- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 20 Jan 1919, p. 50-62
- Taft, Ex-President William Howard, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Reference to the speaker's last address at the Empire Club, and the changed circumstances since that time. America's part in the Great War. The war and its effect upon Canada. Our returning boys and finding them employment. The great future that awaits Canada. The opportunity given to Canada through the war to demonstrate to the world our character as a national dominion. Canada's new international role. Canada's filial relationship with her Mother Country. Canada's losses and duty in the war. Canada's representation in the congress of nations. Some comments on war in general. How the war has made the feeling between the United States and Canada much closer. A review of the early history between our two countries. The League of Nations.
- Date of Original
- 20 Jan 1919
- Language of Item
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AN ADDRESS BY EX-PRESIDENT WILLIAM
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
January 20, 1919.
PRESIDE NT STAPELLS : When our distinguished guest visited Toronto in 1913 he reminded us, when referring to a famous cablegram that had been sent to Great
Britain by a certain President of the United States with regard to the Venezuelan question, that they played poker in his country (Laughter.) and that further comment was obviously unnecessary. Well, some of us could agree with him, and we knew 'from personal experience that they played the game, and that they played it very well. But today, gentlemen, he can remind us that his countrymen play-yes, and have played-a better, a finer and a sterner game (Applause.) with equal aptness and with superb courage; and from personal knowledge we can also testify to that fact. The commingling of American and British bloodshed by our brave soldiers on the battlefields of France while fighting shoulder to shoulder for the ideals common to both these great Anglo-Saxon peoples has in my opinion cemented for all time to come the feeling of
mutual respect, admiration and sympathy between the people of the United States and Canada. (Hear, hear and loud applause.) It is unnecessary for me to intro
duce Mr. Taft to the members of the Empire Club; he is well and favorably known to Canadians (Hear, hear.) even though he at one time did have some kind
The Honourable William Howard Taft, Ex-President of the United States, Professor in the Faculty of Law in Yale University was known throughout the war as having the broadest sympathy with Great Britain and France in their struggles against Germany.
of an idea that he could convert us, (Laughter.) but, you know, I don't think he had converted himself, because when the war broke out he ranged himself on the side of Great Britain; (Hear, hear and applause.) he endorsed her action; he sympathised with her during her trials and tribulations; and he encouraged her to the bitter end, until I think we feel that it would be difficult to find a bigger (Laughter.) or a better Britisher outside of the British Empire than the Hon. William Howard Taft, whom I now have very much pleasure in calling upon.
EX-PRESIDENT TAFT was received with loud cheering, the audience rising. He said: My friends of the Empire Club, I am glad to be with you again under very different circumstances from those which existed when I was here before. There has been a good deal of water run under the bridge since you and I met across the dining table. When I was here before I was under an injunction of neutrality-and you were not. (Laughter.) But now we can say what we please; (Laughter.) we only saw through a glass darkly then. You had seen more clearly than we. We tried to keep out of that war. We respected the traditions that had been handed down to us by Washington and Jefferson and we thought it possible that a nation like ours, with her enormous resources and manufacturing capacity and willingness to acquire reasonable profit (Laughter.) could pursue the path of neutrality as laid down by international law, and avoid entering the war. We found that to be impossible. We found that we had outlived the conditions to which the advice of Washington and Jefferson applied. (Hear, hear and applause.) We found that we were of a great world-community in which God had not given us 'to stay useless when the fate of the world was at stake. (Hear, hear and applause.)
Now, I did not come here to talk about the United States, or what she has done in this war, although of course, we as Americans are proud of the demonstration of our ability to raise a great army, (Hear, hear.) and of what part of that army was able to do on the plains of France and Flanders. (Applause.) I feel that we may well be modest in outlining what we have done in this war, in the presence of an audience like this, of citizens of the city of Toronto and of the Province of Ontario, in view of what they have done for four long years in 'this war. (Applause.) Your history is remarkable. I listened to your applause over the Salvation Army, as to whether you would put over that draft. Why, of course you will; that is easy; you have got into the habit of doing those things, so I must think that, as practice makes perfect, it is possibly easy to do the thing among you.
