An Address by J. M. HARPER, M.A., PH.D., F.E.I.S., Quebec, to the Empire Club of Canada, Dec. lath, 1913.
Mr. President and Genetlemen,---You have had your lunch and now you would have something of a dessert, in a literary sort of a way, on Canadian assimilation. And when I am done serving up that dessert, some of you will probably be making a leisurely investigation of what I have said, and assume the attitude towards me and mine which Dr. Wallace, the parliamentary representative for Edinburgh in his day and generation, once took up in the House of Commons, after Mr.. Gladstone had delivered one of his famous speeches on the Irish question, in something after these words "Mr. Speaker, when I was a boy attending school, there was an old gentleman friend of mine whose word I had to respect, who drummed into my head until it got there, that the angles at the base of an isosceles triangle were equal, and that if the equal sides were produced the angles on the other side of the base were also equal. Now, Mr. Speaker, the right honourable gentleman, who has just taken his seat, has proven to us all that the angles at the base of an isosceles triangle are not equal, and that if the equal sides be produced the angles on the other side of the base are not equal either. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, may I be allowed to ask what I am to do about the matter. Indeed, what can I do? What am I in duty bound to do, other than to bow my head in submission, and resume my seat in this honourable assembly, with all dutiful respect to what the right honourable leader of this House has just said." And forthwith the gifted member for Edinburgh resumed his seat amid the laughter of his associate members, leaving the proposition where Mr. Gladstone had left it.
And if I adopt the mathematical method in connection with the discussion of this momentously important question of Canadian assimilation, I may be twitted, as Mr. Gladstone once was, since we have never yet been able safely to apply the mathematical method to the solution of an ethical question of this kind. Yet, I may perhaps be allowed by you, to follow as far as it is possible, the discussion of this same ethical question along the lines of a geometrical proposition, in a loose kind of a way, from the enunciation to the quod erat demonstrandum of the thing. First of all there is the enunciation. Then you have to keep in the tail end of your eye the postulates and axioms; and I need hardly tell you that if you keep straight with these down through the proof, you are very likely to come out all right. Thus we must first of all get emphasized in our minds what this question of Canadian Assimilation means at its basis-this most important question, ethical and national-which is facing our All-Canadianism of the day. If I were to give the enunciation in common ordinary English, many of you would no doubt turn up your eyebrows and say: "What is the use of bringing a fellow all the way from Quebec to tell us in Toronto the things we all know so well?" Therefore, if you will bear with me, I proceed to enunciate my problem and yours in verse, so that you will be able to carry it with you down through the plan of what I have to say on it.
The nation is first, as race seeketh blend
With race in pursuit of some common end:
Next to God is it first; and the plea is accurst
That fosters a bias, its claims to obtend.
From brother to brother, the nation is ours,
As together we labour, enhancing its powers With duties apace, and with race aiding race,
'Tis a Commonwealth's, shrine we would garland with flowers.
And last of all:
The fiat's gone forth, a Nation we'd be
The land, as we sing, of a people born free:
And duties apace, with race joining race,
'Tis a one from the many our Empire we'd see. (Applause.)
And there in a nutshell is the great problem, the greatest of all other ethical problems which Canada, in its present incoherences of population, has to take up in its own behalf.
And then come the axioms or postulates or self-evident truths there are to guide us in our investigation--and here again some of you may be inclined to put your tongue in your cheek at the inviting of a speaker to enunciate such simple truths as these
First, Canada, as it stands to-clay, is the biggest country in the world, excepting neither the United States, nor either of the great divisions of the Russian Empire. Have you thought of it as such, as borne out by the measuring-rod of the surveyor? Canada, the very largest country in the world!
Second, Canada enjoys, under the Union Jack, the widest and most influential empire-prestige the world has ever known. Are there any amongst us who fail to appreciate that momentous self-evident truth?
Third, Canada has in sight a future for itself which sometimes takes our breath away, as we contemplate the "one from the many" it is on the way of being, with no jealousy from our next-door neighbour to hinder it, and let us hope no parochial or racial prejudice to stand in its way.
