- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 22 Feb 1951, p. 241-251
- Bradley, Hon. F. Gordon, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- A discussion of Empire, and Empires. The British Empire or the British Commonwealth and the Empire of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as the remaining Empires. Picturing the beginning, the rise to power, and the development of the British Empire to discover the wide divergence from the salient features of all others empires of which there is any record. The history of the British Empire from the time of the Angles and the Saxons in the sixth and seventh centuries. Characteristics of the British Empire. The history and nature of the Empire of the USSR. Communist dictators and their intention now. How and why the Empire of the USSR will travel the familiar road to destruction. The essential difference of the British Empire or Commonwealth.
- Date of Original
- 22 Feb 1951
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
"THE EMPIRE OF MANKIND"
An Address By HON. F. GORDON BRADLEY, K.C., LL.B., M.P. Secretary of State
Thursday, February 22nd, 1951
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. Sydney Hermant.
MR. HERMANT: Members and Guests of The Empire Club of Canada: We are to hear an address today by the Hon. Gordon Bradley, K.C., LL.B., M.P., Secretary of State of Canada.
Born in St. John's, Newfoundland, Mr. Bradley attended Methodist College and obtained his Degree in Law from Dalhousie University in Halifax. Returning to Newfoundland to practise his profession he was created a King's Counsel in 1928.
In 1924 he was first elected to the House of Assembly for the District of Fort de Grave, and was immediately appointed Minister without portfolio in the Munroe cabinet. Two years later he resigned his portfolio to cross the House as an Independent, and in 1928 he contested the District of Trinity Centre under Sir Richard Squires and was elected by a large majority. Again he achieved Cabinet rank as Minister without portfolio. In June, 1929, he was appointed Solicitor General. In 1932 he became Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly.
With the Hon. Joseph Smallwood, Mr. Bradley campaigned indefatigibly for Confederation with Canada, and in 1946 he was elected to the National Convention as Chairman and was Leader of the first Delegation to Ottawa. Following Confederation he was appointed Secretary of State of Canada and in the election of June 27th of that year he successfully contested the constituency of Bonavista-Twillingate.
We are particularly pleased to welcome the Hon. Mr. Bradley on the occasion of this his first visit to our Club. At our meeting held on Thursday, March 31st, 1949, our President Mr. Thomas H. Howse referred to the great significance of the day following, April 1st, when the oldest colony in the British Empire was to become the Tenth Province of Canada. This tribute is on the record in our Year Book, and I would like to take this further opportunity of welcoming Mr. Bradley and assuring him that we are grateful to him and his associates through whose efforts this great contribution to Canada and the Empire has been made. Mr. Bradley will now address this meeting.
MR. BRADLEY: Half a century ago a well-known novelist put into the mouth of the Lady Tiphaine, wife of the famous Knight Bertrand in Guesclin, when under the influence of what he termed "the blessed hour of sight", the following words:
"Whence come they, these peoples, these lordly nations, these mighty countries which rise up before me? I look beyond, and others rise, and yet others, far and farther to the shores of the uttermost waters. They crowd! They swarm! The world is given to them, and it resounds with the clang of their hammers and the ringing of their church bells. They call them many names, and they rule them this way or that, but they are all English, for I can hear the voices of the people. On I go, and onwards over seas where man has never yet sailed, and I see a great land under new stars and a stranger sky, and still the land is England. Where have her children not gone? What have they not done? Her banner is planted on ice. Her banner is scorched in the sun. She lies athwart the lands, and her shadow is over the seas."
I suppose the writer had in. mind that great political structure of his day then indifferently known as the British Empire . . . or the British Commonwealth of Nations and its subsidiary territories which had not then attained the equality of status which for the most part they enjoy today.
At that time there were a number of empires in various stages of strength and weakness, but none possessing the solidarity, freedom and general well-being of Britain and. her vast dominions.
There were the Russian Empire, the German Empire, the Austrian Empire, and the Chinese Empire, all in various stages of decay, with the possible exception of the compact German structure, whose rise had been rapid and which was, with the rest of them, nearing a swift and fearful collapse.
He did not foresee the downfall of the British Empire. On the contrary the reader was left to infer that he viewed her future with the satisfaction of a loyal subject of his Queen, and believed that she would go from great to greater things.
