, Dublin, Belfast, and other interesting spots. It was my first visit to a land whose sad history as a youth I knew very intimately, and had listened to John Redmond, William O’Brien, T. P. O’Connor and others, tell of its wrongs on their tours of our continent. As a consequence, like many young Irish-Canadians, I took a most enthusiastic interest in Irish affairs—more, indeed, than at that time in Canadian—not hesitating to lay all the blame for the unhappy condition at England’s door. But, long since, I came to the conclusion that Canada has quite enough problems to absorb the attention of all young Canadians, although they need not fail to keep a corner of their heart for the land whence their forefathers came. Added to this conviction is that other one, which fair-minded Irish-Canadians must have adopted in the last ten years—that England is not to blame at present for troubles which still seem to beset the Emerald Isle.

Edinburgh gave me one of the most interesting periods of my early life. Not only was the University of Edinburgh then, as it is now, a splendid teaching institution, but the city itself had historic associations which added greatly to it charm to one from a newer portion of the world. It was my first visit to old historic lands, and what thrills came to me wandering from the Castle to Holyrood, traversing the High Street which had been trod three hundred years before by that charming and pathetic figure, Mary Queen of Scots, and some of her admirers, perchance her lovers! Her beauty, and the sadness of her life and death, makes her one of the most fascinating female characters in history, and one would be hard-headed indeed did he not feel a pang of regret that one so lovely should have seen so much tragedy. How angry one would get in passing old St. Giles Church, to think of the somewhat ill-tempered and puritanical tirades which John Knox used to hurl at the Queen and her companions! No doubt morally he was right, but to a young man in his early twenties, who fain would have been one of her rescuers, the preachings of this hard-headed ecclesiastic appeared but the unreasonable ravings of one who placed religion higher than Christianity. Nearly thirty years later these memories were revived by a visit, while in Geneva, to the little church in “the old town” at which John Knox began his rigid teachings.

The training at Edinburgh was exceptionally good, though in some ways the surgical training was not quite so up-to-date as was the medical. Some of the surgeons, such as Stiles and Alexis Thompson, were quite the equal of any surgeons one could find in any clinic in the world; but others who were senior to Thompson, while excellent surgeons, were to a certain extent old-fogeyish and their methods often old-fashioned.

At that date in Edinburgh the anaesthetic used for operations was chloroform, whereas in most clinics everywhere else in the world ether (not by the “open method,” but by the “closed method”) was being employed, as it was much safer. But in Edinburgh the most daring chances seemed to be taken in regard to anaesthetics, some comparatively young student being often called down from the observation benches, and asked to give a chloroform anaesthetic to a patient who had just been brought in—an exceedingly dangerous custom. During my general practice I have seen patients on a few occasions collapse while being given chloroform, and almost pass out in spite of the most strenuous efforts to revive them. I have had the good fortune never to see a patient die under an anaesthetic except once, and that occurred in my house-surgeon days when an outside physician was giving the anaesthetic; the patient passed into a shocked collapse from which she did not recover. No accidents occurred during my term in Scotland, but one often wondered why they did not, for chloroform seemed to be treated almost with contempt, in spite of the fact that it is considered a very dangerous type of anaesthetic, and is now replaced everywhere by some of the newer methods in which it has no part.

My suite of rooms was on Marchmont Road, not far from the Royal Infirmary, near a group of other Canadians who were taking post-graduate courses in the old Scotch city. We were given very generous privileges in the wards during the evenings, where we were permitted to make practically any examinations we chose, enabling us to study various diseases at first hand. It was an excellent training, and, being of a somewhat impatient disposition, I decided to try the examinations for my degree at the end of four months, a rather short period, as the usual custom was to take six, nine or twelve months. But, having my gold-medalist graduation and my year’s interneship back of me, I resolved to make the attempt. In order to make reasonably sure of it, a tutor was advisable—one who knew the Edinburgh system thoroughly, and who could consequently give suggestions that might be of great use. Saying “good-bye” to a friend in Toronto, he reminded me that he had been in Edinburgh and had gone to a clever old tutor. My friend’s last words, as I stepped through the door of the station to take my train, were to remind me “not to forget to study with Old Mack,” and he handed me the tutor’s full name and address. He had not explained why he thought Old Mack such a good teacher, and after engaging him one was somewhat puzzled as to why he had praised him so highly, as the old man did not impress one at all as in any way outstanding. He was a queer old chap. I can see him yet with his back to the fireplace, absorbing, we thought, all the heat, while his students sat shivering in the raw cold of an Edinburgh autumn. His suggestions were given in a hesitating way, and one came to the conclusion that he was not sure of his statements. I thought seriously of throwing him over, but as it was too late to get another tutor on my hurried plan, I decided to stick with him until after the examinations, when finally I discovered why this teacher had been suggested to me by my friend. It was rather an extraordinary reason. Ten days or so before the examinations the old man stated that he had studied the examination papers for many years and he felt that he had a very good gift at guessing the questions that would be put before us.

“I suppose you chaps,” he would say, “know thoroughly the formation of the eyeball,” and he would go on to give us a somewhat detailed review of it. Then he would perhaps jump to a description of the sciatic nerve; or, if it was our medical hour, he might urge on us vividly the possibility of having a question about chorea, or epilepsy. Certain of these suggestions he recurred to and doubly impressed upon us, while partly burying them in other subjects which he mentioned much less emphatically. To our startled surprise, when the examinations came round, nearly all the questions which he had particularly emphasized were on the examination paper, and we had no doubt whatsoever that the old man in some way had access to these papers. In discussing it afterwards, some of us came to the conclusion that he must have bribed the caretaker of one of the buildings in whose safe-keeping the papers were left, for otherwise he could not have guessed correctly so often.

In spite of his assistance, however, I had a failure for the first time in my life, a failure for which I have always been very grateful, for too consistent success may spoil a youth’s good sense. In the written examinations and most of the orals I did exceedingly well, probably to a certain extent due to the information which Old Mack offered us, but largely due to the fact that it was my custom as usual to work during working hours, and play in playtime. However, one of the older professors of surgery, one who was a high-up officer in the University of Edinburgh at that time, gave me a terrible flaying on my surgery oral. Oral examinations had always been easy for me up to that time, because I was possessed of a good deal of self-confidence, could express myself reasonably well, and usually gave to my examiners the impression of knowing a good deal more about the subject than I in reality did. Yet it is likely that had I known Gray’s Anatomy from cover to cover, and surgery even better than he himself, it was predestined that I should not pass. Possibly this was a foolish boyish notion, yet it stays with me still. My conviction is that this old professor decided that it was not only impertinence on my part to try these examinations at the end of a few months, but it was not giving a fair financial return either to the city or to the university to walk away with my degrees in that short period! At any rate he gave me an exceedingly “rough ride,” and I realized in the midst of it that he was out to “pluck” me, as his whole method showed it. He would pick up a surgical instrument which had perhaps been in the infirmary for generations, and if I were able to name the instrument he would then ask me who invented it, which question I probably could not answer. Then he would rake me fore and aft in a most insulting manner until he got my ire aroused, and I said things to him that I never had said to a teacher previously in my life. I failed in the examination, which meant that one had a wait of another three months to try it again; and as surgery included a number of other subjects, a failure in this branch of it meant taking the whole group over again.

The failure was good for me. In addition to the reason already given, it detained me in Edinburgh for another three months, giving me a far better foundation-knowledge of my work than I otherwise would have had. At the end of that time I took the examinations which were necessary, and once more nearly “took the count” from the same professor who had given me such a tussle in my previous examinations. However, I had done two things which saved me, one of them being to learn the name and history of every instrument in the Royal Infirmary, and the other to discontinue my classes with Old Mack, as my conclusion was definite that he was of no particular use.


I spent some time on this European trip in London and Paris attending the clinics there, and also spent a short time at the famous Rotunda Hospital in Dublin. An old college friend of mine was attending the London clinics, and, since neither of us was intent on taking any of the examinations, we found it easy to combine our clinical work at the hospitals with a rather delightful life spent in seeing the sights of London and indulging our early affection for that wonderful old city. We visited the Tower, Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, Fleet Street, the Zoo, St. Paul’s, Dr. Johnson’s Cheshire Cheese, and the other intensely interesting spots that a tourist may visit. One came to know certain portions of the city very well indeed, and it is doubtful if any visit since has given the pleasurable emotions of this first one in the full flush of youth.

Like New York, London has changed a good deal in thirty years. No longer does nearly everyone—as was the custom for even young chaps like us—wear silk “toppers” on their daily and nightly rounds; and one must now utilize the hurrying, scurrying, skidding taxicabs, instead of those comfortable and dignified hansoms with the driver sitting up behind. Other institutions have also passed, such as the Empire Music Hall; the then famous Continental Café; the old Cecil, and some others that we came to know on that trip. But London still has her courteous “bobbies,” her quaint winding streets; her busses from which to view them; her many historic buildings and institutions; her charm and her fogs!

The clinics we greatly enjoyed on our morning visits. The medical work was about on a par with that of Edinburgh, but one thought the surgery better, an opinion shared by most visiting doctors. London had, and has yet, a world-wide reputation as a clinical centre. Among those whose splendid work I saw then, and have witnessed many times on succeeding visits, were Sir Arbuthnot Lane and Bland Sutton—the former a brilliant operator and lecturer, though a little inclined to go to extremes, but both their names household words in medical circles.

Though my health has always been above the average, thank God, I had two illnesses during this year abroad—one, repeated tonsillitis. Sir Blankety-Blank, a great Scottish throat surgeon, decided to remove my tonsils. No doubt to save expense (for him), he used no form of anaesthesia, but picked the tonsils out piecemeal, giving me a most uncomfortable half-hour, and later the necessity of having them out properly.

The other illness appeared more serious, as, due to severe spasmodic pains in the back, it was diagnosed stone in the kidney, and an operation to remove the stone was proposed. The scientific instruments of to-day were not known, and students had a saying that, when operating for kidney stone, it was wise to carry a stone in your pocket! An old physician, Dr. James, saved me from the knife—may he rest in peace, if he is dead, as I expect he is! He diagnosed my condition as irregular hours, and too great an indulgence in coffee—my favourite of all beverages—and his diagnosis was confirmed by my complete recovery upon correction of my habits.

It is well to remember that many people there are who have idiosyncrasies of this kind. To some it may be coffee, to others strawberries; to some oysters, to others onions; but the fact to remember is that no two constitutions are entirely alike—perhaps expressed better by the saying that “no two stomachs are alike,” or that “one man’s meat is another man’s poison.”

Since one is speaking of such personal matters, my only other illness may also be useful to someone so unfortunate as to suffer in like manner. During the two years before the War I was working very intensely for long hours each day; eating hurriedly and heartily, and getting no exercise to burn up the fuel consumed. This combination of habits and constitution brought upon me all the symptoms of ulcer of the duodenum—that is the part of the intestine just beyond the stomach. The particular symptom which gave me distress—and severe distress it was—consisted of an agonizing, burning pain some hours after eating. The War breaking out, I left for the front. This completely changed my mode of life, so that instead of continuous mental work, heavy eating and no exercise, plus a good deal of worry over my cases, one got plenty of exercise, had almost no worry, and more or less relaxation between the occasional spurts of work. It was a complete change, and in a few months my painful “heart-burn” attacks were gone, and have never troubled me since that time. So many business men suffer from this condition, due to the same causes, that the story is worth the telling, since the remedy for the condition is in just such a complete change as that described. At least it is worth trying before submitting to operative measures.

An authentic story is told of the famous John Hunter, one of the greatest English physicians a century and a half ago, who left the Hunter Museum which I visited in those student days in London. A rich business man came to him complaining of much the same symptoms as mine, telling about the same story as to confinement at work, lack of exercise, and so on.

“My dear man,” said Hunter to him after examining him very carefully, “I regret to tell you that you are very likely to die from this complaint; but there is one chance of saving your life. You are suffering from a very rare and dangerous disease, and there is only one man in the world who can cure you. He is a physician practising up in Aberdeen, Scotland. His name is Simon Levinsky. If you wish to live, your only hope is to go to him forthwith and have him attend to you.”

The business man, thoroughly frightened, decided he would go; but as there were in those days no coaches or trains upon which he could make the journey, much of the distance had to be made on foot. About three months later he came fuming into John Hunter’s office.

“What the devil do you mean,” he blurted at Hunter, “by sending me off to see a physician named Simon Levinsky, when Aberdeen has never had a physician with any such name or nationality?”

“How is your stomach?” asked Hunter.

“My stomach is all right,” he replied, “but I should like to have an explanation of your conduct.”

It did not take Hunter long to explain his conduct, and the man realized the service that Hunter had performed for him in forcing upon him the exercise and fresh air of the past three months.


In this, my first trip to Europe, I found certain rather surprising conditions, many of which have changed in the intervening years. One peculiarity was shown in the mannerisms displayed by the shopkeepers. In Canada and the United States at that time “the customer was always right.” When one went into a shop the clerks were all politeness whether one purchased or not, and it was a studied policy to avoid giving anyone the impression that he offended in any way by putting them to a great deal of trouble, even if he did not purchase. But in Scotland and in England thirty years ago the whole attitude of the shopkeepers and their assistants was entirely different. There was an air of “take-it-or-leave-it” about them which was a little shocking to the visitor. Fashions in clothes and shoes were a good deal different in the British Isles then from those prevailing on the North American continent, and it was not always easy for the visitor to obtain at reasonable prices styles or fittings which pleased him; and necessarily, in some cases at any rate, he gave the shopkeepers a good deal of trouble, much to their quite obvious distaste.

The same habit was common among the British generally in trade solicitation through their commercial travellers who came out to Canada. They took the haughty attitude that if you wanted their goods you could purchase them, but they were not chasing after your custom, and on many occasions they lost valuable orders because of this unwise policy. In view of this abrupt, somewhat discourteous treatment of people whom they wished to be their customers, one used to wonder how they still succeeded in being such a marvellously successful “nation of shop-keepers,” maintaining their high position in world trade. I came to the conclusion that it was largely due to their honest and fair business dealings—perhaps through a realization on their part that honesty is the best policy. My conclusion has been strengthened in this matter through American business men telling me that the British dealer is the most honourable in the world.

Another peculiarity particularly applicable to the English thirty years ago, but which has been corrected to a large extent since then, was their natural “offishness” toward strangers. The old joke about the Englishman never speaking to a stranger until he was introduced held good to a large extent, whether you met him in his own island or on a train or ship in Canada. To Canadians and Americans, with their somewhat free and easy sociability, this was sometimes a little annoying. Some thought it due to a superiority complex, and a few of those who came from south of the Tweed undoubtedly did look down on all Canadians as “Colonials”—leading to misunderstandings, and even to the “no-English-need-apply sign” that was on some occasions displayed. This attitude was regrettable, because the English people have so many fine qualities that, when one gets inside that crust of pride or shyness or superiority (whichever it is), he usually finds that they are not only delightful companions, but honourable and loyal associates. It should be added that most Englishmen who come out to Canada, of whatever class, provided they are willing to take their place as Canadians, and are willing to live the life of the Canadian people in work and play, fill their niche worthily in the life of the community—as the Scotch and the Irish have always done.

It is true that the English habit of reserve toward strangers is as common among themselves as it is toward outsiders. An amusing incident illustrating this point occurred on one of my transatlantic voyages just before the War. An English electrical engineer who had been in South America for some years, and was as sociable with his fellowmen as any American or Canadian, became a daily companion of mine. He was an interesting conversationalist, had practised his profession in various parts of the world, and possessed a wide knowledge of world conditions. He was much amused at one of his countrymen, who was placed at the same table in the dining-room, and who insistently and offensively avoided conversation with him, though they were in adjoining seats. Each day after they met at table he would recount in amusing fashion his futile attempts to get inside the guard of his fellow-countryman. Finally, a couple of days out from Liverpool, he told me of his last attempt.

“After a number of efforts at dinner this evening, all of which were unavailing, to converse with my companion at table, I said to him, 'If it is not a personal question, what nationality are you?’ and his reply was, 'It is a personal question.’ I give up,” he added, though in giving up he missed a good deal of fun which he had been indulging in rather freely.

Part Four



When student days are over one starts out to face the world, with its toil, its cares, and (what is still more the cause of discontent and unhappiness) its ambitions; for the ambitious man is always less happy than his contented fellow-being, whether the ambition be for riches, position, or merely “to keep up with the Joneses.” One of the world’s present leaders, Mussolini, recently said that it is better to live one day as a lion than to live a year as a lamb. Perhaps, but anyway, if we were all satisfied to vegetate, the world would not have progressed as it has, for it was ambition which stirred in the breasts of the explorers, the scientists, the statesmen, and the business leaders of past centuries, and spurred them on to great accomplishment.

At my entrance into practice, world conditions were what we now call normal. The Great War had not occurred; the world was not flooded in debt; trade was not being strangled as it is to-day by the economic nationalism of fearful nations, anxious to be able to supply their own needs in case of another world sacrifice to Mars; and the future looked promising to a cheerful and naturally optimistic young man, who had no more prevision than others as to chaotic years which were so rapidly approaching.

At that date the pioneer village of my boyhood had grown to a city of ten thousand people and was progressing toward greater things. It was for this reason that I decided to settle there rather than face the more doubtful prospects of a large city. It is often true that “a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house,” but this Biblical saying has certainly not applied to myself either professionally or politically during the intervening thirty years, for the friends of boyhood were so loyal and true to me that in both phases of my life I owe them infinite gratitude. Largely as a result of their friendship, though partly because of my particularly good medical and surgical training, I rapidly attained the position of being one of the leading medical men of this mid-western city, so that even by the end of the first year the manifold duties of a general practitioner monopolized my time and energy. Only a few of the interesting experiences of my professional life will be entered in these pages.

The profession of medicine is a fascinating one in many ways, and gives to the physician an opportunity to know human nature such as is possessed by few. The physician enters the bosom of the family; he knows intimately all its members; he is in many cases the father confessor of the sins of omission and commission of the mother, father and children; and he acts as the discreet repository of family secrets which, if known to other members of the family, would often bring wreck and ruin to everyone concerned. As a consequence he is trusted and respected by many as they trust and respect only their clergymen, and it may be that the physician possesses their confidence to an even greater extent, always providing that he is reasonably worthy of that confidence. A good reputation in medicine is not difficult to build up if one has had a reasonably good training in his work, and avoids the pitfalls that beset the path of young professional men. One of my old professors admonished us as follows:

“If you know your work, attend to your business, and are a gentleman, you cannot help but succeed.” Indeed, in all the years that have passed since he uttered those words, I have realized more and more that they contain the secret of success not only in medicine, but in any vocation. If one remembers also the advice which the ne’er-do-well Micawber gave to Copperfield, one possesses the key to financial contentment.

“Income £20,” said Micawber, “outgo £19 19s 6d, result happiness. Income £20, outgo £20 6d, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and you are forever floored, as I am.”

Perhaps one should add another aphorism to these, that of a great Canadian who later became world-famous as a physician in both England and the United States, Sir William Osler. He, in an address to us in my final year, said that there was one word which was the master-word of success in life, and that was the word WORK.

The practice of the three by any ambitious and reasonably intelligent young man will give him the fulfilment of any legitimate material ambition which he possesses, particularly as ambition is nearly always in direct proportion to ability.

The same Osler who wrote many non-medical works of a most delightful kind, in addition to his classical Practice of Medicine, stated in one of these that there were three kinds of medical men. The first was he who understood his work and practised it in a straightforward and honest manner, never at any time trying to humbug his patients; second, he who understood his work, but who in treating his patients employed the methods of the quack, or charlatan—endeavouring at all times to impress that he had just arrived in the nick of time to perform miracles in pulling the patient through; and, third, he who did not possess great professional knowledge, but depended entirely upon charlatanism.

“Of these three,” said Osler, “the second is often the one who makes the greatest reputation for himself.”

Most men who have practised the profession would in general agree with this conclusion, though in my own case a frank and truthful presentation of the case to the patient was adhered to, and I have never had regrets because of that attitude. But others who practised the second method had a success at least equal to my own, or perhaps even surpassed it. The reason why Osler is probably right may be due to the fact that medical knowledge remains almost as much of a mystery to the ordinary patient as the incantations of the old medicine man were to the Indians whom he treated. The average layman knows little about his physiological functions, and has an almost childish idea that in treating him the physician relies largely on drugs. As a matter of fact most intelligent medical men are (what the great Osler prided himself upon being) “therapeutic nihilists”—meaning that they realize that most drugs are useless, that in fact there are only a few drugs which have a specific point of attack on disease. However, knowing the feelings of their patients in this regard, they often bend to their predilections by prescribing some harmless “placebo” which will at least do no harm if it does no good. An old medical friend, who had practised nearly half a century, once told me that he had made many of his best cures through the patient in error rubbing on the outside something which the physician had given him to take internally. This, of course, is a harmless type of charlatanism, and is practised only because of the ignorance of so many patients who remember the old Latin proverb, “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc”—“After this, therefore because of this”—and who are prone, because of their belief in that proverb, to give blame or credit to the medicine for the results, while forgetting the importance of regimen, or rules of life, in diet, fresh air and exercise, which the sane medical man has also prescribed.

There is one type of prescribing which, even as a young student, never had my sympathy, and that was called the “gun-shot” prescription. It contained half a dozen or more drugs, having sometimes a contrary physiological effect upon one another, and was given in combination by some medical men in the hope that if one drug did not improve the patient another would. This sort of thing has always appeared to me as unintelligent as the methods of the medicine man. It is likely that much of the prescribing of medicine which is done to-day will be looked upon as proof of ignorance by the intelligent student of medicine fifty years hence.

Fortunately for all doctors nature is the real physician, and we are merely the aides-de-camp, for most patients if left alone get better, this being true of probably ninety-five per cent. of ill people. Consequently, the intelligent physician merely tries to assist nature by endeavouring, through diet, fresh air, and exercise or rest, to bring about the return of health more quickly.


The practice of medicine in Great Britain is divided distinctly between surgeons, who keep the title “Mr.”, and physicians, who take the title “Dr.” So far as the titles are concerned this does not obtain in Canada, but in our larger cities specialization has advanced to the extent that there is a distinct division, not always lived up to, between physicians and surgeons. In the smaller cities such as my own there was at that time no specialization whatsoever. We were all general practitioners, attending all cases of whatever kind that came to us, whether they were surgical, medical, obstetric, or what not, and as a consequence those who attended their work conscientiously, who visited the clinics in large cities from time to time, and who really studied their cases and their books, became broad-minded and able doctors of medicine in its widest sense.

In this connection I recall bringing a specialist from Chicago to my home city to see my father who was dangerously ill. This specialist went about with me for a couple of days on my many cases, as I was exceedingly busy at the time, and he remarked that it seemed strange to him (who limited himself to the study and treatment of only two organs in the body) to see me attending various medical cases, and a little later the same day performing a minor and a major operation. Incidentally, this specialist was a very interesting character, though rather unscrupulous in his methods of gathering in the shekels. My father was suffering from what I had diagnosed as cancer of the bladder, but repulsed my suggestion that he go to the Mayo Clinic or to Chicago for treatment, remarking that he noticed that most of those who went away to be treated did not come back. A medical friend of mine was doing some post-graduate work in Chicago, and we wired him to send the best genito-urinary specialist in that city up to see my father. He recommended Dr. B— who, he said, would make the trip for fifteen hundred dollars. However, having made the trip, he submitted a bill for two thousand. My father had no objection to the fee as stipulated, but did object quite justly to the increase. He paid it after having received a very optimistic prognosis, though the specialist changed his prognosis as soon as he had arrived back in Chicago with his fee in his pocket; and the cancer carried my father off four months later.

Dr. B— made a few other fees while he was there, because Chicago specialists were not common in my small city, and a number of my patients wished to have him look them over, though their condition had no relation to the specialty which he practised. One man, whose daughter had a tumour of the leg, called him to see the young lady. He agreed with my diagnosis; collected fifty dollars; and I took out the tumour the same morning, for which operation I have never received a cent. Another patient, a well-to-do Irishman, called the Chicagoan to examine him for a pain in his side. My specialist friend, learning that he was well-to-do, gave him a most thorough examination, some very indefinite and useless advice, and charged him two hundred dollars. Going home that evening, after visiting my father, I called in on my Irish friend, who lived almost next door, to tell him what the Chicago surgeon thought of his case. The specialist had hurt him a good deal during the examination.

“By gad, Doc,” the Irishman said, “that examination was a terrible shock to me.” I laughingly replied that it was nothing to the shock he would get in learning the specialist’s fee; then told him the fee was two hundred.

“Just what I expected,” he said.

“Well, John,” I said, “you are a damn nice fellow. You call me at any hour of the night to attend your children or yourself, and, if I charge you five or ten dollars for climbing out of bed and spending half the night here, you think you are robbed. Yet you say it is just what you expected when this man charges you two hundred dollars for an examination!”

“Well, Doc, you know,” he said, “this chap is from Chicago; and he is a specialist; and he can do things that you general practitioners cannot do; and therefore his charge is just about what I expected.”

This little incident throws a light upon the psychology of fee-charging in medicine. Medical men are often accused of charging “all the traffic will bear”—putting heavy fees upon those who can pay for the same treatment which they give to someone else for nothing. This is quite a proper policy. Doctors necessarily cannot refuse to attend the poorest of people, and since perhaps a third of their work is done for nothing, they must get good fees from those able to pay. Even the fairest-minded physician or surgeon usually works on this theory, for medical men doing general practice lead a very difficult life. They are called out at irregular hours; a good deal of their work is of a repulsive character; and they are subjected at all times to the charge of ignorant patients that they were maltreated. Consequently, when they get good results with wealthy patients, it is only fair that these rich should pay in proportion to their wealth. It is the same principle as in taxation. It may be debatable, but one can illustrate the difficulties that surgeons are up against with a certain patient of my own.

He was a small contractor who broke his leg while at work. I was the family doctor, and sent him to the hospital where the fracture was reduced, and the leg put into the usual form of splint for that type of injury. The treatment of fractures is largely mechanical, the object being to get the bones into their natural position, and immobilize them in that position. Providing these principles are adhered to, with proper after-care, nature gives a result which is usually perfect. Fractures, however, are the bane of a surgeon’s life. They require constant attention to keep them in their proper position, and if the fracture fails to heal properly the patient becomes a walking monument to the inefficiency of the attending surgeon; added to which there is always the danger of a suit for malpractice. Many surgeons for these reasons refuse to treat fractures at all, but a general practitioner in a small city cannot refuse. I have had the good fortune throughout my practice to have had sufficiently good results to keep me out of trouble. This case was no exception so far as what is called a “functional” result goes, that is, the leg functioned as well after the fracture had healed as it ever had; but as this case occurred before the X-ray was used to any great extent, and we were without one in my small city, I had set the fracture by manipulation. The tibia (that is, the shinbone) healed in such manner that there was a slight unevenness as one ran his fingers down over the sharp edge of the shin, which in no way interfered with a perfect functional result, although under present conditions with an X-ray examination from day to day this unevenness might have been completely avoided—or it might not. Many months after the fracture had healed, and the man was back at his work and walking as well as ever, it occurred to me that though he had been sent a couple of accounts he had not paid anything on them. Meeting him one day on the street, I good-naturedly reminded him that I had done a good deal of work for him and his family, and was a little hard up, adding that a little money on his account would not be hard to take.

“Well, you know, Doctor,” he said, “this is not altogether a perfect result you have given me”; and he took my hand and ran it down over the shinbone, where could be felt a protuberance of perhaps a quarter of an inch. “You know,” he added, “if I showed that to a jury, they would think it was a pretty bad result.”

Blustering a little angrily at his ingratitude, I told him he was expected to pay his account, but never again sent the bill and have yet to receive a cent on the account, though he is still a fairly successful contractor, with two normal legs. He was, of course, merely unscrupulous enough to profit by the knowledge that if sued, and in retaliation he should bring me before a jury for malpractice, the jury might falsely conclude that a fracture which was palpable afterwards had been a bad result, and might well give him a judgment against me. In reality he knew and I knew that he had as perfectly useful a leg as he had ever possessed. But no doctor can afford to take a chance of being drawn into suits for malpractice, no matter how unjust those suits may be, since human nature is prone to think the worst about anybody anyway, and besides, malpractice suits do not help a doctor’s reputation.


Surgery was always the most interesting part of my work; to-day it is almost a complete science and a finished art. With our elaborate scientific apparatus, with anaesthetics, asepsis, and our knowledge of anatomy and physiology, surgery has in the last fifty years made marvellous progress. It is definite and clear-cut. The surgeon gets the spectacular results and the large fees. He sees his results, and if he is gifted he performs apparently miraculous operations of which he may well be exceedingly proud. Medical treatment, on the other hand, is very indefinite and largely unscientific. It depends to a great extent on empiricism, for our knowledge of drugs is very limited, and our power over certain diseases is still more limited. Physicians therefore have a much more difficult function to perform and a much more thankless task to carry out.

During my years of practice the chance came of doing some original work, and of performing successfully operations which I had never seen undertaken by anyone else. An example of these was an operation on the heart, or rather on the sac surrounding the heart—the pericardium. A young child had developed inflammation of this sac—pericarditis—and the fluid surrounding the heart was gradually squeezing that organ to such an extent that the boy was on the verge of death. I endeavoured to draw off the fluid through a hollow needle pushed into the sac, but could not accomplish this, as the fibrin in the fluid plugged the needle. Operation was then proposed to the mother, a lovely old Scottish woman, in a last hope of saving her boy. The mother consented, and the boy was given a few whiffs of an anaesthetic. I cut out very rapidly an inch of rib over the heart, opened the sac, and inserted a tube. It must have been all done in about ten minutes, as the urgency was great, for the boy was on the verge of passing out. He made an uninterrupted recovery, and years later I passed him into the ranks as a soldier during the War. I had never seen this operation done until performed by me, though it has no doubt been done in large centres, probably very many times.

Other opportunities came in my early practice of doing work that was out of the ordinary. Two most satisfactory examples were successful operations for perforation of the bowel during typhoid fever. The water supply in the city at that time was not good, and typhoid was fairly prevalent. As the reader no doubt knows, in typhoid the bowels ulcerate, and occasionally one of these ulcers perforates, setting up a general peritonitis and bringing about death if the condition is not recognized and operated upon within very few hours of the perforation. In my student days I had never seen performed a successful operation for this complication of typhoid, whereas in my early days of practice (all within my first five years) I had three cases and pulled two through successfully. The operation is not a difficult one, the chief necessity being to diagnose the case quickly enough, by the sudden sharp pain and the rigidity of the abdominal muscles, to be able “to get in quick and get out quicker,” as the late Dr. John B. Murphy, of Chicago, expressed it. The little perforation in the bowel has to be found and closed; tubes inserted to give exit to the infection which has already taken place; and then general treatment (too technical to describe here) must be employed in the hope that good old Doctor Nature will be kind to the patient.

Speaking of Dr. John B. Murphy, of Chicago, he was the greatest clinician that the world possessed in the early days of this century, and I attended his clinic very often. He was not only a master surgeon, but a splendid lecturer on his cases during his operations, so that his demonstrations and explanations to the attending surgeons were the best known to me in a very wide experience of clinics throughout the world. At that time I took two holidays a year, one week’s holiday (hunting) in the autumn, and three or four weeks off in the spring. During the latter, one usually attended the famous Mayo clinic at Rochester, Minnesota; then went to John B. Murphy’s at Chicago, in which city one also visited the clinics of Ochsner, Ferguson and Clarence Webster. The latter two were great Canadians who gave their talents to the American public, though to-day Dr. Webster is once again in his native province of New Brunswick doing noble work in Canadian historical research. From Chicago one sometimes went to Boston or New York and watched the surgery of the great teachers that these centres possessed. There was no year that I did not visit some of these great clinics, discuss their cases with the surgeons themselves, and go back to my own little city not only refreshed in body and mind, but much more able to give the very best that was possible to my patients. Just before the war my arrangements were made to spend a couple of years with Dr. Murphy as one of his assistants, intending to remain in Chicago as a surgeon, but the outbreak of the War and my joining up changed the whole course of my life.

Dr. Murphy operated a number of mornings a week in Mercy Hospital, and it was a delight to watch him doing original and brilliant work, at the same time lecturing to us in a perfect stream of scientific and witty comment on the cases upon which he was operating. I think the finest work he ever did was that upon ankylosed joints, that is, joints which had become fixed (through tuberculosis or some other disease), as a result becoming a solid mass of bone and fibre. He developed the idea, which he put into practice, of chiselling the joint open; re-shaping it as nature had originally made it; taking a flap of fat from some near-by portion of the limb affected, and sewing the flap into the joint to replace the oil cavity which had been destroyed by the disease. To maintain life in the fatty flap it was left attached temporarily in its original position. So far as I know, he was the only surgeon who did this operation successfully on repeated occasions. On one of my visits to his clinic he brought in a tall, handsome girl who walked as perfectly as any one could, yet she had come into Mercy Hospital with an absolutely stiff knee-joint. A few years later my wife and I made a “grand tour” of Europe, visiting most of the important countries, choosing particularly the cities where famous surgeons were known to practise, such as London, which had Lane and Sutton; Paris, where Doyen was a leader; Berne, where the Kohers, father and son, were at that time the world’s best in thyroid work; and Florence, Rome, Vienna and Freiburg, among other centres. At Florence (or perhaps it was Rome) I met one of the brothers Bastianelli, who was one of Europe’s outstanding surgeons, and he asked me if I had ever seen Murphy doing this joint work of his. “He is the only man in the world,” he said, “who can obtain real success in that operation. I have followed his technique many times, but I have never been successful.” And in every clinic attended in Europe the surgeons asked about Murphy, for his name was as well known over there as it was on this continent.

At that time Dr. Murphy brought out annually a book describing the progress in surgery throughout the world, mentioning in this volume whatever surgical advances worthy of consideration had been made in any country during the previous year. One evening while in my office reading this review I got a pleasurable thrill in unexpectedly finding an article on myself, telling of a new method originated by me for treating a fracture of the clavicle, or collar-bone. I had treated a great number of these in a varied practice, and in attending to them had employed all the usual methods, but found that they were frequently very painful to the patient and troublesome in regard to after-care. I invented a very simple method (which I still think is the best device for this purpose), and, after having used it on quite a large number of patients, described it in the New York Medical Journal. Unfortunately for me a New York surgeon had, about the same time, developed the same idea; and, as he, unknown, of course, to myself, published it a few weeks before my description of it, the method received his name instead of mine. This illustrates the strange coincidences which occasionally occur. Neither of us had ever heard of the other, and yet, after all the centuries during which surgeons had been treating fractured clavicles, we hit upon the same idea at practically the same time. Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, in one of his delightful books, told of a like coincidence in regard to an epigram which he once made: “The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you throw on it, the more it contracts,” He said that this very true remark was, so far as he was concerned, entirely an original expression, and yet after he had thought of it he found it in some other writer’s works.


It has already been mentioned that in Great Britain physicians and surgeons are two distinct classes, the physician rarely attempting to do surgery and the surgeon as rarely attending distinctively medical cases. Certainly there are advantages in this, as each specializes in his own branch of work. In our newer country most “Doctors of Medicine and Masters of Surgery” combine the practice of both branches of the profession (especially in small centres), occasionally thereby doing injustice to the patients. I have sometimes wondered if the harm done by interfering or bungling surgery did not almost counterbalance the good accomplished by expert surgery. A surgeon requires qualities of mind and eye and hand which are not necessary to a physician, and the surgeon in addition requires particularly good judgment. In emergency cases he must also have the sang-froid which comes only with very steady nerves. When the man whose temperament is unfitted for the best surgical practice attempts nevertheless to do all his own surgery, he is likely at times to operate on cases which should not be operated upon at all; or, when operating on suitable cases, to bungle the work—from either or both of which the patient is the sufferer. For this reason it might be well in Canada gradually to develop the system in vogue in England of dividing the profession into surgeons and physicians; though in outlying places the general practitioner is a necessary institution, and a most admirable one. One need only mention Dr. Dafoe and the quintuplets!

Of course it is also quite true that expert surgeons sometimes make mistakes. In the chief clinic in Vienna (which city before the War had the reputation of leadership as a medical and surgical centre) I on one occasion saw the surgical staff do some almost unbelievably stupid work. A child was brought into the operating-room supposedly suffering from pleurisy with a pus effusion (that is, the sac over the lung is filled with an infected fluid). Providing the diagnosis is correctly made, the treatment is simple enough, consisting in cutting out a portion of a rib and inserting a tube for drainage purposes; and the diagnosis among intelligent attendants is reasonably simple. Yet these so-called surgeons excised the rib and searched around for some time without discovering fluid of any kind over the lung. The child was put back to bed, probably suffering from a solidified lung due to pneumonia, and, if it ultimately recovered, they deserved no thanks. I attended the clinics in this famous old hospital, the Krankenhaus in Vienna, for some time, and came away with the conviction that the work done there was exceedingly poor in spite of its splendid reputation. Perhaps one was merely running into bad luck in not seeing their best men at work.

In my own city on one occasion I participated in the correction of a rather serious blunder. As everyone knows, operations upon the abdominal cavity for such conditions as appendicitis or gall-stones must be done with the utmost care as to asepsis—another name for absolute cleanliness. The gloves of the surgeon and assistants are thoroughly sterilized; the hands before insertion in the gloves are washed for some minutes and perhaps dipped into an antiseptic solution; the skin of the patient is cleansed to the furthest possible degree; sterilized towels are placed in such manner as to surround the proposed incision; and, finally, all gauze sponges which may be used for stopping bleeding or mopping up secretions of any kind are carefully counted before and after the operation, in order to avoid the possibility of leaving a sponge among the intestines when the work is completed. This may seem a difficult blunder to make. When one remembers, however, that the intestines are some twenty-five feet long and that the sponges are comparatively small, one may understand that this oversight would frequently occur were it not for the careful counting of these gauze sponges; and often toward the sewing-up stage of the operation a conscientious nurse stops the surgeon while a missing sponge is searched for. No surgeon would close an abdomen without the sponge being found, or at any rate until a complete search had convinced him and the nurse that some slip had occurred in the sponge count. A young boy was operated upon by a friend of mine who was a capable surgeon. I gave the anaesthetic and a third man assisted the surgeon. The operation went off speedily and expertly. The wound was closed, the patient put back to bed, and for a couple of days everything went well, when at the end of that time obstruction of the bowels developed—one of the most serious complications that a surgeon ever encounters after these operations. All the usual methods of treatment were attempted to correct the condition, but the boy gradually got worse, and my surgeon friend called me in consultation. We decided that the wound must be reopened and the trouble corrected from the inside, as we had come to the conclusion that in all probability the intestine had become kinked, or in some other mechanical manner was unable to function. The other assistant was out of the city, so my friend asked me to assist in the second operation, and, to our horror, we found near the seat of the wound a small gauze sponge enmassed in the intestines. We removed this, did some other technical treatment, and closed the wound. The boy was put back to bed, and made an uninterrupted recovery. Yet this surgeon was an exceptionally good operator. The small sponge had not been among those counted, and how it happened to be left in it would be futile to guess. In order to prevent unnecessary worry by patients or their friends, it should be added this type of accident is of very rare occurrence—in fact this is the only one of its kind seen by me in a rather extensive and varied experience. It is told only because of its rarity.

Other mistakes are occasionally made, and a somewhat amusing one occurred in the case of another medical friend of mine. He was telephoned one afternoon by one of his favourite patients, who was the mother of a baby about three weeks old, and she asked him when he was going to do that little operation which he had said must be done on the baby. He failed to remember what he had suggested, yet did not care to admit this to the mother, and, while still talking to her over the telephone, he came to the conclusion that he had decided to circumcise the child, and informed the mother that he would be down the following morning. He took along with him a medical friend who gave an anaesthetic, and the little operation was performed on the kitchen table. The next morning he came in to see the baby.

“But, Doctor,” the mother said, “it was not a circumcision which you were to do upon my baby; it was tongue-tie. However,” she added, “you did tell me that the babe would some time require circumcision, and I am delighted that you did it.” A few days later he snipped with scissors the little tissue which brings about tongue-tie, and he had the good fortune throughout the years that followed to retain this family among his most loyal and devoted patients. He was a fortunate doctor indeed, as no one realized better than he that, had they been of the type of my fracture case, they might have given him serious trouble for his mistake.

At that time many of our operations were done in the homes of the patients. Hospitals were not so acceptable to people then as now, and for all minor operations the people resisted very much the idea of going into the hospital. As a result, in my early years at least half of our surgical work was done under apparently unfavourable conditions in the simple homes of the people. When one looks back at the splendid results which most of us obtained under these circumstances, one is a little astounded. However, the surroundings were usually free of septic germs, and all of us were accustomed to these unfavourable conditions and governed ourselves accordingly. After all, the advances of recent years in surgery have been to a large extent those of improving the technical details of operations. Undoubtedly, we who performed so many operations on kitchen tables, using the hand-basin to boil our instruments, and often having to utilize ordinary towels instead of aseptic ones, obtained good results because, due to necessity, our ability became greater.

Operating in private homes had its disadvantages, for occasionally one found great difficulty in making excitable central-European patients understand the necessity for certain proceedings. My city had a large population of Europeans, and a good deal of my practice was among them. They were delightful people to treat, paid their bills much more regularly than did our native Canadians, were very grateful to “Mr. Doctor” for everything, and never expected him to waste his time discussing all kinds of extraneous questions. I was very fond of them, and their descendants, by and large, make excellent Canadian citizens. Occasionally, among the more excitable of them, one found that during the giving of an anaesthetic (when the patient reached the excitement stage, or perhaps at the end of the operation when the patient was recovering and did a good deal of delirious yelling), some of the relations were prone to think the doctors were doing some unnecessary harm, and on some occasions we expected to have a stiletto, which many of them carried, drawn upon us. Fortunately, it never reached this stage, but sometimes we had to use fairly stern measures to suppress the excitement of the relatives. Their attitude was entirely understandable, as often they could not speak our language, so they really could not appreciate what it was all about.

An interesting sidelight on their lives was that most of them, when they first arrived, lived in exceedingly crude surroundings, a whole family existing in perhaps one or two rooms, and in winter closed up every aperture into the house except the rear door, by which all came and went. Their habits were often very uncleanly, both as to their bodies and their foods. And yet, despite these peculiarities, my impression was that they were healthier than our children in the wealthier and more sanitary parts of the city. No doubt this was an acquired resistance due to their being accustomed to such surroundings. One of the most difficult lessons to teach them was the need of bathing and fresh air. The only time I ever saw a body temperature of 109 degrees was in the case of one of these children, a baby of about two years suffering from pneumonia, and whose temperature showed this figure. At first I thought there was a mistake, but took the temperature in two or three different ways, and each recorded about the same degree Fahrenheit. With a temperature like this the child was burning up, and must immediately be given cold baths to bring it down to a “normal” pneumonia temperature. But when this was suggested to the people they were horror-stricken, and as there was no chance of their giving the child this treatment, I took off my coat, made them fetch some cold water, and bathed the child myself. Rather unexpectedly the child recovered from this illness, although he was never taken out of these surroundings, and the nursing attention given to him was naturally of the most elementary type.


Among the most difficult type of work which the general medical man has to perform in cities where no specialists live is that of attending insane patients, or, what is even more difficult, the certifying of insanity for the purpose of placing a patient in an asylum. When the relatives wish to have one of the family placed in an institution of this nature, the law rightly insists upon a certificate by two physicians. In the certificate various reasons must be given by the physicians, some of which are obtained from the family and others from observation by the physician himself. In well-developed cases of insanity, of course there is no difficulty, because by wild demeanour, by dangerous actions, or by strange delusions, the insanity is quite apparent to anyone; but sometimes in the borderline cases the matter is not so easy. The physician usually realizes that the family are quite sincerely convinced of the insane condition of their relative, or they would not suggest placing him in an institution, which unfortunately leaves a stain upon him for the rest of his life. But in some instances he may have a sneaking suspicion that the relatives or friends are not entirely disinterested, when he is faced with a still more difficult problem.

On one such occasion I was sent for by a prominent lawyer (now a judge), who informed me that a client had been certified as insane by two physicians in the neighbouring city, and that at the moment he was in the city jail—there being no other institution in which to confine him—awaiting transfer to an asylum in eastern Canada. The lawyer was convinced that the man was as sane as any normal man could be, and he asked me and another physician to go over and examine him. On doing so we found no hint of insanity. The man gave us a rather likely story regarding relatives who were endeavouring to get him confined, claiming that they were doing it for the purpose of obtaining possession of his money, amounting to some thousands of dollars. We talked with him for an hour or more, and became completely convinced that his story was according to the facts. The physicians who had certified him were quite outstanding and reputable, the elder one being particularly able and intelligent. Probably they had been carried away by the stories of the patient’s actions given them by these interested relatives, and had perfunctorily signed the certificate. We called upon the elder physician, explained our view of the case to him, and he agreed ultimately to rescind the certificate which he had signed. I do not recall the details of how the matter was straightened out, but the man was finally given his freedom on our stating that, were it not done, legal proceedings would be taken.

I have had the unpleasant duty of dealing with very many patients with mental troubles, and this is the only case where the mistake of signing the certificate had been made, but there have been a fair number where one suspected the attempt to incarcerate someone who was sane. One of these comes back at the moment, that of a pretty little woman whose husband apparently had tired of her and had decided that he would get rid of her by putting her into an asylum. She was an excitable little thing, but quite as sane as any excitable woman is. I knew the husband very well, and had known him for many years (though he was not Canadian-born), and warned him that, if he endeavoured to go any further with this case, it would be brought to the attention of the law officers, with whom he had had dealings in the past. Husband and wife separated, and he did not attempt his nefarious work again—nefarious because one can hardly imagine any fate more cruel than for a normal person to be confined in an insane asylum.

Cases which are akin to insanity, in fact which are insanity of a temporary kind, are those of delirium tremens—“the blues,” or “the snakes,” as they are called by the man on the street—in which one who has been indulging in liquor for some time, and has had a final heavy debauch lasting perhaps a number of weeks, suddenly stops taking liquor, and gets an attack of delirium and delusions, in which condition he is often a rather fearful spectacle. As a general practitioner one attends many such, most of whom with intelligent care come round very rapidly. The treatment consists of starting them again on regular doses of liquor (but tapering off gradually), and giving them at the same time soporifics to make them sleep, and purgatives to get the alcohol and other poisons out of the system. In these attacks the patients usually see forms of wild animals, snakes, pink mice, and so on; or, more rarely, get delusions, some of which are amusing, once the patient is cured of his condition. I think of one case of an interesting as well as amusing sort. One chap who had a fine position, although he was under thirty years of age, was a steady drinker. It had been my duty a number of times to straighten him out after debauches, and on one occasion I said to him:

“Good Lord, Bill, if you go on drinking as you are, you will not live till you are forty.”

“My God, Doctor, I haven’t the faintest desire in the world to live till I am forty,” was his somewhat startling reply.

After one of these debauches he was in a private ward in the hospital. He was getting along well, but apparently at midnight he had a dream that someone was attacking him, and, leaping out of bed, he grabbed a vase of flowers, rushed down the corridor of the hospital, smashed the vase through the window in the main door of the institution, then rushed back and jumped through a window. He raced with all speed in his nightgown a quarter of a mile to the police station, of all places. The Chief of Police, an old friend of mine and his, phoned sometime after midnight to tell me that Bill was at the police station, and, to my startled query as to what he was doing there, he told me Bill had rushed down in his nightgown, apparently believing that he was being chased by deadly enemies. I drove down in my car, and shall never forget the sheepish look on the face of my patient (who had become quite sensible in the interim) sitting there in his nightgown and bare feet. The facts outlined above he gave to me as we drove back to the hospital.

Bill was a highly honourable young fellow of whom I was very fond, often giving him brotherly advice which was not much heeded at that time. Some years later, when on leave in London from the war zone, as I stepped out of the Bank of Montreal on Waterloo Place, he came up to me, in uniform also, and as usual befuddled from drink. I did not know he had enlisted, but was glad to see him, though not in that condition. He borrowed some money from me, as he had apparently spent his last penny, and I did not see him again for some years, when he came to Toronto, where at that time I was helping to organize the Liquor Control Board for Ontario in my spare time from the House of Commons, and we gave him a good position, which he very sorely needed. He performed his duties capably and soberly, as he had completely reformed, but he died suddenly before he was forty, from what disease I do not know.

In this young city in the early days there was naturally a good deal of drinking, not only by the working man, but the business man. Gradually, however, even long before the wiping out of the bar-room, the indulgence in liquor was lessening, to a large extent through education. Through wide observation I have come more and more to the conclusion that liquor is dangerous stuff to play with. So many brilliant young men with the most promising careers wreck their own and perhaps their families’ happiness by beginning to indulge in a social way, and carrying it to such excess that they become common town drunkards—a tragic disgrace to themselves and their loved ones. It is true this happens only in a small percentage of cases, but even that small proportion is so shocking it makes one who believes in temperance, rather than in prohibition, conclude that if it were possible to wipe out altogether the use of liquor as a beverage, the sacrifice to those who use it moderately would be worth while. As a physician, one piece of advice seems perhaps more important than all others to those who insist on regular indulgence in alcoholic beverages, and this is that under no circumstances should they ever take a drink in the morning. There is a habit among drinking people that, if they indulge too freely at night, they must in the morning take something “to brace them up,” now and then alluded to as “some of the hair of the dog that bit them.” My conviction is that this morning drink leads to drunkenness more frequently than perhaps any other indiscretion that a man can commit in the line of alcoholic indulgence. Of course men can become drunkards after one o’clock, but the downward path is much facilitated by the morning “nip.” Perhaps an even better piece of advice was that of my father, who understood the liquor question better than most. It was that men should never drink anything but champagne, because few would ever get enough of it to become drunkards. This would at any rate save most of that class whom Lincoln said God must have loved very much since he made so many of them—the common people.


