Our International Outlook
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 17 Feb 1921, p. 60-74
Schurman, Jacob G., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Recent events in South Africa. Ways in which these events are significant. Great Britain's view of colonial relations now and in the past. The principles of liberty and nationality and independence. Another principle prevalent in the world called "anti-democracy," embodied in Bismarck. Now living in a world practically wholly given over to democracy. Problems today with which all nations are confronted. The speaker's belief that it will be a long time before the world returns to the happy economic conditions that existed before the war. Grounds for that belief. Economic steps that need to be taken. The issue of monies spent on military and naval establishments. The question of disarmament. A consideration of the navy of Japan as a threat to the United States. Hope for peace in the world through concord, unity, and friendship between the English-speaking nations. Anglo-American relations. The need for an International Court of Justice, an Arbitration Tribunal. The need, in addition to the courts, for some organ which shall prevent disputes or aggressions, and anticipate them: a World Conference. An explication of the position of the United Sates towards the League of Nations.
Date of Original
17 Feb 1921
Language of Item
Copyright Statement
The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
Empire Club of Canada
WWW address
Agency street/mail address

Fairmont Royal York Hotel

100 Front Street West, Floor H

Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
February 17, 1921

PRESIDENT MITCHELL in introducing the speaker said,Gentlemen, It is seldom that we have an opportunity of hearing so distinguished an American with such a wide outlook on public affairs as Dr. Schurman. His ripe scholarship, extensive travel, and varied experiences as educator, author, administrator and diplomat fit him in an eminent degree to speak with authority on "Our International Outlook."


Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Empire Club,

I thank you sincerely for the very kindly and cordial welcome you have accorded to me today. I cannot boast, as Doctor Stewart will be able to do next week, that I have been with you for the past three years, but I can at least say, and I desire to express my appreciation in saying it, that I have been invited to be your guest every year for the last three years and I rejoice greatly that at last I am able to be with you and share your hospitality.

In a way I am glad of the time that I happen to be with you. We celebrated last week in the United States the


Dr. Schurman was born in Prince Edward Island, is an M.A., London, a D.Sc., Edinburgh, and an LL.D. from eight universities. He was Professor of Philosophy in Dalhousie College; President of Cornell University, 1892-1920; President First U. S. Philippine Commission, 1899; U. S. Minister to Greece and Montenegro, 1912-13, and is author of a number of books on ethical and historical subjects.


birthday of Lincoln. That week was marked by an event which future historians may record as one of the most momentous, and certainly one of the most significant, or perhaps the most significant of modern times.

Historians are very apt to be blinded to the importance of events in their own day. In this case perhaps that is all the more excusable because this particular event occurred in a section very far remote from our horizon, but on February Eighth, South Africa voted whether it should secede from the British Empire. I say, Gentlemen, that is an amazingly significant event. It is significant, first because of the answer they gave, which was a vote of confidence in the British Empire. (Applause) I am not surprised, nor are you surprised that they answered the question as they did, because, how, otherwise, could South Africa have enjoyed so long, with firm security, the freedom and independence which she has enjoyed within the British Empire. (Applause) I was not surprised, therefore, that they declared themselves emphatically in favor of a continuance of British connections, and unwavering in their support of the policy of General Smuts, whom I, myself, had the honor of meeting and being entertained by, in London two or three years ago, during the war, and to whose exposition of the military situation at the time, and his indication of the problems which would arise after the war, I listened with profound attention and admiration. I rejoice with General Smuts that, under this leadership, South Africa has given this ringing declaration of her intention to remain within the folds of the British Empire. (Applause)

Then, Gentlemen, it is significant, because it settled a difficult question. In 1881 Gladstone was the head of the British Government, and the South African question had remained for forty years an unsolved problem, of the Empire, and he was afraid it might remain unsolvable. This is a problem which the Sphinx has been propounding to successive British Cabinets, but no solution was reached until the South Africans themselves solved it, and solved it in favor of the British Empire.

