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George Bolingbroke

Prime Minister George Bolingbroke.

George Bolingbroke was Prime Minister of Great Britain and leader of the Tory Party in the 1930s and during the early months of the Global War.

During North American Governor-General Douglas Watson's address to Parliament on 17 April 1933, Bolingbroke called him "the leader of a great nation, a man of extraordinary vision, and a most welcome visitor to our shores." Bolingbroke called the close relations between Britain and the C.N.A. "a model for all mankind," and said, "We are brothers because men wiser than we saw the need for self-government in North America, and we shall stand united no matter what the foe, no matter what the problem." Watson responded with, "Our loyalty to the Crown remains undiminished, and our relations with the Empire continue to be that of brothers."

Bolingbroke was in East Anglia attending his daughter's wedding on Saturday, 22 February 1936, like other world leaders unaware of the impending global economic crisis. The crisis began two days later, when Kramer Associates President John Jackson announced that the company was moving its headquarters from San Francisco, California to Luzon in the Philippines. Soon after, it was learned that K.A. had been selling securities in the world stock exchanges for weeks, converting its funds to gold. The price of gold began to rise rapidly in London, until trading was halted at noon. There was panic on all the world's securities markets that day, and one by one they closed their doors, in fear of helping create a liquidity crisis. The C.N.A.'s National Financial Administration branches were all overextended at that point, and between 15 and 17 March all six were forced into bankruptcy.

The North American financial panic spread to western Europe by early autumn, and to Japan by November. Despite the worsening financial situation, in the November 1937 Parliamentary elections, Bolingbroke's Tories were able retain their majority in the Commons on the strength of Bolingbroke's reputation as a "Great Englander" who would defend British interests against German encroachment.

The outbreak of the Arab Revolt in the Ottoman Empire in August 1939 proved to be the catalyst for war. After being defeated by the Ottoman army at the Battle of el Khibir on 10 September, Abdul el Sallah, the leader of the revolt, appealed to the Germans for military aid, and Chancellor Karl Bruning agreed, beginning an airlift of German troops to Arabia on 19 September. The Ottoman Shah contacted Bolingbroke to warn that he could not withstand a combined Arab-German assault, and to request aid from the British marines stationed at the Victoria Canal. Bolingbroke met with the Cabinet on 20 September, and it was agreed that 10,000 Royal Marines stationed at the canal would be dispatched to Constantinople. That afternoon, Bolingbroke addressed the Commons to inform them of the decision. "This may mean war. If so, then so be it. We cannot allow Mr. Bruning to destroy a century and more of progress in that part of the world."

British and German troops clashed near Damascus on 30 September. Bruning declared war on Britain on 1 October, and Bolingbroke's government responded in like fashion the next day. Both Bolingbroke and Bruning attempted to win the support of the C.N.A. Bruning offered the North Americans "a share in a new world order, a partnership of equals after the aggressors are destroyed." Bolingbroke was less direct, instructing his ambassador to Burgoyne, Quentin Ritchie, "to stress the implications of a German victory in the Atlantic ... have Mr. Hogg consider the nature of the German-Mexican pact ... a strong neighbor to the west is hardly in North America's interests." However, Governor-General Bruce Hogg, who had defeated Watson the year before, was unmoved by either appeal. An isolationist, Hogg had run against Watson's active foreign policy, and he was determined to keep the C.N.A. neutral.

Sobel makes no further mention of Bolingbroke after 1939, which might be due to the fall of his government after the early reverses the British suffered in the war.


Sobel's sources for the political career of George Bolingbroke are James Radamaker's Secret Files of the Global War: Correspondences With North America, 1939-1941 (Melbourne, 1959); Miguel Alavarces' The Global War: A Diplomatic History (Mexico City, 1960); and the 18 April 1933 issue of the London Times.

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