One morning about eight o’clock a hurried call came from a dear old lady who was proprietor of one of the leading hotels. She was in a somewhat panicky condition, having discovered a dead infant (apparently strangled by a cord tied around its neck) under the bed of one of the servant girls. I went to the room, and found the facts as she related them. An exceedingly pretty, though very pale, foreign-born chambermaid lay in bed, with the frightened eyes of a wild thing, apparently wondering what was going to happen to her next. It appeared that this girl of eighteen had gone through one of the most severe ordeals that women have to bear, in the room of that hotel during the lonely hours of the preceding night, without anyone else in the hotel knowing that anything was amiss. In a trial when women are usually surrounded by nurses, doctors, and the loving attention of the immediate family—when often the mother of the young woman is there as a living proof that this is a natural and reasonably safe function of womanhood—this young woman had faced her trial without so much as the consolation of a friend. She claimed that the babe had been born dead, and that she had no knowledge of how the cord had been placed about the infant’s neck. It was a very serious situation for her, as it probably would mean a charge of murder against her, depending on whether the baby had been born alive; but in the meantime, while sympathizing deeply with this girl, who had no doubt been the victim of some passing guest, it was my duty to report the case to the Coroner. The Coroner, a fellow-practitioner, ordered the young woman to be sent to the hospital under arrest. This was carried out, and two weeks later the Coroner’s inquest was convened. The jury consisted of twelve “good and true Canadians,” representative of different walks of life in the city, and the old lady of the hotel and myself were the chief witnesses. I had in the meantime, on the instructions of the Coroner, performed a post-mortem on the infant with the object of ascertaining if it had been born alive; for, had it been born dead, the placing of a cord around its neck was of no great consequence.

Scientifically it is not difficult to decide if an infant is still-born or not, since once a baby has breathed after birth the lungs are so penetrated with air, and are consequently so light, that they will float in a pail of water even if cut into small pieces. It is a simple test which anyone who has given any study to the human body and to medico-legal text-books can carry out. I performed the post-mortem and carried out the experiment, finding to my great regret that the child had breathed after birth, and therefore that in all probability the young woman must be charged with murder. The male sex are notoriously sympathetic to women in their difficulties—it is claimed they are much more sympathetic than women—and this poor girl with the appearance of a frightened bird certainly inspired sympathy, which was not lessened by her beauty and her apparent childlike innocence. When called upon to give my evidence, much as I should like to have shielded the young woman, my Hippocratic oath plus my Biblical oath placed me in the position of being compelled to give the facts. This I did, proving conclusively from post-mortem evidence that the child had been born alive, and had been strangled by the cord placed around its neck.

However, the Coroner’s jury were all men, and their verdict, to my great astonishment, was that “absolutely no evidence had been given that the baby was born alive.” After the prisoner walked from the court-room a free woman, the Coroner remarked smilingly to me that apparently this jury had not much confidence in my knowledge or training. As a matter of fact, we were both greatly relieved at the outcome, although it wiped out for some time my confidence in juries. One satisfaction regarding this case was, that in the years that followed I was called many times to attend the family of the young woman, who had married a prosperous farmer in the neighbourhood, one who, like herself, had come from Central Europe; and in those years she was a good mother and a loyal wife. Whether the husband knew her history one does not know, but at any rate they were as contented and decent a married couple as most.


Much of a physician or surgeon’s work is done for nothing, and often one finds that his best work is performed for patients who either will not or cannot pay. This is illustrated by one of my most interesting cases. A man was picked up on the street in a convulsion (resembling an ordinary epileptic fit) and was taken to the hospital. I was called, and found that he was having recurrent convulsions, one almost immediately following another, with very few minutes between. My recollection is that he had some twenty-five or thirty of these convulsions in the first few hours. Various sedatives were used on him, finally a nurse sat by his bedside to give him chloroform during the attack to relieve the terrible rigidity of the body, prevent the danger of biting off his tongue, and the other painful and rather terrifying symptoms which accompany attacks of this kind. On my second or third visit to him during the day, I observed that these attacks always started from the same point of the body, beginning with his left leg and gradually ascending to the face. The attacks in this way resembled Jacksonian Epilepsy, named, if I remember correctly, after the first physician who described the disease. Most people know that as a rule one side of the body is governed by the opposite side of the brain. A portion of the skull midway between the forehead and the occiput (or back of the head) covers what is called the Rolandic area, which controls the leg, arm and face of the opposite side of the subject. Running my fingers through his hair, a slight depression of the bone was found in the area governing the portion of the body in which the convulsions began; and in an interval between convulsions the patient told me that some years before this he had been hit on the head by a heavy falling object.

As the convulsions were torturing him terribly, he hazily agreed to my operating. He was taken to the operating-room, the head shaved, an anaesthetic given, and I turned back a flap of the scalp and trephined the skull over an area which showed that the skull had been fractured in his previous injury. An interesting point was that even under the anaesthetic some semi-convulsions continued to occur; but while removing a depressed portion of the skull, in separating with an instrument the brain coverings from the bone, there suddenly squirted into my face a watery-coloured liquid from a tense cavity, and immediately the twitchings ceased. By further dissection one found that under the old fracture nature had for some reason formed a little cyst, containing some of the fluid that normally exists under the coverings of the brain; and apparently this little sac of fluid had grown until it exerted pressure on the delicate underlying brain tissue, ultimately setting up the convulsions for which he had been brought into the hospital. I dissected away the sac, closed the wound, and got a perfect healing with never another convulsion occurring in the weeks during which he remained in the hospital. Finally he left, and all I received for my trouble and for one of my most useful pieces of work was a promise that he would keep me posted from time to time as to the progress of his health! One was naturally anxious to know if he had been given a permanent cure, but we never heard from the man again. He was of the “hobo” or “floater” variety, who would not even take the trouble to assist science by the writing of a letter.

In my early days of practice among the Central-European groups, there arose many cases of the illegal use of the knife or the gun, for they employed these dangerous weapons rather than practise the more sensible British method of fighting with the fists, if fight they must. I did a good deal of police work, attending cases at the police station to which the disputants had been brought, as the chief, William Dodds, was a dear friend of mine. On one occasion two of these chaps were in the clutches of the law. One of them required some stitches in a rather ugly knife cut which had been inflicted by one of his erstwhile friends, and when I undertook to insert stitches he objected very much. Rather an interesting peculiarity was that those who were most ready to use knives on each other were generally most averse to the employment of a needle to sew up the wounds. This fellow’s companion gave him a rather severe tongue-lashing for his cowardice, and having stitched the wound I casually remarked to the other chap that he would probably be no braver under similar circumstances. A month or so later I was called to the latter’s home in the middle of the night to attend a deep wound in the side of his face, which had obviously been burned with a red-hot iron. He told me that he had noticed a pimple on his cheek which someone had convinced him was a very dangerous type of infection, and to avoid any possible future complications from it he had himself burned this hole in his face with an iron heated in a coal-stove.

“You told me, Mr. Doctor, that I have no nerve. I show you.” And he most assuredly had!

It is strange the difference in stoicism of patients whom a doctor has to attend. Some there are who seem to have no courage at all, and there are others who seem almost immune to pain. Once while dressing an infected vaccination mark on the arm of a very able and courageous prize-fighter, during which dressing almost no pain was inflicted, the prize-fighter fell off the chair in a faint. On another occasion a little English cook from one of the hotels displayed to me in my office a very painful ingrowing toenail. At that time the usual operation for it consisted in anaesthetizing the patient, splitting the nail with scissors, tearing the halves from their bed, and scraping the base of the nail so that it would not grow again. It was not a very pretty or scientific-looking job, but it was a very effective one. This little Englishman proposed that I do it without an anaesthetic. I demurred, telling him that he could not stand it. He laughingly told me to go ahead, and he laughed and talked throughout the operation as if one were merely clipping a few hairs off the back of his arm. Thinking I was hurting him too severely, I refused to scrape the base, merely taking off the nail and applying a dressing. However, three months later he returned to my office with the nail regrown, and suggested that it be done completely this time, which suggestion was carried out while he acted in exactly the same stoical manner as before.

Generally speaking, women are more courageous in illness than men, though this is not always the rule, as some men who are impatient, bad-tempered and irritable in little things, when seriously ill and suffering severe pain from one cause or another bear it with the utmost fortitude. And sometimes men who are very courageous in every other way are very great cowards in pain or sickness.


After my first couple of years’ practice I was exceedingly busy, but found time to take part in public activities, becoming an alderman for the two years immediately preceding the war. It was my first experience in public life, and it gave me some interesting lessons, not the least being that some of the older leaders, who had inspired in me almost reverence while I was growing to manhood, turned out to be quite ordinary men, indeed, in some cases, “laths painted to look like iron.” One found that the ordinary common sense of a younger man was quite as likely to be dependable as that of the Solons whom one had been revering. One even thought at times he was more often right than they. It was an eye-opener! Someone has wisely said, that “big men shrink up as one gets nearer to them.”

Another myth exploded for me during these years was that of the “strong, silent man.” It is generally true that if a man has any real thought in his head, he can express it; and the man who only “looks wise” too often has but a small allotment of wisdom. One such on the aldermanic board taught me that lesson. He had a great reputation, largely built up by his ponderous, reserved manner, and his cunning ability to let discussions go on until he could choose what appeared the wisest course—the others having done his thinking for him.

Medical men are seldom deeply religious, but they are nearly always practical Christians, for they practise charity to perhaps a greater extent than other classes of the community. It is true that some of the charity is involuntary, because doctors, like other professional men, naturally prefer to receive fair remuneration for what they do; but every physician has on his list of patients many who for years have been imposing on his good nature, with no intention of paying him for services rendered. Some of these he attends merely because of a kindly disposition; others he comes to have an affection for, and continues his attendance upon them throughout the years without any thought of ever receiving in return anything except their gratitude. The Good Samaritan must have belonged to the medical profession, for he practised charity and he knew something about treating wounds, because the Biblical story says that he poured in oil and wine—a fairly good antiseptic mixture—bound up the wounds, and took the man to an inn.

When attending the Mayo Clinic on one of my first visits to that great institution, I was sitting at table in the hotel with a priest who was there for medical attention. Dr. Will Mayo, the elder of the two brothers, was always assisted in his operations by a nun, and I asked the priest to what religion the Mayos belonged.

“I don’t suppose they have any religion,” he replied. “No doctors have. When they cut into the body and do not find the soul, they think there isn’t any.”

The Mayo Clinic was the greatest in the world, and probably still remains so. A visiting medical man could see more good work done in less time at the Mayo Clinic than at any other. It is really an extraordinary institution with a fascinating and romantic history. The father of the Mayo brothers had practised in the little town of Rochester, Minnesota, for many years, doing surgery for the surrounding country doctors. His two sons, Dr. Charles and Dr. Will, opened up their offices in the same town, which then probably had a population of four or five thousand. They rapidly achieved the reputation of being exceptionally good surgeons, and speedily built up a splendid surgical centre, doing the work in the early days for most of the practising physicians within a radius of perhaps a hundred miles. By the time I first visited their clinic, about 1906, it had become fairly well known throughout the United States, and they had a splendid institution in the making. The surgery was done by these two, with the assistance of two younger men whom they had trained; in addition they had a medical branch; an eye, ear, nose and throat division; and a genito-urinary section. The operations were performed in a Sisters’ hospital, and at that time there were four operating rooms. From that day on they built this into a great institution, with scores of surgeons, physicians, and specialists of all kinds, until it has become in a sense a huge surgical and medical departmental store, using the expression without any suggestion of disrespect. In 1906 and for some time thereafter many of their assistants were women, whom they trained in various lines. Their anaesthetists were all women; much of their pathological work was done by women; and even during operations assistance was often given by Sisters of Charity or nurses.

At that period in smaller cities most of us used chloroform at the commencement of an anaesthesia, but the Mayos had developed what they called the “open drop” method of giving ether, not only a much safer anaesthetic, but an improved method, and they had a record of many thousands without a fatality. As ether is much less powerful than chloroform, unless one understood their methods he found it very difficult—especially in case of a strong male patient—to put the ordinary patient asleep with the open drop ether method, but it was an artistic treat to see these young women in the operating-room itself, with twenty or thirty visiting medical men looking on, quietly talk the patient into confidence and just as quietly into unconsciousness. They were artists, and their methods were among the first which any of us visitors took home with us and put into practice with profit and advantage to our patients.

At that time the work of the Mayo Clinic was mainly surgery of the very best type, though there was not a great deal of original work going on. Dr. Will Mayo limited himself mainly to abdominal work; Dr. Charles, who was a little younger than his brother, also did abdominal work, but in addition did most of the head, neck and goitre operations, which latter were becoming very numerous, and in which, in the years that followed, he surpassed the record and reputation of even the great Kohers, of Berne, Switzerland, where goitre is endemic. While the junior surgeons (in that day Drs. Judd and Beckman) were expert operators also, they performed mostly the minor work, though later they and the others who joined the staff did all classes of surgery, until the institution became so large that the work was subdivided more completely among them. Both the Mayos were exceedingly good demonstrators and clinicians while operating, and thus were of inestimable value to the many visiting surgeons who came to their clinic from all parts of the world. Both of them had a strain of quaint humour, which increased the interest for the spectators. On one occasion a visiting patient at one of the better hotels—which, by the way, like the cabs and drug stores, were controlled by the Mayos—spoke to Dr. Will Mayo, asking if he were “the head doctor” of the institution.

“No,” he replied, “I am the belly doctor; my brother Charlie is the head doctor.”

I have visited clinics all over Europe and the North American continent, but the Mayo Clinic was the most interesting from the standpoint of seeing a great deal of really excellent work. Before the war four operating-rooms were kept going from eight o’clock in the morning till one o’clock noon, and the previous day a list of the proposed operations was posted, so that one could attend whichever operating-room he chose. The work was of the very best type, that is, the surgery was generally a combination of the best that could be selected from good operators everywhere, for the Mayos and their lieutenants kept in touch, through visits and literature, with the best work going on all over the scientific world. Thus a visit to this clinic was a really splendid brusher-up for the busy practitioner like myself, and a week there was as good as two or three weeks at any other surgical centre.

The city was small, only five or six thousand, though in my later visits it had grown much larger because of the progress of this great institution. Due to the small population and the consequent lack of public entertainment, life was naturally dull for us outside of the operating hours, which meant that from after lunch till the following morning there was little to do, except for a couple of hours in the late afternoon when the Surgeons Club met in the Y.M.C.A. building and visiting surgeons discussed among themselves the operations which they had seen that day. Therefore time hung heavy on our hands, for about the only thing we could do was to sit in some of the beer-parlours, and gossip or tell yarns. One of these beer-parlours was kept by a Swede who was a very bright, witty chap and a splendid story-teller, and many of us made a regular call there during part of every afternoon or evening to hear some of the amusing tales which he told with Swedish accent. Many of them dealt with the Governor of the State of Minnesota, himself of Swedish parentage, and the interesting fact about these stories of Governor Johnson was, that they were exactly the same as those being told in Canada at that time of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Prime Minister of Canada. Laurier was the idol of the French-Canadian people, and Johnson was the idol of the large Swedish population of the State of Minnesota. Of course, most of the stories were invented, but by some sort of coincidence identical stories were told of both these men.

From a tour of Europe before the War, two interesting clinical occurrences come back to me, one in Paris and the other in Florence. My wife and I were in Paris about a month on this visit, during which time Calmette was shot and killed by Madame Caillaux. The shooting of this well-known editor by the wife of one of the outstanding statesmen of France naturally created a great sensation. He had died after being taken to the hospital and operated upon, and it was startling at a clinic a few days later to hear the surgeon, one of the best known in France, make the statement that Calmette had suffered from an injured blood-vessel which the bullet had nicked, and that had the attending surgeon “not had ten thumbs on his hands” he would have stitched up the blood-vessel and Calmette would have been alive. It was indeed an astounding statement to be made to a group of strange medical men as they attended this surgeon’s clinic, and showed that professional ill-feeling was not unknown in France.

The interesting clinic in Florence was that of Machiti, one of the ablest of operators, who had original methods all his own. Local and spinal anaesthesia were, generally speaking, not much employed at that time, but Machiti did all his operations, at least during my attendance at his clinic, by one or other of these methods, more usually the spinal. The patient’s spinal cord is injected with the anaesthetic in a region of the cord so situated that the portion of the body to be operated upon is below, and is therefore completely insensitive to feeling of any kind. The method to-day is used by many, but then it was much less common, and it was exceedingly interesting to stand by the head of the patient and listen to him carrying on a general conversation with a nurse, apparently oblivious to the fact that his abdomen was open and a major operation being performed. In addition to using this method of anaesthesia, Machiti had a manual dexterity which was surprisingly clever. Most surgeons employ what is called a needle-holder—a long, narrow instrument which grips the curved needle near the eye, used in sewing tissues deep down in cavities which are difficult to reach with the fingers. Machiti did not use a needle-holder at all, but had developed a most marvellous ability to do this work with his fingers alone. Some of his accomplishments in this respect seemed almost impossible, and certainly were impossible to most surgeons.

Incidentally, all clinics are very much alike, as surgical knowledge is spread to all the countries of the world through the visiting of ambitious surgeons who get a real thrill out of watching the work of other clever men. Had one awakened in an operating-room in Florence or Paris or Vienna, or in one of our American or Canadian hospitals, one would not know in which country he was, except for the language used and possibly the excitable manoeuvres of some of the French or Italian surgeons, for the methods are so largely alike.

The giving freely to the world of the advances in medicine and surgery by their discoverers has been the practice through the ages. Generally speaking, when a physician or surgeon discovers some new method by which he can benefit his patients, he does not patent it and retain it for his own financial benefit, but immediately offers it to his medical brethren everywhere. There have been a few exceptions in recent years in this regard, one being the discovery in Germany of the Salvarsan treatment for syphilis. This discovery was patented; but almost none of the other great discoveries were kept secret by the physician or surgeon who, by research or accident, made some great advance in the art and science of his profession. When antitoxin for diphtheria was developed a few years ago, the idea was given freely to the world, as was vaccination against smallpox, which was discovered by Jenner over one hundred years before. Jenner’s discovery is an illustration of the fact that accident combined with observation sometimes gives rise to momentous advances. Jenner in treating some farm-wife mentioned smallpox, to which she replied that she was not afraid of smallpox as she had had cow-pox. This set Jenner thinking, and he carried out a number of experiments—one of the first on his own little son—the result of which was that the scourge of smallpox, which at that time was very general in Europe, was controlled by vaccination with cow-pox. Jenner, a country physician in a little town in England, as a result became such a hero that even Napoleon stated on one occasion that nothing could be refused to a man who had done so much for his fellow-men.


The two great advances which made modern surgical science possible were anaesthesia and antisepsis. Anaesthesia was discovered in 1846 and 1847, when Morton of Boston and Simpson of Edinburgh respectively gave to the world ether and chloroform. When Simpson first recommended the use of chloroform, there were religious fanatics who opposed it on the ground that pain was one of the inheritances of human nature, and it was therefore sinful to interfere with what God had ordained for human beings.

Antiseptics were first employed by Lister, in Edinburgh, in 1865, about which time he learned by observation and experiment, that by utilizing carbolic acid his cases of wounds from whatever cause healed without infection, whereas in the neighbouring wards, where the old methods of treatment were employed, patients died daily from germ infection of one kind or another. He admitted that he based his work upon Pasteur’s researches on spontaneous generation, the Frenchman having found by protection from air infection that this did not occur. Lister’s great discovery has gradually been developed into asepsis, so that to-day, instead of a patient’s wounds being saturated with carbolic acid or some other at least potentially dangerous antiseptic, all dressings are sterilized, as are ligatures, instruments, gloves for the operator, gowns, towels, and so forth, in order to prevent as far as possible the contact of germs of any kind with the wound. As a result of this great advance operations generally heal by “first intention,” that is, they heal without infection of any kind, unless the operation has been in a dirty or infected field to begin with.

On one occasion in my early years of practice, when I sometimes contributed to the medical and surgical journals, I wrote a paper in which it was claimed that almost the whole question of maintaining health was bound up in the subject of cleanliness. And when one remembers that germs are in a sense a form of dirt, so far as the human body is concerned, one will realize that I probably made out a very good case for my thesis.

It is hardly realized in these modern days, that all the great advances in surgical science have taken place within the last half-century, for until both anaesthesia and antisepsis were discovered no real advance in surgical science was possible. The history of medicine is a romantic one. As pointed out, anaesthesia was discovered by Simpson and Morton in the 1840’s and antiseptics by Lord Lister in 1865, but it naturally took some years for the proper realization on the part of surgeons of the almost miraculous possibilities of these advances, so that practically all real progress in scientific surgery has taken place within the past fifty years. Previous to the discovery of anaesthesia, surgical operations of any kind were so painful that they could be performed only with the cruelest suffering on the part of the patient, which prevented operations except of the most critical character being performed at all, though occasionally by the use of certain drugs or the doping of the patient with large doses of liquor urgent operations were performed, but not at all conveniently.

Even after the discovery of anaesthesia, the fact that nearly all wounds became infected held up surgery until Lord Lister demonstrated the results of antiseptics in the prevention of infection. Then a gradual advance took place, and from about 1880 till the present day surgery has been going ahead by leaps and bounds, until at present the expert surgeon enters the most sacred portions of the human body with impunity. Previous to Lister’s time the opening of the abdomen, or of a joint cavity, invariably led to infection and usually to death; but now these cavities, as well as the cranial or spinal cavity, are entered daily with the most marvellous results, so long as the work is done by surgeons of real ability and knowledge. The most delicate human organ, the brain, is now operated upon without hesitation, and the intricate structure of the human eye—incidentally one of the most beautiful pieces of mechanism in the body—is explored with delicate instruments for the purpose of restoring sight by the removal of cataract, or for other purposes which could not have been dreamed of a hundred years ago.

While medical progress lags behind surgery at a great distance, even in this branch great advances have been made, one of the most recent being the development of Insulin for the treatment of diabetes, the patient research work having been performed by Sir Frederick Banting, of the University of Toronto. More recently still, the splendid research work of those three American physicians—Whipple, Minot and Murphy—and their liver treatment of pernicious anaemia, takes its place beside the achievement of Banting. In the history of medicine, many romantic investigations have been carried out—romantic in the sense that many physicians have risked, and some have given, their lives in efforts to discover the cause and cure of such diseases as yellow fever, malaria, typhus, and other serious human ills. The two great scourges which yet remain to be conquered are tuberculosis and cancer, the latter unfortunately increasing in its number of fatalities yearly. Much has been done in its prevention and early cure by education, which has for its purpose the early investigation of symptoms which might indicate cancer, such as a chronic pimple upon the lip, or a lump in the breast, or long-continued stomach trouble. Within a year of beginning practice I removed a V-shaped wedge from the lower lip of one of my patients because of a persistent little lump, and the examination of the specimen by a pathologist in my old university demonstrated that it was an early cancer, yet the patient from whom it was removed lived nearly twenty years thereafter. He had been wise enough to get treatment in the early stage of the disease. No better lesson than that could be given of the importance of early treatment of cancer. The recent discovery of Radium and the earlier discovery of the X-ray have added to the armamentarium of the surgeon in this regard—so much so, that a cancer discovered early in its career may be eradicated from the patient. Anyone with a suspicious symptom should be examined immediately.


The aspect of the practice of medicine which was most irksome to me was its irregularity. To be called from one’s dinner just as one has sat down with his family to partake of it, and to rush off to attend a crying baby, was annoying; but what was very much worse was when in the frigid nights of winter one was called out of a cosy bed, having just passed into the land of slumber, to drive long distances in the bitter cold, especially if it was the type of case for which one must needs remain some hours, often in surroundings none too clean and in a house through which the cold north wind entered by a hundred apertures. Some of these long, dreary nights come back to my mind as clearly as if they were but yesterday. I was always one of those who when disturbed at night found it very difficult to regain slumber, so that returning from night calls, three or four nights a week ordinarily in my busy times, I usually lay awake for hours. This was not altogether a loss, because it gave me the occasion for wide reading on all kinds of subjects, at least half the reading of my life having been done in the wee sma’ hours of the morning, when those with more placid minds, and perhaps better consciences, were enjoying the sleep of the just. After all these years of both personal and medical experience, and after much thought upon the subject, it appears to me that most people worry far too much as to whether they do or do not sleep well. In my own reasoned opinion it really is of no great importance whether one sleeps on an average five hours a night or ten hours a night—the chief harm from the lesser number of hours being that those who are troubled with insomnia are too prone to worry about what they think an affliction. The worry is what does the harm, not the loss of sleep. Large numbers of people practically never get what might be called a really good night’s sleep, and yet go on to a ripe old age none the worse for their loss of slumber. Lord Rosebery was an example of this. It is stated that he spent many hours of the night driving about London to kill time, yet he lived to some fourscore years. On the other hand, one finds many who are such sound sleepers that they boast that when they lay their heads upon their pillow they immediately are transported to the land of Nod and do not awaken for eight or nine hours, and yet their health is quite frail. One cannot dispute that a good, solid night’s sleep, free from dreams or wakefulness, does give a feeling of satisfaction and content that is not obtained by the irregular sleeper; yet as years have passed I personally have come more and more to be grateful for never having been a sound sleeper—rarely under any circumstances, no matter what time I retire, sleeping beyond seven o’clock in the morning, and two-thirds of the time awakening earlier, or perhaps lying awake for a couple of hours in the middle of the night. This early wakefulness has often given me the glory of sunrise on a northern lake to a chorus of gay wild-fowl, when my companions in camp were oblivious to all the joys of a gorgeous summer morning in a Canadian woodland. If anything is more delightful than to sit on the bank of a lake in a northern Canadian wilderness and watch the changing opalescent tints of the sun as it climbs over the hills, while ducks and loons and gulls disport themselves upon the mirrored surface of the water, I know not what it is, unless it be to strip off in the midst of all this splendour and indulge oneself in the joy of outdoor bathing. To finish this off by ten minutes of what we called in the army “physical jerks,” attired only in the garb that nature gave one, and then to return to the log cabin for a hot breakfast of coffee and its accompaniments, is about as close to heaven as anyone can expect to get south of the stars. The reader will draw the conclusion from the above that I agree with the Irish poet Tom Moore when he sang:

The way to lengthen our days, my love,

Is to steal a few hours from the night.

An experience of the past forty-eight hours well illustrates my compensation for my frequent inability to sleep. Yesterday—Sunday—morning I awoke at six-thirty to find the god of day pouring his glory in upon me. Unable again to doze off, I gave up trying after half an hour, rose, dressed in an old lounging suit—as is my favourite habit on Sunday—and went down to the kitchen to indulge my weekly coffee debauch, since I dare not now gratify to satiety more than once weekly my passion for that most delicious of beverages. As is my habit on Sunday, I “made my own” by my favourite method (after trying all other methods)—that of pouring three cups of boiling water over three and a half heaping tablespoonfuls of freshly-ground coffee, letting it stand ten minutes, adding plenty of rich cream, and sipping and inhaling the fragrant beverage in an ecstasy of delight. Then, my brain stimulated by the extra dose of coffee’s active principle, I donned a slouch hat, took a light cane, and sauntered forth into the calm, peaceful brilliance of a heavenly day such as one experiences just at the turn from spring into summer. The world was mine and mine alone, except for the wise birds which rise also as the sun rises. Descending to the near-by sunken gardens where some poetical landscape gardener years ago turned a gully into radiant beauty, I strolled along the bank of the irregularly oval artificial lake, now become a huge natural mirror in which one could see reflected the shrubs and trees of the opposite side. As one goes toward the Rideau River the picture gets lovelier and lovelier, until one reaches the edge of the Driveway, where a scene of beauty is unfolded which is unsurpassed even in Venice on a morning such as this. I had met no other human being in my walk thus far—I alone was a blot upon this artist’s beautiful handiwork—I alone of all this section of Ottawa was at this early hour, due to my gift of insomnia, the beneficiary of his work. Nature’s brilliant mirror reflected the glory of the scene—the many lovely species of Canadian trees, shrubs and flora, against a background of picturesque bridges, peaceful homes and azure sky.

I stand drinking in the glory of it all, half intoxicated by this exquisite combination of nature and caffeine—about the only reasonably safe sort of intoxication for one past fifty—until my reverie is interrupted by the noisy honk of two oncoming motor cars which rush by me in their mad hunger for speed, their occupants looking neither right nor left, seeing nothing of God’s glorious world, intent only on reaching some place else, they know not where. The trees are altogether lovely just here, their roots laved by the waters of the canal, and by accident or intent they are of all varieties—stately elm, weeping birch, purple lilac, many-tinted maple, and evergreen spruce. What a lovely contrast that old wine-coloured maple makes, silhouetted against the pale and dark green background, with an occasional lilac tree, bearing its mauve flowering beauty and pouring forth its sweet, heavy perfume! How one wishes some naturalist had taught one in his youth the names of all these living things, spreading their arms to embrace affectionately a heedless generation! As is usual with me, the trees recalled to my mind the pillared grandeur of some of those stately Gothic cathedrals scattered throughout Europe in past centuries before our spiritual appetites were swamped in materialism; and unconsciously the peace and quiet and beauty of this Sunday morning filled my soul, and I found myself reciting my favourite prayer:

“God bless Yvonne and James and Paul and Robert

and Jean and John, and make them happy always.

And God be merciful to me, a sinner.”

For the publican’s prayer has always seemed to me the most appropriate for man to utter.

The automobiles had speedily wended their way out of hearing, and I found myself thinking of a day long ago, standing in Stoke Poges churchyard beneath the old yew-tree whence two hundred years ago Thomas Gray had gazed at the towers and gables of distant Eton College and Windsor Castle while writing those memorable verses of his Elegy, containing as they do so much of beauty, and truth, and wisdom, and reality. How at this moment of exaltation one longed for his wonderful gift of poetical expression, so that one might also give to posterity the high and noble thoughts of that moment!

But suddenly there came the frightened “chirp, chirp,” of a young robin unwittingly disturbed by me as it rested on the canal’s edge, after its first flight from the safety of the nest in the tree above my head. In its panic it essayed with its poor, weak, inexperienced wings to reach the other side of the canal, but, apparently realizing that the fifty feet that intervened was an ocean to its frail strength, it curved back toward the spot whence it had flown in terror at the sight of my unfamiliar and gigantesque form. Alas, like our own children in their often-too-daring voyages of exploration on the ocean of life, it could not make the safety of home again, and it crashed against the stone wall of the canal, falling helplessly into the water below, where it struggled vainly, hopelessly, to scale the smooth perpendicular yard of wall above its terrified little head. I had watched with curiosity its bewildered and frightened actions—all caused by myself, supposedly of a much wiser species, but too often just as unreasonably perplexed and confused as was this baby robin. I hurried to its assistance, but found that without diving in one could not reach it. Ah! at last a use for my cane! Kneeling down, one could just hook the curved end under the timid little form—its feet in their natural instinct of self-preservation clasped themselves about it—and slowly the helpless, fluttering little body was lifted to safety. Gently I cupped it in my hand and started across to place it on the grass away from the dangers from which it had just escaped, but the mother and father, who had apparently been watching the whole performance in terrified silence, now concluded that I meant mischief to their loved one, and they darted hither and thither around me, screeching their birdly imprecations until their tired little offspring was laid on the soft grassy earth, after which they chased me with dire threats till they felt sure I would not return to harm their beloved. Mother love is always beautiful, but so often blind!

Following the canal toward the centre of the city with its worldly toils and cares, one mused on the strangeness of life. Forty years before, when a boy of twelve, one had so longed to be a hero. Being a splendid swimmer I often wished that some boy (or, even better, some girl) playmate would give me the chance to rescue him (or her) from a watery grave. But the opportunity never came. My brave resolutions were never put to the test except in a very attenuated form when three of us youngsters found a canoe, in which we had gaily paddled off, sinking in midstream. One could not swim, and two of us swam ashore, while the third was able to stay adrift in the lightened canoe and paddle along beside us. But there had been no heroism in that, for it was merely another swim that day, albeit in short pants and shirt, being all we had on. So my heroic aspirations came to naught until to-day, forty years later, I save a life from drowning, though only that of a helpless little bird. Our early ambitions are so rarely realized, or, as in this case, we aim at a star but must be satisfied with aiming. Even that is far better than the occasions on which one has strained and fought for something, to attain it at last, only to find that all one really possesses is a bitter taste!

But the morning had indeed been a lovely one to me—having drunk in through sight and smell, almost to intoxication, the beauties of God’s good earth—having prayed reverently in one of nature’s own cathedrals for those most loved—and having saved the life of a helpless little being which would have drowned without my assistance, making glad the hearts of its parents. Surely all that is more than enough compensation for the loss of a few hours’ forgetfulness in sleep.

One compensation which came to me from being disturbed during the Canadian winter nights, to drive long distances to patients afflicted with pain, was that of enjoying the glories of our starry universe at that season. Early in my career, before automobiles were as generally used as now, we used horses in the winter when the roads were not cleared of snow. My horse of those days was a lovely little roan who knew her way about the countryside, and particularly knew her way back to the stable. Muffled up in buffalo robes and that light and warm fur coat, the coon, one could lie back in all comfort in the cutter and study the glories of the winter sky. Early I made it my purpose to know something of the stars and the planets, while pondering on their mystery, and beauty, and fascination. Many of them became my friends to commune with on those cold, clear winter nights. Orion, the Pleiades, Ursa Major, the North Star, Sirius, Castor and Pollux, and many of the other fixed stars became intimate and dear friends of mine. But when they were accompanied by the glorious vision of the planet Venus in the morning or evening sky the pleasure was complete. Many a conversation one carried on with them, perhaps discussing aloud the beauties of their various colourings, or possibly telling them of the difficulties of some troublesome case. My readings in astronomy have given me joy indeed, though they have made me realize what a pigmy man is. When one has learned that all the stars of our universe are suns like our own, though many are thousands of times larger and more powerful; that perhaps these other suns also have planets like the earth, and Venus and Mars and Saturn; that they are millions of millions of miles away from us; that the light which we observe from some of them left those shining orbs thousands of years before man appeared upon the earth; and, finally, when one realizes that if he could travel these millions of millions of miles in some type of aeroplane, and pass on between the suns that we see in the distance, he would emerge into an open space, and, travelling on in any direction, would come upon other universes made up of their own millions of stars and planets—when one realizes all these things, one indeed must come to the conclusion that we are so infinitesimally small in the scheme of things that we cannot even appreciate our littleness. Yet may not the laughter of a child, a mother’s love, the heroism of a brave deed nobly done, outweigh an island universe in the eyes of the Grand Architect?


The practice of medicine in a small Canadian city during those years was not all serious work. I was too active to permit myself to be hemmed in by one line of thought, and had various pastimes to look forward to with fervour. Not the least of these was my annual visit to the clinics of the United States or Europe, during which my mornings were invariably taken up with surgical work, while my afternoons and evenings were given up to art galleries, theatres and other amusements. In addition to these trips, which were usually made in the spring, another outing eagerly anticipated was my hunting trip in the fall, in which a group made up of professional and business friends went off to the forests on moose and deer-hunting expeditions.

The moose and deer-hunting was always the real annual holiday, lasting as it usually did about a week or two, and giving to us the opportunity of satisfying that deep-seated hunger of going back to the wilderness and pitting our abilities against those of the lords of the wild. Since nearly all men have this recurrent desire, it is no doubt atavistic; that is, it is a throw-back to the time, many thousands of years ago, when our semi-civilized ancestors were forced to win their living with their wits among the other groups of the animal kingdom, and when, through the law of the survival of the fittest, man, because of his fitter brain, gradually became supreme. These hunting trips gave us an opportunity to get away from the toils and cares of our vocations, away from insistent telephone calls day and night and the complaints of sick people, out into God’s own sunlight and bushland. What joys I possess in the memory of some of these trips made with congenial companions—memories of placid lakes, lovely forests, crackling camp-fires, long tramps through the scented woods, with happy return to the camp at night, where the cook would have on stove or slow bonfire a meal piping hot of bacon, vegetables, griddle cakes and coffee—a banquet fit for the palate of any king on earth!

One group with whom I often went was made up of a particularly congenial crowd of young business and professional men (now the Windigo Hunt Club), one of whom in the nearly thirty years of our companionship came to be as dear to me as either of my brothers. Marshall was his name. He is gone now, but the memories of our associations are among the most fragrant of my “roses in December.” We had many things in common. In the first place, both of us were of Irish ancestry. His forbears came from the north, yet he had a sentimental strain of the south; whereas mine came from the south, yet I had a cautious strain of the north—both probably coming through some far-off admixture occurring in the middle ages of Ireland. He loved nature; he loved poetry; and he loved his fellow-man with a generous, kindly, gay and altogether charming affection which made him the most loyal of friends, a Good Samaritan among neighbours, and the most delightful of companions. Sweetest among my recollections of our association are of sitting long beside camp-fires on the shores of otherwise uninhabited lakes on crystal-clear October nights, and exchanging memories of beautiful thoughts as expressed by immortal writers who appealed to both of us. He would quote from Wordsworth or Keats, or some other of his literary favourites, and I would reply with lines from one of mine. The sentimental Irish side of our natures made us frequently quote lines of the sadder type.

“Do you remember, Bob,” he would say, “those lovely lines of Moore?”

I never nursed a dear gazelle

To glad me with its soft black eye,

But when it came to know me well

And love me, it was sure to die.

And perhaps I would reply with those beautiful lines of Keats:

When I have fears that I may cease to be

Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,

Before high pilèd books in charactery

Hold like rich garners the full-ripened grain;

When I behold upon the night’s starrèd face

Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

And think that I may never live to trace

Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;

And when I think, fair creature of an hour,

That I may never look upon thee more,

Never have relish of the fairy power

Of unreflecting love, then on the shore

Of the wide world I stand alone and think,

Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

We would go on for a couple of hours till sleep began “to weigh our eyelids down,” and then, happily, like a couple of tired schoolboys, we would crawl into our blankets, which were laid on the sands of the beach. After murmuring a few last thoughts to each other we would sleep beneath God’s sky, forgetful of all but the joys of friendship, while the murmur of the trees and the odour of pine needles helped to soothe and lull us into restful and refreshing slumber.

At the first break of dawn we would be up, and, over a small fire, prepare bacon, toast and coffee, careless meanwhile whether the game got a whiff of the smoke and went farther north because of it. Then we would enter our canoe and paddle to deeper sections of the forest, in the hope that an unsuspecting moose or deer might be down having his morning drink in some lovely bay, ignorant not only of man’s inhumanity to man, but innocent as well of man’s cunning in the northern woods. Sometimes on these trips we brought back our bag of game. Other times they were made up of days spent paddling in the delightful October weather of northern Canada—a season which cannot be surpassed by any season elsewhere in the world. Or perhaps we wandered through the woods carrying our guns and gossiping, returning to camp at nightfall, tired, hungry and satisfied with our day’s outing, to while away the evening in a friendly game of poker, while the hired man kept the fire crackling and made his arrangements for breakfast.

On one of these trips two others accompanied me. We went to a new section of the north country, some hundreds of miles from my usual hunting-ground, and there were joined by two of my new electors, for this incident occurred after my first election as Member of Parliament. This pair of supporters lived in a little mining town and have been throughout my political life among my loyal friends. The two of them had been for many years fishermen on a fairly large scale, shipping their catch to the Chicago market and making big money out of it; but when the United States adopted prohibition, they, like many others on the border-line, found that, with much less effort and with practically no danger in this largely uninhabited section of the country, they could transport large quantities of liquor illegally across the border and earn ten times as much money as in their legitimate fishing business. The temptation was too great, and for some years they made big money in this manner. Outside of these more or less natural law-breaking propensities they were good citizens, being at the same time good companions. One of them, Tom, came to this section of the country from the United States some twenty years before, when he was about nineteen years of age. He was the son of a prominent American business man, but had become involved in some boyish scrape and had run away from home, ending up in this wild section of Northern Canada, taking unto himself an Indian girl as his wife, and coming to love the carefree, coureur-du-bois type of life so much that he never thought of going back to his people. He was a tall, distinguished-looking fellow, and had knocked about so much among rough companions that he was almost completely successful in disguising the fact that he had had a good up-bringing and a really excellent education. He and his friend, Jerry, because of their sturdy qualities of courage, loyalty and generosity, were favourites with the whole district, and I have always been exceedingly fond of them. Our evenings were usually spent at poker and gossip. The stakes were small, which was a good thing for me, because they were poker players of that expert variety who spend much of their spare time at it, and who have the ability to carry on a rambling, story-telling conversation while the game goes on, apparently caring nothing for the cards in their hands, but really able to grasp at a glance the value of the cards which they hold—dangerous opponents for the occasional player. During our hunt one day Jerry had carelessly mentioned an occasion on which he had been “accidentally” shot by an Indian, but would not tell the details, so I got Tom, during the game, to recount the incident.

“Oh,” said Tom, “it was a stupid affair from our angle. Jerry and I had working for us at that time an Indian, and one day, having had a particularly heavy lot of liquor to handle, we ended up by opening a bottle ourselves, and all of us got a pretty good skinful. The liquor as usual went bad with the Indian, and when dark came on a quarrel blew up. The Indian was standing on a hill at that part of the shore; Jerry was in the canoe, and I was about to step in, when the Indian got particularly ugly and told us that if we talked too much he would shoot us. Not dreaming that he would carry out his threat, I called him a few blankety-blanks and dared him to shoot, which he did, and to my horror there was a howl behind me. The bullet had gone in Jerry’s face and come out the back of his neck. The Indian heard the howl also, and, not having intended to do anything but frighten us, he turned and made off through the woods. We paddled back to the village, got a doctor who happened to be there to dress the wound, and then we went out and got properly drunk, during which process we told the story in the bar-room. Unfortunately, in the group in the bar-room was a member of the Provincial Police, who said he was going out after the Indian. We told him to lay off, that the Indian was no more to blame than we were, but apparently he had made up his mind to capture him. We had almost forgotten the incident, as Jerry’s wound had healed perfectly though he had never got it dressed again. But six months later the policeman captured the Indian and took him before Magistrate X— at ——. We were haled by the policeman to give evidence against the Indian, as without our evidence no conviction could be registered. Jerry was called first and asked to tell his story. Then he was asked to identify the Indian, and looking him over carefully he said, 'I never saw the son of a wolf before,’ and stuck to it. Then I was called. I naturally backed up Jerry’s story of the incident, and told the magistrate that all Indians looked alike to me, and that I had not the faintest memory of ever having seen this man in my life. As they had no evidence against him the Indian was dismissed, as he should have been, because he was not a damn bit more to blame than we were. We enjoyed the joke of the long hunt that the policeman had made against our wishes, only to fail in the end to get a conviction.”

The story, which was told in a careless manner between poker hands, and with no thought in the back of either of their heads that they had performed a very generous act, illustrates the fine character of some of these devil-may-care forest lawbreakers. While a little out of the ordinary, it is quite typical of incidents which occur from time to time showing a generous spirit of cameraderie which does not exist among city dwellers to anything like the same extent. Men who pass their lives in those wide open spaces have a kindlier conception of life, a much more unselfish attitude toward their fellowmen, and a greater inclination to ignore the petty side of humanity, than those of us who dwell amidst the struggle and strain and ambition of a supposedly more civilized life.


The Canadian Club was organized about thirty years ago in various cities of Canada, and has given opportunities to visitors from other lands or other cities to expound their opinions on world politics and world trade, or perhaps on literature, science and current affairs. While visitors occasionally sneer at the avidity with which Canadians listen to after-dinner speakers, there is no doubt but that the Canadian Club has had an important social and educational value. I was a charter member of the Club formed in my city nearly thirty years ago, and was an early president of that Club. Naturally, it was our effort to obtain as our guests those whose names were well known in some walk of life. Two of those whom we had in my year of duty come to mind as particularly worthy of mention. One was the late Sir Ernest Shackleton, the Arctic explorer, whom we entertained for a day and who was exceedingly interesting in his descriptions of his Arctic voyages. The other visitor of that period is remembered because of a remark which he made to me—the late T. P. (“Tay Pay”) O’Connor, M.P., that delightful Southern Irishman, who so long represented a Liverpool constituency in the English House of Commons. “Tay Pay” was one of the most interesting of conversationalists, and another of his charms was that of conversing with my wife in her own tongue—unfortunately not a common accomplishment among us Canadians, but possessed by most educated Britishers. All Canadians might well aspire to speak both official languages. However, the remark that brings him into my story was made to me at dinner. He was speaking of the Orangemen of Ulster—the North of Ireland Irishmen, so many of whom live in Ontario.

“They have their faults,” he said to me, “as they are somewhat extreme in their views, but when you get them with you they are the truest friends in the world.”

I have never forgotten his statement. Representing for nearly twenty years in the House of Commons a constituency which is probably three-fourths Protestant and one-fourth Catholic, and having obtained throughout my various elections the consistent and loyal support of the vast majority of Orangemen who live in the riding, I concur heartily in the observation of Mr. O’Connor. Gladly do I pay this tribute to a body of men who sometimes, like those on the other side, go to extremes in their opinions, but who have fought for me, a Roman Catholic, in good times and bad, as has perhaps no other body of my friends. When all is said and done, this is as it should be, for a man’s religion is like the colour of his hair, something which generally he inherits from his parents and for which he therefore deserves neither praise nor blame. Too often so-called Christians of all denominations, instead of practising the Christian virtue of charity toward others of a different faith, forget that all of us believe in the same Christian fundamentals, and are aiming at the same goal. The bitter controversies which occur between Christian sects must astonish and appal some of the “pagans” whom we go out to Christianize. A little more of tolerance and co-operation among us would certainly be a better example.


In the early days of this century Canada seemed to be rapidly coming into her own. Laurier, who was Prime Minister from 1896 till 1911, made a statement that while “the nineteenth century belonged to the United States the twentieth century belonged to Canada,” and this prophecy seemed very likely to be fulfilled. He had a very active and able Minister of Immigration who was rushing hundreds of thousands of Europeans into Western Canada, where the wide open spaces permitted the raising of wheat on a large scale, and consequently gave a quick return to the settler who took up land. As a result of this, from 1900 till the beginning of the Great War, immigrants were pouring into Canada; the year 1913, which was the peak year, surpassed all others in bringing to our shores the huge number of 402,000. Indeed, from 1903 onward the lowest figure for any one year had been 124,000, gradually rising to the figure given. These numbers were really too great for assimilation by a population of about eight million possessed by Canada at that time; but in our short-sighted and nearly insane optimism, in our conviction that Canada could not be held back from becoming within twenty-five or thirty years one of the greatest countries in the world, and in our natural inability to foresee the crushing crisis of the Great War which almost wholly changed world conditions, all of us became much too enthusiastic about the future of the Dominion. We went madly ahead at railway building, so that our single transcontinental railway, the Canadian Pacific, was duplicated and triplicated in the following fifteen years, bringing upon us one of our most difficult of problems. Hundreds of millions of dollars were being spent on railway construction; hundreds of thousands of people were poured into our vast North-West; electrical development was pushed ahead in leaps and bounds; and prosperity seemed assured for some generations at least.

Suddenly we began to think—at any rate those of us who lived between the Great Lakes and the Pacific—that all our Western country was on the verge of a magnificent development which would make all of us millionaires, and there came into being from about 1907 onward a mad rush to possess real estate in order that we should share in this wonderful enrichment. Thus was born the great real estate boom of Western Canada, in which we all participated. As I, a young professional man, looked about me at my rapidly developing city and saw some of the old-timers, including my own father, becoming rich—some of them almost overnight—by buying and selling the real estate of the city, I naturally copied the example of the older and supposedly wiser men and placed all my spare earnings in corner lots. It was an exciting and intoxicating time, particularly from 1910 to 1912. One would go down town in the morning, and before returning to dinner in the evening would perhaps—on paper—have become richer by some thousands of dollars. One hardly knew when he awakened how much he was worth, so much had the land increased in value during the night. I was not yet thirty years of age, but before the crash occurred, in 1912, my few thousands of dollars had become a nice little fortune of well over one hundred thousand—on paper, of course. Yet it was not all on paper, because every now and then one would take his profits, but would quickly reinvest them, probably at a higher price, in some nearby property.

As one looks back, one realizes the insanity of it all. In fact the crash of 1912 was merely the bursting of a soap-bubble. But at that time, when one purchased (as I did on one occasion) a piece of property for seventeen thousand dollars, and sold it within a year for forty thousand cash, one had the absolute proof that it was not a soap-bubble, or a South Sea Bubble, or merely foolish optimism; and as we all got richer and richer (that is, all of us who were indulging in this delightful pastime of gambling) we knew that our fortunes were made for all time. A witty Irishman some few years later expressed it to me very nicely:

“You know, Doc,” he said, “in 1912 I went down to a watering place near Chicago, and I took my wife and daughters with me. They had gone out to a theatre, and I with my feet on the table sat smoking a big fat cigar, and said to myself, 'Flaherty, you are worth twenty-five thousand a year and the Lord himself cannot break you.’” And then he added sadly, “And you know, Doc, to-day five hundred dollars would look like a fortune to me.”

The boom was, of course, an example of mob psychology; it was an excellent illustration of the effect of mass thinking, the almost total absence of independent individual thinking. Most men in boom times such as that mentioned are like sheep—they follow the bell-wether in a crowd, rarely, if ever, reasoning out any of the financial questions for themselves. And they can hardly be blamed, for they see their neighbour “cleaning up” a fortune by some purchase of real estate, or stocks, or mining shares, and they have the proof that this is no imaginary boom.