Then the event is significant for the third reason; and I think this is the most important of all. When, in all history, has any old-world Empire permitted a colony or province to decide whether or not it would remain within the Empire? This is an event unparalleled in the history of the old world. I think, on the whole, the most significant thing about it is not even the answer given by the South Africans, glorious as that is, but the fact that Great Britain permitted South Africa to formulate the question and freely vote upon it. (Applause)

I think Great Britain herself has not always taken this view of colonial relations. Her attitude from the time of the American War of Independence, down to the Boer War, had been different. This event shows the amazing advance in political wisdom, and political tact on the part of the British Government. It is an achievement for them, and it is in line with the whole course and trend of British history from the time of the Napoleonic wars. It has been a constant enlargement of the field of liberty and successive new applications of a principle. She long ago advanced beyond the idea of self-governing Dominions, and by permitting the South Africans freely to vote upon this question, she declared that henceforth the principle of self-determination is without limit for her Dominions or, in other words, Gentlemen, she declares that her Dominions are self-governing nations within the British Empire. (Applause) And I rejoice, as one born in Canada, and as an American citizen, that in this development of liberty, Britain and America have gone together step by step. The stand taken by Great Britain with reference to South Africa, is the stand the people of the United States have taken with regard to Cuba; the British policy towards South Africa is the policy which the President and the Congress of the United States have said they are ready to apply, even to the people of the Philippine Islands, and the whole world--notably the English-speaking world-has been advancing in a direction, as I have already said, toward a larger and freerlife and the utmost self-determination on the part of the people to manage their own affairs and govern themselves.

I do not say that the English-speaking people have a monopoly of this development of the principles of liberty -and nationality and independence in the world. From the time of the French Republic, France has gone along the same road, somewhat vainly and fitfully at first, but during the last half century, powerfully and insistingly. The principles of liberty and nationality gave rise to the unification of Italy, and have been an inspiration which has led to the advance of Italy to the ranks of one of the great powers of the world. Not only the large nations, but the smaller nations, like Belgium, and the other European Democracies have been travelling the same road, and these principles have drawn all these peoples together, so that the democracy of America, and Britain, and France and Italy, and Belgium and the smaller nations have unconsciously felt a special kinship amongst themselves in the large, general family of mankind. Not only these European nations, but the self-governing Dominions-Canada, Australia, South African--have been drawn into this closer union, inspired by liberty and independence, and all nations have accepted Lincoln's definition of "Government of the people, for the people and by the people".

All this time another principle is prevalent in the world, which-not to use offensive language, I may call"anti-democracy". If Lincoln and Gladstone are the two names which we should single out as embodiments of liberty and nationality, Bismarck is the one we should at once recall as the best exponent of the anti-democracy.

Bismarck himself has told us, in his "Reflections and Reminiscences", that he had no use for Parliamentary government; that he believed in Monarchies, which he said are both above and independent of Parliament. He tells us that democracies are, from their very nature, bound to deteriorate, and that the people in democracies, when their condition becomes intolerable, will revert to some Caesarian form of government. Bismarck chooses to give a one-sided application of the principle which is as old as the ancient Greeks. Aristotle taught that when Republics deteriorate they naturally pass into monarchies; and when monarchies deteriorate they naturally pass to the opposite extremes of Republics. Bismarck chose to accept only one principle of deterioration and neglected the other, because he maintained that monarchies, in their very nature, were permanent. Under his policy, from the beginning to the end of his career, he insisted on keeping the three great European monarchies together-Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Russia. That was the keystone of his theoretical policy. And even after Gortschakoff induced the Czar to withdraw from the alliance, Bismarck still kept that before him as his ideal. Bismarck foresaw the danger to which Germany was exposed. He said "With France we shall always have war". He had despoiled France of her territory, and he knew until that great injustice was repaired, France was bound to be the enemy of Germany. "With France", he said, "we shall always have war; with Russia, never the necessity of war, unless the situation is falsified by liberal stupidity and dynastic blunders -by stupidity and dynastic blunders". Thus Bismarck, in advance, years before the war, puts the responsibility for it on Bethman Hollweg and Emperor William II, but I feel bound to add that Bismarck himself must bear the responsibility, or at least shoulder his share, because he constructed a system which only an omniscient wisdom could have worked satisfactorily. He seems to have believed that there would always be a wise Chancellor and, if only the Emperor availed himself of his services, everything would go well. The syster such as Bismarck constructed, calls for a superhuman ability on the part of the Chancellor, and on the part of the Emperor, and of constant co-operation between them; for it was a system of force, Gentlemen, which Bismarck constructed, and not a system of securities. And where you have such a system of force, no one but an omniscient, omnipotent agency,-human beings being what they are-could make it successful in the long run. So Germany fell. So the war between liberty and humanity on the one hand, and autocracy and militarism on the other, ended, and, with the exception of Soviet Russia, all Europe became democratic, as China had become even before the war, and now you and I are living in a world practically wholly given over to democracy.

