Guarding Our Heritage
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 16 Nov 1939, p. 136-149

Cody, President H.J., Speaker
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The speaker divides his address into three sections: a heritage to guard; a heritage that has been attacked; our duty to defend it. Our great inheritance as members of this far-flung Dominion, and also as members of that larger political entity to which this Dominion of Canada belongs, the British Empire. Some words on the British Empire, which is our heritage and a unique political institution. The modern growth of our heritage. The comparative youth of the British Empire. A consideration of the forces which operating together have created the British Empire: the process of discovery, the process of trade, and the process of settlement. An analysis of each of these and other forces. The political elements of our heritage. Empire and Democracy. Ideals represented and embodied by the Empire. The element of high tolerance for language, race, creed, culture, and the element of co-operation among these varieties. A regard for law and order, and for justice. Trustworthiness and honour. Freedom. Duty. The challenge to this heritage. Canada's determination to share in answering that challenge of force by force. The lack of any other alternative. A letter from John Maynard Keynes in his reply to George Bernard Shaw in "The New Statesman and Nation" in the issue of October 7th. Some concluding words from William Wordsworth.
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16 Nov 1939
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Chairman: The President, Dr. F. A. Gaby
Thursday, November 16, 1939

PRESIDENT: It is a great honour and a privilege to introduce to you today our guest-speaker, Dr. Cody. Although it was after my time that he was President of the greatest University in Canada, I still think he is one of the greatest Presidents of that University. Dr. Cody has held so many prominent and responsible positions in public, university and clerical life, and received so many honours for the great service he has rendered that it is difficult for one to generalize on his outstanding career. He has had a long life devoted to the interests of humanity and the intellectual and spiritual advancement of man. He has taken a prominent part, not only in those phases of our community and social life, but he has also taken a prominent part in our political life in assisting in the government of Ontario, as a Minister of Education, in the furtherance of educational matters which have been of primary importance so far as Ontario is concerned. Dr. Cody is so well known to the citizens of Canada that it would be presumptuous on my part to take up your time in a detailed account of the excellent work he has done and the numerous honours he has received. As an illustration of his usual intense application to the subject at hand, it is interesting to note that during his four years as an undergraduate of the University, he received first class honours in all of the nineteen subjects during those four years, and was first in the class on fifteen occasions. As to Dr. Cody's honorary degrees, I shall not give them to you in detail, but he has honorary degrees from all the universities in Ontario, also Manitoba and Glasgow. Dr. Cody has again taken up the burdens of war work and is actively furthering the interests of democracy with his usual energy. With all his other responsibilities he has kindly consented to honour us today. The title of his address is "Guarding our Heritage", and I have much pleasure in introducing to you Dr. Cody. (Applause)

PRESIDENT H. J. CODY, M.A., LL.D., D.C.L.: Mr. President and Members of the Empire Club: I have just a few hours ago returned from a Conference of the State Universities of the United States, held in the City of Washington, and two weeks ago, from the Conference of the Southern Universities in the United States, both of state and of private foundations. Nothing could have been more heartening than the welcome given to a Canadian by these, my fellow-executives of universities. What heartened me more than anything, however, was to know that these representatives of public opinion in the United States were one hundred per cent in sympathy with the Allies in the great world struggle. (Applause)

The subject of discussion at the conference of State Universities had been, in the first phrasing of it, "The University in Time of War". Thinking that this might be too definite a statement for a neutral nation, the committee modified it to "The University in Critical Times", but all the discussions were on the general theme of what a university could do for a cause and a country, should hostilities break out. Some of those warm-hearted Southerners would take me by the hand afterward and say, "We are a hundred per cent with you in sympathy and we may be in it soon". That, however, is a matter for the United States to decide for itself. I hope that no Canadian will make critical, unkind or disparaging remarks upon the public policy of the United States. They are our best friends and are supporting us in thought and action, as far as a neutral nation can. In these days it may be that the neutrals of the world will exercise almost a decisive influence on behalf of a peace based on victory and righteousness.

