- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Feb 1916, p. 82-99
- Fallon, Rt. Rev. Bishop, Speaker
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- Item Type
- Reference to the Magna Charta. Nothing so logical, so absolute as the march of ideas. Historical background to events leading up to the signing of the Magna Charta. The liberties won on that occasion an impressive instance of how effective was their attempt in putting a stopper on royal tyranny. A review and analysis of several clauses of the Magna Charta. Subsequence historical events after the historic signing. A description of events that took play May 3, 1253, and a quotation from the speech of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the King on that day. The battle of British liberties finally fought and finally won. The privilege and the right of living the lives of free men was secured for all of Great Britain, every overseas Dominion, and to the great nations that no longer owe her allegiance, but that do owe her what basis they possess of liberty and freedom and of the things that make again life well worth living. Some inspired verses from John Greenleaf Whittier, American poet, about this incident. What the words of the Magna Charta mean. Today the contest one that affects not one nation alone nor one series of nations, but the whole wide world, civilized and uncivilized, and every one of the children of God. In a contest with what is called German kultur. The Catholic Church. How German kultur is undermining the very character of Christ. What German kultur is doing with regard to the inspired scriptures. Swinging the pendulum to an orgy of collectivism where the individual is going to be lost sight of; a return to the pagan ideal of state omnipotism, distinctly opposed to the fundamental principles of Magna Charta.
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- 24 Feb 1916
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- THE CHARTER OF LIBERTY
AN ADDRESS BY RT. REV. BISHOP FALLON
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto February 24, 1916
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--I overheard a remark in the ante-chamber that has rather disconcerted my deliberate courage in appearing here before this gathering today. Some one said to His Grace, the Archbishop of Toronto, that it was a good thing to have Bishop Fallon here; whereupon His Grace, with that prudence which is characteristic of the land from which he sprang, said: "Well, it is, provided he does not get out of bounds." It is a long time, gentlemen, since I have had the reputation of breaking bounds, and I am afraid it will go on till the end of the chapter. Making that same remark to the estimable gentlemen on my right, he said: "Well, it is one of the greatest things we possess who live under British institutions that we have freedom of thought and liberty of expression."
I want to say to you, gentlemen, that it is a very great pleasure for me to have been invited to the privilege of speaking to you at one of your regular gatherings, and I am very grateful indeed that you considered the matter of sufficient moment to bring you here to listen to what I may have to say.
Seven hundred years ago, on the 15th day of June, 1215, a close came to a contest that meant not much but everything for those who were concerned in it. It had been led up to by a long series of causes. Nothing happens either suddenly or accidentally in human affairs. There is nothing so logical, nothing so absolute as the march of ideas. Commerce is not logical; it seeks the line of least resistance, and it rests with most pleasure in green fields and fresh pastures. Politics is not logical. It also seeks the easy paths and avoids the obstacles. Ideas alone are logical. The human mind, turned to right or wrong, following principles correct or false; human ideas on a basis of truth or on a basis of falsehood, work their way and can be counteracted only by the contrary against falsehood or by the triumphant falsehood against the temporarily conquered truth.