But we are not altogether happy in the United States. You are not altogether happy in Canada. And I do not know of any country in Europe in which they are not unhappy; famine stalks abroad in many European countries. In the rest there is dire poverty; and in proud nations like yours and mine, we are aware of the oppressive burden of taxation, and the persistent consciousness that we are worse off than we were before the war.

That is the situation in which the world finds itself and that is the problem which all nations today are confronted with. I have a feeling that it will be a long time before the world returns to the happy conditions--in which it was before the war. And my ground for that belief is, that this war, which lasted for so long a time, destroyed such an immense amount of human wealth that it will take us another generation to fill up the economic vacuum. I do not believe for many a day or many a year that living will be as easy, and the mass of the people in the United States and in Canada will be so prosperous as they were before 1914. Democracy alone will not save us--although democracy is all right--but the first step necessary, I think, toward the salvation of the world is an economic step, because the misery of the world is primarily an economic misery, and the first step, in my opinion, is the adoption by the Government of the policy and practice of public economy and retrenchment in public expenditure. (Applause)

There is not a Government in the world today-the economic condition being what it is-that is not spending more money than it ought to spend, bringing it, as it does, from the pockets of the people. There is not a Government in Europe, with one exception, that is living within its income. I say, Gentlemen, the first step to Great Britain is inconceivable. (Applause) That is not merely my opinion. I hear it echoed time and again, on public platforms where I meet the leading political representatives of the nation, and remember it was one of the last words of that great American, Theodore Roosevelt, words now sanctified and glorified by his death, that "Hereafter all disputes between the United States arid the British Empire can be settled by peaceful methods. (Applause)

We, therefore, have to consider only the navy of Japan. It is a smaller navy than ours but excedingly efficient, modern, and up-to-date. The Japanese Government is in the hands of an element, partly demo atic, but mainly conservative and imperialistic and militarisitic. The Japanese are a highly civilized nation, proud and sensitive. The Japanese resent the treatment which their immigrants receive in the United Statesand perhaps in this country. Conflicts between a white and a brown nation, under conditions of this kind, are liable to occur. Any reasonable man must admit that. But I want to set over against that analysis of the situation one or two facts. The first is this: Japan desires to settle all disputes with the United States amicably. That is not a fantasy; it is as much a fact as that Japan has a modern and effective navy. That is a fact. I know it is a fact, because I was in Japan within the last eight months, and have had opportunities to learn it. That, Gentlemen, is a fact of tremendous significance.

But, Gentlemen, here is another fact of scarcely less importance. If it comes to competition in arms and competition in armament between Japan and the United States, Japan sees ahead of her only economic exhaustion. I think the Japanese are the quickest of all nations of the world in perceiving international relations, and soundest in their judgment, and the quickest to act upon it; and for these reasons I believe that Japan will be just as anxious as the United States and Great Britain to forward a policy of disarmament. (Applause)

Before I leave this particular point, let me revert once more to the possibility-I almost feel like apologizing for it-of war between Great Britain and the United States. I want to say that my own profound conviction is there is absolutely no hope-I would not say for the civilization of mankind-but absolutely no hope for the peace of the world, excepting in concord, unity, and friendship between the English-speaking nations (applause) and that, again, is not sentiment. That is a cold fact, and I challenge any man to describe or explain the possibility of peace in the world if the English-speaking nations fall out and fight one another. I say there is no other hope for us except in such good relations. I, therefore, deprecate very much the remark which came to us the other day from London, that Great Britain and America were travelling on the road-drifting on the road which leads to war. It was all the more serious because it was given out at the Foreign Office, and by one of the most distinguished servants of the British Empire, although un-named.