The subject on which I would gladly speak to you today is "Guarding our Heritage". I wish to speak of it under three heads: First, we have a heritage to guard; secondly, that heritage has been attacked; thirdly, it is our duty to defend it. Those are three very obvious but very fundamental propositions.

First of all, we have a great inheritance, not only as members of this far-flung Dominion, but as members of that larger political entity to which this Dominion of Canada belongs, commonly and historically called, the British Empire-a term which I think is even wider in its connotation than the term, British Commonwealth of Nations, which, strictly speaking, is limited to the self. governing Dominions. So I make no apology for using the older and broader term, the British Empire.

Now, Gentlemen, the British Empire is at once a unique political institution, a marvellous treasury of material wealth, a group of very diverse human elements, and the embodiment of certain great ideals. It has a marvellous achievement to its credit and it still has promise for the future. It is not a dying, much less a dead institution. Long ago, in the days of the Crimean War, Ralph Waldo Emerson, visiting England, wrote of her that "she sees better in a dark day". That acute observation is as true today as ever it was.

In the days of the Great War, I think it was in the month of October, Dr. Herbert Bruce and I were driving along in the neighbourhood of the City of Amiens and we came to a little stream, called the Noyelles. There was a bridge over it, so the little hamlet was called Pont de Noyelles--the Bridge of Noyelles. Beside the little stream there was a white-washed French farm. French farm buildings are arranged around a quadrangle, the manure heap in the centre of the quadrangle and the barns and stables round about. Some Tommy, in the dark days when General Haig said that our "backs were to the wall", had evidently pinched a pot of red paint and had expressed his sentiments by an inscription on the external wall of this farm house. We both stopped to read it again and again. for these were the words written in a dark day and expressing the fundamental sentiments of the British Tommy: "Pessimists will be shot on sight." Let me repeat Emerson's remark: "The Old Land sees more clearly in a dark day." First of all, the British Empire which is our heritage is a unique political institution. It comprises a loosely knit group of governments. It expresses the widest kind of diversity, yet it has an underlying unity. There is no common treasury, no common language, no common religion, no common currency, no common weights and measures. You could not conceive of a greater variety in an underlying unity. German constitutional historians before the last Great War were greatly puzzled about the classification of the British Empire. It didn't fit into any existing group of constitutions. No, it is unique, a unique political organization.

The second point about this heritage of ours is that it is of comparatively modern growth. We scarcely realize that, Gentlemen. Three hundred years old. It was not until the War of the Roses had been fought, the struggle of the Reformation completed, the particularism of the Guilds of the Middle Ages broadened out into the idea of "the realm of this Commonwealth", it wasn't until the end of the reign of Elizabeth, that Britain was ready to play her part in colonizing and in unifying the world. So she built up three successive Empires. The characteristic mark of the first British Empire was founding of colonies, to be exploited for the benefit of the merchants at home. One result of that policy was the severance between the thirteen American colonies and the Motherland. The lesson was learned. The second British Empire was marked by the characteristic of laissez faire. The Motherland was rather indifferent, if not sometimes positively cool to the outlying parts of the Empire. That gave to those outlying parts the challenge to stand on their own feet, to develop their own government. After all, they did not prove at the end of the day to be ripe fruit that would fall off when the tree was shaken or a mill-stone around the neck of the Motherland. They passed into a third stage of British Empire development-the stage of an alliance of free peoples. Those are, broadly speaking, the three stages of the development of the British Empire-colonies to be exploited, overseas possessions to be neglected, and an alliance of free nations, whose bonds cannot be broken. The Empire is young-ten generations old-no more. William Watson expressed it well. The Motherland speaks to her children overseas

"Young is she yet,

Her world task scarce begun; By you we know her safe And know by you

Her veins are million, But her heart is one.

That is the second point at which to look-the comparative youth of the British Empire.

The third point to which I would ask your attention in describing the heritage is a consideration of the forces which operating together have created the British Empire.

