Lectures From an Alternate Timeline Where Teddy Roosevelt is Elected President Again in 1912

Original posts are at: https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/dbwi-teddy-roosevelt-isn’t-elected-president-in-1912.530992/



Welcome to all of you here today for our lecture on The Ramifications of Theodore Roosevelt’s Third Term 1913-1917 at Harvard University’s Theodore Roosevelt School of Government, as well as those of you viewing remotely, and if I’m doing my job to you future scholars viewing this archived record for my brilliant insights into our 26th and 29th President. Why do people always laugh when I say that?

This is the last of lectures on President Roosevelt celebrating the centennial of this School’s establishment. I have reviewed the excellent presentations by my two colleagues, and will endeavor not to go over the areas they have already covered so well. The focus today will be on TR’s 3rd term and 2nd post-Presidency. . . .

Even before his final term in office Roosevelt was guaranteed to be included in any list of great Presidents. By the end of his Presidency, TR, or the Colonel as he preferred to be called, was among the Great Presidents. After his final term he was only the second man elected to non-consecutive terms, and remains the only person to serve more than two terms as President. Not to mention he is the only individual to be awarded twice with the Nobel Peace Prize. . . .

Imagine if the Colonel had not run in 1912, or if the assassin’s attack that year had succeeded, or if Taft had not stepped aside, or even if Wilson had won — it was very close. Before we imagine what would change let us outline the Colonel’s accomplishments in the last eight years of his life.

Well getting the nomination in 1912 was by no means a forgone conclusion for TR. Most now agree that Taft only stepped aside because of a bargain in which the Colonel agreed to nominate him for the next opening on the Supreme Court. Not what you would call a corrupt bargain, especially given that Taft was later elevated to Chief Justice, but nonetheless a bargain the parties chose not to publicize. Even with Taft gone many believe the Republican leadership would have turned elsewhere had Roosevelt not quietly agreed to pursue anti-trust legislation less vigorously. It is less certain this bargain was made, and it was more likely in the nature of an understanding then an agreement. Even so the Colonel's campaign against monopolies and trusts was certainly more subdued then in his first two terms. . . .

As to domestic policy overall TR still managed to find ways to frustrate some of the big industries. The road building spree that was to later turn into our interstate highway system was justified as creating “postal roads” authorized under the Constitution. This created real competition for the railroads, especially when the Colonel took mail carrier contracts away from the railroads, and began using government trucks and planes.

Roosevelt also changed his emphasis on Civil Rights. In his first turn in the White House, and we all know he was the first President to call it the White House, TR had the right rhetoric, and even had Booker T. Washington as a guest. However, as covered in the last lecture his rhetoric wasn’t nearly matched by his actions. In fact as time went on executive appointments to people of color decreased dramatically. We must remember like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and other giant figures throughout history, Roosevelt was a product of his times. He believed whites were superior to all other races. Even so, in his final term TR reversed Wilson’s orders segregating the federal civil service, and the Civil Service Reform Act he signed in 1915 clearly outlawed considering “race, color or creed” in making appointments. TR later wrote he supported the legislation so another President couldn’t “Willy Nilly” reverse his orders. The 1915 Act also served as the template for the Colonel’s order to open the Armed Forces to all races “on an equal basis.”

To his credit, TR publicly back tracked on much of his earlier harsh rhetoric toward Native Americans and Asians. Alas Roosevelt’s treatment of these again groups failed to match the new rhetoric. Roosevelt did nothing to modify restrictions on Chinese immigration, and in expanding National Parks and Monuments took even more land from Native tribes just ignoring treaties.

The 18th Amendment granting woman the right to vote likely would have passed even without TR using the bully pulpit to get Congress to pass it, and the states to ratify, but it likely would not have passed until the mid-1920s. It was thanks to Roosevelt that woman across the country were able to vote in the 1916 elections. These new voters gave Republicans a lock on government that lasted until the financial panic of 1931 - 1934 finally brought Democrats back to power. . . .

The Colonel’s first term immediately followed America’s entry on the world stage as a great power. His final term marked America becoming the leading power rivaled only by the British Empire, and these two entities began a partnership or “Special Relationship” that continues to this day. It also set the stage for today’s multi-polar world. Thanks to what TR did in his third term, and as we’ll discuss later in his post-Presidency allies and enemies have been replaced by partners or competitors.

Let us begin with the President’s actions and policies in our own hemisphere. The Colonel continued to take a paternalistic role over Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuba was treated more as a territory than an independent nation. TR was not shy about deploying soldiers and marines to Haiti in 1913, Nicaragua in 1914, Mexico in 1915, and the Dominican Republic in 1916. In each case the administration had a tacit invitation from the government in power asking for intervention or assistance, but the message was clear - - tow the American line if you don’t want to see US troops.

Interestingly the Mexican Expedition of 1915 - 1916, led by the Colonel's military mentor Leonard Wood, actually resulted from a sincere invitation from the Mexican government. Of course the papers of the then United States Ambassador to Mexico later revealed he had let the Mexicans know that given the planned increase in US defense expenditures, if the Mexicans extended an invitation, much of the equipment used by American forces would be left for the Mexicans when the expedition concluded. President Roosevelt also agreed to pay an exorbitant rent for a naval base the Americans would build in Cabo San Lucas. The US continued to use the base after the expedition ended, and the cash strapped Mexican government offered to sell the entire sparsely populated Baja Peninsula. So on January 1, 1917 Baja became a US territory for $60, 000,000. Of course the territory rapidly grew under US control, becoming known as the west coast version of Florida, and it became the 51st state in 1969. . . .

Of course Baja was simply one of the territories acquired in the “Era of Acquisitions” under Roosevelt. TR also purchased the Danish Virgin Islands and Greenland from Denmark in 1916. The Danes reportedly were willing to sell the islands, but repeatedly rejected offers for Greenland. The Colonel prevailed by “sheer force of personality, and we barely convinced the late President not to pursue Iceland,” per the recollection of the Danish Foreign Minister. The Virgin Islands were eventually granted independence, but still have status as a Nation in Free Association with the United States; while despite all expectations Greenland finally attained the minimum population of 300,000 for statehood, and was admitted with Puerto Rico in 1982. . . .

Puerto Rico is an example of Roosevelt’s contradictory nature. Although this is technically not a foreign issue, as Puerto Rico had been acquired after the Spanish American War, it fits in nicely with our discussion here. The island along with, Alaska and Hawaii, two other 19th century acquisitions of the United States, were viewed by TR as “parts of the United States in perpetuity..” Roosevelt made this statement at least three times in diverse settings, but he never explained why they were different from the Philippines, or other acquisitions of former German colonies in the Pacific. One student had a theory that TR had OCD, and if you look at a map you have pretty good symmetry with Alaska and Greenland bracketing Canada in the north, the Baja and Florida peninsulas on either coast in the south, with the islands of Hawaii and Puerto Rico off the west and east. More likely the Philippine Insurrection in TR’s first term soured him on statehood for those islands, and the large population made him think they would have too much influence.

Puerto Rico would likely have had an easier time had TR adopted the Philippine model for the island - that is gradual guidance toward independence, with continued strong ties to the United States. These areas, like the previously mentioned Virgin Islands, became Nations in Free Association with the United States, but we’re getting beyond TR now. In any event the Colonel decided Puerto Rico was always going to be American, so they should speak English. TR doubled down on mandates from his first term to teach only in English in the schools, and went on to provide all government services in English. This did result in a dramatic increase in English, so that by 1950 more than 75% of the populace were fluent, but it also fostered deep resentments. There was a strong independence and resistance movement on the Island that lasted until the 1960s. Indeed, Puerto Rico’s statehood was likely delayed by decades because of those concerns. . . .