Gentlemen, all I can say is this: We do not believe it in the United States. (Applause) We don't believe it. We say that the relations, so far as we are concerned, are friendly. There is no anti-British sentiment in the United States. I mean it is not general. I will say a word about that in a moment. On the contrary, in the general trend of the American mind, there is practically universal friendliness for Great Britain. There is one exception, and perhaps there may be other minor exceptions, but the great exception is that in certain places at certain times and amongst certain people-especially those of Irish descent-we do get expressions of hostility, but that will disappear when the Irish question is settled, which I devoutly hope will be in the very near future. (Applause)

But, Gentlemen, I stick to my point that the feeling in the United States is one of great friendliness, and we believe the sentiment of the British people toward America is one of entire friendliness. (Applause) No doubt the war has developed a stronger national consciousness in the United States than we had before. It developed that in Canada. You know it. You know the tremendous effect it had here. It is the same with us. But because we are more intensely pro-American than we ever were, and because we dream of greater things for our nation than ever before, and because we are going to put her in the foremost ranks of time, it would be folly to infer that we are hostile with any other nation. We are friendly with all nations in an excusable rivalry for the upbuilding of our country. We must have peace and friendship between the English-speaking nations. It is essential to the world. But that is not enough. We must embody our sentiments in an institution. The legitimate bonds which hold people together is the same as that which holds the nations together--justice and fair play.

Now, courts are the organs of justice. The first thing, then, that the world needs is an International Court of Justice-an Arbitration Tribunal. Thanks to the co-operation of American and British statesmen, the first Hague Conference, in 1899, established a Tribunal of Arbitration. Thanks to the same co-operation, in 1907, (and I am bound to add, with the assistance of Germany), considerable progress was made in the establishment of an International Court of justice, and thanks to the co-operation last summer between British and American Governments, and the superb ability of Lord Finley and Ex-Senator Root, a way was found for the selection of judges for the great International Court, a problem which the Second Hague Conference found insolvable. I believe, therefore, it will not be long before we shall have established in the world, a great Court of justice, for the determination of legal issues between nations, analogous to the courts within the Empire for the determination of justice as between its citizens. Wars generally arise not merely from the violation of legal rights, but from the pushing on the part of one nation of policies and ambitions which are injurious to the interest of other nations-and even injurious to the very independence of other nations.

Now, we need, in addition to the courts, some organ which shall prevent such disputes or aggressions, and anticipate them; some place where a conference of nations could be held, where the representatives of the countries could sit down and talk over their troubles, just as you business men do when business problems arise. You do not fly at one another's eyes, but you sit down in your offices and calmly consider how the difficulties are to be met, and the dangers eliminated. Such a World Conference would be an organ of justice, just as the World Court is. Such a World Conference would be an organ of good-will, and good sense, and a generally decent behavior of mankind. That is what is needed, and, Gentlemen, that is coming too. Coming? Some of you think it is here in the League of Nations. It may be. It may not altogether be. At any rate I will say that, so far as the United States is concerned, anxious as we are for an International Court of Justice, for the foundation of Arbitration Tribunals, and for the World Conference, and for the settlement and anticipation of disputes of a non-justiciable character, anxious as we are for all these things-we will not join in an organization which rests on force for its effectiveness. We believe in a League of Free Nations-I am not arguing; understand me now; I am trying to explain the position of the United States-we believe in a League of Free Nations; it must be a League open to all alike. It must not coerce either non-members, or some members of the League by others, or use force at all. It would be a League of Union; of nations united for the promotion of mutual understanding, by means of conferences and discussion, and if conference and discussion unhappily failed to prevent war, then instead of having the nations bound by a covenant to resist aggression, the United States would leave each nation free to do as it deemed best under the circumstances, as we claim the same privilege and right for ourselves. Now, Gentlemen, we think that is a world organization which will commend itself to the liberty-loving English speaking nations, and I most earnestly hope that by some reconstruction or transformation of the existing League it may be made possible for the United States to enter it. (Applause)

But, Gentlemen, there is one thing I more devoutly hope and pray for, and that is neither the League nor anything else may disturb the cordial relations and friendship of the English-speaking nations. That is the most important peace agency in the world today. (Applause) Never before in all history has a group of nations been summoned, as the English-speaking nations are summoned today-to advance justice and liberty in the world, to maintain peace and to promote the highest civilization of mankind. That is what we are called to do. That is what this epoch of history puts upon us as an obligation, and I refuse to believe that all petty jealousies and differences of policy will prevent our answering-the English-speaking nations-answering to that high and noble cause. (Prolonged applause)