During this real estate boom urban land sold in Western Canada by the front foot. Even banks came into my city, and into other Western cities, and purchased at peak prices corners on which they erected elaborate pillared headquarters, while immense sums came from England for “investment” in new subdivisions and for the building of large blocks of offices. Could, then, the ordinary young professional man like myself, or even the older local business men, be expected to do other than believe in the riches which he was supposed to be accumulating? Land that was a quarter of a mile from a residence on the continuation of a business street would sell for three hundred to five hundred dollars per front foot, land which since then has gone back to the city for taxes, and can now be purchased for three or four dollars per front foot. One says this with all the more feeling because some of my land met this fate on my coming back from the Front. I had gone to the Front thinking that I was worth well over one hundred thousand dollars, and feeling that, if anything should happen to me, my wife and three little boys (with this modest fortune in addition to a block of life insurance) would be able to care for themselves; that even the interest upon this accumulation would give my boys a university education and a start in life. It is true the crash came in 1912, but, as in all severe business reverses, we had come to the conclusion that this was but a temporary setback. All over the West men who looked upon themselves as multi-millionaires were thrown into bankruptcy, and in many cases their families were thrown into poverty, through the reaction following that real estate boom. Innumerable tragic tales could be told of wreck and ruination coming upon men who had believed themselves beyond the possibility of need, and who now are real “down-and-outers.” Many of my best friends to-day have never recovered from the financial chaos resulting from the break in real estate prices. It may well be that, had there been no World War, the whole picture of Canada would have been vastly changed. At any rate it would have been very different from that which we have seen, but this is very little consolation to men who had been successful in business or professional life, and who had tied up all they possessed in real estate which now has little or no value, men often too far advanced in years to re-establish themselves in business or profession.

There were droll sides to this picture, and, of course, there was a good deal of ordinary cheating. One very clever piece of sharp practice was carried out at the expense of one of our well-known old-timers. In his dealings he had become possessed of a whole block of land in an outlying section of the city, and this block in the ordinary course of the boom was estimated to be worth about fifty thousand dollars, according to those who saw no end to this wild ascent of prices. One day he was waited upon by a stranger, who asked him if he would sell this land for sixty thousand dollars. He replied that he was willing to do so, and he gave an option on it at that price for one week. Papers were signed before a lawyer giving the stranger the option to purchase this land for sixty thousand dollars within the time stated, a small fee being paid to legalize the deal.

Two days later another of our many visitors called upon my old friend regarding this land, apparently not aware that he had given an option upon it to someone else. The second stranger said that he had been looking about the city and had come to the conclusion that he would like to possess this block of property; that he had made a fortune on real estate in one of the other western cities; and he felt that our city had not had the advance in prices which it deserved. After some further conversation he made the local citizen an offer of eighty-five thousand dollars for the same block of land. Naturally the local citizen was very much embarrassed as he saw a twenty-five thousand dollar advance in price slipping through his fingers. He stated that he would have to give the matter consideration, suggesting that the other come back the following day for an answer. Then quietly looking up stranger No. 1, he found him staying at the best hotel, and informed him that he regretted giving the option and should like to re-possess himself of it, not, of course, telling stranger No. 1 of the offer of stranger No. 2. However, stranger No. 1 insisted that he intended buying the land and had no desire to get rid of the option.

After a good deal of negotiation and a certain amount of excitement, the local citizen offered him ten thousand dollars for the option, which the other, after some apparent hesitation, accepted. The money was legally paid over; the option returned to the city owner of the land; and then began a search to find the second stranger who had offered the eighty-five thousand dollars for the block of real estate. He was not found; but in a day or two it was learned that both strangers, who supposedly had no connection with each other, had left the city. Even had they not done so, the local man was in no position to accuse either of them of fraud as he could not prove collusion between them. The strangers were richer by ten thousand dollars, and the local citizen by another experience.

My experience in real estate was most exciting while it lasted, and, looking back at it, I have no particular regrets at having indulged my gambling propensities at that time. Most of us are gamblers—for life itself is largely a gamble, the Goddess of Luck choosing very indiscriminately the knee upon which she will sit. Many years ago on a visit to the gambling tables of Monte Carlo, a couple of clergymen beside me were industriously endeavouring to work out a system to break the bank! They were, like most other people, willing to try their luck at any game of chance.

Part Five



Then came the War! Out of a blue sky came the thunderbolt! Comparative peace had existed so long most of us had concluded that a real war between any of the great nations was almost impossible. My wife and I had made a “grand tour” of Europe early in 1914—leaving Germany just three months before the outbreak—and nowhere did we see signs of the coming catastrophe. Lord Roberts and a few others saw the storm-clouds, but there were well-known economists who proved to their own, and largely to their readers’, satisfaction that a world war was not economically possible for more than a very few months, because of the complete collapse of trade, finance, and international relations generally that would supervene. The Great Illusion, by Norman Angell, made a deep impression on my mind, as it was such a clear-cut exposition of this attitude. When the assassination at Sarajevo took place, even then few of us in America, situated as we were thousands of miles from Europe, could foresee such a catastrophe as that of 1914-1918.

But it came, and Canada offered to participate to her last dollar and her last man. Immediately throughout the Dominion men began to enlist, and, as I lived in an important railway centre, where the passenger trains necessarily made a stop for half an hour or so, all the troops passing through were taken off the trains and for the purpose of exercise marched through the city. Frequently I stood in my office window on the corner of two of the main streets and watched them march by singing gaily, my still reasonably young blood stirred very much within me, and I longed to accompany them. A distinct recollection comes back of a one-armed American commercial traveller who was in my office on one of these occasions, and, standing in the window watching the soldiers march down the street, I told him of my longing to join them.

“Don’t be a damn fool,” he said. “No crazier thought could come into your head. I was fool enough once to join them under the biggest ass the world ever possessed—Teddy Roosevelt—when he took his Rough Riders to Cuba, and this is what I brought back with me,” pointing to his empty coat-sleeve.

However, the feeling grew upon me, and besides I had that foolish fear which dominated so many of us then, that the war would be over before I could get there. It was the greatest event that would occur in my life, and I desired very sincerely to take some part, however minor, in it. I became a pest to my wife in arguing for this adventure, and finally, after the war had been going on for a few months, it was agreed that I should go over on my own with the expectation of getting surgical work in some hospital at the front, or perhaps in a field ambulance, as there had been much in the press on the shortage of surgeons near the lines. Looking back at it, my wife was right in opposing my going, for it was not fair to leave a wife and three little boys, the oldest less than seven, and take a chance on not coming back. However, such is the thrill in times of international conflict, such is the hunger for adventure in the minds of men, that I was overjoyed when she consented, and at the beginning of 1915 sailed from New York with some letters of introduction from prominent Canadians in my pocket in case of need.

I went across on a ship of the American Line, on the theory, held by many at that time, that it would be less likely to be torpedoed by the Germans. The ship was crowded with many who had the same thought as to its safety, but one can never quite forget the high tension that existed among all the passengers going through the area where the ship might be torpedoed, and the sudden noisy hum of conversation which arose on nearing the Irish coast, when we were met by British torpedo-boats to escort us through the rest of the danger zone. We had been sitting in the smoking-room, and the conversation which had unconsciously been carried on in low tones suddenly rose, giving evidence of the relaxation of the tense nervousness which had existed up to that moment.

Arriving in London I remained for a few days, but found, on calling at the War Office and on making enquiries of the Canadian High Commissioner, that one could not get into the forces unless he enlisted. Therefore I crossed to France via Boulogne and went on to Paris. Here I wandered around for a couple of weeks, calling on the British Red Cross, the French medical headquarters, and any other body which might be able to assist me in getting any berth somewhere near the fighting line, but received almost no encouragement. The French perhaps feared spies, as they reasoned that if one were so anxious to go to the Front he might well have joined the Canadians. The British Red Cross was over-manned, they claimed, in spite of the fact that the press had been full of the shortage of surgeons in the hospitals immediately adjoining the war zone. Returning to Boulogne and approaching the chief of the British Red Cross, the same ill luck awaited me. I dropped off at Amiens on the way back, where the sound of the guns was quite audible, and where the beautiful cathedral had been surrounded by sand-bags to protect it from destruction. Finally I arrived back again in Paris, depressed almost beyond belief, fearing that after having left to serve over there, I was on the verge of being compelled to return home.

I was staying at a little hotel in Paris on the Rue Bergère at which my father-in-law had stayed forty years before, and in the morning it was my custom to wander from there down to the boulevards and on up to the Place de l’Opéra—often taking my lunch at one of the open-air tables of the Café de la Paix, while watching the cosmopolitan crowd go by. Crossing the street the day after my arrival back in Paris, I met opposite the Opera House an officer of the British Red Cross whom I had interviewed a number of times in the hope of obtaining a position. He hailed me.

“We have been looking for you every place,” he said. “There has been in the city since yesterday a Mr. S— who is in charge of L’Hôpitale Anglo-Française up near Noyon, about a mile from the line, and he is in need of a surgeon. I think you would fit into the position admirably. You will find him at the Hôtel de Crillon on the Place de la Concorde.”

Needless to say, I rushed to the hotel, and was fortunate enough to find Mr. S— in his suite. He was a jovial and enthusiastic type, and told me afterwards the reason he took me was because I offered to go in any capacity from chauffeur to surgeon in the hospital. At any rate he took me on, and the following day, after having ordered uniforms and all their accessories at my own expense, I left by train for Compiègne. The train was stopped at various places as we got nearer and nearer to the war zone, and finally at Creil we were held up for a long period and given a thorough verbal overhauling in order that the French might make sure that no spy slipped through. My passport did not help me very much, and finally a happy thought struck me; a letter in my possession from Sir Wilfrid Laurier acted like an “Open Sesame,” as fortunately the officer knew Laurier quite well by name. I continued on my way to Compiègne, from there being driven by motor car a few miles to the lovely Château de Rimberlieu in the forest of the same name.

I was welcomed here by a mixed group of very interesting English and French people, all of whom, except a couple of French officers, were giving their services free of charge, paying all their own personal expenses, and donating to the institution their automobiles, chauffeurs and maids, the latter acting as servants in the hospital, while masters and mistresses filled the positions of nurses, assistants, porters, and so forth. There were two charming sisters, Marquise de Chabannes and Countess de Ponge, daughters of the Count who owned the Château, among my nurses during my sojourn at the hospital. There was a niece of an ex-President of France; there was also a close relation of Clemençeau. On the English side, one of the loveliest ladies was a grandniece of Disraeli, another a sister-in-law of Lord ——, a Scottish peer. There was also a professor from the University of Cairo and his wife, and a number of others quite as prominent, all interesting, and making up a very charming company. The medical staff besides myself was composed of a French surgeon, a Scotch surgeon, and one of my old class-mates, the West Indian medical student who remained at the boarding-house in Toronto after the landlady had ordered me out—the details of which have been told.


Within an hour of my arrival at the hospital, a French Surgeon-General joined us. He questioned me very fully as to credentials. Finally he asked if I could trephine the skull, for he said there was a man being brought in from some portion of the line who had been kicked on the forehead by a horse. Within two hours of arriving in the hospital I was trephining this soldier’s skull, prying back into position two square inches of the forehead which had been driven in by the horse’s hoof to press upon the brain; and my West Indian friend, of whom I had not heard in twelve years, was administering the anaesthetic. Fortunately the patient made a remarkably good recovery, and the introduction which this gave me to the whole staff, and the confidence which it made them repose in me, made an excellent entrée into this château-hospital. In the hospital there were only three or four trained nurses, the rest of the work being done by the women mentioned and others, English and French, who had volunteered their services. The English and French women were a highly intelligent and very well educated group, and their work, when they were properly instructed, was superior to that of the trained nurses, who appeared to have been given rather careless training in hospitals which were, to say the least, not entirely up-to-date. All of the voluntary-aid group, once they were given an instruction of any kind and told the reason why that instruction must be carried out without deviation, obeyed implicitly. Consequently, the various cases which we had to treat were given first-rate medical, surgical and nursing attention. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the work was not heavy, as this was a quiet portion of the line where few military clashes took place. The Château was within a mile of the trenches, and the Germans might easily have blown it to pieces with a few high explosive shells; but the Red Cross flag on its roof apparently protected it completely, for no stray shot ever touched it, though the Germans were frequently shooting over us at occupied villages in our rear.

One continuous cause of trouble was the showing of lights in the Château by night. Many of us were careless in this regard, and at times some of the French military officers sneeringly called our château-hospital the “light-house.”

We were overjoyed when we received hurry calls for an ambulance to rush toward the trenches, and almost invariably some of the English ladies insisted on accompanying the ambulance for the patient, and even on occasions they enjoyed the thrill of entering the rear trenches of the French army in that sector, somewhat to the annoyance of the army officers. Because of the fairly quiet section of the line we were serving, and the comparatively small amount of work we had to do, we all took our duties a little lightly and carelessly, and the experience resembled very little my conception of real warfare. Two-thirds of our time was spent in conversation, wandering through the beautiful forests of the Château, or going to Compiègne for supplies of all kinds for the institution. On some of these trips to Compiègne we went in an ambulance driven by the professor from the university of Cairo, his own automobile transformed for this purpose, while his wife, a cultured Scottish woman, had charge of the laundry in the hospital. Arriving in Compiègne on one of these jaunts, we ran into a number of coloured French troops from Northern Africa to whom he spoke in Arabic. The delight on their faces to hear a language which they understood, spoken by a white man, was a joy to behold, and for the rest of our stay they trailed around behind us gaily and happily like so many children.

My surgical gifts were not greatly in demand, because of the comparatively few patients who came to the institution. After some months of service in this hospital I was approached by Countess H. G., a cousin of King George, who asked me to become surgeon to a hospital of like character a few miles away, where they apparently were more in need of a surgeon than we were. However, having done sufficient of what appeared to be child’s playing at war, and not being rich enough to go on indefinitely at this work and in this wealthy group without salary of any kind, I came to the conclusion, instead of changing hospitals, to go back to my own country and somehow arrange to join the Canadian forces in a more active capacity. Everybody had been so genuinely kind that one hated to break to them the news, but on one of our evenings before dinner in my room, where all gathered for the pre-dinner cocktail—as a result of which my room was called “the American bar”—my decision was announced, and arrangements were made for my departure a couple of weeks later.


On returning to Canada I immediately put in an application to the Minister of Militia for a commission as a medical officer in the Canadian army. To get this position was one of the most difficult tasks ever undertaken by me, and it is probable that politics provided the difficulties, for, during my service in the French Château, a cablegram announced that the Liberal Party had unanimously nominated me as their candidate in “the forth-coming” Dominion election. The Conservatives were in power at Ottawa, and Sir Sam Hughes (who after my election to the House of Commons, in 1917, became one of my best friends) did not seem very willing to give a position to a Liberal candidate. Considerable correspondence passed between us, but the wires I was able to pull were not very powerful, until at last, during a dispute in the House, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Liberal opposition leader of that day, taunted Sir Sam that most of his appointments went to Conservatives, to which Sir Sam replied that if the Liberal leader would name any man whom he wished appointed to a post in the army, he (Sir Sam) would appoint him. Reading this in the press, I immediately wired Sir Wilfrid asking him to propose my name, which he kindly did, and Sir Sam was as good as his word. So, early in 1916, I once more started out on my war adventure, this time going across as part of the Canadian army, though at the moment unattached to any particular branch of the service.

A group of medical men, of which I was one, were instructed to leave on a certain day in mufti, being ordered to get our uniforms in London, as they wished to rush us across; and as a result we sailed from Halifax on the Olympic, which was then being used by the British to transport Canadian troops. It was a vastly different steamship from the magnificent palace that I had known on a trip with my wife a few years before, as all the splendid decorations of this huge passenger ship had been removed to make it more efficient as a transport. My first real experience of military discipline came on this ship, where the foolishly severe attitude of the Adjutant in charge was most annoying to myself and the rest of the medical officers who were in mufti. The Adjutant was a country lawyer who, because of his service in the militia of Canada, had attained the rank of Major. To him a little power was a dangerous thing, as he seemed to feel that he must display his authority at every possible opportunity. The fact that about a dozen of us were not in uniform seemed to give him the impression that we were therefore in a different position from the others who were in uniform. Ordinary courtesy was entirely lacking toward us until, on behalf of the group, I emphatically claimed our rights. We all developed an antagonism toward the Major because of many little irritating incidents, too trivial to mention here, but sufficient to annoy a group of medical men who were giving up their professional work in order to serve their country. A number of clashes took place, till I finally gave the Major such impudence that he threatened me with arrest—which threat one is quite free to admit now he should have carried out, though my anger was stirred up by his unreasonable and unfair attitude toward us. Before a group of privates he loudly blurted out his threat, and I, as foolishly, dared him to put it into force. Fortunately for me he did not have the courage to go through with it, but merely ordered me back to my quarters, as he said he wished to parade me before the Colonel before the ship docked. It is probable he realized at last that he had been unfair, for we heard no more of the incident.

While the vast majority of our Canadian officers deserved the title of gallant gentlemen, a few there were to whose heads their petty power had gone, and this Adjutant belonged to the latter class. He was one of a type of misfits who in a volunteer army get thrown into positions of authority and power, and who do not know how to use that power with sufficient common sense. It is nearly always true that the bigger a man is mentally the easier he is to meet or work with. Many of our Canadian army officers had attained their positions through activity in our peace-time militia, and, though they little dreamed that they were preparing to take part in a great war, most of them made good when the time of trial came. But sometimes one who did not happen to be too well balanced, or who lacked either a sense of humour or common sense sufficient to prevent him losing his head, having the autocratic power which an army officer possesses, made himself a petty tyrant to any of inferior rank with whom he had to deal. A few of these became by-words in the army through their persecution of men below them in army rank, men who in the civilian life, whence they had all come, may have reached positions pre-eminently higher than those attained or attainable by some of these officers above them. As we Canadians are a rather undisciplined lot anyway, it made many of us “see red” to have a man of this type take advantage of his position. Many stories are told of Canadian privates or junior officers searching for a chance in peace time to meet some well-hated officer with révanche as the object, but in the immensity of our country few of these meetings ever took place. I was myself revengeful enough, after becoming a member of the House of Commons, to help hurry out of the army a Colonel in the medical corps who had treated tyrannically every junior with whom he dealt. This Colonel was high up at Canadian Medical Headquarters, and, unfortunately for him and all the hundreds of medical men whom he controlled, he acted as a despot to everyone. To-day, as before the war, he is back once again carrying out minor duties in a very small community, a much more appropriate occupation for one who knew not how to deal justly and fairly with the hundreds of splendid men who had given up large practices to serve their country and their Empire.

Arriving at Liverpool we were sent to Folkestone, and there placed in camps outside the city to be trained physically and mentally for the work which we were hoping to do in the army, during which training we lived in tents. German zeppelins had begun making their raids on England, and during our stay in London we had seen the nonchalant manner in which English men and women rushed out of the restaurants or the clubs, at the first cry of “Zeppelin!” in order to see the spectacle, instead of rushing for the cellars as one might have expected. The policy of “business as usual” was still the motto in England, and the restaurants and theatres were doing a roaring business, interrupted now and then by the thrill of a zeppelin raid. In our camp at Folkestone our lights were supposed to be extinguished on certain signals being given that German airships had crossed the channel, just as in London at such times everything was supposed to be in complete darkness. No one really worried in camp as to the dangers of bombs dropping from German airships, and when the signal came through that lights must be “doused” on these occasions, there was a hilarious scrambling for tents in a pretended effort to get shelter from the expected bombs. It was a joke to all the men in camp except one who happened to occupy a tent with myself. He was a boon companion, and I had known him very slightly in my freshman days; but he had a holy horror of these German raids. How he would curse if anybody dared to light a match for the purpose of getting a puff from a cigarette during the time when we were supposed to be in danger! Poor old Dave died long since of some peace-time disease, but it would be impossible to forget his real terror on these occasions. Panicky fear was really a very exceptional thing in the army, but Dave possessed it in a marked degree, though he was the only one in a camp of some hundreds who did. Of course, in times of real battle, in attack and counter-attack where shells and bullets are the order of the day, everyone does experience fear. It is the man who conquers that feeling and carries on who is courageous.

Our training in camp outside Folkestone consisted of the usual medical military drill—plus “physical jerks,” as they were called—and equitation, or horseback riding. The latter was very interesting to look at, but not so interesting for those who had not ridden before. The Sergeant-Major in charge had a rather crude sense of humour, which he displayed by insisting on men riding without bridle or stirrups; the horses, at his drawled “T-r-o-t,” would start very suddenly from a walk, and dump their riders with a thud upon the ground. This accident occurring, the Sergeant-Major seemed to derive the greatest satisfaction from asking the fallen rider very angrily, “Who in hell ordered you to dismount?” It was an old joke, but it gave a laugh to everybody but the unlucky officer, and no doubt gave considerable amused satisfaction to the Sergeant-Major, who for once was able to address an officer with the disrespect he frequently felt for him.


Having had this training only a couple of weeks, I was sent for by the Assistant Director of Medical Services, who told me that he was sending me down as Surgeon-in-Chief to a British hospital in one of England’s fine old cathedral cities. He informed me that there were a number of medically (not surgically) trained doctors who were doing a great deal of very poor surgery upon patients coming from a near-by military camp of thirty or forty thousand troops.

“You are to clean this up,” he told me, “and, since these medical officers are all Britishers and you are a Canadian, you will have to do it with gloves on.”

I demurred, as it did not appear a very pleasant position to be thrown into; but was told that this was my next duty. Therefore, I set off forthwith for the cathedral city, and on arrival reported to the old Irish Colonel in charge of the hospital. He was a permanent Royal Army Medical Corps man, which meant that, having given his life to medical work in the army, he was a much better disciplinarian than surgeon or physician.

“But, Manion,” he said after welcoming me in a genial Irish fashion, “I do not need a new surgeon here; I have three or four splendid surgeons now.”

Feeling very uncomfortable and not relishing the job, I suggested that he might send me back to camp.

“Oh dear no,” he replied, “orders are orders; you will kindly stick around, and we shall decide later what course to pursue.”

He took me up to the operating-room, where some operations were in progress, and introduced me to the doctors present as a newcomer to the hospital. It was probably the first visit he had ever made to the operating-room, as he knew nothing about surgery, and believed always in working on the principle that the easy way was the best way. “The more one does, the more one is expected to do,” he once said to me. In the operating-room some of the clumsiest of surgery was being carried on by a group of men who ought never to have gone outside the sphere of medical work. These chaps invited me to join in their mess at a private boarding-house, where the large drawing-room had been turned into a sitting-room for the officers, and the adjoining dining-room was kept for their private use. There were about ten of these medical officers, three or four of whom were doing the surgical work; and the others the medical, pathological and other necessary duties of the hospital.

For some days I went to the hospital with them about nine in the morning, and stood silently watching this clumsy surgery being inflicted upon the helpless patients who came from the surrounding camps. It was really about the worst surgery imaginable, for these men had all been practising medicine—not surgery—in various parts of the world; and, apparently, having been placed in charge of this hospital, they had come to the conclusion that it was a great opportunity to learn surgery by practical experience (at the expense of the men in the army). They probably did not reason it out quite this way, but that was obviously the fact. They would carry out an operation for hernia, for example, taking an hour or an hour and a half to do it, and probably making a mess of it when they had finished—an operation of ten or fifteen minutes to a surgeon. There were from five to ten minor or major operations per morning to perform, and they were unhesitatingly taking on every one of them, so that the operating continued usually from nine in the morning till about three in the afternoon. They knew that I had been sent down to take charge, but they resented the idea of losing their opportunities for gaining experience, though they were exceedingly polite to me in a somewhat reserved fashion. After four or five days of this without comment of any kind from myself, the senior of them one morning gruffly suggested my doing the operations that were on the list. There were six or seven operations to do, three or four of them abdominal, and the others minor operations. I cleaned up the operations in about a third of the time that these men would have taken, demonstrating without difficulty to them the ability to perform these with some expertness; the result being that they asked me to take complete charge, and suggested my teaching them surgery.

Needless to say it gave me a good deal of satisfaction to take charge of the surgical work, with them as my assistants. They had to be taught every step of the work, as they were exceedingly crude from a surgical standpoint, not knowing even how to give an ether anaesthetic—having employed chloroform throughout—and knowing very little about aseptic procedure, or any of the other technique of an operating-room. The nurses as a class were not too well trained either, though two of them—one a Jewess and the other a daughter of an English Colonel—were among the best nurses I have ever known. The surroundings were not those of an up-to-date surgical theatre, as the building had been an old men’s home, and the operating-room was situated in a large chamber the walls of which were of ordinary brick painted white. Despite these surroundings, and the necessity of educating most of the group even in the rudiments of surgical procedure, in the months that followed I performed practically everything in the line of major and minor (male) surgery, from abdominal operations and opening knee joints to the removal of tonsils and the straightening of hammer-toes. The doctors and the nurses apparently enjoyed the work very much, and I have never carried on in more pleasant surroundings or with a more congenial group of people than while working in this old men’s home with these English, Scotch and Irish doctors, and a group of nurses who were quite ready to perform their duties in as up-to-date a manner as one could direct. I have few memories of more delightful months in my life than those spent in this charming old English city, where the famous cathedral was a constant delight to the eye; where the old walls of the city, through the gates of which the kings of England had passed for nearly a thousand years, were still preserved in all their strength and beauty; where the quaint buildings—some of them having been described in Dickens’ David Copperfield—enraptured one from the new world on many a promenade; and where the surrounding countryside was of that lovely English variety which is “a joy for ever” to those from the American continent. As a stranger in their midst I was shown the utmost friendliness and hospitality by everyone, from the Colonel in charge of the hospital to the barmaids in some of the old inns.

The Colonel was a cheerful and lovable type of southern Irishman, though of a different religion from myself, and we had some very interesting discussions on Irish politics, with which in my youthful days I was somewhat familiar. He was a man of about sixty with a very handsome wife of perhaps forty, and apparently age and middle age did not mix too well, for when they met even in my presence in his office the sparks sometimes flew as if from the meeting of flint and steel. This is not to suggest that they openly quarrelled or anything of that sort, but by the flash of the eye, the smile-covered sneer, or the little edge of sarcasm, which enlivened most of their conversation, one could not help but realize very quickly that whatever love there had been had long since vanished, and that they bore with each other largely because of the inherent habit of people to continue to live together once they have been joined at the altar, even if the “love, honour and obey” portion of the ceremony has been forgotten. In his conversation he was fairly frank in implying that he was not very happy.

“I had a seriously wounded man in this morning,” he said to me on one occasion, “and I asked him if he was married. 'Oh, no,’ he replied, 'I am suffering a good deal; that is why I look like that.’”

“I asked a chap this morning,” he said on another occasion, “if it is true that married men live longer. 'No,’ he answered, 'it only seems longer.’”

His Irish humour made him tell these incidents to me with a whimsical little smile, though one day he said in a somewhat unhappy voice:

“You know, Manion, if I could only go back sixteen years in my life and start over again, I should be very happy.” As he had been married fifteen years, the implication was obvious.

One afternoon when at his home for tea, his wife, after giving me my cup, before offering him his, asked him how many lumps of sugar he took.

“Strange thing, isn’t it,” he said, turning laughingly to me, “that one’s wife does not know how many lumps of sugar he takes.”

“Well,” she replied coldly, “some people change so frequently that it is difficult to remember their habits.”

All of which was a little embarrassing to the guest! But we became really intimate friends, and, while one would not dare to judge between them, I do know that, whatever his actions may have been in the privacy of home, he was a cheerful and lovable companion outside. It is so difficult to judge cases of this kind, as both parties to it may be of the very best type, and yet by some constitutional incompatibility they simply cannot get along. They clash at every encounter, and if they continue to live together it is because they prefer to put up with each other rather than to face the divorce court—“to bear those ills they have, than fly to others that they know not of.” As a Doctor of Medicine I have been in many homes in which this continual incompatibility existed, and in which the friends of the husband and the friends of the wife were respectively convinced that the difficulty was the fault of the other party, because of the apparently fine character and disposition displayed by both outside their home.

The Colonel knew very little about the profession in which he had graduated nearly forty years before, and was almost wholly dependent upon his medical and surgical assistants whenever any question arose as to a professional case of any importance. At that time quite a few pensioners in the neighbourhood were being re-examined at the hospital to see if their pensions should continue, and he often called me from my duties to assist him in passing judgment upon these soldiers whom he interviewed in his private office. On one such occasion we had an experience which was exceedingly interesting, as it was a case in which, had we so chosen, we could have claimed to have performed a miracle. A man came into the Colonel’s office on crutches, his military papers showing that early in the war he had been shot through the hip. He had been discharged and pensioned after some months in hospital. Two doctors, a Colonel and a Captain, who examined him on his discharge had certified that he had a certain amount of fixation of the hip, forcing him to invert his foot and causing a shortening of the leg by two inches, both of which conditions were stated to be incurable. The Colonel asked me to help him examine this man to see if the pension should continue as granted. The man lay on a couch, and for comparison we measured the length of his two legs. This is a simple procedure, as one merely takes two fixed corresponding bony points on each side, one at the front of the hip and the other at the inner side of the ankle, and compares the measurements. To my great surprise the carefully taken measurements were exactly the same—in other words, there was no shortening of the injured side. We then took the measurements with my eyes closed, with exactly the same result. This proved that, no matter what the previous examination had shown, the man had no shortening of the leg, though in standing on the uninjured limb his other foot was well above the floor, a position which it is not difficult for even a normal person to take. I then told him to evert the foot—that is, to turn the toes out. At first he said he could not do it.

“Certainly you can do it,” I said; “there is nothing wrong with your hip,” which we had examined carefully as to movement and so forth. After a little argument he everted the foot quite freely. The man was not in any way malingering, or “scrim-shanking” as it is called in the army. He had been severely wounded; the medical men who had examined him had blundered; but they had convinced him that he had a shortening of his leg and an inversion of his foot for which they could do nothing and from which he would not recover. This so affected his mind that he unconsciously continued to imitate the condition which they had described—a not uncommon reaction in neurotic patients, so great is the control of the mind over the body.

Having satisfied ourselves that it was all a blunder on the part of the previous examiners, and that the man himself was only too anxious to be cured, we ordered him to get up and walk. Again he argued that this was impossible, but after a bit of coaxing and reasoning he rose and walked quite well across the room, very much to his own surprise and obviously to his great joy. No doubt later this man became as well as he had ever been in his life; and very easily the Colonel and I could have shown a miraculous cure, with documentary evidence quite sufficient to support it. Many so-called miraculous cures that are brought about by “divine healers” and faith healers of one kind and another are cures of this kind—the patient either intentionally or unintentionally shamming some malady which is suddenly cured either by sane treatment, as in the present case, or by a sudden shock which makes the patient forget to continue the sham; or in certain cases by a very strong effect upon the mind through confidence in the faith healer. Most of the sudden cures of deafness, or voice disappearance, and such-like, supposedly due to some thrilling experience, are cures only in the sense that they remove some nervous, perhaps hysterical, disease of the imagination—but that makes it none the less a cure, though hardly a miracle.

I do not wish to be misunderstood as denying that miracles occur. I neither deny nor endorse them, for, in Shakespeare’s words, there are stranger things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in the philosophy of any of us. At the same time, as a physician, I “come from Missouri,” and therefore beg to be shown. It was “Mr. Dooley” who said that if the Christian Scientists had a little more science and the medical men a little more Christianity, it would not matter much which you called in, so long as you had a good nurse!


Among the other interesting people met in this cathedral city was a gentleman who was a direct descendant of one of England’s famous prose writers, Fielding. I mention him merely because of my first meeting with him, when he made a statement which has always seemed a very clever epigram regarding one of the chief characteristics of the Irish. This gentleman was a lawyer, and having occasion to sign some documents dealing with my father’s estate, I called at his office in order to have them properly executed. It was really a matter of only a moment, but, as no self-respecting English lawyer would think of charging less than a guinea for any service whatsoever, he called in an office assistant who took away the papers and used up perhaps half an hour. During this time the lawyer, who apparently was not particularly over-run with clients, gossiped with me, chiefly about other lands and other places. As I had travelled a good deal and he had not, he apparently found my comments interesting.

“You are an Irishman,” he said to me suddenly toward the end of the conversation.

“No,” I replied, “I am not an Irishman; I am a Canadian.”

“Oh, yes, yes,” he answered, “of course you are a Canadian, but you are of Irish descent. Your whole physiognomy shows it.” Though I am of purely Irish descent, I had not known till then that my physiognomy showed it so plainly. “Why are Irishmen such good talkers?” he continued.

“I did not know they were such good talkers,” I returned, “though I know they talk a hell of a lot.”

“That is true,” was the answer, “but bear this in mind—an Irishman often talks dangerously, but he never talks foolishly.”

In all the years that have passed since then, a better summing up of the conversational characteristics of the Irish people has not come to me. Speaking generally, the Irish lack the caution of the Scottish people as well as the reserve of the English, and they are prone to make statements which are sometimes unwise to the extent of danger, but usually the statements have the redeeming element of wit or humour.

My work was usually completed by one o’clock—as all my operations were performed between nine a.m. and one p.m.—then, after a visit to my other operative cases, the rest of the twenty-four hours of my time was my own unless an emergency surgical case came in. Consequently nearly all my afternoons and evenings were free. Many of the afternoons come back to me even now, a score of years later, afternoons passed strolling about the narrow winding streets of this quaint old city; studying its ancient walls, pierced here and there by solidly-built but picturesque ancient gates; visiting the magnificent cathedral with its perfect Gothic architecture which from a distance and from any angle was a model of beauty; wandering through the delightful forests or down those lovely English lanes which had been trod by the feet of countless generations; or visiting some of the neighbouring rural villages and near-by watering-places, so popular with all classes of English people.

“Memory was given us,” I repeat again, “so that we might have roses in December,” While my December has not yet arrived, I am preparing for it by refreshing my roses from time to time by sunning and watering, for December in this northern clime is a cold, cold month! But only one other memory of that period shall I recall—a memory of strawberries and cream, the favourite dish of a palate which enjoys with gusto all, or nearly all, the eatables and drinkables which man has tasted and pronounced good. Fortunately for me I spent the month of ripe strawberries in yon ancient city. It was Samuel Johnson (was it not?) who said that God might have made a more delicious dish than strawberries and cream, but that He certainly had not done so. Though the Doctor was an old boor, I wholly agree with him in this. And the memory of those large, luscious English strawberries crowned with Devonshire cream and served so frequently to us by Miss James is indeed another of my “roses in December”; for strawberries, thank God, never give me hives, or indigestion, or nightmare, or anything but gustatory ecstasy. And English strawberries grown in that moist climate of Kentish gardens still remain superior to any others—though in the year 1934 I had a few feasts of British Columbia berries which were sufficiently good to be twin sisters, or some other very near relation to the Kentish species. And, stranger still, on a motor trip round the picturesque Gaspé Peninsula, onto which Jacques Cartier was driven by a storm just four hundred years ago, we were the recipients of a dozen boxes of this delectable fruit, from the garden of the manager of the Temiscouata Railway, which, smothered in scraped maple sugar and rich Quebec cream, ran neck and neck with Kent in this strawberry Derby. One other strawberry incident clings to the tendrils of my heart—or rather stomach—an incident in the Ritz in Paris, twenty years ago, when huge strawberries, served in a white jelly of solidified cream and sugar, were deposited with a ladle onto one’s plate, where the jelly landed with an appetizing thud.

There! I have completely plucked my strawberry-rosebush, for no other incidents compete with these—Kent, British Columbia, Rivière du Loup, and Paris—a wide enough distribution to prove that Le Bon Dieu was too kind indeed to limit his best gifts to any one country or any one clime!


After some months at this hospital I once more became restless, and imbued with a strong desire to get into the war zone as the medical officer of a battalion. Finally, I became attached temporarily to a group of medical officers whose duty it was to carry on what were called “travelling boards,” which duty consisted in being sent to various sections of England where Canadian troops were encamped, and medically re-examining the whole battalion for the purpose of eliminating the unfit who, had they been properly examined in Canada before leaving, would not have been sent to England at all. I considered this merely a step toward France, but found that most of the officers in my new group had been at this rather tiresome job for over a year.

“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” they laughingly told me was their motto, and they hilariously ridiculed my idea of getting out of this group, having once been attached to it. I do not think some of them wished to get out of it, as it was an easy berth, with a good deal of travelling about the country, staying at first-class hotels, and no possible danger involved. I stayed with them about six weeks, getting away from that branch finally by repeated visits to headquarters in London, making such a nuisance of myself that no doubt they finally sent me to France to get rid of me.

During the six weeks’ service at this duty of carrying on medical boards one learned what an appalling mess we had made of our enlistments in Canada. Battalion after battalion was visited by Major Bapty and myself, and they all had in their ranks large numbers of men who ought never to have been accepted into the army, the proportion of unfits reaching in some battalions the almost unbelievable figure of thirty-five per cent. of the whole. Men with flat feet, men with extreme varicosity of the veins of the legs, men afflicted with hernia, with heart diseases of various kinds, and with almost all the other ills that man is heir to or acquires, were in the battalions, and had to be returned to Canada, after having had a trip overseas at the people’s expense. It had been found that men with any affliction whatever, when they reached the firing lines, were too often able to use these chronic conditions as excuses for leaving the danger zone and getting back to the rear. As a Canadian, one was thoroughly shocked at the slipshod manner in which we had accepted men who had applied for enlistment and who should have been rejected at once, thereby saving millions of dollars to our country. But it is easily understood how these unfits had obtained entrance into the army. Enthusiastic Canadians in the excitement of the early war days rushed to Ottawa and offered to raise battalions. These enthusiasts were frequently militia Colonels who knew little except the barest rudiments of war, or they were business men who had not had even the preliminary training of the militia, but who, if they were friends of the authorities at Ottawa, were rapidly converted into Honorary Colonels and sent back to their region to raise the promised battalion. Rushing back to their homes, they endeavoured to show the authorities how quickly they could raise a battalion, and crowded all and sundry into the medical examiner’s office, frequently pleading with him successfully to admit men who were over age or boys who were under age or applicants with various disabilities, to fill up the ranks; and good-natured medical men permitted themselves to be imposed upon, not realizing what it meant to their country. In addition, the majority of applicants were most anxious to go, even though they realized that they were unfit, their anxiety spurred on usually by a patriotic desire to serve.

An excellent illustration of this came to me during my own examinations of Canadian recruits before going across the second time. I was examining for a local battalion, and, as we charged nothing for our examinations and some of us were exceedingly busy, we examined them in batches at a certain hour of the day. They were stripped completely; measurements taken; heart, lungs, eyes, ears and teeth examined; and general observations made to see that no obvious defect was overlooked. In one of these batches one chap whom I had gone over and thought perfect in every way aroused in me a suspicion that something had been overlooked. I cannot recall what it was that made me suspicious, but decided to re-examine him, and found everything perfect; but for some reason I was still of the opinion that something had been missed. Stepping backward, I once more surveyed his naked figure before me, and noted that, while he had completely stripped, apparently in the hurry he had left one sock half on his foot—a fact that I should not have overlooked. When ordered to take off the sock, he obeyed with downcast look, displaying a foot which had been amputated just in front of the middle of the instep! Had my suspicions not somehow been aroused, this man would have been one of the unfits that were passed into the army. His disappointment was keen indeed that he did not succeed in entering—which well illustrates the anxiety of some of these men to get into the army.

While the work of examining these battalions, and finding so many who should never have been accepted, was a little depressing to one who preferred seeing his country and his Government fairly treated, it had exceedingly interesting sides. We moved around from centre to centre, meeting a delightful lot of Canadian officers from all over our Dominion, and two little incidents which occurred come back to me. My friend the Major and I were at a hospital not far from London whose commanding officer was a well-known old Canadian Colonel in the Medical Corps. We were using this as our base to visit the surrounding camps, and one evening during a game of billiards the old Colonel (who was closely related to a Canadian Cabinet Minister, and who was also of the same politics as the then Government) spent the better part of the evening cursing the Government because of the way he had been treated. Even in that day of political criticism his condemnation was much more severe than usual, and his concluding remark was devastating.

“I was sent down to the Dardanelles,” he said heatedly, “and I was told that if I went I would receive promotion and a decoration; and the only damn thing I got was dysentery.”

The other incident occurred at Buxton, the well-known watering place and highest point of England, where we were sent to examine a Canadian battalion. We arrived about eighteen-thirty in the evening and went into the dining-room of the hotel for our dinner. The room was full of elderly people, men and women who had gone there no doubt for the benefit of the waters. We ordered dinner, but after the first course the head waiter came to us and said that Sir James S—, Baronet, wished to know if we would honour him by drinking a bottle of his forty-year-old port. Of course we agreed; and toward the end of the meal as we were still enjoying its full, rich quality, a lovely old lady joined us and said she was Lady S—; that she and her husband had seen us coming into the dining-room; that we reminded them so much of their two boys who were serving on the Gallipoli front that they had wished to do some little kindness for us.

This little incident exemplifies the attitude of the British people during the war toward Canadians who a generation ago were spoken of as “colonials.” From the beginning of the war onward, no Canadian worthy of the name was treated other than generously and hospitably by the people of the Isles; and all of us brought back memories of attentions shown us by these kindly, honourable, but sometimes shy and reserved Britishers, most of whom stoically, even smilingly, saw their sons march off to battle and perhaps to death. Being of southern Irish extraction, I had that feeling so common among us, that all we owed the English was a good deal of Christian forgiveness, knowing full well the unfair and too often brutal manner in which my Irish forbears had been treated by the conquering race. But during the War all this sentiment was wiped out, and since that time I have had a very high regard for the really fine qualities of the English, which they so often hide under a gruff or reserved exterior. This does not mean that one need have an inferiority complex toward them, which a few snobbish Canadians display, for after all, there is no reason why being born in Canada instead of in the British Isles should make one in any way inferior. The people of France might well keep the same idea in mind in regard to French-Canadians, who are in all respects quite equal to those of their nationality born in France.


After serving about six weeks at this medical board work, I obtained my transfer to France, and once more passed through Boulogne, being sent temporarily to a hospital at Etaples. I had been there less than a week when a call came in for a medical officer to go with a field ambulance which was serving in the lines. Being the first to offer to take the job, I joined the field ambulance at its headquarters in an old château in a little village a mile or so behind the trenches. From that time the rest of my service during the war was passed either in this field ambulance, or with one of a number of line battalions to which I was loaned by the field ambulance to replace medical officers while they were on leave or perhaps away due to illness or injury.

I was finally attached to the Twenty-First Canadian Battalion, but in any of the incidents which are later described it should be remembered that I served in a number of battalions and a field ambulance; as otherwise some of these incidents could not be told. The field ambulance work was my first real work under fire, though I had been within the sound of the guns both during my Château de Rimberlieu work and also in my search for that work. I had at last reached my objective. I was actually in the war zone, and for a year experienced all the thrills and fears and dangers that come to a medical officer in trench warfare as carried on during the Great War. Naturally, as a battalion medical officer, either temporarily or permanently, my experience was much more exciting and correspondingly more dangerous, although, of course, the work of a medical officer is much less trying than that of the front-line soldier or his immediate officers, who must leave their trenches from time to time to face the shells and machine-gun bullets coming at them from all directions, while they endeavour to surmount barbed-wire obstacles in mad rushes toward the enemy.

What a brutal and barbarous custom it is, to send our loved ones to face the loved ones of other people in other lands; to encourage them madly, insanely, to shoot or stab each other, or poison each other with horrible gases, because of some silly dispute regarding a piece of land or a trade policy! Surely we are a lot of madmen that we cannot settle our differences internationally as we settle them individually—in the courts! Those thoughts came first to me long years before the Great War; indeed they came to me while still in my early twenties; but they are more indelibly impressed upon my mind to-day because of having seen the mutilations and the killings, the brutality and the butchery of war in the trenches, and having realized that after four years of the most terrible warfare that history has ever witnessed, the world seems to be once more preparing for another slaughter of the innocents!

For the following year I lived that miserable life that even officers live at the front; in the filthy surroundings of dug-outs while in the line; often infected with one or all of the three commonest forms of body pediculi which in civil life are found only among the very poorest classes, and yet out there were accepted almost as a matter of course; eating the roughest kinds of food, wholesome it is true, but often prepared so carelessly that one’s nausea would prevent him eating such dishes if served to him at home; breathing, in the dug-outs during the winter, air contaminated by the poison-gas from a charcoal brazier; and, crowning all this misery, the knowledge that at any moment one of the shells that were bursting near by might come through the roof of one’s dug-out with almost no hope of escape from oblivion.

It was an entirely different life from anything that civilized people live at home, and only the excitement of it all and the companionship with your fellow officers and men gave any interest whatever to it. Sitting comfortably at the moment, the memory of that life is like the shadow of an impossibly bad dream. To recall that twenty years ago I spent much of my time living in those filthy dug-outs, or making my rounds of duty in muddy ditches sufficiently deep to hide my head from the snipers of the enemy, escaping death at times only by the grace of God and the bad aim of the enemy—all this indeed seems but a lurid nightmare now, though it was a vivid and exciting reality then.

The work of a medical officer in a field ambulance is different from that of the medical officer in a battalion serving in the lines. The field ambulance is a unit in itself, with a Major or Colonel in command of a group of medical officers and men whose duty it is to keep a certain sector of the line supplied with medical appliances, dressings and drugs, and to evacuate by stretcher-bearer and field ambulance the patients who are sent out of the trenches. Some of the medical officers of the field ambulance go through the trenches a number of times a week, visiting the dug-outs of the medical officers in the trench battalions. But, generally speaking, the work of the field ambulance is less dangerous than that of the medical officers in the line, though often in heavy actions it has very dangerous and difficult work to do gathering up the wounded, evacuating them, and so forth.

The medical officer to a battalion in the line goes into and out of the trenches with his battalion; his dug-out is of the same type as that occupied by the other officers; and he is frequently stationed about mid-way between the front trench and the rear trench in order to be in a position to care for the wounded men coming back from the fighting lines. Sometimes, instead of a dug-out, cellars of destroyed houses were occupied as medical headquarters. While the medical officer does not, of course, go over the top with the fighting forces, he is in a position to see plenty of action and have intimate contacts with the fighting line, and he is expected to visit periodically all the trenches of his battalion as completely as possible in order to see that they are kept as sanitary as may be under fighting conditions.

In much of my service at the front, the dug-outs which were occupied were superficial dug-outs, which means that they were merely dug out of the side of a trench in the most primitive fashion, with a roof of two or three layers of bags of sand, which would protect the inmates from shrapnel, but which would collapse under a straight hit of any type of heavy shell. Bunks of a very rough type were in the dug-out; charcoal braziers were used for heating in the winter months, from which braziers most poisonous carbon monoxide gas floated to the upper portions of the dug-out; and large rats wandered in and out at their sweet will. The trenches themselves were merely ditches sufficiently deep to hide a man walking erect, though in many spots stooping was necessary to keep out of the range of enemy rifles. The trenches were arranged in a rough checker-board manner, and a battalion would probably have a few lines of trenches parallel to the front line trench, cut across here and there by communicating front-to-rear trenches running right out to the comparatively safe territory behind the lines. Many of these trenches had fantastic names, recalling, no doubt, memories to those who christened them—Rue de la Paix, Broadway, Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly Trench, and The Mall being examples. Here and there were villages, or what remained of them, consisting of a few ghost-like walls of what had once been residences, with some of the cellars still intact and used as particularly luxurious homes in comparison with the rather filthy dug-outs.

Very well indeed do I remember one occasion when, late in the evening, walking through a section of the line which bisected what had been the village of Calonne, being startled to hear a piano playing to the accompaniment of hearty singing. Our party barged into a cellar and discovered the most luxurious dug-out we ever encountered. It was occupied at the time by a group of English officers who had apparently searched widely through the wrecked houses until they had found a splendidly-carved bedstead, tables and bureau, an excellent piano, and well-upholstered chairs and couches, with which they had furnished this large cellar. Needless to say, this luxurious billet was popular with the officers in the neighbourhood, and often when things were dull at night they would congregate there to sing popular ballads while the shells thundered around outside. Some months later for a considerable period I occupied this dug-out, with one room used as our dressing station.

When a medical officer’s battalion was in the line, the medical officer held no sick parade, but whenever the men cared to come in to see him they did so. As a consequence, the life was somewhat dull except during raids or battles, and I spent much of my spare time reading or writing, as my medical or surgical work was very spasmodic, and since most of it could be done as well by a boy with first-aid training as by a medical officer, the treatments consisting to a large extent of touching a wound with tincture of iodine, putting on a dressing, and either sending the man back to the lines, or back to the rear for further attention. In medical cases not much could be done. “Pill number nine” or Aspirin compound were the stand-bys for ordinary illness. If the man were in need of greater attention he must go to the field ambulance, and perhaps be evacuated to a casualty clearing station and on to a base hospital.

One of the chief duties of a medical officer which does not add particularly to his popularity is that of keeping men in the trenches rather than permitting them to get away from the filth and danger of it all (which a few of them attempted, without blame by any fair-minded person). These men, who had been going through this terrible ordeal for months, were anxious to be sent out for a few days, or better a few weeks, and many little tricks they tried in their endeavours to obtain this leave. Therefore a medical officer had always to be on his guard against what the boys called “scrim-shanking,” or “swinging the lead,” the origin of which phrases is unknown to me. Consequently, particularly during service on active fronts, a medical officer looked at some of those complaining with a certain amount of suspicion, and, if they made repeated visits, unless they showed something organically wrong, he sometimes found it necessary to threaten “criming”—that is, putting in a crime charge against them. While we threatened this fairly often, I never put my threat into effect, for as a rule those who tried to get out by trickery did not repeat it, once they realized that the medical officer was suspicious of them.

