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2019

Manitoba History No. 89
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No. 89

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Jack Houston’s Editorials in the OBU Bulletin: 25 October 1919

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The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice

When Stephen Leacock came to Montreal to take the chair of Political Economy in McGill University, he received the usual share of press notice of the most flattering kind. Leacock has a brilliant college career and held all the prizes.

Shortly after his installation, he appeared in public and, as a good teacher with a mission to enlighten the darkness in a backward colony, discussed the commodity nature of the metal gold, and put forward some of his ideas of what determined value.

Hugh Graham, then as now, was proprietor of the Montreal Star. In the little, bush-village of Athelstan, in the county of Huntington, he had been taught, in the little White School House, that “value” was determined by the law of “Supply and demand” and at the same time he had been taught to repeat, by wrote [sic=rote], the Shorter Catechism.

When Graham read of the Leacock heresy, he at once took occasion, editorially, to point out to the youthful professor, that no man could talk such nonsense and remain in the university endowed by the ripe and successful merchants of the Canadian Metropolis.

Leacock on consulting the Alumni decided that Hugh was right about the matter of holding the job. But, you never can keep a good man down, so Leacock turned his activities into other fields. Soon, he has secured a wider reputation, than economics would ever have given him, as a successful writer of the Nonsense Novels.

These novels are funny. The style of humor is that of the outrageous cartoonist, only done in verbal pictures. His characters put one in mind of pachyderms in frolic. If you want a scream, just buy one of Leacock’s books.

Long ago Leacock and Lord Atholstan became reconciled and now the Star is the publisher in chief of Leacock’s Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice. But there is suspicion abroad, that Graham is jealousy suspicious of the gold theory, and that Leacock is still possessed of the fear of discipline, all of which accounts for that magnum opus of humor, the Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, by professor Stephen Leacock.

‘Tis True, ‘Tis Pity and Pity, ‘Tis ‘Tis True. The Conservative East

Niagara Falls is the home of Tom Moore, president of the Dominion Trades and Labor Congress. Everybody says Niagara Falls is the most conservative place in Ontario. That is, everybody in Niagara Falls says so. But if you jog over to Niagara on the lake, some 15 miles away, the workers there say “Oh, you can’t do anything here, we are the most conservative place in Ontario.”

At St. Catharine, Brantford, Windsor, London, Sarnia, Stratford, Kitchener, Guelph, Toronto, Ottawa, everywhere it was the same story. “Oh, you can’t do anything here; we are the most conservative place in Ontario.”

What does it all mean? What can it mean? There is but one answer, and that is there is a moving of the waters in the east, and everywhere the workers are waiting one on the other for someone to make the first move. They whisper in your ear, they steal silent glances, they timidly make and attempt to applaud and then furtively slip their hands in their pockets, fearful lest it might betray them. And then they appear to be ashamed of their actions.

Tom “What’s his name” instinctively let out a “Hear, Hear,” and that lone voice worked a miracle. Instantly a thousand voices welled “that’s the stuff” and it seemed as if the “conservatism of the east” had been destroyed and the mighty Niagara of progress has been unleashed.

Page revised: 27 July 2013

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