Would you have me dwell on these three axioms or momentous self-evident truths? Has there not been perhaps more than enough said about Canada's present day status and progress? Are we not all convinced of the vastness of our home-realm, with its wealth-producing resources duly tabulated and commented on, and with its threads of government binding province to province and their hinterlands into one nominal whole? And are we not all by this time fully convinced that the Empire prestige which has come to us as if by, birthright, has to be made to develop, under the Providence of God and international quietude-not into a congeries of stand aloof enervating ethical segregations that ever lead to a loss of communal influence-but as an imperium in imperio, a veritable nation, sharing in all the rights and privileges of a consolidated Empire, and giving sanction to the grand and glorious future that is coming to it, with every kind of patriotic effort on our own part to mature it.
And no less are the present conditions within the area of this biggest country of ours being brought to our attention by tire press and platform and other processes of publicity within and without our borders. Does not every transatlantic steamship, as it moors at Halifax, St. John, Quebec, or Montreal, with its shipload of immigrants, give a filip to our patriotism, to make an inventory of the various and varying elements of population seeking entrance within our gates? Have we been asking ourselves in all seriousness what we ought to do towards making Canadian citizens out of such? What have we as yet done to bring about a national blend of the desirables and undesirables of all "people's and nations and tongues" that have been and are being dumped into the vacant places of our country to find homes for themselves? Are our efforts to make sound Canadian citizens of such of the isosceles triangle kind -with the effort equal to the necessity--or of the scalene kind with a long side here and a sharp angle there?
Not long ago I went into a barber shop in Oakland: California, to have my hair trimmed; and as the operator, who happened to be the owner of the establishment, kept snip-snapping at my locks, his accent gave me a little problem all my own to work out, as to what European country he had come from. I knew at once he was not of French origin, nor German nor Italian, as I silently applied the usual tests; and eventually, before he laid down his scissors, I came to the conclusion that he must be of Spanish birth. "You are a Spaniard, are you not?" I asked him. "No," he answered, "I am a Portuguese." But I am not likely ever to forget the light that came into his eyes as I stood congratulating myself on coming so near in my guessing, and when he said with respectful emphasis, "Now, I am an American citizen."
As something of a contrast to this, I may say that on a street car in Toronto the other day I came in contact with a conductor who had quite a flavour of the heather about his words, and I said to him, "You are Scotch, are you not?" "Yes," he said. "But you are a Canadian now," I remarked, though a shrug of the shoulders with the trace of a protest in it was all I got from him, as I reached the ground and he went on with his car. And I said to myself, that man has certainly to work and wander around in Canada for some time to come yet, to discover that he is no longer only a Scotsman but a Canadian as well. And in these two experiences there is to be seen what this problem of assimilation really means, or how momentous it is for us all that these thousands that are being landed every year by the shipload in our country are doing to be matured as wholesome Canadians in their home life as well as in our communal organizations. And it is for us wholesome Canadians to quicken, as far as we may, the ethical forces that may most readily tend to assimilate the incoming millions as well as those already within the boilingpot of our immatured affiliations. Are these newcomers arriving in our midst, merely to see what kind of neighbours we Canadians are making of ourselves? No sir, they are coming out to Canada to see what kind of neighbours they can make of themselves near us, under improved monetary conditions. It is the commercial spirit that is forcing them to come to us.
I suppose, when you were coming up or down the street today to this luncheon, you took no notice of whether the stock of the Canadian Pacific was rising or falling, seeing you have taken that resolution of yours to forego dealing in margins, since you were last bitten. That little changing figure which so disturbs the soul of the man who deals in margins, is like the little figure that used to disturb us at school when we took note of it at the right hand top of the "(x-y)" of our algebraic experiences-the exponent we had to valuate with caution if we would be correct in our calculations. And the going up or down of a margin in stocks is none other than the exponent of the most influential ethical force in the world today, namely, the commercial spirit. And, in giving credit to the commercial spirit for what good it can do and has done towards the bettering of the world, we would not think for a moment to close our eyes to the evil it has done. Mr. President, we all know b3 this time that there is good and bad in every ethical force in the world, just as there is good and bad in every one of us. Nature expresses herself by lights and shades and if the good book tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil, it does not say a word against the making of it or the using of it as a means of fulfilling
truly philanthropic or patriotic purpose. And the press and pulpit and platform may say what they like about the waywardnesses of the commercial spirit, it is undoubtedly the most regenerating ethical force in the world today, for the lifting mankind into a higher way of living in his housekeeping, his respectability, and generous inclinations.
