- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Mar 1938, p. 321-336
- D'Egville, Sir Howard, Speaker
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- The composition of the population of the United Kingdom with a short, humourous description of each. The relation of democracy as we find it today to world affairs. A glance at the big problems that we have facing us where the great dictatorships of the world clash with the interests of the British Empire. Trying to determine from that how very urgent and necessary it is for us to have the closest possible understanding of world affairs and the policies of the various countries who may in any way conflict with our interest. The position of Italy with definite Mediterranean ambitions. Italy's involvement in the Spanish War. The vital necessity of the Mediterranean to the British Empire as a highway to India, and as a sea of very essential import in considering the naval defense of the whole Empire. The new religion that has sprung up in Germany. Hitler's appeal to the imagination of the younger people, in contrast to the apathy shown by most country's youth. Colonial ambitions of Germany. A clash of interests between Germany and the British Empire in Africa. A consideration of the positions of Germany and Italy with regard to Spain. Japan's ambitions in the Pacific area. The situation in Australia. Remembering that dictatorships in their very essence mean rapid action. The need for a greater understanding of how foreign policy and foreign affairs affect one's country from both a political and economic standpoint. Creating the opportunity, through organizations like the Empire Parliamentary Association, for Commonwealth Nations to consult with one another. Illustrative examples of conferences and other venues of information exchange between countries following the Great War. Evidence of progression of the British Empire countries under the system of parliamentary government. Finding solutions to the problems we are now facing in a troubled and distracted world together, and in close co-operation.
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- 24 Mar 1938
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- DEMOCRACY AND WORLD AFFAIRS
AN ADDRESS BY SIR HOWARD D'EGVILLE, K.B.E., C.B.E., LL.D.
Thursday, March 24th, 19,38
THE PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, with the permission of His Honour, it is necessary for us to do a little business before the address. The Constitution calls for the nomination of a Nominating Committee for the Officers for the ensuing year. I will now call for nominations.
MR. CRAWFORD BROWN: Mr. President, Gentlemen, I take pleasure in moving that the following Club members be elected to form the Nominating Committee for the nomination of the Officers of the Executive Committee for the 1938-3g season:
Major G. B. Balfour Mr. R. H. Fennell
Colonel A. E. Kirkpatrick Mr. H. Harphan
Mr. Wills Maclachlan
Canon H. F. D. Woodcock, together with the President and Hon. Secretary-Treasurer as ex-officio members.
MR. HARRY BOURLIER: Seconded the motion.
THE PRESIDENT: If there are no other nominations I declare the nominations closed and these gentlemen elected.
THE CHAIRMAN: Your Honour, Distinguished Guests, Members of The Empire Club of Canada: We have as our guest-speaker today, Sir Howard d'Egville, who has chosen as his subject "Democracy and World Affairs."
At the Coronation of His Late Majesty, King George V, m I g I I, Sir Howard was impressed with the idea of making permanent the various shades of thought and view point as expressed by the representatives of the component parts of the Empire by the formation of an organization which, while not having any official standing, would embody the fundamental progressive thought in the ever-changing relations of the various branches. This was the beginning of the Empire Parliamentary Association. The objects of this Association are to bring together the representatives of the legislatures of the whole British Empire for the purpose of exchanging information and visits between members of the Parliaments of the Empire. There are now, I believe, twenty-six overseas branches in different countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations. The last meeting was in Sydney, Australia, which was attended by Sir Howard recently. This Association seems to me to be an Empire Club of huge proportions and vast possibilities. These years of progressive development while Sir Howard has been Permanent Secretary have given him a knowledge of the problems affecting democracy and the world which few men possess. It is a great honour to introduce to you Sir Howard d'Egville. Sir Howard.
(Applause.) SIR HOWARD D'EGVILLE: Mr. Chairman, Your Honour and Gentlemen of The Empire Club: I feel, Gentlemen, that it is a very great privilege to come before so representative a Club as we have here today. It is a gathering, I think, of men who axe studying the questions of the great British Empire and therefore I regard it as a particular privilege to have been invited to be your guest today.
Before I discuss as I propose to do shortly the relation of democracy as we find it today to world affairs, it might perhaps be convenient if I would give you some idea, for those who have not been in the United Kingdom, of the composition of our population and I propose to give you a short description of each.
