Courtesy Reuters

The Psychology of Canadian Nationalism

IN THE autumn of 1948 William Lyon MacKenzie King completed his inch-by-inch retirement from public life as Prime Minister of Canada. He had finally served as head of state for a longer time than had any president, prime minister, consul or archon in the history of democracy, and on the way he had broken several longstanding records of other ministers of the British Crown.

These records apparently meant a lot to Mr. King. Each one that was broken was followed by rumors of his retirement, but the rumors were never specifically denied and Mr. King continued in office, his memory counting the tenure of his service to the hour. Then retirement was forced upon him suddenly one day for the reason of failing health. It was unfortunate that his own studied technique of doing everything as unobtrusively as possible had trained people to expect from him nothing dramatic, nothing that stimulates the imagination, nothing that suggests a crisis. Had he been an American, had he been an Englishman, had he been anything but the kind of Canadian he is, the record he set would have been celebrated with pomp at home and careful examination in other countries. As it was, the announcement of his retirement was noted by the world's press with only such interest as politeness required.

Mr. King's career, no less than the irony implicit in the quietness of his retirement from it, is deeply symbolic of the country he governed. Under his leadership, Canada has developed into the fourth military power among the United Nations, and subsequently into the second most important economic reservoir of western democracy. Few nations in modern times have grown in stature more rapidly. Canada has long ceased to be a Dominion in the original sense of the word; nor has she now, in swinging away from Great Britain, become what so many feared was inevitable, an appendage of the United States. She has become a highly integrated, growing nation, lacking one attribute only which

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