Address to Canadians


By WENDELL L. WILLKIE, Presidential Candidate of the Republican Party in 1940

Delivered in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, March 24, 1941

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 408-410.

MR. KING, people of Canada: I thank your Prime Minister much for his gracious words of introduction this evening. The leaders of democracies, whether in the United States, or in Canada, or in Britain, today, carry a heavy burden.

We have cast upon them the burden of the leadership to save liberty, and the least that one individual such as I can do is to uphold the hands of those leaders in this critical hour.

Recently when I was talking with the President of the United States I told him very frankly—and I will say the same to your Prime Minister tonight—that part of my objective in joining in the saving of liberty is that I may, at a later date, dispute with these gentlemen about less important questions.

I come tonight to speak to you as a citizen of the United States, not as the representative of any government or party.

Under the political system of many democracies, a defeated candidate for the highest office occupies a position of responsibility in the administration of government or in the leadership of the minority in legislative debate or as the formally elected head of his party.

In the United States, by custom and under our constitutional system, he occupies none of these positions. He is but a private citizen exercising such influence as his words may convey or as his fellow-citizens may accord him.

I come, however, not only with personal good-will—which I imagine all speakers from my country bring to you—but with tangible evidence of the good-will of my fellow countrymen. For I bring with me from the Linen Trade Association of the United States a check for $20,200 with which to purchase a Spitfire airplane for Britain.

When the Linen Trade Association read in the public press that I was to take part in this ceremony tonight, they asked me to bring this check and give it to you, the people of Canada, on this occasion.

I present it now to your Prime Minister, the Hon. Mackenzie King, on their behalf, as a symbol—and some substance—of the interest which the people of my country have in the successful outcome of the war.

A Token of Friendship

This gift to the Wings for Britain, I might add, seems to me an indication not only of our admiration for yourgreat war effort but also an appreciation of the easy good friendship that has grown up between us.

John MacCormac, former Canadian correspondent of The New York Times in his recent lively analysis of Canada and the United States, pointed out that the Canadian in dress, manner and social customs, is almost more at home with a Yankee than with a Briton:

"Given almost any provocation"—I am quoting him—"he will discard his waistcoat, which he knows as a vest. He drinks more rye than Scotch, more hard liquor than wine, likes two crusts on his pies, and dislikes Brussels sprouts and boiled puddings. If you prick him he will not only bleed like an American but swear like one. He prefers baseball to cricket, likes his football rough, shoots golf at par instead of bogey."

All of this may be a little exaggerated, but it indicates the same liking for us and our ways that we have for you and yours. That is what pleases us.

Many of us have read George Wrong's fine history of Canada with appreciation and have gained from it a better understanding.

I have traveled widely in Canada, in the French Provinces, in mid-Canada and in the Far West—incidentally, with us a Westerner is a Westerner, whether he comes from Alberta or Oregon. And I have been in every State of the United States—as you may have read. It didn't do me any good.

Nowhere, in either country, have I ever heard the people of the other referred to as "foreigners." We don't think of each other that way.

It is because of this genuine mutual friendliness—not a matter of government propaganda but an instinct of people who have come to know, respect and like one another, that I am glad to be here tonight.

Unity in Fight Against Nazism

I am honored to be able to participate in the launching of this drive. I have seen with my own eyes the faithful courageous work of your organizations in the bombed and shattered cities, the army camps and hospitals of our common mother country as she fights so gallantly and steadfastly to preserve the front line of liberty—our common heritage and present possession.

We who are behind that front line know that in that battle is not only England's hope and our hope but the hope of millions of men and women in France, Poland, Holland and Norway, and in all the other captured countries of Europe.

And as information gradually trickles through the wall of censorship we learn that millions more in Germany and Italy pray nightly that there may be somehow lifted from them the curse of totalitarian enslavement.

We in the United States, I am proud to say, have now with only a few dissenting voices, pledged ourselves to help remove that curse from effective leadership in world affairs. And we have made this resolution not for academic or sentimental reasons but for very hard-headed and practical ones.

We know that our way of life—the right of men to be free in their civil, religious and cultural life, to aspire and to achieve without the control of an all-powerful government—we know that that way of life cannot survive in a world where nazism reigns supreme.

We also know that the well-being, the standard of living and the very liberty of our people is inescapably dependent upon large areas in this world where men of all nations made trade by economic laws and the rules of commerce and not by the mandates of military-minded dictators.

We know, too, that democracy thrives when the areas of liberty are expanding and dies when they are contracting.

Joint Effort for Victory

The citizens of my country who come to visit your country speak of our unfortified borders, of the wide prevalence of a common language, of a cultural life which has many similar aspects. Those are invaluable joint assets.

Tonight, however, I acclaim not these but our present union of purpose, by our respective methods, to provide Britain with the necessary aid to preserve freedom's front.

We, on our side of the line, are going to provide ships to carry food and munitions to our beleaguered brethren. We are gearing our great production facilities to the making of airplanes to give them eventual superiority in the air. Our arsenals are forging the guns to blast away the truculence of boastful war lords.

I want to say to you, if I learned one thing in Britain, it is that one of the keys to our victory depends upon the people of Canada, the people of the United States supplying more and more ships.

They must do this so that they may keep that northern lung breathing until Canada and the United States and England together can build such an air force as to have such supremacy in the air that this devastation and destruction will come to an end.