Let me take a moment here to tell a story about TR and his most famous biographer, Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill’s work, Theodore Roosevelt: Warrior and Peace Maker, rivals even my biography of TR. In the volume Churchill makes numerous references to the friendship developed between TR and himself at the Great War Peace Conference, and how that friendship continued until the Colonel’s death in 1923. Churchill also references in the foreword that he first met then Governor Roosevelt when TR hosted a dinner in Albany in 1900. What the esteemed biographer (and future British Prime Minister) leaves out is that TR loathed Churchill because of the dinner. It seems they were too much alike - both interrupting and needing to be the center of attention. When TR was in London in 1911 he even refused to meet Churchill who remained ignorant of the reason for the estrangement. Of course they later developed a true friendship. That will be my only mention of Sir Winston’s work, as I need you to buy my two volume biography.

The Great War began in 1914 when the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire triggered a general conflict involving the major European powers due to their various alliances. You had the Central Powers consisting of the German, Austrian-Hungarian, and the Ottoman Empires versus the Triple Entente consisting of the British Empire, Russia, and France. At first it seemed the War would be of relatively short duration, especially since none of the powers really wanted the war to start with, but the parties were generally evenly matched, and static lines utilizing trench warfare became the norm, especially on the western front where German forces had penetrated well into France. The engagements were truly horrific given the advancements in warfare since the Congress of Vienna had brought peace to the continent in the prior century. The use of poison gas, machine guns, heavy artillery, submarines, dreadnoughts, and the fast developing airplane made the war a gruesome affair. Even so the troops themselves at various points along the western front forged an ad hoc Christmas truce in 1914, wherein they even left the trenches, exchanged sundries with the enemy, and joined in Christmas Caroling and soccer games.

Alas the war soon returned worse than ever. By 1915 the British were using the Royal Navy to blockade Germany and starve them out. The Germans employed unrestricted submarine warfare to prevent arms and other supplies from reaching her enemies. This is when the Colonel came forward. The possibility of unrestricted submarine warfare injuring Americans, or even sinking American ships was intolerable. It should be noted here that the US general public was firmly against involvement in the conflict, and excepting some direct attack no Declaration of War would follow. Also Woodrow Wilson was toying with making another run for President, and to raise his profile published his Plan for Peace, with 12 points that he said would lead to a just and honorable end to the Great War and all future wars. The proposal went nowhere, but the Colonel was livid, he felt Wilson was trying to usurp authority that rested solely with the President. It took six months, but on October 16, 1915 TR put forward A Proposal for the Cessation of Hostilities. What the public didn’t know was that US emissaries had been circulating drafts of the proposal in the belligerent capitols for more than two months, and had received feedback on each party's bottom line. As a result the final product was something each government found to be worth consideration. . . .

Roosevelt’s plan had numerous aspirational passages, but importantly it did not require the parties to commit to anything except “to cease all offensive actions no later 11:00 AM GMT November 11, 1915, and shall not resume any offensive posture so long all parties to this action are in good faith engaged in negotiations to be hosted by the President of the United States at a time and place of his choosing.” The Colonel also provided that he would be the sole determinate of what constituted good faith. There was no indication of any penalty for not agreeing or for not meeting the good faith requirement, but American envoys again acting behind the scenes made clear to the Central Powers that the US would likely enter the war on the side of the Entente, while telling the Entente that if they didn’t agree the US would stay out of the war, and embargo all belligerents. The parties had until 12:00 PM GMT on November 1st to agree. The Russians agreed immediately followed by Austria-Hungary, and the Ottomans, the Germans and British made almost simultaneous acceptances, and finally more than eight days after their British allies the French formally accepted on October 30th. Evidently inviting lesser powers such as the Dutch or Belgians wasn’t even considered. After commitments to negotiate were made there was extremely fierce fighting right up to the armistice. Germany made significant gains in both France and Russia, as did the British against the Ottomans.

The President announced the conference would be held beginning December 1, 1915 at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia, which was still being built at the time. Although it was not in the proposal, TR requested all parties include the military and naval commanders of their armed forces as well as their ministers of war and navy, this was to make breaking the ceasefire more difficult. The parties all acceded to the request. Thus Churchill got a second chance to make a first impression on TR. Earlier in the year Churchill had resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty when his plan for an offensive against the Ottomans at the Dardanelles turned into a disaster, but the Colonel was quite impressed when he learned that after the resignation Churchill had gone back to the Army to serve on the front in France. The recriminations against Churchill eased substantially when those same Australian and New Zealand units so battered at Gallipoli made extraordinary gains against the Ottomans between mid-October 1915 and the November 11th Armistice, at least sufficiently enough to get Churchill a place in the British delegation.

The conference began with a speech by President Roosevelt, which was not publicly published at the time as the participants had agreed all proceedings would remain secret for at least 25 years. The text was supposedly sent to the National Archives, but has never been located. The later recollections of those present varied widely. Here Churchill was probably correct to attribute the different versions to the perspectives of the participants. Since Roosevelt evidently promised nothing, everyone present heard what they wanted to; excepting the Ottoman delegation which after their losses preceding the ceasefire had come to doubt they would be treated fairly. The original plan was for US envoys to have two days of discussions meeting separately with the Central Powers and the Entente, and to then bring the parties together starting Monday December 6th, but it soon became apparent that there were sufficient splits within each of the two alliances that on they met with each power separately on the 3rd and 4th. They brought each of the two alliances back together on the 6th, and then went to a plenary session on December 7th. That became the pattern with each delegation meeting alone one day, with allies the next, and then a group negotiation on the 3rd day. TR generally showed up twice each week to preside over the end of group sessions, but only if the parties were ready to commit in principle to a resolution of one or more issues. The conference recessed on December15th to allow the delegations to confer with their respective governments. It was agreed the ceasefire would remain in place, and the conference would resume early in the New Year.

Churchill did not return home, but instead went to Washington DC, where he invited the President’s son Kermit to an embassy party, and so charmed him that on Boxing Day Winston was one of many guests in the President’s Oyster Bay home. As opposed to the 1900 dinner, TR, the former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, who resigned to fight the Spanish was quite impressed with the First Lord of the Admiralty, who left the cabinet to go to the trenches and fight the Germans. This would never be done so openly today, but the relationship being formed served the British well in the ongoing negations, and reverberate to this day. It was the beginning of our “Special Relationship.”

When the conference resumed in mid-January the same pattern continued, but it was becoming clear that while no winners or losers would be identified, the Ottomans Russians and Austrian-Hungarians were not faring well, while the British were doing very well. Unfortunately for the three aforementioned powers, they had little leverage given their losses on the ground, and the fervent wish of their stronger allies to end the conflict. By late April the outlines of a final agreement were in place, the parties again adjourned to consult with their governments. This time Churchill returned home as well, but by then he was a frequent guest at the White House during shorter breaks in the conference. The Ottomans almost didn’t return in June, but saw no alternative when the Germans made clear they would not aid if the Entente resumed hostilities. . . .