Now, it was a series of causes that were at bottom the result of the progress of ideas, the necessities of human civilization, that brought about the contest that ended in a certain sense on the 15th of June, 112,5, at Runnymede, where King John signed the Charter that we call the foundation, and rightfully call, the foundation of British liberties. When the Roman Empire fell and the incursion of the barbarians threatened the very existence of the fair fields of Europe, it became necessary for men to band together and fight the battle of order against anarchy. And so they put willingly their designs, their projects, their purposes, their liberties and their lives in the keeping of one, whether he was the head of the clan, the head of the tribe, the chief of the province or the king of the small monarchy. But when you put your concerns and your liberties and your rights and, as a consequence, your lives in the hands of any one man, you need to watch him closely-I don't care whether he be statesman or churchman, you need to keep your eye upon him. For it is a common tendency of human nature to monopolize such things as these, and to use them for personal gain and personal advancement as against the rights of those from whom they have been received. It was precisely that condition that prevailed when the battle was fought for order, and then men-oh, gentlemen, like the history of every similar case-men sat down and asked themselves: In the winning of the battle for order have we not lost something quite as precious? And they had, gentlemen, to start again in that constant cycle of human struggle for the things that make life worth living; they fad to start again, this time to win the battle of liberty against the very men who had been their chiefs and their ideals in the struggle for order. For the kings have not always such power; no king has any powers save what the people give him. There is no longer any doubt about the principle that you cannot govern save, with the consent of the governed; that there is not any possibility of the whim of the ruler taking the place of the liberty of the subject and his freedom to make his will and desire known. While in the contest for liberty, of course, it was those who held the possession of the rights of the people that were the main obstacles in the way. And the long contest went on, not for ten or fifty years, but for more than one hundred, until the final climax was reached when King John refused to accept the nomination of Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. Stephen Langton was a compromise. The monks of Canterbury had presented to the Holy See two names, John Gurd and Reginald--that is as much as I can remember of their names, and about as much as is necessary to remember, because they failed, they did not get there. Really in a contest of that kind, as I know myself, and as His Grace knows, the only person who is worth while remembering is the one that succeeds. So at any rate, when these two candidates were presented by the monks of Canterbury, following their undoubted right, to the Holy See for appointment, both of them were rejected, and Stephen Langtonone of the noblest men that graces the pages of English History, then Professor in France, noted for his patriotism and learning-was chosen by the Holy See and named to the vacancy in the Archdiocese of Canterbury. King John, dishonest, hypocritical, tyrannical, desirous of finding an excuse for a quarrel, refused to accept the nomination of Stephen. The quarrel went on for some years and finally England was placed under an interdict, John was excommunicated, and under the common law of the day, as every student of history knows, when the voice of Rome did meet the approval of the hearts and conscience of the majority of the people, John himself was excommunicated. A dangerous word to use in Toronto! Wonder if I am breaking bounds? Well, I may use more dangerous words than that before I am through. And if I break bounds too deliberately or too outrageously, there is a quicker way of getting me on the street than taking me down by the elevator. John was excommunicated! And that brought about some sense of his position. And after consideration he decided to accept the nomination of Innocent the Third, and to accept Stephen Langton as the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The moment that Langton put his foot on the soil of Englandand as a Catholic Bishop I am proud to be able to state this historic fact-the moment he put his foot on the soil of England he ranged himself with the barons and the people in the struggle for human liberty. He said to the King: " It is nothing new we are asking of you. We want to have restored to us the old English liberties of Edward the Confessor and of Henry the First and we will be satisfied with nothing less." The contest went on with varying success. John, full of rules, deceitful, untrustworthy, sought with some success assistance in Rome. Communications at that time were difficult, travel was not easy; John's courier brought his story to Rome that he had been under compulsion obliged to do certain things; that he was indeed the King and that the others were only his servants and for this and that, under such durance, any act that he had done or promised to do was of its very nature null and void. And there is a vast deal of truth in that position. No act done under such duress, if John's statements were true, would be other than null and void in the eyes, not only alone of Rome, but of right thinking men. For freedom there is necessity ever to do a thing that is right. But light came to Rome, Langton was not always at rest, even outside the kingdom. And standing on his rights--and it is another fine example of the independence of the Hierarchy--that is another dangerous word to use in Toronto! Well, it is a splendid example of the independence of the Hierarchy that has not disappeared at all, that we claim the right to inform even Rome on our side of any question or any controversy, and we rest secure in the certain conviction that Rome will never decide until she has got both sides of the question, and then that the chances are a thousand to one that she will decide right. She decided eventually in favour of Langton. And on the 15th of June, 1215, King John signed that marvellous declaration known as the Magna Charta, the Charter of our liberties.
The contest was brought to a head after various national councils, conventions, conferences between leaders of the people and the leaders of the Church. But what I assume to be of more importance to us than the causes or the means by which the Charter was finally made a necessity of adoption by King John are the things that are contained in the Charter. The great historian, Hallam, says that everything we have obtained since is only a commentary on the Magna Charta; that every liberty that we possess, every liberty for which we are ready to go to the uttermost limit of everything that we have, is contained in the document that Stephen Langton placed before King John and said to him: You will sign this or you will sign the death warrant of your kingship over the people of England. For the Magna Charta is a most impressive example of how our people--for I want you to understand that I am one of your people just as well as you are yourself; that is a new doctrine to some extent. But having been born in this Province, and educated in this Province, and fed by the good things of this Province, and now living on the generosity of this Province, you cannot push me out of your midst whether you want to or not.