No later than yesterday, a friend of mine brought me to the point of discerning the millionaire as the medium through which a people can be brought to apply their energies and mental activities towards solving for themselves the problem of national assimilation. He told me something I had never even suspected, and you will all be perturbed as much as I was on learning that, when John D. Rockefeller in former days gave a million to college or other philanthropy, he generally contrived to have a cent put on the price of oil. And when we trace this back, be it true or false, it certainly locates the millionaire as a medium for the benefiting of mankind, as we all ought to be. We are all mediums. We are all working or idling in a circle, and what we have today is taken from us eventually and goes right back into the ocean of ethical influences that are around us. (Applause.)
Yes, of a truth, the millionaire is a medium, and one of the purposes of my addressing you today is to emphasize that fact so that every one of you may go out as a missionary in the enterprise of getting the millionaires of Toronto and elsewhere all over Canada to promote this much needed assimilation in our Canadianism. A few of our millionaires have already set the fashion, and it is for all of us to encourage the keeping of it up.
And there are ever so many other ethical forces we must get agoing besides the commercial spirit for the uplifting of the nation, each of which demands a dissertation all for itself. For instance, there is the school and the church. Then there is the political influence, and the literary intuition. And by-and-bye we have to consider what such an institution as' this Empire Club of ours stands for, namely, the imperium in imperio idea--not the idea that we are going to tie ourselves on as a tail-end of a next door neighbour for the sake of trading expectations; not the idea that we are going to be an independent something or other, before we have the means of maintaining that independence. No, Mr. President, with us it is Britain on the one side and Canada on the other, with Britain for Canada and Canada for Britain, equal and opposite, just as in a well balanced isosceles triangle. (Applause.)
Canada has quite a distance to travel before it can have a Canadian National School, after the fashion of the republic to the south of us. The Act of Confederation stands in the way of our getting such a school, which is an assimilating force beyond all others perhaps, in the concrete, as far as ethical advancement is concerned in a national way. We have had hard enough work to get the free school in the most of our provinces. What then are we going to do to provide a substitute for this lack in our national equipment? We must have such a substitute: there is no way out of it. I am faro to believe that the day is not far distant when what has been done in Germany and Scotland and the United States to establish the best common school conceivable for the upbringing of all creeds and classes, is on the point of being looked upon as a necessity for the maturing of a common citizenship in Canada. Every all-and-sundry school located in Canada, call it parish school or national school, supported by the millionaire, as it may be, and supervised by the State, cannot but be an influential leading towards what Canada must have, if it would realize its future as a consolidating and assimilating nation within the British Empire.
Nor is there any mere talking in one's hat about this view of the case. There are thousands of children in the Canadian provinces who are not being reached by the public or private school; and, as we can easily surmise, the most of these are the children of the newcomers who have to settle in the remote country parts. In my own province a practical step is spoken of as being about to be taken to provide against there being even one child of school age passing out into manhood or womanhood without a knowledge of the three R's and a geographical and historical equipment sufficient to appreciate the three axioms I have spoken of in connection with Canada's status. An all-and-sundry school is in the way of being opened in Quebec, wherein all children who cannot have a school training within easy distance of their homes or for other reasons, are to be provided with the same and the comforts of a home, the expenses to be met from the sequestrations of wealth left by one of our mufti-millionaires. Now, is there anything of a good omen in that? There is no lack of millionaires in Canada, even if money be tight just at the present moment. You have them in all our larger communities. Lord Strathcona is always on hand to give largely to our educational institutions. Sir William Macdonald has set apart several millions to give us the right kind of teacher to help us out of this difficulty, to make respectable Canadian citizens out of the little tots brought under proper influences of tuition. A few weeks ago, I was present at the laying of the corner stone of your splendid Technical School: Is not that to be a means toward what you would call assimilation of our Canadianism in a direct way. Down in Quebec our Premier has erected two such schools, one in Montreal and the other in Quebec, and has already conceived a policy of establishing such a school in all the populous centres of the province. (Applause.) And the millionaire is not going to be left out in this enterprise. Of course some of us will sit down and say that the millionaire should not spend so much in this way or in that way on himself; but it is not for us to care a snap of the finger how he spends his money on himself as long as he gives a due proportion of his accumulations back to the country that enabled him to acquire his wealth, to aid the nation to be what it expects to be in time. (Applause.) In a word, give us the commercial spirit m alliance with the school through our moneyed men, and Canada is sure to get there, as the saying is, in the near future.