Three forces above all others have been at work-the process of discovery; the process of trade; and the process of settlement.

May I analyze those a little further? There is the seagoing enterprise of our forebears in the Motherland. No part of the Motherland is very far away from the smell of the sea. The sea, unlike the sea in the days of the Latin and Greek classic poets, was not a barrier but a link, an invitation to all venturous spirits to go to the uttermost parts of the earth. You remember the title of the Hudson's Bay Company--"The Governor and Company of the Adventurers of England, Trading into the Hudson's Bay". What a fine phrase! In that phrase you have one factor in the origin of the British Empire-the adventurers of England, of Scotland, of Wales, of Ireland, adventurers trading into the seven seas. The sea-going enterprise of our ancestors that led Drake around the whole world is the first great factor and force in the creation of the British Empire.

A second was the desire for gain, the element of trade. We are and always have been a nation of shopkeepers, of traders. What more noble occupation is there than to engage in that form of enterprise whereby both the seller and the buyer are benefited? True trade benefits all parties concerned. Where it does not, then there is something radically wrong in the arrangements. Linked up with that desire to trade and gain there was in earlier days the defence of civil and religious liberty. It was a wonderful thing in the days of Elizabeth for a sailor to be able to combine discovery and gain with the maintenance of religious and political freedom. When he captured a Spanish galleon coming back from the New World, he felt that at once he was defending the freedom, political and religious, of the Motherland, making great gain for himself and a little for the Queen, and was indulging in the exercise of his adventurous spirit.

Another factor has been philanthropy. That is very often forgotten in connection with the development of the Empire. There are certain parts of the Empire that are the immediate outcome of philanthropy; Lagos, and the district round about, practically the whole district of Nigeria, in Africa, as well as the older district of Sierra Leone. Those were the direct results of philanthropic and missionary effort. Many parts of Africa have been first explored by missionaries and the missionary has appealed to the protection of the flag, in order that the "open sore of the world", as Livingstone called it, the slave trade, might be checked. If you take the religious factor out of the history of our people you have a very dry skeleton left.

Then a further factor came into action-settlement, migration. Hard times in the Motherland thrust people, in order to improve their material conditions, across the seas. We are all familiar with that element in Canada. The United Empire Loyalists had to come from the South. From the Motherland into almost every province of Canada there has come a stream, large or small, of migration. This has been a force of infinite importance in the growth of the British Empire.

Two further factors are not always recognized. First there is the necessity of branching out, developing abroad in order to keep the Motherland independent. That led to the beginning of British rule in India. It was the East India Company which began, for trading purposes, the long history of the British connection with India.' It is really true, Gentlemen, that if the Empire has won these dependencies, these dependencies have had no small share in keeping the centre of the Empire free and independent. These were issues involved in the winning of Canada and the Indian Empire.

Then there is another factor. A great organization like this gets under way and almost of necessity is compelled to take one step after another. That explains the full issue of events in India, in the Malay Peninsula, in The Transvaal, in Egypt until its independence was fully and graciously conceded.

If you add together those different factors, and especially the factors of discovery, trade and settlement, you will at once see what the result would be. Strangely enough, no individual or group ever planned this issue. It seemed to come of itself. The British Empire is perhaps the supreme example in the world of an unexpected result of comparative haphazard effort. Someone has well said, "in a fit of absent-mindedness the Empire was created". We certainly did seem to "stumble on" some of the best parts of the world. This, then, is the story of how the material side of our heritage came into being.