Well, the liberties that were won by our people on that occasion are an impressive instance of how effective was their attempt in putting a stopper on royal tyranny, and how absolutely they nailed down the principle that allegiance, the broadest, the deepest, the most sincere, the most heartfelt, is and always must be conditional upon the proper exercise of his authority by him to whom allegiance is due, and to whom it is gladly given.
The very first paragraph, first clause of the grants of Magna Charta, deals with the liberties of the Church. I am afraid of breaking bounds here again. But putting the matter as mildly as I know how-the first clause of Magna Charta is a cry for relief not against Rome and tyranny, but against royal tyranny. Listen to it: The English Church shall be free and shall have her whole rights and her liberties inviolable, and the freedom of the election of bishops which was granted and obtained confirmation of from our Holy Pope, Innocent the Third, we shall observe.
That is the opening sentence of the Magna Charta. It was put through as Stephen Langton's defiance of the attempt of John to play the Church against the State in the struggle for liberty. For one of the things that King John attempted to do in his extremity was to give to the Church, to promise to give to the Church -because the gift of things and the promise to give are essentially different matters when we deal with characters like King John-to promise to give to the Church certain liberties, in the hope of detaching Stephen and the Prelates from the cause of the barons and the people. Stephen Langton said: We will take your gift and we will put it in the very first clause of the document that shall secure the liberties of the Church and of the State, of the prelates and of the people.
The second clause reads as follows : No free man shall be seized or imprisoned or dispossessed or outlawed or in any way brought to ruin; we will not go against any man nor send against him, save by the legal judgment of his peers and by the due process of the law of the land. The thing that we commonly enjoy as a legal trial was one of the magnificent results of the contest. We enjoy it, little knowing the great price at which it was purchased and won. It is a commonplace of our lives, but it was the extreme desire of those who fought the Magna Charta that we should have in the distribution of even-handed justice a legal trial. They went on further and demanded a fair trial. And a fair trial was promised and secured to them in the next clause of the Magna Charta: "To none will we sell, to none will we deny, to none will we delay right or justice." Language that is so trite, so commonplace, as to appear today trivial, but language that meant the heart's blood and the soul's desires of the men who fought this first great battle for human freedom under British dominions and institutions, and won that battle gloriously.
It had been the custom previously for those who sought justice to follow at a distance in the train of the king, to wait upon the royal pleasure, and to wait upon the conclusion of royal pleasures before his cause could be heard. He had to stand suppliant outside the most distant door of the royal castle wherever the king was situated and beg that his honest cause should be heard. Magna Charta put an end to that and said that justice should not wait upon the pleasure or the whim of the king, but that it should be given in various stated placed throughout the kingdom and be within the reach of rich and poor alike. " Common pleas," says this clause, "shall not follow our court"--that is, the king's--" but shall be held in certain places and shall be dispensed according to necessity."
These things, gentlemen, I realize are the most commonplace and trite expressions of our everyday lives. Yet again, I emphasize the fact they were so essential, and so much endangered, that our forefathers were ready to go to the extreme limit of losing their lives, of disturbing what was called public order and of dethroning the monarch, in order that they should lay down hard and fast and solid the sacred principles of human rights and human liberties, and of that freedom which makes life again worth living.
So much for a summary consideration of the document that was signed on the 15th of June, 1215, by King John at Runnymede. It may be interesting to know that there are only four original copies of that document now extant-one at Canterbury, one at Lincoln and two in the British Museum. And without for one instant attempting to push forward the Romish doctrine of the veneration of images or of the cult of relics, let me say that if ever you see one of the original copies of the Magna Charta you can well get down on your knees and kiss the page that consecrates and sanctifies your own personal, individual liberties, and makes life worth living.