The following case will illustrate in an amusing manner this type of soldier. We will call him Jones. He had come into my dug-out in the lines on three or four different occasions, always complaining of something which an examination did not substantiate. After having given him the usual advice and probably some “pill-number-nines,” I came to the conclusion, about his third or fourth visit, that he was malingering.

“I am sorry to tell you, Doctor, that I am not able to swallow any food,” he explained on this visit.

He claimed he had not been able to get anything down his throat for forty-eight hours, though, after looking him over carefully, my conclusion was that he was lead-swinging. However, I did not show him any sign of this suspicion during this visit, but decided to try an experiment on him.

“Very well, Jones,” I said; “I cannot do anything for you here this morning, but it does not do you any harm to be without food for a couple of days—in fact most of us eat too much anyway. Now you go back to the lines, like a good chap, and come back to me to-morrow. We have an instrument for dilating the gullet—that is the tube through which your food passes into your stomach—and, if you have not succeeded in taking your food, I will pass it into your stomach. Of course it will hurt you a good deal and we have no anaesthetic, but if you have plenty of nerve and hang on to the table here you will stand it all right. Now go back to the line and report to me to-morrow if you still cannot swallow.”

Of course, as I expected, he did not report; but he was determined to put one over on the Doctor. He came in again at the end of about a week, and apparently having no desire to have a stomach tube or sound passed down his throat—which instrument, as a matter of fact, we did not possess anyway—he told me that by some nervous condition he found himself swallowing continually, and he made marked efforts to carry it out in my presence. Of course the trick was so obvious that I did threaten him with “criming,” and he did not return. Later when we met in the trenches, he did his best to appear occupied so that he would not have to meet my gaze.

A favourite method of some of these malingerers was to break open a rifle cartridge, and to chew a thread of cordite—the explosive substance in the cartridge. The effect was about the same as that produced by amylnitrite—a remedy employed by medical men for severe attacks of angina—a bounding, rapid pulse, a flushed face, and sometimes even fever, which passed away in a few hours, but during which it was practically impossible to diagnose between these symptoms and those produced by any severe cold or infection. Consequently, some who chose to carry out this dissimulation were successful in getting a few days in a field ambulance or in a casualty clearing-station behind the lines.

It was not so easy to imitate injuries, but once in a while someone with an abnormal condition in some part of his body, which perhaps he had inherited, would attempt to pass it off as a recent injury. One case in the lines I recall vividly. About midnight a private came hopping into the dug-out on one foot. He said his other foot had been severely hurt by a bursting shell in the front line. He sat down on a keg, and, being half asleep in my bunk, I instructed one of my assistants to bare the foot. When this was done, there was a distinct swelling about the size of half a hen’s egg on the inside of the ankle. Being too lazy to climb out, and knowing that at any rate we could not do much for him, I suggested that my assistant paint it with iodine, put on a dressing, and send him out—the iodine being put on merely to appear to do something for him, as it would be of no particular use in a case of bruise or swelling due to a blow.

Through my half-closed eyes I noticed a broad smile break on the face of the soldier, and, getting up, instructed my assistant to take off the dressing which he had just put on. Examining the lump, I found that it was what is called a fatty tumour—an accumulation of fat of a harmless nature which some people get, but which has no evil effect of any kind. Being asked how many years he had had it, he quite frankly replied that he had had it for ten years. He was ordered to put on his shoe, and sent back to the lines. Had he not smiled too broadly or too quickly, he would have been sent out. One had a great deal of sympathy with these chaps, and had not the heart—in this case at any rate—to say a harsh word to him, as one admired the clever way in which we had nearly been humbugged.

It must not be understood that any large proportion of the men endeavoured to put over these tricks; but some few did, and they could not be blamed, for the life of a soldier in trench warfare was about as unnatural and as severely trying as anything that could possibly be imagined. Danger, filth, lice, and drill-training combined to make the existence almost unbearable; yet the vast majority were patient and courageous at all times.


Some of the medical officers of the battalions in my neighbourhood used to join up with me for company’s sake and wander about the different sectors, on a few occasions nearly paying for it with our lives, due to shells almost getting us. When I could not find someone to keep me company in thus breaking the monotony of a medical officer’s life, I did much rambling on my own, really against the rules, as an officer was supposed always to take with him a runner, partly in order to have someone in case of accident. My favourite pastime while wandering through the trenches was to quote to myself all the poetry which I had ever learned, finding that with one line of a poem once known one could gradually by repeating it bring back the whole poem almost perfectly from his subconscious memory. And by night I went back to my old habit of studying and communing with the stars, recalling to mind as all do at times, that the same stars that looked down on me out there were a few hours later looking down on my loved ones thousands of miles away. Much reading was done in my spare hours by the hazy light of candles, and my need for spectacles was hastened by about ten years thereby. To wander around the trenches was sometimes the most unpoetical of experiences. For instance, the trenches about Vimy Ridge were ghastly, as the French had wasted many thousands of lives in their attempt to take the Ridge from the Germans; and, after we had possessed ourselves of it, we found protruding here and there through the trench walls the arms or legs of gallant Frenchmen who had been killed in the French effort, and whose bodies had never been properly buried. Nearly twenty years later I travelled by automobile all through my old haunts in this section, where the Canadian people have erected Allward’s beautiful memorial; and the contrast of the fertile countryside of to-day made me realize even better than during the War the terrible conditions that are brought about by human beings slaying each other to settle international disputes.

As practically everyone had colds in those raw surroundings, it really did not cause any great worry to insist that they carry on with the aid of the rum ration. But sometimes the needs of the army were shockingly harsh. One of the most outstanding instances of this kind that came under my notice was a few days after the battle of Vimy Ridge, when our men were holding the lines which they had taken. There had occurred a fairly heavy snowfall which caused great discomfort to the soldiers in the trenches, due to the fact that my own battalion and some of the neighbouring ones had gone into the battle in the expectation that they would take the Ridge and be relieved within twenty-four hours by reserve troops. Consequently, they did not take in the whale oil with which to rub the feet daily, and the necessary changes of socks—a combined regimen which prevented the onset of that very troublesome ailment, “trench feet,” a condition causing such severe swelling that if the boots were taken off they could not be put on again.

The reserves which were expected to relieve the men in the line were not available, and those who took the Ridge had to stay in a number of days, standing for long hours in a mixture of snow and mud, chilling not only the feet, but the whole body, so that trench feet became almost general among the men. In the battle I had gone across with my Colonel, having been given no specific orders by Headquarters, whereas the other medical officers in my brigade had been given instructions to stay at certain relief stations somewhat farther back. Because of this, I was the only medical officer on this section of the crest of the ridge for a few days after the battle, and was asked at times to go to neighbouring battalions to hold sick parades in the trenches in order to give some relief or advice to the men who needed medical attention. In some of the trenches on the crest of the Ridge I would receive large numbers of the men of the battalions visited, giving them whatever temporary relief one could. Many of them, as in my own battalion, were suffering from trench feet, though I did not dare to examine the feet in many cases, having learned by experience that often they could not replace their boots on their swollen feet, and consequently encouraged them to carry on until they were relieved by support troops.

Returning from one of these visits, I was met by General B—, one of our well-known Canadian staff officers, who with a runner had come up from the rear and was giving “the once-over” to that section of the front. We were both out of the trenches when we met, as the mud in the trenches was too heavy to get through, and much to my surprise and gratification he paid me some compliments for the work that I was then carrying on, as he apparently knew the disposition of the different battalions very well. Then he asked me as to the condition of the men in my battalion and neighbourhood.

“I regret to say, sir,” I replied, “that a large number of them are suffering severely from trench feet.”

“Did they not,” he asked, “come up prepared to protect themselves against trench feet?”

I explained the matter to him—that the men had expected to be relieved and had not come in properly protected against the danger of this condition. “And,” I added, “I fear, sir, that if they are not relieved almost immediately, many of them may lose their feet as a result of this condition.”

“I am sorry to tell you,” he said to me very solemnly, “that there are sometimes conditions in warfare where men must necessarily lose their feet for the good of the cause.” (I believe the fact was that there were no reserves.)

I was shocked and saddened to think of the horrible necessities of warfare. Most of these men were relieved the next day, but we learned some time afterward that my pessimistic prognosis had been fulfilled, though fortunately in a very small number of cases. Considering the horror of it all, the surprise is that the citizen soldiers of Canada—men who in civil life had been ordinary workingmen, or clerks, or engineers, or professional men—should be able to go over there and face the well-trained regular troops of the Continental armies, and make such a reputation for themselves as a fighting army; and that their officers, most of whom had had no military training other than that of the volunteer Canadian militia, should have been able to lead these brave men repeatedly to success, and at the same time establish for themselves (as notably in the case of the late General Sir Arthur Currie) the reputation of being quite the equal of the officers of any of the warring armies. One day behind the lines, when we were preparing for a big attack, a remark by my own Colonel illustrates this point.

“What a lot of damned rot it is,” he said, “that you, a medical man, I, a lawyer, General Rennie, a merchant, Major Elmit, a contractor, and other men like us, who never knew anything about war except what we read about it in the story books, should be preparing to put on a battle of this kind!”

It was surprising, but it was done by the armies of Canada, and England, and Australia and the other portions of the British Empire (and later by the American armies) and their record in proportion to their numbers is quite the equal of that of the French, or the Germans, or any of the other great European armies which had been preparing their regular troops for this holocaust for years. Undoubtedly blunders were made, and serious blunders at that, but I doubt if they were more serious than those made by the well-trained enemy troops and their much-praised officers. Whatever our officers and our men lacked in training, they made up in the conviction that they were fighting for their liberty against a foe who aspired to conquer the world, and whose methods of handling men were not our methods. It is not suggested that the courage of Canadian troops was greater than that of their enemy, because the leaders and the men of all nations were courageous. Was it not General Gordon who said that he had trained a hundred thousand Chinese who, he would wager, could more than hold their own against any troops in the world? Properly trained troops of any nation are courageous if they are well-handled, well-fed and well-accoutred—and perhaps the greatest of these is well-fed, for “armies fight on their stomachs,” as Napoleon said.


How narrowly one may escape death, how life hangs by a thread, was frequently demonstrated to every man who served in the lines. Twice I received direct hits, on one occasion by a shrapnel bullet, and on the other by a piece of shell-casing, both of which had fortunately spent their force before striking. The piece of shell-casing came from a high-explosive which burst very close to me, covering me with mud, the shell-casing scattering in all directions, one of its pieces striking me squarely in the centre of the chest. It passed down inside my gas-mask which was hanging on my chest, and the hot piece of steel was caught in my hand as it fell. Had it possessed a little more force, these words would not be in the writing. On the other occasion a shrapnel bullet nearly as large as my thumb struck me on the arm, bruising the arm somewhat badly, but much to my regret not having enough force to crack the bone. The reason one says “much to my regret” is that one had been in the lines for a long time under the severe ordeal of war, and in filthy conditions of mud and dirt and lice, and would have greatly appreciated what the privates called a “blighty” (so long as it was not too severe) to send one to hospital. This was a common state of mind out there, and was well illustrated on one occasion to me when one of my favourite officers, now a successful lawyer in Toronto, was carried into my dressing-station cellar in a ruined village. He pointed to a bullet-hole through his knee.

“Doc,” he yelled gaily on seeing me, “I have a damned fine blighty! Congratulate me!” And he meant it. He was as happy over that injury as if he had received a parcel from home, for he realized that in all probability the worst result might be a stiff knee, and it meant that for some months at any rate he was free from the horrors that he had been experiencing. Yet in action he was as brave as a lion’s whelp.

On Christmas Day, 1916, I had a very narrow escape from a sniper’s bullet. I had been dining with the headquarters of a battalion in a rear line trench, and was returning to my dug-out, which was about midway between that and the front line trench, when in passing an open spot in the trench wall a German bullet missed my head by an inch or so.

“I am very sorry,” was the consoling remark of the runner who was accompanying me, “but I should have warned you, sir, to look out for that open spot, as the Germans have a rifle fixed upon it.” I was glad that the German’s bad aim had favoured me, though the runner had neglected his duty in not warning one who was at that time a newcomer to that section of the line. Both sides did as this incident showed was the German habit, choosing some more or less exposed spot in the trenches and training a fixed rifle upon it. A sniper watched the open spot, and in case anyone passed by, his duty was merely to pull the trigger (as the aim was already taken), in the hope that the bullet would reach its mark, which it not infrequently did.

However, one unconsciously became somewhat reckless of the dangers out there as he became accustomed to them. This was particularly true of the privates, who would frequently climb out of the trenches in the bright light of day while going to some other portion of the line, ignoring almost completely the machine-gun or rifle bullets which might be whizzing about them. Watching from a nearby trench groups of privates openly taking this chance, and frequently not even hurrying, one realized that most people during the war gradually became fatalists, having decided that if they were to be killed, they were to be killed, and that was all there was about it. This mentality led to some extraordinary chances being taken. I have told elsewhere, but it will stand repeating, of one of my dressers who on a bright sunny day in April rushed into my dug-out from the trenches where he had been sunning himself, and, grabbing a rifle, rushed out again without any explanation. Wondering why he did this I followed him out. Our trench was about one hundred and fifty yards from the front line, and in looking over the parapet he had seen two partridge strutting about. He shot them over the parapet, and climbing out in the open brought in his bag. He was just dropping back over the parapet with them in his hand when I caught up with him. The birds which he had risked his life to get I cooked that night over a charcoal brazier in a stew which I termed “Ragout à la Mode de Guerre.”

One’s batman out there, while perhaps coming from a different group in society, not infrequently became one’s guide, philosopher and friend. I have the pleasantest of recollections of the perduring loyalty, the kindly service, and the consistent courage of a number of men who served me as such—men who risked their lives on behalf of their officer, or stole extra rations for him, with the same nonchalance and the same faithful desire to serve him. They were merely examples of the fine qualities of generosity and courage which are possessed by most men of all classes who serve in the armies. Nearly all of the men who served out there were brave, whether they wore a private’s or a general’s uniform, though all of them at times became thoroughly frightened, or, as the men expressed it, “got their wind up”—as who would not, with machine-gun bullets whizzing about them, and with exploding shells making cavities in the ground into which one might drop a seven-passenger automobile, while every now and then in some portion of the line mines were let off, leaving cavities with the cubic capacity of a fair-sized house.

As a matter of fact, courage is nearly universal, and cowardice almost as rare as the proverbial hen’s teeth. Most men are brave, though some are braver than others. It is only a matter of degree. At the same time it may be pointed out that only by the severest type of military training and discipline would it be possible to get thousands of men to climb out of trenches, where they are comparatively safe, to face machine-gun fire, shells, bombs and bayonets, as they must during that mass action which is necessary for success in warfare. During a good deal of service at the front very few did I meet who, even under the most trying circumstances, showed actual cowardice. Occasionally someone’s nerve gave way completely under the terrific bombardments that took place, or some nervous system cracked when its possessor saw one of his comrades blown to pieces by his side. On a few such occasions men who had been previously as courageous as their companions were brought into my dug-out completely atremble and whimpering like a child. This was what was described as shell-shock, and was as real an illness as could have overtaken anyone in the lines. Sometimes a man actually ran from the danger-zone and was arrested for desertion, a few in all armies having been shot for this crime.

A private in my own battalion, while we were in reserve, had been sent with a fatigue party into the trenches. A heavy bombardment had taken place, and he fled from his companions and returned to our battalion, which was in a forest a mile or so from the lines. The Colonel ordered me to examine this chap to try to find something physically wrong to justify his desertion, as the Colonel naturally hated the idea of a court-martial which would likely order a firing-squad for this poor fellow. He was a clean-cut, upstanding chap, and after a thorough examination I regretfully admitted to myself that no part of his system showed any disease. Realizing that he had completely lost his nerve, I attempted to argue the matter out with him, urging him to go back with his squad.

“What is the use,” he replied, “of my going back with the squad? I know that the minute a shell bursts in my neighbourhood I will repeat what I have done.”

“But,” I said, “surely you would rather be shot by your enemies than by your friends. You realize, of course, that desertion frequently means death, and your act may mean that you will be court-martialed and ordered shot by your own battalion.”

“Let them go ahead and shoot,” he said, “I cannot go back. I have lost my nerve completely, and they might as well shoot me now as any other time.”

Argument was no use, and, since he showed none of the tremor or excitement that shell-shock cases often do, I was forced very regretfully to go back to the Colonel and tell him there was no organic condition to justify the man’s action. The Colonel was exceedingly disappointed, but by some straining of the rules he sent the man “down the line” to work in a labour battalion at the rear. According to ordinary military regulations the man would have been court-martialed, but a kind-hearted officer saved him, as in a sense was only just, for these men who completely lose their nerve, as this man did, are rather to be pitied than punished. It will be remembered by those who are students of Lincoln that he, on many occasions, offended the army chiefs because he extended clemency to boys who had been ordered to face a firing-squad for the same crime, or for sleeping on duty. My feelings are entirely those of Lincoln, as most of these men who do as this private had done are simply so constituted that they have no power to control their actions when they get into this state. The pity is that our civilization should still be in such a state of barbarism that we permit our sons to be submitted to such a test.

On another occasion, when we had taken a very difficult part of the line from the Germans, and our front had not been properly consolidated, an ambitious but stupid Brigade Major ordered a midnight raid on the German lines. The zero hour for the raid was a little after midnight, and four companies from different battalions were to take part in this night attack. The officers realized that (in view of the fact that our own front line had not been whipped completely into shape, and that the position of the Germans who had retired was largely unknown to our people) this raid should have been put off for some days; but this Brigade Major was apparently anxious to make a record for himself, and gave orders that the night raid should go forward.

An hour or so before the attack was to begin, I was in our battalion headquarters dug-out when one of our officers (than whom no braver went to the front) called me over and told me he was too sick to go out that night. He it would be who was to command the company from our battalion. I examined him carefully, and found absolutely nothing wrong with his temperature, or his pulse (or otherwise), to justify his statement that he could not go out; but knowing him to be one of the very brave fellows in our battalion, as he had won a Military Cross previous to that, I realized that he, knowing as he did the foolhardiness of this attack in which he had been ordered to participate, had simply lost his nerve completely. Therefore, I went to the Colonel and lied (I hope “like a gentleman”) in telling the Colonel that “Lieutenant Bill Smith” had a temperature of a hundred and two and was too ill to go out that night. The Colonel excused him. The raid went on with another officer in charge from our battalion, but the whole manoeuvre was a dismal failure. The companies on the right and left, who were to receive the orders by runner at the last moment as to the zero hour—that is the hour of setting out—did not receive the order in time to take part. Our company and one other went forward, expecting to be joined on the right and left by the other two companies. The two advancing companies proceeded some distance without encountering the enemy, then decided to wait for the others to join them. Daylight came without any word from their right or left supports, and (as they would have had to go through a wide open exposed section to return) they decided to remain hidden there all day, which they did, returning in safety the following night without any casualties or losses of any kind—a result due entirely to good luck, and certainly not to the common sense or wisdom of the stupid Brigade Major who had ordered the attack.

The Lieutenant referred to served during the balance of the war and came back with another decoration, which proves that it was merely a sort of nerve storm that had overcome his courage. I have met him many times since in civil life, in which he has done as well as he did as an officer at the front, and have often wondered if he remembered the incident, as by no word of his has he ever indicated that he does remember it. It may well be that, his nerve having completely deserted him, he really thought he was as ill as he said he was. Naturally, I have never enlightened him.

A few minutes after exempting him from service that night, while I sat on a bench, another officer came to me, a Captain whose reputation for cool-headed, courageous behaviour was second to none. I think he suspected that the Lieutenant had been bluffing, and knowing the Lieutenant to be among the brave men of the officers’ group, it set him thinking.

'“Doc,” he said to me, “I have a holy horror of sometime displaying cowardice, and I am afraid that if I stay here much longer I shall do it.”

“Why,” I said, “my dear B, you are one of the bravest we have out here, and there is no danger whatsoever of you ever showing cowardice.”

“I know I have a good reputation,” he replied frankly, “but at times my nerve almost gives out, and I really get afraid of the future.”

A couple of months later he obtained permission to leave the battalion and join one of the forestry or labour battalions at the rear. His case is given as one of those which supports my argument that fear will sometimes overwhelm the bravest of men, and that the man who deserts is usually the victim of a constitutional weakness over which he has no control. It may be asked: If this is true why should men be shot, as they frequently have been, for desertion? The answer is that wartime necessities are indeed harsh if human beings are to be forced to take part in such fearful methods of settling international disputes; for if men were permitted to desert without sometimes being severely punished, there would be a great danger of the army gradually being reduced to such dimensions that it no longer would be able to serve its purpose. In some of the battalions in the Civil War in the United States that is exactly what did take place; but, as a medical man, as a peace-lover, and as one who thinks he understands human nature, I have an over-whelming pity for those young men who are naturally of a gentle and peaceful disposition, and yet are forced to take part in such a hellish affair as war. This is merely another argument for the outlawing of warfare as a method of settling international differences.

But the vast majority of those who served in the lines possessed sufficient courage at all times to carry on; in fact, many of them seemed thoroughly to enjoy the life except for its lesser inconveniences such as the mud and dirt, and the (at times) limited commissariat. Many men growled more angrily at the fact that plum jam came too often in the rations than the same men growled at having to go over the top and face death.

As to my own feelings in the line, I quite often experienced spasms of extreme fear, and not uncommonly had a “hunch” that my last hour had about arrived. These “hunches” were very common among the men serving out there, and, as one had them frequently, it is natural that many stories are told of men “knowing they were going to be killed,” which premonition came true in the end. On one occasion we had gone through a very severe gas bombardment during the whole night in a little village which we were holding, and the tear gas which was being put over had inflamed our eyes to an atrocious degree as we moved about looking after the many wounded who came in. At daybreak word came to me to go across to a railway embankment two hundred yards away to attend a number of men who had been severely wounded in a dug-out into which a bursting shell had penetrated. We had put in a horrible night, and, as I looked across the field to be traversed and saw shells bursting in various parts of it—for the bombardment still continued—I had a positive and very vivid conviction that that was the last time I should ever walk across any field. It was the clearest-cut premonition of that kind which ever affected me, and I stood for some moments hesitating before starting. However, we crossed, looked after the men, and returned to our cellar without accident of any kind; but had another large shell burst in my immediate neighbourhood sufficiently close to shock me severely, my nerve might have refused completely to sustain me any longer.


Ordinarily one rather enjoyed the exhilaration of tramping about the lines, and some of the near-by medical officers, who had also the desire to see everything there was to see, occasionally joined me in these wanderings. Two of us, one dark night, were permitted to crawl over the parapet of the front line trench, and get a thrill from visiting No Man’s Land between flares from the German trench a couple of hundred yards away.

Due to this wanderlust and my apparent desire for adventure, the Colonel or the Adjutant sometimes called for me—no doubt for the sake of company—to go with him into sections not usually visited by Medical Officers. This gave me the chance at the Battle of Vimy Ridge of seeing that battle at closer quarters than perhaps any other M.O.—at least in our section of the front. For when the orders came out for that show my name did not appear in them, though all the other Medical Officers near by were instructed to stay at certain centres farther back. My opinion is that my Colonel, whose friendship I was fortunate in possessing, being aware of my rambling habits, arranged this neglect of orders for me, as my expressed desire to go over during the battle with him obviously pleased him very much. And so, when our battalion marched into position in the lines on the night of April 8, 1917, it was my good fortune to ride from camp with the Colonel. Our horses were taken from us in the dark just behind the lines, and we followed one of the communication trenches out toward Zivy Cave. The Germans had somehow become acquainted with our army preparations for battle the following day, for they were putting over a very heavy bombardment, and on our way to Zivy Cave, whence we were to start out at daybreak across Vimy Ridge, we had a number of very narrow escapes from shells dropped in our neighbourhood, because of which we slithered down the muddy entrance of Zivy Cave with a good deal of satisfaction and elation.

This cave was a huge limestone cavity which would hold perhaps thousands of men. It had been formed by the French people taking out immense quantities of limestone for building purposes, but, instead of doing it by open cut, this limestone was taken out through tunnels, as a result of which quarrying methods these huge cavities existed in this neighbourhood down fifty, sixty or seventy-five feet below the surface; so that, once you were in them, not even high-explosive shells had any effect upon them, or any danger for you. Zivy Cave was lit by electricity; tunnels led off in various directions; and the excitement and uproar caused by the different battalions getting ready for the zero hour was tremendous. At five the following morning, after a heavy bombardment from our guns, the battalions started across. For days before this, our officers, particularly the Intelligence Branch, had been studying aeroplane pictures of the German lines, and they had even gone so far as to choose from these pictures the German dug-outs of which they were going to take possession when they had driven back the German army. However, after the extremely heavy bombardment took place, and the advancing troops had crossed the muddy ridge between stalled tanks which were being used as targets for the shells of the enemy, these systematic plans went all awry, and in the end no one came into possession of the dug-out which he thought he was going to enter.

The Colonel and I and a party from headquarters started across behind our battalion. The shelling of the enemy was terrific, and as we had to cross through a number of heavy shell barrages, our party got broken up, so that the Colonel and myself and a couple of others were going forward in the general direction of the enemy without the remainder of the group with which we had set out. The Colonel was much older, and he became fagged from struggling through the muddy shell-holes and across the remains of wire entanglements, until on a couple of occasions he had to sit down and rest. We had gone some hundreds of yards when, on one of these occasions, as we sat side by side at rest, one of the shells which were bursting all about us exploded so close to him (fortunately for me, on the opposite side to that on which I sat) that the flying fragments struck him, but missed me entirely, due to his body acting as a shield.

“I am afraid I am wounded, Doc,” he said quietly, and looking down I saw the blood spurting out of his long leather boot. As a matter of fact he was hit in a number of places on his left side, and the smaller bone of his leg—the fibula—was broken, though we did not know it then. He very courageously struggled on for a couple of hundred yards, with my assistance in dragging him out of mud holes, but finally he admitted he could go no farther. The only two left with us were Padre Kidd and Lieut. Cluff, as we turned to work our way back to the tunnel through which we had emerged from Zivy Cave. We were so completely exhausted that we threw away our haversacks and any other loose accoutrement that we had, and I partly dragged and partly carried him back while the bursting shells sang us an accompaniment. None of us expected to get back alive, as it was only a matter of luck anyway, but we made it, and the Colonel was shipped off to a hospital. I never had the good fortune to see Colonel Elmer Jones alive again, for before he was sufficiently recovered to return to the battalion they sent me out, and a few months later he was killed in another battle. He had an erratic side, and some of his officers consequently seemed to feel timid with him. Yet he was courageous almost to a fault; he was loyal and lovable; and never asked anyone to face dangers which he himself hesitated to face. May he rest in peace!

Having told this, may I add most sincerely that my own little experiences of war were trivial compared with those of our fighting officers and men. Tens of thousands there were on all sides who should have received the highest decorations for actions of the very noblest sort, but whose only reward was a knowledge of duty well done—or perhaps a little nameless wooden cross in some almost forgotten cemetery. However, any man who went to the front and who returned whole has back of him a memory which surpasses all others—the memory that, when his country called for men, he and his companions had the courage to go. That is one’s chief reward for whatever services he may have rendered over there.

Speaking of one’s companions, all returned men have undying recollections of friends who are no more. While there is no intention of making this a war book, a few paragraphs on personalities may add a little interest to it, only a few being mentioned who come back to my memory after all these years because of some uncommon characteristic possessed by them. No mention can be made of others, from general to private, who did their day’s work with patience, skill, persistence and courage worthy of Canada. In other words, those referred to will serve as illustrations for all ranks and classes.

The first for honourable mention are Private Boswell and Corporal Holden, who were for a long time my assistants in first-aid work in the old “fighting twenty-first.” Boswell was a tall, handsome, frank-faced Canadian boy in his early twenties, and Holden was a short, “cocky” little Englishman. They worked together always, and no officer ever had better, braver, or more loyal assistants. They were of that type of men who can go about the most dangerous and difficult of duties with a smile and without a grumble, and one well might have thought, even in the most hazardous surroundings, that they were carrying out their ordinary duties in a quiet Canadian town. They never complained; they belittled the dangers which they faced daily; they carried on their work as gaily as if it were play; and they loved the men of the battalion as brothers. I think it was James Whitcomb Riley who wrote those lines:

It is easy enough to be pleasant

When life flows along like a song;

But the man worth while

Is the one who can smile

When everything goes dead wrong.

These boys personified that verse. While I thought much of little Holden, big, handsome Boswell completely won my heart; and often did he promise me that when we came back to Canada after the War he would visit me. Unhappily both of them paid with their lives for their loyal and courageous service. They are therefore two of those mentioned in these pages whose names have been given correctly. As the father of three sons, I could ask those sons to display no finer character than that of these two young men who were of those millions of dear lads who gave up their lives to make the world different. Sometimes, as one looks about him on the chaotic conditions obtaining in Europe, indeed almost everywhere on this planet, one feels that these lives were sacrificed wholly in vain. And one wonders if, perhaps, they were not happier to stay out there than to come back, for, after all, they lived up to that noblest of precepts: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.”

They shall not grow old as we who are left grow old,

Age shall not weary, nor the years condemn.

Next for mention is one of the various batmen who served me. Our batmen were our personal servants, and they were a living proof of the fact that all ranks and classes are loyal and courageous if but given the chance; for I had a few of them, and look back at none of them with other than affection. I have elsewhere[1] written a story of Kelly which was described as a classic by the reader of the publishing house that published it, and shall not repeat the story here of that lovable Irishman. The one now chronicled was “Scotty.” That was the only name by which we knew him; indeed he had no surname while I was in the army. He was a small chap of about five feet six. He had a grinning little face, and he had some bad habits, particularly in regard to the rum ration; but his never-failing good-humour and his ever-faithful service endeared him very much to me. He was always frightened to death—-so he said—but never so frightened that he was not trailing along in the most dangerous corners, ready to obey like a faithful Scotch terrier any command given to him. He served me till my departure, as he was my last, and I had forgotten all about him, when, one day some thirteen years afterwards, in my morning mail in my home city a letter came signed with a Scottish name, in which it was pointed out to me that the writer had been my batman at the front and he spoke of incidents that identified him as having been with me out there.

“You told me,” he added, “that if I was ever in trouble and you could help, to call on you. Well, I’m in jail, and I want you to get me out.”

Unfortunately, he did not mention what jail he was in, nor the crime for which he was there, but after a good deal of telephoning I located him at the prison farm in the neighbourhood, and learned that he had been sailing on a boat which had landed at the port, but during his time off he got into a drunken row with the police. He had been sentenced to thirty dollars or thirty days, and had chosen the thirty days. I had the pleasure of meeting the fine, and when he called to thank me, I recognized my grinning, short Scotch friend, and was happy indeed to have been able in this little matter to return to him in a very small degree some of the kindnesses which he showed me under altogether different circumstances.

A Surgeon in Arms. Appleton-Century.

Another little fellow who served as my Sergeant comes back to me as one of the many worthy of mention. He was a French-Canadian who had been decorated at the Somme because of outstandingly courageous work done under the eye of an English Colonel who recommended him for the D.C.M. which he wore. He also was inclined to over-use the rum ration, and every now and then lost his sergeant’s stripes because of it, but invariably won them back by the splendid and courageous service which he continually gave. My first night in a superficial dug-out in the lines was spent in his battalion, the 22nd, and as I awoke in the morning he and a private were starting a fire in a little tin stove in a corner of the dug-out. As the wood was wet, they had some difficulty getting it going, and one could visualize, as plainly as if he were outside, the stream of black smoke pouring through the roof and supplying an excellent target for the Germans. It was my first night, please remember, in a dug-out so close to the front lines, and some of the line medical-officers, when I visited them from my field ambulance, had told me that in heavy shelling they moved out of the dug-out, preferring to take chances in the open trench rather than risk smothering by the collapsed roof of their temporary home. As expected, the shells began pouring around our neighbourhood very plentifully. Whether aimed at the stream of smoke or not one cannot tell, but they were continually bursting close enough to shake thoroughly our little habitation, and finally one of them burst in the trench outside so close to us that the concussion blew open the flimsy door. I had been gradually getting a little more nervous, and was somewhat surprised to see these young French-Canadians unconcernedly continue the preparation of their, and my, breakfast. Finally, in as nonchalant a manner as one could command, I asked how close would the shells have to come before it would be advisable to move out of the dug-out.

“Move out of the dug-out?” questioned the Sergeant, giving me a blank stare of surprise, “Oh, coming through the roof, I guess;” and he turned with a somewhat disgusted look to continue preparations for breakfast!

No officer dare, if he desire to retain the respect of his men, show cowardice; so I made up my mind then and there that if he could stand the roof caving in, so could I; and, while learning many lessons from this brave little chap, it was my effort never again to ask foolish questions. Elsewhere has been told an occasion when, serving at the rear of the lines, a Colonel very slightly wounded was placed by this Sergeant in an ambulance with a badly-wounded private soldier, and the Colonel objected to their being put into the same ambulance. “Very well,” said the little Frenchman, “take out the Colonel”; and the ambulance drove away with the private, while the Colonel waited for another.

Now, having spoken of a few of the privates or “non-coms,” whom one grew to respect and even to love in the army, may one mention a few officers? One of the most interesting was a Captain at the time, and he was perhaps the coolest man under shell-fire in the battalion—so reckless, in fact, that he was continually going into dangers against the regulations—wandering alone, for example, into No Man’s Land by night, and coming back to our trenches after an absence of an hour or so, often with very useful information regarding the German lines. He was a slow-thinking chap and slow-moving, and sometimes when a shell or hand-grenade or bullet missed him by inches and he calmly continued the conversation as if nothing had occurred, one found oneself wondering if his mind did not act so slowly that the danger had come and gone before he noticed it. On one occasion as he stepped back over the front line parapet just before dawn, his Colonel was going through the trench, and, without any reprimand for breach of discipline, they stood talking for some minutes, the Captain leaning against the parados, or step on which the soldiers stood to take a look toward the enemy lines. Suddenly, as it grew brighter, the Colonel noticed a stream of blood running into the trench, and on inquiry it turned out that the Captain had this time not been in luck, in that a German hand-grenade had exploded at his feet severely wounding him just as he was arriving back at his own lines. He had carried on the conversation with the Colonel as though nothing had happened, though it took some weeks for him to recover from the wounds.

The day that we took the town of Vimy, I was out of my position, having gone forward to the crest of Vimy Ridge, and had just finished dressing a couple of chaps in a trench overlooking the town, when this Captain joined me. Orders had just come through that a scouting party should go forward to reconnoitre the town, as our people were beginning to suspect that the Germans had evacuated it.

“By jove,” said the Captain to me, “I should like to go across with the scouts.”

“Why don’t you do it?” I replied.

“Oh dear me,” he said in a slow drawl, “I have no right to be here at all. My company is at the rear. And what are you doing here?” he asked.

I admitted that, like himself, I was merely curious.

“I’ll tell you what I will do, Doc,” he said, “I’ll join that scouting party if you will.”

And we both trailed along behind the party, and got some little thrill afterwards in boasting truthfully that we were among the first fifteen or twenty allied men who re-entered the town of Vimy. As dusk fell, we strolled through the village, and went out into the new No Man’s Land, and then had some difficulty finding our way back to our own battalion, where we both received a good-natured reprimand from the commanding officer for going “out of bounds.”

Before the Captain returned from the front he was a Major, and he had won not only the Distinguished Service Order, but a Military Cross with bar, as well as being mentioned in dispatches on one or two occasions for his never-failing coolness and courage in the most dangerous surroundings. Needless to say, he was in many ways the favourite of the battalion, as the men always loved one who showed what they inelegantly but expressively termed “guts.” He was a good illustration of the occasional officer or man who repeatedly takes chances and gets away with it. To-day he is in employment not far from here, none too prosperous, unfortunately, and has written me more than once recently for assistance in getting a pension dispute unravelled.

Next in lovable character recurs to my mind a Scotchman who had come to Canada a few years before, but who, at the outbreak of the war, joined up, and (as most Scotchmen from all parts of the world) quickly got into the thick of it. He was Lieutenant Henderson, as gentle and kind a fellow as any of the many delightful characters whom one met. A man of high moral principles, he was continually endeavouring to look after the moral and physical welfare of his company, and had instituted in his company a fund into which any man who swore must put a shilling. (Had this practice been put into effect throughout the whole army, it is altogether likely, if one may judge by the language used in the lines, that it might have saved the Government many millions in pensions!) His men loved him, and his nickname, “Pop,” came from the fact that he was well into the forties. The day before one of our biggest “shows,” a few hours ere we started out to go up to the line, he was in my tent reminiscing a little sadly, as men are prone to do when they are about to take part in affairs from which they may not come back. We were joined by a third, one of those devil-may-care Americans who could not wait for the United States to come into the war, and therefore joined the Canadians. Tom Beecraft was almost as popular as Pop, though of a reckless, swashbuckling type who, had he belonged to Pop’s company, would have perforce been a generous contributor to the swearing fund, for he had all the vernacular of the Michigan lumber camps in which he had worked as a youth. Though of such different dispositions, these men had deep affection for each other, as each in his different way never faltered in meeting dirt, danger and death. They were both favourites of my own, and as they left my tent Tom turned back to me and said:

“You know, Doc, the only thing I have against death is that it is so damned permanent.”

That was the extreme of language which he ever used when Pop was present. The death of which he spoke met them both the following day as they led the boys they loved across toward the German lines. They lie side by side in death, as they fought side by side in life.

Many others there are whom one could mention, as most of them were interesting from some angle to one who always had a habit of studying humanity, for many of them had such contradictions in character that they were worthy of record. For example, another officer of whom I saw much daily finished his bottle of whiskey before the sun went down upon the dreary scene, and yet, despite this, was able to carry on his somewhat onerous duties. On one occasion when we were kept in the line a little longer than we should have been, his supply ran out, and he rushed a messenger back to the canteen, sending as a message the title of a song which was then popular: “'Do you want us to lose the war?’ If not, for heaven’s sake get us up some whiskey.”

Yet all of these men had the highest brand of courage under all circumstances. I clearly recall making a round of the lines with the last-mentioned officer when we visited some of the dug-outs on the front of a hill facing the enemy, who had so placed a number of snipers that they might pick off any of those of our battalion who showed themselves. Our only method of getting from dug-out to dug-out was by a hurried rush from one shell-hole to another, hoping that the Germans, who took pot shots at us as we ran, would be as unlikely to hit either of us as is the usual hunter in the woods when he shoots at a running moose or deer. Fortunately our hopes were realized, though some of the bullets came uncomfortably close to us; and we were naturally exceedingly happy when that round of dug-outs was concluded. The incident is mentioned because my bottle-of-whiskey-a-day friend made each of these rushes and the flying leap into a friendly shell-hole with the same gaiety as youngsters show in playing hide-and-seek, and there floats back to me now his noisy laugh as each successive step in the trip was accomplished without accident.

Courage, physical or moral, is certainly one of the most admirable virtues that men possess, and physical courage at any rate is one of the most universal traits of man. Blasphemy and profanity were common, and sexuality was a favourite topic among the men out there, but hypocrisy and disloyalty—two of the most despicable sins of men—were almost unknown. They were all brothers in arms, loyal, brave, ready—whatever walk in life they came from—cheerfully to face death over and over again on behalf of the companions and the countries which they loved. Just as “one little touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” so did the mutual touch of danger make them all brothers under the skin.

One other person shall be mentioned who has long since “gone West,” He came through the war unscathed, not because he lacked bravery when put to the test, but partly at any rate because he loved life more than others did, and in a canny manner always avoided unnecessary risks—which attitude after all should have been (but was not) that of everyone in those fearful surroundings. Like so many of those who have a great attachment to what remains of life, he was well into middle age, and so differed from those carefree, reckless boys who had barely touched their twenties, yet invariably laughed at danger and death. Strange that those who had lived two-thirds of their allotted span should be less willing to give the other third than were these boys to give so much more! The more the younger men had to give, the more willingly they gave it, and the less that remained to the others, the greater was their desire to retain it. Of such strange stuff is human nature made!

Major Dougall Angus—his two Christian names, by which we always called him, contrary to the usual Canadian custom of shortening names—was well into his fifties. But his shoulders were as straight as those of any man in the battalion, his walk as erect, and his seat in the saddle something to marvel at. These qualities were coupled with a knowledge which he possessed of his handsome appearance at any time. He had a cheerful and humorous attitude toward life which made him one of our favourites at headquarters, yet it also made him the butt of good-natured joking among ourselves, as we watched Dougall Angus ride majestically through some village behind the lines, throwing a lingering glance at some pretty French girl who had perhaps stayed with her family in their old home. Riding beside him, as I often did, one always felt that Dougall Angus was asking himself if the girl on the sidewalk was not casting admiring glances in his direction, for his shoulders would go a little straighter, his head was always more erect, and his rein held a little tighter, as the women appeared on the scene. It was a harmless vanity on his part, an inheritance probably from those earlier days of gallantry and gaiety through which in his youth he had happily sauntered.

Looking back at it, it is likely that this and one or two other weaknesses of his made us all love him the more. One of his other little vanities was that he claimed to be a connoisseur of wine, a good deal of which we all drank in lieu of proper drinking water. Dougall Angus would pour his out with a careful hand; he would direct how the bottle should be held; he would then hold the Burgundy up to the light to enjoy its ruby colour; and before sipping it he would inhale its fragrance with all the pleasure shown by a young girl toward her first dozen roses. We had a suspicion that his connoisseurship of wine was as limited as that of most of us, for our knowledge consisted in being able to tell the difference between a good and a bad, but a complete inability to distinguish between the moderately good and the better. One day we tested out Dougall Angus on this. I had gone down to a town at the rear, looking for some medical supplies which had not been given me, and while in the town purchased a bottle of the best Sauterne that money could buy, paying about three dollars in our money for it. Arriving back at headquarters dug-out before lunch, I left the bottle on the table with instructions to our mess sergeant to pass it without comment when we were all taking lunch. When Dougall Angus had taken his usual glass and had sipped perhaps half of it, I asked him what quality of wine it was.

“Oh,” he replied, “vin ordinaire; not bad quality, but still, vin ordinaire.”

“The hell you say, Dougall Angus,” I replied. “I paid three dollars for that bottle of wine in Aubigny.”

He was a little discomfited at first, and then the wine improved with every sip, until he had worked up to its proper rank and quality; but he did not succeed even by this little manoeuvre in saving himself from a good deal of ragging on his connoisseurship.

On another occasion he paid a little dearly for his somewhat belated gallantry. Our battalion was out of the lines and our headquarters was billeted at one of those old stone farm-houses, so common in France, that are arranged around three sides of a square, the fourth side giving entrance to the court. On one of the three sides is usually the farm-house; on the second the stables for the lower-animal-part of the family; on the third the barns and implement shelters. In the centre of the stone-paved court is usually a huge pile of manure, the accumulation of months by the thrifty farmer. Over to one side of the manure-pile is the well, which is reason sufficient that most of us drank wine instead of water. Occasionally the sanitary corps undertook to use chloride of lime on the manure-pile, but the farmers usually objected because they said it gave a bad taste to the drinking water! Whether because water in France is used nearly altogether for bathing purposes—when bathing is part of the family custom—or whether a natural resistance to illness is gradually built up, I know not, but as a matter of fact the French farmers are as healthy as the rest of us. In the farm-house the farmer had a plump and comely daughter upon whom our friend Dougall Angus continually turned his admiring eyes; and on one occasion, as we passed in to dinner in the evening, he had the temerity in front of all of us to slip a not unwelcome arm about her and give her an affectionate squeeze. Without in any way showing resentment, but with a twinkle in her eye, she said quite loudly enough for all of us to catch it: “Vieux papa!” (“Old papa!”)

It took many months for poor Dougall Angus to lose the nickname “Vieux papa,” and it had a dampening effect on his youthful ardours.

Dougall Angus was one of the best-loved officers in the battalion; and while he had his full share of courage so long as he was in the lines, he made no secret of the fact that his chief ambition in life was to be appointed a Town Major at least ten miles behind the firing line, a position to which he attained while I was still with the battalion.

I shall not take up more space in giving thumb-nail sketches of courageous men whom I met. One could safely begin with the private and go up through the ranks to the divisional commander or commander-in-chief, and interesting characters would be forthcoming, no matter how carelessly one made the choice. It is quite true that among the private soldiers there was at times a good deal of criticism of the staff officers—what the privates called the “Brass Hats”—because the latter were not in the danger line to anything like the same extent as the private soldier. But one must remember that a dead general was not of much use to the army, and also realize that the planning of advance and retreat was much more capably done in the comparative quiet of some spot behind the lines. This recalls one of the best stories heard out there.

A staff officer was making the rounds of the line when, in the front trench, he came upon a sniper lying hidden behind sand bags and keeping his eye on some open spots in the enemy lines. The officer stopped.

“What are you doing there?” he asked rather stupidly of the sniper, who ignored his question completely; and a repetition of the question received the same silent contempt. As he stood, apparently in an exposed position, a German sniper on the other side took a pot shot at him, missing his head by a narrow margin. Unconsciously ducking, the staff officer passed on to another portion of the line, but, returning half an hour or so later, he came to the same spot and the same sniper. Again he stopped.

“Hi! What are you doing there?” he said once more, and received the same silence in return. Having repeated the question more heatedly, he was fortunate enough to be missed the second time by a bullet from the same German sniper—apparently to the disgust of the Canadian private soldier.

“You German blankety-blank, you have missed him twice; I’ll get you now,” he said as he pulled the trigger.


Before closing these rambling recollections of a few of my war experiences, some general conclusions may be worth expressing. Due to a large extent to their experience of the horrors, the filth, the general inhumanity and futility of the last conflict, the almost unanimous opinion of returned men is wholly antagonistic to war. Man’s inhumanity to man was never better exemplified than by nations sending their sons to the mass slaughter of modern warfare. For more than one generation mortal combat between individuals to settle differences—even affairs of honour—has been looked upon with horror and disgust by most civilized men and women. Should two men in the city of London or Toronto or even New York (where life is valued less highly than in British communities) go out into a vacant lot and shoot each other to death because of some difference of opinion or some misunderstanding, the incident would be condemned by all sane people. Even in France, where, in spite of the generally logical minds of the French people, they still challenge each other to duels, such duels usually consist of an opera-bouffe affair in which the combatants shoot into the air, being careful to injure no one, thereby satisfying their honour without killing each other. Since duelling is condemned by most civilized peoples, there is all the greater reason that mass duelling between nations should be outlawed.

There was a time, a hundred years ago, when war had something romantic about it. In the Napoleonic era a war between nations meant the meeting of armies of from twenty-five thousand to perhaps one hundred thousand (at Marengo Napoleon had thirty thousand)—although occasionally larger numbers were employed—and for a day or two these armies battled in charge and counter-charge, in which in a sense personal combat obtained. At the end of this short period the war between the two nations concerned was often considered finished. At most it meant battles of this kind going on intermittently for the matter of weeks. While during these battles large numbers were often killed or mutilated, there was the exhilaration of personal combat, the excitement of the cavalry charge, the inspiration of the military manoeuvres, which gave to these battles something of picturesque adventure, involving after all small numbers of men in comparison with the populations of the combatant countries—contrary to the Great War in which many millions participated.

Generally speaking, during these wars of a century ago, the ordinary affairs of the nations concerned went on in a normal manner, and civilian populations, except in the immediate vicinity of the battles, were immune from danger. But to-day war means the clashing of whole nations; it means the wholesale slaughter of men on both sides by high-powered explosives, or the wholesale poisoning of the combatants by deadly gases. The machine-gun, the long range gun, and the other scientific and mechanistic instruments which have been invented, have turned war into the most horrible type of slaughter, in which not only are huge armies necessary in the fighting zone, but in which as well (due to the aeroplane, the airship and the submarine and their ability to spread death far and near) civilian populations are virtually running the same risks as those on the immediate battle-front. The horrors of the next war, if such should unhappily take place, would be inestimably greater than those between 1914 and 1918; and in such a catastrophe men, women and children in large cities such as London or Paris would be continually in danger of death from explosives or gases, reasonable safety from which could be obtained only by living in cellars and wearing ghoulish-looking gas-masks. What an outlook for our so-called Christian civilization! Surely all sane men must consider that war has now become the most devilish relic of barbarism which the world still retains! One danger which seems to be overlooked in the discussions of future wars among the white peoples of Europe is that they are, through these destructive processes, gradually so weakening our white civilization and its whole social system, that the ground is being prepared for the subjugation of the white races by the coloured races who are in a majority throughout the world of more than two to one. When one recalls the speed with which one at least of the coloured races, the Japanese, has overtaken, from an industrial and commercial viewpoint, the European nations which had an advantage of many generations, one cannot help but wonder how long it would take that race to spread industrial and scientific development among the hundreds of millions of its neighbours, with the ultimate aim of a complete overthrow of white leadership which has existed for a thousand years. If one looks back over the history of civilizations which have come and gone, one realizes that there is no permanent stability about anything on this planet.

