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.
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 As a military or historical document, Mr.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 his 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 correspondents suppressed it themselves in the public interest, although as a member of parliament Sir Sam Hughes had inalienable right to be reported in Hansard.
Within a few days, an attempt was made by certain misguided persons to induce Sᴀᴛᴜʀᴅᴀʏ Nɪɢʜᴛ to publish it, and copies of Hansard with the most venomous passages underscored were sent to this office. Without being at the moment aware of the reasons which had actuated the Press Gallery at Ottawa, Sᴀᴛᴜʀᴅᴀʏ Nɪɢʜᴛ decided independently that the publication of such a defamatory speech, even though it was privileged, and would make sensational reading, would be a great impropriety. Sᴀᴛᴜʀᴅᴀʏ Nɪɢʜᴛ was, however, sufficiently interested to investigate the grounds of several of the statements made by the former Minister of Militia and Defence, including the allegation of a great and unnecessary sacrifice of life at the occupation of Mons. It learned from eye-witnesses that the charge was false and that the speech as a whole was a tissue of malicious misrepresentation. Sir Sam might be safely left in peace if his “idle words” had not been disentombed in a belated attempt to besmirch the Principal of McGill University. The motive is not clear, unless Mr. Preston has elected to spend his declining years in disseminating stale scurrility.
The exhaustive evidence on which the defence insisted has served one good purpose, because it demonstrated that Sir Arthur Currie’s advancement was the outcome of his own efficiency and character, which won the respect of great soldiers like Lord Byng and Lord Haig. There was in the first year or two of the war much discreditable intrigue as to Canadian promotions in France, all pivoting 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 than he himself understood.
It is not with pleasure that Sᴀᴛᴜʀᴅᴀʏ Nɪɢʜᴛ 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 wantonly 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.