On July 4, 1916 President Theodore Roosevelt announced a permanent cease fire to the Great War. He further announced that there would be a new permanent international body called the Inter-Continental Congress. This body would consist of Representatives from the US, other attendees to the Norfolk Conference, as well as other powers who would be invited to join. The Congress would implement the other terms of the Norfolk Agreement, serve as a forum to come to terms on a formal treaty, as well as being available. to prevent or mediate future conflicts.
The relevant terms of the permanent ceasefire were as follows:
1. All parties to return to pre-war borders in Europe. Before evacuating belligerents are to take all steps necessary to remove mines, munitions and other equipment or instrumentality that has a potential to harm the civilian populace. - - This is self-explanatory.
2. The Austrian-Hungarian Empire shall be divided into constitute parts identified in the first Appendix to this agreement. This will not prohibit Austria, or the Sudetenland from joining the German Empire. - - This was what got Germany to give up her colonies and abandon her allies.
3. The Ottoman Empire shall give up all territory outside Europe and Turkey. Mandates for possessions of other portions of the Ottoman Empire shall go to France and the British Empire as delineated in the second Appendix to this agreement. - - The Arabs thought this was their payoff for supporting the Entente, but most of the Mandates lasted decades.
4. Russia shall negotiate through the ICC with the Baltic States and Finland for autonomy within the Empire. — Entered at German insistence and as we know autonomy turned into independence for those states as well as a Poland in Commonwealth with Lithuania.
5. Germany shall give up all colonies. Those colonies in Africa shall be divided between France and the British Empire as outlined in the third Appendix to this agreement. Those areas outside Africa shall go to the British Empire and the United States, as outlined in the fourth Appendix to this agreement. No reparations shall be paid by any party to this agreement, but for those territories going to the United States, it shall pay the sum of $95,000,000.00 over five years commencing January 1, 1917, to France and other nations occupied by the Central Powers as outlined in the fifth Appendix to this agreement. — This was done as Germany absolutely refused to pay reparations and France absolutely demanded them. . . .

President Roosevelt was at a pinnacle of success with the announcement of an agreement to end The Great War. There was near unanimous agreement with the decision to award the Colonel a second Nobel Peace Prize. He remained generally popular and was genuinely admired by most Americans. Confidants later related that he was sorely tempted to seek another term, but whereas he was able justify a third term as not breaking Washington’s precedent in that Roosevelt’s first term was merely completing McKinley’s term after his assassination, there was no such justification for a fourth term. So TR went about again hand picking a successor. The President quickly settled on Charles Evan Hughes, who like TR himself was a progressive and former Governor of New York. One interesting note was that TR had sent Taft to the Court after he stepped aside, and then Hughes had to leave the Court to run at the Colonel’s urging. . . .

Roosevelt had been one of the first men to openly campaign for the American Presidency. In 1916 TR campaigned even harder for Hughes to succeed him. The Democrats again nominated Wilson. I guess William Jennings Bryan wasn’t available? Wilson campaigned on a platform urging fiscal conservatism, and attacked Republicans for committing the US to pay enormous sums for lands unlikely to bring significant returns. Ironically the Democrats fiercely opposed the United States entry into the new Inter-Continental Congress or ICC, as being contrary to George Washington’s warning against foreign entanglements. I say ironic because the Wilson 12 point plan referred to in our last session called for formation of a League of Nations quite similar to the ICC. Hughes won easily, and announced even before taking office that he planned to ask Roosevelt to serve as the American envoy to ICC. . . .

Roosevelt quickly indicated he would accept the appointment to the ICC. Little wonder as TR had already arranged for the initial meetings to begin in April 1917, after the end of his term and for them to be in the United States. The Norfolk Agreement provided that each nation would send an envoy to sessions of the ICC Council, and said envoys would choose from their number a “First Secretary” to preside. In the final months of his administration TR had the government acquire land to serve as a permanent site for the ICC. Roosevelt claimed he took the appointment despite the fact that he was planning a trip to the Amazon with his sons to rival his earlier Africa expedition, but by what I’m sure was pure happenstance the land acquired was in Fresh Meadows in Queens, New York. Once the site was ready TR chartered a boat to make the relatively short trip to and from Fresh Meadows and Roosevelt’s home in Oyster Bay on Long Island. Before the sessions began several of the lesser European powers, as well as Mexico and the Japanese Empire had agreed to send envoys.

When the ICC convened there was little doubt TR would be chosen as First Secretary. Most nations multitasked their ambassadors to the US to act as envoys. Sir Winston Churchill was the British envoy, but was only attending the first session to support TR. Despite the title being First Secretary, the presiding officer was then addressed, and continues to this day to be addressed as Mr. (or Madame) President. The position was meant to be merely a presiding officer or first among equals, but Roosevelt controlled the agenda, within the year almost every independent nation on the planet were sending representatives to the ICC, which at that time were holding three week sessions every six months. Even though there was an expectation that a new First Secretary would be chosen at each session, and no other vote was taken until after Roosevelt’s death in 1923.

The immediate agenda for the ICC was largely consumed by implementation of the Norfolk Agreement and finalizing a formal treaty to formally end the Great War. The first real test came in 1919, after the Russian Revolution resulted in the Czar ceding all real power to an elected Duma, the Communists under Vladimir Lenin attempted to seize power, and actually took control of several cities. The new government requested assistance from the ICC. TR turned aside objections from several envoys that even considering the request was beyond the authority of the ICC.
A resolution calling on member states to assist the “legitimate Russian government” resulted in the British and Germans sending troops into western Russia, and the US and Japan sending forces from into the east. The operation concluded with the final defeat of all Communist forces in late 1921. The action served as a precedent for future operations to put down Communist attempts to overthrow governments in Spain, France, Italy and Greece in the middle and late 1930s. Unfortunately for the Chinese the precedent was not followed when the Japanese began aggressive action toward them and her other Asian neighbors. However, that is getting off topic.

One side note, had Roosevelt actually taken the trip with his sons to the Amazon he might have died much sooner. For while his sons survived two developed yellow fever and six other members of the expedition - all far younger than TR died of was most likely dysentery. TR remained active and engaged until his unexpected death on October 16, 1923, which by the way was seven years to the day from the announcement of his peace proposal. He took numerous trips overseas to get a bird’s eye view of ICC interventions. He did leave a legacy, and survived to see the founding of this school a little more than a year before his death.
Comments or Questions?
Q: How much did TR’s Presidency impact the more radical elements in America at the time, and if I could, I also wanted to ask about TR's impact on the First Red Scare and how radical organizations during this time were treated in comparison to, say, Wilson's administration, if that's alright?

A: Well it is worth noting that Eugene Debs ran on the Socialist Party ticket three times in the early 20th century. In 1912 against Roosevelt and Wilson, Debs had his best showing and garnered over one million votes which was approximately 7% of the popular vote. After four years of TR saying “we’ll fight the Red Devils wherever they threaten freedom,” and backing it up with his Justice Department relentlessly pursuing them, the Socialist didn’t even field a candidate again until 1932 after the Panic was in full force. More on the Communist threat in the foreign relations and post-Presidential portions of our talk.
As far as right wing organizations Roosevelt was head and shoulders better then Wilson. Unlike Wilson, who openly embraced the KKK, TR supported anti-lynching legislation.

Q: How much would you say would the modern development of the Democratic and Republican parties was caused by Theodore Roosevelt's election in 1912?

A: There was some talk that had Taft not bowed out TR would have gone third party and run as a Progressive. In my opinion this would have guaranteed a Democratic win. Also just as the Republicans supplanted the Whigs before the Civil War they themselves would almost certainly have been supplanted by the Progressives.
Without the overt racism of Wilson, followed by the Colonel's better, but still flawed, policies the Republicans would likely have long ago lost their lock on the African American vote. The Democrats evolved into the party of big business largely to gain support from sectors TR antagonized. I hope that answers your question.