We have the Welshman who prays on his knees on Sundays and on his friends all the rest of the week. We have the Scotsman who keeps the Sabbath and anything else he can get for nothing. We have the Irishman who doesn't know what he wants and won't be happy until he gets it. And we have the Englishman who regards himself as a self made man and is always worshipping his maker. (Laughter.)
After that preliminary survey of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom, I come to the subject upon which I am to talk to you today. First of all I would like to say that it is a little difficult for one holding the position which I do, which is of a semi-official character, to get expressions of opinion on questions of policy and therefore I am sure you will understand that in anything I say it will be more of an effort to find the solution than to put the problem to you.
Now, perhaps in that direction I may suggest a very urgent necessity. I would propose therefore to glance rather at the big problems that we have facing us where the great dictatorships of the world clash with the interests of the British Empire and to try to determine from that how very urgent and necessary it is for us to have the closest possible understanding of world affairs and the policies of the various countries who may in any way conflict with our interest.
Glancing now at the position of Italy, we have there a country which has very definite Mediterranean ambitions. As you know, Italy is a country with a considerable and vulnerable coast line and without any influence in Spain, Italy would find a great difficulty in maintaining her position in the Mediterranean but, as you know, Italy has taken a considerable part during the Spanish War and it differs from a great deal of other help that has been afforded to one side or the other in that the help given by Italy has been approved, directed and assisted by its own government. Without any influence in Spain, as I say, Italy would have a difficult position in the Mediterranean, but with Spain more or less under the control of the Italian Government, the position in the Mediterranean in so far as Italy is concerned land when I say Italy, it involves her allies, and particularly the German dictation. Now, of course, Italy has been responsible not only for sending a considerable number of men to help in the Spanish War, to help on the side of General Franco, but she has also sent a great deal of war material and to some extent Italy is not very fully possessed of the war material that she requires. Therefore, anything that has been sent to Spain must of necessity be kept closely under the control of Italy. I deduce from this then, if she wished to withdraw the Italian forces now fighting in Spain it would be very difficult for her to withdraw them at all, at any rate for a considerable time, on account of the raw material which is in Spain at the present moment.
Now, as you know, the Mediterranean is a vital necessity to the British Empire. It is not only a highway to a vast Empire of India, but it is a sea of very essential import when we are considering the naval defense of the whole Empire. Therefore, it is of particular importance that we should do our utmost to understand exactly what the Italian position is, exactly wheat they are facing and what their ambitions are, and come to some definite understanding as the British Government is now endeavouring to do with the Italian Government.
Now, glancing at the other great ally of Italy, the great country of Germany, we have there a sort of new religion sprung up, where all the forces, interests and ambitions of the young people have been taken from the adherence to any particular dogmas or doctrines or churches and have been devoted to the state. It is a new religion and cannot but be very striking to the visitor to Germany, as I have been on several occasions, and where I was just shortly before I left the United Kingdom for Australia, at the end of last year. They have, what I am sorry to say you have not got to a great extent in this country, that is enthusiasm for the affairs of the state by the young people. It is rather disappointing for a visitor to see and I am not attempting any criticism, it is far from me to attempt to criticize anybody in any country of the Empire, but it is a little disappointing to see the lack of interest in public affairs by both the young men the young women of this country. I have spoken to a great number and I have done the same in Australia and I find that though when I was in Australia eleven years ago there was still less interest on the part of the young people, I do find in Australia that there has been a considerable improvement. The young men and women are not only studying public affairs but they also are getting much younger men into the political arena in parliament. I hope very much and I believe it will be the case that a number of people under, say, thirty, will begin to show some interest in world affairs in view of the great happenings that are occurring in the great countries of Europe because, as I say, in Germany Herr Hitler managed to appeal to the imagination of the younger people and they have an intense enthusiasm for their state and it is extraordinary exhilarating to converse with some of these young men and women who are thoroughly acquainted with the ideas and the positions of their leader and of the men who surround him at the present time.