It is not my intention to bring to your notice, in such a short time as is at my disposal, all the ethical forces that may or may not be directing their energies towards the maturing of national assimilation for us. Each of such would, need an address for itself. For instance, there is the Christian Church. And here I will have to speak very cautiously if not demurely, since there are representatives of the church here, and they no doubt have ever so many ethical triangles of their own, isosceles or otherwise, to think well of, and it would never do for me to say whether the angles at the base of these are equal or not. The other night I was at a St. Andrew's gathering, the biggest I have ever seen in Quebec, and as we were singing the words of a little hymn I had written for the occasion to a well known tune, it did my heart good, arid I could not help saying to myself--: "Wouldn't it be possible for us to have an All-Canadian Church Social now and again during the year?" Or again, "Why could we not have a Sunday set apart in the year that we could call Commonwealth Sunday, when our clergymen might take common ground in. telling us what they think of this momentous problem, and how we are going to lift ourselves eventually up into a communal Canadian citizenship?" If we had church union the problem would be all the easier of solution. If we had church union and a national school we would hardly need to bother ourselves very much about this problem of Canadian assimilation. It would come of itself. But we have neither the one nor the other; and we are not going to get either unless we exert ourselves as loyal Canadians to get both or their substitutes. And,, so I leave the thought as a legacy with the clergymen here that we might have our Commonwealth Sunday, with little hymns appropriate for the occasion and inspiriting anthems composed by Canadians, and homilies pertinent to the affairs of our country, with everything just as we would want it, to bring that little bit of nervousness into the corners of our eyes, so as to make ourselves and our incoming neighbours exclaim; "My, what a fine thing it is to feel that one is a Canadian." (Applause.)
There is an isosceles triangle in our Canadian ethics, which you have noticed, I am sure, but which you do not say much about, unless when an election comes round. One day, as a boy, I was passing down the Salt Market in Glasgow, and there was a woman on this side of the street and a woman on the other side, and they were having it out in right royal style. They would run back to the wall and then out as far as the curbstone, reiterating what they would do if they only could get closer at each other. By-and-bye the climax came as they rushed across the street and met one another in a vacant part of the thoroughfare; and then there was an isosceles triangle formed with a vengeance, concerning which the police had to decide whether the angles at the base of it were equal or not, with the two combatants' hair in one another's hands. Have we any such a picture in our Canadian ethics? Here is the commercial instinct or spirit, the greatest of ethical forces, running along this greatest of highways of ours from Halifax to Vancouver-the highway to be between Europe and Asia-and has your eye ever lit upon a personage on this side of that thoroughfare shaking his fist at his fellow countryman on the other side of it; and have you ever marvelled at the rush that was made by them at one another when an election was on, to seize whatever was within reach and tear at it until the policeman, in the shape of the returning officer, sent them back each to their own sidewalk or party organization to rail at one another at a distance until another election season came round? Isn't such a conventialism all wrong? How can we expect to promote an assimilation in our citizenship, with so many unsound parochialists daring each other all the year round from their respective sidewalks, with the worst name in their gift to throw at one another? My own clergyman the other Sunday told us all from the pulpit that the one side in the game of Canadian politics was as bad as the other, with no mention made of the good there was in party government. Had he it in mind to erect an isosceles triangle all for himself in our Canadian ethics? And would he have no difficulty in showing that the angles at the base of such a triangle were equal? I leave the matter with you to decide. One thing is patent to us all surely by this time, that some influence has to be brought to bear on our political conventionalisms, in order to lift our public life a little, if not a great deal, higher an the plane of its activities, if we would have from our politicians all the aid we need to assimilate our Canadianism in the way it should be assimilated.
The nation is first, and the plea is accurst That fosters a bias; its claims to obtend. (Applause.)