Q: I heard you often dress like Theodore Roosevelt when you lecture about him – why not today?

A: Yes I’m a goof. Well last year I was especially proud of my costume, but before class began a very attractive doctoral candidate asked why I had dressed up as Taft. So no more costumes until I take off some weight.

Q: In terms of the "Era of Acquisitions," why did Roosevelt never consider pushing for more Caribbean islands to become either territories or states, like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, or Haiti? Was it that they had nothing of value to offer, or was it that the Philippine insurrection deflated the notion?

A: Well you must remember when TR talked about keeping various possessions “in perpetuity “he was, in my opinion, looking for lands that could be made to look like the America of his time, or rather America as he perceived it. That is white, and of course that is racist but it can’t be denied. That is why he took an interest in acquired territory that was generally sparsely populated that could be turned white. Puerto Rico was somewhat of an exception, but he likely hoped his policies would alter the demographics. Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean were either independent or under the control of friendly powers, so annexation was not seen as being worth the effort. Also most of the Pacific acquisitions were looked at for their utility as coaling stations for the Navy more than anything else.

Q: Would you say the Democratic Party being the conservative party in American politics was made inevitable by Theodore Roosevelt's Presidency or were there later chances to avoid the Democratic Party's shift towards conservatism? Aside from his views on race, I've read Woodrow Wilson was fairly progressive on many matters for his time.

A: You are of course correct to point out that both Wilson and TR were progressives, but just as the Democrats became more progressive during the Taft administration because they saw an opening, after losing again they appealed to Roosevelt’s perceived adversaries - big business- because that was the best alternative if they wanted to still have a chance at power. Heck TR agreed that Taft wasn’t a progressive - which was why he ran again in 1912.

Q: How could the Germans trust TR's neutrality when his son was a Frog?

A: I can only say this would have been funnier if I had said it.

Q: Do you think that USA would had entered to Great War on side of Entente if TR wasn't elected in 1912? And if so, would some another POTUS been able pressure France to abandon its insistence on harsh terms on Germany?

A: Given how the war had progressed to the point it had when TR floated his proposal, it’s fair to say that without some kind of third party intervention there was no end in sight for the war. It was a bloody stalemate on multiple fronts which was unlikely to end absent one side or the other having a breakthrough at a time they could fully exploit their gains.
Absent a prospect for peace any President would have had to ask for a declaration of war against Germany if it continued unrestricted submarine warfare. As opposed to offering mediation many, if not most, other Presidents would have simply embargoed the belligerents. Give Wilson some credit in that he did float his own peace plan. I doubt anyone else would have been so bold — and even though Wilson wasn’t taken seriously, it likely would have been different had he been in office. Still the parties were never going to agree at that time to things like dismantling their colonial empires.
France made a mistake in trying to impose harsh terms on Germany. The Germans would have smoldering resentment had they been forced to pay significant reparations, perhaps enough resentment to insure another continent wide war. The compromise of having the US pay money for German colonies to the French was elegant, but in the end it reduced French prestige and influence, as they received none of Germany's Pacific holdings.

Q: How much would you say would Roosevelt's support for the ICC impact US-Russia relations to this day, especially with how Roosevelt is viewed in Russia?

A: Well certainly much better than it would be had the Communists prevailed. I recently found out there is a bridge named for TR, outside Vladivostok where he met with US, Japanese and friendly Russian forces in 1920. I would say TR is most popular in the western world. They’re ambivalent in Latin America and most of Asia. He is not liked at all in the Arab world.

I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for questions. Before we part let me announce that next year’s symposium is almost a sequel to this lecture. The Roosevelt School of Government here at Harvard, will join with Churchill University at Cambridge with the topic being Winston Churchill: From Empire to Imperial Federation and Greater Commonwealth. The lectures will mark the 75th Anniversary of the Imperial Federation, and will originate from the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst where Sir Winston took his initial military training.



Welcome to this symposium, Churchill from Empire to Federation and Commonwealth. This series of lectures marking the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Imperial Federation are being jointly sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt School of Government at Harvard, and Churchill University at Cambridge. These lectures are also being streamed live to various institutions of higher learning around the globe. We were a little late starting because the remote site at McGill University in Montreal was having a problem with their feed. Institutions in western North America, the Pacific, and Asia are getting this on a delay because of the time difference, so they’ll be no questions today, but I’ll be happy to take questions and comments by e-mail.

Well McGill is with us now, and let me welcome you by saying what I say whenever I visit your fair city -- I am sorry, but I don't speak French. As most of you can tell from that last statement I'm an American, and to further prove it I'm going to begin this lecture on Churchill, the father of the Imperial Federation, by talking about Teddy Roosevelt.

Why Teddy Roosevelt? Well when on October 16, 1916, TR made A Proposal for the Cessation of Hostilities for the Great War Churchill had left the cabinet in disgrace after the disaster at Gallipoli brought on by his plan for offensive action against the Ottoman Empire. He went to the front as a Lieutenant Colonel, and had hostilities continued Churchill likely would have died at the front, or in his view worse yet died in obscurity. The performance of ANZAC troops between the proposal being made in mid-October and the Armistice on November 11th redeemed Churchill's reputation sufficiently, or so he convinced everyone it did, that he was made a member of The Empire's Peace Delegation. Further, Winston so ingratiated himself to the Americans in general, and Roosevelt in particular, that the British saw his remaining in government to be if not essential, at least very helpful. . . .

The British should be doubly grateful for the conference called by Roosevelt, as it seems the IRA was planning a series of attacks across Ireland in April 1916, but stopped at the last minute when the leaders realized they would almost certainly lose sorely needed American goodwill and support if they staged their offensive during a peace conference hosted by the US President. So it was that when Winston returned to government in July 1916 he was given the position of Secretary of State for Ireland, with a mandate to end the issues with Ireland once and for all and to do so, if at all possible, without violence. Truth be told no one believed it was at all possible to do it without violence. The government firmly believed violence was the only alternative, and fully expected to get it done with and then sack Churchill to deflect blowback after it happened. However, Churchill surprised everyone by taking his mandate to heart. He met with Unionists, representatives of Sinn Fein, and numerous others. Churchill did in fact utilize military force, but limited it to locating and destroying Irish Republican Army weapons stores. There were no mass arrests, or punishments of the population. Churchill worked closely with a young Irish Patriot named Michael Collins, and got them to forgo violence as he later wrote "for so long as they remained convinced the Crown was negotiating in good faith." Churchill wrote that without Collins, they would not have even gotten through 1917, and 1918 without a massive assault by the IRA, followed by what would have to be a merciless response by the Crown.

In January 1918 Churchill, who was previously against partition, proposed that Ulster, or Northern Ireland be politically separated from the rest of Ireland or Eire. He was able to convince the Commons to finally approve a Bill for Irish Home Rule. This created separate Parliament’s for the North and the South. The proposal included a provision that while the south would have Dominion status within the Empire there would be no border controls with the North, and most importantly there was a guarantee that the agreement was contingent upon Westminster and the Parliament in Ulster passing legislation to insure equal treatment and opportunity under the law for all religions in Northern Ireland, this was to include education and government employment. Two interesting side notes in the text of the agreement was the passage that "should the British Isles ever become a federation, Ireland shall be invited to join as an equal member of said union;" and Dominion status was also recognized for Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa (there was originally a plan to also give Dominion status to Newfoundland, but their war time debt was such that an arrangement was made with the consent of both Newfoundland and Canada that Newfoundland would join Canada and the Crown would absorb 90% of the new Province's debt). This was the first reference Churchill had made to a Federation, although an Imperial Federation was an idea dating back to the prior century. Well Prime Minister Lloyd George had been kept abreast of the negotiations, and personally thought the matter was worth a vote, but he let his members vote as a matter of conscience meaning the whips would not enforce party discipline. Even so the vast majority of Liberals voted yea along with enough Tories and Labour MPs to ensure passage. The House of Lords assented with a bare majority, and the Ulster Parliament assented only after veiled threats to cut the entire island loose. The agreement went into effect on Easter Sunday April 20, 1919.