One of the great directions in which Germany may be said to enter the sphere of activity of the British Empire is in regard to colonial affairs. I have had the opportunity of considering with some of the leaders of thought in Germany their views as to the colonial ambitions of Germany. It is true that a question of prestige does enter into it to a certain extent. It is somewhat galling for a great country like Germany to feel that small countries like Belgium, Portugal, have possessions in their overseas Empire far exceeding their own size and they feel that the clauses in the Versailles Treaty which practically stated that Germany was incapable of holding colonies is an insult which she should not labour under any longer.
Of course there is also the question of economic development overseas and the desire to have within the German right and within the power of the German people a great many raw materials which they find difficult in getting at the present time.
When it is pointed out to them that in the past when they had colonies very few of their people went to live there, their reply is that in a nationalist, socialist Germany the whole position is entirely different, because now they can send their young men to exploit overseas countries in a way that it was quite impossible to do under the old regime. Of course, Germany, owing to the system of internal inflation has made it difficult for business with overseas countries to be maintained. She is now buying certain things from her former colonies and paying very much more than she would if they were under her own control. She is also buying a great deal more than she is selling to them and she complains that the advantages are going to the countries who own colonies.
Though it might be said the interests of Germany might clash with the British Empire in Africa, I think there is a clear undemanding among those who are really considering these questions carefully in Germany that they would not expect to go to certain places which are regarded as key positions by the British Empire. I think that generally speaking, throughout Germany there is a clear desire for a better understanding between the countries of the British Empire, and I must confess I know of no country in the world at the present time that will give the Englishman a better reception than the German people. I am only speaking from personal experience.
Now, as regards the position of the two countries, Germany and Italy in regard to Spain, of course the whole idea of their entering into the Spanish conflict was stated to be from the political angle, in order to prevent the spread of Bolshevism, and its possible extension to France. But, of course, notwithstanding that fact we have to face the position that a great deal of what has been accomplished will, in the case of the success of General Franco, put those countries in a far better strategic position than they are at the present time.
Now, with regard to the other great dictatorship, Japan. Here we have a country which, as you know, is mainly controlled by the military people and we have considerable ambitions of that country in the Pacific area. Considerable feeling is expressed from time to time by the statesmen of Australia and New Zealand with regard to Japanese ambitions in the Pacific, and there is one thing that I found in Australia during my visit which was a very striking thing, that while eleven years sago there were a great many people in Australia, thinking people too, who talked about the possibility of Australia as an independent nation, I found eleven years later, during my visit this year, that hardly ever from any source whatever is that expression made now. It maybe owing to a considerable extent to external pressure. It may be and I think it is owing to a certain extent also to the fact that Australia is perfectly free, like every other Dominion to deal with her own affairs and to state her own policy any way she wishes, but the Statute of Westminster has made her absolutely master in her own house and consequently she has thought for herself and come to the conclusion that the best future of the Australian people lies within the British Empire. That is a very striking difference that I found during my visit to Australia. That idea of the possibility of separation has completely disappeared from the mind of the people who are at any rate occupying any responsible position in the Australian Commonwealth.
But we have got to remember, important though the understanding of the ambitions of our nations is, that dictatorships in their very essence mean rapid action. The parliamentary machine, devoted as we are to it, is in many ways slow and I do think that the only method of improving the relations of the countries holding democratic assemblies within them is for them to establish the closest possible association with each other and with the needs of external affairs, so that instead of concentrating as so many do on purely local affairs to the neglect, I think, of foreign affairs, they may be able to lead the people to an understanding of how much the reactions of foreign policy and foreign affairs affect their countries, not only from the political standpoint but also from the economic standpoint. The world is getting much closer together; increased facilities for travel by air and so on is bringing every nation to the door of every other nation and we cannot afford, if we are going to maintain democracy, for the world to neglect the close study of foreign affairs and the necessity of keeping together in the formation of foreign policy.
We have endeavoured in the Empire Parliamentary Association to which reference was made by your Chairman, to establish methods so that members of the parliaments of the Empire may get together and consider their wider interests in common. The United Kingdom and the great Dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, which are the great Commonwealth of Nations, have already, of course, for their governments established a method of consultation by means of the Imperial Conference and in between the meetings of the Imperial Conference there is a very extensive system of information provided for the different Cabinets of the Empire and some, notably the Australian Commonwealth, has an Officer in London who sees all of the Cabinet papers and is able to communicate direct with his Prime Minister on any question that is arising.
