The 'First' Dominion

During the inter-war period even innocent reference to the word 'Imperialism' was liable to generate considerable misunderstanding and hostility on the western shores of the Atlantic Ocean.1 It was patently obvious that wide sections of American public opinion were opposed to the idea of colonies but what was less clear was the extent of the hostility to the wider imperial idea. Dominions, colonies, protectorates, names did not matter; many felt that they were evil and needed to be emancipated from the yoke of British rule. The strategies developed by successive governments at Westminster whose intention was to improve this position formed slowly and had doubtful results. There were those on both sides of the Atlantic who tried to understand why the two countries could not reconcile lingering differences on such issues, but they ran the risk of themselves being derided. Prominent among this group was the New York Times. Its position was typified by a question posed by one of its writers in November 1921 about the Monroe Doctrine. First announced by the president of the same name in December 1823, this was surely an imperial document if ever there was one in so much as, in formalizing a policy of resistance to European encroachment of the American continent, it carried a hidden message; the fledgling Republic would not let its continental neighbours threaten its security. As the newspaper now asked was this not also an important principle of British foreign policy, in effect constituting an Anglo-American Doctrine?2 This was developed further in a supplement to the main publication, it being claimed that the idea had only ever worked because British governments had protected its integrity. This, they did, as a result of ties of sentiment 'based upon the principle of racial solidarity'.3 And the modern British Empire was still doing the same: '[Britain] has constantly striven to enlarge her Dominions, not in order to exploit them—it is very doubtful, indeed, whether on balance her possessions yield a profit to the motherland—but in the instinctive desire of reserving the vast and fruitful territories of the New World to the Anglo-Saxon race'. The article's author was clear in his view that had there been an Anglo-American alliance, in 1914 there would have been no German attack. Such a link, it was concluded, was needed more than ever before following the war's conclusion, the warning being made that 'harmony and union will give peace to the world ... disagreement and strife would fill the world with unhappiness and war'.

Could the distrust be overcome in the years ahead or would the mistakes of the past be repeated was therefore the question asked by many. Such warnings fell, for the most part, on resoundingly deaf ears. As one distinguished commentator has noted, the reality was that during the inter-war period 'each country turned inwards to brood upon its own troubles'.4 American isolationism was met with British suspicion, 'the irresponsibles' who displayed 'an almost criminal neglect of Anglo-American relations'. Intellectual debate dimmed while even discussion of commerce, foreign affairs and common issues of international security were conducted in the most guarded of manner. Mutual study of law, cooperation in merchant banking and the success of British film stars in Hollywood remained the most promising avenues for cooperation and future discourse, but there was only so much that these could offer. The most celebrated example of the doubts that existed could be seen in 'War Plan Red', drawn up and approved by the American War Department in 1930 then updated at regular intervals. In the late 1920s, military strategists in Washington had developed plans for a war with Japan (referred to as 'Orange'), Germany ('Black'), Mexico ('Green') and Britain ('Red'). The 'Blue-Red' conflict, it was envisaged, would begin over international trade: 'The war aim of Red in a war with Blue is conceived to be the definite elimination of Blue as an important economic and commercial rival.' The planners anticipated a war 'of long duration' because 'the Red race' is 'more or less phlegmatic' but 'noted for its ability to fight to a finish'.5 Sir Charles Mallet was by no means alone in his warnings that all things connected to trade and commerce were disastrous issues for the two countries to squabble over. This did not prevent the 1930 Hawley-Smoot Tariff becoming law, which precipitated, in turn, a strong Imperial response, guaranteeing that suspicion and hostility endured. While it still proved impossible to agree to a full system of Imperial Preference, at the 1932 Ottawa Conference, there was an acceptance between Britain and the Dominions of a preferential understanding of low tariffs within the Empire and higher tariffs elsewhere.6 Essentially, in return for concessions on the part of the Dominions, the British government agreed to give them 'definite advantages' in the domestic market. For its critics, and there were many of them who engaged in an often bitter debate, Ottawa hampered free trade and placed restrictions on Britain's economic relationship with countries who were not members of the Empire but with whom she had previously maintained very close trade relations.7

