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Arthur Douglas Crease Letters, Diaries and Scrapbooks

Letters from Arthur Douglas Crease of Victoria to his brother Lindley Crease and his mother Sarah Crease; instructions for the offensive of July 26, 1917; a regimental notebook, diaries and scrapbook. Learn more.

*All transcriptions are provided by volunteers, and the accuracy of the transcriptions is not guaranteed. Please be sure to verify the information by viewing the image record, or visiting the BC Archives in person. 

BC Archives MS-0055BC Archives MS-2879



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For Every Idle Word That Man, etc.

The verdict at Cobourg assizes in the libel action of Gen. Sir Arthur Currie against F.W. Wilson, editor of the Port Hope "Guide" and W.T.R. Preston, his volunteer contributor, is one that is viewed with natural satisfaction by nearly everyone except the defendants. If afforded the plaintiff a well-deserved vindication that was in no sense vindictive. Obviously the jurors did not desire to destroy so old and respected a weekly as the "Guide", even though it had unwarily published a slander, distressing to tens of thousands of people who have no personal acquaintance with the former Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Army overseas, and present head of McGill University. It seemed shocking to all right-thinking men that so able and respected a man as Sir Arthur Currie should after nearly ten years feel obliged to defend his own reputation and that of his lieutenants, against charges which every Canadian editor who had taken the trouble to acquaint himself with the occurrences of the last days of the great war knew to be without a vestige of foundation. In bringing the action Sir Arthur Currie performed a great public service and was probably aware when he pressed the action to a finish that he would personally have to face every dirty insinuation against his personal character that could be raked up.

The verdict is all the more significant because Sir Arthur fought his action in a district where he was personally unknown, against opponents who enjoyed the acquaintance of the greater number of the residents of Northumberland and Durham. The odds so far as local sentiment was concerned were entirely against him unless the facts were incontrovertibly on his side. He would have been quite justified in asking for a change of venue, but he preferred to fight the issue on the ground where the article complained of, was first circulated. Under the circumstances, therefore, the verdict is more conclusive than if the trial had taken place in any other part of the Dominion.

The whole incident is an illustration of the text, (Matthew 12; 36) "That every idle word that men shall speak they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment". The defence as it unfolded itself showed that in writing his fantastic editorial, "Mons", Mr. Preston was speaking of matters with which he was personally unacquainted, on the basis of wild mis-statements made by the late Sir Sam Hughes in 1919 when he gave every evidence of being in a mental and physical decline, and when he had become a political Ishmaelite. As a military or historical document, Mr. Preston's article was not more important and certainly less amusing than a once famous recitation "How Bill Adams Won the Battle of Waterloo". Throughout his entire political career, Sir Sam's speeches always seemed to be the product of an overheated imagination; and after his dismissal from the cabinet of Sir Robert Borden, his attitude toward those who carried on the war without his advice and assistance, became as painful as it was mischievous.

Aftermath of A Slanderous Speech

The speech in the House of Commons in 1919, which the defence endeavored to place on the records in justification of the libel, was made by Sir Sam against the protests of his best friends and well wishers. It traduced others beside Sir Arthur Currie. It was the deliberate mudslinging of an embittered man, and was clearly an abuse of the privileges of parliament. The policy adopted by the Ottawa correspondents of the daily press toward this speech at the time of its delivery is one of the most creditable episodes in the history of Canadian journalism. It was a privileged utterance which any newspaper could have published without danger to itself, and from the lower and irresponsible standpoint of news gathering, would have made "good reading". But it was quite obvious to those who heard it that it was the utterance of a man beside himself, - so wrought up with a sense of this own grievances as to be unworthy of credence; and it was felt that it would be an offence against the higher ethics of journalism to publish it. There was no attempt at censorship; the correspond-

round the Ross Rifle, but it proved fruitless. Sir Arthur, it was made clear by this trial had no "pull", had never cultivated the arts of popularity, and was advanced by forces entirely uninfluenced by Canadian politics. The aftermath of the trial has shown in a most convincing manner that his services were far more widely valued and appreciated by the men who with him bore the heat and burden of the conflict that he himself understood.

It is not with pleasure that SATURDAY NIGHT at any time learns of an adverse verdict against a newspaper in a libel action. The instinct of self-protection is sufficient to account for that. There are injustices in the libel law which should be removed if a newspaper is to be an effective servant of the public interest. But we realize that it is hopeless to ask for reforms so long as newspapers abuse the privileges of the press as did the Port Hope Guide when it admitted to its columns Mr. Preston's [illegible] defamatory article "Mons".

BC Archives, MS-2879 Box 83 File 1 / CREASE FAMILY / “Diary of the War”, diary and scrapbook of Arthur Douglas Crease, 1915-1919.

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