There is a real necessity for this closer consultation, not only between the government and Cabinets of the Empire but also between the members of all parties in all parliaments and it was for that exchange of information, as your Chairman has said, an exchange of visits, that the Empire Parliamentary Association was founded. Almost imperceptibly it came to be part of the unwritten Constitution of the Empire in the days following the Great War, when of course the opportunity afforded perhaps more than any other time, not only because of the necessity that was found for that close communication but also because people's minds were at that time precipitate to any new ideas for the closer connection of the countries of the Empire, so it was shortly after that we were enabled to hold conferences which were of essential value to the progress of the Empire. Then, before the end of the war we had a great conference of parliaments, a great tribute to the British fleet, because they were able to come from the four parts of the world to take part in conferences, not only on the war effort, but on the future and it was while the war was still raging that these members of parliament were taken to the front in France, to the Grand Fleet, to the munitions factories, so they saw what the real war effort was, what it meant and what their own men were doing. I well remember myself having the privilege of escorting the Canadian Members of Parliament to the unfortunate town of Ypres during one of the bombardments and I said at the time that I thought as members of the Canadian forces were facing the hostile forces opposed to them, that it was just as important for their Members of Parliament who were representing them to encounter the same dangers. Therefore, we went in during one of the bombardments, luckily without any misfortune.
After the war we had conferences overseas and the Union of South Africa was the first to invite representatives of all the parliaments to meet in their country in the year 1024. This splendid example was soon followed by the Australian Commonwealth which asked for representation in all the parliaments and then, for the first time, the legislature of India was represented in the year 1926, and in the year 1928 all the parliaments of the Empire assembled in Canada. We had our conferences in Ottawa with all the provincial parliaments during that interesting visit. But it was not actually until' the year 1935 and 1937 that we were able to carry the idea of what we call the Empire Parliamentary Conference to its full fruition, because then it was we were able to have representatives of all the parliaments, not only the Dominion Parliament of Canada and the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, but also the state parliaments of Australia and the provincial parliaments of Canada represented, with all the other legislatures, of the empire, including, I may say, the Irish Free State, who had refused to be present at the Imperial Conference of 1937 but who were present at our Parliamentary Conference.
Therefore, we were able to have an all-party conference on the subjects to be subsequently debated by the Imperial Conference. We all assembled in Westminster Hall, the home of the origin of parliamentary government. Westminster Hall, which was referred to, you remember, by Macaulay, as the great hall of William Rufus, the hall which had resounded with acclamations at the inauguration of thirty kings, the hall which had witnessed the just sentence of Bacon, the hall where Charles confronted the high court of justice with a passive courage which had half redeemed his fame.
It was extremely interesting for the younger parliaments. Therefore, we had rooms in the hall for their reception every day when they came over. It ways very interesting to assemble during the Coronation period to meet George VI, as it were at a revival ceremony, at a luncheon in the great hall of William Rufus. There His Majesty assembled with all the Prime Ministers of the Empire and welcomed not only them but the representatives of all parties taking part in the Empire Parliamentary Conference, from the overseas parliaments and from the House of Commons, and in a sense it was a revival of the ancient custom of the ages, dining in Westminster Hall, but on this occasion there was this great difference. Instead of just welcoming the great men of England he welcomed the great men of the Empire and one of the results of that Conference was that it enabled a Cabinet Minister who was at the head of every parliamentary delegation to take part in the subsequent Imperial Conference of the Governments with a full knowledge of what the members of the different parliaments thought upon the questions of common interest which were being considered by their Cabinets.
In other words, therefore, the Empire Parliamentary Conference is an essential adjunct to the Imperial Conference to ascertain the opinions of the different parties on subjects of common interest which are being considered by the governments and in this connection I venture to say that foreign affairs and defense were of the most importance, though trade, migration and other matters of course naturally come within their purview.
Now, we have, of course, in the Empire Parliamentary Association, and I would like to mention this because I think it is of great interest from the point of view of exchange of information, we have our methods of extending information pending meetings or conferences or meetings of individual members, through our journal of Parliaments of the Empire, which gives everything that is happening in every parliament of general interest and special semi-confidential reports every two months on foreign affairs.