What are the political elements in that heritage? One is the fostering of a free democracy throughout its constituent parts. Is there any incongruity between the idea of an Empire and the idea of Democracy? Sometimes there has been in the history of empires in the past a real incongruity. But what I would venture to say is that the term "Empire", like many another term in our language, whatever its original derivation may be, (and Empire is from the Latin word "imperium") has been used in a sense peculiar to ourselves. A Saxon King, Edgar, before the year 1000, in the days when the Holy Roman Empire was in its infancy on the continent of Europe, made the claim that his little kingdom in the small island of Britain was an "Empire". Now, what did he mean? Did he mean that a Saxon Kingdom was claiming any domination over any part of the mainland of Europe? Not for a moment. It was his way of declaring that the Holy Roman Empire on the Continent had no jurisdiction or rights over his kingdom. The term "Empire" connoted the idea of independence, of freedom. In the days of Henry the Eighth, when he was engaged in the struggle with the ecclesiastical powers on the Continent in the famous Act of 1534 there is a preamble, containing words of this kind: "Seeing that according to diverse ancient chroniclers and historians, this realm of England hath always been an Empire". What did he mean? Was he making a direct claim to rule over parts of Europe? Not seriously. The "field of the cloth of gold" really had no such significance. Henry was claiming that no continental power, political or religious, had dominion over the land of which he was King. He used the term "Empire" in the distinctly English sense of independence of outside dominion. Blackstone's "Commentary on the Laws of England" contains the distinct statement that when we use the term "Empire" we do not mean tyranny or claim to exploit or dominate anyone else, but we do claim independence from Powers outside, and freedom within. Thus the term "Empire", in its strictly British use stands for freedom within, good will without; self-determination within, resistance to any tyranny from without. There can, therefore, in the proper English sense of the term "Empire" be no incongruity between the term "Empire", and the term "Democracy". A very ancient and honourable term is the "British Empire"; let no one be afraid to use it because it seems to have a flavour of tyranny, domination, or crushing another. Its great achievement (to come back to what I said a moment ago) is that it has fostered throughout its constituent parts, a free democracy. It is continuing that education at the present time and is training the backward nations within its political sphere. Another of its great achievements has been its success in combining the maximum of local autonomy with an underlying sense of unity. Perhaps that, more than anything else, is what marks the character of the British Empire. I well remember, over thirty years ago, when I sat as a member of a Royal Commission on the University of Toronto in Mr. Goldwyn Smith's dining-room, that he was of the opinion that if ever there broke out a European War, the British Empire would go to pieces. He believed that this was the lesson of history and that if there came a smashing blow to the Motherland, never would one soldier from Canada cross the Atlantic Ocean. That was just an illustration, that wise men may make unwise prophecies. As a matter of fact, in proportion as local self-government has been granted throughout the Empire, there has been an increasing unity and a strengthening of the ties that bind all together.

But, Gentlemen, the most important thing of all is that the British Empire represents and embodies certain great ideals. They are the most precious part of our inheritance. First, there is the element of high tolerance-tolerance of language, race and creed, tolerance of variety of cultures, and yet a co-operation among these varieties. This tolerance has always begotten in the long run an answering loyalty.

The second of these ideals is regard for law and order, and for justice. Some time ago I read a report of a trial in the Police Court, in which a foreigner made his plea to the magistrate in these terms: "All I ask for is British justice." This has become a proverb throughout the world. How is it today, Gentlemen, that India has anything approaching a national consciousness? How is it that Moslem and Hindu are not always at each other's throats? How is it that there are no famines and epidemics in the land? It is because of British justice applied to that great continent. Britain has made it possible that there should be a national consciousness in India that asks for recognition, and complains if that recognition be not speedily given. Some of you have visited Egypt within recent years. You have read of the Egypt of fifty or sixty years ago, of serfs on the banks of the Nile, naked and mud-stained, and impoverished beyond imagination. Today, they are "clothed and in their right mind", and Egypt is one of the most prosperous cotton-growing countries in the world. What did it? What was the magic that transformed the whole situation? British justice, under a High Commissioner, Lord Cromer. Egypt has now entered into a full measure of independence, because of the application of British justice to her problems. Yes, British justice is a proverb. During the last war I was invited to go to Pittsburgh. It was before the United States had come into the war and there were a great many British folk there, supervising contracts. There was a gathering on the 24th of May, and I was invited to come from Canada as one of the speakers. The Chairman was a Mr. Childers, the British Consul in Pittsburgh. His father had been a member of one of Mr. Gladstone's Cabinets. Mr. Childers told the story that one day a farmer from Cumberland County came into his office and said that some people were trying to deprive him of his farm; he didn't know what steps to take, but his father was an Englishman by birth and had always told him that British justice gave fair play to all parties. So he came in to Mr. Childers, as the British Consul, to see if he couldn't get justice in a foreign country!