Though the Magna Charta was signed the battle was riot yet finally won. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. King John tried to evade the Charter, with -little success, however, during the remainder of his life. And an honest man, the Earl of Pembroke, became regent on the death of John and of his own motion he reissued the Charter, but his rule, temporary as it was, lasted but a short time, and King Henry the Third came to the throne.
The contest between Henry the Third, on the one hand, and the prelates and the barons and the people of England on the other, raged for almost eighty-five years. It reached its climax in the year 1253. Henry was poor of purse, and not having money to carry out his personal or his public schemes, he applied for sufficient supply, and the supply was denied him. But he made fine promises, and with the readiness of all right-thinking men to take their rulers at their honest pledged word, the supply was voted. No sooner had Henry the Third money in his possession than he broke his plighted word and continued to break it, and to disregard the Charter; until he again fell on evil days, and poverty, conditional at any rate, stared him in the face. He again pleaded for money and again the money was granted to him, his royal word being taken, his pledge being accepted. He broke his word, he broke his pledge and he again violated the clauses and the conditions of the Great Charter. But you cannot expect anybody to take a man's word a third time who has broken his word twice. It is about the limit of human patience to have to deal with a man who has broken his word once. The people of England went to the very limit of national patience when they voted a second supply to Henry after he had twice broken his word, but they made up their minds that there would be no further breaking of the kingly promise.
And on the third day of May, 1253, there occurred one of the most dramatic incidents in all the history of mankind. I am afraid, again, that if I undertook to describe it, no matter how weakly, I may be breaking bounds, but I am going to try anyway. You understand that a bishop in his official capacity is privileged or obliged to wear garments that are really fearfully and wonderfully made. He has a tall split hat on his head; he carries what looks like a dangerous crook in his hand; he has a pectoral cross upon his breast and the fisherman's ring on his finger. On the third day of May, 1253, headed not any longer by Stephen Langton, but by his worthy successor, Bernhard of Savoy, benefice of Savoy, came the long line of the English bishops and English prelates, accompanied by the barons and the chiefs of the people, the heads of the clans and the representatives of the commonalty. Upon each bishop's head the mitre of his office and in his hand the crozier of his authority, and on his breast the cross of his promise, and on his finger the ring of his union with his diocese. And carrying in the other hand from the crozier, every bishop and every prelate had a lighted taper. There was a day when the lighted taper meant a great deal for all Christianity. The lighted taper yet means a great deal for many of us. It meant very much on this particular day, for the Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking in the name of the Church and of the people of England, pronounced so frightful a curse, that William Penn, the Quaker founder of Philadelphia, declared that while he had no dread whatever of the Romanish curses, yet he would not for all his life be guilty of the crime that could bring upon him the curse of the Charter breaker. Here it is, as laid down in documentary history Benefice, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in the presence of all the people and looking steadfastly at the King, spoke these words: "By the authority of God the Father, Almighty, of the Son and the Holy Ghost, and of the glorious Mother of God, the blessed Virgin Mary, and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and all the apostles, and of the blessed St. Edward, King of England, and of all the blessed martyrs of God, and of all confessors and virgins and of all the sons of God, this curse is pronounced against the breakers of the liberties of the Church and of the liberties or free customs of the realm of England." And as the end of the curse was reached the lighted taper in each hand was dashed to the ground and its smoking fumes scarcely hid any of the solemnity of the occasion as the Archbishop added: "Speaking in the name of all, as these tapers, so may the soul of every man go out who incurs this sentence." And Henry, finally conquered, cowed -gloriously cowed by the proclamation of rights and liberties that belonged to his subjects--added: "I will keep this Charter inviolate, as I am a man, as I am a Christian, as I am a knight, as I am a king; so help me God."
And with that dramatic end, to my vision, most sacred incident, the battle of British liberties was finally fought and finally won and the privilege and the right of living the lives of free men secured to not only the inhabitants of the Isle of England, not only Great Britain, but for every overseas dominion that she should ever have in the long line of her colonial activity-yea, and to the great nations that no longer owe her allegiance, but that do owe her what basis they possess of liberty and freedom and of the things that make again life well worth living.