Gentlemen, though it may be said that parliamentary government has had a setback in other countries who have not been fitted either by training or by temperament to carry out its behests, I think it may be said that the British Empire countries have progressed under the system of parliamentary government. There have been no revolutions for 900 years in the Old Country, whereas everybody else has often indulged in them or nearly everybody else, and the countries of the British Empire will still find in Parliamentary institutions and in building up that great integrity which has long remained will find, I think together and, I hope, in the closest co-operation some solution of the problem which are now facing a troubled and distracted world. (Applause.)
THE CHAIRMAN: Dr. Cody has consented to thank the speaker. Dr. Cody.
DR. H. J. CODY: Your Honour, Mr. President, Sir Howard and Gentlemen: As one who has received many kindnesses at the hand of Sir Howard d'Egville when I have been in old London, it gives me very great pleasure indeed to voice to him your thanks. He has spoken of one method whereby the Empire and its constituent pas may be drawn more closely together. It is a very vital method of securing unity, unity of the various legislatures of the whole Empire.
We have listened with great interest to his account of the rise of this organization and of the services it can render supplementary to the Imperial Conferences.
I do not know just what to say about the question of the interest of young people in Canada in public affairs. I am sure that that interest might be greater but I am inclined to think that interest is steadily growing. I know in all the universities of the Dominion there are political clubs and many political clubs that very actively discuss the affairs and problems of our own country. I remember before the last general election in Canada the Editors of the University of Toronto daily paper, the Varsity, approached me to know whether I would have any objection to their having a straw vote on the election. I said, "Not the slightest, providing you can get out the voters." The most unfortunate thing in all democracies is the lack of interest on the part of the voters as a whole on the problems that come before them. The other day, you noticed, in Edmonton what a small fragment of the electors took part in the actual voting. However, the members of the editorial board said, "If there is not a good and reasonable turnout of voters we will not publish the results." I said, "Remember, the fancy parties always make most noise and if the great body of electors do not turn out you shall not have a true judgment."
You know some people constantly say, "You are all going Communist up at the University of Toronto." There acre all sorts of wild and unfounded statements made, and I was very delighted to know what the result was. Over 4,000 men cast their vote. It was a men's vote. Over 4,000 actually cast their vote and go percent of these voted either Liberal or Liberal-Conservative. I take the liberty of using the old historic name. The remaining 10 percent were made of some who, I know for the fun of the thing voted Communist, and some who voted Social Credit and some who voted Reconstructionist and some who voted C.C.F. But the interesting thing was that the overwhelming majority, 90 percent of the undergraduates representing a fair cross section of the youth of this province, voted for one or other of the old man line parties. I was very much relieved and very much reinforced in what I have constantly had to say in answer to attacks that are made upon the fundamental loyalty of our great undergraduate body.
I do put in a plea myself at every Convocation that our young graduates should seek to take an active interest in the public affairs of the country and if they get an opportunity to take it to serve, either in municipal bodies or on school boards, boards of education or as candidates for our legislature and federal parliament, and I am sure that the number of these who are thus serving is steadily increasing.
But the main point that has been emphasized today I would like to emphasize with all the power I can. I think perhaps the British Empire is the greatest secular force in the world today for the welfare of the world. Anything that strengthens it, strengthens the true well-being, the peace, the prosperity, the human civilization and the decency of the world. Therefore, I think that every part of the British Empire should let every other part know and let the Mother country know that we stand together. (Applause.)
You remember Mr. Kipling's great words: When the day of Armageddon comes, Our trust is that our house shall stand together And the pillars shall not fall.
And in these critical days there is no time or justification for any part of the Empire hesitating, it seems to me, to assure the Motherland and all the other parts that we are a unique political unity and that in all those matters that affect our life we are as one. A united and strong British Empire would be the greatest factor for peace that the world knows today.
