I first read Canada 1911: The Decisive Election That Shaped the Country by Patrice Dutil and David MacKenzie while researching my WWI Trilogy. Although 1911 is prior to the Great War, the results of that year’s federal election were felt for years.
The federal election of 1911 is one of the dirtiest in Canadian history. (The dirtiest designation belonging to the 1917 election.) The campaign was filled with rhetoric, mudslinging and fear mongering.
The issue at stake was reciprocity, free trade with the United States. Canada had been trying to establish a reciprocity agreement for years, but it was always voted down in the U.S. Senate. This time, the American government was eager to establish free trade, while Canada had the stronger position. Opponents said reciprocity harmed industry and would eventually lead to annexation to the United States.
In addition, Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier was accused of being either too imperialist or not imperialist enough, depending on who was attacking him.
When the electorate went to the polls, reciprocity was voted down and Laurier lost his position.
The Liberals may have been damaged by a speech given by U.S. Speaker of the House, Champ Clark, who declared the American flag would soon be flying throughout Canada.
One hundred years ago, Canadians went to the polls to decide the fate of their country in an election that raised issues vital to Canada’s national independence and its place in the world. Canadians faced a clear choice between free trade with the United States and fidelity to the British Empire, and the decisions they made in September 1911 helped shape Canada’s political and economic history for the rest of the century. Canada 1911 revisits and re-examines this momentous turn in Canadian history, when Canadians truly found themselves at a parting of the ways. It was Canada’s first great modern election and one of the first expressions of the birth of modern Canada. The poet Rudyard Kipling famously wrote at the time that this election was nothing less than a fight for Canada’s soul. This book will explain why.
(Source: The Publisher)
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys political history.
I also highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to learn more about Canadian history and what makes Canada Canada.
Have you read Canada 1911? What did you think of it?
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