Since the end of the war, I have had the opportunity on a number of occasions of revisiting the scenes of my service at the front, of passing through those areas of northern France and Belgium where thousands of little wooden crosses mark the graves of those brave boys who gave up their lives that democracy and liberty should be maintained—those boys who exemplify in their deaths the realization that age makes the blunders leading to war, and youth pays the price. And when one looks about to-day at the chaotic condition that exists throughout Christendom, and the failure of our ideals of peace to be realized, one feels all the more pity that these boys of all nations should have been asked to give up their lives for a cause unrealized and apparently unrealizable. After my visit to Europe in the autumn of 1933, heading the Canadian Delegation to the League of Nations, I came back from that meeting sad indeed at the thought that, despite the conviction which all men seem to have of the futility—indeed the insanity—of war, the nations of Europe are facing its probability with a certain amount of resignation. Notwithstanding the idealistic Clause VIII in the Covenant of the League of Nations, which states that great armaments undoubtedly lead to war and therefore must be reduced, the nations of the world are presently armed to a greater extent than they were in 1913; and still that horrible traffic goes on among even the most progressive and supposedly most civilized of peoples, that traffic in arms and munitions sold for profit by manufacturers whose shares are held by ordinarily sane, clean, and even God-fearing people. It is claimed (and certainly many proofs have been offered that the claim is true) that many of these munition-manufacturing corporations have stirred up misunderstandings and fears and war scares for the purpose of selling their diabolical products. Even members of parliaments in some countries, some of them men who advocate peace and disarmament, have been shown to be shareholders in these industries. In view of such almost unbelievable realities, and in view of the undoubted truth that the vast majority of the peoples of all countries are opposed to warfare, how is it that there is still not only the threat but the likelihood of war between civilized nations who, in the centuries that have gone, laid the foundations of the culture which the world possesses?

Has Europe indeed become a mad-house that its leaders are still unable to settle their differences peacefully? Surely almost any settlement on terms such as those of the peace treaties of 1919 would be better for any nation than the slaughter of its children who have grown up to replace the dead, many of whom, had they returned, would have been the nation’s leaders in business, industry, politics and literature. Some can be named who died out there who had already become famous through the beauty of their written word—such for example, as the young English poet, Rupert Brooke, or our own Canadian writer, John McCrae.

What a calamity that minds which conceived such thoughts as theirs should be sacrificed to satisfy the insane ambitions of states!

When one considers the critical condition of world affairs to-day, the ultra-nationalistic antagonisms existent everywhere, the elimination of democracy in many of the countries of Europe, the unemployment and hardship, partly at least due to the overwhelming of the world with war debts, the wars and threats of war and preparations for war which exist, one sometimes wonders if those who died out there were not more fortunate than those who came back. Indeed, they will have been more fortunate unless the leaders of nations are able to devise some method for the pacific settlement of international disputes in accordance with the majorities’ sane desire for peace. The hundreds of millions of dollars which are annually wasted upon armaments could be so much better employed for peaceful services to humanity, and human happiness so much increased thereby, that it is the duty of all of us to do our utmost to prevent the repetition of that hell on earth which existed from 1914 to 1918. No class in any community is more sincere in its desire to prevent the danger of another war than those who, like myself, saw something of that terrifying and horrible life that men call trench warfare. And the recent brutal rape of Ethiopia by Mussolini’s forces can only add to the desire of all decent people for peace and justice among the nations.

The Pact of Paris—the so-called Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928—was signed by nearly sixty nations, its principles being the outlawing of war as a method of settling international disputes, and the determination to compose any international difference of whatever nature by peaceful means. We in Canada and our American neighbours have succeeded for over one hundred years in settling our disputes (and we have had many important differences) according to those principles. We are an example of what can be done by neighbours who have the will to peace; though the European situation is much more difficult than ours. Over there, in an area one-half that of Canada, there are twenty-seven different nations, with different languages, cultures and legislative methods, and with their boundaries impinging upon each other from all angles. Add to this congestion a background of hundreds of years of ambitious rivalries, jealousies, suspicions and wars, and the fact that all these nations are armed to the teeth, and one has some realization of the European situation as it presently exists. But sanity compels one to conclude that any peace is better than war, even if some nations think that they were unjustly treated in the Peace Treaties of 1919 and 1920—as they well may have been. With their large populations and very limited areas one can easily understand Italian aspirations for an outlet for its people, or Japanese desire for expansion—both of which have endangered the peace of the world in recent months.

Would it not be better for all of us to admit that some of these demands must be met, for example, that Germany get back some of the colonies taken from her in the 1920 treaties, providing that a settlement could be made, reasonably assuring future world peace? The Italian conquest of Ethiopia was cold-blooded and brutal to the minds of most of us, but I cannot agree with those so-called idealists who would have started a world war to stop a local one, nor with those others who would embroil the whole world in an Asiatic war to make Japan behave herself in China. To those who love peace, and who hate the thought of young men dying on battlefields, it would seem the part of wisdom to come to terms by giving outlets to overcrowded nations, if by that method world peace can be assured. For there is still room in the world for all of us, if we but practise those Christian principles which most of us avow, remembering that “between nation and nation, as between man and man, lives the one great law of right.”

Part Six



While serving with the French army in 1915, at the Château de Rimberlieu, near Noyon, a cablegram came to me from the Liberal Party of my home constituency informing me that I had been unanimously chosen as their candidate at the next election for the House of Commons. Previous to this, as a successful young professional man who had been taking some part in municipal politics and had been active in such movements as the Canadian Club, it had been suggested on two occasions that I stand as candidate for the Liberal Party in the provincial elections. On both of these occasions I had refused to consider the matter, but on receipt of the knowledge of my unanimous nomination I, wisely or unwisely, accepted.

I remained the Liberal candidate throughout my further service at the front, and when ordered from the lines because of the recurrence of a rather serious injury-condition for which I had been operated upon as a student in Toronto, my wish was to go back to my own section of the world for the necessary operation, and for the purpose, at the same time, of seeing my wife and little boys, parted from eighteen months before. My old study ground, the Mayo Clinic, was my choice for the necessary operation, and everything went so successfully that by late autumn of 1917 I was quite fit and well again. In the meantime an election had been proposed for December of that year. The War having continued, Sir Robert Borden and his party came out for conscription of the man power of Canada to replenish the Canadian armies at the front. The majority of the Liberal Party under Sir Wilfrid Laurier opposed this policy, though he was deserted in his attitude by some of his outstanding lieutenants and many of his followers in and out of Parliament.

I was one of those who came to the conclusion that if the war were to be carried on successfully, indeed if war were to be carried on justly and fairly to our nation, conscription of man power was the only satisfactory method. While no one more devoutly desires, or is a more sincere advocate of, world peace, I am convinced that the only fair and just method of raising men for the army during war is by conscription, carried out so that those most suitable to serve in the army would serve there, and those who, because of family ties or scientific training, should remain at the rear or at the base, should be kept there. Because conscription was not put into effect early and on a scientific basis, unfit men of all kinds were transported to the front at great expense to the nation, and men who had large families and who therefore should have been the last to be put into the firing line were sacrificed, with the double indemnity, first, of loss to their family, and second, of much greater expense to the nation in pensions. Regarding conscription of man power in war time, there is justice in the view that if ever again men are compelled to risk their lives at a dollar a day, others who do war work at home should be put upon absolutely the same basis, and no one permitted to profit in any manner whatsoever by war.

As a result of my opinion on this question I was one of the following of Sir Wilfrid Laurier who separated from him. It was doubly difficult for me to do this, because, not only had I as a young man inherited the Liberal tradition and followed it rather actively, but through my wife I had had the honour of a personal friendship with Sir Wilfrid and Lady Laurier—in fact, the latter was present at our wedding in 1906. However, there existed the one justification for a party man leaving his party—difference of opinion on a great principle. Therefore I joined with tens of thousands of other Liberals in supporting what was called the Unionist policy.

There had been nominated in my constituency a Conservative candidate, Tom Horne, an old friend of mine and of my father, and it then became necessary for the Conservatives and Liberals who were supporting the conscription policy of Sir Robert Borden to choose one or other as their candidate. I was finally chosen, and so was launched upon the public life which I have followed ever since, interspersing it with medical practice during the periods between Parliamentary sessions.

Often since that decision to become a candidate for Parliament I have asked myself why one gives up one’s own business or profession to take part in the uncertainties of Parliamentary work. The question may be asked more emphatically of a medical man than of a member of almost any other profession or business, because the medical profession is a jealous profession, and will not permit its members to take prominent part in other affairs without injury to their medical reputation. It is strange but true that once a doctor of medicine branches out into any other line of activity, no matter what success he may make of it, his professional reputation immediately begins to deteriorate and his patients gradually drift away. One might have thought that a physician or surgeon who proved himself sufficiently gifted to make an outstanding success of some other branch of activity would have thereby convinced his patients that his abilities as a medical man were in like proportion, and that therefore he was more worthy of their support. Such, however, is not the case. A doctor of medicine who goes into another activity, such as politics, must be prepared, if he continues in the new sphere, to see his clientèle dwindle and gradually disappear. Patients whose confidence he has won over the years find it necessary in his absences to call in other physicians or surgeons, and gradually realize that the ultimate results of the treatments are much the same—emphasizing once more that Nature after all is the physician, the medical attendant being merely Nature’s humble assistant. The fact that the sick can get the other medical man when they want him has also its effect. Thus a medical man with a good practice is probably making a greater sacrifice in serving the public than is a member of any other profession. Indeed, one can think of no branch of business or professional life that really is benefited by its occupant dividing his energies between his own affairs and those of the public. An old and wise friend of mine once said to me that no man should ever become a candidate who is not either independently rich or independently poor.

Then why do men like myself take this gambling chance of wrecking their future prospects by becoming candidates for Parliament; and having served, say for one Parliament, why do they continue? It is a very difficult question to answer, as I have asked it of myself a thousand times and have never come to any satisfactory conclusion, probably because the answer is a complex one. Some there are who take this course entirely because of a call to serve the public, because of an overwhelming desire to risk all for this purpose, but one may well imagine that not many are wholly governed by this laudable ambition. This, of course, does come into the calculations of any honourable candidate for Parliament; but in addition there is the love of combat, love of public acclaim, love of power. There is the desire to test one’s mental ability against that of other men; there is the leadership possessed temporarily by those in office; and finally, and perhaps not least, there is the fascination of dealing with national problems in an environment which is exceedingly pleasant and with a social side which is most attractive.

Red Michael Clark, one of the most brilliant members of the House of Commons in my early public life, expressed an opinion to me on one occasion which explains why men are offered the candidature.

“Every man in this House has something in him,” he said, “if you can only find it. Sometimes,” he added, “it is damn hard to find, but it is there just the same.”

In that statement there is a very large element of truth, because the fact that men are chosen by thirty thousand to one hundred thousand of their fellow Canadians to represent them in the Parliament of Canada proves that these men have “something in them.” After contact now for nearly twenty years with men in the House of Commons, some of them brilliant, some mediocre, and some quite dull, my conclusion is that even the dullest inevitably has some particularly admirable quality which has recommended him to his fellow men. This rule has very few exceptions indeed, and consequently these men from all over Canada with whom one has intimate association, even if they are opponents, provide part at least of that social side of public life referred to above, the other part of it being given by contacts one has with leaders of whom most of the population know only what they read in the public press. To rub shoulders day by day with leaders of thought cannot help but have its fascinating aspect to any ambitious and right-minded citizen.

A physician is usually a splendid candidate for any party, for he has had such intimate associations with so many people that many of them have come to look upon him with the same affection as if he were a member of their family. Add to this his multitudinous charities, voluntary or involuntary, plus his knowledge of human nature, and you have a combination which gives him advantages over almost any other class of candidate. If, in addition to these qualities, he has fair ability in expressing himself in public, and is possessed of what some one has called “divine common sense,” he is almost unbeatable, unless he is running on the minority side in one of those constituencies which pride themselves on not having changed their politics since Confederation. Then, of course, he goes the way of all flesh.

Since my entrance into Parliament, in 1917, I have been a candidate in all the general elections, six in number, and have had the good fortune to win in all but the last. In four of these elections I won so handily that my opponent lost his deposit, not having obtained sufficient votes to equal half of mine. In my second election, that of 1921, I was almost beaten, having won by only three hundred, as compared with other majorities of from three to four thousand. This well illustrates the manner in which democracy swings one way or the other. In the 1917 election my majority was of some thousands, and in 1925 the same, but in 1921 I was almost defeated. I had not changed, nor had my policies or my principles, certainly not more at any rate than one changes as he grows older and (it is to be hoped) wiser; yet the same people who treated me so generously in 1917 and in 1925 nearly defeated me in 1921. At that time there was a sweeping revulsion of feeling against the Government which had carried on the war, because it had found it necessary to put into effect many unpopular regulations, taxes, or conditions. Throughout the world nearly all war governments were cast into the cool shades of opposition. Democracy thinks as a mass, and it often sweeps from one extreme to another with a facility which is at least difficult to understand. One of the strangest phenomena observed in public life is that the feeling of unpopularity which sometimes accumulates against a government seems at election time to pass through the electorate in the most extraordinary fashion, so that by some strange form of mass telepathy the sentiment spreads like a prairie fire, the result being an overwhelming defeat for a party which may or may not deserve it. It is really an inexplicable illustration of mass psychology. That is what occurred in most countries to the governments which had perforce during the war put into effect unpopular measures. Lloyd George in England, Wilson in the United States, and the Unionist Party in Canada are outstanding illustrations.

In times of stress democracy often takes revenge on any government which may be forced to appeal to it. In such cases it appears that democracy demands a victim—a victim which must be publicly sacrificed in order to pacify Demos. No individual likes to admit failure, and when (as during the crisis of 1929-1933) millions found themselves in financial straits, it must have given them consolation to assure themselves that some person or government was responsible for their situation—a situation which quite conceivably was not due to their own shortcomings, but, on the other hand, may have been created by their thriftlessness, their lack of foresight, or just their ill luck; and they get some solace by voting against the government.

Canada is possessed of two chief political parties, the Liberal and Conservative, for after the election of 1921 the Unionist Party dissolved into its old elements, though a large number including myself saw no reason for leaving the men with whom they had been associated during four years of trying times, and so remained with the reorganized Conservative Party. Perhaps one-half of those who had gone in with Sir Robert Borden in 1917 returned to the Liberal fold. But from 1921 onward a third party, made up of a small group, came into existence, and since that time we have had this third group or party—the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (a most awkward name)—though it would not appear to have much chance of attaining power for many years to come. The one “Reconstruction” member can hardly be called a party. Most of the candidates opposing me since 1921 have adopted the hyphenated name of Liberal-Farmer, or Farmer-Labour, or even Liberal-Farmer-Labour, for the purpose of gathering in the voters of all factions of discontent or opposition—the Cave of Adullam idea, where “every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto” David. On one occasion when my opponent called himself a Farmer-Labour candidate, one of my supporting speakers, a lawyer in a small town, dealt with this very effectively in the campaign by telling one of the cleverest of platform stories.

“The opponent of our candidate,” he said, “is running as a Farmer-Labour candidate. I did not know there was much in common between those two groups, because the labouring man has for some years been supporting most strenuously an eight-hour day, whereas the farmer has to work from early morning till late at night. A friend of mine who had been working all his life at labouring jobs in the towns recently procured a position with a farmer. His first day they had started early in the morning and had worked till almost dark, when he had gone to bed exceedingly tired. It seemed to him that he had just gone to sleep when he was awakened by the farmer telling him it was time to get up, although it was still an hour or so before dawn.

“'Get up,’ he said, 'what for?’

“'To take in the oats,’ the farmer replied.

“'What kind of oats are they,’ he asked; 'wild oats?’

“'No,’ replied the farmer, 'they are just the ordinary oats.’

“'Well, don’t you think,’ he asked, 'that they might hang around so that we could sneak up on them in the daytime?’”

Not only did the humorous side of the story appeal very strongly to the audience, but the logic of the situation also appealed to them by the results that were obtained.

Before the 1921 election I was taken into the Cabinet of the Conservative group, who were appealing to the electorate on the record of the Unionist Government, and thus it was necessary for me as a Minister to move around the country a good deal, speaking in support of other candidates in various parts of Canada—certainly in that election without very much success. And in each election since, having been a member of three governments and attained some reputation as a speaker, it has been my duty to give four-fifths of my time to touring the country, retaining a fifth or less for my own constituency, in which during those elections there have been left me only eight or ten days to campaign. In spite of this, a splendid group of loyal friends, toward whom I feel not only gratitude but sincere affection, have succeeded in winning five out of six elections. Moving about the country from coast to coast during the elections one has not only a strenuous but exceedingly interesting time, as one has contacts with so many people and so many groups that it gives an exciting zest to the life. Many interesting tales could be told of platform experiences or after-platform experiences. Campaigning days are indeed strenuous, and the nights more so, because in each locality in which one speaks, if one’s name is reasonably well known, the occasion is always looked upon as an event, as the supporters of the party concerned invariably wish to “make a night of it,” forgetting that the speaker is filling an itinerary which probably means an average of two speeches a day for six or seven weeks, such exertions leaving him very little energy for all-night entertainments. I found it always very necessary to curtail most of these local hospitalities, but it is impossible to refuse them altogether without offending.


Canada, in her short history since Confederation, in 1867, has produced statesmen who are quite the equal of those in other sections of the Empire. Ignoring the present and speaking only of the past, one may mention two whose names are by-words in the political history of our country—Sir John A. Macdonald, the Conservative leader for thirty years, and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Liberal leader for over a quarter of a century. Others there have been on both sides of politics whose names are well known, but these two have ever been my ideals of successful political leaders, and to a certain extent for the same reasons—their knowledge of human nature; their kindliness toward even those of the party opposing them; their sense of humour; and their fine common sense, which should be called “uncommon sense,” as it is none too common.

On one occasion I asked Sir Robert Borden what characteristics he considered chiefly necessary for success in the political arena. “To my mind, there are three,” he replied, “courage, patience and a sense of humour.” While agreeing to a large extent with this opinion, one should add common sense, though no doubt Sir Robert would reply that that is taken for granted.

Macdonald and Laurier both possessed all these qualities to a marked degree, and, while I have always felt that Macdonald was really the greater statesman of the two, both may be placed on a high pinnacle as men who justly became the idols of their followers, whose names will long be greeted by the cheers of those who knew them or read of them. It may well be that Macdonald had wider opportunities to accomplish great things for his country than had Laurier. Be that as it may, the fact that Macdonald was the chief architect of Confederation; that he it was who had the courage and the vision to bring about the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway from coast to coast in Canada, when the population of the Prairie Provinces was largely made up of Indians and buffalo; that he had the imagination and foresight to arrange the purchase from the Hudson’s Bay Company for a million and a half dollars (a mere bagatelle in comparison with its worth) of that vast territory now comprised in the three Prairie Provinces; and finally, that he introduced the National Policy, which has since been kept in force by all parties, irrespective of their pre-election promises or criticisms. These four great achievements leave Macdonald’s name one to be conjured with among the long list of leaders on either side of politics in the Dominion.

Laurier has no such great accomplishments to his credit, perhaps because, as we have suggested, the opportunities did not exist, yet he did possess many of the qualities that made Macdonald great, and in addition Laurier was a gentleman of the old school, a grand seigneur to his compatriots. Laurier did much to foster a sane understanding between the two great races of Canada—a goal aimed at by all who have the best interests of Canada at heart. He led his party into power in 1896, and kept it there until the reciprocity election of 1911. He is still the idol not only for Canadians of French extraction, but the idol of all those who look upon themselves as the Old Guard of Liberalism.

While I knew Sir Wilfrid Laurier quite well in private life, and sat for two years in the House of Commons during his leadership, though sitting on the opposite side of the Speaker, I never had the good fortune to see Macdonald, who died in 1891, but the qualities of the latter appeal so strongly to my mind that he appears to me, by some odds, the greatest political leader Canada has ever known. Not only did he possess all the qualities mentioned, but he displayed in a greater degree than did any other leader a sense of kindly humour. So true is this latter statement that there was published some years after his death a volume, The Anecdotal Life of Sir John A. Macdonald, which makes very interesting reading. My study of Macdonald has convinced me that the senseless attitude sometimes taken toward public men, that if they indulge their humorous proclivities they therefore cannot possess great ability, is due to a lack of appreciation of the qualities of greatness. The two greatest leaders that this continent has produced, Lincoln and Macdonald, were also the two greatest humorists in the public life of the American Republic and the Dominion of Canada. This should be sufficient to counteract this stupid idea, yet there is one prominent Parliamentarian still with us, Senator George P. Graham, who, despite qualities of the very highest in general ability and statecraft, seems to have greatly lessened his reputation as a political leader because he was an exceedingly humorous after-dinner speaker. Even in England, where witty speeches are more appreciated than in Canada, there is always danger of a public man doing injury to his fame by indulging his sense of humour. “A public man should be as serious as an ass,” was once said by a leading Englishman, and after nearly twenty years’ experience of public life one must admit a little sadly that there is food for thought in this remark.

Nevertheless, Macdonald’s humour was never bridled; to the joy of his friends he indulged it on all possible occasions, but even in dealing with his enemies his humour was of the kindliest type, in which characteristic humour differs so often from wit. No group of Tory henchmen even now ever meets for a jovial evening without unconsciously the conversation drifting to Macdonald, and some of the tales of his kindly repartee are told. Not long since, at a dinner in my own home, one of Canada’s best-known publishers told me a story of Macdonald which appears to me to be one of the very best. This publisher at the time of the incident was a “cub reporter” in the city of Kingston, reporting for a well-known Toronto daily. Macdonald, who in his early life was inclined to indulge in alcoholic liquors to excess—a not uncommon custom then—had on the occasion of the meeting concerned indulged far too freely, and made a speech which did not go over very well. Being new to his profession but being at the same time a believer in Sir John, the reporter was much puzzled as to how he should report the meeting. A little after midnight, while he was still cogitating this question, he was advised that Sir John wanted to see him in his bedroom. He found Sir John sitting up, with wet towels about his head, and apparently quite recovered from his excessive indulgence.

“My young man,” he said to the reporter, “I understand you are reporting my speech to the Toronto Daily ——. Would you kindly read to me what you have set down as my speech.”

The reporter complied with this request, reading aloud his report, to which Sir John listened intently.

“But, my dear young man,” Sir John then said, “that is not the speech I made at all. Now sit down there, and I will give you my speech”; and he proceeded to dictate an excellent speech, which the young man copied down word for word. “Now,” said Sir John, “that is the speech which I made and which you will send to your paper. Thanks very much for coming to see me.” As the young man started for the door, however, he was called back. “But, my dear fellow, may I offer you one piece of advice? Never again attempt to report a public man when you are drunk.”

Another favourite, which not only illustrates Macdonalds sense of humour, but also contains a lesson in the constitutional development of Canada, is that often told of the Governor-General who, annoyed at Macdonald’s not calling the House as soon as the Governor-General thought he should, sent his aide-de-camp to Macdonald to tell him somewhat peremptorily that the House must be called forthwith. Sir John listened patiently, then asked the aide-de-camp if he came there in his personal capacity or in his official capacity, to which the aide-de-camp replied that he could not see what difference that made.

“Oh!” said Sir John, “it makes a very great difference, because if you come in your official capacity, you can tell the Governor-General to go to the devil, and if you come personally, you can go yourself.”

No doubt as a result of this incident the Governor-General of that day realized for the first time that Canada had become a self-governing nation with responsible institutions, and that his position was to act on the advice of his Ministers, not to instruct them.

Only one other will I tell of this delightful and exceedingly human individual—another tale that has often been told but which is so good that it will bear repeating. One of his best-beloved friends in Kingston in his early days of leadership was Dr. Grant, then Principal of Queen’s University.

“Dr. Grant,” he said on one occasion, meeting him on Princess Street, “I wish you were a friend of mine.”

“But I am a friend of yours, Sir John,” replied Dr. Grant. “I always support you when I think you are right.”

“Ah!” said Sir John, “but that is not the kind of a friend I mean—I mean a friend who would support me when he thinks I am wrong!”

In addition to his fine sense of humour, Sir John possessed that other exceedingly valuable quality in a leader—an understanding of human nature and a kindliness toward his followers, and even toward members of the opposite party, which he displayed on every possible occasion, making him beloved not only by his own party but indeed to a great degree by his opponents. When one of his followers, perhaps some humble back-bencher, had made a speech of a very ordinary variety, and was feeling somewhat humiliated that he could not do better, he was often overjoyed to find Sir John’s arm affectionately around his shoulder, and to be told by his leader what a splendid effort he had made. Indeed, one tale is told of an incident of this sort when Sir John did this to one of the Liberal Chieftain’s followers, who in return during a number of years in public life managed always to be out of the House when Sir John was in a tight division.

Laurier possessed this quality also to a high degree. There recurs to my mind an illustration of it. Immediately after my first session in the House of Commons, during which session I was a whip, I was walking down Sparks Street in Ottawa, and met a farmer Member from one of the Western Provinces, one who possessed the good “horse-sense” of the soil, but who had also the retiring disposition so often displayed by his kind. We had lunch together, and, asking him how he had enjoyed his first session, I was somewhat shocked to learn that he had never met his own leader, Sir Robert Borden. This was no doubt due to some oversight on Sir Robert’s part, although in those strenuous war days Sir Robert was bowed down under very heavy burdens, and was not quite the congenial companion that he has become in the fifteen years since he retired from the onerous duties of leadership.

“And you know, Doctor,” my friend added, “as I came down in the elevator to-day, Sir Wilfrid was in it with me. He complimented me about those few remarks I made yesterday on the wheat situation. As he left me, he shook my hand and said: 'Well, good-bye, Mr. ——; God be with you till we meet again.’ And,” my friend added to me very solemnly, “I shall never forget those words.”

This incident illustrates the resemblance between Laurier and Macdonald so far as their humanity was concerned, and the importance of a leader’s friendliness with his followers.

It is said of Macdonald that he was a very ordinary speaker, and consequently showed another quality not too frequently possessed by leaders, that of asking his lieutenants to display their abilities on all possible occasions, while he sat back and frankly enjoyed listening. However, his real accomplishments on behalf of his country, his great courage in emergencies, his humane leadership, and his sense of humour made him my ideal of a great leader, an ideal which has apparently been accepted by many generations of Canadians.


So far as public speaking is concerned, it may well be that a leader does not now require this gift so much as was considered necessary in days long since past, and quite possibly Macdonald was an early illustration of this fact. Others since his time have become Prime Minister of Canada, or Premier of one of our great Provinces, who were not oratorically gifted to any great extent, either on the platform or in the legislature. At the same time it is undoubtedly of very great advantage to a leader to possess to a high degree the gift of speech, and I am far from being a believer in the individual who parades his wisdom by not expressing it. Generally speaking, the man who cannot express his thoughts has few thoughts to express, and no man can be a great leader who cannot express himself reasonably well. The florid oratory of the past is no longer considered necessary, but clarity of thought and facility of expression are always necessary. As a general rule, the man who expresses himself well thinks well, though occasionally one meets with the glib speaker who is a very superficial thinker, but with the passing years my conclusion is, that the man who is highly acceptable as a speaker either in public gatherings or at important banquets has been endowed with a valuable gift. If in addition to this he has been fortunate in obtaining the mental discipline of a university education, and has had as well some experience in business or professional life, he should, with even average mental gifts, be an exceedingly useful member of society. On the other hand, perhaps the most dangerous type of individual is the one who has received a wide education so far as books are concerned, but who has had little experience in business, profession, or in vital contact with his fellow men, yet who has become convinced (as so many of his type are now convinced) that he is just naturally a leader of men and a framer of national policies. He forgets that knowledge and wisdom are separate and distinct—“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.” Wisdom in its higher meaning, as applied to public questions, is the application of knowledge to the problems that require solution by one who, in addition to his book learning, has the discipline of experience, and who displays good common sense.

Laying aside pulpit oratory, there are three chief types of speakers. First there are those who are witty, clever after-dinner speakers, yet have limited ability on the platform or in legislative halls. Next come the good “stump” speakers, who may be feeble performers when their efforts are submitted to the analytical minds of a hard-headed group of legislators. And finally there is the example of splendid debating power in the House of Commons combined with a very limited ability either on the public platform or in an after-dinner effort. Fortunate indeed is he who possesses a modicum of ability in all three.

In the House of Commons one has a very critical audience, probably the most critical before which one ever finds it necessary to appear, for those listening—when one is fortunate enough to be able to command listeners—are business and professional men, successful farmers and labourites, who have usually had a good deal of experience of various kinds which develops in them the ability to sift the wheat from the chaff, and, what is more important, to judge the character and sincerity of the speaker with an almost uncanny skill. It is of primary importance that the Member who is addressing the House, in order to hold the attention of his listeners, must know his subject; then he must be able to express himself clearly; and finally, and perhaps most important, he must be absolutely sincere, for sincerity is to a large extent what we call “personality” in a speaker. The glib speaker who is merely gifted with a volume of words is soon recognized by the House, and his utterances are judged accordingly. Some who made first-rate reputations before the courts, and were expected to become scintillating suns in the House, have turned out to be only shooting-stars, flashing across the parliamentary sky to disappear in the outer darkness. Often have I seen men who were able to express themselves in the most fluent and correct manner, who had the gift of eloquence, and yet who could not hold the House of Commons at all, because of its seemingly instinctive awareness that there was lacking either sincerity or deep knowledge or something which makes a speech worth while. It is not that a man must be what is called an orator, for some of the most effective speakers in the House are those who might be termed plain, blunt men, but who never rise to participate in debate unless they are thoroughly familiar with the subject.

“Were you nervous?” I was asked after my first effort in the House, now nearly twenty years ago. I replied emphatically in the affirmative. “Then there is some hope for you to become a good speaker here,” replied the old Member who had asked the question, “for a man who is not nervous in these surroundings is too self-satisfied ever to make a success.” With that opinion one must wholly agree. Indeed, many who became great speakers in the House of Commons of England were, in their first effort, almost complete failures, notably Disraeli, who was laughed down. On the other hand, F. E. Smith, later Lord Birkenhead, held the House enthralled by his brilliantly witty and magnificently eloquent début, delivered a few days after his entrance to it. But he was a rara avis.

A great fault in the Commons is speaking too frequently. This applies to the new Member particularly, since the leader of a party or an able and old parliamentarian is expected to take part in many debates, but to the new Member too much or too frequent intervention in debate is almost fatal. Dr. Michael Clark, who in his early days was called “Red Michael” because of his flaming red beard, was one of the most polished of the debaters whom I have heard in the House, and on one occasion shortly after my election we discussed this matter.

“I suppose, Dr. Clark,” I said, “that a new Member should never speak in the House unless he is very familiar with his subject?”

“That is quite right, Manion,” replied Red Michael, “and even then in most cases he should remain in his seat.”

Dr. Clark was not only one of the most finished parliamentary debaters, but one of the most successful platform and after-dinner speakers that the House of Commons of Canada ever had. He received his early training at the feet of some of the great Liberals of England. Having a fine classical education upon which he could draw with the greatest facility, he also had not only a splendid vocabulary and an excellent delivery, but was endowed with that other most valuable possession of a public speaker, a powerful and resonant voice. In addition to these, he was possessed of a cutting wit, which could at times be unnecessarily cruel, as he was one of those of whom it could be said that “he sometimes preferred a jest to a friend.” Thus he made both headlines and enemies—not too good a combination for a public man, and one which perhaps ultimately helped to cost him his seat in Red Deer, Alberta.

As to speaking on the public platform, it is a somewhat different type of effort. The speaker in this case is addressing a much less critical audience, which may be carried away by a speech which would be laughed out of court if delivered before a critical legislative group. The public gathering is, of course, the most fruitful field for the demagogue—the man who is appealing more to the passions than to the reason of his hearers. Shakespeare well recognized this, for no better example of playing upon the heart-strings of a mercurial crowd could be given than the occasion upon which Mark Antony addressed the multitude after the assassination of Caesar. He played with the Roman mob with the ability of a master, though he protested (perhaps too much) that he was “a plain, blunt man.” The agile speaker usually can handle a public audience without much difficulty, for as a rule he is much better posted upon the questions that he may be discussing than are they, and therefore the heckling is often most ineffective—indeed it may be very helpful. The following incident will illustrate the ease with which a clever speaker may get rid of an awkward question.

I was supporting a candidate in his own constituency in a section where dairying was the chief occupation of the people. It was at a time when the Americans were preventing entry into the United States of Canadian dairy products by putting up heavy tariffs against them, and this candidate was arguing strongly in the interests of Canadian dairying, when one of the audience recalled that, a few years before, this same gentleman, shortly after returning from the front, had argued very strenuously in a speech in the House for the free admission of oleomargarine into Canada on the ground that the soldiers had been given oleomargarine at the front, and that what was good enough for them was good enough for those at home. He had forgotten that a large section of the population of his own constituency were dairy farmers, but this heckler had not, and in the midst of my friend’s eloquent defence of dairy farming, the heckler put his question:

“What about oleomargarine?”

“Oleomargarine,” replied my friend with a smile, “this is the first time I ever knew that oleomargarine was a dairy product.”

Amidst the roar of laughter that went up from the agricultural audience, and the confusion of the interrupter, my friend continued his speech, his questioner apparently being completely floored by the agility with which the speaker had got rid of the awkward question; but the Member told me afterwards that he was quaking for fear the farmer who had happened to remember his earlier address would push the question a little further.

An unexpected incident occurred to myself at a meeting in Toronto in 1926. The speaker who preceded me had been questioned persistently on returned soldier problems, but, as he was not a returned soldier and not very familiar with the questions, he had not handled the questioner particularly well, though he was one of our best speakers on general matters. I followed him, and, being reasonably familiar with these soldier questions, said that before proceeding with my general remarks I should deal with the questions which had been asked by someone sitting in the rear of the first gallery, and who had been asking these questions from his seat. This was done, but it did not stop this persistent heckler from continuing to make himself a nuisance to me, as every few moments in my speech he would hurl another question which interrupted my train of thought and my efforts at discussing our policies. I had been speaking about fifteen minutes to a friendly audience, with his exception, when he rose from his seat to put a question, and I recognized him as one who had in the 1925 election been in my own constituency during my rather rare visits to it, and who had followed me from meeting to meeting making himself quite troublesome at each. We had been told there that he was hired for this purpose, and as he was a pugnacious fellow he caused us considerable annoyance. As he rose and showed himself to me, my face no doubt lit up with recognition, and he gave me a not unfriendly wave of the hand, which confirmed my recognition of him.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” I said, turning to the audience, “the young man who has been asking so many questions here to-night was last election in my own constituency, and at that time he was being paid for causing trouble at our meetings. I wonder who is paying him to-night?”

There was a roar from the audience, and, to my horror, a prominent citizen of my acquaintance made a rush at the heckler and hit him so squarely on the jaw that they had to carry him out of the hall. I had merely meant to squelch him and had had no desire whatever to see him abused in any way, but my desires did not count on that occasion. Though that is ten years ago, he has not since appeared at any of my meetings. It was a most unexpected ending to the heckling which this poor chap carried on.

The third type of speaking is the after-dinner speech, by which is meant the five, ten, or fifteen minute effort of one of a number of speakers at a banquet. Unfortunately, the speakers do not always limit themselves to the time mentioned, as they really ought when there are a number of them. It has been my conviction for many years, that all the speeches made at any banquet should never take a total of more than one hour, or at most one hour and a half. I have even facetiously suggested that in our multitude of laws one should be made enforcing this rule.

The after-dinner speech of the kind referred to should really consist of a few humorous remarks (provided the speaker is one of those gifted with a sense of humour), followed by one or two serious thoughts suitably garbed. Many of the best after-dinner speeches have not exceeded five to ten minutes, and the man who speaks beyond that time, when he is one of a group of speakers, is showing altogether too little consideration for his audience. It is not always easy for the speaker to make appropriate humorous remarks, and the excellent French proverb, which we have quoted before, says that a humorous story that is not appropriate is “like a hair in the soup”; but the after-dinner speaker is fortunate indeed if an earlier speech has reminded him of some incident of a humorous kind by the telling of which he can preface his serious thought.

Those Canadians who do much public speaking and who are acceptable to audiences (particularly if they are in some prominent position in the life of the country) are inundated with invitations. In a sense they become public entertainers, with the added advantage that the entertainment costs nothing—except to the speaker in effort and preparation. The organizations which invite him apparently believe that it requires no effort on the part of a speaker to discuss eloquently almost any topic. They seem to believe that one starts his tongue going and it continues itself. While some efforts may sound like that, as a matter of fact “the best source of inspiration is always preparation,” and the man who dares to deliver public addresses of whatever kind without preparation is not doing justice to himself and is certainly paying no compliment to his audience. Incidentally it might well be remembered by public speakers that some of the masterpieces of oratory were exceedingly brief. I recall no better example of a brief oration, which is regarded as a classic of noble English thought and diction, than that of Lincoln’s Gettysburgh speech, which anyone can read in about two minutes, and which when it was delivered was almost unnoticed by the audience, as it was overshadowed by the lengthy and florid effort of one whose name I have actually forgotten.


One cannot emphasize too strongly the importance of preparation in speechmaking, to which practice is second in importance. A certain speaker, who was called upon without warning, rose and said: “Demosthenes is dead; Cicero is dead; and I am not feeling very well myself;” and sat down. This was a fair reward to a chairman who apparently thought preparation unnecessary for an after-dinner effort. With study and practice many who are very ordinary platform or parliamentary speakers become outstandingly able. Perhaps to be a master one must have a touch of celestial fire, but not to be a thoroughly capable public performer.

Most public speakers utilize notes. Some use such full notes that they almost read their speeches. To most, even after years of experience, some notes—“to keep them on the track,” so to speak—are advisable. Their use to the practised speaker does not at all detract from the effectiveness of his effort; and at the same time they prevent his forgetting some important portion of his address—something which has occurred to orators who depended entirely on memory. Those who after long years of experience still speak nearly always from notes may console themselves in this: John Bright, one of England’s greatest orators, always used many sheets of notes, which he dropped one by one into his top hat, turned upside down on the table; and Sir George Foster, in his day one of our really great Canadian orators, rarely spoke without headings jotted on some sheets of notepaper.

Bonar Law once remarked that the most important thing about a speech was the name of the man who delivered it. “It does not matter,” he said, “what you say, or how you say it, but who you are.” There is a good deal of truth in this, for ofttimes an address of little consequence and less originality is broadcast from coast to coast because it happens to be the platitudinous discourse of some well-known “statesman” or business man or cleric. Many years ago I listened in a western city to a speaker who had in some mysterious manner developed a reputation for deep wisdom. He had all the superficial gifts of the real orator—vocabulary, voice, impressiveness—but gradually it dawned upon me that he lacked any real thought or philosophy. After nearly half an hour of this, an old-timer, a very good and long-standing friend of mine, who possessed hard-headed business ability, turned to me with a look of disgust on his face.

“Bob,” he said, “can you tell me what this son-of-a-bitulithic-sidewalk is talking about?”

“No, Mr. G—,” I answered in the same classical vernacular, “I’m damned if I can.”

Yet this wise man’s utterance was accepted by most of those who heard it as a piece of the most profound reasoning—so profound indeed that they humbly blamed their own ignorance for not comprehending it!

In the last Parliament there were few “orators,” in the sense referred to as “the old school,” exemplified in Gladstone, Fox, or Chatham. A number there were of outstandingly able men who could deal with a subject capably, make their points conclusively, impress their audiences most excellently, and yet to whom one should merely give the title of first-rate speakers. They were of that type who must thoroughly prepare their addresses, depending very little on the spur of the moment, and depending even less on memory, but assembling their thoughts in proper order and gradually developing from their notes the ideas on the subject under discussion, until they come to their final conclusion. Most of their speeches have been thoroughly mulled over in their minds, and sometimes even the phraseology partially memorized.

There are those who write out their speeches and memorize them completely, some of them having what is called a “photographic mind” in that they have a photograph in their memory of what they wrote. If they are so gifted in memory as to be able to do this without at the same time showing to the audience that it is a memorized effort, they are fortunate; but most men who memorize their addresses, except after long years of practice, do not appear to as good advantage to their audiences as those who do not practise this. Nevertheless, there are those who have the gift, when they choose, of being able to write their speeches carefully and deliver them verbatim. One of the most brilliant of Canadian present-day speakers, Arthur Meighen, has this gift. On one occasion he was delivering a very important address to a huge outdoor meeting, and on the morning of the address he threw across to me, in the train in which we were travelling, a manuscript, asking me to read the speech he was going to make. Copies were handed out in advance to the reporters, one of whom told me that the speaker had hardly departed from any word of it. Few good speakers memorize their speeches, but Arthur Meighen is one of those who can also speak without any apparent preparation. Many memorize portions of an important speech, using the memorized passages with such art as to make them appear extemporaneous. “That is the art that hides art,” and was one practised by Laurier, and many lesser men. The memory may be trained much as muscles may be trained, by practice, though undoubtedly some there are who inherit exceedingly good memories. The reader will probably recall the story of Lord Macaulay, whose father decided when Macaulay was a very little boy that he would train him for public life, and he began it by taking the boy to church from the age of five or six onward, telling the young lad to pay close attention to the sermon and to endeavour to recite it to him afterward, for which he gave him a shilling. The boy practised this so assiduously Sunday after Sunday that finally he could listen to a long sermon and repeat it to his father without error. This well illustrates the importance of exercise to the memory.

One prominent Canadian business man, who for many years was a brilliant Minister in the Federal Government, told me that he could start quoting Milton’s Paradise Lost and continue as long as the poem lasted, and added that he thought he could quote all the good English poetry that had been written. No doubt this gentleman had a very good memory, but never having had the opportunity of putting him to any elaborate test in regard to these two statements, and as we had had a particularly good dinner, I have wondered sometimes, if the wine had held out might he not also have asserted that he could quote Greek or French poetry indefinitely.

Recently, at a dinner at which I was a speaker, one of the preliminary speeches was made by a very well-known financier. He made a five-minute effort, and a splendid little effort it was, but he had apparently memorized it, and about the middle of his remarks he stopped dead in front of the microphone. After some hesitation, he searched through little typewritten sheets that he had laid on the table, found his place, and continued. It did not seem to embarrass him very much, but such incidents are lessons to those who endeavour to memorize their speeches, lessons which are neither pleasant for the speaker nor for the audience, in which most of the people feel as sorry for the speaker as he does for himself on an occasion of this kind.


Speaking of stage fright, some very interesting incidents could be told of experienced speakers who have suffered from this, even after years of practice. One very well-known lawyer told me that he was so frightened on an occasion when he was addressing a large banquet audience, instead of his customary court audience, that he had no recollection when he sat down of a word he had said, though one of his friends told him that he had made a good speech. He probably delivered the speech that he intended to deliver, but had somehow become so nervous that he did it semi-consciously. If nervousness may be termed stage fright, the ablest men suffer from it. Indeed, it may safely be stated that all good speakers, like all good racehorses or athletes, are nervous before their ordeal begins. It may not be obvious to the audience, and the nervousness may disappear as soon as the one concerned gets well into his subject, but as a rule the oldest and best of speakers are nervously on edge until they begin—that is, if they are speaking on an important subject to a critical audience.

To the young man who is ambitious to be a speaker of distinction, the best advice that can be given is that he never make a speech without thorough preparation and study of his subject; and he may be assured that for a few years at any rate he will profit greatly by writing and rewriting his speeches, not for the purpose of memorizing them, but with the object of arranging his thoughts in proper order and to assist in condensation of expression. Brevity is indeed the soul of wit in public speaking, and verbosity often ruins an otherwise excellent effort. To write out one’s ideas on any subject, to rearrange the statements written, to check and double-check them, has the effect of crystallizing thought. The concentration which is necessary for this purpose is greater than most men can attain through their ordinary mental processes in any other way, and, if the beginner will make this a habit, he can become a good speaker, even though his first efforts may be crude. Many of our ablest platform men became such only through the closest application to the subject. Work is the master word in this as in other aims in life.

In a mixed public gathering, one may make the most outlandish statements or the most blatant errors without their being generally criticised. An old story in Ottawa tells of a well-known Irish stump orator whom I used to see about the city on my first visits thirty years ago. Though born in the south of Ireland he had become a very successful business man in Canada. He had had almost no education, but was gifted with that florid, spectacular type of eloquence which is often the possession of the Irish Ward Boss, and which is very effective among the uneducated. In spite of his limited knowledge of literature, he would take the most daring chances with quotations from the classics. In one of these flights he orated to the effect that “'A man’s a man for a’ that,’ as the immortal poet Shakespeare said in his Paradise Lost.”

Some most amusing incidents, though usually accidental, occur from time to time in the House of Commons. On one occasion I heard a very able Member in the enthusiasm of the moment make the statement that a certain policy, without some principle which he defined, was “like playing Hamlet without the Merchant of Venice.” A howl of laughter burst forth, and he tried to correct his error; but errors like that bear repeating—in fact, never die.

Another new Member of the House in his maiden speech told us that we were “like an ostrich with its head in the sand, whistling to keep its courage up.” I searched Hansard in vain for this the following day, but found that it had been deleted.

During my service as alderman in my own city, two amusing memories which bear recalling are of the same character. The Duke and Duchess of Connaught were at that time at Government House, and as they were then making a tour of Canada they were to arrive the following morning. The mayor and aldermen were sitting about discussing the final plans for their reception, when the mayor said that he had had placed on the station platform a carpet “for the feet of the vox populi!”

The other incident was one in which a nouveau riche alderman, during a discussion as to having oil paintings made of our past mayors, suggested quite seriously that down the street a short distance was a man who had done some decorative sign-painting, and he was “quite sure that this man could make an excellent job of these paintings, and would at the same time not charge us too much!”

Perhaps a final incident of this kind is worth telling. The beautiful city of Ottawa is intersected by the picturesque Rideau Canal, and some years ago a discussion was going on over a suggestion which had been made that Venetian gondolas be purchased and placed upon the canal as an inducement to the tourist. One alderman, who apparently knew more of Venus than of Venice, suggested that, instead of buying any large number of gondolas, they “might purchase two, male and female, and let nature take its course!”


Work in the House of Commons is often a good deal more interesting than attending to one’s own private business, whatever that business may be. Certainly this is true when one compares life in the House with professional life, for, whatever the profession, its tasks more often than not deal with minor personal affairs, whereas in the House of Commons one feels that he is at least touching the fringe of national problems, and even sometimes international. In a sense he feels that he is taking some part—though perhaps a minor one—in making history; and, while he realizes that he is risking his whole future through being absent from his own business or professional duties, the absorption in larger problems, the associations with national figures, the power which is undoubtedly possessed by a Member of the House, the public acclaim often accorded to him—all of these reasons and some others cause the Member of Parliament to attain a mental state in which he rarely ever gives up public life, until it gives him up by defeating him at the polls. That defeat finally comes is obvious from the fact that, in the less than twenty years during which I was in Parliament, the membership of the House had so changed that, in 1935, there were less than thirty members who were there at my entrance.

There are men in public life who seem possessed of such qualities that they are able to command support in their constituencies even in an avalanche of contrary sentiment. What are the qualities of such men? If one dare attempt to tabulate their virtues, he would probably place them in some such order as the following—in addition, of course, to reasonable ability, ambition and industry.

First, honesty, both personal and public. Canadians rightly rate this among the most estimable of personal attributes; and some men for years hold doubtful constituencies with almost no other outstanding trait.

Second place might be given to courage, and perhaps it should be placed first. Admiration for courage is probably an inheritance from the days when we obtained our food and maintained our lives by the survival of the fittest. It is probable that the late Theodore Roosevelt gained the admiration and support of his people because of his courage rather than any other of the qualities which he possessed. He never hesitated fearlessly to express his opinion on any question; and it may be that our democratic electorate much prefer the man who has the courage frankly to take a strong stand on a public question—even though they disagree—than the one who hesitates, or straddles. For this reason the man who dodges a vote in Parliament on some ticklish question of policy often loses more in the respect of his people than he gains in having missed the condemnation of one side or the other.

Frankness with one’s people should probably be coupled with the other qualities just mentioned. A frank refusal of a request (which refusal outlines the legitimate reasons why denial may be necessary) is accepted more cheerfully by a large proportion of people than is any “yes, yes,” attitude to such varied requests as one receives.

In such a discussion as this one cannot leave out the value to the politician of a sense of humour which is so often combined with good nature. A sense of humour is the saving grace of life, permitting its possessor to laugh in a kindly way not only at his fellowmen but at himself, preventing him from taking himself too seriously, and giving him the good will to accept “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” with a smile.

Others may have vastly different ideas on the qualities necessary to obtain the confidence of an electorate than those outlined. For example, in regard to attending to correspondence there are those who think that an old Member of the House was right when, asked why he was tearing up a large number of letters without reading them, he replied that he was answering his correspondents, on the principle that if one waits long enough letters answer themselves. But, after many years of experience and observation of men who have succeeded and of those who have failed, the necessary characteristics appear to me important in about the order outlined above. It is unnecessary to add that the moral qualities of decency, patriotism, sobriety, go without saying, as this is a catalogue rather of the lesser virtues than of the greater which are, of course, expected in every respectable citizen.

Old political observers usually maintain that the personality of a candidate is of more importance than the policies upon which he contests an election. This is undoubtedly true, and many estimate the value of this quality as seventy-five per cent. of the winning power in any constituency. Personality might be described as a proper combination of the above-mentioned characteristics, namely, honesty, courage, frankness and a sense of humour, plus sufficiently attractive qualities in his contacts with people to make him popular. This does not mean that he must necessarily be the baby-kissing, shoulder-slapping, hand-shaking type of politician so vividly portrayed by those who take a delight in belittling public men. In fact, as a rule, these latter qualities are not vote-getters in comparison with the others mentioned, though they may temporarily ingratiate a candidate.