Some time ago I saw a cartoon in a Canadian paper that impressed me tremendously. It impressed me especially because I had been at a meeting where some members of our Dominion Parliament, among others, had been maintaining the thesis that Canada was in no danger from any quarter and Canada therefore should .do nothing to defend herself and certainly should do nothing to become, as one of the speakers said, a cog in the military machine of Britain. We were to enjoy all the protection of the British fleet, we were to enjoy the moral protecton of the United States of America, but we, self-respecting people who were glorying in the name of nation, were to do nothing for ourselves. An old British statesman happened to come through Canada on his way to Australia and he ventured to say to an audience in this hotel that under the present world conditions and by the development of aerial navigation no country could say it wasn't in danger of potential enemies, and he was a damned "peregrinating Imperialist" who should mind his own affairs. Within a year in our own House of Commons proper measures have been brought forward in connection with the defence of Canada.
Now, Gentlemen, the cartoon I saw was this, and whenever I hear the hymn, "O Canada" sung, I can't help thinking of this cartoon. You know there are these words in the hymn, "O, Canada, we stand on guard for thee," and the "we" is supposed to refer to Canadian citizens. The cartoon represented a stout John Bull on one side and an equally stout Uncle Sam one the other side, and each of these strong gentlemen is holding the hand of a tiny little boy, called Johnny Canuck, who is looking up wistfully, somewhat timidly, to both these strong champions and they, too, are singing, "O, Canada, we stand on guard for thee." (Applause.)
Now, that represents about as well as anything I have seen the essence of the whole situation. Let us either hold our tongues about being a nation in the Empire and a great nation, or let us not only enjoy the benefits of belonging to this glorious British Empire, but let us be willing to assume some of the responsibilities. We cwt have it both ways and retain our own self-respect.
Again, let me in your name thank Sir Howard d'Egville, as an emissary of Imperial unity. A hundred years ago Lord Durham came to Canada to find out why we were in such a perilous and uneasy position and he recommended the adoption of responsible government. The whole modern British Empire is built up upon his recommendations ultimately, but for us Canadians it is something of a pride to know that this problem of uniting a central sovereignty with local autonomy was the first time solved on Canadian soil. All the other self-governing parts of the Empire have followed in our steps and the result has been surely for all self-respecting peoples of the great Dominions a strengthening of the tie that binds us to the Motherland and to one another and a determination that we shall stand for all those things that spiritually make the British Empire--freedom, justice and honour.
With this I close. One of the most thrilling experiences of my own life came to me in the last months of the war when I was overseas. I was invited one night to a dinner at the Ritz Hotel. It was to greet a group of American newspaper men who were visiting the Grand Fleet at the front and the munitions work in Britain. The host was General Smuts. One of the other guests was General Seeley. General Smuts spoke about the issues of the Great War, world freedom, world organization to preserve that freedom, and when the speaking was over, General Seeley arose to move a vote of thanks to the Chairman and he told this story. It was the most marvellous illustration of the talismanic power of freedom as understood by Britain and in the British Empire.
He said, "You know I fought in South Africa and one day we managed to drive a group of Boers over a river. We run a chopper on the other side of the river. I crept forward to make a reconnaissance holding in my hand a rifle I had taken from a dead Boer and a captured Boer was by my side. As we looked over the river the Boer said to me, 'Do you by any chance, sir, happen to be a graduate of the University of Cambridge?' He answered and said, 'Well, yes, I am a graduate of Cambridge: The Boer said, 'Well, strangely enough, the Officer in command of this Boer Commando on the other side is also a graduate of Cambridge. Are you by any chance a member of Trinity College, Cambridge?' 'Yes, strangely enough I am a Trinity College man.'
" 'Well', said the Boer, 'So is the Boer Commander a Trinity College man. Are you by any chance a member of the Middle Temple in London, that great society of lawyers?" General Seeley, with a laugh replied, 'I am.' 'And so is the Boer Commander,' he said, 'and there he is,' as a figure rode out on horseback. General Seeley said, 'I took my rifle and I took a pot-shot at him, and missed him, and because I missed him I am in the extraordinary position tonight of moving a vote of thanks to him for being my host.'" (Applause.)
I thought, there is one of the greatest examples that ever has been known of the power of British freedom. Surely the freedom we possess will not be a motive to lead to isolation to separatism, but a strong power to draw us together for good and truth and right. (Applause.)