Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Canada (Woodward)

Subject: Mr. Pearson’s Toronto Speech, April 10, 1951

In a conversation today with Minister of External Affairs L. B. Pearson, I told him that the State Department had asked me to assure him it had given most careful consideration to the remarks made in his Toronto speech on April 10th, and that the speech had received a very wide coverage in the American press—in fact, a bigger spread than anything which had happened affecting US–Canadian relations for a long time. At the suggestion of the Department,1 I added that the only possible ill effect of his remarks might be that those in agencies of the Government other than the State Department might question the “special position” Canada had always enjoyed. By this I meant in the Office of Defense Mobilization and the Pentagon, where other countries and the representatives of other countries were always seeking special consideration for priorities on scarce materials, machine tools, etc. I said that the Department had wanted me to mention this not as a cause for alarm, but only as a possibility.

Mr. Pearson confirmed a statement made to me earlier by Mr. Heeney, Under Secretary of State,2 to the effect that the speech had been made primarily for Canadian consumption and to prepare Canadian public opinion for possible action by the Canadian Government with respect to the Far East. By this, Mr. Pearson explained, he meant that if the fighting in Korea spread to China, his Government might have to reconsider its position with respect to the commitment of troops in the Far East, in spite of any action the United States Government might take. In other words, Mr. Pearson said, if General [Page 885] MacArthur could not be controlled, and led the United Nations Forces into war on the Chinese mainland, the Canadian Government might well feel that it could not associate itself in such a military venture. Mr. Pearson added that his Government had lost all confidence in General MacArthur,3 and that he would not have made his remarks the way he did, had he known that General MacArthur was to be relieved as he was within a few hours after the Toronto address. Pearson added that he greatly appreciated Mr. Acheson’s telephoning Mr. Wrong4 in Washington at midnight, April 10th, an hour or so before the White House announcement on General MacArthur.

The Minister also said that he felt Canadian public opinion, and to some extent, United States public opinion, should be educated to the fact that Canada is growing up as a nation. Some years ago Canada had always been fearful of too much control from London, and to a certain extent it had now transferred this fear to Washington. He had made a number of speeches in New York at the United Nations and elsewhere, in Parliament, and throughout Canada, to which little attention had been paid, saying the same thing—that Canada had to assume its responsibilities in the world today, and especially in the “two-power world” today. He had always gone out of his way to express his gratitude for the fact that Canada was not like Poland, although each lived beside one of the two great powers—but that nevertheless Canada had to learn to approach its problems in a spirit of independence, recognizing and being thankful for the leadership of the United States in the free world. This part of the Toronto speech Mr. Pearson said he would have made anyway, MacArthur or no MacArthur.

The Minister seemed to be pleased with the attention paid to his remarks in the American press, as well as by the fan mail he had received from Canadians.

At the conclusion of our conversation I jokingly reminded the Minister that I had been invited by the Ottawa Kiwanis Club to attend a luncheon meeting next week at which he was to be the guest speaker, and that the topic announced by the Club was “United States-Canada Friendship Day”. Mr. Pearson laughed and said that he guessed he had better speak about “the undefended border and the 135 years of peace”. As I left I invited him and his wife to dinner at the Embassy, and he invited me to attend the opening baseball game with him at Lansdowne Park.

Stanley Woodward
  1. Apparently made in an unrecorded telephone conversation.
  2. Woodward discussed Pearson’s speech with Under Secretary of State for External Affairs A. D. P. Heeney on April 11, reported in despatch 1340, April 13, not printed (642.00/4–1451).
  3. For documentation on the Canadian viewpoint concerning the Korean War and General MacArthur, see volume VII.
  4. Canadian Ambassador to the United States Hume Wrong.