A rather interesting side to the personality of a candidate is, that one cannot help but be impressed at times with the idea that human frailties or weaknesses in candidates are overlooked by the electorate. Sometimes, indeed, one almost comes to the conclusion that, so long as a candidate has good average ability, the fact that he has shown some lapse in his private life gives him the support of a large portion of the population who possibly have a fellow-feeling for him in the realization that they—having, as all humans have, weaknesses of their own—are glad to learn that some outstanding fellow-citizen has also displayed some failing akin to theirs. A certain very clever lawyer, who carried his seat for very many years in spite of its being proverbially of the opposite political complexion, continually joked quite openly of his lapses from the path of rectitude, and yet he was unbeatable by outstanding opponents on practically every occasion on which he faced the electorate. Many interesting stories are told of him, and some of them I have listened to when supporting him on the platform. His effrontery fairly dazzled me. On one occasion when he was accused of indulging too freely in liquor he frankly admitted it.

“I am told,” he said, “that Miss Mary Smith is spreading the report that I occasionally drink to excess. Ah! By the way! There is Mary down there in the audience.” (Pointing.) “The charge is quite deserved; and indeed no one has a better right to make it, for many a good drink have Mary and I had together.” That barbed shaft finished Mary!

The chief charge against him, which he audaciously assented to, was as to his association with some woman outside his own household—a charge which was undoubtedly well founded. Dealing with this, he said that he “was accused of friendly relations with two women. It is absolutely true,” he added, “and, as I look about me upon this audience containing so many beautiful women, I wonder why I limit myself to two.” Apparently the electors’ love for one who at heart possessed some of the most generous of qualities, one who had in abundance the milk of human kindness which never failed in the emergencies of his friends, overweighed any antagonisms which existed because of his somewhat reckless mode of life.

These incidents are given not as an encouragement to any candidate to attempt to emulate this very interesting individual, but rather as a commentary on the unaccountable minds of voters and on the extraordinary reasons why they support or oppose candidates in elections.


My eighteen years in Parliament were very interesting, though sometimes the interest was overshadowed by worries as to my financial future and that of my family, due to the natural dwindling of my clientèle, particularly at the time when our sons started university life. One cannot be absent from his practice four or five months in the year without loss of those contacts which make the successful professional man, and a few years after my entrance to the House of Commons I seriously considered resigning my seat and returning to my profession. To-day one has no regrets for not carrying out that idea, for Parliamentary life was a much more fascinating and exciting one than could have been that of even a very successful surgeon. In the House my temperament made me an active, industrious and ambitious Member, anxious always to understand the questions discussed, so far as that is possible, and aiming at the logical goal of a Member of Parliament, namely, a position in the Cabinet. It is rather a strange commentary on the membership in the House, that only about one-third of those who are elected seem to have any such ambition, and consequently only that third work so consistently as to be able to take a constructive part in the discussion of the national problems which are dealt with, a large proportion of the Members rarely participating in any debate except as it directly affects their own ridings. Yet many of those quieter Members who are seldom heard in the House do splendid work in committees dealing with subjects with which they are familiar, not uncommonly being of more real service to the country than are those who speak more frequently in dress debates.

Under our Parliamentary system much time is wasted in useless discussion, resulting in severe criticism from the business fraternity, who so often throw at us a query as to the possibility of carrying on business of any kind with two hundred and forty-five directors. The truth, of course, is, that the business of the country is really carried on by fifteen or twenty Cabinet Ministers, who are really analogous to the directorate of a company, the membership in the House resembling rather the annual meeting of the shareholders of the company. The Cabinet, led by the Prime Minister, really is responsible for the conduct of the business affairs of the nation. The discussions in the House, while often useful and informative, have in reality little effect upon the business of the country. Nevertheless, the longer one sits in the House of Commons the more he is convinced that debates are uselessly prolonged, particularly if the opposition insists upon making political capital out of all questions presented, and is desirous of utilizing the House as a forum from which to promulgate its ideas to a supposedly attentive electorate. The English system, in which debates are regularly shortened by the closure, or threat of it, might well be adopted in the Canadian House with benefit to all concerned, even with advantage to the Opposition itself, as nothing has a more irritating effect upon the reading public than weeks of debate where days would have been amply sufficient. It is my own conviction that an opposition would be serving its purpose in most cases better, if in opposing a measure it made a short, sharp attack upon it, pointing out its weaknesses and emphasizing them, then permitting it to go to a vote, rather than indulging in prolonged and dull discussion of the subject until it has become a bore to everyone concerned.

While it is true that a large part of the business of Parliament is not of national importance, every now and then larger questions of national policy come into the arena, on which Members frequently find it difficult to take sides without severe criticism from some section of the community. It is in questions of this kind that great courage is often required. The earliest of the larger national problems, which was dealt with in my first year as a Member, was a proposal made by a scalawag named Flynn—a man who later was imprisoned for a crime of a particularly filthy nature—who stirred up a large section of the returned soldiers of Canada with the demand that each of them be given a gratuity of two thousand dollars cash. He was a glib speaker of the demagogic type, and succeeded in arousing an agitation which was forced into the House by a returned Colonel (now dead) who supported the proposition. As the total sum involved meant a thousand million dollars—a sum beyond the financial possibilities of this country to sustain—those who were not of the pandering, demagogic type felt that they must oppose this impossible demand. Having served at the front, and being absolutely convinced that the Dominion could stand no such outlay (in which conviction the years have shown me to be entirely right), I felt it my duty to oppose the whole scheme in the House debate. An old friend of mine, who was a member of the Press Gallery, has told me a number of times that when he heard me take a very strong attitude contrary to the Flynn proposal he decided that I had plenty of courage but not much political sense.

The proposal was overwhelmingly defeated, but the returned soldiers in the constituencies of those who spoke against it demanded that their representatives should forthwith appear before them and explain their misconduct, for Flynn had some of the unthinking returned men so excited in their support of his idea, that threats of physical violence and of burning homes poured in upon some of us by telegram, and one of the Members who appeared before his returned soldier organization was manhandled. While not looking forward with any gusto to meeting an angry group of soldiers, there was nothing to do but go home and face the music. Some three hundred men congregated in their quarters faced me, many of them angrily critical of my action and none of them at all anxious to stem the tide against me. For some three hours I stood a most unpleasant barrage of criticism and questioning, thoroughly explaining to them the impossibility of Canada raising any such sum as was proposed; and, while not receiving any cheers at the end, I got through the meeting without accident. A little incident which helped me to do this may be worth telling. The chief of the soldiers’ organization at that time was a clever, fearless, hard-working, enthusiastic returned man who had given much of his time to the service of his comrades. We had always been very good friends and as the years rolled by our friendship became closer, but at that time he was particularly bitter in his attack upon me from his position in the chair. We had had much correspondence in dealing with returned soldiers’ pensions and other allied questions, and I had served him so well in all cases in which the request was just and fair that he had sent me shortly before a very complimentary and grateful letter expressing appreciation of my splendid work on behalf of the returned men and the loved ones of those who had not returned. When he finished his half-hour attack on me my remarks were begun by reading this letter. This was very embarrassing to him, but somewhat satisfying to me in view of his attack, and it had a mollifying effect on the three hundred men who faced me. Not uncommonly since then letters of thanks have been very useful under circumstances not altogether unlike this one, as human nature is very prone to thank you most heartily at the time for favours received, but to condemn you later most viciously if you fail to accomplish some little act that is desired. Thus a “thanks file” may be very useful.

The Flynn incident was the first national question in which my frank opposition cost me not only many votes in the next election, but inflicted upon me a great deal of heckling throughout Canada at mass meetings. The majority of thinking men who had returned from the front were undoubtedly convinced that the Government’s position on the matter was the proper one, but even they naturally would not have been averse to accepting a couple of thousand dollars if the Government had seen its way clear to endorse the proposal. But others, understanding much less of the financial position of the country than of their own needs, passionately demanded this gratuity. At the next election, in 1921, a majority of the returned men threw their vote against the Government, and so helped in its overwhelming defeat.

One other question in my first Parliament, which stirred up a great deal of feeling across Canada, was that of the conferring of titles through recommendation to His Majesty. The question was first introduced, in 1918, by a member of our own (Unionist) party, then in power. While I had no very strong personal feelings on the matter, and should certainly not have introduced it myself, once it was brought before Parliament many of us had the democratic conviction, supported undoubtedly by the majority of the Canadian people, that the country would be better off without titles, particularly those of an hereditary kind. My conviction was deepened by my feeling that some of those who had been given titular distinctions in the past had had them conferred for insufficient reason. (This is said without any reflection on those who eminently deserved them for meritorious national services.) At any rate, I was young, and took myself much more seriously than now, and therefore spoke very strongly against titles; but before the vote was taken the Prime Minister declared that if the resolution carried it would mean the defeat of the Government. Being a whip of the party, and considering the question of really minor importance, I then stated that the resolution was not sufficiently urgent to justify the defeat of a Government; but added that, should the question be introduced the following year, even a threat of that kind would not prevent my voting according to my convictions.

In the following year it was reintroduced, but we learned afterward that the proposer and the Acting Leader of the Government (Sir Robert being in England) had come to some sort of private understanding that the whole question would be referred to a committee. This had not been explained to the supporters of the Government, and with youthful enthusiasm, and perhaps impertinence, I pressed for a straight vote in the House, refusing to accept someone’s suggestion that it go to a committee. I had been acting entirely on my own, but to my surprise when the vote was taken a number of others, who shared my opinion but who had not expressed themselves, followed my lead, as a result of which the Government was almost defeated, being given a majority of only seven, which majority referred the matter to a committee that later reported against the further conferring of titles.

Voting against one’s party is always unpopular, and for some days most of those who had loyally voted with the Government—in many cases against their own convictions—“cut me dead.” It was my first experience of the severe discipline of party, which happily has been getting more elastic in the years that have passed, though even yet the man who repeatedly votes against the majority of his own group must not only have considerable courage but must be ready to accept ostracism from his party if he persists in his attitude. This, after all, is as it should be under party government, for no party could carry on its work if each individual Member were to go off at a tangent on every occasion in which he did not see entirely eye to eye with his leader. The repeated changes of Government in France illustrate the point. Government of a country is largely a matter of compromise, even the members of the Cabinet having to swallow pretty hard in order to submit to some policy or other with which they are at variance—a not uncommon occurrence. It is easily understandable that any large body of men have varied opinions on almost every subject that is debated in the House or discussed in caucus or cabinet, and the only possibility of a Government remaining in power is for those in the minority to accept the decision of the majority. However, in those days, twenty years ago, party discipline was rather stringent, and before that time it was still more severe. It is said that previous to Union Government (which was elected in 1917, and in which a good deal of latitude must necessarily be given, as it was a union of men who had been Liberals and Conservatives before the election) the punishment of a recalcitrant Member, who carried his stubbornness to the extent of voting against his group even once, consisted not only in his being given the cold shoulder by his party fellow Members, but being deprived of anything in the way of patronage in his constituency. The discipline even went so far at times that his wife was not sent invitations to social affairs given by the wives of Ministers. By these methods a Member was so exiled from the counsels and the friendship of his party that it took a most determined and courageous man to face such ostracism. Yet this may have been all for the best, as the so-called independent Member in Parliament is of very little use either to himself or to his country. Progressive reforms cannot be brought about by him, no matter how eloquent or courageous he may be. He is merely hammering at a closed door that will not open to him. If his progressive ideas are reasonable he has a much greater opportunity of having them adopted if he remains within a party than he has if he demands his reforms from the outside.

The Unionist victory of 1917 gave to that party a magnificent majority from all over the country except from the Province of Quebec, where the feeling against conscription had been so violent that the Government won only three seats out of sixty-five. The war was long over before the next election took place in 1921, yet the conscription cry had not only remained unpopular in the Province of Quebec but had raised strong antagonisms in other sections. Then there were many unpopular restrictions, prohibitions, legislative measures and other necessary acts of a Government in a time of crisis, which made the Unionist Party particularly unpopular when the next election took place. However, having joined the Unionists in good faith and having concluded that the differences between the two parties were then really of a minor nature, the majority of those who had left the Liberals to join the Unionists decided to remain with the latter, though a few (mostly from the Maritime Provinces, where politics are taken a little more seriously than they are in the central and western sections of Canada) returned to the Liberal fold.

Before my second election, in 1921, I was made Minister of Soldiers’ Re-establishment in the Union Government. It thus became my duty to make speeches on behalf of the Government which had carried on through perhaps the most trying years of our history—ably supporting the troops at the front, and maintaining Canada’s general position. But we met overwhelming defeat, as democracy is not conspicuous for its gratitude to Governments which do necessary but unpopular things. For example, while economy is persistently demanded, it is an axiom of politicians that economy’s reward is always unpopularity. All are for economy in the abstract, but no section of Canada is willing that retrenchment be applied to it, for the voters always are positive that the real extravagances are being made elsewhere. Thus the Government which enforces economy is very likely to be voted out of power.

In 1921 only about one in four of our candidates were elected, and nearly all the Cabinet were among the slain, including even the leader himself, Arthur Meighen, and also R. B. Bennett, who had gone into the Cabinet at the same time as myself, though in my riding my old friends somehow succeeded in pulling me through by a narrow margin. It was one of those occasions when a wave of bitter antagonism swept like a prairie fire across the whole country, resulting in a landslide against the Government—the words “against the Government” being used advisedly, as administrations are usually defeated rather than oppositions elected. Governments begin to die as soon as they gain power, and finally the popular will is accomplished when a government is defeated—it being only incidental that the opposing party is placed in the seats of the mighty.


Conditions generally were somewhat depressed through 1924 and 1925, and the tariff question became a very prominent one in the discussions in and out of Parliament. The United States rather short-sightedly kept raising its tariffs against Canadian production, particularly against the products of our farms, in face of the fact that Canada’s ten million people were purchasing from the United States about two dollars’ worth of goods for every dollar’s worth that the hundred and twenty million Americans were purchasing from Canada. It was an exceedingly unwise attitude on the part of the American people, as Canada was their best customer among all the trading nations, purchasing annually from them hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of goods, yet year by year facing the antagonistic actions of American protectionists who forced through Congress bill after bill prohibiting the import of Canadian farm products. It was the beginning of that economic nationalism which has since grown to such ridiculous proportions all over the world that world trade has been almost completely strangled. But in 1924 and 1925 it particularly affected the relations between Canada and the United States, giving rise to exceedingly antagonistic feelings on the part of the Canadians toward their neighbours. We who composed the opposition took full advantage of the irritation, working day and night, in and out of Parliament, advocating retaliatory treatment toward the United States. “The duty of an opposition is to oppose,” is an old maxim with which most oppositions agree, and we opposed to our utmost, sincerely believing at the same time that there was justice in our cause in view of the unfair and unfriendly trading attitude of our great republican neighbour.

I gave intense study to the whole question. Having entered the House as a Liberal Unionist, and having read much on the tariff question, I had come into Parliament more or less convinced that free trade was the sane policy for any country. But after prolonged consideration of the subject, after wide reading and through intimate associations with practical business men who could match my theoretical arguments with practical ones, I gradually became a moderate protectionist. Undoubtedly, in theory, a very good case can be made out for free trade throughout the world, but as such a condition has never existed, as indeed no great country has ever practised one hundred per cent. free trade—the British Isles having permitted free import, but their exports not being admitted freely into any country—my conclusion was, and is, that one nation cannot allow itself to become the dumping-ground for the products of low-wage states, unless it cares not for its own standards of living among its workers. It would be no more harmful to flood its labour markets with coolie labour than to allow the products of that labour free entry. Without arguing further this debatable question, it may be stated that I became a convert to the tenets of moderate protection, and had the satisfaction of delivering in the House of Commons between 1921 and 1925 a number of speeches on the tariff question, which were based upon more intense study than it has been possible to give to speeches delivered while an active Minister, due to pressure of time and duty in the cabinet. One of the greatest thrills possible to a young Member is public praise by his leader, and Arthur Meighen gave me that thrill more than once in those early parliamentary days because of my midnight-oil efforts on trade and tariff. The rôle of a prophet is rarely a wise one, but in one of those efforts I essayed that character in prophesying accurately, that “Free Trade England,” due to competition from low-wage countries, would ultimately be forced to impose in self-defence protective duties against dumping of excess production at slaughter prices. This prophecy has been amply fulfilled in the past few years, apparently with benefit to England herself, as she seems once again to be “muddling her way” through the depression, and leading most of us in so doing.

When the 1925 election came round the issue was thus largely the tariff question, and the spirit of antagonism to the United States which had developed in Canada gave our little party of forty-nine in the House a splendid rallying cry. The elections gave us the largest group in the House, but not a clear majority over the two other groups, as the third, or “Progressive,” party had increased its number sufficiently to have the balance of power. While the Liberal Government which had faced the Dominion electorate had a group of supporters less in number than ours, their leader refused to resign, and for a year he maintained his party in power with the occasional assistance of the third party, which at that time contained many who had run under the name Progressive, but who had all their lives been Liberal, and were thus inclined to keep Mr. King’s party in the saddle, though insistently claiming to be independent.

Consequently, the following session of Parliament, the session of 1926, was a very hectic one, as no party had a majority over all other groups, and it was impossible to tell how long the Liberals, whose leader insisted on retaining the premiership, could maintain their position. In the midst of the session an investigation was launched into the Customs Department, on the demand of our party, which claimed grave irregularities. The investigation lasted some weeks and revealed an extraordinary state of affairs, not altogether creditable to some of the Liberal Ministers concerned. Finally, after a very exciting session, the Government was defeated in a vote in the House, and being refused another dissolution by the Governor-General, the well-loved late Lord Byng of Vimy, we once more came into office for another short period. It was only a matter of time during the same session till we were defeated in a House vote by the third group who were not particularly friendly at that time to either of the old parties, and certainly not to ours. Dissolution was then granted to us, and another election was launched, during which the chief issue from our standpoint was the customs scandal, and the chief issue from the Liberal standpoint was the constitutional one of the right of the Governor-General to refuse them a dissolution while permitting us to have it a short time later.

Having almost won a clear majority in the 1925 election, most of us were quite certain as to our receiving a majority in the 1926 election, but we were sadly disappointed when the results came in, as the Liberal Party was returned with a good majority over us. Post-mortems on elections are not very profitable, but my personal feeling (a not uncommon conviction on the part of defeated Ministers) was that democracy had once again proven very fickle in almost giving us power in 1925, yet defeating us emphatically in 1926, with little happening between the two elections except the customs scandal, which ought to have been sufficient at least not to have improved the strength of the Liberals. However, it is very difficult to analyse the feelings of the electorate. Moral issues dealing with scandals of any kind are never very popular with the Canadian people, and during a campaign little incidents sometimes occur which have much more important effects than great events. Never was this better illustrated than in this election, when a number of our supporters made speeches in which some stupidity was uttered that undoubtedly had a pronounced effect upon the ultimate result. One speaker at a large political picnic near Toronto put forth the foolish proposal that those in Canada of foreign birth should be deprived of the franchise. Although this statement was made by one who was not even a candidate (indeed by one whom nobody knew outside the city of Toronto), it was delivered from a platform upon which had stood a number of Cabinet Ministers including myself; and, though we had departed some time before this provocative speech, the Liberals made full use of it, publishing the statement far and wide in constituencies which had large numbers of foreign-born Canadians, and linking the statement with the names of those of us who had been at the picnic that afternoon. This alone is stated to have cost us many seats (including Arthur Meighen’s) and combined with other blunders of the same character, uttered in some cases by our candidates and in one instance at least by a Minister, the effect was disastrous from our standpoint.

No better example could be given of little affairs that have important consequences. There is no greater danger to political parties than that of the haphazard speaker who lacks sound common sense, for should such a one make some ridiculous accusation or proposal the fact that a Member or Minister is present is held against him, unless he perform the very unpleasant duty of either denouncing the speaker or disassociating himself from the speech. This danger is the greater in Canada because we have so many Europeans in addition to our predominant English and French groups, and because of large numbers of the Protestant and Catholic faiths scattered over such a huge area. All of these conditions make Canada indeed a difficult country to govern.

In 1926, while a member of the Government, I occupied the portfolio of Postmaster General, but was also in charge of a number of other departments, including that of Immigration. As conditions had not been prosperous, immigrants were admitted only by special permit, unless they intended becoming agriculturists. There were immense numbers of central Europeans of the Hebrew race anxious to enter Canada. A western Jewish business man called upon me proposing the entry of one hundred of his people, telling me quite frankly that these permits would be worth fifteen thousand dollars, of which, he added, “I will lay ten thousand dollars on your desk, and keep the other five.” When it was pointed out to him that no consideration could be given by me to his proposal, he showed pained surprise, and suggested that my trouble was not so much honesty as insanity. He was still protesting while being good-naturedly shown the door.

In a fairly long experience of public service, that is about the only attempt at direct bribery ever made to me, and it is my firm conviction that few public men are ever offered bribes, and still fewer accept them—this despite the popular pastime of so many Canadian and British people of vilifying public men, a habit which prevents many proud men from participating in the hurly-burly of political life. On one occasion many years ago, while idling in the smoking-room of a Pullman car, I listened to a conversation in which politicians were roundly condemned for their “grafting and crookedness,” the critics not being aware that a Member of the House was among them. Getting tired of their criticism, I turned to the loudest among them, and said:

“I happen to come from Ottawa—know many Members very well—and am convinced that as a class they are as honest as other men. Would you mind telling me upon what you base your statements that Members of Parliament are grafters and crooks?”

“I am sorry, sir,” he replied apologetically, “but I have nothing whatever to base them upon. I have heard others say the same thing, and was merely repeating their statements.”

Upon such gossip does reputation often founder!

It is as unwise as it is unfair that vilification of this kind should be indulged in, certainly unless one can prove his accusation to be true. The same custom prevails in England, and at social affairs over there one is shocked at the abuse heaped upon their parliamentary representatives and their cabinet ministers, though the criticism is often of a more general character. Such an attitude toward public men is assuredly not conducive to obtaining the best type of citizen to take part in the management of the country’s business. While doubtless the occasional individual profits financially by his position in Parliament or in a Government, the vast majority make sacrifices for which they never receive any just return. Most men are chosen by the electors for the very reason that they are known to believe in the motto that “honesty is the best policy,” and to possess at least as high a sense of honour as the average among their neighbours.

Business men seem to derive particular pleasure out of belittling politicians, pretending that all the blunders of our country have been made through the ineptitude, in business affairs, of parliamentarians. It may be conceded at once that in a new country such as Canada, foolish laws and unwise expenditures have often resulted through governmental or parliamentary action, but if one cares to go into the history of those mistakes which resulted in immense financial loss to Canada, one comes unerringly to the conclusion that the so-called big business man has been as much to blame as the politician. One of the worst financial errors from which Canada has suffered has been the railway situation—the building of three trans-continentals where two would have been amply sufficient. Canada with its huge area and sparse population has been foolish enough to subsidize the building of, or to build directly through Governments, about ten thousand miles more railway lineage than is necessary, much of it consisting of parallel and duplicating lines. As a result of this error, one of Canada’s most stupendous problems to-day is to finance the Canadian National Railways. It is the general habit to place the blame for the blunders that permitted the building of the second and the third transcontinental wholly upon the shoulders of the politicians, when as a matter of fact at least half the blame, if not more, should be placed upon the shoulders of railway men themselves in the persons of Charles M. Hays of the Grand Trunk, and Mackenzie and Mann of the Canadian Northern. These men, who were themselves railway men, were carried away by the rapid growth obviously taking place in Canada’s population and prospects, and, witnessing the magnificent success of the Canadian Pacific, they conceived the ambition to turn their own lines—the Grand Trunk in the east, and the Canadian Northern in the west—into transcontinental railways; and it was they who put these proposals up to the Government of the day. Had either the railwaymen or the Government the vision and the wisdom to insist upon the linking up of the eastern Grand Trunk with the western Canadian Northern, and thus project only one more transcontinental, many of our railway difficulties would have been avoided. Unfortunately the insane optimism which existed in the early years of this century prevailed, and hundreds of millions of dollars were spent or committed in the building of two more trans-Canada railways. But the point is that the original proposals came, not from politicians, but from railwaymen.

Another of our present huge and deplorable financial messes is that of the pulp and paper industry. There again the cupidity of “business leaders” was the propelling force which led, first, to extensive overbuilding of pulp and paper mills; second, to great over-capitalization of those corporations; and, third, to unwise over-competition in prices; until to-day we have in Canada an industry in which tens of millions of dollars have been lost, instead of having what should have been, through the bountiful gifts of nature, a prosperous and solid development. No doubt Provincial Governments were too generous in the gift of timber limits, but the chief responsibility for the deplorable situation rests upon businessmen, not upon the politicians. The pulp and paper industry in Canada is almost as much of a financial tragedy as is the railway situation, but it differs from it in this—that in the former the private investor took the direct loss, while in the railway matter the Government is “paying the shot” largely through bond guarantees.

Another “big business” venture, for which we are paying dearly to-day, is that of the Government-owned steamships which cost eighty million dollars to begin with, and have, since their beginning, cost many millions more. This venture was also the proposal of a financial leader who had entered the political sphere, and who was carried away by the demand for ships during the war and immediately thereafter, so that he fathered the entrance of Canada into the shipping business on a large scale.

Still another of our misfortunes has been the watering of stocks of industrial enterprises of various kinds, with which the politicians had nothing whatever to do, and, as a result of which financial sleight-of-hand, many otherwise successful business enterprises have been wrecked, due to the desire on the part of some financier to increase his wealth. In many of these cases, had justice prevailed, the immense profits of some invention or process or business undertaking would have gone to the people in lower prices or increased wages, instead of which some enterprising so-called “investment-house” put out issues of bonds and of preferred and common stocks to some unheard-of total—the bonds proper often covering the whole value of the industry, and the preferred and common stock being “velvet” to the investment house—thus converting a going concern into one which to-day finds great difficulty in earning even bond interest.

It is quite true that much should be forgiven both business leaders and politicians for mistakes of the early years of this century, for indeed no one could have foreseen the catastrophe of war through which the world passed for four dreary and calamitous years, which disaster has undoubtedly thrown not only Canada but the rest of the world back a generation at least. But these errors of financial leaders are mentioned merely to suggest that a little more charity might well be shown by business men, and a little less criticism offered toward men in public life.


From 1926 to 1930 we spent four more years in the shades of opposition. It is a free-lance life, with plenty of opportunity for criticism and little real responsibility for the proper carrying on of national affairs, for the party in power makes it a question of honour to have its own way. An active opposition may be of great use to a Government and to a country if it uses its powers of criticism in a sane and constructive manner, but few oppositions worry overmuch about constructive suggestions, aiming rather to point out the blunders of a Government, and rarely showing sufficient generosity to praise worthy actions. This attitude of opposing a Government is unconsciously encouraged by the press, which is much more inclined to publish as news extravagant charges or bitter personal attacks, particularly if they are couched in sprightly phraseology or interspersed with striking catch-phrases, than they are to publish constructive speeches offered by idealistic deputies. The sensational charge or the extravagant statement makes news, whereas the constructive speech is often too monotonous and pedestrian to attract the attention of newspaper readers.

From 1926 to 1930 the world went through some very interesting changes. After 1926, until the middle of 1929, it became the almost fixed opinion of many leaders that we had entered a new era of industrial and social progress. Never again (in the United States anyhow) should there be a depression in which millions would be looking for employment which did not exist; and frank prophecies were made that an age of plenty had indeed arrived. That was the period of the mining and stock gambling boom which went to greater excesses than ever before in history. All were indulging in it, not only those who are ready to take a “flier” at a horse-race or a mining or stock speculation, but almost everyone, including the stenographers and the clerks, the elevator operators and the bellboys. Such a whirlwind of speculation arose that any wildcat proposal obtained support, providing a tip were passed out.

In brokerage houses one was shocked at the strained and anxious expression on the faces of the crowds in these rooms as they watched with excited intensity the gyrations of the stock prices. One wondered if we were not all insanely intoxicated with the gambling spirit which was in the air and having a thoroughly demoralizing effect upon the masses of the people; for most of those who were risking their earnings in this manner should have been giving attention to their own occupation. The faces were often anxious, worried, frightened—not the proverbial “poker faces” of old gamblers who were accustomed to bet on a flush or a straight, but the harassed and tortured expressions of men who are driven by the get-rich-quick passion prevalent in such times. This desire to get something for nothing is fostered in our day by the anxiety to “keep up with the Joneses,” and by the luxury blatantly displayed in the Hollywood movie, all so different from the hard-working, thrifty, pioneer surroundings of those who laid the foundations of civilization on this great North American continent. Undoubtedly the display of luxury and the flaunting of riches, particularly as shown in the cinema theatre, is fostering envy and class hatred by unsettling the minds of young people who should be giving their whole attention to success in their chosen vocations.

Moralizing will not cure the disease, but full advantage is not being taken of the great educational facilities possessed by the animated film. Serious thought will have to be given to this aspect of modern life if we are to preserve the better qualities in youthful human nature.

About the middle of our opposition period of 1926 to 1930 Ontario decided to deal with liquor through government shops. For some years liquor had been obtainable by doctor’s prescription, and some physicians were abusing their power by writing immense numbers of orders for six-ounce bottles of alcohol, supposedly for rubbing purposes, but actually for drinking by men who must have alcohol or one of its compounds. Like other physicians I was bothered when at home by men who became addicts to pure alcohol drinking, and rather an interesting sidelight is that many of them stated that they experienced less after-effects—such as headache and those other items of that morning-after feeling—than after drinking mature whiskey.

By our unequal prohibition laws we had turned a crime into an adventure for the young, and even in many respectable homes when social evenings were over, empty six-ounce bottles were found scattered about the dressing rooms. The same conditions prevailed in the United States under prohibition laws. When speaking in New York in a fashionable Park Avenue hotel during their prohibition period, my description of our conditions was greeted with the laughter which showed that they recognized their own actual situation—which had been my intention, for any visiting Canadian knew that their habits were akin to our own. No law can be enforced in any country unless a large majority of the people are in its favour.

The new method inaugurated in Ontario was to sell through government liquor shops and beer warehouses; and the whole system had to be organized from the ground up. The Prime Minister of Ontario found it necessary to appoint a commission of three to put the new system into effect, appointing D. B. Hanna, Stewart McClenaghan, and myself. My own appointment was made before I had accepted Mr. Ferguson’s invitation to join the Board, placing me in the position of being forced to accept unless wishing to embarrass him; but he agreed that my membership in the House should not be interfered with. For the following year (after which Mr. Hanna and I resigned) we three gave much time to the organization of this immense business of fifty or sixty million dollars per year—renting and opening stores in all the cities and towns; appointing staffs; making regulations under the act; purchasing supplies from distillers, brewers, and wine merchants all over the world; and attending to the thousand and one other details of this big new enterprise. The whole organization was put into running order, and it has proved fairly successful.

During our régime as Liquor Commissioners, brewers with whom we dealt sometimes boasted of the ease with which their wares could be taken into the United States, making a farce of and creating disrespect for the American prohibitory laws. In some cases international bootleggers were permitted to transport their goods in the broad light of day across the American border. One could stand at some points on the Canadian side and watch motorboats cross the international stream between the two countries; land at American docks under police supervision; and unload their cargoes, though in many cases by an agreement between the two countries the American authorities had been advised of the exact minute of departure of these motorboats. One brewer, while calling upon me one morning, incidentally mentioned that he had just returned from a visit to a near-by American city where he was regulating the disposal of his truck-loads of beer.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “How is it possible that your trucks can be delivering beer in this American city? How do they get there?”

“How would they get there?” he replied in some surprise. “They cross on the bridge.”

“But,” I said, “what about the custom officers?”

“Oh!” he laughed, “they do not pay any attention to our trucks.” And undoubtedly that was the actual condition of affairs at many points.

Anyone visiting the States found liquors as freely served as in Canada. One night in a famous old New York club I attended a dinner with all the spirituous trimmings from cocktails to liqueurs, and afterwards poker was played beside a private bar in the club, at which bar we might call for anything we craved—this during the American prohibition régime. It was a little surprising to me, as the clubs on this side of the line rarely broke the liquor laws, whatever may have happened in private homes or hotels.

It is the sincere conviction of most thinking people who are not extremists on the matter, that some such governmental control as we have in Ontario, without the old barroom evil, is far better as a promoter of the cause of real temperance than complete prohibition, though one may have grave doubts whether the newly-introduced tavern is going to prove acceptable to our people. It might also be wise to institute a campaign to teach the advantages of drinking beers and wines rather than whiskey. On our many trips to Europe we have so rarely seen anyone drunk in such beer-drinking countries as Germany and Austria, or the wine-drinking nations such as France and Italy, that the odd case still stands out in one’s memory. It may be that our cold climate leads to the use of stronger beverages, but a real effort on the part of temperance advocates to educate our people to indulge—if they must indulge at all—in the milder forms of alcohol, namely beer and wine, would ultimately change our habits, and foster the cause of real temperance. Temperance does not mean total abstinence from alcohol, but the use of it in moderation.

In the middle of our opposition period there came upon us, not only the wild stock boom, but the beginning of a mining boom which is still with us, and will likely continue in a more even form for many years. Canada is blessed in the possession of the Pre-Cambrian Shield—some two million square miles of the oldest rock formation in the world—a formation which has exhibited everywhere rich deposits of minerals of many kinds. Only a small part of this great out-cropping—perhaps ten to twenty per cent.—has been prospected or even geologically surveyed, consequently there are still vast areas of virgin potential wealth in Northern Ontario and Quebec, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In a comparatively small tongue of Pre-Cambrian, which extends down into the United States, there have been discovered the huge iron deposits of Minnesota, the rich copper mines of Michigan, and other mines scattered in Dakota, Colorado and other states; while in Canada, in these our early mining years, we have already developed our magnificent nickel mines in the Sudbury district, which supply eighty-five per cent. of the world’s needs; the silver mines of Cobalt; the gold deposits of Porcupine, Little Long Lac, and Patricia districts of Ontario; the Noranda district’s gold-copper mines; the Sherritt Gordon and Flin Flon operations in Manitoba—to name but a few of our outstanding sections, for new fields are coming into production very rapidly. Already Canada holds third place among the nations as a gold producer, and I am convinced we are only beginning our mining history. No wonder that most Canadians are now mine conscious, and are impelled to take a chance in the mining market. A good deal of nonsense is talked about the dangers to our morale of the interest displayed in the markets which deal in mining stocks. Far better that our people should try their luck in our mining development than take a much longer shot on the Irish Sweepstakes or the race-tracks, for most red-blooded people will gamble anyway. So long as they do not take greater risks than they can afford to lose—so long as they use their own money, not their clients’—and providing our mining market legislation is aimed at preventing racketeering by unscrupulous grafters—the speculation by the many of small sums in prospects that may become mines goes to aid in our mineral development, and helps to bring it to that fruition which is so useful to Canada at this time, when some of our other resources, notably wheat, are not living up to their early promises.

There will be those who differ strongly from the above statements, but human nature is human nature, and the hope of finding quick wealth springs eternal in most of our breasts. To take even a minor part in the development of some successful mine is as attractive to most of us as has been for generations the search for the hidden treasures of Captain Kidd or some other pirate of long ago. And it has the advantage of being honest wealth when it is dug up from the bowels of our Canadian Northland. No group are doing more for the development of this great nation than are those leaders who are honestly trying to turn our apparently barren outcrops into wealth-producing mines. Leaders like Joseph Errington, the Lindsley brothers, and Jack Hammel, among practical miners and engineers, and General Don Hogarth, J. Y. Murdock, the O’Briens, the Timminses, J. P. Bickell, and Colonel MacAlpine, among financial backers for newly-discovered prospects—these men, and others who could be mentioned, are doing for Canada what Cecil Rhodes and his associates did for South Africa in developing the diamond fields and the gold mines of the Rand. One must not fail to mention the thousands of prospectors who are searching our hinterlands in the hope of finding their pot of gold, but who, when they do find an indication of mineral wealth, usually fall back upon such men as those mentioned above to supply the capital and the faith to turn a prospect into a mine.

The story of any of the men whose names have been given is enough to inspire any of us to add our mites to theirs and so aid in digging from the Pre-Cambrian Shield the untold wealth that still lies hidden in its ample breast. Two of them I have the good fortune to know rather intimately—Don Hogarth and Joe Errington. They illustrate rather well the two arms of the mining body—the financial backer, and the practical miner. Don and I checked each other in lacrosse nearly forty years ago. We saw him give up his business in the early days of the War, go over as a Lieutenant and come back as a Major-General—broke, like most of us. Then he went into mining with a group of able associates, and has landed on the top of the heap through ability, faith, vision and good fortune, until to-day his name is a power in the field of mining promotion. Joe Errington, on the other hand, has all his life been the practical miner and engineer, spending his early days carrying his packsack and mushing his way into our unknown hinterlands, and now, having “struck oil” at Little Long Lac, MacLeod-Cockshutt, Paymaster, and other wealth producers, he is still using his wide and deep mining knowledge to bring into production other properties that will add to Canada’s wealth and fame. These two are mentioned because I know them well, and because they illustrate the great possibilities of success in the legitimate mining sphere, justifying the rest of us in dipping into the mining game and the mining market, in the hope that we too may add to our own wealth and the wealth of Canada by attaining some success in our efforts to help produce a winner.

My own section of Northwestern Ontario gave many signs as far back as my boyhood of rich gold deposits, and during my whole professional life I have been associating with others in grub-staking prospectors, who are always so hopeful of at last reaching the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In the summer of 1926 we at last “got a break for our money,” in the discovery by my brother and Bill Jackson of the Jackson-Manion property. Since I had organized the syndicate, my brother wrote me the details of what appeared a rich find, and the late Noah Timmins, to whom I submitted the letter, said that it appeared to him so “honest to God” that he at once took an option on it and began development. It is doubtful if ever before that in Canada in so short a time a syndicate had been formed, a mine discovered, disposed of, and development begun; for the whole had taken about three months. General exploration, vein clearing, and diamond drilling were proceeded with at once, and at first the property looked like one of the greatest yet discovered. But at the end of a year a request was made for one year’s extension, as there was involved the payment of nearly a quarter of a million dollars. Three of us voted for the extension, but the other five in the syndicate voted in favour of a promoter who took more interest in the market than in the mine, and at the end of another year a promising property had been wrecked temporarily by this promoter’s “wild-catting,” for at the 250-foot level the vein became badly broken up through some tremor in the earth’s crust thousands of years before, and he, in his public reports, did not bother telling the truth of this to anyone. The result was that the stock dropped from about $1.50 to a few cents—those of us who had kept our large holdings of stock due to faith in the property were deceived—and the promoter committed suicide by shooting himself—a tragic ending to a nearly great success. At the moment of writing, the mine—in other hands—is once more on the road to becoming a good producer.

Never have I taken part in any deal which displayed so truly the element of luck in life as did this mining venture. Once we had handed over the prospect to Noah Timmins for investigation, we were in no manner, shape or form in control of the deal, and, of course, no act of ours or of his could possibly have any effect on what lay below the surface of the earth. In other words, should the prospect turn out to be (as it at first promised) one of the great gold mines of Canada, all of us would have made fortunes out of it through no act of ours except the preliminary venture of sending out the prospecting party. This very well illustrates how our lives are so dependent upon luck, or chance, or whatever one may call it, that we are really not much in control of our worldly destiny, except in so far as we are willing to work and strive to develop the opportunity which comes to us, or quick-witted enough to take advantage of some turn of the wheel of fate. Even the turning of a corner or the crossing of a street quite often changes the whole course of one’s life. What little control we have of our destiny! We are born of parents whom we do not know—into a country and of a race not of our own choosing—and our childhood is passed in an environment over which we have not the faintest atom of control. If we were born white, of passable appearance and endowments, and possessed of good health, then we were lucky mortals indeed, though we rarely realize it! During the tragedy of the past four years many young men, due to their inability to obtain employment, have been thrown into evil ways by circumstances and conditions over which they had no power. There come to one’s mind the words of John Wesley on seeing a criminal passing in chains: “There, but for the grace of God, goes John Wesley!”

At the same time, we, young and old, should learn to take defeats or set-backs with a reasonable amount of equanimity. On the whole my own luck in life has been excellent, for what appeared at first ill fortune has often proved to be a blessing in disguise. During my service at the front this conviction was forced frequently upon my mind when some unexpected action of myself or my battalion, some last-minute change of plan, made me miss the occupancy of a cellar or dugout just when it was caved in by a heavy shell. As one gets older one gradually develops the philosophy that whatever is is best!

During the height of the stock boom, in 1929, my wife and I spent a couple of months in England, France, Germany and Holland, which latter country we had not visited previously. It was during this trip that the financial crash took place, when, the peak of prices having been over-scaled, the whole stock market began to tumble, though no one yet realized that the decline would continue for the better part of four years, descending to levels unheard of, and wiping out billions of dollars of paper profits which had been accumulated by reckless gamblers, and by others who had heretofore been considered the wisest of business leaders. We attended, at the request of Sir Howard d’Egville, of the Empire Parliamentary Association, an Inter-Parliamentary Economic Conference in Berlin (as Canada had sent no delegate) where we were lavishly entertained, meeting many prominent and delightful Germans, some of whom still get the headlines, notably Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, who is now Hitler’s economic adviser, and who impressed us with his wide knowledge of this continent, which he had visited more than once. And we had displayed to us proudly some of the new German industries and institutions, built in many cases with foreign money which may as well be kissed good-bye by American and other lenders. Then we went down to southern Germany and took that intensely interesting trip down the Rhine with its many castellated and picturesque headquarters of the brigand toll collectors of centuries that are gone. At our various stops along the Rhine we were somewhat shocked at the open hostility shown by the south German people toward foreigners whom even the luggage porters treated with scant respect. They had apparently developed a deep hatred for the nations who had conquered them in the late war and were still occupying part of their Rhineland. One was compelled to keep a sharp eye on any luggage the porters handled, unless one wished to have his trunks and valises badly damaged by rough handling. This treatment was very different from the courteous hospitality shown to all of us by leaders in social and political life in Berlin, where dinners, luncheons and opera parties were in vogue for those attending the conference from sixty different nations.


The crash of October, 1929, and the gradually deepening depression which followed it, had its effect upon the national political situation. The people, as usual, blamed the Government of the day for conditions over which they had little or no control, for democracy frequently turns even world economic conditions into local political questions. We, as an opposition, followed the example of all oppositions by taking full advantage of the general discontent, pouring verbal blame upon the Liberal Party, which was in power, for conditions which were really world-wide, though most of us did not recognize it at the time. We linked our criticism of national conditions with the undoubted fact that Canadian trade was being strangled by the unwise tariff attitude of our great neighbour to the south in raising excessive barriers against the import of agricultural products from Canada, without our Government of the day making any real protest. Then there was the further fact, that for over a quarter of a century we had been giving generous preferences to the British exporter, who had refused thus far to give us more than free entry into a free world market, thus placing us merely on a level with all foreign trading nations so far as the British market was concerned. Thus, trade became a very live topic of discussion in the House and on the hustings, and in these debates and in public meetings my speeches had something to do with starting the “Canada First” cry, which had its full effect upon the feelings of the electorate. Whether these speeches were good or ill, they attracted sufficient attention to force me to take an even greater part in the current campaign than in previous election fights.

The election of 1930 was bitterly fought, largely upon the issues as outlined above, plus serious unemployment in Canada, due, to some extent at least, to the ridiculous tariff barriers that had marked the ultra-nationalism which had grown up since the War in an attempt by all the European nations to become self-supporting in case of another war. My own part in the election may perhaps be looked upon with some self-elation, as the committee in charge of General A. D. McRae, who so ably handled our organization, used me as a sort of flying-wing to support R. B. Bennett in his campaign from coast to coast. Not only did they send me into all the nine Provinces, but they later planned a speaking tour which kept me two days behind Mr. King, the Prime Minister, across all the Western Provinces, in which it was my duty to answer his speeches wherever he delivered them. Needless to say this led to bitter attacks upon myself by supporters of the Government, in the press and on the platform, but this only added gusto to the fight and supplied another reason for large and attentive audiences. The best defensive is always an offensive, but our party had the advantage in that the Government was on the defensive, as we were in the succeeding election. At the same time an offensive should always adhere to facts and avoid irresponsible statements, something which I always endeavoured to do, checking and cross-checking my data so that in many years of public speaking my facts have very rarely been in error.

The campaign was a heated one, and the result of the election was a great success for the Conservative party, though some of our expectations proved wholly unfounded. For instance, in Ontario and British Columbia, which had been for some years Conservative strongholds, we did not do so well as we had hoped, but in Quebec, in the Maritimes, and in the Prairie Provinces we drew great numbers of Members, giving us in the final count a majority over the Liberal and Progressive forces of thirty-four—quite a satisfactory majority for any Government in a body of two hundred and forty-five.

There are individual campaigners who have a powerful mass effect upon the populace, even if they do not convert individual voters wholesale to their way of thinking. One such is R. B. Bennett, who is a zealous crusader, impressive, and obviously sincere. One naturally compares speakers, and leaders; and having been in the House of Commons for twenty sessions, I have known intimately three Conservative and, somewhat less intimately, two Liberal leaders. Some observations upon these five may be of interest.

Of the five prime ministers known by me, Sir Wilfrid Laurier was probably closer to Sir John A. Macdonald, who was my ideal as a leader. Sir Robert Borden was the soundest. Arthur Meighen was the ablest debater that the House had in my time, or perhaps at any time since Confederation. R. B. Bennett was the most brilliant. And MacKenzie King was the best politician—if by that term one implies a skill in winning elections.

Now to deal with them briefly in the order given. Laurier has been mentioned and discussed in association with Macdonald in earlier pages, so that little need be added. He had a combination of qualities rarely bestowed upon any leader, qualities which made him the most popular of the five (if one includes both the House and the outside public), for he became the idol of Liberalism, respected, even revered, admired, loved. He possessed great personal charm, old-world courtesy, unfailing kindness, a keen sense of humour, and great ability. As a speaker he was an artist, in that his language was always dignified, his thought noble and persuasive, his action graceful and appealing, and his accent just sufficiently affected by his French extraction to make it interesting. Then he was tall, striking, distinguished. And he was always approachable, whether in the House or in his own home, though he was sufficiently reserved that even his intimates never became too familiar.

Borden lacked many of the qualities of popular leadership, though he always had the respect not only of his followers, but of everyone who came into contact with him. In debate in the House he always seemed to me more effective than Laurier, despite a hesitancy and slowness of speech which made him much less attractive. Yet Borden could always be depended upon to tear aside the non-essentials, and to puncture any verbal balloons that his opponent sent so cleverly into the political atmosphere. Sir Robert was consistently sound and logical, and his training in constitutional law gave him a clarity of vision possessed by few. He never took a petty or narrow attitude on any subject. His mind was big—if one may use the term—and he could not descend to little things. Thus he was consistently one of the most effective debaters in my time. Personally he lacked the ability to secure a popular following in the country, and was somewhat neglectful of his following in the House, seeming, in those trying times of war, to be bowed down with his heavy responsibilities. Consequently, he did not inspire that type of idolatry given to Laurier, but he was nevertheless one of our great leaders.

MacKenzie King—Laurier’s successor in the Liberal leadership—resembles Borden rather than his own predecessor. Yet King lacks Borden’s sound logic and power of devastating reply, though he is a fluent and polished speaker with great oratorical gifts. His trouble is prolixity—speaking at far too great length, and often burying his argument in wordy detail. At the same time, he can rise to heights that rouse his following. He has never been very popular either in the House or country, but he has been both very successful and very lucky, an opportunist par excellence,—and, after all, success is the real measure of leadership in politics. Personally, he lacks many of Laurier’s qualities, such as the latter’s ability to mix with and attract his followers, nor is his sense of humour so highly developed, though he is a very kindly companion in society, and shows no ill will—indeed consistently shows real friendliness—to his political opponents. Moreover, he is generous to and thoughtful of all the Members, as I could testify by many generous acts toward myself, though I have been a hard-hitting opponent during many years in the House. But withal, he lacks some of the qualities which would make him the idol of his party.

Arthur Meighen is perhaps the most complex of any of the five mentioned. The greatest debater that the House has had in a generation at least, and with a magnificent power on the public platform, he yet lacks something in the way of appeal to the electorate which is desirable in a party leader. Perhaps it is because he appeals always rather to the reason than to the emotions, as he is nothing of a demagogue—and it may be that a slight strain of demagoguism is necessary in a leader. His wit is most acute, often devastating, and too often cutting—for his own benefit at any rate—and because of it he has raised up many of his bitterest enemies. No one in the House could so effectively tear to pieces an opponent’s argument, or build up a case, as Arthur. He was a veritable host in himself, fearless on all questions, never hesitating to take a definite stand, and usually convincing himself as well as others that it was the right stand. When he served Borden he was probably the greatest lieutenant that any leader ever had—and suffered because of it, for he it was who had to pilot all the unpopular legislation of those days. He has been so much abused by his political enemies—and his refusal to be emotional has helped their stories—that many who know him only by hearsay think him cold, austere and bitter; whereas, to those of us who know him intimately, he is lovable, simple, loyal and very human. His absent-mindedness is a byword, and all of us could tell amusing examples of it, but in that he is merely the “absent-minded professor” who is so wrapt up in the solution of some problem that he overlooks some minor matter, or neglects a partner at a dinner table, or—what is more costly to him—forgets someone he should remember, perhaps at the same time remembering someone he should forget. Because of his honesty, courage and ability we have not heard the last of Arthur Meighen, but it is very doubtful if he can ever be a successful party leader, which is not too good a commentary on democracy.