It is improbable, however, that, at the time, he envisioned anything more than an indefinite prolongation of the pax Brittanicus, and the ordered development of those lands which acknowledged allegiance to the Queen.
His conception of Empire was still somewhat related to the experience of the past, which demonstrates clearly that from the beginning of recorded history all Empires have lived by physical force. We see them parading through the pages of history, Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, China, Greece, Carthage, Rome, India, Spain, Mexico, Russia, Austria, Germany. They grew by the sword, lived by the sword and died by the sword, or by internal degeneracy, or by both.
In life, in growth and in death, force was the dominant factor in their story. As they rise and wax and wane one is ever conscious of the flashing of spears, the crackle of musketry, and the dull boom of bombs. They were essentially dictatorships.
Of them all, but one remains, though another has arisen out of the ashes of Imperial Russia of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They are the British Empire or British Commonwealth and the Empire of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Let us, for a few brief moments, try and picture the beginning, the rise to power, and, most important of all, the development of the former, for in that development and the philosophy which underlies it will be found a wide divergence from the salient features of all other empires of which we have any record.
The coming of the Angles and Saxons to Britain in the sixth and seventh centuries is usually regarded as the beginning of the story of those peoples whom we now include in the Empire or Commonwealth.
These hardy adventurers from the Eastern side of the North Sea brought with them not only that pioneering urge which in later centuries impelled them to plant their colonies in the four quarters of the globe, but also an intense love of ordered freedom which, despite the many inroads made upon it in their chequered history, they never relinquished, and a tenacious and even obstinate courage which sustained them in defeat and which their descendants, down through the centuries, have maintained even to this day.
They were not long left alone to develop in their new land. In turn they were attacked again and again by the Danes from the north, who for a time gained a, strong foothold in the land, but were finally subdued and absorbed, or driven out by Alfred the Great who had succeeded in welding the various Anglo-Saxon communities into one unit under the leadership of the West Saxons.
Came the Normans a few years later who conquered but never subdued and were likewise, in time, absorbed into the Saxon race. The dual role of William I and his successors as Kings of England and Dukes of Normandy embroiled the English in many wars on the mainland of Europe, in which the backbone of their armies was not their mail-clad Knights but the bowmen of England whose cool courage and steady marksmanship so often gave them the victory against overwhelming odds.
The period of the Plantagenets, and down to the final triumph of Henry Tudor, was marked by intensive warfare on the soil of England in support of various contenders and aspirants for the throne. His victory at Bosworth Field completed the unification of England andall unwittingly perhaps--he was responsible for the birth of the British Empire.
Through the eight centuries from the first landing of the Saxons in the Thames to the coming of this first Tudor King, the struggle of the people to re-assert and maintain their original right of participation in their own government was unrelenting and the ancient Witenagemot of the seventh century was the beginning of the democratic parliaments of the Commonwealth today. The stories of the free cities of England, notably London, and of the wringing of Magna Charta from King John, are highlights of that fight for freedom, sometimes suppressed but never subdued, which gradually won for our people the permanent right of Government by popular will because those people valued that right above all earthly possessions.
The period of the Tudors is one of great interest to us of the province of Newfoundland, for in it began that great structure, which, despite its imperfections and frequent mistakes, has done so much for the cause of justice and freedom--The British Empire.
In 1497 King Henry VII gave a Charter to John Cabot who, in a fifty-ton ship manned by eighteen English sailors, discovered the New Isle--Newfoundland--the ancient colony and cornerstone of our overseas dominions. There, in the stormy waters which surround our Island, during the ninety years which intervened between its discovery and 1588, were trained those hardy and resourceful fishermen who played such a glorious part in the Great Armada and who, by their uncanny skill in handling their small craft and their daring in attack, so confounded the great lumbering galleons of Philip II that the Spaniards attributed the defeat of their Great Armada to the foul fiend himself.
The colonization of America, the conquest of India and Further India and parts of Africa, the colonization of Australia, New Zealand and other parts of South Africa followed through the years.
In the meantime England herself was developing with the advance of civilization, increase of population, and the adjustment to changing conditions of the political principle of free government as exemplified in the primitive Witenagemot and the Folk moot of the ancient Saxons, where the free men used to signify their assent to proposed laws and rules by clashing their swords upon their shields.