Churchill was rewarded with a second appointment as Home Secretary. The agreement held, but the young Michael Collins was assassinated in July 1920, it was never determined if the killer was a Unionist or a member of the IRA. Ireland, of course, did join the Imperial Federation, as did Northern Ireland, but as a separate entity, even so there are still no border restrictions and terms of the 1919 agreement were never broken. Movement across the Irish borders today is no different than moving from England to Wales or Scotland, or for that matter from my home in Massachusetts to New York. The precedent led to the 1926 restoration of the Scottish Parliament, and 1930 creation of the Wales Assembly - the start of a federal system if not an actual Federation. Interestedly, the English did not take a Parliament separate from Westminster until the formal start of the Imperial Federation in 1948. Of course they would argue that as they sit in the old House of Lords and the Sovereign still opens the English Parliament little has changed. . . .

Well where did we leave Sir Winston? Ah yes - he was Home Secretary when the liberals lost a vote of No Confidence in 1921. He spent a little over a year in the minority and his writings indicate he was becoming disillusioned with the Liberal Party, feeling they were adopting positions simply to keep from losing seats to Labour. Churchill had started his career in Parliament as a Tory, but in 1904 crossed the Chamber to become a Liberal, in 1922 he crossed back to the Tories. Baldwin, the Tory PM, must have encouraged the move, as in just two years, Churchill, who many in Parliament viewed as a two time turncoat, was Chancellor of the Exchequer. . . .

In his new role Churchill was able to see that although the Empire was at its height, in many ways America had already supplanted it. Churchill liked Americans, his mother was an American, but like his father who was a son of the Duke of Marlborough, Winston was an Imperialist through and through. The Great War had left The British Empire as the only real winner, in that they not only didn’t lose territory they gained colonies; further unlike their allies they had almost no war torn landscapes or refugees to deal with. Truth be told the Americans were the real winners in that they gained almost as much as the British without any sacrifice of men or material. Even though the US had incurred some debt for its acquisitions, it was nothing compared to the hole the Empire was still trying to fill in the mid-1920s.

Churchill himself wrote in 1955 that his term as Chancellor of the Exchequer was when his vision of how an Imperial Federation might work began to form. He saw the rise of labor unions were greatly increasing the costs of British goods, and tariffs were at best an imperfect solution in that the other powers would just retaliate. Churchill believed the key was to consolidate those portions of the Empire that were fully developed with a manufacturing base, mature markets, and most importantly a middle class. At the same time Churchill wanted to spur development among what he termed the “primitive territories.” These colonies and possessions could serve as markets for goods from within the empire, while at the same time they could be a source of many lower cost products.

The original Dominions referred to in our last session were seen by Winston as being part of what he originally thought of as the “Core of the Empire.” By this he meant the British Isles, Canada, Australia and New Zealand; Winston excluded South Africa, the other Dominion recognized as self-governing by the Crown, in that it had “large portions of the populace still living in a primitive state.” It may have been an unconscious bias on Churchill’s part, but it is clear that his exclusion of South Africa from the core was based mostly on the fact that it was the only Dominion that was not majority white. In an interview near the end of his life Sir Winston vehemently denied this, and he pointed out that when the first legislation passed in 1938, outlining the ten year path to formation of the Federation, it specifically provided for adding South Africa and other territories to the Core both before and after the Federation was formed. That is very nice, but while South Africa may have had a slight chance of entering the core, it was never going to happen for India or most of the remaining Empire. . . .

The ideas being formed by Sir Winston in the late 1920s were nowhere near ready to be shared with the Tory Party as a whole, never mind the rest of the Empire. Winston was trying to come up with a means to keep the Empire whole, while splitting into two tiers wherein those not at what he was calling the core would feel like an afterthought, or worse yet a disposable portion of the Empire. Further complicating the matter was the fact that those areas granted Dominion status (again less South Africa), essentially independence within the Empire, were the very areas he saw as essential to bring closer to form the core.

By mid-1931 there was as yet only a broad outline in Winston's mind. The world-wide panic that began in 1931 forced abandonment for the time being of any long term planning. In the snap election of 1932 the Tories were thrown out of power. They had thought they could win a contest to form a coalition government with the Liberals, but Labour won an outright majority. The new government virtually ignored everything outside Britain itself. The Empire suffered, but so did the British Isles. As one of its first acts the government tried to avert a national strike by nationalizing the coal industry and raising the coal miners’ salary by 50%. This started a inflationary spiral, and worse yet even though a coal strike was averted, by the end of 1932 coal production was down by more than one third. Many in the British Isles were unable to heat their homes that winter, and those that were able were paying substantially more for substantially less coal. When it appeared nothing had changed in over a year, Labour MPs defecting to the Liberals forced a vote of no confidence in January 1934. The Tories prevailed and Winston was made foreign Secretary. . . .

While the Tories were out of power Churchill visited the United States, and began research on his biography of Theodore Roosevelt. On his trip he made the acquaintance of that “other“ Roosevelt, Franklin Delano, better known as FDR. FDR was a distant cousin of Teddy and had married TR’s niece, Eleanor Roosevelt. Indeed Teddy gave away the bride. FDR was a Democrat, as was his whole branch of the family. Even so TR in his final term made Franklin Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a position TR himself had held prior to the Spanish American War. TR was grooming his distant cousin, trying to get him to switch to the Republican Party, but shortly after Theodore left the White House FDR was elected to the NY legislature as a Democrat. TR died in 1923, and Democrats tried to cash in on FDR's last name by making him the VP candidate on the 1924 ticket -- to no avail. Why is this important? Because FDR did follow TR's pattern in that he got himself elected Governor of New York, and when in 1932, the Financial Panic led to the Democrats winning their first Presidential election in the 20th century Franklin Delano Roosevelt was heading their ticket.

In their White House meeting FDR asked Churchill if he remembered that they had actually met at the 1917 Peace conference. In typical Churchill fashion he confessed that he did not recall, but he could hardly be blamed as Franklin wasn’t someone of great importance at the time. Churchill later related that FDR laughed uproariously, and they spent the next two hours speaking of the late TR. As he had with Theodore Roosevelt, Churchill began a regular very friendly correspondence with FDR. If anything, the relationship between Winston and FDR was even closer than the one he had with TR. Churchill was likely more comfortable, as he was older than FDR, and even so FDR was much closer in age to Churchill than Churchill was to TR. Even though FDR was President, he and Churchill were more like equals given Winston’s experience and sheer force of personality. . . .

Once Churchill became Foreign Minister he traveled extensively to all parts of the Empire and often stopped in the US. He got US support through the Inter-Continental Congress (ICC) for British actions in defeating the Mediterranean Revolts in Spain, France, Italy and Greece in the mid-thirties. When Japan effectively blocked any effective action by the ICC to stop its China incursions in 1935, Churchill convinced FDR “at enormous political risk,” to embargo much needed oil, and iron ore from going to the Japanese Empire. In their ever more frequent correspondence FDR and Churchill wrote about dealing equitably with their far flung possessions. Churchill began to see the merit of the American plans which later became known as the “Philippine Model,” wherein possessions not deemed suitable for eventual statehood would be put on a track for eventual independence, but would keep substantial contact and involvement with the US (i.e. the US retaining trade advantages and military bases). The key was to let the possessions know the plan and have input on implementing it. Most of those areas eventually became “Nations in Free Association with the United States.” . . .