These disagreements were watched closely in the United States but, despite Woodrow Wilson's commitment to national self-determination, for the most part political interest in Britain's imperial relationships in the inter-war period was minimal.8 The late-nineteenth century expansion in both countries had excited very little criticism in the other, perhaps because, 'as a partner in the white man's burden the USA was indulgent, in a quite novel degree, to British colonial aspirations'.9 It was after all an American magazine, McClure's, in which Rudyard Kipling first published his 'White Man's Burden'. This understanding, if there was one, changed, however, and with the worsening situation in Europe attempts to influence mainstream American public opinion became increasingly unsubtle; the message was that the British Empire was something to be feared. Typical of such agent provocateurs was Quincy Howe who, according to one critic, saw 'an Englishman under every bed'. He was vocal in his criticisms and sought to deliver them to the widest possible audience. As Time magazine put it, writing in December 1938, since Howe had become editor of 'Simon and Schuster' it had published three books examining the 'massive, muddling, Machiavellian empire of George VI'. The last of these was Robert Briffault's The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, 'the most vehement book of the year' and it was said to be fortunate it would not be published in Britain as 'it consists of 263 pages of denunciation of England and all things English, her politics, smugness, selfishness, morals—even her birth rate'.10

Such sentiments were not confined to the western shores of the Atlantic. In January 1938 the already long-serving American leader Franklin D. Roosevelt had suggested a plan for discussing the underlying tensions that were weakening the international system. Neville Chamberlain was guarded in his response to the 'woolly and dangerous proposals'. Oliver Harvey, watching from within the FO, felt the prime minister was 'temperamentally anti-American' and the proposals ultimately came to nothing, in large part because of his obstructionism; 'it is always best and safest to count on nothing from the Americans but words' as he warned his sister.11 It was not all doom and gloom. The visit of the royal family to the United States in June 1939 had demonstrated the degree to which there was 'an American anglophilia [that] was deeply nostalgic for a romanticized past'. The inspection by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of the British Pavilion, part of New York's World Fair, certainly appears to have been well received. Observers were apparently dazzled by the queen's radiant smile and, no doubt for the purposes of the covering press pack, the king consumed his first hot dog. The trip, despite it having 'no discernible impact on entrenched isolationist sentiment', was deemed a great success as it demonstrated the common democratic ideals that existed.12 It had not succeeded in calming the fears of all and elements within the American public continued to warn of the Imperial menace. Writing in his Survey of International Affairs the celebrated, and often controversial, British historian Arnold Toynbee was well qualified to provide the simplest explanation for this:

American feeling and policy were still governed by past facts which had already become partly or wholly irrelevant to the international situation in which the United States was now actually placed. Perhaps the most powerful of these influences from the past was the fact that over nine per cent of the living generation of white inhabitants of the United States and the ancestors of all of them no longer ago, at the earliest than ten or twelve generations back, had, at some particular moment, deliberately pulled up their roots from ancestral ground in Europe and had crossed the Atlantic in order to start, on the American side of it, a new life free from the unhappy elements in their European heritage.13

The outbreak of war brought with it exacerbated tensions. Writing in October 1939 Douglas Fairbanks Jr., actor, socialite and later to become, at least temporarily, a British commando, offered the friendliest of warnings to Eden. The Dominions secretary was told an argument was being made in the United States that 'Britain is an Imperial autocracy built by plunder and wars—no better for its time than Hitler now'. To counter this he suggested it was imperative for Britain to stress 'the voluntary actions of the free dominions' as part of a strategy of making certain not to appear as 'an Imperial octopus and the more she looks like the mother of an independent but at all times cooperative family the better'. Betraying the American bent for commerce, the conclusion to this long, personal letter was that 'the British government should continue to an even greater extent to regard itself as no more that the "Chairman of the Board" of the British Commonwealth'.14 Roosevelt had privately offered similar advice cautioning the British Ambassador in Washington, Lord Lothian, of how helpful it would be if the British could emphasize their commitment to self-government. Writing to Lord Halifax in December 1939 back in London, the former Philip Kerr repeated the President's message. The suggestion was that the British could point out publicly that the empire-building of earlier centuries had been abandoned and the lesson had been learnt that 'the only foundation for a stable international system was national autonomy'. Chamberlain wrote a marginal comment on the letter rejecting such penance, while the senior figure in the FO, Robert Vansittart, labelled it 'simply lunacy'. 'What jam for German propaganda', he wrote to his secretary of state Halifax, and for all the American isolationists, who, having goaded Britain for cowardice in the past had now 'taken refuge in the pavilion lavatory'.15

