"THE FUNDAMENTAL LIBERTIES"
An Address by MAYOR CHARLOTTE WHITTON, C.B.E. Mayor of the City of Ottawa
Thursday, November 13th, 1952
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. John W. Griffin.
MR. GRIFFIN: Members and Guests of The Empire Club of Canada: "Whatever she does woman must do twice as well as any man to be thought just half as good." Our speaker, whose words these are, will have no trouble convincing anyone familiar with her wonderful record of achievement that she IS the equal of any man. After all, very few persons in one lifetime have been awarded the degree of Master of Arts, been decorated by the King, been Secretary to the Minister of Trade and Commerce, been indicted for conspiracy to libel, served as Mayor of a great city-and plowed a straight furrow.
Charlotte Whitton left Queen's University in 1918 with an M.A. and several medals for her scholarship. Since then she has received honorary doctorates from no less than four universities. She was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1934, received the Jubilee Medal two years later and the Coronation Medal in 1937. She has served as Director of the Canadian Welfare Council, as Canadian Delegate to the Social Questions Section of the League of Nations at Geneva, as consultant to the National Employment Commission, the War Time Prices and Trade Board, to two departments of the Ontario Government and to the federal Conservative Party.
In 1947 Dr. Whitton became very widely known as the author of a report on child welfare in Alberta, which she prepared for the Alberta Chapter, Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire. As the result of an article on this report which appeared in New Liberty magazine the Alberta Government pressed charges of conspiracy to libel against Dr. Whitton. It also hastened to appoint a Royal Commission to see if she was right. The Supreme Court of the foothills province discharged her, the charge was withdrawn and the Royal Commission made recommendations that were substantially the same as those in the Whitton report.
Ottawa's first citizen, Dr. Whitton, contributed a regular column to the Ottawa EVENING CITIZEN and has written a bewildering number of pamphlets and articles on various social problems and even found time to publish a history of the timber trade on the Ottawa. Truly, she has done twice as much as MANY men put together. Scholar, author, social welfare pioneer and chief magistrate, Dr. Whitton may record as her latest achievement that she is the only woman who has ever been asked to address the Empire Club a second time-indeed a third time. Her speech before this Club two years ago was a stirring call to Canadians to go forward with confidence in their own capacities and pride in their great Imperial heritage.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to present Canada's most distinguished woman.
DR. WHITTON: Mr. President, Guests and Members of the Empire Club:-My first words must be those of humble thanks for your unsuspected gift of real fiction, touched with a good imagination, and the essential basic facts in respect to chronological events.
Now in speaking to you today on the subject I have taken, "THE FUNDAMENTAL LIBERTIES", we have been taught and we speak speciously of, the fundamental human freedoms-freedom of conscience, of worship, of speech, of assembly, of free government by people freely chosen by free electors, and we tend to think of each of these liberties as something deep, abiding, self-sustaining within themselves.
But they are not: they can not even be safely regarded as absolute rights, if human life itself and these very liberties are to endure. These freedoms can and do become vicious and destructive if enjoyed and exercised "on their own" and without the only controls within which they can be safe-the desire and the ability of each individual to discipline and govern, to control himself or herself within the divine dictates upon which our whole growth of western democracy is grounded.
"The battlefield is not in the institutions but in the spirit of man", Chancellor Gilmour of McMaster has put it. And there the weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, and the fact of the spirit of God within each mortal body.
"Not in utter nakedness Nor in entire forgetfulness But the trailing clouds of glory do we come From heaven which is our home."
That heaven of Wordsworth was no illusionary realm beyond the sight of man; it was the sum total of the spirit, grace and mind of God Himself, the eternal, informing, inspiring, renewing spirit of the God of the Hebraic faith, indwelling in man in the fulfilment of the Christian incarnation. In this spiritual fact within human life lay the very fundamental regard of man for man since in the blind beggar, Bartemeus, in the man sick with the palsy; in the woman taken in adultery, there dwelt the same spark of the Spirit of God as flamed within the Emperor himself, and each, being in the image of God, had equal right to the love and service of man. From that truth grew recognition of the right of men to equality of living and therefore free and equal choice of whom they would have to rule over them and to free determination of the rules by which they would be governed.
And there began the evolution of a new way of life, the first slow steps of a democracy based on this regard of man for man, and in it liberty was born and flourished. I think it was William Hazlitt who put it in some such words as that the love of power is the love of ourselves while the love of liberty is the love of others.
