Dalhousie, the Second World War, and the Philosopher-King, 1939-1943
Affairs external: the coming of the war. Atlantic provinces cajoled for support for Medicine and Dentistry. Selling the Birchdale property on the North-West Arm. Dalhousie crippled by wartime demands. The 1943 R.B. Bennett gift. A new board chairman, K.C. Laurie.
"In 1938 the Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations took as one of its five commissioners R.A. MacKay, Dalhousie’s Eric Dennis professor of political science. His substitute at Dalhousie during 1938 and 1939 was Arthur R.M. Lower, an articulate, liberal-minded historian on leave from United College, Winnipeg. United College was a tense and riven institution; Lower found Dalhousie relaxed and pleasant. As MacKay told him, the professors at Dalhousie live 'in a condition of genial anarchy.' What MacKay meant was that every professor, old and young, taught in ways that seemed to him best. It was the duty of the head of the department to determine what courses were to be taught, but their mode, their style, their essays, marking, examinations, were the professor’s to choose and to exact. Lower found the results, stemming from half a century and more of this tradition, good. But he found Dalhousie uneasy about its president. Seven years of Carleton Stanley had divided the faculty, and there was a substantial section with whom 'he was extremely unpopular.' Others, such as G.V. Douglas and H.L. Stewart, supported him. Stewart’s view was: 'Some say this about Stanley, some say that. But I say he is on the side of education which is more than can be said about many a university president.'
"In that sense Stewart was right. Lower, Stewart, and President Walker of King’s were on the CBC on New Year’s Day of 1939, in a radio debate about Canadian foreign policy, with Walker the imperialist, Stewart the League of Nations collectivist, and Lower the Canadian nationalist. Lower and Walker certainly suited their roles. Lower said to Walker: 'The difference between you and me is that when you say ‘we’ you mean Lancashire, and when I say ‘we’ I mean Canadians.' That brought a telegram to Stanley from H.P. Robinson of the board of New Brunswick Telephones in Saint John. Did that represent what was being taught at Dalhousie? Stanley not only supported Lower’s words, but even more his right to speak them.
"Munich had sharpened the debate within Canada. The shock of it, in September 1938, and even more Hitler’s flagrant repudiation of it by his march into Prague on 15 March 1939, shifted a significant block of Canadian opinion away from isolationism. Canada’s Department of External Affairs was still strongly isolationist, as were most French Canadians; but English Canadians and Dalhousians were coming to the grim conclusion that if a major war broke out between Britain and Germany, Canada would have to be in it in some form..."