In the seventeenth century Charles I attempted to turn the clock backwards by setting up arbitrary rule of his own against the will of Parliament. He appealed to the force of arms and the effort cost him his throne and his head. Some few years later James II gave evidence of a similar disregard of the public will. He was discreet enough to heed the ominous rumblings of the public discontent and incontinently fled the land.
Thereafter no monarch ever attempted to impose his will upon the people of England in defiance of the will of that lineal descendant of the ancient Saxon folk moot--the Parliament of the People.
And it is a matter of history that as this people spread over the world and increased in numbers they carried with them their free institutions and planted everywhere--not armies of occupation--but a Parliament patterned on that of the homeland, thus enabling those far flung dominions to govern themselves by popular will as their ancient forebears had done in the days of the ancient Saxon Thanes, enlarged and improved by the experience of intervening years.
Even in the case of India which, fortunately for her people, fell under the sway of England but was never colonized, the chaos and disorder which cursed that disrupted land whose ancient empire had crumbled into dust, were eliminated, and so far as possible the rule of law and human decency was enforced. More than that, a genuine effort was made to overcome the many cruel and barbarous consequences of certain religious creeds and castes and to educate these Asian peoples in a more modern way of life--to prepare themselves in fact for that self government which is the very essence of British institutions. Today that great sub-continent divided into two political entities enjoys full and free authority to direct its own destinies.
After the conquest of Canada in the mid-eighteenth century, the French inhabitants were soon accorded virtually the same rights as the English speaking people and a little over a century later the whole land was welded into one Dominion, and French speaking Canadians have given to our nation some of our ablest and best citizens and greatest statesmen. Today this land of two main races is, next to Britain herself, the most advanced and powerful member of the Commonwealth, and possesses a measure of free institutions, broad tolerance and respect for minority rights unsurpassed throughout the world.
At war with the Transvaal and the Orange Free State at the end of the nineteenth century, within a few years these enemies, notwithstanding their defeat, were welded into union with the British Colonies of Natal and Cape Colony as the Union of South Africa in a political pattern equally free and equally concerned for the preservation of human values as the rest of the Empire.
One mistake--one serious mistake--was made nearly two centuries ago by an obstinate King and ill-advised parliament.
The home Government had expended large sums of money in defending the American Colonies against the inroads of the French. It was felt, and not without reason, that some contribution should be made by the colonies for the purpose of their own protection, rather than that the over-burdened taxpayers of England should carry the whole load. The colonists contended that they were compelled to trade through England with foreign lands, which constituted a serious handicap to them and a profit to the motherland. This argument, too, possessed a substantial measure of validity.
What both King and Parliament forgot was that these colonists were of their own breed, and had been trained in the school of British democracy; that anything that savoured of enforced benevolences was contrary to the principle of "no taxation without representation", and that his failure to observe this very principle had cost King Charles I his head more than a century before. Feeling became very bitter on both sides, and, notwithstanding the warnings of some of the best minds in Parliament, the King and his government persisted in their arbitrary course, with a resultant appeal to battle between two branches of the same race upon the issue of a principle of free government established by their common ancestors eleven centuries before.
The colonists emerged triumphant and became a completely independent nation which has gone from strength to strength until it is today, in a material sense at any rate, the most powerful defender of our free way of life.
Thus, through the centuries since the coming of the Saxons to Ancient Britain, we can see the panorama of this great people multiplying and expanding around the world and everywhere bringing with them their free institutions--above all their Parliament.
Except in a few instances, little effort was ever made at control by the home government of the affairs of her overseas colonies, and never, after the American Revolution, was there an appeal to force.
It is true that in some cases arbitrary control was maintained until recent years. In a few, a benevolently authoritarian rule still subsists. But it will be found that in these instances the populations involved have not yet reached a stage of political development sufficiently advanced to enable them to walk alone.
Many of us can remember the First World War when all the dominions and colonies sprang to arms voluntarily to defend the motherland. Again they responded in 1939, when many of them had acquired, and with Britain's consent and approval, virtually complete political independence.
This is the British Empire or Commonwealth--a great community of nations, scattered over the globe, some of them foreign in both race and religion to the Motherland--all imbued with that spirit of freedom and respect for the dignity of the individual which has been the salient characteristic of our race down through the centuries. No force is employed to compel any one of them to submit to the orders of another. There is not even a written rule or an unwritten convention for any such purpose. And yet they live together in amity, they consult together in times of emergency, they close their ranks to defend their way of life whenever it is threatened, as they are doing at this very moment.