By the mid-1936 Churchill had decided the American model was the Empire’s best chance for long term health. The areas he had previously termed as the Empire’s core, the British Isles, Canada, Australia (including New Guiana over which they had a Mandate) and New Zealand would join in an Imperial Federation. Representation would go to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland who would each have a separate Parliament or Assembly; Ireland itself would maintain its Dail, New Zealand its parliament, Australia and Canada could retain their own parliaments as an intermediate level of government, but their states and provinces would retain their legislatures. The new Imperial Parliament at Westminster world be solely responsible for Defense, Foreign, and Trade policies. There would be a common currency and armed forces. The remaining parts of the Empire would be guided toward eventual independence, or integration into the Imperial Federation and together with the Federated states would constitute the British Commonwealth of nations. As the constituent parts of the Empire gained independence they would remain in the Commonwealth, and would have the option of keeping the British Pound Sterling as their currency, as well as entering free trade and defense pacts with the rest of the Empire; all would retain the British Sovereign as Head of State, but would be permitted to elect their own Governor-Generals, should they wish to adopt the equivalent of a Presidential system. Although Churchill had his plan in draft he was not sure how to broach the issue with Baldwin. Then His Majesty Edward VIII‘s government became consumed with whether Edward could remain his Majesty.

We're going to speak now about how an American ruined everything for our British cousins. Edward VIII assumed the British throne in January 1936. The King was not married, and unknown to the British public he was carrying on fairly openly with a divorced American socialite named Wallis Simpson, who was still legally married to her second husband. When the King began speaking of actually marrying Mrs. Simpson the Prime Minister felt the government would be forced to weigh in. . . .

Most of the cabinet were firmly against the King’s plan for various reasons, but most importantly because he was head of the Church of England. Interestingly most of those same critics had no issue with the King keeping Mrs. Simpson as a mistress. Winston was a friend to the King, and argued for him to be allowed to marry whoever he chose, going on to suggest that he be allowed a “morganatic” marriage wherein Simpson would not become Queen, and issue would not be in the line of succession.

Baldwin saw there was likely no way to avoid a constitutional crisis if the King persisted in his plan to marry Mrs. Simpson. Indeed it is likely the only reason he had not tried to do so already was because she was still “MRS.” Simpson. The Prime Minister was worried that, assuming the King could not be dissuaded from marriage, and refused to abdicate, then one or more of the self-governing dominions might not recognize an Act of Parliament out of Westminster that removed the King. Ironically had the Imperial Federation already existed this wouldn’t have been an issue. Since Churchill had already had extensive contacts with the Dominions, he was tasked by the PM to take their temperature on the issue. If he was surprised by the vehemence of the rest of the cabinet’s feelings, he was absolutely floored in speaking to representatives of the Dominions. No Dominion found the King’s plans to be acceptable. Churchill reported back to the PM that words he heard in his meetings describing the feelings in the Dominions on their Sovereign included callow, selfish and reprehensible. The Canadians were the most upset, for although Fleet Street had been cowed into giving almost no coverage to the King’s relationship, the American press was covering it in detail, and Canadians were therefore much more informed then the British people. The Irish indicated that they believed the King should abdicate, but if Edward VIII was involuntarily removed they would likely declare themselves a republic. . . .

The cabinet decided they would have to give the King an ultimatum. Winston surprised them all and volunteered to deliver the message to His Majesty. Churchill had likely calculated that the King was going to be out no matter the outcome. Further, by delivering a message that both the PM and Dominions knew he disagreed with, he would build credibility and goodwill among those most needed to pursue his plans for turning the Empire into a Federation. Baldwin indicated as Prime Minister he would deliver the ultimatum, but asked Churchill to accompany him. After at least three delays they met with His Majesty on November 9, 1936. Baldwin came right to the point, and the King appeared surprised, raised anew the possibility of a morganatic marriage, and when that was ruled out he expressed anger and defiance. Per Baldwin’s papers that was when “Winston pulled down the King’s facade,” telling it was impossible to believe the feigned surprise, and explained in detail how the Empire would suffer and how the monarchy would likely be destroyed absent abdication. Churchill went on to say, that as a friend, had he realized what His Majesty was planning, he would have advised against assuming the throne to start with. The King finally accepted his fate, and tried to negotiate an abdication effective on the anniversary of his father’s death in January. Both the PM and Churchill insisted it had to be immediate - it was agreed November 11th as Armistice Day was appropriate. The King wished to make a radio address, and here Winston surprised the PM by interjecting that only a short, pre-approved statement consisting of reading the Instrument of Abdication, and a sentence pledging fealty to his brother the new King. Per Baldwin Churchill added that “anything else and we can’t guarantee an appropriate title post monarchy.

Churchill was ready to get back to planning a transition to Federation and Commonwealth, but knew he had to first help prepare the Empire for a likely war with Japan. Then Baldwin announced on Boxing Day 2936 that he would resign as Prime Minister as soon as a replacement could be named. Baldwin retired because deposing his King, no matter how necessary, was draining; he also saw the likelihood of war with Japan, and thought someone else would be better to lead His Majesty’s Government.

The obvious choice was Neville Chamberlain the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Chamberlain was well liked in the party, and the move was seen as a natural progression. Two things or rather two people changed that. The first was actually Neville Chamberlain’s older half- brother, Sir Austen Chamberlain. Austen had been the leader of the British delegation to negotiate an end to the Great War at Norfolk, Virginia. That conference was indeed a godsend for Winston as it not only returned him to government, but it allowed him to strike up a friendship with none other than President Theodore Roosevelt; and perhaps most importantly it gave him a mentor and political benefactor in Austen Chamberlain (who by the way was a lifelong friend of F.S. Oliver one of the earliest most ardent proponents of Imperial Federation). . . .

Churchill was never a personally popular person, he had an abrasive personality, felt he was always right, and wasn’t shy about correcting others whether they were servants or other cabinet members. After his parents, Churchill’s wife Clementine was perhaps the only person who could tell him he was wrong. That’s why Austen was so important, he saw in Winston an innate instinct that made him a cut above his contemporaries. Austen saw Winston as someone who held many of his own beliefs on the Empire, and also as someone who would get things done. He supported Churchill despite differences on Irish home rule and India. After Austen Chamberlain lost a leadership contest with Stanley Baldwin in the Conservative Party following the Norfolk Conference, there was an estrangement with Baldwin, and Austen went to the back benches, despite having held virtually every post of importance other than PM. Even so the elder Chamberlain brother still wielded influence. It was on Austen’s recommendation that Winston was appointed Secretary of State for Ireland, and for the subsequent posts Winston would hold. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was the other person to come around to supporting Winston, even though he was constantly exasperated by Churchill, and felt he had to constantly get the man to slow down. Despite the previously referenced estrangement between Baldwin and Austen Chamberlain, Austen went to Baldwin to propose he endorse Churchill as PM. Baldwin later wrote he acquiesced for several reasons. First, Winston had impressed him in their dealings with the abdication crisis by taking on the King despite having urged compromise earlier, when the decision was made Churchill was resolute, and followed through on what was best for the Empire. Second, war was coming with Japan, and as Churchill had long opposed the cuts to the military and naval forces he had much more credibility than Neville Chamberlain (or Baldwin himself for that matter) to lead in such a conflict. Third, Baldwin agreed with the outlines of Churchill’s plan for a Federation, and didn’t think anyone else had the energy needed to have a chance at passage. Finally, Baldwin was impressed that Austen was pushing so hard against his own brother, and believed Austen when he said it was purely because Winston would be the better PM. Even with both endorsements, Neville Chamberlain was thought to have the advantage. What finally gave Churchill the last few votes need was the death of Austen on March 3.1937 - the fence sitters went for Winston as tribute to Austen, after eulogies given in the Commons by both Winston and Neville. Winston Churchill became Prime Minister for the first time on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day.