The cause for much of this animosity was fear about what it would cost to bring the first Dominion back into the bosom of the relationship. Frank Ashton-Gwatkin, head of economic relations within the FO had paid a six week visit to the United States the year before the war had started. His observations led him to conclude that the most that could be counted on from the other side of the Atlantic in the event of another war was 'pacific benevolence' leading to possible eventual participation if the conflict was prolonged. This certainly seemed a fair reflection of a country where a sense of isolationism so clearly reigned, both in the Congress and the national mood.16 There were also concerns about American rivalry over air routes which had long existed in both London and Wellington and the inter-war struggle for control of air communications was often fraught.

There was lingering resentment about the Ottawa agreements and the resulting system of Imperial Preference which continued to exclude American products from Australian and New Zealand markets and annoyed many in Washington. There were also the American claims that had been made on a number of islands in the Pacific under British and New Zealand jurisdiction.17

Chamberlain himself was wary of the cost of American support, writing to his sister in January 1940, 'heaven knows I don't want the Americans to fight for us—we should have to pay too dearly for that if they had a right to be in on the peace terms—but if they are so sympathetic they might at least refrain from hampering our efforts and comforting our foes'.18

Trading practices caused a great deal of anxiety in these early wartime months and Lothian was largely responsible for helping to smooth over problems as they emerged. Indeed it has been reiterated only recently the degree to which he was 'the nexus of the Anglo-American relationship' proscribing better understanding between the two countries, the FO's response being based largely on his informed judgements.19 Continuing British efforts to wage economic warfare against Germany—which entailed a reduction in purchases of some American goods and the introduction of a blockade—engendered a good deal of enmity in Washington.20 The British financial position was, in fact, certainly at this stage, the critical issue of the war. Even before the first German troops had crossed into Poland the situation facing the British Exchequer was dire. The pressure placed on the pound during 1939 alone reduced Britain's war chest of gold and foreign securities by at least one-quarter.21 The undertaking of a rapid rearmament programme begun after the Munich settlement had placed further strains on resources, and the situation was only likely to get worse.22 And as an internal memorandum prepared by the Treasury had concluded two months before the war's eventual start, unless the United States was prepared either to lend or give money as required, the prospects for a long war were 'exceedingly grim'.23

The State Department had envisaged that Hitler would follow his rapid destruction of Poland with an equally devastating assault on the Western Front and an inevitable defeat of the Allies. The opposite happened, and the 'Phoney War' helped ensure that there remained virtually no enthusiasm among the American public, and therefore its politicians, for any action beyond selling arms and equipment to those countries which might want them. The Sumner Welles mission came and went with little to be said for it other than the State Department representative formed a strong aversion to Churchill, whom he later told Roosevelt he believed to have been drunk throughout their two hour meeting; much the same tale was given by the American Ambassador in London, Joseph Kennedy.24 There remained little chance of any direct intervention from the United States, at least until the November 1940 presidential elections had been decided. Indeed Lothian's reports, condemned as anti-imperialist by the colonial secretary in London, talked of pessimism and a growing lack of belief that Britain and its Empire could prevail.25