You are doubtless thinking of the war and its effect upon Canada. The agonies and the suffering through which you have had to go in your contribution of half your able-bodied men to your armies, and in the large percentage of loss that you had to endure at the time when the issue was very doubtful and when you and your associates of England and Scotland and France had your backs to the wall-that is the time that tries men's souls, and that is the time when your souls stood the test. It was characteristic of the English people and the British generals, that Haig should stick it out, because he knew his people, he knew they could stand true, and that instead of discouraging them and taking away their morale it made them tighten their belts again and go into it. (Applause.) You could not do that with every people, and one great satisfaction, the moral satisfaction of this war, is to note how a bad, immoral cause demonstrates its vicious character in the yellow streak that the fellows of Germany showed when we had them down. (Loud applause.) Now, you have suffered personal loss, all of you. I venture to say there is hardly a person present who, either in his immediate kin or in his close friendship, has not lost friends in this controversy; it is hard for you to contemplate, so recently bereaved, the advantages that are to be derived by Canada, from this war, hard as it has been. You are under a mountain of debt, and those income taxes and other taxes you have been paying, you had better get well acquainted with, because you will have to be friends with them for a long time. (Laughter.) And now your boys are coming back, and the strain on' those who are able to return is telling in the difficulties you have, perhaps, in finding employment, and in the difficulties presented by their psychological condition, in the reaction from the tremendous strain of four years through which they have gone. It was to be expected. They were carried on by that spirit of patriotism and that determination to win, so that they accepted every burden and every discomfort and every suffering without a murmur; and now that the thing is over they kick at a good many things that do not appear to be very burdensome in any way. That you have got to understand; that you have got to be sympathetic with, because it is human nature. You never knew a convalescent that was just the most agreeable person to live with, (Laughter.) and it is very little that we have to do to make allowance for that kind of thing. It is one of the incidents, just the little incidents-incidents that you find cropping out in the rivalry and competition between the 'soldiers of the different nations. Each one gets into a condition of impatience when he hears the troops of another nation held up to exalted praise, because he is just looking for his proportion. (Laughter.) And it creates at times a little feeling, so that possibly we are not as harmonious as we ought to be. But that is only a ripple on the surface; (Hear, hear.) it is one of 'those incidental evidences of the recovery from the strain that is in accordance with the human physique and the human nervous system.
After all those sacrifices that you had to make, think of the great future that awaits Canada. I don't mean to minimize in any degree your great prospects before the war, if that war had not occurred. I do not mean in any way to say that there was not here a great independent dominion that was bound to occupy a great future. But you will indulge me in saying that this war has given you a quick opportunity to demonstrate to the world your character as a national dominion that you could not have had in any other way. You have put yourselves, if I may use a colloquial expression, indelibly on the map of the world, (Hear, hear and applause.) as a factor to be considered in world matters; and you, as Australia and New Zealand and South Africa, have made yourselves to illustrate the utter blindness of the German mind. You responded to this war from no selfish motive. You were influenced merely by the filial affection to Mother England, who had protected you in your infancy and made you independent in government, with encouraging protection that you have always enjoyed. (Applause.) The affection was filial, due to the relation, doubtless, of most of you, to those in the mother country, but also there was a national, personal feeling that you felt towards her. (Hear, hear.) Germany, in the grossly material view that she took of everything, and in that Godless philosophy that she adopted-that might makes right, and only gain promotes connection-had assumed that neither you nor Australia nor the other daughters of England would respond and send forces to aid your mother when she was in an exigency; and the impatience with which the German commentators viewed your activities and your energies as something not according to the plan of the General Staff, (Laughter.) was most enjoyable. (Renewed laughter.)
You have had great losses in the sense that you have had to contribute much to the war, and you have a heavy duty as well; but you have established yourselves in the British Empire as you were not in the Empire when I had the honor to address you before. (Hear, hear and applause.) You said you were, and in a way, of course, you were; but now it is real; (Hear, hear.) it is not confined to post-prandial addresses of English statesmen; (Hear, hear.) you have now a representative in the congress of the nations, and you are there before the world as a constituent member of the British Empire, and entitled to .be heard; (Hear, hear and applause.) and Great Britain is manifesting the proper gratitude to you for the demonstration of your filial loyalty and its importance and weight, on the one hand, and she is exercising that wise lightening of any legal bond of control in the stronger bond of affection that this war has increased in every way between you and her. (Applause.)