R. B. Bennett—the most recent Conservative leader, and for five years Prime Minister—is another complex and contradictory character. As stated, he is probably the most brilliant Prime Minister Canada has ever had, but at the same time he is the most temperamental and explosive, possessing little of that equanimity which each of the others mentioned has to a fair degree. From a legal, business, and general contact standpoint he is probably the best informed of all those named. Add to this a brilliant mind, a retentive memory, quick wit, fluency, distinguished appearance, and the combination undoubtedly makes him a great parliamentarian; yet one could not help but feel at times that he would have been an even greater high church dignitary. Being at heart very religious, and having a deep respect for formalities and rituals, he would have made a great bishop. He is usually a magnificent speaker, whether in the House or on the hustings, possessing as he does all the attributes of a powerful tribune. He can be either coldly logical or highly emotional, but is at his very best in the House when dealing with financial, banking or insurance questions, with which he has had wide experience as lawyer and business man. As a party leader he has qualities emphatically both for and against. He can make rousing oratorical appeals to the masses, combining logic and emotion in suitable degree, and personally he can be one of the most lovable and attractive of leaders when in the mood—which is about half the time. Too often his temperamental explosiveness forces him to the other extreme, and costs him loyal friendships that he should have cherished, or, if he does not lose them, he drives them into a state of inactivity. At times his apparent contempt for the opinions of others whom he deems less able than himself stirs up antagonisms against him. Because of these moods he fails to get the best from friends and lieutenants. Yet at heart he is really generous and charitable, and can be the most charming of companions, so much so that if this were his usual or even general disposition he would have become one of the most idolized of leaders, but he seems determined too often to show himself at his worst. His charities are, I believe, multiple, but his brusque, even domineering, manners cause a serious misjudgment of his character. His Government personnel from 1930 to 1935 could, I feel sure, compare favourably with any Government in the last half dozen. Like all cabinets in Canada, where geography, race and religion must come into the choosing, it contained some deadwood, but it also had at least half a dozen outstandingly able men. Yet Mr. Bennett’s failure ever to give them collectively or individually due credit or meed of praise for their good work led many people to estimate them as a group of nonentities, and even had they been such, it would certainly not have reflected any glory upon the leader who chose them. This attitude merely gave support to the attacks upon himself by the Liberals, who claimed that he was “a despot,” “a tyrant,” that his was a “one-man Government,” a “dictatorship,” and so forth. As a matter of fact the story that he dominated his cabinet, that he domineered over them all, was just so much balderdash. Most of us handled our departments without either his direction or interference, but his almost studied ignoring of his colleagues in public addresses and debates lent substance to the campaign of the Liberals against this “rich, intolerant despot”—as they succeeded in getting the public to believe, and by it helping them win the election of 1935. The other three causes for that overwhelming defeat were: (a) world-wide depression, with its accompanying unemployment and unrest; (b) the absolute lack of any organization or publicity bureau until it was too late; (c) the so-called Reconstruction Party leader’s frank attempt to wreck the party and friends with whom he had been associated for a quarter of a century, in the egotistical expectation that he would be at least the leader of the opposition with its emoluments of office.

There may be some criticism because of this rather frank analysis of Mr. Bennett’s leadership qualifications, since he is still the leader of the Party, but that very fact, and the possibility that he may remain leader for years to come, are justification for the analysis, in the hope that it may be of use, especially from one who has been a loyal lieutenant for a score of years, and who has no axe to grind.

Finally, anyone aspiring to leadership should study the lives and methods of Macdonald and Laurier, remembering at the same time that, as Macdonald once said, elections are not won by prayer, but by organization, which costs money. It is about time that both the old parties and the others should cease their hypocritical attitude toward money—party funds, in other words—and adopt the frank and honest position long since taken by political parties in England and the United States which publish their party-fund details regularly. That is as it should be, for there is nothing wrong in party funds honestly accumulated.

After the 1930 victory I, who already had been for brief periods Minister in two Governments, was given the portfolio of Railways and Canals, one of the most important and, under the circumstances, one of the most difficult portfolios in the gift of the Prime Minister. The circumstances mentioned refer to the serious financial plight not only of the National Railways, but of the privately-owned Canadian Pacific, both of which had expanded far too rapidly during the preceding four years of booming prosperity, and now found it necessary, with earnings rapidly contracting, to restrict operations and cut expenses. There is in Canada the basic difficulty for our railways that the country is a giant in area but a pigmy in population, resulting in a necessarily great mileage of lines but a low density of traffic. The Canadian Pacific had as well the disadvantage of competing with the Canadian National, a railway which had been unable, except during two years, to pay interest on its bonded indebtedness to the public, but which could fall back for relief upon the Government of the Dominion, toward which the Canadian Pacific itself was one of the heavy tax-payers. It may be admitted at once that this is a most unfair type of competition for any private corporation, and added to this disadvantage was the fact that for seven years the Canadian National had been placed in the hands of the late Sir Henry Thornton, who, while possessing many personally attractive qualities, in reality, as has been shown by the record, had no realization of the value of money, whether his own or that of the Government.

The first Board of Directors, who were supposed to act as a brake upon unnecessary expansion, were dominated entirely by this rather forceful personality, who expanded services of all kinds (particularly the heavily-losing passenger services of the railway) to a most dangerous extent from the financial point of view. Scores of millions of dollars of public money were invested in luxurious hotels, most of which did not pay operating expenses; in magnificent ships which were not required; in huge but premature terminals; in branch line extensions, and so forth; plus the modernizing of passenger train services beyond what was required by the demands of the time. With a lavish hand this railway Czar spread largess in the form of large contracts, free transportation, private cars, and so on, thus building up a supporting group in every section of the country, and apparently aiming at a position of dictatorship and power in the transportation world with which no one would dare to interfere. While the prosperity experienced up to 1929 continued, he was apparently on solid ground, and the Canadian Pacific likewise felt safe enough in following his lead, as it appeared to feel it was forced to do; but unfortunately, from the moment of the crash the railway earnings of both companies started on a downward trend which was not reversed for nearly four full years. Month after month the earnings of both roads showed decreases as compared with the same period of the previous year, until the chief officers of these great transportation systems and I, as Minister of Railways, found ourselves wondering if the bottom would indeed never be reached; and when a turn upward took place, about the middle of 1933, we were gratified almost to the extent of intoxication.

Among the difficulties of the Canadian National with which its spectacular leader had to contend was the fact that during the War, when the second and third transcontinental railway systems got into financial difficulties, the Government of the day, to protect the credit of the country for future foreign borrowing, felt it necessary to take over these roads with their immense funded debt, instead of letting them go into liquidation, which latter procedure would have wiped out some hundreds of millions of this debt. This indebtedness, and the huge additional amount which was added to it by the great extravagances in capital and operation expenditures mentioned above, was guaranteed to a large extent by the Government. This placed upon the people of Canada the necessity of paying any deficit in interest which the operating revenues of the railway were unable to meet. As traffic decreased, deficits increased, until the stage was reached where practically the full interest owing to the public investor by the Canadian National Railway was being met out of taxes. This deficit to-day amounts to about one million dollars per week, but when we took over the total demand was more than two millions per week, from which there was no escape other than repudiation.

That, in brief, was the situation confronting me as Minister of Railways, though it had not yet reached the depths to which the crisis gradually brought it; but it had gone far enough to make fully obvious to anyone the necessity for strict economies and for full control of the man who had (with perhaps the best of intentions) spread the railway’s expenditures so widely that not only the railway but the financial structure of the country itself was at stake. My duty it was as Minister to perform the very unpopular task of control and economy, unpopular at any rate with thousands of employees who did not understand the situation and felt that any enforced economies, instead of being necessary for the salvation of the road itself, were a treacherous attempt to strangle the Government railway; and unpopular as well with thousands of other people throughout the length and breadth of the land who had been the recipients of the over-generous largess that had been distributed far and wide. It was not a pleasant task, but it was a necessary one.

As time went by, one found that the bringing of a fresh viewpoint to the whole transportation question enabled one to look at it from all aspects without any preconceived railway prejudices. This was of the utmost advantage, as it encouraged probing into sides of the problem that brought into view facts which had not occurred to the railway officers themselves. Let me illustrate this. By far the largest of railway expenditures had been lavished upon the passenger traffic. On delving into the earning side of this traffic, I was somewhat surprised to find that even in the boom years, between 1925 and 1929, there was a steadily mounting loss in this branch of railway services, beginning in 1926 with a total loss of about four million dollars per annum for all passenger services on the Canadian National, and increasing year after year until in 1931 the loss was about twenty-four million. This immediately demonstrated the fact that the more spent upon passenger services the heavier the deficit, and showed emphatically the ridiculous waste which had occurred in the building of these magnificently appointed hotels; in the purchase of fast and splendidly equipped passenger steamships; in the building of huge and costly passenger terminals; and in such other matters as radio operations and large expenditures for passenger advertising in the United States. This is mentioned merely for the purpose of illustrating the fact that one who surveyed the whole subject from a fresh point of view had the advantage of not permitting his view of the forest to be hidden by the trees, as is often the case with those who have been continuously associated with any problem.

As the revenues of the railway continued to decline very rapidly due to the widespread catastrophe in industry and commerce, more and more study was required on the part of the railway men themselves, and on the part of the Minister and the Government which had to find scores of millions not only to pay the interest on guaranteed bonds which the net earnings were unable to meet, but to complete contracts of huge proportions which had been entered into in the last year or two of the boom, just before the election of 1930—some undoubtedly for election purposes. Apparently of the opinion that the industrial and commercial prosperity was to continue indefinitely, elaborate plans of various kinds had been made and contracts entered into to carry them out. In view of all this, and because of the fact that not only were railway revenues decreasing but Government revenues as well, the railway situation became (and to-day remains) one of the most difficult problems facing the people of Canada. It was thus obvious that all unnecessary expenditure must be curtailed. This was particularly true in cases where plans had been made in a grandiose manner—as many had been—without reckoning either the cost or the return. Unnecessary and often very highly-paid officials were eliminated; large salaries had to be reduced to reasonable proportions; capital expenditures on terminals and hotels had to be stopped or delayed; and in every way vast economies had to be instituted—and under pressure were, though they required much firmness and a good deal of indifference toward the somewhat widespread unpopularity which ensued. Men are naturally very selfish, so that, irrespective of the reasonableness of the economies, great resentment was felt by those who had been deprived of favours which were both costly to the people and unremunerative to the railway. Warnings came to me that to continue the course pursued would mean my political extinction, but never in my public life having seen either such an opportunity to serve my country or such need of service as in this case, I pushed on with one goal only in sight—the placing of the Government Railway in the position of being controlled and operated as economically and efficiently as if it were a well-managed private corporation.

There is no need here of going more fully into details. Suffice it to say that, with the assistance of an excellent new board of directors, the Canadian National was, by 1934, being economically and efficiently managed. It is improbable that I shall ever again have the opportunity to serve my country so well as in the railway situation described. Canada is still far from being out of her railway difficulties, for no complete recovery is possible without a corresponding recovery in trade, commerce and business generally, but the Canadian National was brought into condition to take real advantage of new business.

A few final comments may be added regarding Sir Henry Thornton, the spectacular and personally attractive individual who was in charge of the Government railways, and who was chiefly responsible not only for the elaborate and unnecessarily extravagant expansion which took place, but who, because of his apparent inability to change his methods of management, had finally to be eliminated. This gentleman was a most interesting type, possessing some personal qualities and certain gifts (for example in after-dinner speaking) which would have made him under different circumstances a most invaluable man. He was a wonderful “showman,” and had he, when put in charge of the railway, been controlled by a hard-headed (“hard-boiled” is less elegant but more expressive) board of directors who would have insisted on his demonstrating to them the possibility of a fair return upon expenditures; or had he in some other manner been effectively reminded that he was entrusted with the spending of other people’s money, he might well have given inestimable service to the institution which he controlled. He was, however, a dominating personality, and gradually obtained such autocratic powers that no one in or out of the House of Commons dared offer any serious criticism of him. He even boasted on some occasions that he was aiming to build up such a powerful organization that no Government would dare to interfere. He nearly succeeded in doing this, but the crisis of 1929 was his undoing, as it suddenly placed his much too elaborate expansion programme and its extravagant cost in a clear-cut manner before the people.

He seemed to have no realization of economic necessities or of money values. While the depression was still going deeper, for example, he seriously proposed and urged upon me the purchase for $17,000,000 of a passenger travel agency—a proposal too ridiculous, even in good times, to be submitted by me to the Cabinet; and on another occasion he wanted to buy a short American railway line for $2,500,000 because the owner, an American lawyer, was “offering the road to us for one million less than he could get from United States interests, as he liked the Canadian people!” The lawyer still owns the road. These incidents illustrated his total inability to grasp the need of economy even in times of financial stress.

In spite of the fact that he opposed our economies at every turn, forcing me to fight him through the Directors, who saw plainly the great need of retrenchment, one could not but have a most kindly feeling toward him, for his personal charm and his really generous nature made him one against whom it would be impossible to hold any strong feeling, though he had to be finally retired before the railway could be brought under reasonably good business management. He realized that he must go, for the Parliamentary Committee had shown up the wild extravagances which we were endeavouring to correct, some of which were not to his credit from a personal standpoint, such as the residence deal. When he retired he left not only a sad financial situation in the railway, but, due to his reckless and kindly nature, he personally faced a very difficult financial problem, though he had been drawing down one way and another for many years about $150,000 annually from the railway. To those who still think he was unjustly treated it might be pointed out that one who could not care for his own affairs on that sum would hardly appear to be the right man to handle hundreds of millions of dollars of the taxpayers’ money unless, at least, he was amenable to the control of a competent, hard-headed board of directors—which he never was until we took control of the situation. We gave him an extra payment on his departure of over $100,000 in lieu of his contract. This was as generous as we could be while remaining true to our duty toward the country. Unfortunately (some thought fortunately) for him, one of those still unconquered scourges of humanity—cancer—carried him off about a year after he retired, and probably before he had realized the great change in his fortunes.

My department of Railways and Canals included, as its name implies, the supervision of some five hundred miles of canals in various parts of the Dominion, built in the last hundred years at a cost to the people of Canada of a quarter of a billion dollars. The completion of the great, though altogether unnecessary, Welland Ship Canal which permits the passage of huge lake steamships around the falls of Niagara came under my supervision. This canal was completed in 1931 at a cost to the Dominion of one hundred and thirty million dollars, but the formal opening was delayed until the Imperial Conference which sat in Ottawa in 1932, during which Conference we ran special trains from Ottawa to that garden of Canada, the Niagara Peninsula, for the formal opening of this magnificent engineering achievement—the greatest of its kind in the world. His Excellency the Governor-General, Lord Bessborough, declared the canal open, and speeches were made by the Prime Minister of Canada; Stanley Baldwin for the United Kingdom; Stanley Bruce for Australia; J. G. Coates, New Zealand; N. C. Havenga, South Africa, Sean Lemass, Irish Free State; L. E. Emerson, Newfoundland; Sir P. Ginwala, India; and H. W. Moffatt, Premier of Southern Rhodesia. It was a most distinguished group which it was my duty as Chairman to introduce, but the whole ceremony was carried out with such clock-like precision, in the presence of many thousands of Canadians and Americans, that the affair was concluded one minute before the expiration of the hour allowed for the national broadcast. The most spectacular feature of the ceremony was the passing through the locks of the huge lake liner Lemoyne, a ship over six hundred feet in length and with a capacity of five hundred and forty thousand bushels of grain. What a contrast to Sieur de la Salle’s little boat of two centuries before! Representatives of other portions of the Empire were plainly awestruck at the magnificent water stretches possessed by this continent in comparison with their own very limited possession of lake and river. It reminded me of an occasion when I flew over our northland for some hundreds of miles, and looked down on the beautiful panorama below me which seemed to be at least half water. In prehistoric ages ice masses gouged out of this continent watercourses that may well be the envy of other portions of the earth, and that serve to-day through our series of great lakes and their connecting rivers and canals as arteries for the commerce of the world, and help, at the same time, to make Canada one of the greatest recreational paradises on this revolving globe.

We have in Canada spent our money altogether too lavishly. The Welland Ship Canal was never justified economically, unless it was part of the greater scheme of St. Lawrence development to connect our Great Lakes with the sea. And another expenditure of the same kind, and costing nearly half as much, which had no economic justification at this stage in our development, was the Hudson Bay Railway and the Churchill port of exit to the world. Yet both political parties contributed to both projects during the past twenty years. The completion of the port of Churchill coincided with my régime as Minister, during which I made two very interesting trips up to that far northern port on Hudson Bay, nearly one thousand miles north of Winnipeg. My department supervised the opening of the port to the sea-going vessels of the world, which vessels have so far taken but scant advantage of their opportunity to reach Western Canada by a route which had been used previously only by a few explorers and by the small ships of the Hudson’s Bay Company; although situated on a point of land, a few hundred yards from the elevator and docks which we have constructed are the remains of Fort Prince of Wales, which was held in the eighteenth century by both the English and the French, and which was built by engineers of such skill that when the French captured it from the English and attempted to destroy it they were unable to carry out the project. The diamond-shaped walls of cut stone still remain, and scattered here and there around the inside of the walls are numerous old cannon which had been used for defence purposes in those far-off days. Through the co-operation of my Department with the Historical Society of Canada, the fort is being preserved, and some day (when perhaps the Hudson Bay route may be a success commercially) tourists will embark at such ports as New York and Montreal to take a summer cruise into that far-off northern water to which Henry Hudson gave his name, as he also did to a great river in the State of New York. It was in Hudson Bay that he and his little son were cast adrift by a rebellious crew on June 22, 1611, to perish by exposure or hunger—a sad ending to a romantic and courageous life!

Could Henry Hudson return now and look upon the port of Churchill in that far north, a port with splendid docks, a modern grain elevator operated by electricity, railway trains carrying the golden grain of the prairies to British steamships, an occasional aeroplane swooping down out of the heavens; and could he listen through that miracle of miracles, the radio, to voices wafted instantaneously from Chicago or New York or Toronto or Liverpool, what an astonished man would be our brave old explorer! As he looked around him in amazement at these scientific advances which he could not comprehend, perhaps he might be given a taste of ancient times by a welcome in the language of France from dear old Bishop Turquetil, who for thirty years has ministered to the Eskimo of the far North. But even he would disappear toward the Pole in a modern motor boat, instead of the old canoe of other days. What an age we live in!


The life of a Cabinet Minister in times of national stress is an exceedingly difficult and trying one. In England members of the Cabinet are not easily reached by those wishing interviews, as Ministers are hedged about with barbed wire entanglements of formality that are difficult to penetrate. But in Canada the belief is that almost anyone from any part of the country can at any time obtain an interview with the Minister of any Department. Only by systematic planning of one’s time and by punctuality in everything can one get through his tasks; though at times (while waiting for others to keep engagements) I have felt that punctuality is the greatest thief of time! It is practically impossible for a Cabinet Minister to have any leisure at all, and the time necessary for such a game as golf is almost out of the question. If he travels in his own country the public follows the Minister’s movements, and at almost every station at which he arrives during his working hours he has individuals or deputations calling upon him.

There has probably never in the history of the Dominion been a more difficult time for members of a Government than the past few years in the midst of a critical world situation largely the aftermath of the Great War. Due to the recent, and still continuing, crisis, Ministers in all Governments have had tremendous problems to face—problems on a par with those which tried the patience of men from 1914 to 1918. But, despite the difficulties, there are compensations which seem to develop so much resignation to the life that few Ministers ever resign until the public enforces their retirement. The Cabinet Minister who occupies an important portfolio, taking his duties seriously and giving his whole energy to public service, receives in return a respect, consideration and public acclaim of which he would never be the recipient in his ordinary vocation. In the House of Commons, if he knows (as he should know) his department, and if he is one of those capable of defending in general the record of his party, he derives great satisfaction in the applause and affectionate approbation of the members behind him.

In all these compensations I have had my full share, enjoying both my departmental office and my work in the House. My office during my last five years as Minister was a very old and historic one, from the walls of which looked down upon me the faces of my predecessors, for some of whom I have admiration and for others reverence. Among my predecessors were my greatest political hero, Sir John A. Macdonald, who was Minister in the department for a couple of years, and Sir Charles Tupper (like myself, a doctor of medicine) who was the department’s first Minister, in 1878. And, to carry me back to boyhood’s dream age, there leads down from the office through one of the picturesque old towers a secret stairway—the only one known to me in any of the buildings—used in the long ago, perhaps to help a busy Minister escape political pursuers; or perhaps—well, let the reader use his own imagination! Then, the office looks toward the west, and in the afternoons one can enjoy those gorgeous opalescent tints so often seen as the sun goes down over the Gatineau Hills. In spite of days filled with hard work, those sunsets always thrilled me, for I have never lost my joy in the beauties of nature, gifts as they are, common to the rich and the poor, but unfortunately for the rich rarely enjoyed by them as they should be. Not long ago I was sitting in an office which looked out upon those Gatineau Hills, in company with a group of Canada’s most prominent business men who were discussing one of our serious business problems. The chairman was a man known throughout the whole of this broad land. Having his back toward the windows through which the gorgeous purple rays of the declining sun were streaming, a younger and more enthusiastic colleague drew his attention to the beauty of the dying day.

The elder man glanced around sharply and carelessly for a brief split-second, and gruffly replied that there was not much money in that. Such a one, however rich and powerful, is to be pitied, for he misses pleasures that are free to all of us and that abound on every hand.

Then while Parliament sits an active Minister gets a certain amount of relaxation during the debates in the House, unless he happens to be putting through his Estimates, piloting a bill, or preparing to take part in the discussion which is in progress. Many of the debates are monotonous, even dull, but they are frequently interspersed with that light and shade, wit and humour, thrust and counter-thrust, question and answer, which give a certain interest to them. At any rate, for the time that the Minister is in his seat he is not being driven by interviewers or deputations.

Too much time, however, is spent in long debates in the House of Commons at Ottawa. Often, during useless or frivolous debates, serious Members are impressed with the futility of it all, and with the absolute necessity of a more businesslike carrying on of affairs in the House. At the same time it should be remembered that much of the real business of the country is performed, not in Parliament, but by the Cabinet between the sittings of the House. The Cabinet is really the Board of Directors of the huge national business, and the House of Commons a tediously extended shareholders’ meeting. Yet no matter how tedious and time-wasting may be these discussions, it is the way of democracy, which yet appears to the freedom-loving Anglo-Saxon a better way than that of dictatorships with their oppressions, autocracies, and brutalities.

Fortunately, the light, witty, or humorous incidents which occur during debates give some entertainment. Sitting in the House is in a sense akin to lounging about a splendid club in which all the members are assembled to carry on discussions, for speeches are merely conversation carried—sometimes at any rate—to a higher level of thought and expression. In every assembly there are individuals who have a well-developed sense of humour with which to double the interest in their observations. There comes to mind one who never rises in his place without holding the complete attention of all those present because of his homely and humorous manner of dealing with agricultural matters. Some time ago, criticizing those wheat farmers who neglect mixed farming, he spoke of “cowless, sowless, chickenless farms”—a very apt description of those farms on which the owner “mines the land” for wheat, and neglects to raise any of his other family needs, so contrary to the agricultural habits of the European farmer.

Some years ago a Member who had a great deal of mercantile ability and who spoke in a very high, somewhat squeaky voice, was arguing a question, when in some manner a little fox terrier came barking into the Chamber.

“One at a time, please,” called out an old and able member of the opposition, much to the hilarity of the House.

In a discussion a couple of years ago on the Doukhobor question the Member of the constituency in which the Doukhobors have caused so much annoyance by their nude parades was demanding some action by the Government. Both the leader of the opposition and the leader of the Government are bachelors, and pointing to the leader of the opposition he asked him what he would do if he awakened some morning at his country home and, looking out the window, saw a number of naked Doukhobor women prancing about the lawn.

“I think I should send for the leader of the Government,” was the reply; and the outburst of laughter was almost thunderous.

And sometimes one is treated to a little masterpiece of oratory or a learned little essay on some subject under discussion by one of the many gifted Members among the two hundred and forty-five who make up the membership. Unfortunately, these humorous, witty, or oratorical incidents do not occur often enough to compensate for the many superficial and theoretical discourses delivered, it may be, by someone who has read one book upon his subject and considers himself an expert.


Social duties take up far too much time of a Minister, and, while delightful enough, they are severe time-killers, often intruding into the actual work of the session, and, if one is blessed with an excellent appetite for food and drink, one is very prone to utilize far too much fuel. The human machine is much like any other—if one gives it too much fuel it does not operate so efficiently, for, as Sir William Osler said, more men are killed by over-eating than by over-drinking. If, as well, one has an unfortunate tendency to become corpulent, he must resist the luncheons and dinners to his utmost. Shakespeare must have been an excellent student of human nature when he said:

Let me have men about me that are fat,

Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’ nights:

Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look;

He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.

Nevertheless, the Cassius type of human nature—provided he is not that type due to chronic indigestion—has a much easier life so far as the dinner-table is concerned. The man inclined to get fat unfortunately always has a desire for those delicious eatables and drinkables, from sugar to champagne, which, if indulged in, put him in the condition of walking about with three overcoats, and often interfere in addition with his mental efforts. Insurance companies to-day refuse, without a heavy premium, to insure men who are overweight, and insurance companies have probably studied this question more thoroughly than any other group.

Of course, some of these social functions have their interesting side. At a state dinner at Rideau Hall, on an occasion just over ten years ago, when I was forty-two, there sat opposite me a High Court Judge who was at that time exactly double my age. He was a jovial old boy who had indulged himself freely during his eighty-four years, and so far as one could see he had no intention of letting up. We both ate and drank generously of everything served. As the meal progressed, and as he, in spite of his age, enjoyed course after course of food, and glass after glass of the various wines offered, I found myself studying him in wonderment and asking myself if eighty-four was as good as forty-two. It seemed, right to the end of the dinner, that the answer must be in the affirmative, as he did not miss even the liqueur brandy. After a state dinner is over, His Excellency precedes us into the reception-room, where we are joined by our wives, and where Their Excellencies hold a reception. My old judicial friend went out ahead of me, head erect, shoulders squared, a real example of more than normal vitality; but just before arriving at the reception-room door he sat himself down in a comfortable armchair, closed his eyes, and quietly went to sleep. “After all,” I said to myself, “eighty-four is not so good as forty-two!”

This brings back an interesting dinner incident in London, England, on my visit there on pleasure bent in 1929. The dinner was an elaborate affair attended by many of the notables of bar and bench, of public and business life. On my left was a well-known peer; on my right a Cabinet Minister. His lordship was a very congenial companion, and while he was telling me the history of some of our neighbours he whispered in my ear, “the man on your right is the cleverest man in England; he will be either Lord Chancellor or Prime Minister some day.” And then he added as an afterthought, “I wish you would tell him I said so”; which I did, feeling that if he wished to put on a little insurance it was no business of mine, particularly if he could do it so economically as by simply paying a compliment. But, at the moment of writing, the prophecy is still awaiting any sign of fulfilment, for the Minister has for some time been out of public life because of lack of appreciation on the part of his electors, though the peer occupies a very high position to-day.

During the same conversation a little incident occurred which shows how often strange coincidences happen in real life. Some expression of Lord —— on my left reminded me of the delightful essays written by Gardiner under the name of “Alpha of the Plow,” whose charm as an essayist appealed very strongly to me. I made the remark to my neighbour that this expression of his reminded me of one of those essays. “Is it not strange,” he answered, “that you should speak of those essays? For as I came into the Savoy Hotel to-night the last person whom I met was the author whom you admire so much. We are old friends and stopped for a few moments of conversation.”

A Minister must move around the country in order the better to understand national affairs with which he deals. The Minister of Railways has the advantage of possessing a private car, the hauling of which on the railways costs the country nothing. I have crossed the continent more than once in my official capacity, learning at first hand much regarding our railways, and visiting again some of our beauty spots from Prince Edward Island on the east to Victoria on the west. After a great deal of world touring it is my conviction that Canada can duplicate most of the magnificent scenery of Europe, whether that scenery consists of lakes, mountains or glaciers. At lunch at the Rideau Club one day I made this statement to an aide-de-camp from Government House who happened to be at the same table. It seemed to amuse him, but as a matter of fact Europe has no waterfall to compare with Niagara Falls, the magnificence of which grows on one with repeated visits; our mountain scenery through the Rockies is quite the equal of the Swiss-Italian Alps, though the many little settlements and the Swiss chalets scattered through the latter give the Alps a picturesque touch which our mountains do not possess; and, so far as lake and river scenery is concerned, our Muskoka lakes in Ontario, the Okanagan lakes in British Columbia, or the beautiful Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia impress one as being just as lovely as the lakes of Killarney in Ireland, for example, the lakes on the Trossachs tour in Scotland, or even as the Italian lakes. In 1933, while attending the League of Nations at Geneva, we drove frequently to beautiful little Lake Anecy, one of the particularly lovely and famous French lakes; and, while it and some of its neighbours are a delight to the eye, with their greenish or bluish tints and their mountainous surroundings, no lake in Europe outrivals Lake Louise in our Rockies, or some in Jasper Park.

Canada is so gifted by nature in mountain, lake, river and forest that it is indeed a tourist paradise (much of which has yet to be explored), and is as well a hunting and fishing-ground perhaps unsurpassed in the world. Because of our advantages as a tourist resort, it was with a good deal of satisfaction to me that we established a tourist bureau for Canada generally, an action much too long deferred. It became another of my duties to direct this bureau, and already good results have been attained. The tourist business has become for us one of our major industries, and should be developed to the utmost.


Occasionally one has the good fortune to be sent by his country as its representative to some foreign land. In the autumn of 1933 I headed the Canadian delegation to the League of Nations at its annual assembly meeting at Geneva. Having made many trips to Europe, we decided that for the sake of a new experience we should take our motor car with us. Having driven my own car for a quarter of a century I acted as my own chauffeur. Never having had any difficulty motoring about even the supposedly criminal haunts of Chicago, I therefore anticipated no particular difficulties in motoring through Europe, though it is probably the first time that a Canadian delegate to the League has driven the land portion of the voyage in his own car. My wife and I drove nearly five thousand miles in the six or seven weeks during which we were in Europe, stepping into our car at the dock at Southampton, driving off on the left-hand side of the road, and finding our way to London as it suited our convenience. To motor into London via Hyde Park Corner; to drive right up to the hotel door; and, after getting settled, to motor on down Piccadilly, across the Circus and on to Trafalgar Square without any more trouble than one would have in the city of Ottawa, was a delight. It was even easier to motor about Paris, as the wide streets and the almost entire absence of any rules of the road permit one a freedom which he obtains almost no place else, the understanding apparently being that one is expected to keep out of trouble, or, if he gets into it, face the music.

On previous trips to Paris we had been appalled at times by the reckless driving of the taximen, who seemed to prefer to go round corners on two wheels. Driving myself, we were no longer at their mercy, though one had to be on guard against the wild crossing of traffic by careless motorists on the Champs Elysées and other crowded avenues. But the bicyclists of Geneva, when we arrived there, gave us some worry. These bicyclists will, without warning, cross your path in the most reckless manner with an air of telling you that if you do not keep out of their way so much the worse for you. One has continually to guard against their recklessness, which, a friend of mine informed me, was merely a demonstration of the Swiss belief in democratic equality. As nearly everybody seems to have a bicycle in Switzerland, one comes to look upon the bicycle riders as a bit of a pest, particularly as one is warned by his friends that if he should hit one of them he is likely to be placed by the courts in a position of supporting the bicyclist for the rest of his life. Under the circumstances one makes every effort to give them the right of way; for after all it is their country to do with it as they like; but my language was more spectacular in Switzerland because of these bicyclists than it ever has been elsewhere, and if my time of punishment in purgatory is prolonged it may well be because of them!

As Minister of Railways one felt a little guilty at using an automobile for all these thousands of miles—for during the whole stay in Europe on that occasion, we did not set foot in a train—but the freedom to visit out-of-the-way places possessed by motorists; the independence one feels toward the Continental hotelkeeper with his continual petty cheating; and the opportunity of seeing the country as one cannot possibly see it from a train, give to the motorist a great advantage as compared with the ordinary traveller. To spend the night, as we did, at a six-hundred-year-old inn in Winchester and in the morning to stroll about the famous cathedral; to drive about the Strand and Fleet Street and other interesting portions of London in the peaceful quiet of a Sunday morning when we had apparently the whole city to ourselves; to visit the château country in France and make our own Cook’s tour, with no raucous guide to disturb our reverence for the past as we visited those old castles built by kings or nobles of the Middle Ages; or to come into a little town like Avalon in the dark (never having heard of it before) and to discover, on going to what the corner policeman said was its best hotel, that we were staying at an inn at which Napoleon spent a night on his return from Elba; all of these things and many similar ones give thrills to the motorist which, perhaps, could be equalled by the bicyclist or the walking tourist, but certainly could not be experienced by the train traveller.

I have read many biographies of Napoleon, and have always been interested in spots associated with him or Josephine—his magnificent tomb at the Invalides, Versailles, Fontainebleau, or the crypt under that old Capucin church in Vienna where, before the war, an old monk showed us the simple resting-place of his ill-starred son, “The Eaglet,” King of Rome. On this trip Dr. Riddell and I motored up the Great St. Bernard Pass, through which over a century ago Napoleon led his troops to the battle of Marengo, visiting on the way the famous monks and their dogs, who live—or exist—in the midst of fogs and snow over eight thousand feet above sea level. We had intended crossing a corner of Italy to get back to Geneva, but the Italian officer at the frontier thought otherwise when he found that I had forgotten my passport. No amount of argument availed us, though I showed evidence that I was heading the Canadian delegation to Geneva. Between Switzerland and France no French officer ever asked for more than the laissez-passer which I had with me. No suspicious characters could pass into Mussolini-land! It was only an insignificant incident, but it illustrated to my North American mind one of the disadvantages of dictatorships.

Another insignificant incident of much the same nature, with a bearing on dictatorships, may be worth telling. While staying in Geneva we were at the Hotel de la Paix, our suite of rooms looking out over the lake, with Rousseau’s Isle a few hundred feet away, and Mont Blanc, on the few clear days given to Geneva, to be seen fairly well fifty miles off. We had been warned that during these assemblies, when Geneva is full of a cosmopolitan mass of people, one must be careful what he leaves about his rooms, particularly as to confidential papers of any kind. One day on returning for lunch three or four men were in the corridor just outside our suite, and we asked at the office what these men were doing. “Oh, you did not know,” was the reply, “that Chancellor Dollfuss of Austria has arrived and is in the next suite to yours? Those men are his bodyguard.” An idea which to a Canadian was a little bizarre! Nevertheless, that he needed a bodyguard was demonstrated a couple of weeks later when, on his return to Vienna, his assassination was attempted by some hare-brained extremist who shot him, though not fatally on that occasion.

These two incidents were lessons sufficient for a democratic citizen of the British Empire to make him realize full well the value of democracy, to make him appreciate what rich possessions we have in free parliamentary institutions, in a free press and free speech. These incidents made him more determined than ever to defend the personal and political liberties inherited in those possessions from extremists who favour either a dictatorship of the individual, as in Italy or Germany, or a dictatorship of the proletariat, as in Russia. Both mean the cessation of that freedom in which we of the British Empire particularly believe, and both are therefore antagonistic to all our ideas of liberty and justice.

Dollfuss, the “Pocket Chancellor,” as he was called because of his diminutive size, was a very attractive personality as we knew him in Geneva. Unfortunately, he did not speak either English or French and we did not speak German, so our conversations must needs be carried on through an interpreter, but whenever we met in the dining-room, the lobby, or the corridors of the hotel, we shook hands and mumbled complimentary things at each other while smiling like two schoolgirls, neither of us having any idea what the other was saying, except that it was quite clear that we were attempting to be most friendly. He was a general favourite with everyone, as all sympathized with him in his effort to keep independent his country of ten million people, despite the pressure of his powerful neighbour on the west. When he rose to speak at the assembly, the same day on which Sir John Simon spoke for England and I spoke for Canada, he was given an enthusiastic reception by all delegates, with the exception of the Germans, who sat motionless and silent in their front seat. His speech, delivered in German, was a modest, simple, but frank expression of Austria’s desires and of the principles in which she believed. As he delivered it in German it was simultaneously translated into English, so that those of us who chose could put on earphones and, while watching him speak in German, listen to his speech in our own language—a rather novel experience. Immediately he sat down, and as soon as the ovation ceased, the speech was quickly translated into French, as English and French are the two official languages, so that a speech delivered in one of them is either simultaneously, or immediately thereafter, translated into the other by the cleverest group of translators in the world, whose translations are so fluent, so clear and so well delivered that they frequently surpass in effectiveness the original speech itself.

Since then poor Dollfuss has paid with his life for his anti-Nazi attitude, and for his determination to keep Austria an independent nation. Irrespective of his politics, a brave, heroic little figure has paid the penalty that dictators have often paid in the past two thousand years. Who next?

As Canada’s chief representative at the Assembly, I frankly stated Canada’s belief in peace and disarmament, and her support of the suppression of the private manufacture of munitions and armaments. As no one seemed anxious to open the debates of the Assembly, it was proposed that I should be the first to speak, but being a newcomer to the League of Nations, I demurred; and finally Sir John Simon, the Chairman of the British delegation, opened the discussions, Dollfuss followed, and I was third. One is not at all impressed that there are any important results from the expression of our Canadian opinions before such an international body, particularly one which is obviously controlled in Europe, where so many appear to look upon this continent as a land populated by an innocent but well-meaning group of people who do not understand Europe. So far as understanding Europe is concerned, they are right. To one from this continent, where we have been able to settle our disputes with our great neighbour to the south in a peaceful manner, as civilized people should be capable of doing, the war threats of Europe, the huge armaments exceeding those of 1913, the fears, suspicions and distrusts, make that section of the world appear to a Canadian a little like some huge lunatic asylum in which the inmates are intent upon mutual self-destruction. In their mad rivalries they are recklessly jeopardizing the whole structure of civilization, at the same time prostrating and bleeding the white races so seriously as to permit the coloured races ultimately to overwhelm them. In this general statement the British Isles ought to be left out, for assuredly there is no desire among English-speaking people anywhere for war. The difficulty is that one irresponsible leader may prevent peace from prevailing, just as one mad dog in a pack may start a general dog-fight.

For centuries sane men have desired the elimination of slaughter by warfare, and the desire has been gaining momentum that some international organization should be established to settle differences among nations by arbitration and conciliation. The League of Nations was established with this idealistic hope of co-operation among nations, and peace and security throughout the world. The Covenant of the League of Nations was incorporated as part of the Peace Treaties, its aim being peace and disarmament. From 1920 onwards there have been the annual meetings of the Assembly and the more frequent meetings of the Council of the League to realize these aims and ideals. Some have described the Assembly as an international parliament, but this is not a proper description, since the League of Nations cannot make or enforce laws, as can the parliaments of individual nations. The League may formulate decisions, adopt resolutions, or agree to covenants, but it has no power of binding the signatories to any of these; and each individual nation is aware of the fact that it may, after having become a signatory to some agreement, neglect to live up to its terms without any fear of punishment. This lack of the power of enforcement has suggested the “putting of teeth into the League,” giving it power to enforce its decisions through an international police of army or navy; but few nations are willing so to curtail their sovereignty as to permit an international group to control their actions in this manner. There is therefore no prospect at the moment of this proposal being adopted—indeed the League to-day seems to be less influential than at any time since its organization, largely due to its failure to curb the Japanese adventure in China, and the Italian rape of Ethiopia. Yet the League of Nations is the only institution of its kind in the world—if it collapses there is nothing to replace it, and the world’s hope is still bound up with it. While Canadian influence is very slight in its deliberations, one hesitates to suggest that we should be first among those to desert and wreck it.

The complexity of European affairs is very great. Comparing conditions there now and in 1913 one finds that most of the nations have new boundaries, and that some ten new nations have been carved from the old ones. Poland is re-established after its partitions by Russia, Prussia and Austria in the latter quarter of the eighteenth century, and once more takes its place among the nations of the world. Czecho-Slovakia, which had not existed as an independent country for three centuries, is again a nation; and the great conglomerate group of fifty-five million people ruled over by Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary before the War has now been so partitioned that its recognition is difficult, Austria now being a small independent country with about ten million people, and Hungary another little nation of eight or nine millions. The remainder of the great empire of Austria-Hungary has been carved up and distributed among its neighbours. The Peace Conference (largely through the leadership of President Wilson) aimed at the self-determination of peoples, the ideal being that each national group should control its own affairs. The ideal was a splendid one, but the result is very disappointing. Boundary problems exist on all sides; new states have been carved from sections of Europe that were hinterlands of other nations before the War; nationalist jealousies and ambitions are everywhere at white heat; and altogether the situation is much more complicated, confusing and portentous than it was even after the conference of Vienna a century ago.

The most serious blow to the League was given when the Senate of the United States refused to support President Wilson in his idealistic leadership, and the Republic failed to join the organization. Had the United States become a member of the League, there would undoubtedly have been a different story to tell; but, as it is, disintegration seems slowly to be taking place, and instead of the peace, security, equity and justice that all sane men were striving for, we are surrounded by the same distrusts, jealousies, and war alarms as existed twenty years ago, with world armaments greater than ever. The chief cause of this condition is the incompatibility of the policies of European nations. All want peace, but all have ambitions which are irreconcilable with the ambitions of others. France, for example, is certainly not desirous of another war, but she has a memory of two invasions, and before she will agree to disarming she wishes to be certain that her boundaries are secure. The only manner in which she can get that security is by a guarantee of security by Great Britain and the United States, which guarantee they will not give. The German people undoubtedly, as a mass, would also prefer peace, but their leaders point out justly enough that their nation of sixty-five million people has been disarmed, supposedly (according to the peace treaties) as a preliminary to a world disarmament which has not been attempted; and therefore they insist either that the countries surrounding them disarm or that Germany be permitted to rearm—which they have proceeded to do. They also want back their colonies. When one remembers the proud position commercially and industrially to which Germany had attained before the War, one can understand, to a certain extent at any rate, the feelings of her people and their leaders. So far as Poland and the members of the Little Entente are concerned, they have their own national aspirations, and they are armed to the teeth to protect themselves from Germany on one side or Russia on the other. They will fight to the death to maintain their national existence.

As a result of all these, and other, irreconcilable policies, plus the noisy claims of minorities who insist that they are being unfairly treated by the majorities in their nations, and the various boundary problems, conditions on the European continent are chaotic in the extreme, and one understands the desire of the American people to abide by Washington’s dictum of “no foreign entanglements.” But how this desire can be attained in the closely-knit world of to-day, with its ease of transportation and communication, is another matter. Since the League was established, in 1920, there have been more pacts, conventions and conferences, but less security and less certainty of peace than ever before. A war psychology has emerged in Europe which inspires all nations to continue the manufacture of defensive and offensive weapons at a mad pace, until that continent resembles a powder magazine into which some irresponsible statesman may throw a lighted cigarette. If, as the late Lord Grey said, and as most people believe, “great armaments lead inevitably to war,” the future is dark.

To the average American or Canadian the situation is somewhat difficult to understand. To our way of thinking the way to disarm is to disarm. But we have the comparative security of the Atlantic on one side and the Pacific on the other, in contrast with the crowded situation in Europe in which, in one-half the area, twenty-seven or twenty-eight nations are rubbing shoulders and bumping into each other politically at all times.

The Disarmament Conference took place on October 16th, a couple of weeks after the closing of the Assembly of the League of Nations, and I represented Canada at it also. At the executive meeting on Saturday, the 14th, a proposal was made, and agreed to by all the nations except Germany, for a stand-still agreement under which national armaments were to remain stationary. It was also recommended that there should be created a supervisory commission to visit the different countries and see that they adhered to this agreement. The Germans, however, who had been offended by the cordial Dollfuss reception, and had also been severely criticized in a committee regarding their treatment of the Jewish minority in Germany, left the Disarmament Conference in a temper on October 14th, and sent in their resignation from the Conference and from the League of Nations as well. One recalls most vividly the somewhat panicky feeling which arose throughout Geneva on that Saturday afternoon after the Germans had delivered their ultimatum. Even the waiters in the hotel spoke in hushed tones of the incident. When the Assembly met formally two days later the French Government was in one of its frequent crises; and the decision was reached that all that could be done was to reply as inoffensively as possible to the German message. One of the British delegates sitting beside me whispered that the telegram, which was finally sent by the Disarmament Conference to Germany in reply to the German ultimatum, had taken some four hours in composition. “If,” he said, “it takes half a dozen members of the Disarmament Bureau four hours to draw up a telegram, how long do you suppose it will take the sixty nations of the Disarmament Conference to come to an agreement?”

This question is still unanswered, for no agreement of any kind has yet been arrived at either as to the disarmament of the nations or the private manufacture of arms, which latter question is bound up with the former. In view of the repeated charge that munition manufacturers spread propaganda for the purpose of increasing the demands for their products, the manufacture of armaments and munitions should either be nationalized or placed under complete governmental control. We witness a great nation like Britain urging peace and disarmament, at the same time possessing factories for the production of the implements of war, and selling their products throughout the world. Yet a professor from one of Britain’s universities recently had the temerity in a speech in Canada to propose, that nickel (of which Canada produces eighty-five per cent. of the world’s needs) should be prohibited export from Canada in order to prevent its use in the manufacture of munitions of war! He neglected to suggest what should be done with the munition manufacturers themselves, and overlooked the fact that, of all the nickel produced in the world, only four per cent. of it is used for war purposes, leaving the fifteen per cent. produced outside of Canada to supply these needs, even if Canada were inclined to accede to his futile suggestion.

One of the fascinating sides of international conferences is the contact with well-known personalities. At such a meeting as the League of Nations, where some sixty countries are represented, one naturally comes into fairly intimate contact with only a few. As a representative of one of the British Dominions, I therefore reached a more friendly footing with those from other portions of the Empire, such as Sir John Simon, head of the British delegation, Ormsby Gore and Hore Belisha, among his assistants; Stanley Bruce of Australia, and Anthony Eden, Simon’s chief assistant at the Disarmament Conference, as well as some of the exceedingly interesting delegates from India, all of them outstandingly able men whose participation in the debates and in private discussions was always highly useful. Some of the ladies of the Indian delegation in their picturesque native costumes of rich silks were among the most interesting people whom one came to know, most of them speaking perfect English and discussing international affairs with great brilliancy. Dr. O’Kelly, of the Irish Party, I had come to know well at the Imperial Conference of 1932. Te Water, of South Africa, and my own group of assistants, Riddell, our permanent man, Desy, and Roy, with whom I had daily contacts, come to my mind.

Dollfuss, the Austrian Chancellor, since assassinated, was among the more interesting, and in previous pages something has been said of him. Before me at the moment is a snapshot of him which we picked up. He is speaking to Mowinkel, Premier of Holland, in this picture, and he wears that sweet smile which made him such a general favourite. Mowinkel has to bow low to speak with him conveniently, for Dollfuss was only four foot eleven inches in height. His head is handsome, his forehead high, his eyes expressive, his features classical, but his body so small that many jokes were made at his expense in Vienna—that someone tried to murder him by setting a mouse-trap in his bedroom—that when angry he paced up and down under his bed—that he came home from Geneva by air-mail. But they were friendly jokes, for he stood high in the estimation of his people, except those who favoured the Nazis. He came of peasant stock, and it is claimed that he was an illegitimate son—something which in Europe does not make people stare as it does in this newer and more primitive land. Being of peasant stock he knew agriculture very well, and so entered political life as Minister of Agriculture, after three years’ service in the Austrian army. His war record was good, for, like Napoleon, who was not much bigger, his personality overrode his size. His winsome smile and gracious manner linger affectionately in my memory, for we were congenial to each other, though we could speak only through an interpreter. The charming manners of some of these old-world diplomats come back to mind. I had asked his representative, whom he had left on his return to Vienna after a week at the League, how he was doing, after the first attempt on his life. “He is doing nicely, thank you, and I shall tell him that you asked, for you were one whom he liked so much, and he will be very happy to know that you asked for him.” It is altogether likely that his reply to others may have been quite as nice, but anyway it warms the cockles of one’s heart to have a simple query as to someone’s health treated so kindly. The paying of a compliment is a compliment in itself! That was in 1933, and two years later the diminutive Chancellor was murdered in cold blood in his own office by a group of assassins spurred on by the German Nazis. Little Dollfuss had seen much in his forty-three years!

Another central European representative, always a general favourite, was Benez (pronounced Benesh), the delegate from Czecho-Slovakia, and he was another with whom I had the good fortune to become well acquainted. He is now President of his nation, but at that time he was Foreign Minister—a position he had occupied for fifteen years, for he and Masaryk had ruled this new country ever since its recreation after three hundred years of oblivion. Benez has a most attractive personality also, and was consulted by many of the principal powers on all important occasions (though he, too, was of peasant origin), for he had been a regular attendant at the League ever since its inception, and is an outstanding authority on European politics. Often one saw Sir John Simon, or Paul-Boncour of France, taking him into a corner to discuss some critical question. He is of medium height, rather the farmer in appearance and dress, but his bright, small, expressive, bird-like eyes show plainly his quick intelligence. He is about my age—indeed, two years younger—self-educated, efficient. His name was not always Benez, for he has had many names, having been an exile from his homeland—then part of Austria-Hungary—and he was a spy for very many years, risking his life over and over again on behalf of the land which he has helped to recreate and which he loves devotedly, though he is an internationalist in the better sense of the term. He helps manage the League of Nations, in association with the British, the French, and a few other nationalities, for his wide knowledge and high intelligence make him an authority—if such there be on such a problem as that of Central Europe. His English and French were equally fluent, and in the discussions he used either with the same facility, as did so many of the other Europeans. While he and Masaryk ruled their nation by some sort of personal authority, he did not like dictatorships, for I well remember a remark of his made to me as we sat at a dinner: “You know, Manion,” he said, “I do not like dictatorships, for a dictator is like a man standing on a table—he is very likely to fall off. But a leader in a democracy is in the much more safe position of standing on solid ground.” There is much wisdom in that observation!