At the end of February 1940 Lothian posed an interesting question to Halifax: was the British government contemplating a re-summoning of the old Imperial War Cabinet? He believed that 'the more the Empire aspect of the war can be visibly represented the better from the American point of view'. As the ambassador told London, the reconstruction of the Imperial War Cabinet would help to strengthen the argument that the Allies were fighting for the freedom of small nations. He could not see any sense of suspicion or antipathy to be found towards the Dominions in America and, as he continued, if his hosts were ever going to come out of isolation and provide greater assistance 'she would be far more likely to do so if the proposal is to cooperate with a British commonwealth of free nations all of whom are obviously taking a hand in formulating policy and wartime decisions than with a Britain which would seem once more to be bossing the show'. At the DO there was little enthusiasm for the suggestion. In a lengthy, and often insightful, minute 'constitutional difficulties' were highlighted which would most likely result from any attempt to 'suggest the power of decision should be entrusted to the United Kingdom War Cabinet'. As such 'anything in the nature of a super-Cabinet ... would be unacceptable and would, indeed meet with strong opposition'.26

The significance of the personal relationship that existed between Churchill and Roosevelt has been closely examined. The British capitulation at Munich was the greatest handicap in many American eyes and Chamberlain was at the head of the group of those who were held to be accountable. Churchill was not in this category, and had the added advantage of being half American; his mother Jennie Jerome was an American heiress.27 This did not mean that the relationship between the two was immediately bedecked with intimacy despite the prime minister's subsequent assertion that 'no lover ever studied every whim of his mistress as I did those of President Roosevelt'.28 For much of the inter-war period he and the American leader were not friends nor were they political compatriots. Indeed they had met only once, an encounter in London in 1918 that Churchill completely forgot and his counterpart 'remembered with distaste'.29 In the years that followed the American was, however, keenly aware of the other's reputation as a staunch opponent of Nazism and this appeared to help overcome his initial reservations as the Anglo-Dominion position grew worse through the dark days of Hitler's crushing of European opposition.

By autumn 1940 Britain's dollar reserves were exhausted and as the United States continued to show few signs of offering any credit disaster appeared to loom. A September deal had given the Admiralty 50 old American destroyers of doubtful military value, in return for which Roosevelt gained the long-term mortgage for a raft of prime British real estate scattered around the Empire, and a guarantee that the Royal Navy would never be surrendered to the Germans.30 This was only a relative success. The defeated French government had placed its gold reserves in storage in Canada but British attempts to use this as collateral for further purchases had floundered on Mackenzie King's discomfort over such an act. Negotiations with the Dutch and Belgian governments-in-exile to use the remainder of the monies and commodities that had been rescued with them as they fled the Continent had also proven unsuccessful as the repayment terms demanded were considered to be too onerous. And it soon got worse. The American Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. had requested a complete list of British holdings in the Western Hemisphere, differentiated according to liquidity. When Roosevelt was shown the list, he remarked, 'Well, they aren't bust, there's lots of money there.' He therefore now advised the British authorities that he had arranged for an American destroyer to sail for South Africa to arrange the transfer of some of the United Kingdom's gold held there. It was recognized that this would be virtually the last of the gold reserves available but it was also understood that there was no choice other than to acquiesce to the president's decision. Whitehall's embarrassment was all too apparent, it even being suggested that General Smuts not be told why the destroyer was visiting.31

Within the DO the importance of the United States was entirely recognized by Cranborne who also held that the authorities in Washington were the only ones who could deter Japan and protect the British Empire's position in the Far East.32 He had his concerns about the extent of the relationship, however, and these drew heavily upon his knowledge of the Dominions' thinking on the matter. On the one hand there was the New Zealand high commissioner in London raging about 'toadying to a power which only acted in accordance with its own selfish and commercial interests'.33 On the other was Canada which, even before the signing of the Ogdensburg Agreement between Mackenzie King and Roosevelt in August 1940, was recognized within Whitehall, albeit reluctantly in some quarters, as enjoying a special relationship with the Washington administration.34 In light of its geography, history and culture, the fact that Canada should feel close to its southern neighbour can be seen today as not surprising; at the time it caused some confusion within Whitehall's more obstreperous clique. Generally speaking, as one astute commentator put it just weeks after the outbreak of war, the American-Dominions relationship would always be complicated.35 This was because the Dominions were at the same time 'both jealous and contra-wise' admirers of all things American. They recognized that securing the support of the authorities in Washington was a prerequisite to winning the war and consequently they campaigned hard for closer links.36