Our first institutions of freedom sprang essentially from the intimate love of one for the other within the family, which enlarged into the tribe, and then to the clan, and finally to the community, the kingdom.
But what Burke epitomized, centuries later, early it was evident that "Liberty itself must be limited in order to be possessed." And because the basic beliefs and faith of men themselves proved weaker than the pressures upon them, the rule of law became essential to assure survival of the rule of love,--that is love in the broadest sense of good regard, and honest neighbourly dealing one with the other.
If and as men lose the power and the desire for this self-discipline, self-control and self-reliance, under divine guidance, as essentially members of the same human family, whether it be in the household, in the local community, in the nation or among nations, then as Dean Manion, of the College of Law, Notre Dame University, recently put it in a brilliant address, "Government moves in to take up the slack." And he adds, "government moves in, not as originally and fundamentally, to protect men from injury, one to the other, in their civil rights or under criminal offence, or to protect the people as a whole from aggression, but"--the words are Manion's, "as a sort of all-purpose, around-the-clock device to make men" – presumably--"happy from the cradle to the grave." Government then no longer remains a power and instrument, contained and retained within statute and administration.
"It," says Manion, "roams where it pleases throughout every walk of life and throughout every department of business. From workers to wages to materials, to product, the government is everywhere. We no longer have a government of laws: we have government by 100,000 roving all-powerful agents of government."
That is Dean Manion of Notre Dame.
Now, in Canada, at all levels of government, the multiplicity of what the French language so delightfully describes as "functionnaires" is even more disproprotionate in the proportion to which not only the executive details of government--and I am talking of government at all levels, Municipal, Provincial and Dominion, but the drafting, and to large measure, the determining of policy, are vested in the non-elective sector of the appointed official and the necessary hordes of subordinate staff.
And basically, why? Not because government has of itself sought this intrusion upon the freedom of living but because of the weakening of our moral sense, because of the decay of conscience, because of the bargaining and compromising with what each and every one of us who is not a moron knows to be right. The good, the right, the infinite--these we know, with sense and knowledge absolute, but we have impaired our own fundamental liberties of courage and honesty in finding the so-called "reasonable way," when this so often means that we do, what we "reason" will work instead of vowing to do what we know to be right and then willing that it shall work.
"Oh, your Worship, be reasonable, and take the middle way!" The middle way-when there is right on the right and wrong on the left? You can not take the middle way between principles.
And so one of the greatest guarantees of liberty, the sense of contract between man and man, between the citizen and the state, falters; and with that weakened there is no longer the desire to serve to the utmost of one's power but to suborn service to power and profit, and government is brought in to greater and greater degree, not to referee but to rule.
And, to quote Manion again, "Government does not create liberty, Government is the one persisting danger to human liberty."
Manion, a great modern American jurist, is but echoing William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, possibly the freest of all states in its early decades, the most jealous and observant of human dignity, human values and human justice which modern history notes. In the early days of his settlement in Pennsylvania, Penn warned that people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.
And perhaps Woodrow Wilson applied Penn's warning in as terse and applicable words as one can find:
"The history of Liberty is a history of limitations of governmental power, not the increase of it. When we resist, therefore, the concentration of power, we are resisting the processes of death because concentration of power is what always precedes the destruction of human liberty."
What was the "Kaiserism" for which one million men of the Commonwealth gave their lives in World War I, and the United Kingdom suffered the first of the mortal wounds which now leaves the greatest force for moral good of the last century, stricken and uncertain of the power to rise again?
What was the Fascism, Naziism, Tojoism, for which the blood of our day was poured out again in fearful loss, the accumulated wealth of our western world and of a reborn Russia lavishly spent?
What is the imperial Sovietism which has replaced Kerensky's and Lenin's earlier revolutionary reforms against an equally cruel Czarism?
What is the Communism against which we are so arming as to arrest mankind's beneficent use of the wondrous revelations of the powers of the universe and bend them to destruction?
All these things which we have abhorred and fought in mortal combat, and which we are prepared to fight again, are what? They are merely the climax of the concentration of power in government, in a steady trend so subtle, and so apparently inevitable, as to be comprehended too late.
The history of the rise and fall of free peoples moves in a relentlessly identical pattern. First there is this decay of the courage and honesty of convictions, this sacrifice of principle to the so-called popular will, when it is more often the exploitation of the populace by those who would utilize its power.