On assuming office Winston had two priorities - dealing with Japan and laying the foundation for the formation of the Imperial Federation. In that regard he thought it best to meet with the Prime Ministers of the Dominions to discuss both issues. Churchill wisely asked them for a meeting, rather than being perceived as summoning them to Westminster he suggested what amounted to a summit. Keeping the option open of including South Africa in the Core, Winston included South African PM Jan Smuts in the invitations. Smuts and Churchill were well acquainted, and they had first met at the turn of the century when Smuts debriefed Churchill after Winston had escaped from a Boer prison camp. Smuts went to London to travel with Churchill to the summit which was to be held in Vancouver, British Columbia, they were joined by W.T. Cosgrave the Irish leader on the voyage across the Atlantic. All three then traveled by rail to the meeting in the company of William Lyon Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister of Canada. They were met in Vancouver by Joseph Lyons, and George Forbes the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand respectively, who had also traveled together. . . .

The summit was generally cordial. The other participants each felt Churchill was being sincere and they appreciated being treated as equals. In the discussions on Japan there was general agreement that all would increase defense expenditures especially on naval forces. Ireland would support the Empire, but given its distance from Asia her contributions would be minimal. There was a wider range of opinion on the topic of federating.

Smuts was enthusiastic, but in discussions with his old friend en route and at the conference Churchill became even more convinced that South Africa would not fit as a core Federation member. Smuts in many ways was quite progressive; he had done much to make former Dutch enemies from the Boer War feel equal, and he spearheaded the effort to get woman the vote in South Africa- that is white woman, Smuts was firmly against equality for native South Africans, Indian immigrants to South Africa, or mixed race residents. Winston felt that taking in a core member where the majority of the populace was disenfranchised would send the wrong message to the rest of the Empire, especially those possessions he wished to take status as Commonwealth members.

King and Lyons had some concerns with exactly what the “intermediate status” of their now national governments in Canada and Australia would be; Churchill envisioned the individual states and provinces in Australia and Canada entering binding charters wherein they would cede powers currently exercised by the national governments, but not to be assumed by Westminster, to Canberra and Ottawa. King was also concerned that Quebec would oppose base on fears that their French heritage would be stamped out. Again Churchill suggested a charter to guarantee the rights of French speakers. He went on to suggest these same charters could guarantee abominable rights in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and New Guiana which had become a territory of Australia (Churchill had already given up on making that pitch to Smuts, but Lyons proved more open). Meanwhile Forbes was concerned that just as Newfoundland was placed under Canada, New Zealand would be forced under Australia’s “intermediate government” despite opting out of a union decades earlier. Churchill pointed out that the transition of Newfoundland to becoming a province of Canada was wholly consensual on both sides.

Ireland’s Cosgrave had other concerns. It should be pointed out that Churchill was very lucky to be dealing with Cosgrave instead of Éamon de Valera the opposition leader in the Dail. Cosgrave had been friends with de Valera, but became estranged when Cosgrave supported Michael Collins in pushing the agreement that allowed Ireland to be partitioned, and made the south a Dominion albeit with open borders to the north. Cosgrave indicated that if the Federation legislation should pass “without making Ireland whole,” his government would likely fall and de Valera would almost certainly declare Ireland a Republic apart from the Empire altogether. Cosgrave pointed to Canada, and indicated it would likely be accepted if Ireland became a Dominion with two provinces each retaining a parliament in Dublin and Belfast, but have the Dail as their “intermediate government.” Churchill countered that just as he had pledged New Zealand would not be forced into union with Australia he couldn’t force reunion of north and south in Ireland where a majority in the north were opposed. He argued Cosgrave was the leader precisely because the agreement he backed with their mutual friend, Michael Collins, had worked. Churchill did offer to include in any legislation permitting a future vote or votes on reunification, as well as specifically allowing Dublin to extend the voting franchise for elections to residents north of the border. The Unionists would howl, but it would create an environment where Cosgrave’s government had a reasonable chance at survival.

The war with Japan finally came on May 17, 1937. The US embargo on oil and other raw materials had severely hobbled Japanese military operations in China. The act that finally brought war was an attack on Indonesia to get Dutch oil. The Japanese miscalculated in part because when they attacked China in 1933 there was no reaction in the West other than mild protest (it had gotten Chinese Nationalists and the Communists to work together), likewise the attacks in Indochina occurred when the French were preoccupied with the first of their Red revolts. The Japanese blocked action in the ICC, and simply didn’t believe the joint British-American Declaration that “any further military actions directed toward independent lands or colonies of another power would be considered an Act of War.” The British government immediately declared war followed by each of the Dominions. The United States initially delayed because FDR knew he lacked the votes, but after intercepts indicated Japan was planning a surprise aircraft carrier attack on the Philippines, combined with simultaneous submarine attacks on Hawaii, Cabo San Luca, and the Panama Canal, the US declared War on August 12, 1937. . . .

In 1932 Japan renounced the ICC Naval Treaty of 1923. They then devoted much of their shipbuilding capability to aircraft carriers. They used them to great advantage and despite generally poor coordination between their army and navy, the Japanese absolutely shocked the British by capturing “impregnable” Singapore. Despite their losses the British managed to bloody the Japanese like none of its earlier opponents. Churchill worried New Guiana would be lost, but the Japanese couldn’t establish a beachhead. . . .

American entry into the war made an immediate difference. Even though the Financial Panic that started in 1931 was technically over the recovery was still precarious, but the US under FDR made almost unbelievable strides to transform almost overnight to a war economy. The men, and material coming out of the US overwhelmed the Japanese. The supplies given to China, as well as forces from the Dutch and French helped turn the Japanese out of their former possessions. The Anglo-American alliance (which by 1939 was in a formalized treaty), did not demand unconditional surrender, and the Russians agreed to allow the parties to meet in Vladivostok under the auspices of the ICC. Evidently the Japanese military leadership was against negotiation, but when it was pointed out the home islands would be subject to starvation from a blockade, the Japanese Emperor Hirohito intervened to force talks. The terms were not imposed on the Japanese, but they had almost no leverage in the negotiations.. They would keep their Emperor, and there would be no occupation of the home islands, but Japan would be limited to just those islands, and a total of 42 high ranking officers, along with over 100 lower ranking Japanese would be turned over for war crimes trials. The. Japanese army, navy and air forces would be reduced to levels consistent with defense, but no more. China and the other areas previously occupied by the Japanese would be in turmoil for some years, especially given French and Dutch objections to ICC administration of their former colonies, but that is beyond the purview of this lecture. The war with Japan formally ended on September 1, 1939. . . .

After the war Churchill remarked he thought the Federation would be stillborn or greatly delayed if the Japanese invaded Australia, but the war proved to be so unifying that the legislation for an Imperial Federation was actually introduced while hostilities were still raging on Thursday November 24, 1938, (coincidently Thanksgiving Day in the United States). . . .