Indeed if we keep that enunciation of our problem in the corner of our patriotism we are sure to get there, as the saying goes, in good time.
I would like to refer to our Canadian literary spirit as an ethical force working towards Canadian assimilation. But there isn't time. We are being moved by it to sing our own songs and tell our own stories at our Canadian firesides. But what are we doing beyond that? We have to step in and help out the solving of the problem out yonder in the great western prairie country. There is a wholesome Canadianism in a place like Toronto. I have never had it in my mind to find fault with Torontonians for failing to assert themselves as Canadians, other than after the manner of the streetcar conductor I met yesterday. They are Canadians and embody a lesson for the East as well as the West. Down in Quebec, I have a friend who reads the newspaper in Ontario which has always a grievance in English against the French-Canadian, and I have another friend who lives at the other end of the town who has faith in every word L'Action Sociale utters, and I am glad enough at times that these two friends of mine live with a ward or two between them. In fact if they did get together-both of them Canadians, both born in Canada-I am sure I don't know what kind of a triangle would come from their meeting. And so there I leave the matter, believing that in time the two of them will come to understand one another better. Why should any Ontarian and French-Canadian not be as goad comrades as the Boer of South Africa and his English-speaking neighbour? Citizenship means comradeship, civic comradeship, and there is no reason why these two elements in our population should not be as good comrades as one would wish to see, both anxious to share in the assimilating of our Canadianism.
And whatever may be said about the Canadian press in the matter of its party pleadings, with the ferule of the schoolmaster in its hands, we all feel assured of the consensus it would promote on this question of national assimilation. And the same may safely be said of our Canadian Clubs which are being established everywhere throughout the land. These clubs are certainly the efficient handmaidens to the commercial spirit-practical in their efficiency, keeping down the cobwebs and parochialisms and otherwise making the house, as far as may be, clean and tidied up, for the coming of our common citizenship, as a tenant of assured and assuring loyalty.
Then we have our Dominion Day and our Empire Day and our Victoria Day, as a following up of the idea of a St. Andrew's Day and a St. George's Day and a St. Patrick's Day and St. Jean Baptiste Day; and I myself have been in at the inauguration of the All-Canadian Evening, during which may be indulged in the singing and reciting what of a patriotic literature we have. Mr. W. K. Chesterton says, in his "What is the Matter with the World," that Canada, according to some, may be expected to produce a literature, which is like saying that Canada must soon come into growing a moustache. But Canada has already a literature of its own quite capable of fructifying in us all the patriotic spirit, if we Canadians would only take advantage of it. Therefore let us by all means have our All-Canadian Evenings whenever practicable. Let us sing our Canadian songs and tell our Canadian stories, and recite our Canadian poems whenever and wherever the natural art within us will allow. In the rehearsal that is not ashamed of such songs and recitals, nor in the founding of such an institution as Commonwealth Sunday, there is sure to be found the very strongest of ethical forces to bring the uprising generation, of Canadians to realize at once all that there is in Canada for them as a motherland, and that their very own.
And in addressing this Empire Club, the second axiom must have a final short word from me at this time, namely, that Canada enjoys, under the Union Jack, the widest and most influential empire-prestige the world has ever known. It would be scant courtesy to you, its members, not to acknowledge your convictions that what your society stands for is as much of an ethical force -a drawing of us-up-out-of-ourselves force, out of even our broadest parochialisms, as it were,-for the maturing of a Canadian patriotism of the very broadest kind, as is the commercial spirit.
It is not for me to tabulate in your hearing during our short session the various arguments in favour of Empire Consolidation. I have only to say that the following tip of your advocacies as an Empire Club from year to year cannot but further, even as non-official reflex, a powerful influence in our attaining to the fuller national life. What a proud position is would be were we to become legal claimants of Britain's empire-prestige, by paying our share in the upholding of that prestige. By an immediate and direct payment of thirty-five millions or so, we could have all the naval and empire protection we want or need tomorrow morning, claiming it as our own, as well as being given it cheerfully, with all the advantage on our side.