A third ideal is trustworthiness, honour. Some of you have seen Westminster Abbey the tomb of Edward the First, a roughly finished stone tomb. "Pass it not by for its simplicity; few tombs hold nobler dust"-for he is the father of parliamentary government. On the tomb are the words, "Serva pactum"--"Keep your pledge". The "scrap of paper" doctrine finds no place in English statesmanship. One of the most appalling crimes that Herr Hitler has committed, in the eyes of Britons, is that you can't believe his word. Belief in the sacredness of the pledge, trustworthiness, is part of the British ideal of Empire.

Then there is that talismanic word, freedom. It is embodied in statute after statute, and decision after decision in the Old World, and in this. The Bill of Rights is an integral part of the Constitution of the United States. I think that is one reason why the people of the United States are, speaking roughly, ninety per cent on the side of the Allies. They know that their Bill of Rights enshrines the very fundamental issue for which we are fighting today, -freedom.

There is still another ideal to be mentioned. The most important thing about a man is his character, his recognition of the supremacy of duty. MacNeill Dixon, a former Professor in Glasgow University, gave a series of lectures on the Harmworth Foundation a few years ago; entitled "The English People". Two points above other he emphasises-the English reverence for the idea of a gentleman and for the idea of duty. There are some things that a decent man cannot do and will not do; and there is a supreme demand that comes ultimately from God and to which man must respond.

Now, Gentlemen, I have taken most of my time in giving an anaylsis of what you know, viz. what our inheritance is. Have we not entered into a glorious inheritance? Is it worth while to be a part of the British Empire? Is it worth while to stand fast for these spiritual values, without which life isn't worth living? We are not fighting simply for democracy as a form of government. It has many defects. We are fighting for those spiritual values upon which a sane democracy can be built. We are not fighting for territory, and we are not fighting for material gain, but, as Sir Edward Beatty said to me the other day, when sitting beside him at luncheon, "This is a crusade, and more and more will it be seen to be a crusade". We are fighting for the spiritual values that happily for us, in spite of all our mistakes, are enshrined in this strange entity known as the British Empire. George Macaulay Trevelyan, perhaps the greatest of living historians, has just issued a new edition of his "History of Britain", and in his preface he uses these words: "In spite of our country's errors the world's best hopes still rest on her". That is our belief.

Now, this great inheritance is attacked and challenged. We know it. No one needs to demonstrate it. Everything we hold most sacred is at stake today. As Mr. Chamberlain well said, we are fighting against evil things, brute force, bad faith, injustice, tyranny and persecution. These evil things grow out of certain long dominant evil principles,-the principle of a totalitarian state that stands in the place of God, and demands supreme and absolute loyalty, no matter whether its demands are moral or immoral; and the principle that the Germans are a superior race, a principle based on soil and race and blood. But this belief in the purity and superiority of race has led to the most cruel and ruthless of persecutions in our own day. All we hold dear today is challenged. The answer is what? Canada has determined to share in answering that challenge of force by force. There is, under the circumstances, no other way.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Chairman of the Federation of Free Churches in Britain, issued a magnificent statement, naturally regretting that there should be this compulsion to meet force by force, and yet facing the issue. They say: "At all costs for the sake of the world's peace and order the policy proclaimed by the German Fuehrer must be resisted and overcome. It is based on force. It must be met by counter-force. But there is no other way-would God there were! The only effect of any appeal of non-resistance upon Herr Hitler would have been to encourage him to pursue his way with more ruthless determination." Gentlemen, so far as I can interpret the teaching of the New Testament in its broadest sense, I cannot believe that it is not a Christian duty to resist dominating, cruel, overmastering wrong. The fundamental principle of Christian love requires it.