Essentially identical bills were introduced in November 1938 in Westminster as well as the Parliaments of Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. South Africa was left out, and while the parliament there actually considered trying to force its way into the Core with some legislative maneuver, they were essentially foreclosed by a poison pill in the bills. Nowhere was South Africa specifically excluded, but the enabling legislation created what in essence was a compact outlining among other things, what prerequisites Dominions needed to achieve before they and/or their constituent parts could be designated as parts of the Imperial Federation. Among these prerequisites was a requirement that suffrage could not be denied on the basis of race, creed or gender. Jan Smuts was livid, but he had no recourse. Therefore unless South Africa drastically changed its racial policies it would by default become part of the new Greater Commonwealth, but be kept outside the Federation.

Unfortunately the above policy only served to make Smuts and the rest of the wholly white South African ruling class dig their heels in. By 1944 they had formalized state discrimination creating what became known as apartheid. Rhodesia soon followed by declaring itself independent and implementing apartheid. Despite negotiations with the rest of the Commonwealth, as well as other nations through the ICC, the South Africans and Rhodesians stood firm, and after a quarter century of apartheid they were suspended from the Commonwealth in 1969 and boycotted by most of the world. When in 1978, after collapse of their white governments, both Rhodesia and South Africa returned to the Commonwealth, after adopting universal suffrage, and electing black majority governments. . . .

It was fortuitous for Churchill that he did not wait until after the Japanese war to pass the Federation bill. In April 1939 there was a change of government in Ireland. Ramon de Valera was the new leader in Eire, and he very much wanted to not only prevent Ireland from joining the Federation, but to declare it a republic. He was prevented because the original legislation out of Westminster provided that any such actions would trigger the creation of a hard border; further most of those residents of the North newly enfranchised to vote in the South under the legislation, would quite likely turn on de Valera and his allies. Had de Valera been in office less than six months earlier the legislation in Ireland would never have gotten a vote, but de Valera was unwilling to risk the political and economic consequences of pulling out.

In fact King of Canada was the only PM from the 1937 meeting that remained PM from the Conference through to the formal start of the Imperial Federation in 1948. The change of governments in Australia and New Zealand did not materially affect the integration of the core members as the incoming governments did not take materially different positions than their predecessor governments.

Although the Tories were unable to form a government after their own February 1940 elections, Labour was only able to form a minority government in coalition with the Liberals, so changing or scuttling the Federation was not made a priority. Clement Attlee, the Labour PM finally secured agreement with the Liberals to have a vote on reversing the legislation in November 1943, based on it being halfway through the transition period. It was made a vote of conscience, but the whips were confident they had a majority of at least four votes. Everyone, including Federation supporters, were shocked when the bill to end the Federation process failed. All had expected the Sinn Fein members to vote to kill the Federation process, but 3 abstained and five voted with the Tories. . . .

Everyone today remembers Winston Churchill as the Father of the Federation, what most don’t remember it wasn’t until 1945 that his Party won election with Winston as leader. Given the robust majority the Tories gained in 1945, Churchill was able to implement the integration of the Core members with no real distractions. Churchill was also able to finally get agreement to abolish the House of Lords effective with the formal creation of the Federation. The Lords tried to hold up their demise, but to no avail. The new English Parliament (although the English call it the restored Parliament) would continue in Westminster at the chamber formally occupied by the Lords. . . .

On the international front the Core members were in agreement on dealing with the conflicts resulting from the breakup of the colonial holdings of. France, Belgium and The Netherlands (all three countries would become founding members of the European Community led by Germany which had lost its own colonial holdings after the Great War). Likewise in conjunction with the Americans, support was given in the Chinese Civil War to the Nationalists in rebuilding China and defeating the Communists.

By 1946 the economic integration of the Core was essentially complete. All the future Federation Members had a common currency in what was by then called the Imperial Pound Sterling, under the auspices of the Bank of England which had already been renamed the Imperial Bank. The other parts of the Empire were now part of the Greater Commonwealth, and likewise used the Pound as its currency, except South Africa which as an independent state within the Commonwealth was using the Rand as its currency (but even then the Rand’s value was pegged to the Pound). There was free trade throughout the Core and the Commonwealth, with no tariffs allowed internally. . . .

By 1947 most of the political impediments to the Federation/Commonwealth’s creation had been solved. India was pacified by the 1938 promise dating back to the original implementing legislation to make it an independent nation within the Greater Commonwealth effective on the creation of Imperial Federation scheduled for November 1948. India would maintain free trade with the rest of the Commonwealth, and would make a decision for itself whether and how to partition between Hindus and Muslims, with arbitration from the newly created Commonwealth Office if requested. The British Sovereign was to remain the Head of State throughout the Imperial Federation and Commonwealth. In 1945 the Viceroy in India had been replaced by an elected Governor-General who was then appointed to be the Crown’s Representative in the absence of the Monarch. India did of course partition into four different states, but acrimony between Muslims and Hindus has been greatly reduced in large part out of fear from being excluded from participation in the Greater Commonwealth. That peaceful partition has served as the model for the 1949 division of the British Middle East mandate into the separate states of Palestine and Israel.

The elected Governor-General arrangement proved popular enough that more than one half of the independent nations within Commonwealth today have elected Governor-Generals. This allows Commonwealth members an option of using a Presidential system. All Federation members employ a parliamentary system, and as such have appointed Governor-Generals, or Lieutenant-Governors for their constituent states, provinces or territories. The example of following through with the promise to peacefully give independence to India, while retaking ties to the Crown made the British transition from colonialism much smoother, and certainly less violent then that experienced by the other European powers.

Well before the actual Federation Day there was a common defense, trade and foreign policy. Likewise the armed forces were completely integrated, and immigration policies were uniform within the areas to be federated. There was still a surprise to come. Shortly after the marriage of his daughter Elizabeth in November 1947, at the same time he made Philip a Prince of the realm George VI addressed the Empire. Only Churchill and a handful of advisors to the King and Prime Minister knew what the King wished to announce. The King announced that effective November 25, 1948, the date for seating the new Imperial Parliament in Westminster, he was abdicating in favor of Elizabeth. He explained he believed the new Empire needed a new vibrant monarch. On Federation Day George VI resumed the title of Duke of York, and lived to see three grandchildren before his death in 1957. Of course Elizabeth II remains the first and only Monarch the Imperial Federation has ever known.

Prior to the opening of the Imperial Parliament’s first session it was agreed Churchill would be the Imperial Prime Minister, and he guided them into the 1950s. Churchill retired from the Federation in 1953, but as like many other English IMPs he remained an MP in the English Parliament, and was a back bencher until his death in 1966. It soon became apparent that the far reaching nature of the Federation made it difficult to have a single party gain a clear majority. In point of fact except for one three year period following the Falklands War from 1984 - 1987, every government has been a coalition.

Is Churchill’s creation a success? Well it’s been 75 years with no end in sight, so we’ll leave it at that.

For those of you interested in picking up where we have now left off I recommend downloading the last lecture of late great Historian John F. Kennedy given almost exactly 50 years ago, just a month before his death in 1973. The lecture concentrated on the Presidencies of his father and older brother Republicans Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. (1941 - 1949), and Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (1965 -1973); but touches on a myriad of global issues including the integration of Europe. You'll also find it very helpful to read the posthumously published work of Dr. Kennedy, Father to Son, Democrat to Republican, Power to Super Power, wherein he gives a surprisingly insightful and unbiased view of the Kennedy Presidencies.