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202 THE CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW •927-9; renewedrelations markedby the heavydumpingof Sovietgoodsin Canada,•929-3•; the embargo on Sovietproducts,•93•-6; and a final phase from •936,whena newagreement wasto bringincreased tradeby •939. In the future,asin the past,Canadian-Soviet relations are likelyto be motivatedprimarilyby commercial considerations and for that reason aloneProfessor Balawyder 's bookisa valuablecontribution. JOHN SWETTENHAM NationalMuseumso[ Canada TheWretched o[Canada: Letters toR.B.Bennett, •93o-35 . Editedby Gr,•¾soN andr•mHa•. ,.•ss. Social Historyof Canada.Toronto,University of TorontoPress, •97•. PP.xxviii, •99- $•2.5o cloth,$3.95paper. TheDirtyThirties. Editedbyr•mmm.HORN. Toronto,CoppClark,•972.PP. xxxii,728,illus.$9.95cloth,$5.95paper. At longlast,Canadian historiography ismoving intotheneglected fieldof social history. It is appropriate and significant that the thirtiesshould providethe setting andTorontotheacademic initiative. The thirties haslongbeentheuntapped lodeforbothsocial andpolitical historians, and,withToronto publishers leading theway,weshould soon knowmoreaboutourrecent pastandtheclass structure of Canada. The Wretched of Canadais the firstvolumein the University of Toronto Press series,'The Social History of Canada.' It isalsothe onlyonebased on hitherto unpublished material, theothervolumes being neweditions of seminal workssuchasGoldwinSmith's Canadaand the CanadianQuestion andH.B. Ames' TheCityBelow theHill. Editors Grayson andBliss havechosen 168letters fromtheseveral thousand written to PrimeMinister R.B.Bennett during his fivemiserable years in office. In theirexcellent introduction theyexplain that withinthelimits'of animpressionistic method' theyhavepreserved 'roughly thesame proportions ofletters fromregions, age andoccupational groups, people in needof jobs, money, clothes, etc.,thatarefoundin theBennett Papers.' A logical approach, surely, butI woulddisagree strongly withtheircontention thatthese letters camefrom'theforgotten people, thesubmerged tenth.'No onecould deny thatthese people werepoorandin manycases desperate, but I think even acursory examination oftheletters willreveal thatthecorrespondents werefromthesolid middle class - people whotemporarily hadtheir comfortable economic underpinnings knocked fromunder thembytheDepression . When good times returned withthewar,these people nolonger were poor butresumed theirmore secure middle-class positions. Therealpoor, those who remain thatwayregardless ofworldeconomic fluctuations, never writeto their prime minister. Theydidn'tin thethirties andtheydon'ttoday. Theyexist beyond thepale, beyond theconsciousness ofgovernment representatives and investigators, social workers andhistorians. Thus atrained mechanic writes in •931thathisseven children arestarving despite thedirect relieffromthecityof Calgary. 'I wasbornin Stormont Co REVIEWS 203 Ont. & my wife'sparents& her grandparents wereborn there too. We have alwaysbeensupporters of the Conservative Party & it seems pretty toughif wecan'tgeta job,a steady onewhileweseeAmericans comeover& fill jobsthat Canadians should have.' A farmer's wife in Ontario writes about her failure to obtaina loan.'What'stheuseof tryingtogetonif theGovernment refuses help totheirownCanadianbornsons anddaughters?' Sheconcluded with a lengthy hymnandfellowProtestant Bennett repliedwithwords ofencouragement; three yearslater whena second letter told how the farm wassoldfor mortgage,he sent$20. Oddly enough, the onlyexampleof a regularcorrespondent wasa Charles Grierson(all the nameswere changed by the editors)who first wrote from Winnipegin •93•. A second generation Canadian'of Britishdecent,'Grierson wasan electrician, marriedwith threechildren,'all sick.'In answerto hisplea for a job 'anywhere in Canada,'Bennett's private secretary suggests that he 'keepin touchwith the Winnipegmunicipalauthorities.' A second letter in June•933wasmoredesperate: 'I amnota radical,Red or unloyalbut I would appreciate an honest chance.' ByJanuary•934 Grierson wanteda $•5ooloan sohe and hisfamilycouldleavethe country.No fewerthan threeexchanges occurred between Grierson and Bennett's privatesecretary duringthe summer of •935. Twice fivedollarbillswereenclosed and the lastoneon file contained a hand-written notefromBennett, asking hisexecutive secretary, R.K. Finlayson, to checkon employmentopportunities. 'I do not recommendhim as I do not knowhim but we can givethe appearance of interest.'By •935 appearances seemed moreimportantthan actions to the fired Bennett,who probablyinstructed hisstafftoenclose $2and$5withmost oftheirreplies - clearexamples of vote-buying astheOctoberelection approached. A moreprovocative andinformative 'depression' account isthefat collection of documents, The Dirty Thirties.The title impliesthat the entiredecade is understudy,but in realityonlya handfulof the selections referto eventsafter •935whenMackenzie King resumed theprimeministership. Eventhoughfor most .Canadians thethirties were'dirty'for tenlongyears, manyhistorians and a growing number ofanalysts oftheperiod concentrate onthefirstfive,implying that the Depression wassynonymous with that arch-ToryR.B. Bennett.One reason forthisemphasis stems fromthefactthat afterAugust•935theinternationalscene preoccupied the moulders of Canadianpublicopinion.Bennett himself ispar flyresponsible forthishistorical imbalance. In •930hepromised to endthe depression; by contrast, hisLiberalopponent, King, a muchbetter politician, madenopromises andoncein powerhismostdirectactions wereto makecertainBennett's so-called New Deal legislation endedup in the limbo of thehighercourts, andto establish theRowell-Sirois Commission. In effect, then,TheDirtyThirtiescovers thesame fiveyears asThe Wretched o[ •'anada and one sectioneven containssomeof the samelettersto Bennett found in theGrayson-Bliss book. Hornismoredidactic thanhistwocolleagues, raising thequestion, asI...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-1093
Print ISSN
0008-3755
Pages
pp. 202-204
Launched on MUSE
2016-04-06
Open Access
No
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