“Nothing but words” characterizes early U.S., British relations

Dr. Craig Saucier delivers a lecture on the relationship between the United Stated and Great Britain in the 1920s and 1930s. - Photo by Megan Mosher

With myth-busting style, Dr. Craig Saucier dispelled the notion that the United States and Great Britain have shared a special cooperative relationship for time immemorial in his Fanfare lecture, “Mything in Action: The Fantasy of the Special Relationship.”

Saucier, a Southeastern Louisiana University history instructor, noted Wednesday, that it has long been assumed the strong alliance formed between the U.S. and Britain during World War II was a climax of a gradual and inevitable development of friendship. This assumption has been based on the countries’ common language, mutual commitment to democracy and a constitutional government as well as similar commitments to economic objectives such as free trade and capitalism. However, the long history of friendship is simply non-existent, said Saucier.

“While much is made of the generally and frequently friendly relations since 1945, in fact there is really nothing inevitable about our relationship,” Saucier told the audience of about 200. “If we were to go back, we would see a long history of mutual contempt between the British and the American governments.”

He noted that the period following the American Revolution was fraught with American-British conflict like the War of 1812 and disputes such as those over Oregon and the Panama Canal. Saucier chose to focus primarily on the relations between the U.S. and Britain in the years between the two world wars, the 1920s and 1930s.

Going into the 1920s, Britain was already bitter against the U.S. for its actions during World War I, Saucier noted. This bitterness stemmed in part from the United States’ early neutrality in the World War I, its expanded power at the expense of Britain, its insistence on an independent American army and its rejection of the Treaty of Versailles, after it had formerly cooperated with British diplomats.

“They saw the American rejection of the treaty as a fundamental betrayal of trust,” Saucier said. “British leaders will therefore find it difficult over the course of the next 20years or so to put a lot of faith and a lot of confidence in the assurances of the American government.”

In fact, the next 20 years were characterized by mistrust due mostly to American assurances which were never carried through. Mistrust was so bad, Saucier noted, one British politician was quoted as saying, “You’ll get nothing from the Americans but words, big words, but only words.”

Saucier stated it was not until 1940 when Winston Churchill became prime minister that the U.S. and Great Britain truly began operating on with a more conscientious view of cooperation.

“And when they do,” Saucier said, “they find the result to be the salvation of the free world.”

Freshman Ryne Berthelot said at some points during Saucier’s lecture he seemed almost critical of the presidents during the time and made a strong case for U.S. fault in the shaky relations.

“That really has a different viewpoint,” Berthelot said. “He made some of the U.S. look very rash in their decisions.”

Eddie Puissegur, a senior citizen, said he found the lecture very interesting.

“I’m with the Go Club,” Puissegur said. “I came with them just to see what it was all about.”

Dr. Craig Saucier looks on as Dr. William Robison explains their little doppelganger stunt. - Photo by Megan Mosher

Saucier began the lecture by introducing himself as Dr. Bill Robison about to introduce the “brilliant historian” Craig Saucier. Robison, who was dressed identically to Saucier, interrupted by informing his colleague that he was Craig Saucier and not History and Political Science department head.

The two professors pulled this little stunt because people often confuse them since they look alike, both being of similar build, wearing glasses and having graying hair pulled into a short ponytail.

“Our students frequently make the mistake of confusing us. Our colleagues sometimes do and apparently, it even extends to us,” joked the real Robison.

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