I want to read to you, in lighter vein, this letter from John Maynard Keynes, the famous economist of Cambridge. Mr. George Bernard Shaw-Mr. Shaw!-made some extraordinary statements in "The New Statesman and Nation", in the issue of October 7th. Mr. Keynes replies in these words a week later, the 14th of October, 1939: "Sir: The intelligentia of the left were the loudest in demanding that the Nazi aggression should be resisted at all costs. When it comes to a showdown, scarce four weeks have passed before they remember that they are pacifists and they write defeatist letters to your columns, leaving the defence of freedom and of civilization to Colonel Blimp (the old-fashioned, blood and thunder, retired Colonel) and the old school tie (representing the old public schools of England), for whom--'Three Cheers!'."

I believe that it is our duty, with a clear conscience, with a keen memory of Hitler's broken faith in the past and Germany's unjustified aggression in the last sixty years, to make the resolution we have made and to drive the full weight of what Canada can do or be or give to winning this struggle, along with "Colonel Blimp, and the old school tie", for the defence of mercy, justice, freedom, truth, and decent human civilization.

I leave with you these words of William Wordsworth, all too frequently forgotten, in which after the French Revolution he regained his balance and confessed his faith in the old Motherland:

Now, when I think of thee and what thou art, Verily, in the bottom of my heart,

Of those unfilial fears I am ashamed, For dearly must we prize thee,

We who find in thee a bulwark For the cause of man.


THE PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me at this time to ask Mr. Sommerville, who has actively taken part in the affairs of the Empire Club for over thirty five years, to extend on behalf of the Club, our thanks and appreciation to Dr. Cody. We also have with us today Mr. Richard Stapells, who was associated with him thirty-five years ago as a founder of the Empire Club. We are very pleased to have these gentlemen here and I will ask Mr. Norman Sommerville to extend our thanks.

MR. NORMAN SOMMERVILLE, K.C.: Mr. President and Gentlemen: At this hour, just a moment, to express to Dr. Cody the appreciation of the Empire Club for this very splendid address. No organization is indebted to him to a greater extent for his constant service to us. Those intellectual qualities to which the Chairman has referred have not been confined to the cloister walls, but have been shared with the people of this land most generously. Those spiritual qualities which he espoused in youth and which developed so splendidly under the benign influence of St. Paul's have been marked by that breadth and depth and courage that seems to be typical of the building itself, and these qualities of heart and of head have always been placed at the service of the people, and if there is a British oak in Canada today, that British oak, scion of the old stock, is Dr. Cody himself.


THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. Sommerville. I extend to you, Dr. Cody, on behalf of the Empire Club, our thanks and appreciation, so ably expressed by Mr. Sommerville.


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Guarding Our Heritage

The speaker divides his address into three sections: a heritage to guard; a heritage that has been attacked; our duty to defend it. Our great inheritance as members of this far-flung Dominion, and also as members of that larger political entity to which this Dominion of Canada belongs, the British Empire. Some words on the British Empire, which is our heritage and a unique political institution. The modern growth of our heritage. The comparative youth of the British Empire. A consideration of the forces which operating together have created the British Empire: the process of discovery, the process of trade, and the process of settlement. An analysis of each of these and other forces. The political elements of our heritage. Empire and Democracy. Ideals represented and embodied by the Empire. The element of high tolerance for language, race, creed, culture, and the element of co-operation among these varieties. A regard for law and order, and for justice. Trustworthiness and honour. Freedom. Duty. The challenge to this heritage. Canada's determination to share in answering that challenge of force by force. The lack of any other alternative. A letter from John Maynard Keynes in his reply to George Bernard Shaw in "The New Statesman and Nation" in the issue of October 7th. Some concluding words from William Wordsworth.