Your future is a great one. What the future of England will be, or Scotland, or Ireland, what the future of France will be, what the future of Italy will be, is more involved, in the fact that they are old countries and that they have strained themselves and the productive qualities of their countries to the utmost. How they are to take care of their enormous debts is a problem that it is difficult to solve. Let us hope that the inspiration of the war will strengthen them to meet it. But in Canada there is no such doubt. (Hear, hear.) Your people are young, with a resiliency that shows itself in every move you make, with a physical and mental strength that comes from your environment in this great Empire of yours, and from the confidence in your own moral courage which you have tested in this war yourselves. (Applause.)
I am not advocating war, and I want to do everything I can to avoid war, (Hear, hear and applause.) but there are some things that we must recognize in war; that war gives us an opportunity to follow the old Greek injunction of knowing -ourselves, and of finding that when we are called upon to meet a great issue and discharge a great debt we have the innate qualities to do both. Now, that is what you have done; and with that confidence that comes from knowing yourselves and your capacity, there is going to be a springing forward m business, in enterprises, in reforms and improvements, in governmental and business methods, that you will be surprised at yourselves. . We had a war within our own borders that almost destroyed half of the country, and things looked very discouraging, and yet that spirit enabled us soon to put ourselves on our feet and to go ahead with an outburst of courageous, farseeing energy and enterprise that made the growth of that country in the thirty years after the war a wonder of the world. (Hear, hear and applause.) So it is with you, my friends. You have a great domain here. It is only scratched, in many ways. You have built railroads, and you have issued bonds for them, (Laughter.) and you have run them in a great many directions that perhaps you would not follow now if they were not in the ground, (Laughter.) but you will catch up with that, and you will go on to build other railroads, and we will offer you, as best we can, that competition that stimulates the growth of both countries. (Applause.)
Something was said about reciprocity-in an -indefinite way; (Laughter.) but I am content to wait; (Laughter and applause.) I don't have to be vindicated all at once. (Laughter.)
Now, I further felicitate you, first, on the noble past you have made your own, that neither the world, nor you, nor your neighbours on the south will ever forget; second, on the great future that you have before you. We have got enough to attend to at home, (Laughter.) and you cannot grow too fast or too prosperous or too happy for us. (Applause.) This war has made the feeling between the United States and Canada much closer. (Applause.) What your president has said with reference to my feeling towards Canada is true; I have always felt the deepest affection, because I think I know you, so it is more of a compliment; (Laughter.) and the strength of what is to come hereafter in the union of nations to prevent the recurrence of such another human disaster is to find one of its chief factors in the affection and mutual respect of the English-speaking communion. (Loud applause.) There is nothing, invidious in that relation, in its attitude towards our respective relations 'to other countries, but it is natural that we who speak the same language, we who have a common history, we who look to the British people for the hammering out of the principles of civil liberty that we now enjoy, we who look to the common law as the source of those instrumentalities for guaranteeing civil liberty, should have a common feeling, and should understand the importance of a union to preserve those memories, and through that union to bring together all the nations of the world in a communion like that. (Hear, hear and loud applause.) We are an example to the world, you and we, of what can be done in the matter of the maintenance of peace. This example of two nations like yours and ours living together now for more than a hundred years with a border-land nearly four thousand miles in extent, and no breach of any kind in that century, without fortifications or means of war between us, is something that the world ought to cherish as a possible ideal that they can reach if they will only be reasonable and drop those jealousies and unfounded suspicions that so often unnecessarily lead to a breach. (Loud applause.)