In November 1940 Roosevelt had won the presidential election and with it came—in response to a lengthy and pointed plea from Churchill—a greater degree of confidence to provide some measure of succour. By the spring of the following year he was in a more sympathetic mood, 'We have been milking the British financial cow, which had plenty of milk at one time, but which has now about become dry.'37 The Lend-Lease Act, pushed through Congress in the first two months of 1941 and signed into law in March saved the day in so much as it did away with the cash-and-carry policy which had obliged the British authorities to pay for all of its supplies bought in the United States in hard currency. Before its agreement Halifax had been given an ultimatum. The British must sell one of their important companies in the next week as a mark of good faith; a major subsidiary of Courtaulds was consequently sold at a knock-down price.38 Here was the visible demonstration of the price of salvation, what was left of Britain's economic strength. According to one of those present the promise given by Harry Hopkins, the president's emissary, that he would tell Roosevelt upon his return that the United States should unconditionally support the British invoked tears in the famously lachrymose British leader and 'seemed like a rope thrown to a drowning man'.39 According to one American reviewer US support for Britain's war effort was 'a knife to open that oyster shell, the Empire'.40 There also remained those in Washington who saw the proposed facilities as a device that would be used by the British to sustain exports in the face of American competition; essentially having been supplied with raw materials and components free of charge these would then be sold in the global export markets.41 This rather seemed to overlook the fact that the subsequent German attack against the Soviet Union should, if any further evidence were still needed, have amply demonstrated the enduring nature of Hitler's expansionist plans.

Roosevelt's financial promise was well received despite its apparently reserved nature. According to Cuthbert Headlam, Conservative MP for the safe seat of Newcastle North, the Americans were 'a quaint lot', prepared to do everything 'as their share in the war for democracy' but fight.42 The Dominions, however, were often kept deliberately on the fringes of these discussions as they gained momentum throughout 1941, making them especially wary of the longer-term implications both for them individually and for the alliance.43 This distance was in large part because the United States preferred to deal just with one set of negotiators, but there was also a desire by the British government to retain ultimate control of the distribution of loaned materials.44 Although arrangements ultimately improved, the minimal access initially given to the newly available equipment left the Dominions angry at the DO for 'not pressing their case hard enough'.45 As Cranborne had campaigned especially hard for them to be included, such criticism was unfair.46 It is however clear that the lack of involvement in the first instance ensured that there was a subsequent reluctance to demonstrate any great enthusiasm for the Lend-Lease scheme. The view took hold that this economic entanglement would quite likely have potentially onerous consequences for post-war economic policy, most obviously because of an almost inevitable attack by the American government on the system of Imperial Preference.47 As Cranborne argued, in a note written to the Chancellor in August 1941, 'it is plain that for some of the Dominions ... the abandonment of [this system], without compensating advantages which are not yet in sight, would at their present stage of development spell economic disaster'.48 Despite subsequent criticisms of the degree to which he sought to encourage the relationship, even Churchill was not entirely blind to this danger and what it would mean for the future of the British Empire. But there was little else he felt could be done by this stage of the war.49

A considerable amount of squabbling followed over the exact provisions of the agreement and what they meant for each of the Dominions. The ordering and distribution of essential supplies for the Anglo-Dominion alliance had been handled in a variety of ways. Canada had, from the outset, been an exception to the rules as it was a dollar country and had its own arrangements with the United States, a provision which proved of great value not just for it but also for Britain who took full advantage of this route of purchase. The remainder of the Dominions—and indeed India and the Colonies—placed all orders for warlike stores, meaning weapons and munitions for fighting forces, through the British Purchasing Commission. The WO, in turn, was responsible for distributing these purchases based upon the appreciations of strategic necessity supplied by the General Staff. This arrangement had been put to the Dominions at the start of the war and they had agreed; for the first few years it proved a working solution but with occasional distresses. Up until April 1941 all non-warlike stores bought in the United States were again handled by Britain as the provider of dollar exchange or gold required to pay for them and at every opportunity it remained keen to limit spending. Lend-Lease brought with it a request from Washington that a similar system be maintained with all Empire needs being coordinated before submission into a single channel. Global requirements were accumulated and processed in London and Dominion supply representatives joined the Purchasing Commission. This system worked for the first few months but it soon became known in London that Casey, the Australian representative in Washington, was agitating that each Dominion should have direct dealings. The American authorities, perhaps pleased at what they saw as signs of growing agitation, seemed only too pleased to assist. According to Arthur Purvis, the head of the British mission, the degree to which the Dominions wished to make themselves involved was 'making the waters rather muddy' in Washington. His view was that the Dominions could not hope to gain either the same access to goods or the same repayment terms because the American public held no 'emotional sympathy' for them.50 This led the DO to comment that it would be 'intolerable' if 'Dominion machinations' were found to be to blame for the trouble.51 And by December 1941 it was now being made quite clear by the Americans themselves that the Dominions' belief that they 'could get practically anything under Lend-Lease' was a 'misunderstanding'.52