Look at that flag, ours in cotrimon with every British subject--look at it and say what the design in the corner of it means to all of us--English, Irish, Scotch, French, German, as well as those who have lately joined us from across the line! Is the Union Jack of Old England not our very own flag? Is the statesmanship and patriotism of the British Empire not our very own statesmanship and patriotism? And does not the defence of the whole Empire mean our very own defence? The more invulnerable the Empire is, the more invulnerable is Canada. And what resident in Canada, what short-sighted Canadian, with the microbes of parochialism and secondary prejudices, racial or otherwise, playing hide-and-go-seek m his undeveloped patriotism, is there who would have this Empire of ours decline? What Canadian is there who can bear with patience to think of his being called upon in his day and generation, or of his children's children in their day and generation being called upon, to read the opening chapter of the Decline and Fall of the British Empire? We all know that the prestige of British Empire, like all other things, has to advance or decline. There is no standing still for it. Come, then, is there a Canadian who would have the prestige of the British Empire decline before Canada has come into her own as a full grown nation, possessed of a common and self-assimilated citizenship? There is the problem of the day within its wider problem, if you will. Canada is Britain's first-born! Would any of us wish to see the ethical problem we have in hand, now and for many years to come, solved by having that first-born betray his own future by refusing to back up his mother's past? No, sir, the angles at the base of such an ethical triangle as Canada for Britain and Britain for Canada are equal; and no matter how far the equal anti equalizing sides of such a triangle be produced by the commercial spirit or any other ethical force, we know that the angles on the other side of our Canadian common-sense and outlook are going to give us the sympathetic equalizations o-f Canadian aggrandisement and Empire aggrandisement as collaterals in Canada's course towards its nationhood in the approaching future.
And now, by way of a final word, let me focus my main idea in the theoretic history of an Englishman or Scotchman or Irishman or any other of the newcomers who are coming to Canada to prove what kind of neighbours they propose to make of themselves. Let us select any one of them and try to foretell the history of the good amongst them. Isn't this what we may possibly hear for the first year or so of the new Canadian's life? Listen! He is singing a lilt of the past something like this, as he goes to the plough and comes home in the evening and allows the thoughts of the fatherland or motherland he has left to float within the nooks and corners of his memory
My native land, a debt of song I pay,
A debt of love that lieth on my soul,
When memory draws the veil of bygone day,
And olden music greets the lifting scroll.
A tribute to thy freedom's faith I bring,
The piety that scents thy glebe I sing,--
Thy purple hills, whose silver mists unroll
The waving gold of dawn, thy lowing plains
And hawthorn banks and braes where hamlet meekness reigns.
And by-and-bye, while he keeps up his industry--his plowing and sowing and reaping--and does everything to emphasize his comradeship with his Canadian neighbours, 11e comes into the heirship of a broader patriotic feeling, and possibly we can hear him singing some such a sentiment as this in his own emotional way
A nation's love in gentle diapason wakes
The land to sing in chorus jubilee:
Prestige gains strength, a rising tide, and breaks
Around our flag its spray of loyalty.
A pomp of urgency love craveth not,
Since bloom it may whatever be its lot
Yet rouse ye loyal! In the love that's free,
Find strength of heart and ecstacy of song,
Whose laughter's like the tide that murmurs
sweet and strong.
In time, his developing fuller patriotism he would have his children assume as their own, urging them to acknowledge themselves the children of the Empire, in words akin to these though perhaps less uplift in tone
Sing ye the songs of greatness born of love,
The harmony of power from reign to reign,
Gift of the Sovereignty that rules above,
Gift of the centuries growing young again
Sing ye the majesty of British right, Sing ye the power withiri- an Empire's might
The strains that glorify our king and queen
Are but the symbols of the uplifting lay
The harmony of life that's born of liberty.
And before long the church he attends and the school his children go to form the nucleus of his new life, bringing to him its Commonwealth Sunday as it may be, on the one hand, and its All-Canadian programmes of Canadian literary product on the other, and before he knows it himself he will be found joining with his children and his neighbours in singing some such a verse as this, dear to every Canadian heart as it cannot but be
Though other skies may be as bright,
And other lands as fair,
Though charms of other climes invite
Our wandering footsteps there;
Yet there is one the peer of all,
Beneath bright heaven's dame;
Of thee I sing, O happy land,
My own Canadian home. (Applause.)