The other Empire of today I have called the Empire of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. No doubt its leaders will repudiate the appellation "Empire" for they pose and parade as the arch foes of "imperialism", as the true democracy, the great bulwark of the common people against the ruthless forces of capitalist exploitation of which our western world and particularly the United States of America is the very incarnation.
The Russian Empire of the Romanovs, because of the inherent rottenness of all police states, crumbled at the shock of the First World War. In the chaos that ensued upon its collapse, the Bolsheviks of Russia were enabled to seize power and to consolidate their position by a policy of brutal murders which remind us of the worst tales of the Reign of Terror in France of a century and a half ago, by robbing certain sections of the country to placate others, by appealing to the worst prejudices of an uninformed and desperate people, and by an unceasing stream of misrepresentation and political propaganda supported by a police organization of ever-increasing size and power.
It is true that the Russia of the Czars permitted a little in the way of political, economic or personal freedom, but the Russia of Lenin and Stalin allows none whatever where it shows the slightest indication of lack of sympathy with the ruling caste which they call the Communist Party.
No other political party is allowed to exist; the elections which are held periodically are farcical, and any expression of views critical of communist policy is the highway to the concentration camp, the Siberian mines, or the grave.
Through the years, this dictatorship--or "Empire"--of the Proletariat, has extended its borders on every possible occasion, regardless of the rights of the people whose independence is destroyed. Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland are shining examples of imperialist expansion. These people today do not govern themselves according to their own wishes and needs, but take orders for their every activity from the Kremlin.
Not satisfied with the dominance of their own lands and those they have been able to overrun or overawe, these Communists send their emissaries into the noncommunist countries all over the world, with instructions to take advantage of every incident of industrial unrest or economic misfortune to sabotage and undermine noncommunist society by encouraging and organizing strikes, all with a view to weakening the political and industrial structures of these countries that they may the more easily succumb to the communist creed.
Thus they propose to dominate the thinking of such countries to an extent which will enable them to set up their system, and thereafter no philosophy of government will be permitted to live. No party but the communist party may exist, no opinions save those within the communist creed may give voice.
And all this to what end? That thereafter every land and people shall freely govern itself in accordance with the perfect principles of Karl Marx?
Do they imagine for one moment that the various peoples around this globe, with their varying customs, religions, aspirations and standards of human conduct can all be fitted willingly into one straight jacket, one system of ordered government, laid down in the Communists manifestos?
These Communist dictators--these men who have, for over 30 years, ruled their vast empire by force, and not by reason, are realists. They know perfectly well that the human mind and the human spirit are not completely controllable, and cannot be kept forever within a given pattern if any freedom of thought or action is allowed them. If that were possible it would mean the gradual descent of both to the level of the prehistoric aborigine. They know full well that their Marxian system cannot endure in an atmosphere of mental and spiritual freedom. It must therefore be maintained by force--by physical and mental pressures.
Their Empire is of essentially the same type as all others which, through the ages have crumbled into dust. Eventually it will travel the same road to destruction.
The British Empire, too, we are frequently told, is falling to pieces. Its various colonies and possessions have for centuries been gradually severing the legal controls of the central government in London, and today the most of them are completely independent.
How true this is! And in that very truth lies the strength--not the weakness--of our Empire. It is not an Empire of force. None of its parts has any desire or makes any effort to dominate any other. The spirit of freedom and respect for the dignity of man which all have inherited from the ancient Saxons, and which we have developed to meet present day conditions in our various parts of the world--the free institutions which we all enjoy--and the supreme value which we place upon that philosophy of life--these are the bonds which hold our Empire together. They are the bonds of the spirit and not of the sword.
How long in terms of years our Empire or Commonwealth will endure no man can, with any assurance, predict. Thus far her progress has been one of development--a substitution of human freedom for political and physical force.
So long as that passion for freedom and respect for the mind and spirit of the individual shall continue to be its guiding light-so long as it continues to be an Empire of mankind, our Commonwealth will not vanish from this earth until time shall pass into eternity.
VOTE OF THANKS, moved by Col. S. G. Haughton, President of the Association of Northern Ireland Chambers of Commerce.