Benez has never been on this side of the Atlantic, and I expressed the hope that he would visit us and address public gatherings, for men of his type would make a deep impression, and perhaps broaden our own and the American viewpoint. He did not seem much enamoured of the idea of coming over here—probably too busy keeping things normal over there! He also refused to tell me the secret possessed by him and Masaryk of keeping their government in power for fifteen years, at that time. Too bad, because it might have helped us in 1935!

Titulescu[2], the Roumanian delegate, stands next perhaps to Benez in his power at the League, so far as the lesser nations are concerned. He has been Roumanian Foreign Minister for many years, and is an old stager at the League. He looks very much like a Chinese, and indeed may be Oriental, for many Roumanians are. He was not the friendly type of Benez or Dollfuss, and I knew him only slightly, but his power at the League was obvious to any observer, though it appeared to be used much more reservedly than that of Benez. Titulescu keeps himself in the background, but his position in European affairs has been established by his cleverness and his fearlessness—the latter well demonstrated by his having been one of the few statesmen in Roumania who had the courage to oppose Madame Lupescu (the red-haired mistress of King Carol) and “get away with it.”

Dethroned since the above was written.

Monsieur J. Paul-Boncour of France, was much in evidence, with his short, somewhat squat figure, his long mane of white hair, and suave manners. When he spoke at the Assembly it was with all that fiery eloquence so characteristic of the French, both over there and in Canada—for they undoubtedly have a natural gift of speech, as the Italians have for singing. No one came to know Paul-Boncour very well, for he gave the impression of holding himself aloof from the other delegates—somewhat to the disadvantage of France, one would imagine. But France at that time, with the support of the Little Entente and Poland, had control of the League. Indeed, there is so much control of it, and the national representatives seem so to work in groups, that an observer comes almost to the conclusion that there is little difference between it and the old balance-of-power methods which were in vogue before there was any League—another reason why one sometimes asks himself whether it is really worth the time and expense for Canada to exert herself in the European muddle. Possibly we take ourselves too seriously in allowing our ten million people to become partly responsible through the League for the regulating of a continent three thousand miles away, with its three hundred million people—not including Russia! Perhaps! But remember that the League is the only organization of its kind ever set up, the only potential instrument that exists among nations for a more sympathetic understanding of and responsibility for each other. When it goes war and ruin may come.

Madariaga, the Spanish delegate, has also been attending the League since its beginning in 1920, and he was a power, with his wide knowledge of world affairs, his experience as a newspaper man, and a professorship at Oxford—if my information is correct. His address at the Assembly was a masterpiece, listened to attentively by everyone as he spoke in cultured and perfect English, as he also could have done in half a dozen languages. Due to his long attendance at these meetings he was one of the group who seemed to manage and control everything. No one can quite get inside this dominating group, unless he were a regular attendant, as one should be if Canada is to be more than a mere observer. If we continue as a member, we ought to appoint one or two who would attend annually as our representatives, so that they may not only know all the ropes, but know as well all the regular delegates. That is the only way for us to have any real influence—if such is possible at all. Otherwise, we should frankly take the attitude that we are merely sending some political friends for an European joy-ride, and let it go at that. International affairs make an immense and very interesting study in themselves, and cannot be handled as a side-line by some busy Minister or even Prime Minister, for even when our Prime Ministers have attended as our delegates, as they have on at least two occasions, we have not heard that they made any special impression on anyone. Like other delegates, they were strangers in a strange land, and had to learn their way about, with the able assistance of Dr. Riddell, who lives there.

The American delegate to the Disarmament Conference, Norman Davis, who was an observer in the gallery during the League sittings, was another with whom one became friendly, as is natural. He is a sort of Ambassador-at-Large for President Roosevelt, and a most suitable one, to judge by his tact and general bearing. He is that type of cultured American, with a fine vein of humour as a raconteur, who wins the respect of all who come into contact with him. His knowledge of men and his unfailing common sense make him an ideal representative for the American people. And my pleasure in my contacts with him was increased by his frank friendliness toward Canada.

One other who sat just behind me—the seating being arranged alphabetically—was Wellington Coo, head of the Chinese group, and with a good record of service in China. He was the typically polite, educated Chinese gentleman, with manners that were very pleasing, and the ability, well displayed in the Assembly, of upholding his country’s position before the League, though someone near me said that he had heard the speech a number of times, as the Chinese were not very successful in getting the League to take up the cudgels against Japan. He and the other Oriental delegates—the Japanese were not in the League, but were attending the Disarmament Conference later—all spoke in English, which was not the custom of any others except the British Empire group, for the European continental delegates practically all used French, the language of diplomacy all over the world until after the Great War.

Naturally I came into contact much more with the Empire delegates than with the others. Sir John Simon led the British delegation, but was not much more successful there than he has been as a politician, despite his great ability as a lawyer. He obviously endeavoured to please, but there is something lacking in his manner. Perhaps it is because he has been too long in the cold atmosphere of the courts, but anyhow he lacked some personal quality which deprived him of attaining great success either in Parliament or in the international sphere. It may be that he is shy, for he did not seem to do himself justice as a speaker before the Assembly, though he was listened to with deep attention, as any representative of powerful Britain would be. Since that time he has been replaced as Foreign Minister by Anthony Eden, beside whom I sat at the Disarmament Conference. Eden had all the attractive qualities that Simon lacked—he was boyish and frank in manner, patient, humorous, a splendid negotiator, and handsome. His dress is immaculate, though he wears it with that careless ease of so many young well-dressed Englishmen. He is young indeed, being only thirty-nine now—one imagines him to be the youngest Foreign Minister England has ever had. He has a fine war record, having won the Military Cross; and two of his brothers were killed in the War. His family is an old aristocratic one, and he has travelled much, even having written a book of travel since the War. He could now write another on diplomacy, after all his work across Europe and back again many times. His mother was a society beauty, and his wife is very striking. He is a great friend of Baldwin, is very pro-League, and one feels that he may go far in British public life.

The Bruces of Australia stayed at the same hotel as ourselves, and we saw a good deal of them, having met them the previous year at the Imperial Conference in Ottawa. Bruce is a very fine type, and is another with a good war record, after which he was Prime Minister of Australia for some years. Now he seems to be a fixture in London as the Australian High Commissioner, and also as their permanent representative at the League and other conferences—a wise arrangement that we might well consider if we are to continue our participation in world affairs. He is handsome, suave, Oxford or Cambridge educated, sane, dependable—altogether a good man to attend conferences. They also drove their own car across the Continent, neither they nor ourselves getting out much too soon to avoid the snow in the mountain passes which might well have stranded us. As it was, on our way to St. Malo across France we ran through a heavy snowstorm, and Riddell wrote me later saying the mountain passes were closed a couple of days after we drove through.

The other British delegates we met daily, for we had conferences regularly in order that we might, if possible, all take the same stand, though this is by no means either necessary or consistently the custom. On one matter I differed very emphatically from the others—the question of admitting into Canada large numbers of German Jews who were being so unfairly treated by Hitler. In the committee which dealt with minority questions I spoke in favour of minority rights, pointing out the comparatively friendly relations between groups in the Dominion, and the justice toward minorities which generally prevailed here. But to permit, as was the proposal, thousands of refugees from Germany to come into Canada in this time of world crisis and severe unemployment was “another matter again.” Our attitude was necessarily quite firm in the discussions, for there was a tendency on the part of other delegates to argue that with our wide-open spaces we should be very heavily on the receiving end of the deal. I have always been rather an internationalist in my feelings toward all races, including the Jewish, among whom I have many very good friends, but I have no apologies to offer for my attitude on this question at a time when Canada cannot take care of her own unemployed.

Two of the British group were Ormsby Gore and Hore Belisha—the latter an Oriental, one would judge by his physiognomy and manners. The former has just replaced “Jimmy” Thomas, who resigned over the budget leak, and he gave me the impression of being exceedingly competent. In the same discussion on the minority question he made a very able, hard-hitting speech in reply to the rather stupid position taken by the German delegates, that the Jews were not a minority, and that therefore the League had no right even to discuss their treatment by Hitler. He was joined by the French in his stand, and supported by some of the rest of us. Hore Belisha was also an able man, younger, I think, but with a shrewd Oriental type of mind, that made him handle his own subjects most capably in another committee where the Germans were again taking one of their strange attitudes, which is not of interest here. The German delegates were much embarrassed by their own position on a number of questions, in which, no doubt, they were merely obeying orders from Berlin, and their feelings were not assuaged by the very hearty reception given to Dollfuss—all of which contributed to their withdrawal from the League and Disarmament Conference a few days after the above incidents.

Only two others will be mentioned of the many one met rather intimately. Baron Aloyisi of Italy came and went rather unobtrusively, and impressed one that his actions must be very circumspect, for undoubtedly he dare not take any strong position without telephoning to Rome for instructions. One found oneself wondering as to his inmost thoughts, he of the old aristocracy taking peremptory instructions from Mussolini, who so recently was but a common soldier and a small Socialist editor, but now not only occupying the throne (or at least possessing the power) of the Caesars, but standing Napoleon-like among the rulers of Europe. Mussolini has no doubt accomplished much in Italy, but he and Hitler hold in their hands much responsibility for the future peace of the world!

The other acquaintance was not a delegate, so far as one can recall, but an observer—Lord Robert Cecil, or, more properly, Viscount Cecil of Chelwood. He was one of the most attractive men at the League, tall, distinguished, very impressive, with the stooped shoulders of the student, and with an air of the ascetic which would mark him out in any company. Add to this a charm of manner that made one respect and admire him, and one has a combination of qualities rarely met with in a public man. He was at that time about seventy. He had seen very many years of public service since the days, away back in 1886, when he acted as a private secretary to his father, the third Marquess of Salisbury, and during most of his public life he had been opposing his own friends because they did not see eye to eye with him in his courageous idealism. He separated from Joseph Chamberlain on the tariff; he supported woman suffrage when it had few adherents among the “stronger sex”; he fought his party on Welsh disestablishment; he helped President Wilson frame the Covenant of the League; he was principal British representative at the Disarmament Conference in 1926-1927, but resigned because his convictions did not allow him to agree with his colleagues on some naval question. Always a battler for lost causes, always a supporter of the weak, he no doubt came, as a result, to bear a resemblance to some distinguished bishop, looking a little sadly at an unrepentant world, but always with a broad charity and forgiveness and understanding in his eyes. I have rarely indeed been so attracted by any man as I was by him, and his charming old-world courtesy to us all made the conquest complete. He is still fighting for his ideals, and one feels that the world is better for such as he, even if those who have to work with him often find his principles too unyielding for the compromise decisions that so often must be made by practical statesmen.

One other interesting international conference which, as Minister, I had the opportunity of attending as a delegate was the Imperial Conference held in Ottawa in 1932. This preceded by one year the Geneva Assembly of the League of Nations to which I have just referred. This Conference was really a continuation of the 1930 Conference at which the Prime Minister of Canada had rather dogmatically, but justly, laid down the principle that, if customs preferences from Canada to the motherland were to continue, there must be some return to Canada and the other Dominions of the Empire in preferential treatment. When Mr. Bennett propounded this doctrine he was somewhat severely criticized by free traders, both in the motherland and in Canada, who pointed out that, in all the thirty years or so during which Canada had been giving a preference of about one-third on customs duties to Great Britain, we had had the opportunity of exporting our goods to the British market on a free entry basis—forgetting that we were merely sharing that advantage with the rest of the world.

As a result of the Conference of 1932, after a good deal of bargaining and debating, Empire agreements were set up, continuing, and in some cases increasing, the preferences of the Dominions to Great Britain; and in return giving to the Dominions a preference in the British market, either by the application of tariffs against foreign countries, or by the imposition of quotas. At the time of writing these mutual preferences seem to have been beneficial to all, and intra-Empire trade increased thereby. The majority of fair-minded observers admit that the agreements of 1932 have been useful to the Empire at large; though one finds that the continuing free-traders in the Empire condemn the agreements, as they condemn any protective measures anywhere.

It is not my intention to deal at length with the proceedings of the Conference, as they are sufficiently recent to be quite well remembered by those interested. The Conference, however, gave me an opportunity to rub shoulders in a business way with representatives of all portions of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and to compare their leaders with our own. Comparisons are sometimes invidious, but one may be forgiven for saying that at this Conference there appeared to be no reason for thinking that Canadian statesmen, in general, did not compare quite favourably with those from other portions of the far-flung Empire, including even those from the Motherland itself, though the British delegation included Stanley Baldwin, Neville Chamberlain, Lord Hailsham, and others, with whom we all came into fairly intimate contact. A few of those who stand out in my memory will be mentioned.

Right Hon. Stanley Baldwin, the British Prime Minister at the moment of writing, who headed the British delegation, did not impress us deeply except as a stable type of Britisher who personifies John Bull. He makes a very artistic opening-conference or after-dinner speech, but seems to pay little attention to the details of business arrangements made—indeed often appeared to be “wool-gathering.” Perhaps it was merely a pose, though he does not impress one as a poseur. One feels that his strength lies rather in those rugged, honest, dependable, high-principled qualities that have distinguished his actions both in public and in private life—for example, his anonymous gift of a goodly portion of his private means toward the cancellation of the British public debt, an example which was not followed very generally by those who might have done likewise.

Neville Chamberlain easily impressed me as their outstanding representative for real capacity, business ability, and statesmanship. Add to these qualities his charm of manner, his even temper, his modesty, in short, his general disposition, and he stood out in front by himself.

Lord Hailsham was another who impressed us all by his ability. He and Chamberlain did much from the British angle to keep the Conference on the track, and to smooth out difficulties of one kind or another. Indeed, when due to rather animated bargaining on both sides the machinery seemed in imminent danger of stalling, it was Chamberlain and Hailsham, among the British group, who helped remove the sand, and who supplied the oil necessary to save the Conference and bring ultimate success. But one would easily agree to give the palm for combined statesman-politician to Chamberlain, as Hailsham is another great lawyer who has some of the characteristics of Sir John Simon.

One of the brightest minds at the Conference was Havenga, Finance Minister of South Africa. He was able, quick, practical, a good negotiator, a good business man, and generally one of the leaders at the negotiations. Bruce of Australia was another very useful and able member of the many there.

Right Hon. J. A. (Jimmy) Thomas was a popular and capable delegate, often by his rough humour and his knowledge of men being able to help materially in clearing the air when it was getting a bit foggy with argument. In one committee, when Lemass of the Irish Free State delegation was somewhat stubborn on a small matter, it was Thomas who, with a joke on himself, got Lemass to agree to a satisfactory compromise. As an after-dinner speaker Thomas is an artist—extemporaneous, pungent, forceful and hilariously humorous. Though he was Colonial Secretary at the time, and thus had many business relations of a delicate nature with the Irish, he and the Irish Free State delegates were inseparable, their bridge games being subjects for almost daily press comment. He was very frank in his speech at private dinners, at one of them severely condemning what he called the bounder attitude of some Canadians who have become prominent in the British Isles. But altogether he was a most likable chap, with frankly displayed faults, and those of us who knew him here deeply regret that, through some unfortunate circumstance regarding budget secrecy, he has probably closed under a cloud a career which, otherwise, has been very creditable, both to him and to his homeland, where it is much less common than on this side for men to rise from the ranks and attain very high position.

We all came to know the Irish Free State group very well. I was delegated to meet them at Montreal on their arrival, probably because of my nationality, which is (if one goes back about one hundred and twenty years) the same as theirs. They were—as so many Southern Irish are—jovial, happy-go-lucky, compliment-paying and, generally, charming companions; but again, like so many Southern Irish (in contradistinction to Scottish folk), they sometimes gave the impression of being impractical in business matters. For example: They were in the midst of their squabble with the English on trade and debt matters, and we had a general discussion, in which, in reply to a question, one of them stated that while they—the Irish—sent about ninety per cent. of their exports to England, the English sent only seven or eight per cent. of their exports to Ireland.

“Then,” I argued, “how in the world have you any chance of winning in a trade-blockade competition with them?”

“Oh, well,” one of them replied, “we can do them a lot of harm anyway!”

Whether one hundred years of Canadian air, or that remote King of Ulster mentioned by my librarian friend, has affected me, I am of a rather practical turn of mind, and their attitude on this question struck me as both untenable and unwise.

Some of us thought that we could do something to smooth out the difficulties between the Irish and the English—now that we had them away from the superheated and litigious atmosphere round the Irish Sea that washes both their coasts. However, we did not succeed, though we felt that we might have had better luck had it depended only upon the Irish representatives at the Conference! Anyhow, they were a lovable group, popular with every one, and were missed when they left more than most of the others. A year later at the League of Nations I foregathered once more with Dr. O’Kelly, for he was among the representatives at that meeting, as was Bruce of Australia, Chatterjee of India, and a few others who had been at Ottawa.

There were others at the Conference who impressed us with their ability, particularly among the advisory group and the Civil Service, such as Sir Henry Strakosch the economist, but those mentioned impressed themselves on my mind most deeply at the time. A few associates there were of whom a chapter might be written, such as Sir Phillip Cunliffe-Lister, Walter Runciman, or Malcolm MacDonald (son of Ramsay) who held his own daily press conference, as he was British liaison officer, an arrangement which occasionally led to friendly conflict between him and myself. Gullett of Australia, Downie Stewart of New Zealand (the Finance Minister, in spite of his being paralyzed from the waist down), Lemass and Dulanty of Southern Ireland, and Sir Basil Brooke from the North, are worthy of mention; also little Amery, who was an observer at the Conference, and who has walked across much of Canada in his adventurous life.

I had the misfortune (in addition to acting as one of the Canadian delegates) to be appointed against my wishes as liaison officer between the Conference and the press, which latter was represented by about one hundred representatives from all over the world. Not only were the Empire countries interested in the proceedings, but the United States, the Argentine, Belgium, Holland, France and other foreign states were anxious to learn at first hand the probable effects which projected agreements might have upon their trade with the different British nations. It was my duty to meet the press twice daily, and to give them at least a background of the proceedings in order to prevent, if possible, those wild rumours being circulated in the outside press which so often cause misunderstanding and distrust. Somewhat stupidly the Conference refused to give out practically anything. I was therefore thrown upon my own resources, and forced to take considerable risks in my desire to assist a group of men who should have been treated much more considerately by such an important gathering as this. A great deal of information might well have been given out, which would have prevented the spreading of irresponsible speculations, and likewise accorded simple justice to this group of competent newspaper men who had gathered at Ottawa. Instead of this, the committees when they met would pass some such inane resolution as, that “the press were to be told that the Committee on Economic Relations had met this morning, discussed various aspects of their problems, and would meet again on the following Tuesday.”

These so-called “releases” were stupid in the extreme; and one ended by throwing them into the first convenient waste-basket, and used his own judgment in supplying background for this group of correspondents who met me and Pearson, my assistant, twice daily in the legitimate hope of being given a reasonable amount of information. I broke most of the rules in helping them out; for one sympathized greatly with their just demands for news; and, without in any way committing a breach of confidence, we endeavoured to be of use to them. At the close of the sessions, they presented me with some engraved sterling silver in appreciation of my efforts; but under no circumstances, or for no fee, would I accept again the position of liaison officer between any conference and the press, unless much more intelligence in the giving out of news was permitted than was the case in 1932. With my feelings in this matter some of the leading delegates from the British Isles (as notably Chamberlain) agreed after the meetings had concluded, but for some reason they had hesitated to say so when such a statement might have been of use to me, and to the news-hungry press representatives who had travelled long distances in the hope of fair treatment.


After nearly four years of chaos, the world is facing very serious times. Problems of the utmost importance beset public men on all sides, and it is very difficult to know what the outcome of some of these problems will be. The world is on the march, but whither is it going? World conditions are changing mightily in this stupendous age, and it is our duty to direct their course, or others less fitted will take up the torch which we have cast down, and they may lead us into strange and unknown lands. Democracy itself, and the capitalistic system, so-called, are in a precarious position—indeed, democracy is existent to-day in but a few of the great countries of the world: Great Britain and the self-governing portions of the Empire, the United States, France, and a few of the smaller nations of Europe. On the other hand, in Germany, Italy, Poland, Austria, Spain, and some other lands, there have arisen dictatorships by individuals, wiping out personal, political, and (in some cases) religious liberty; and in Russia there is in control a dictatorship of the proletariat, by which less than half a million Communists are autocratically administering the affairs of 165 millions of people in a more despotic manner than that practised under the Czars. Not satisfied with their internal experiment, they are spreading through the Third International at Moscow the doctrines of world revolution. The individual dictatorships of Italy and Germany are partly a reaction against Communism.

In all capitalistic countries since the crash of 1929 business depression has been accompanied by unemployment unparalleled in history, reaching the peak of thirty millions, one-third of them in the great American Republic. The world is flooded in war debts that can never be paid. An ultra-nationalism has sprung up which is strangling trade—the very life-blood of nations—through tariffs, quotas, and so forth, world trade in 1933 being only about one-third of normal. Poverty and despair walk hand in hand. Greed and hunger for power fight fiendishly for empire.

That is the picture, and its cause is chiefly the Great War, and the fear of other wars. Through the morass there seems no solid highway for our feet to tread, though thoughtful men everywhere have been striving to find a way. A cure for our awful world malady must be found, else another depression may lead to the complete annihilation both of our democratic and our economic systems. Thoughtful public men realize that truth, but it were well that industrial and financial leaders should do likewise, or the penalty may be visited upon their children “even unto the third and fourth generation.” The masses of the nation would not again submit to recent conditions of unemployment and hardship as meekly as they did during the depression which is only now abating. Revolution would lead to an overthrow of our most cherished institutions. Already we have had revolutionary attempts at home, such as the Regina trek toward Ottawa, adjudged by a Royal Commission as such, a decision also arrived at by the late Government, and by myself when I visited Regina at the request of the Prime Minister, and sat in a hotel listening to the arguments of its leaders while hundreds sang “The Red Flag” outside.

The great problem in all industrial countries is unemployment—a problem unsolved anywhere, and one which leads to unhappiness, discontent, and ultimately to revolution, because of the inability of willing workers to supply the physical needs of their loved ones, or provide suitable opportunities in life for their sons and daughters. We have solved other great national riddles, and we must find a solution for this one if we are to have a contented and happy population, which is the real object of civilization. One hundred years ago Malthus propounded the theory, long accepted, that, due to increasing numbers, starvation must ultimately overtake us. He was right in his day and generation, but through scientific invention and machine development we have found the answer to that riddle, for to-day we can produce food, and clothing, and shelter, more rapidly than we can utilize them. Thus production has been accomplished, but we have not learned properly to conserve and distribute the products so that all people everywhere may live. As I have expressed it more than once in public addresses, our scientific progress has outstripped our social progress. That is the chief error of our system. Our inventions in radio, flying, motoring, and industry have been the marvels of a marvellous age; but the time has come for our social progress to catch up, so that in times of depression, or when harvests fail, our productive machinery will not collapse, or grim want gnaw the vitals of millions of people.

Because we have been unable to do this, the resultant discontent has supplied a fertile soil for the seeds spread by the revolutionary, and Communism has raised its ugly head everywhere. Communism is merely extreme (revolutionary) Socialism, and already many young men are infected with its doctrines. Even so brilliant a young writer as Lytton Strachey has adopted the Russian method as the only way out. Perhaps that is as it should be, for someone has said that “anyone who is not a Socialist when he is young has no heart, and anyone who is a Socialist when he is old has no head.” Socialism thrives on conditions spawned by the world crisis, and idealistic youth is carried away by specious argument. On the other hand, a brilliant older philosopher, the late Oswald Spengler, advocated something akin to the Feudal System. Neither appeals to the sane Anglo-Saxon type of mind, which wants neither Communism nor Fascism, but desires to retain our democratic institutions, and evolve an economic system which offers individual opportunity for able and ambitious youth—providing that we can arrive at conditions which offer opportunity, and that there is not horrible want in the midst of insolent abundance.

Communism is a doctrine of despair. Only one country has tried it as a national policy—Russia—and there, despite a huge area, rich resources, a docile population, and the absolute control of Stalin and his group, we see little to attract us. Russians still starve, while liberty of any kind is so repressed and life so drab that any ambitious youth would shun it. Men are not born equal, yet Communism is an attempt to make us so, for it tries to whittle all down to the same common level. Very much has been accomplished under the capitalistic system. Under it the conditions of the poorer classes, whether in the workshop or on the farm, have been immensely improved during the last half-century, when they were gainfully employed. Ah! There’s the rub! That is the key to the situation! We have gone round the circle, and find again that we must supply employment for all, and all must work, otherwise the masses of the people, to whom we have given the ruling power through the vote, will, either by ballots or bullets, wipe out completely our whole social system.

A happy and contented population of farmers and workers is necessary if we are to preserve our democratic parliamentary and economic institutions. We must correct our chief error—unemployment—not with the burglars’ tools of Communism, but by finding a place somewhere between Communism on the one hand and ultra-Capitalism on the other, a place in which justice and fair dealing prevail, in which agriculture gets a reasonable return, the worker decent wages and steady work, and the consumer receives a fair share of the great benefits made possible by scientific invention and machine development of all kinds. Immense wealth on one hand and dire poverty on the other are incompatible in this day and age. The rich and thoughtless industrialist who does not see this is like unto the short-sighted courtiers who surrounded Louis XVI before the French Revolution, or the blind sycophants about the Russian Czar before 1917.

It is true that no one—not even any of the many economists—has given us a remedy for the disease. The extremists, and those who would smash the whole machine so laboriously built up over the ages, are bursting with panaceas. But we would do well to keep to the middle of the road—so long as we realize that our system is suffering from a disease that requires immediate treatment, and so long as we give our best thought to its cure. That is all that is repeatedly advocated here, in the hope that we may correct our errors from within, and so prevent their much more drastic correction from without by extremists and theorists who capitalize discontents in times of crisis, their effort being to wreck the whole mechanism of government, finance and industry, and hand its control over to the so-called proletariat. Let our progress be by evolution, not revolution, in order to preserve for our children all that is good in our system, while lopping off the branches that are decayed.

If we do this, Canada can attain its manifest destiny of building up on this continent a newer and better civilization than the world has yet had, for we have a huge and diversified area, stupendous resources, a sturdy citizenship in the making, and we are practically free from war alarms that paralyse with fear every corner of Europe and Asia.

Therefore, let all of us who love this magnificent land of ours—a land rich in everything that goes to make a great nation, capable of supporting many times our present numbers—let us strive to lead the world in solving the tragedy of unemployment, at least to the extent that through work, not relief or charity, our whole population may possess in self-respect all the necessaries of life. Only in this manner may we cease insulting the intelligence of the unemployed by such terms as “over-production”—which is really under-consumption due to absence of effective purchasing power through lack of work and wages. Only thus may we have a contented people.

It may justly be said that I have offered only generalities, applicable not only to Canada, but to all democratic countries; and the question may be asked as to more specific and definite remedies for our own particular ills. That is a fair challenge to the foregoing observations. Having been in the public life of the Dominion for nearly twenty years, I shall take the liberty before closing these pages of discussing briefly a few of our most pressing problems. I do not offer these suggestions as a cure-all or panacea, but merely as my own conclusions after long contact with and reflection upon some of our more pressing difficulties, realizing full well that it is the duty of each nation to put its own house in order that it may ultimately help the whole international situation.

Our chief problems are: FINANCERAILWAYSUNEMPLOYMENT, other questions being more or less bound up in these three.

Finance: This includes balancing our national budget. Canada, like most of the other nations of the world, is steeped in debt, to a large extent due to the war and its costs to us. It is a stupendous burden, particularly when you add to it the cost of pensions, as well as the general care of our returned men and the dependents of those who did not return. The interest on our national debt (if one includes the Canadian National Railways debt, as one should, for we have guaranteed it) is in round numbers nearly two hundred million dollars per annum. My own belief is that it cannot continue to be met by ten million people, without a huge increase in Canadian business. Our whole national Government income reached one hundred million dollars for the first time only in the year 1910, and fifty million dollars for the first time just ten years previously. (Canada Year Book, 1934-1935, p. 894.) There are two ways of lessening this interest charge. One is by extreme inflation, which is dangerous, as was evidenced by German inflation in the early 1920’s, or by French inflation after the Revolution. In both, the thrifty people and those with fixed incomes suffered through the loss of their savings, insurance, and so forth. The other method is legitimate, and is indeed imperative when either an individual or a nation finds its financial load too heavy to bear. It consists in a compromise with our creditors—a compromise in which honest men agree to pay interest on their debts to the best of their ability, while at the same time enforcing all possible economies. Each reduction of one per cent. in our interest rate means a saving to us of forty million dollars per year, and we ought to be able to reduce our interest rate by one and a half per cent. and still be paying a reasonable rate of interest upon Dominion Government loans. Repudiation? Not when we pay all we can pay—not when the object is to avoid complete national collapse—not when debts are inflated by price deflation as they have been in recent times. Nearly all the European nations which took part in the War have failed during recent years to pay their interest, even Britain has not paid the interest on her war debt to the United States for some years. Half of our debt is war debt, or nearly half. Most South American countries have failed to pay any interest on their government bonds, and they took no part in the War. I happen to have some bonds from two of them, and have not received a cent of interest for years. This proposal may agitate certain financial groups, but let me draw to their attention that Canada is facing a very critical situation. During the war we forced our boys to give their lives. One can hardly claim that government bondholders are more sacrosanct.

Railways: On this subject I should know a little, because I gave five years of intensive study to it during our régime. I accomplished something, too, in placing the Canadian National, probably for the first time in a dozen years, in the position of being economically managed, thus saving the people of Canada many millions of dollars per year. Not being in politics, those who oppose my ideas cannot accuse me of “playing politics” in anything here suggested, as was unfairly charged against me while we were in power; for never have I given of my best more unstintingly, and with less regard for my own political future, than during my occupancy of the portfolio of Railways and Canals.

The idea seems to be current, among business men particularly, that by amalgamation—or unified management, which is another name for the same thing, eventually—the railway problem can be solved, and by no other method. If that were true, we should all support it, but it is not true. Unified management, whether under public ownership or private, would set up a monopoly in transportation which the people will not tolerate, and would constitute menace to our whole public life because of the huge voting power possessed by such an immense organization. At any rate we have enough public ownership now to give it a fair trial. But economies are urgently needed, for Canada cannot go on indefinitely paying fifty million dollars per annum for the Canadian National. I submit that practically the same economies can be made under co-operation as under unified management, if co-operation is enforced between the two railways. So far there has been almost no attempt to bring this about, due to the rivalry between the two managements as to which will secure most traffic. Our trustees accomplished almost nothing in this regard, though half the blame for their failure should go to the private company. Enforced co-operation can only be brought about under either a one-man dictator, or a strong commission. In our neighbouring Republic there has been appointed a dictator in the person of Mr. Eastman, with the title of Federal Co-ordinator of Transportation, but he has accomplished little so far because of pressure by localities affected by his proposal, and opposition by the labour unions. Nevertheless, had he the power he could work wonders. The same is true here, but political and public pressure would have to be ignored, as would the competitive attitude of the railway managements. And the labour unions must be made to realize that, if some remedy such as that here suggested is not put into effect; they will ultimately suffer much more severely under some other more radical change. If these conditions are accepted, a dictator could bring about every economy possible under unified management, except the economy of one headquarters staff—and that is a mere bagatelle in comparison with the total good. Such co-operative economies are: union of railway yards and terminals at innumerable points; joint shop work, now spread about in a ridiculous manner; ticket and telegraph offices under one roof, or located in the railway stations jointly; one railway hotel where two are planned, for example, the stupid idea of two rival hotels at Vancouver; and the pooling of trans-Canada and other passenger trains where possible. That is only a partial list of economies, but by them many millions could be saved to both railways, and the disadvantages of monopoly avoided. But let it be clearly understood that under no method can savings sufficient be made to wipe out the Canadian National deficit of over fifty million dollars per annum, so long as railway traffic remains as at present, about one-half of its total at the peak of business in 1928 or 1929. Anyone who says differently is, to my mind, either trying to deceive, or does not know whereof he speaks.

This railway economy plan is the only practicable one apparent to me, and undoubtedly it will require sacrifices on the part of localities and employees; but the national economic life is at stake to-day, and, if it is to be salvaged, all must be ready to assist even at the cost of some real sacrifice. To the employees the assurance should be given, that every precaution would be taken under co-operation to make it easy for them—through pensions, retiring allowances, allotment of positions, and so forth; but even they will, in the long run, profit by the cure of this transportation disease. If the employees do not concede something, they may ultimately have to concede everything; for this situation is very critical. Of course, caring for the employees in a fair manner will delay the total benefits to the nation, but they deserve fair treatment. Our reward would be in the satisfaction of knowing that this serious problem is finally in the way of solution.

One other matter should at the same time be attended to, namely, the control of motor-transport competition by the same type of regulation as the railways. This means provincial co-operation, for motor traffic is under provincial control. At my call there was a provincial conference in our last year of power to deal with this very matter, with some good results; but more provincial assistance in this line is required.

The above, in very brief form, is my suggested remedy for the railway problem which is so heavy a burden upon us. Anyone who has given study to the question could elaborate it very easily.

Unemployment: This is the most urgent problem facing all industrial nations. Its causes in Canada are multiple—trade depression, machine development, lost purchasing power on the farms due to low prices for agricultural products, dumping of cheap goods from low-standard-of-living countries—among others. It is a tragedy for men, and a worse one for boys just turning into manhood, some of whom have been driven into crime or Communism by it. If we are to have a peaceful and contented nation, we must cure it, or, at least, drastically alleviate it. I have no panacea, and I know of none offered elsewhere. Until such is found, it must be dealt with as a symptom, as a good physician deals with undiagnosed disease. It can be helped materially by good sense on all our parts, including governmental common sense in useful works such as reforestation (already too long delayed); the saving of large public works for times of depression; the insistence upon industrialists, who cannot carry on without labour, caring more adequately for their employees than in the past, through pension funds and sick benefits, through the planning of their expected output, through rotation of work, and so forth.

As long ago as October, 1931, I made a proposal in a public speech at Windsor which still seems well worthy of consideration. It was that a special tax be placed upon all incomes of any kind for the purpose of building up a fund to supply work in times of depression. In 1929 Canadian wages and salaries were estimated at roughly three thousand million dollars. One per cent. of that sum would be thirty million dollars. Add that to the same percentage from other incomes (interest, dividends etc.), and a huge fund could be built up in prosperous times to be used for useful employment in periods of business recession. Some European countries collect as high as six per cent. for social services, and no Canadian worthy of the name should object to some such plan as that outlined to help his fellow-countrymen in such times as the 1929-1934 crisis.

There would still remain a residuum of unemployed—some of them unemployable—and for them other schemes would be required, such as unemployment insurance, civic assistance, charity. The permanently unemployed offer a challenge to the social, educational and religious forces of the Dominion. Those who cannot work must live, and life must not only be made tolerable for them, but also full and rich. This is our task. Without at least a fair attempt to carry out some such programme, another crisis, with millions out of work, may bring a revolutionary smash-up from which it would take generations to recover.

This is not an attempt to draw up a national programme, but it is an outline of a few conclusions arrived at during my many years of public service, and particularly during the critical times through which we have been passing, by one who loves this “fair, dear land” with a deep and abiding affection, and who has a feeling of profound sympathy for fellow-Canadians less fortunate than himself. It is also an attempt to make those prosperous and successful citizens, who think that all is well in “the best of all possible worlds,” realize some of their responsibilities in the solution of the many grave problems that face this potentially great Dominion.


A Few General Suggestions will complete this outline of ideas for a better Canada:

1. All Governments must practise reasonable economy in an effort to balance budgets; for nations, like individuals, cannot indefinitely spend more than their incomes, without bankruptcy. Taxes cannot continue to rise without national disruption.

2. The racket must be taken out of relief, for unquestionably many are getting relief who should not; and others are receiving sufficiently high relief grants to encourage permanent indigency. We must care for our people, but not turn them into perennial loungers.

3. The pioneer spirit of our forefathers must be recreated in our people, so that they may be courageously self-reliant, eager to struggle for a living, rather than become blandly content to depend upon paternalistic governing bodies for assistance.

4. Back-to-the-land movements must be encouraged, for the mixed farmer is the most independent of all citizens, and can live off the land, if need be, under any variety of social system or type of governing institution.

5. Theorists and extremists who teach the pernicious doctrine that there is some magical method (such as the issuance of unlimited paper money) whereby every one may live in luxury without work, must be combated by sane education in our schools, through the press, and on the public platform.

6. It is the bounden duty of all men in public life to aim at getting our people back to a normal mentality in these matters, even if it means (as it likely will mean) the defeat of the government they are supporting. Indeed, it is my firm conviction that, to solve our problems and to get Canada once again into a proper spirit of determination to attain its destiny of becoming a great nation among the nations of the world, our Governments must courageously take their lives in their hands and accept defeat, if that is necessary, in the carrying out of unpopular but needed legislative measures. For the national life and welfare of Canada are more important than the success of any party or the ambitions of any individual at the polling booths.


These are a few suggested policies for Canadians (and others) to consider in their INTERNAL difficulties, and they are offered here more as examples of what might be done than as a complete programme.

While carrying such measures as these into execution INTERNATIONAL affairs must also be given consideration. Sane political leaders in all countries will assist in every way possible to bring about that international co-operation which could do so much to help the whole world toward recovery. This co-operation should aim at: (i) Peace among nations; in other words, at the final outlawry of war as a method of national policy, and at the elimination of war psychology, now so prevalent, (ii) The divorce of munition and armament manufacture from profit-making by nationalization or complete governmental control of such manufacture. (iii) The levelling down and final settlement of indebtedness among nations. (iv) The lessening of that economic nationalism which, through tariffs, quotas, and insistence upon national self-sufficiency, is strangling world interchange of goods. (v) And, in general, more sanity, charity, decency and sincerity among all peoples and all races on the face of this troubled planet.

Unquestionably, tariff imposts have been raised far too high in nearly all nations, with the possible exception of Great Britain; and a gradual lowering of these imposts will be necessary to increase that world trade which is so greatly needed by all countries. Since each individual nation fears to lower its own tariffs without its neighbours doing likewise, much may be accomplished through bilateral trade treaties such as those brought about at the Imperial Conference—an example which might well be followed in the negotiating of other treaties with foreign countries. For, by increasing international trade, and by lessening debts and interest payments between nations, progress will be made toward stabilization of exchange which has been so completely demoralized through the departure from the gold standard by so many countries.

(Since the above was written, the devaluation of the French franc has been achieved by the Blum Government, with the co-operation of Great Britain and the United States. This action by France, and this three-nation co-operation, seems to be the beginning of the urgently required monetary stabilization spoken of in the preceding paragraph. The fact that a number of smaller nations have quickly followed the French example is a most encouraging sign.)

Merely to outline the many problems awaiting solution, and to enumerate the aims which should guide and inspire us, are sufficient to demonstrate to anyone the terrifying complexity of the world situation. Is it surprising, to quote Lord Eustace Percy in a recent book, that “modern statesmanship seems to have lost its way in a fog of inertia and futility”? Is it any wonder that the economists have not evolved any really intelligent and practicable plan to bring the world back to health, and that there is such general disagreement among them as to plans and methods of procedure? “They wipe each other out,” as the picturesque “Jimmy” Thomas expressed it while at the Empire Conference of 1932.

Yet, because the problem is almost insoluble, and since even the diagnosis of the disease seems to baffle the best political, financial and industrial physicians, there is all the more reason that one should offer his mite of thought and suggestion in an effort to save our portion of the world from a general madness that seems to have become malignant among men in this supposedly civilized age.


Adami, Dr. J. G., 36.

After-dinner speaking, 239, 245.

Alcohol, Use of, 106.

Aloyisi, Baron, 334.

Amery, Rt. Hon. L. M. S., 340.

Anaesthesia, 70, 116, 121.

Anatomy, 42.

Antisepsis, 121.

Art galleries, 54.

Astronomy, 131.

Athletics, 28.


Back to land, 354.

Bapty, Major Walter, 172.

Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley, 302, 337.

Banting, Sir Frederick, 123.

Bawlf, Nicholas, 32.

Baxter, Father, 25.

Beaubier, David, 8.

Beechraft, Tom, 208.

Belisha, Hore, 333.

Benez, 327.

Bennett, Rt. Hon. R. B., 265, 288, 289, 292, 336.

Bessborough, Lord, 302.

Bickell, J. P., 282.

Body-snatching, 42.

Bootlegging, 278.

Borden, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert, 223, 232, 290.

Boswell, Pte., 201.

Bribery attempts, 35, 271.

Brooke, Sir Basil, 340.

Brooke, Rupert, 218.

Brown, Joe, 12.

Bruce, Hon. Herbert A., 50.

Bruce, Rt. Hon. Stanley, 302, 332, 338.

Budget balancing, 348, 354.

Business errors, 272.

Buxton, 175.

Byng of Vimy, 269.


Cabinet ministers, Life of, 305.

Calonne, 180.

Cameron, “Mr.”, 47.

“Canada First,” 287.

Canadian Club, 138.

Canadian Pacific Railway, 2, 6, 35, 141, 223, 296.

Canadian National Railways, 269, 273, 295, 298, 348, 350.

Cancer, 123.

Candidate, Qualities of, 254.

Cathedral city, 161.

C.C.F., 230.

Cecil, Viscount, 334.

Chabannes, Marquise de, 153.

Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. Neville, 337, 342.

Château de Rimberlieu, 153.

Christianity, 140.

Churchill, Port of, 304.

Cirette, Ambrose, 19.

Clarke, Dr. Michael, 227, 241.

Closure, 254.

Cluff, Lieut., 200.

College memories, 39.

Colored races, 216, 319.

Communism, 343, 345.

Compiègne, 57, 152.

Conscription, 223.

Constitutional question, 1926, 269.

Coo, Wellington, 331.

Coroner’s jury, 108.

Courage, 112, 160, 188, 191, 210, 254.

Cunliffe-Lister, Sir Phillip, 340.

Currie, Sir Arthur, 188.

Customs scandal, 268.


Dafoe, Dr., 97.

Davis, Norman, 330.

Delirium tremens, 104.

Democracy, 229, 342.

Desertion from army, 192.

Dickie, C. H., 8.

Directorship by Cabinet, 258, 308.

Disarmament Conference, 323.

Discipline of party, 263.

Dodds, Wm., 112.

Dollfuss, Chancellor, 316, 317, 325.

Dougall, Major, 211.

Duelling, 215.

Dugouts, 178.


Economy, 265, 354.

Eden, Capt. Anthony, 332.

d’Egville, Sir Howard, 286.

Elections, 228, 269, 287.

Elmitt, Major, 188.

Errington, Joseph, 282.

Ethiopia, Rape of, 219, 320.

European situation, 219, 319, 320.


Fascism, 343.

Ferguson, Hon. G. Howard, 278.

Fielding, Henry, 168.

Financial problem, 348.

Flynn’s proposal, 259.

Foley, Timothy, 32.

Fort William, 5.

Foster, Sir George, 247.

“Free Trade England,” 268.


Germany, 285, 322, 323.

Gettysburg speech, 24.

Gore, Rt. Hon. Ormsby, 333.

Graham, Rt. Hon. George P., 234.

Gullett, Hon. H. S., 340.


Hailsham, Lord, 338.

Hammell, Jack, 282.

Hanna, D. B., 278.

Haphazard speaker, 270.

Harvey, 10.

Havenga, Hon. N. C., 302, 338.

Hays, Charles, 273.

Heckling, 242.

Henderson, “Pop,” 208.

History of Canada, Early, 16.

Hogarth, Gen. Don. M., 282.

Holden, Cpl., 201.

Holmes, Dr. Oliver W., 96.

Horne, Tom, 225.

Hotel life, 5.

Hourigan, John, 33.

House of Commons, 8, 227, 240, 253, 257, 307.

Hudson, Henry, 304.

Hughes, Sir Sam, 156.

Hunches, 197.

Hunter, Dr. John, 76.

Hunting outings, 132.


Immigration, 140.

Imperial Conference, 1932, 335.

Independence in Parliament, 263.

Indians, 18.

Indian names, 22.

Inflation, 348, 355.

Insanity, 102.

Insomnia, 125.

Irishmen, Northern, 139.

Italians, 317.


Jenner, Dr., 120.

Jews, 333.

Jones, Col. Elmer, 200.


Kelly, 203.

Kidd, Padre, 200.

King, Rt. Hon. MacKenzie, 288, 290.

Knox, John, 69.


Lake Superior, 13, 24.

Laurier, Sir Wilfrid, 140, 152, 156, 224, 232, 289.

Law, Bonar, 247.

League of Nations, 217, 313, 319.

Lemass, Sean, 302, 338.

Liberal candidate, 156.

Lindsley Bros., 282.

Lincoln, Abraham, 26, 107, 193, 234, 246.

Liquor control, 277.

Lloyd George, David, 229.

London, 74, 311.

Luck, 284.


MacAlpine, Col. C. D. H., 282.

MacDonald, Malcolm, 340.

Macdonald, Sir John A., 232, 289, 294.

MacKenzie and Mann, 273.

Madariaga of Spain, 329.

Malpractice, 91.

Marengo, Battle of, 316.

Marshall, 133.

Mary Queen of Scots, 69.

Mayo Clinic, 88, 94, 115, 223.

McClenaghan, Stewart, 278.

McRae, Gen. A. D., 288.

McRae, John, 218.

Medical fees, 89.

Medical officer, Army, 176.

Medical discoveries, 120.

Meighen, Rt. Hon. Arthur, 248, 265, 267, 291.

Mining in Canada, 280.

Ministre des Postes, 271.

Minister of Railways, 294.

Minister of S.C.R., 265.

Miracles, 166.

Moral issues, 269.

Morton of Boston, 121.

Motoring in Europe, 313.

Munitions, 218, 318, 324, 325.

Murdock, J. Y., 282.

Murphy, Dr. John B., 93.


Napoleon, 215, 315, 326.

New era, 276.

Nickel, 324.


O’Briens, Te, 282.

O’Brien, Dr., 33.

O’Connor, T. P., 69, 139.

Officers, Canadian, 158.

Ogema, 21.

O’Kelly, Dr. Sean, 302, 340.

“Old Luke,” 49.

Opposition tactics, 275.

Osler, Sir William, 85, 310.


Pact of Paris, 219.

Paris surgery, 118.

Party government, 263.

Paul-Boncour, 329.

Peace treaties, 1919, 218.

Pearson, L. B., 341.

Percy, Lord Eustace, 357.

Physician-candidate, 225, 227.

“Photographic mind,” 248.

Politicians, Abuse of, 271.

Ponge, Countess de, 153.

Post-graduate years, 59.

Pre-Cambrian shield, 280.

Public life, 223.

Public speaking, 238.

Pulp and paper industry, 273.


Railway amalgamation, 350.

Railway co-operation, 350.

Railway problem, 141, 272, 349.

Real estate speculation, 141.

Reconstructionists, 294.

Relief racket, 354.

Rennie, Gen. Robert, 188.

Rhineland, 286.

Riddell, Dr. W., 316, 330.

Rosebery, Lord, 125.

Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter, 340.


Schacht, Dr. Hjalmar, 286.

“Scotty,” 203.

Scrimshanking, 181.

Shackleton, Sir Ernest, 139.

Simon, Sir John, 318, 331.

Simpson, Sir James, 121.

Sisters of Charity, 63.

Stage fright, 250.

State dinner, 311.

Steamships, Government, 274.

Stewart, Downie, 340.

Stock boom, 1926-1929, 280.

Stock watering, 274.

Strakosch, Sir Henry, 340.

Strawberries, 170.

Success, Elements of, 85.

Surgical blunders, 97.

System in study, 46.


Tariffs, 266, 287.

Temperance, 280.

Theatres, Toronto, 53.

Thanks file, 261.

Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H., 338, 357.

Thornton, Sir Henry, 300.

Timmins, Noah, 282.

Titles in Canada, 261.

Titulescu of Roumania, 328.

Tourist bureau, 313.

Trade habits, British, 78, 267.

Trade with U.S.A., 266, 287.

Travelling boards, 171.

Trench feet, 186.

Tupper, Sir Charles, 58, 306.

Twenty-first Battalion, 176.


Unemployment, 343, 344, 352.

Unfit soldiers, 172.

Unionist Party, 229, 264.

Unionist victory, 1917, 264.

University of Edinburgh, 41, 61, 69.

University, Queen’s, 41.

University of Toronto, 41, 51.


Vienna, 97.

Vimy Ridge, 185.

Vimy Ridge, Battle of, 198.

Vitamines, 44.


War, Great, 149.

War, Modern, 215.

Webster, Dr. Clarence, 94.

Welland Canal, Need of, 303.

Welland Canal opening, 302.

Wesley, John, 285.

Wilson, President, 229, 321.

World conditions, Review of, 219, 342.


Zivy Cave, 198.

Transcriber's notes

Obvious typographical errors were silently corrected.

Author's spelling of proper nouns was retained.

On page 175, eighteen was substituted for eighty in the sentence: “We arrived about eighty-thirty in the evening and went into the dining-room of the hotel for our dinner.” Eighteen-thirty in military time = 6:30 p.m.

Some errors within the index were noted but not corrected; it was left as printed.

[The end of Life is an Adventure by R.J. (Robert James) Manion]