Mr. President and Gentlemen,-May I, on your behalf, propose our hearty thanks to Doctor Schurman for his address this afternoon? We welcome him back to Canada, as a Canadian-born, but who is now an American citizen, and in his own person represents the feeling of good will which ideally ought to exist, and actually does exist, in a very large measure, between the two peoples. (Applause) He has won a great name and great fame for himself as a philosopher and university professor and college president, of the United States. The University, over which for so many years he presided with great dignity and ability-Cornell-has an association with the city of Toronto, through our late distinguished citizen Mr. Goldwin Smith. We appreciate all that Doctor Schurman has said to us today. Above all do we appreciate what is the heart and kernel of his message, that there is and ought to be common understanding between the two great branches of the English-speaking people. We believe, with him, that upon that common understanding, depends the future peace and the maintenance of world civilization. We all fought in the war for something beyond freedom. We did fight for freedom, and freedom in a certain measure has been won, but the very winning of freedom has created a great number of different points of contact that may possibly be points of friction, and, therefore, beyond fighting for freedom we are fighting, and have fought, for world organization, whatever may be the form of world organization, whether a League of Nations, or a freer League in which, as a last resort, everybody will be left to fight it out-I don't know. But that world organization must go along with world freedom is absolutely necessary if there is to be peace (applause), and we shall either have chaos in the future, or such a Utopia of peace as wise and good men have dreamed of in the days gone by.

May I, in closing, illustrate one feature of Doctor Schurman's remarks, regarding the genius and spirit of the British Empire? He spoke of General Smuts. I too had the pleasure of being entertained by the General when over-seas in 1918, on an occasion when General Smuts invited President Van Hise of the University of Wisconsin, and certain journalists to meet him at dinner. He put before the American journalists the great issues of the war. He was himself the embodiment of the British trustfulness, and when he had finished his remarks, and the dinner was drawing to a close, one of the guests rose and proposed the health of "Our host, General Smuts", and he did it in this form:--"I commanded a cavalry squadron in the South African war, and we captured a little kopje, and after capturing it, we were reconnoitering a Boer stronghold on the other side of the river. With a Boer prisoner whom we had captured, we crept down to the river bank, and he asked me in excellent English, if I had, by any chance, attended the University of Cambridge. I said, 'Yes, by a strange chance I did attend the University at Cambridge'. He said, 'Well, the commander of the Boers on the other side of the river is also a graduate of Cambridge'. Then he said 'Do you happen to be a member of the Inner Temple?' 'Yes', I said, 'by a strange chance I am a member of the Inner Temple'. 'Well,' he said, 'The commander over there is also a member of the Inner Temple', and even as he spoke an officer rode out on horseback, and the prisoner said, "There he is now'. I took my loaded rifle, and aimed at that commander with all the skill at my command, and fired, but I missed him, and the fact that I missed him gives me the opportunity today of proposing his health". (Laughter and applause) For that commander was General Jean Christian Smuts.

That little incident perhaps, in concrete form, illustrates perhaps better than any more elaborate words could do, the spirit of trust with which the great old mother-land has dealt with all her sons and daughters over the seas. And what has been done within the British Empire, can, and please God, will be done with all the English-speaking people, and what has been done will be done in due time with all the free peoples on the face of the earth. (Applause)

Led by the President, the members expressed their appreciation of the address by giving Doctor Schurman three rousing cheers.

Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.


Our International Outlook

Recent events in South Africa. Ways in which these events are significant. Great Britain's view of colonial relations now and in the past. The principles of liberty and nationality and independence. Another principle prevalent in the world called "anti-democracy," embodied in Bismarck. Now living in a world practically wholly given over to democracy. Problems today with which all nations are confronted. The speaker's belief that it will be a long time before the world returns to the happy economic conditions that existed before the war. Grounds for that belief. Economic steps that need to be taken. The issue of monies spent on military and naval establishments. The question of disarmament. A consideration of the navy of Japan as a threat to the United States. Hope for peace in the world through concord, unity, and friendship between the English-speaking nations. Anglo-American relations. The need for an International Court of Justice, an Arbitration Tribunal. The need, in addition to the courts, for some organ which shall prevent disputes or aggressions, and anticipate them: a World Conference. An explication of the position of the United Sates towards the League of Nations.