Second, there is this steady march in of the governing power and administration of government, as the conscience and will and independence of the citizen slides out.
Third, government is suddenly realized to be in control not only of the Armed Forces of the realm but of all manner of transportation and communication, of the resources of public information, of the basic credit of the nation, of the marketing, and indirectly therefore of the production of forest, field, fishery and mine, of the regulation of internal trade by controls and priorities and the negotiation of foreign trade and therefore of the business and commerce of the nation and government. At other levels government intrudes more and more on the life of the people, in their shelter, in the movement up and down of the cost of their food and clothing, and the influencing of their education.
And the nation itself is but one concentration of power in a coterie of comparable concentrations internationally. And with these concentrations in contest, even the free nation, so-called, through the growth and centering of power within its own government, takes on most of the characteristics of the force that the free state was originally destined and designed to deny and defeat.
It is a process not unlike immunization: large injections of the very same germ are absorbed to resist the disease, but if the body politic which receives the injection be not fundamentally sound and strong and the injections, wise, moderate and controlled, the result is destruction or death.
With a full sense of the responsibility of what I venture to say I aver that North America, particularly the United States, and to a disturbing degree, Canada, has come today dangerously close to such a stage in pursuing what was originally the single purpose of free peoples to retain their freedoms.
If we are to save ourselves from surrendering from within to the very destruction we are resisting from without, we are called to a new recognition of the fundamentally moral and spiritual basis of all liberty and perhaps the greatest of all the so-called freedoms--the liberty of honesty and courage in its pursuit and defence.
"To make your children capable of honesty is the beginning of education", Ruskin proclaimed, as the essential need in the England and Europe of his day, in which were rife all the depersonalizing influences of a nascent industrial and urban civilization. (A brilliant friend of mine says North America is destined to pass from barbarism to decadence without ever having realized civilization).
Surely, we Canadians Placed as we are today, historically, geographically and economically, are now called to that honesty. We lie physically on the ledge between two of the greatest concentrations of power as human history has ever recorded--the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R.
It is a triteness to say that we are the battleground of their threatened conflict: it is only truth to say that we are helplessly involved therein already. All our Eastern seaboard, all our Arctic frontier, and our North over which the U.S.S.R. is our near neigbour, they all sustain defensive and offensive works of terrible import, only nominally even under our so-called independent sovereignty. Destruction and conflict, deep and disastrous, will descend upon the Dominion within hours of these two world forces coming into conflict. Therefore Canada, more than any other power in the world, save perhaps Eastern Germany, must work for such a balance of power in the world as Britain exercised to assure peace for a century, a balance of power which will serve to check not only one but each of these powers, by enjoining conference and negotiation on differences and exercising every restraint against the provoking of war.
There is no one power in the world today strong enough to afford such a counterbalance. The great continent of Asia with more than two out of every five of the world's people therein, is itself in such a state of rebirth, torn so by the conflicting pleas of Communism and Democracy as a way of life to people who have but recently come to self government, that continent may easily serve to provoke conflict rather than to preserve peace.
The United Nations has been rendered largely impotent by the conflicts within it--it is rather an Assembly than a Union of Nations. NATO offers a reasonable counterpoise to a thrust north and westward but it is not a homogeneous body of maturity and power in working together. The Pacific and Orient lie uneasy and uneasily close to Canada. Any conflict there involves us, without any comparable check such as NATO upon sudden combative action.
What then, where and how can there be assured a federation of proven and common attitudes of strength of mind and purpose, courage of character, power of sacrifice and staying power to the ultimate to meet, to plan, to act with a common voice? History records but one such enduring alliance of such proven solidarity--the states bound in allegiance within the Commonwealth and Empire that own the Common Crown of our Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth.
Is it not then service to the case of liberty, of courage and of honesty, to face the facts of the power blocks of the world today and for Canada, rich, strong, vigorous, pulsing with life, to bring without stint or scrimping, to the slackening strength of a mighty nation, weakened and wearied in freedom's wars but rich in wisdom, maturity and the wealth of just dealing, assurance that, within this proven brotherhood of free nations, she will neither falter nor fail in placing peace above the price of trade, and zeal for freedom, truth and good faith above the quest for gain?
I do believe, Ladies and Gentlemen, that that is what the people of Canada, speaking with no uncertain voice, desire the Ministers of this Dominion to carry to London in these days immediately ahead, and so alone will we serve and save the fundamental liberties that are above life itself.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Controller Ford Brand.