Now, in that very history we find that it was not such an easy thing to maintain that hundred years of peace. There were times when it looked as if it were going to be broken, when we were trying to shut you out of access to the Pacific Ocean. I don't know whether you know our generosity in that regard (Laughter.) when the shibboleth of one of our presidents was "Fifty-four forty or fight," and we didn't get fifty-four forty, and we didn't fight. (Laughter.) And so during the civil war we did not think you were quite as friendly to the north as you ought to have been, and we had certain raw feelings on that subject-which your mother country, too, put a little pepper in. (Great laughter.) But we got the joint High Commission, and that provided for two arbitrations, one for the Alabama claim and the other for the fish you said we had stolen off the Newfoundland Banks, (Laughter.) and we held those arbitrations, and mulcted you in $15,000,000, and Sir Alexander Cockburn, a member of the arbitration, went around denouncing the result afterwards; but Great Britain played the game; (Hear, hear and applause.) she made a grimace, but she went down into her pocket and she paid up the stakes. Then we had our turn, and the arbitrators found that we had stolen the fish, (Great laughter.) and said that they were worth, at the market price, $5,000,000 (Laughter.) and then we heard from our statesmen, who came from the valleys near Gloucester and along the way, who said, "That is the most outrageous decision; the Court didn't understand the question, and our counsel were very, very lax in its presentation," and oh, no, we were never going to pay it. But we did; (Laughter.) We played the game; (Hear, hear and laughter.) and we learned by that experience that arbitration is not a game of "heads I win, tails you lose," that if you go into it, if it is going to be useful you have got to be willing to be beaten and take your medicine. (Hear, hear and applause.) You have got to be in the same frame of mind that Sir Robert Falconer's antecedents used to be in down in the New England village, that you will not be saved unless you are willing to be damned. (Great laughter.)
Now, I am not going to talk about the League of Nations in detail, because I have not the time and you could not stay, (A voice, "Oh yes, we could.") but I could not get through a speech now under any conditions, whether it was a commercial club, or a court, or elsewhere, unless I lugged in the League of Nations. (Laughter.) Three or four years ago it was an academic question; three or four years ago we would meet in- convention, we college professors and publicists who write what you people read, (Laughter.) and we would "resolute" and "resolute," and speak and speak, and beg money enough to print what we said. (Laughter.) Then we sent around the engrossed copies to catch the dust for those who received them. (Laughter.) It seemed remote; the war was then on, and to us in the United States, even the war seemed remote. To you the war was close, and therefore anything that involved the discussion of peace at all was regarded as irrelevant, and even ungracious to suggest. Why, in England they got up a League of Nations having the same purpose as our -League to Enforce Peace, and they would not put the word "Peace" in it, (Laughter.) and they objected to our expression, "The League to Enforce Peace," because they said it gave rise to a misconstruction as to what our purpose was. While we were shouting in the wilderness then, we are right up on deck now. (Laughter.) The issue is acute, and the congress at Paris have put the League of Nations down as the first subject for consideration. (Applause.) Now, there are those in our country who are objecting to that, and saying that it ought to be postponed. One distinguished gentleman, Mr. James M. Beck, said that the founders of the constitution had waited five years after we got independence before they adopted the constitution of the United States, and it seems to me that he said that we might just as well be patient as those wise ancestors of ours. Well, all I have to say about that is that if our fathers had begun earlier on that constitution they would have saved four or five years of very great discomfort. (Applause.) Read the descriptions by Madison and Hamilton of the conditions that prevailed under the old articles of confederation before we had adopted the constitution, and I am sure you will agree with me. It may have been necessary, in order to have the matter "borne in" on our ancestors-as our Methodist brethren would say-to have that period of discomfort in order to demonstrate that we needed a real nation, but do we need any demonstration of the necessity of peace in the future? If Mr. Beck wants any greater demonstration than we have had, I must regard him as an unreasonable member of the Bar. (Laughter.)
It seems to me-and of course this is an unofficial opinion-it could not be otherwise-that the reason why they have put forward the League of Nations idea to receive the first discussion in the Congress is that, as Premier Clemenceau said, they have a League of Nations now, they have had it during the war, the League of Nations that won this war, the five great powers; and if you are going to carry out the ambitious program that the nations have subscribed to in the making of this peace, unless you do have the league of the nations of the five great powers your treaty will be nothing but a scrap of paper. (Hear, hear and applause.) We are going to do so much for the benefit of the world which we have promised to the world, and the world is in such a mess in Russia and in other parts of central and eastern Europe, that we are vested with the responsibility of continuing that league and providing the machinery for its operation after peace is signed. That we cannot escape; we cannot run away from it. (Applause.)
