Wednesday, May 9, 2012

CP Stacey on the tardy American entry into the First World War

C.P. Stacey is a giant among Canadian military historians, and rightfully so.  Having penned the official histories of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, and innumerable works on the Canadian armed forces, his impressive oeuvre speaks for itself.  One would not expect Stacey to share the common knee-jerk anti-Americanism that is so wrapped up in Canadian identity.  In Canada and the Age of Conflict. Stacey's sober analysis notes that in 1903, the Alaska boundary dispute sowed seeds of distrust for Americans which may have played a role in Canadian rejection of the Liberal's 1911 reciprocity plank.  Stacey notes that the First World War did little to warm Canadian-American relations, and uses a autobiographical anecdote to prove his point:

Toronto Normal School. 1911? 
William Jame Fonds 1244, Item 1702
City of Toronto Archives
"In the school year 1918-19 the writer was in the top form of the Normal Model School in Toronto.  One of our academic exercises was known as 'oral composition'.  A classmate of mine took as his topic 'The United States in the War'.  My recollection is that it was a pretty scarifying presentation, and that it was universally acclaimed.  I remember specifically one point, the story with which the boy ended.  It concerned General Pershing in Paris.

General John J. Pershing. General Headquarters

 Chaumont, France., 10/19/1918. NARA.

The general, it seems, called a taxi, and it did not arrive quite on time.  When it did arrive, Pershing protested to the driver, who was a female: 'My good woman, you're three minutes late.' And the lady replied, 'My good man, you're three years late.' We twelve-year-olds thought that a sparkling piece of repartee; and I am sure that in this we were fairly representative Canadians of that day." (Stacey, 1977, p.234)

Stacey seems little effected in the long run by his peer's anti-American rhetoric.  The scholar earned his PhD in Princeton, and lectured there from 1933-1940.

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