Lecture 18: 11/16/10
Meighen (1920-21) Coolidge
King (1921-26) Hoover
Meighen (1921) FDR (1933-45)
King (1926-30) New Deal
Mackenzie King was the lucky beneficiary of the politics of the 1 World War
-In politics, it’s impossible to maintain a high level of tension for long periods – the
great sacrifices of the war gave way to the roaring 20s (irresponsibility). The politics
of the war could not last. King is very lucky in his timing.
-In 1917, Borden did not accept King as a participant in his coalition. King was a
Laurier liberal – this got him the candidacy in 1920
-King was 47 when he became Prime Minister
-King was a trained economist. Did this give him insight into economic phenomena?
His dodge of economics did not seem to help. For the most part, he did not get
deeply involved into economic questions unless he had to.
-Norman Ward wrote an essay on how desirable it is to have bachelors as leaders –
no distractions. He had acquaintances but not much of a social life.
-King: deep eccentricity
-What did the ghosts tell King? They told him what he wanted to hear.
Communication with the beyond usually produced information that was not at all
surprising and usually bore on some question that was worrying King at the time; he
personalized this by attributing answers to the beyond.
-Dreams: if you go to Laurier house, volumes of Freud are in King’s library. His
apparitions are friendly and usually British.
-Mackenzie King as a British-Canadian
-Sir Wilfred Laurier visited him often in his dreams. Laurier was allowed a little more
latitude than the other ghosts. One dream in the early 1940s, Laurier appears in
long red underwear and reproaches King for not learning French. Sometimes the
dreams involve living people: Hitler (1940s, King dreams he is having tea with Hitler
and all of a sudden Hitler throws over the tea table and starts painting the walls.
What does it mean? Canada should have a social security system.)
-Did the spirits ever mislead him? Yes. Hitler invaded Poland; Britain declares war
on Germany, etc. King has a session about this where William Lyon Mackenzie (his
grandfather) tells him Hitler is going to be assassinated.
-The first American ghost to appear in Franklin D. Roosevelt (who dies in 1945) and
becomes a regular at Mackenzie King’s tea parties.
-Conclusion: odd people can still be good Prime Ministers.
-We are in a period of political alteration
-King is leader of the Liberal party – a coalition of western farmers and Quebec.
Liberals were not strong in Ontario under King.
-Meighen is someone who terrified Mackenzie King, but did not have the political
skills to defeat King.
-Meighen is dumped and replaced with R.B. Bennett who is highly intelligent and
work-a-holic. He turned out to be the man who defeated King. -King was furious. People were struck at how surprised and enraged he was. He was
lucky, however. R.B. Bennett had become Prime Minister just as the Great
Depression was hitting hardest.
-R.B. Bennett was a very dominant man. Eventually, Bennett’s addiction to work
takes its toll on him and towards the end of his tenure he was sickly.
-In this period, there are two depressions. One is the anti-climax of the war – trade
falls, unemployment goes up, GDP goes down. The depression of 1921 was severe.
If you were unemployed, you relied on charity.
-The severe depression explains Mackenzie King’s victory in 1921 – but he had no
idea how to solve the depression. Lucky for him, Canada slowly made its way out of
the depression and towards a boom in 1926. King’s main endeavor was to pay off
the debt of WWI. He wanted to maintain the national government’s income taxes.
But, of course, it now had to pay off the war. What we see is the national
government steadily paying down the national debt. The fact that the federal
government had income taxes offended the provinces that argued they had the sole
right to collect income taxes.
-Various forms of public investment (a huge amount of money was being spent on
this in the 1920s). Example: high schools with swimming pools, etc.
-The Maritimes are not doing well at all – they did well in WWI – but after the war,