Lecture 4

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9 Feb 2011

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Lecture 4
2:01 PM
The Troubled Twenties, 1919-29
William Lyon Mackenzie King and ford/four? auto workers pictures
Period in which the country remained traumatized from ww1 - several fronts - sheer emotional toll
of war was heavy - 60k died - never experienced before
8 million population total
Very few canadians who didn’t know someone killed in war
Caused a lot of strain and uncertainty - desire for things to go back to the way they were -
conservative impulse
Economically affected - full employment during the war - canadian govt did poor job of
transitioning soldiers back into civilian life - soldiers found themselves jobless - no access to
Civil unrest
1920s US - roaring twenties - not so in canada - didn’t recover until 1926 - boom until 1829 crash
- depression
In canada - troubled twenties
Unsettled in politics
Most important figure in history WLMK
Historians know more about him than they should
The Spanish influenza 1918-19
Summer of 1918 - new strain of influenza which was regularly present around the world - new
strain took hold it was thought to have first emerged in spain - called spanish influenza - no
wartime censorship in Spain - reports first came out in Spain
Two waves spread around world - aided by soldiers returning home - and by the fact that soldiers
were kept in close quarters
Summer 1918-spring 1919 - 21 million people died? 3% of population estimated 50 million
25% of worlds pop had the disease
50k Canadians died - it was esp. frightening bc of symptoms - this flu would come on rapidly -
over reaction of immune system
Young strong people most affected
Ironic - young and old people with weak immunes systems faired better
One of the great tragedies - it occurred when it did - soliders who survived war - killed bc of
It alerted canadians that there was no national strategy
Fed govt had no role at all in health - until 1919 - National dept of health was created
Severity - pop was 8 million - 4 times that now - relatively speaking 200k deaths and 8 mill ill
Winnipeg General strike - 1919
May and June
General strikes coming into fashion during WW1
It is a particular type of strike - not just a single group of workers vs group of employers - but all
the workers go out - in support of one group of workers - if done well it could be an effective tool
Could shut down a city
Labour prospered during war
Union membership doubled
Wages doubled
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At the same time - there was govt suspicion of unions - it seemed unpatriotic - pressing for higher
wages when so many are fighting overseas - and ethnic component - a lot of eastern Europeans
Bc of the fact that they were from Eastern Europe - their loyalty to canada was suspected - hard
to convince canada it wasn’t something more sinister
May - building and metal workers - striked against their employers - primary concern - the right of
collective bargaining - employers unwilling to grant concession
May 15 - after vote - general strike was called
12k union workers expected to go on strike - but about 25k people refused to go to their jobs -
and went out in sympathy
More than half the members werent part of the union
Unexpected and extraordinary
Central strike committee - 15 members - to co ordinate
Its ideas was to make sure essential services were still provided - instructions - do nothing - just
eat sleep pray love laugh and look at the sun - don’t be provocative - allow city to grind to a halt
Citizens committee of 1000 - in response - bent on defeating the strike - it depicted the strike in
the newspaper - not as legit attempt to bargain for improved conditions - but the beginning of
communist conspiracy to overthrow canada - russia just had revolution
Borden - he was uncertain - if it was large scale strike - or sinister beginning to a plot to overthrow
Citizens - creates newspaper called the citizen - they called it revolution/overthrow the govt
Increasing tension bw the two sides
Fed govt - unsympathetic to strikers
Arthur Meehan - sent to winnipeg - to confer with committee of 1000
Leaders of strike arrested - for deportation
June 21 1919- march to protest heavy handed govt act - mass demonstration - govt responded
with hurriedly put together police force of sympathizers and RCMP - fired weapons into crowd -
Bloody Satuday - 2 people died - 30 wounded
Strike lasted one more week
Winnipeg went back to work - unions severely weakened - severe effect on unions
1920s difficult decade for labour - bc of strike - and it projected harsh message to strikers - that
they are not loyal
Winnipeg commission - realized it wasnt conspiracy of communism
Justice minister Arthur Meighen - picture - he became PM
1920-21 and then 1926
Succeeded Borden - retired in 1920 - he didn’t want Meighen to succeed him - he was good
orator - but thought he was narrow minded and mean spirited
He didn’t have ability to compromise and to appreciate what was good about the other side of the
argument - he thought he could rip the libs to shreds - but didn’t think he was right for PM - first
choice turned down the job
Meighen was destined not to serve for a long time
His great rival - who got the best of him - was WLMK - 21 ys in two diff stretches
1921-30, 1935-48
He was born into mid class family
One claim to fame - his GF was William Lyon Mackenzie - rebellion of 1837
He had sense of mission and purpose
And that he would be great reformer
He attended prominent schools - UOFT graduate - Harvard PhD in 1909
The only Canadian PM with a PhD
He became wealthy as labour lawyer and negotiater - great conciliator - took people with diff
views - he was able to work out compromise - no on could do it better
Made large sums of money working in US labour disputes
Not so patriotic as serving on the front
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From that experience - he had good view of US
Ciritics called him the American
Elected to parliament in 1908
Served as minister of labour before defeat of laurier govt in 1911
Ran as a candidate as leader of party in 1917 - almost won - had to do with his loyalty to Laurier -
he opposed conscription - that went over well with French Canadians
1919 - party leader until 1948 - through deression and WW11
Not easy person to generalize
One defining characteristic - he was not charasmatic - wasn’t like MacDonald - wasnt handsome
- he wasn’t a good speaker - He would go in circles and circles - people didn’t knoww aht he was
saying - deliberate - he didn’t want his POV pinned down
He wasnt personally popular - defeated in his own riding
So how could he be PM for 21 yrs - he had great talent for compromise and conciliation
People recognized that
Marvelous political instincts - made right moves at the right time
Kept his party united - exposed weaknesses in conservative party
Good at managing people - had strong willed personalities in cabinet
Borden not good at delegating
He was consistently re elected - libs reped the best option
Cons deeply discredited - associated with war and recession post war - esp. in Quebec- Meighen
King proved to be shrewd politician - figure of national unity
Journalist said of him - king king doesnt tell us a damn thing
Poet said - he sat in the middle and played with string
Journalist said - he divided us least
King said - Pm should not be judged by what he did - but what he prevented
No body did that better than King
In the popular eye - since 1970s - revealed by historian - he was bachelor his whole life - never
had sex with anyone - didn’t have close friends -
Sad story - 1919 won liberal leadership - he walked to next door house - he said I have been
elected leader of lib party and I have no one to share it with
He had such stress
Inclined to unusual things for the time - one - diary - whole life - wrote in it everyday - it was his
Used it to reflect
He wrote down everything - inner thoughts and feelings - most people wouldn’t write the things
Died in 1950 - led specific instructions to destroy it - historians decided to let it get out
They published them in full
He was lonely - it was his best friend
We know he had interest in occult - trying to communicate with dead - Through Joan Patteson -
little table - she would speak to him through people who were already deceased - other PMs and
his mom
He had shrine to his mom - creeped people out
His best friend was dog - named pat - scotty dog - constant companion - 1941 dog died - he
cancelled wartime meeting - he sang to dog as he died
Bronze statue of dog given to him - he got chocked up
Bought an identical dog - and then again
His only hobby other than reading - construct ruined towns - from broken up pieces - would
assemble them into structures
In general - people thought of him as a bit weird
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