I plead with you, citizens of Canada, I plead with my fellow countrymen across the border, give every ship, give more than every ship that is free and unnecessary, give ships until it hurts, keep them going, keep them going, and victory, then, is sure.

As in the last war, you are doing your part brilliantly and courageously with men and material. Your aviators are a part of the Royal Air Force whose intrepid gallantry is writing an heroic epic which will be told for centuries in song and story.

Your training crews and mechanics are contributing immeasurably to one of the supreme necessities of this war—superiority in the air. Your wheat fields and cattle ranges are providing all-important food. And you, the people of Canada, of your own volition are fighting side by side with British soldiers on a dozen fronts.

We are confident that, with the help of our joint efforts, England will win.

Democracy-Saving Peace

But all of us, Englishmen, Canadians and citizens of the United States, know that it is not enough merely to win—we now know that we must do much more and in many ways much less than that.

We must, when this war ends, have a peace not written in hate or reprisal or in terms of territorial aggrandizement or imperialistic designs. It must be a peace in a spirit of intelligent, mutual helpfulness and good-will.

For a military victory alone will not save the democratic system. Democracy, as a way of life, is competing with various totalitarian ways of life. And democracy will win only if it works better than they do.

Within the last few months I have had the unusual privilege of talking to the citizens and political leaders of England, of Portugal, of Canada, of the United States and also of persons recently returned from discussion with the people of Germany and France and Italy.

All of them, with rare unanimity, agree that the trade restrictions and barriers, the unpayable indemnities, the arbitrary redrawing of boundaries, the moral degradation imposed by the Versailles Treaty of Peace—somehow produced the present Frankenstein of nazism and war.

They likewise know that from 1919 to 1939 a sterile and unimaginative political leadership among all of us—a leadership constantly living on the catch-phrases and half-truths of outmoded nationalism and promoted economic hates—failed to cooperate to create international monetary standards, enlarged trade areas and world economic recovery which could have corrected the errors of the treaty and saved the world from its present unspeakable mess.

Envisaging New World Now

Civilization cannot afford such another mistake. We must begin now to shape in our minds the kind of world we want. We must not await the war's end to make these purposes clear.

For then some men will feel the gloat of victory, and others the bitterness of defeat; demagogues will capitalize the passions of the people and the greedy grasping of some will teach only an immediate material advantage; and super-patriots among us all again will shout the shibboleths of nationalism and isolation.

We must have the imagination to dare and the vision to see that from such cataclysms as we are experiencing today, great ventures are possible. My own beloved country, with its priceless tradition of liberty, was born and grew to life in similar period.

And we can, if we have the will, convert what seems to be the deathrattle of our time into the birth pains of a new and better order.

The conquered countries of Europe must be restored to liberty. Czecho-Slovakia, Poland, Holland, Belgium and Norway must live again, vitally as part of a larger world of trade, not contracted into arid economic units.

China should be saved from aggression and permitted to go forward on the path of the new China with her enormous possibilities of trade within herself and with the rest of the world.

Nazism and all it means as a menace to liberty must and shall be eradicated utterly and its leaders driven from power. But we must not again lock 80,000,000 people in a prison wall of trade limits and economic degradation to spawn brutality, racial intolerance and war.

And above all, the British Commonwealth of Nations and the United States must join together in eliminating their own trade barriers and obstructions. And each must work to end within itself its political, economic and social maladjustments.

Thus we can, if we will, create a world in which the standard of living of all men who work will rise; in which the urge of enterprise will bear its rich and ripening fruit to be more equitably enjoyed by all.

We have the opportunity of the ages. Canada, England and the United States are today of one purpose. May we remain joined tomorrow for this nobler purpose.

Extent of Totalitarian Threat

I do not know—because I am not acquainted with details of the situation—whether you have among you some people who think that the totalitarian powers can crush Britain and we in the United States and you in Canada can then still preserve liberty.

If there be any such person in this great audience, or anybody who is listening in over this radio that thus believes—if I have any powers of persuasion I hope I can reach them now. If Nazism conquers Britain, it means the whole Continent of Europe, of Africa, and, with the help of Japan, a substantial part of Asia will be ruined by that Nazism.

It means with their fifth column they will begin to invade, at least with ideas, South America.

Now as much as I love the United States and admire Canada, and know the great strength that exists behind the two of them, we cannot possibly, under such circumstances, in North America preserve liberty.

We would become an armed camp, spending most of our substance in the development of navies and armies and airforces. We would have to move to a totalitarian form of trading in order to trade with the rest of the world.

And those people who believe that must want to tear up the records in the history books, because no idea such as democracy has ever survived where is becomes a contracting doctrine.

Democracy, in order to live, must be expanding, must seek new areas to move into in order to live.

People of Canada, people of the United States, in helping Britain, of course, we are helping those brave fighting men, but we are also helping ourselves.

Now you of course, in Canada, who are raising the $5,500,000 you are contributing, of course, to the protection of liberty and of yourselves. Of course you are going to raise it.

But do you not understand that every time we accomplish something, either in the United States or Canada, quick and unanimously, and with enthusiasm, every struggling man in Britain takes new cheer, and every Nazi leader gets a chill?

I am not here to help you raise the money, I am here to urge you to raise it promptly, quickly, dynamically, overwhelmingly.

Fill this chest, quickly, unto overflowing. Then, as I say, those men in Britain I saw, those men in those cities, where the bombs rain, will take new cheer, will fight a little harder, and Hitler and his gang will drop back a little more.

Fill her up, please, fill her at once to overflowing, and thank you very much!