To some perhaps less than objective writers in Britain it was never in doubt that the US would help, an article in the Empire Review in February 1941 being typical of such sentiment: 'American ideals and interests are as deeply involved as are those of Britain in the threat of Nazi domination. If Britain goes under the United States faces the loss of the most important single source of her strategic raw materials, her overseas trade and investment, the ruin of her prosperity and the end of her traditional way of living and thinking. A war to decide the fate of the British Empire cannot, therefore, be a matter of indifference to America.'53 Watching from his vantage point in Canada House, which he used to augment the information he gained from his many connections within British society, Charles Ritchie was probably more accurate with his assessment. As he wrote in his sometime scandalous diary: 'How the English hate being rescued by the Americans. They know they must swallow it, but God how it sticks in their throats. The Americans are thoroughly justified in their suspicions of the English, and the English I think are justified in their belief that they are superior to the Americans. They have still the steadiness, stoicism and self-discipline that make for a ruling race, but what will these qualities avail them if the tide of history and economics has turned against them?'54

The Atlantic Charter was another challenge, a 'flop' that went down like a proverbial lead balloon in London and in large parts of the Empire but its significance in terms of Anglo-American relations and the position of the British Empire was undoubtedly greater than any of the British delegation could ever have imagined.55 Welles, in competition with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, had been a leading force behind the idea of producing a joint declaration in which Imperial Preference would be violently censured. The actual proposal for the Charter was apparently sprung upon Churchill on the opening day of the conference by his host. Despite the leading role Sir Alexander Cadogan played in drafting the final document, it lacked any significant oversight by the Whitehall mandarins who specialized in dissecting such agreements.56 Oliver Harvey noted in his diary that Eden 'feels FDR had bowled the PM a very quick one'.57 The cricketing metaphor would have been lost on the American hosts; as would become more apparent later the Charter was in fact more akin to a 'Beanball thrown to cause the opposition injury for it certainly had a considerable negative impact on the British imperial position. Article 3, which affirmed that the two governments 'respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live', was 'perhaps the most explosive principle of all'.58 Churchill told the Cabinet following his return that he believed this referred to 'the restoration of the sovereignty, self-government and national life of the States and nations of Europe now under the Nazi yoke'. What it definitely did not refer to was the position of any of the many subject peoples of the British Crown. Roosevelt apparently, however, saw it as much more than just this, his understanding being that the specific promise outlined in the third article 'applied to all humanity'.59

Writers such as Viscount Samuel were able to gloss over the question of what the United States was actually trying to achieve during the meeting held at Placentia Bay off the Newfoundland coast in August 1941, arguing that the finer details were something to be examined at a later stage, part of a process which it was inferred would take a very long time to complete.60 Others preferred to focus on the wider economic aspects of the document, and what was seen as the abandonment of the restrictions of Ottawa and the embracing of a more open, advantageous and international system of post-war trade.61 Upon reading the newspaper accounts of the signing Leopold Amery, who was eminently well qualified after a lifetime considering such issues to quote on the long-term implications, rued 'we shall no doubt pay dearly in the end for the fluffy flapdoodle'.62 His assessment was both the most alarming but also the most astute. Headlam retained a broadly similar outlook with the formal announcement of the Atlantic Charter. This was an 'eight point pronouncement' that was 'somewhat vague and woolly in character' and was likely intended for an American audience who would be 'tickled'. His conclusion though was that Britain's hoped for allies were 'a strange and unpleasing people: it is a nuisance that we are so dependent on them'.63 As has been seen, the Dominion governments had been given only the vaguest of indications of what was proposed.64 This led the DO to complain, 'so long as [they] are kept in the dark, they are apt to misconstrue the reasons for our actions . and to suspect us of ulterior motives which, apart perhaps from our wish to ensure absolute secrecy about future plans and operations, do not exist'.65