This incident of the curse of the Charter breakers furnished to John Greenleaf Whittier, the American poet, an inspiration for some striking verses which, you will bear with me, if I attempt to read to you
In Westminster's Royal halls, Robed in their Pontificals, England's ancient prelates stood For the people's right and good. Closed around the waiting crowd, Dark and still, like winter's cloud; King and council, lord and knight, Squire and yeoman, stood in sight; Stood to hear the priest rehearse, In God's name, the Church's curse, By the tapers round them lit, Slowly, sternly uttering it. "Right of voice in framing laws, Right of peers to try each cause; Peasant homestead, mean and small, Sacred as the monarch's hall, " Whoso lays his hand on these, England's ancient liberties; Whoso breaks, by word or deed, England's vow at Runnymede; "Be he prince or belted knight, Whatsoe'er his rank or might, If the highest, then the worst, Let him live and die accursed. "Thou, who to Thy Church hast given, Keys alike, of hell and heaven, Make our word and witness sure, Let the curse we speak endure! " Silent, while that curse was said, Every bare and listening head Bowed in reverent awe and then All the people said, Amen!
The freedom that was won in its practical expression by the Magna Charta was simply the declaration in words of the greatest gift that God has ever bestowed upon human beings. It is free will, it is liberty, it is freedom that distinguishes man from all God's other creatures. It is a long time ago since an old Irish Saint declared that "If you take from men their liberty, by the same fell blow you destroy human dignity." It is a longer time still since St. Augustine wrote his treatise on the glories and on the justice and the responsibility of free will and human liberty. It is the great theologian called the angel of the school, St. Thomas, who lays down the principle that by human liberty, by that divine gift from God to man, mankind is raised not only above all earthly creatures, but above the angels themselves, for the angels are not free. They are confirmed in their position and condition, whereas man is free to choose. And freedom has its merits; and when you tie his freedom you destroy the possibility of his merits, and you bring him from the ranks of men to make him perhaps an angel, or, it may well be, a being at the other extreme of the category of creatures.
Now, gentlemen, it is my belief that absolutely the same principle that was in contest and battled over in the thirteenth century between the prelates and the barons and the people on the one hand and a royal personage on the other, is the same principle for which ours are battling on the plains of Europe wherever the long front is stretched out. That is my inmost conviction. Things as sacred, things as essential to human happiness, are at stake today as they were at stake then, only the contest is immeasurably wider and the consequence immeasurably more dangerous and menacing. For when the barons won the Magna Charta from King John the influence of that document was in some sense, at any rate, restricted to the little island where the contest began and ended, to the dominions that that little island should acquire in the wide world, or to the nations that drew their civilization from her or them. But today the contest is one that affects not one nation alone nor one series of nations, but the whole wide world, civilized and uncivilized, and every one of the children of God in this, His world.
I am glad you gave me some applause there, because I am going to say something that I do not think will get so much applause. I am afraid that I am going to break bounds. Because I am talking in Toronto, and I have always had a dread of Toronto, however it is. Perhaps it is utterly unjustifiable. I got it in the years long gone by when I led a poor, helpless, little coterie of helpless students out to Rosedale and heard the yells and cries of that hostile crowd and, the invitation they extended to us to go on back home as fast as we could or something would happen to them. That is the only, or almost the only, memory; and in some ways or other it has persevered until I am not quite sure of my courage when I approach this particular aspect, but I am going to talk what I- believe to be history.