After we have provided for the machinery that will make that league work for the great purposes of enforcing that peace, the enlargement of the league on the basis of that foundation-the lesser league of great powers, the charter members of a world club-then it is just as easy as possible, if that league demonstrates its usefulness and efforts, as it undoubtedly will, for the protection of all the other nations, to have those nations come in and accept membership. All the advantage in that, my dear friends, is that we can get up the charter of the club before we let 'em in. (Laughter and great applause.) The great problem and difficulty in organising the world league of nations is the difficulty of inducing the lesser nations to agree on anything in which they are not going to have as full a voice as the nations who will have to carry the burden of enforcing the obligations of the league; I know about that, because in the administration now forgotten, (Great laughter.) we attempted to get up a world court, and everybody was in favor of a world court, but it failed. And why? Because every nation wanted a permanent member or two members in that court, and instead of a court we would have a town meeting, (Laughter.) which made it utterly impracticable. Now we have to arrange the structure of that league to secure the protection of the minor nations, because that is one of the great objects of a world league; but we have to make it practical so that it will work, and put into it machinery that shall not make it a laughingstock so that it shall thus lose its efficacy and power. I have spoken longer than I should, gentlemen. I am very much obliged to you. (Loud and long continued applause, mingled with calls, "Go on.")
RESIDENT STAPELLS asked Mr. Peter Wright to present the thanks of the club to Ex-President Taft.
MR. PETER WRIGHT: On behalf of the Empire Club it affords me great pleasure to extend to you, Hon. Mr. Taft, the gratitude of this club towards you. They feel intensely in earnest, especially over the later remarks in your speech, and the club realizes that if a civilization is going to be rescued and conserved it is imperative that the Anglo-Saxon nations of the world should combine in future to make war impossible. (Applause.) We thank you, sir, for the encouragement that you have given to Canada, which, after all, is a young nation, and which started within these last four years to make history in the world. While we agree that it is imperative for Great Britain, the United States of America, and the Dominions, to form themselves into a league and build up a higher world and power for the greater era and the new epoch, while we agree with you we would also like you to agree that it will be absolutely imperative for Great Britain, in spite of ,the fact that a speaker stated that she is in a state of bankruptcy, to retain her supremacy on the seas. (Hear, hear and loud applause.) We, as a club, feel that the United States and the Dominions of Great Britain and good old England, who have stood so well, in combination, with Great Britain having the supremacy of the sea, could lead and show the world how to live and make war impossible. (Hear, hear.) We thank you, sir for your inspiring words, and we trust that with your spirit in the United States, and the spirit which has been shown in New Zealand and Australia, and the spirit which has prevailed in the Indian Kingdom, we will be able to create a new system of society where
war will be impossible. On behalf of the club, sir, I 'thank you heartily. (Loud applause.)
Ex-PRESIDENT TART : I had it in my mind to say ' something on the particular question which the kind speaker referred to, in reference to the British fleet.
Opponents of the League of Nations with us rejoiced when Mr. Winston Churchill, speaking for the government in a political campaign-of course you always have to take the environment(Laughter.) said that it was not intended to reduce England's fleet; and they came to me to know how much prospect there was of a League of Nations under those conditions. I replied, that if I were England I would not reduce it a torpedo-boat. (Laughter, and loud applause.) England's supremacy in the sea, if you like that expression, in time of peace, has always meant for all nations equality of opportunity, (Hear, hear, and loud applause.) and in time of war England must maintain her fleet to resist unjust aggression, because if she did not she would starve in six months. (Hear, hear.) Whether we can secure through the League of Nations the protection to all, nations that shall justify a proportionate reduction of armaments lies in the womb of the future. Of course ' that is the ambition of those who hope much for the League of Nations. But the policy with respect to armaments--and we did not include that in our League to Enforce Peace--must depend on the success of the league, and its demonstration that it can furnish the insurance that individual nations now secure by navies and armies for their self-protection. (Hear, hear and loud applause.)