Throughout 1941 the United States edged towards war with the extension of its naval operations east of Iceland and the eventual final repeal of the most significant remaining provisions of the Neutrality Act. By this stage all bar the most myopic of isolationists recognized that the Roosevelt administration would at some stage soon become a wartime government. As Halifax confided to Amery in May 1941, 'the defeatists and non-interventionists are working very hard'. Later that month, after a visit to the Middle West, he was more optimistic that there was considerable support for a policy of supporting Britain, and that the isolationists were not so strong 'as so many people from a distance think'.66 In August 1941 Hugh Dalton had been told that Roosevelt was 'a sick man and more and more with the mentality of an Emperor'. His source also claimed that although Halifax was now getting on better with the President, he had broken down and wept in front of him only a short time after his arrival 'because he couldn't get on with these Americans'.67 In November of that same year Halifax was attacked by egg and tomato throwing demonstrators as he entered the chancery of Archbishop Edward Mooney in Detroit. He compared working with American government departments to being like 'a disorderly day's rabbit shooting'. 'Nothing comes out where you expect and you are much discouraged. And then, suddenly something emerges quite unexpectedly at the far end of the field'.68 John Maynard Keynes, a regular visitor to Washington as he conducted the complicated financial negotiations, also characterized American officials as 'flying confusedly about like bees, in no ascertainable direction, bearing with them both the menace of the sting and the promise of honey'.69 What remained to be confirmed was the exact manner in which this would take place. The President and his aides were reading intercepted Japanese intelligence and knew that in November 1941 the Nazi Foreign Minister Ribbentrop had agreed that in the event of war involving America, Germany and Japan would be in it together. Even so Hitler spared Roosevelt a tricky political manoeuvre by choosing to declare war on the United States following the Pearl Harbor attack.70

During the war Professor Keith Hancock, considered by one of the greatest modern historians of the British Empire and Commonwealth as 'the greatest', wrote a small volume entitled Argument of Empire.71 Having previously produced the still authoritativeSurvey of British Commonwealth Affairs, he wrote as an Australian who had spent a great deal of time working and living in Britain which made him both enamoured of the way of life he had experienced but also aware of its foibles and follies. His credentials were impeccable and he used these to attack the growing American anti-colonialism stance. Published in 1943 on flimsy wartime paper, it began:

It is difficult to conduct an argument across the Atlantic. John Bull wakes up one morning to read newspaper headlines which give him the impression that Americans are making the liquidation of the British Empire one of their war aims. John Bull growls that it's like their cool cheek and that he won't let go. John Bull's growl is cabled across the Atlantic and served up to the American citizen in bigger headlines. The American citizen gets excited and declares that John Bull is a reactionary imperialist and American boys aren't fighting for anybody's old empire but for a brave new world.72

Some 75,000 copies of the first run were rapidly sold, the readers being urged to 'pay attention' to the rich tapestry of ideas and examples he employed to support his premise that the British Empire might not be entirely perfect but it remained a progressive force in world affairs, and the two sides needed to cooperate much more in the future. Nonetheless, as he wrote privately to a friend at about the same time as his book was finished: 'There are of course some features of American life which are, in my view, a menace. There is crudity in American big business as well as in some methods of American thought and discussion. In this crudity there are elements of brutality, vulgarity and naïveté'.73 It would be features such as these that would present the greatest of challenges to the cohesion of the Anglo-Dominion alliance as it entered its next crucial wartime phase.

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