We are in a contest with what is called German kultur. I appeal to you to say in the face of history if the contest against German kultur did not begin in 1870-71, and if the first victims of German kultur were not the Catholic bishops and the Catholic priests and the Catholic people of Germany. If in 1871 the Minister of Education, Mr. Folk, under the absolute domination of the worst of German tyros, the axe-head of all German tyranny, Bismarck, if he did not issue educational laws in the name of kultur, and that the ensuing contest was called then and is still known in history as the kultur? Who were the victims of that first struggle for kultur ? I know it has been a sort of favourite newspaper or magazine subject, and I know that Bismarck has been condemned for having gone to a certain place, but I tell you it would have been a good thing if Bismarck had been kept, at that place by the power that he is supposed to have gone there to pay tribute to. It would have been better for the civilized world today. Come down a little further. You know that I would not for the world speak a word that any man could take offence at, but I have got to speak for what I believe to be the truth, and you would not have any respect for me if I did not. Coming down a little further: Is it not true that we, speaking generally, we of Great Britain, we of Canada, and we of the United States, for the past z 5 years have been on our knees in adoration of German kultur? Is it any wonder that the German nation should have become the most conceited people in the world when freeborn Britons at home and overseas, and in the great Republic, were shouting hosannas for German kultur on every possible occasion ? Only one power never bowed the knee to German kultur, and that is the power with which I am connected in the capacity of Bishop. More than that, when professors went from Harvard and Yale and the other American universities in their pilgrimages to the shrine 'of German kultur; when they were accompanied by professors of Oxford and of Cambridge and of other -English or British universities; when money was taken from the treasury of the people of Ontario to send our sons across to get their fill of German kultur; when they were brought back and could not obtain a situation unless they were able to display the evidences of German kultur--where was the man then that rose and cried danger ? Where was he? He was sitting in the chair of Peter in the Vatican in Rome, and he did cry danger. And I am going to tell you how he cried it.
There is no doubt about it that the Catholic Church is a wonderful organization. There is just a little doubt that the hierarchy of Quebec and Ontario and the whole of Canada is not staying up at night devising schemes to deprive you of your liberties. Do not make any mistakes about that. We have a whole lot of things more interesting and very much more possible. But we have a wonderful organization. Every bishop is obliged to send to Rome at least once every three years, once every five years-oftener if the circumstances in his judgment call for it-a report, not of political activities in his diocese, not of commercial progress, not of the best means of throttling our neighbours. No, not that! But what is the condition of Christianity, how do Christian principles stand, how -are your people with reference to Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world. Every bishop has to send that as a portion of his quinquennial report, or oftener if the circumstances seem necessary to him, or if he is called upon to do it. And from all quarters of the world there came in to the man on the white tower of the Vatican these reports. And I merely summarize them. Here and there and everywhere German kultur is undermining the very character of Christ. Gentlemen, I will repeat some of the terms from German theology that perhaps some of your sons have had to listen to if they have studied in German universities. Jesus Christ is called a fakir-that is one expression. He is called a lunatic-that is another expression. The mildest thing that is said of Him is that He is under a delusion. A little more respectful still is that He is a myth; that, if He did exist at all, which is quite doubtful, He was nothing more than one of its passing influences that are really a mirage and are of no permanent effect. That was part of the report. Further report: What is German kultur doing with regard to the inspired scriptures ? Tearing it page from page. There is not a single page of the Holy Writ, from the first chapter of Genesis to the last verse of the apocalypse, that has not been attacked in one way or another unfairly, unscientifically and shamefully in German universities, one place or another, within the past forty or fifty years.
Now, do you remember what happened? Recall the editorials in the leading Ontario dailies and you will realize how what happened impressed certain of our fellow citizens. Pius the Tenth, the watchman, having read reports from his officers throughout the world, felt that it was time for him to speak. And he issued that famous letter, called the Encyclical, against the errors of Modernism. Take that Encyclical today and read it in the light of current events, and everything that is condemned there is the thing for which your sons and your brothers and our fellow citizens are willingly giving up their lives to save, to make secure. Because he condemned the German errors regarding the person of Christ, the Redeemer; the German errors regarding scriptural interpretation and what they were pleased to call in their assumed superiority higher criticism; and the German errors with regard to that false, rationalistic philosophy that has made such horrible headway in this world of ours. That is what the letter against the Errors of Modernism was. That is what it is. What was it called here in Toronto ? Well, you remember. Do not blame me if I enjoy the luxury of reading a little history. It was called another evidence of reactionary Rome. That expression, "reactionary Rome," I had often heard before. Rome is always reactionary in the eyes of some people. It was an evidence of Roman mediaevalism--is not that true? Don't you remember that that is what was said about it? It was an attempt on the part of the tyrannical power of the poor, little, helpless, kind, gentle, sweet Pius the Tenth to throttle each and every one of us, to stop the progress of events, to send us back one hundred, two hundred years. Well, that is what you are now trying to do, to carry out to the uttermost limit, only by the expenditure of untold treasure and by the outpouring of precious blood, the things that Pius the Tenth ten years ago desired to draw to the attention of the Christian civilized world.
