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TheCanadianReview of American Studies, Volume 11,No. 3, Winter 1980 Manpower,Diplomacy and SocialMaladies: Canada, Britain, theUnited States and the Recruitment Controversyof 1917-1919 J.M. Pawa One of the more interesting aspects of Canadian-American diplomacy duringthe First World War was the controversy which developed between thetwo nations over the recruitment and service of American citizens in the Canadian and British armed forces. Openly sympathetic to the Allied cause,the United States consented to the British-Canadian Military Mission's operation of a widespread recruitment service in the United States. 1 Once Congressdeclared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary, in April of 1917, however, the attitude of the United States government toward BritishCanadianrecruiting underwent a striking metamorphosis. Without warning, theBritish-Canadian recruiters found themselves in a hostile environment. Althoughthe United States was, after April, a cobelligerent, Washington hadabsolutely no intention of allowing the border to remain open for the passageof draft-eligible Americans to Canada for the purpose of enlistment. In part, the conflict over recruitment had its roots in certain AngloCanadian assumptions. First of all, both Ottawa and London believed that therewere degrees or levels of American citizenship. The British maintained that those who had simply applied for American citizenship were in a class orstatus which made them eligible for Canadian or British service. Second, theCanadian government held steadfastly to the assumption that there was avastand untapped pool of manpower inthe United States which waswaiting 296 l. M. Pawa to be summoned to the British-Canadian colors. The history of the recruitment struggle is in part a history of controversy between Canada andthe United States; however, because of Dominion relations, the story ofnecessitv involves London and the British army as well as Ottawa and the Canadia; Expeditionary Force. Intertwined with the recruitment problem was the thorny issueofDominion politics. Ottawa struggled with the perplexing problem of trying to manage membership in the Empire and at the same time keeping a measure~f independence in its relations with the United States. Wartime circumstances had revolutionized Empire relations. Resolution IX, a result of the Imperial War and Imperial Cabinet Conference, had marked the transformation of Canada to a near autonomous·nation of an Imperial Commonwealth. Given their state of near independence it is not surprising that Canadian authorities sought to recruit for their own armed forces. 2 Indeed, Canadian authorities believed that they could do a better job of recruiting if they could free themselves from the British recruiting mission, although that goal wasnever reached. 3 Throughout the war a joint recruiting mission was maintained. Manpower needs were a matter of almost desperate proportions forthe British forces. Recruitment was a matter of survival. Any source of enlistments had to be exploited. Thus, the stage for a dispute between Washington and Ottawa and London was already set at such distant points as Champagne, Artois, Ypres and forgotten trench lines and revetments. For the British government, 1918was a difficult year. London reflecteda sense of desperation. The returns of January 1, 1918, listed a strength of 3,661,000men, and "great difficulties had to be met and overcome to achieve this result." The problems faced by the British were enormous in both their size and their scope. Plagued by a shortage of goods and labor, mounting casualties, difficulties with trade unions, and "resistance to recruiting in winter months," more men simply had to be found, especially in light ofthe "Russian collapse"; the War Cabinet saw a need for perhaps 450,000more men. It might even become necessary to extend military service to Ireland and take medical doctors to age fifty-six.4 The need to supply troops forthe Western Front was translated into a determined effort to recruit in the United States. 5 On the first of April, 1918, British-Canadian recruiting stations were listed as being operational in almost every major city in the United States; New York City had a mission complement of twenty-nine men, Chicago had twenty-seven men on duty, and recruiting efforts were carried on as far South as Louisiana.6 Obviously, there was a strong commitment to the enlist· ment of eligible men in the United States, though the term eligible never ceased to haunt British-Canadian...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1710-114X
Print ISSN
0007-7720
Pages
pp. 295-311
Launched on MUSE
2019-01-02
Open Access
No
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