Now, that is about as far as I can go. I mean, I could not go any further. And if I have not broken bounds irretrievably in going that far, I am so glad that I could almost laugh. If you will give me five or six minutes to finish what I have to say, without putting me out, I will feel all my life deeply indebted to you, and I will say that I have mistaken Toronto.
A lot of these questions will come up in a practical way. They all have a meaning and they will have to be solved one way or another when this colossal contest in which we are engaged has been finally carried to our glorious victory. I am afraid of certain things. I am not going to break bounds here at all. I am afraid of certain things. I am afraid I have always been afraid of penal laws. That is not particularly because I am Irish, but it is one of the reasons. Penal laws and gloom and pharisaism and oppression to me, rightly or wrongly, are synonymous terms and to me, rightly or wrongly, are a violation of the fundamental liberties of the Magna Charta.
Now from an orgy of individualism that follows the French Revolution, where a man could do anything he pleased whether he violated and invaded the rights of another ox not, we have swung the pendulum to an orgy of collectivism where the individual is going to be lost sight of, and that is a return to the pagan ideal of state omnipotism. And that is, in my view, distinctly opposed to the fundamental principles of Magna Charta. And that, again, in my view--it is only my view, of course if persisted in, will inevitably call forth another contest for the reissuance and reassurance of the principles underlying Magna Charta. There is a mania for the regulating of human conduct by statute. There is no denying it. I am afraid of the man in the street who says, "There ought to be a law against it." Have you ever met him? "There ought to be a law against it." Now, I want to assure you that I have no interest, financial or other, in any pawnshop in Ontario or out of it. Yet I am opposed to a prohibition of pawnshops because they happen to aid or encourage improvidence, and because occasionally a thief hangs up a watch there. I want to assure you on my word of honour that I have no interest, financial or other, and never had in any proprietary medicine manufactured in the Province of Ontario or outside it. And yet I am opposed to the prohibition .of the manufacture and sale-I must clear my throat here-of peruna because there happens to be some alcohol in it. And I am opposed to all these things, rightly or wrongly, because I so cling to human responsibility and to human liberty; because I claim the right to lead my life so long as I do not invade the rights of anybody else in so doing. The measure of state action is the limit of individual liberty. And the question of how far the state ought to be allowed to go; for after all, you know, we have the right to say to the state just how far it may and how far it may not go; with all due deference to the representatives of provincial or other organizations, I wish to say that no government can give back to me anything that it has not first taken from me. That I am the first giver, and that I have not definitely surrendered the right to my gift; I have merely placed it in safe custody. And, therefore, it is my right and my business to say how far the state may go in regulating my private conduct and my individual human responsibility.
I am glad to have the opportunity of saying these things, because I want you to understand that when I take a position of any kind, it is taken as a matter of principle; that I have arguments, good or bad, according to the way they are looked at, behind my convictions. And that in this matter of the interference of the state, of the constant multiplication of the functions of the state to the regulation of me as an individual citizen and subject, I see a very grave danger that some day I will have to do what your and my forefathers did on the ground of Runnymede and insist that the Charter of our liberties be re-issued and our freedom be given back to us.
Those are the remarks, wise and otherwise, in bounds and out of bounds, that I desire to make to you. I want to thank you very sincerely for the kind courtesy of your attention and for the generosity of your coming here at all.
Reverting once more to the main thought that is in all our minds and in all our hearts, that is the first thing today in our hopes and aspirations-there again, oh, there again, it is the battle of human freedom. It is the battle of men and women for their right to live and not to be oppressed. It is a contest for the broadening out of human liberty as against the restricting influence of state omnipotence. It is the cry of the masses, of the weak, of the poor, of the innocent, of the learned, of the high, of the noble-not alone in the lands of the allies, but in the unhappy land of Germany, that they all be given the right to live as God made them to live, not slaves or dupes of human tyrants. That battle today, perhaps, may look a little doubtful, but it is only doubtful to those of little faith
"For freedom's battle once begun, Bequeathed from bleeding sire to son; Tho' baffled oft, Is ever won."
A hearty vote of thanks was passed.