AN ADDRESS BY VISCOUNT COBHAM
(LORD-LIEUTENANT COUNTY AND CITY OF WORCESTER)
Thursday, 19th November, 1936
PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, I welcome to the Empire Club of Canada many of the officials and many others interested in the Royal Winter Fair now in progress in this City. Particularly, I welcome those interested in the Horse Show branch of the Royal Winter Fair. At our head table we have the honour of having the Army Teams who are competing in the International jumping events. I am going to ask these competitors in their uniforms to stand to get your acknowledgement. (Applause.) We are particularly indebted today to the President of the Royal Winter Fair, Mr. Gordon F. Perry, for the attendance of these Army rivals at this luncheon. Mr. Perry, in addition to being President of the Fair, is Chairman of the Horse Show Committee and as such has associated with him at the head-table, on our invitation, many of those interested in that branch of the Winter Fair. It is to Mr. Perry also that credit should be given for the honour we have in the attendance of Viscount Cobham, our guest-speaker. Despite the youthful, fresh, athletic appearance of our guest-speaker, he has had a remarkable career already. He is a veteran, not only of the South African War but of the Great War. He has sat in Parliament as a Member of the House of Commons in England. He is a diplomat and in fact for over thirteen years has been Lord-Lieutenant of the County and City of Worcester. Viscount Cobham will today address us on "Empire Relations." I have much pleasure, Gentlemen, 'in introducing to you His Lordship Viscount Cobham! (Applause.)
VISCOUNT COBHAM: Mr. Chairman, Gentlemen: I suppose you won't just allow me to stand up and sit down again, like you have your other guests? It would be so much easier because, after all, I have only left England less than a fortnight ago and I arrived in this country less than a week ago.
I thank you, Sir, for the very generous way in which you have referred to me in making your introduction and I should like to thank you for your most generous reception of me. You invited me to come to this country to take part in your great Royal Winter Show. When I received that invitation earlier in the summer, I felt it such a great honour that I cancelled many other engagements in order to be able to accept it. (Applause.) Believe me, Gentlemen, I shall certainly never regret having done so. But, as I said, you invited me here as a horse judge, and here am I, going to address this great gathering and to make a speech on a matter of great moment. I refer to myself as a Jack-of-all-Trades and perhaps you, in your charity and generosity, will not add the obvious corollary, Master of none.
You have heard that I have undertaken to speak about Empire Relations and you will not misunderstand me when I say I am not going to do so in perhaps the more intimate way in which that expression) could be interpreted, but I am going to take it on the widest possible aspect. You will not expect me to deal with trade relationship, a vast subject, but of course one in which is necessary a great mastery of detail. Nor, do I intend to speak about immigration and the help that you can give to the Old Country by opening your doors to those from Great Britain who wish to come to Canada.
Before I launch out on the main theme upon which I am speaking I should like to trace something of the history of the past thirty or forty years which has led up to it. There are many of us in this room who can remember something of the Victorian era, still more of the Edwardian era, those two phases in English history of perhaps unexampled prosperity. In those years, it is not too much to say that among the mass of our people in Great Britain, the colonies, the Dominions, the Empire overseas was very largely, I won't say misunderstood, but it did not come within the embrace of their glamorous prosperity. They felt themselves all within themselves. They felt a security that could never be challenged. They lived to look forward to many years of that prosperity in which they were then living. You know, as well as I do, that the old charge of insularity was not entirely baseless. There was certainly some foundation for it and it was not until a politician, of singular vision arose in Great Britain, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who first began to develop the idea of the great family of nations which formed the British Empire, that thinking people on the other side of the ocean began to wander in regard to the future destiny of that Empire. England very largely then was living on her prosperity and to ,a certain extent was living on the record of her great history, a history of which you are the heirs, no less than we are.
When I was in Parliament I made friends with a very fine old gentleman, Mr. John Burns, one of the originals of the leaders of labour in the end of the eighties and in the nineties, a real old character in himself, with the gentlest heart arid a friend to a41 men. He was showing a party of Americans over the House of Commons and he made a remark of, which he was so proud that he repeated it to all of us, his friends, afterwards in the House of Commons. He took them out on the terrace and showed them the River Thames flowing below. An American lady expressed disparagement at the look of the little river, the sluggish-flowing, dirty stream, as you see it in London. John Burns turned to her and said, "Ah, my dear lady, you may talk of your Hudson, your Colorado and your Mississippi, but this old Thames is liquid history." (Applause.) And very proud he was of that remark, as he had every reason to be, but the danger in it lies if you try to live on your past history, you are keeping your eyes on your past and not on your future.
King George, His Late Majesty, made no mistake when about the year 1910 or 1911 he renewed his exhortation to England to "Wake up." We needed it. And, Gentlemen, we got it, for perhaps nowhere in the world did the Great War of 1914 come with a greater shock than it did to the people of Great Britain. We were jerked with a rude suddenness out of that dull of security in which we had been living into the turmoil of the Great War, to the end of which no man could look with any certainty, launched out into completely uncharted seas. That war woke us up with a vengeance. We learned a good deal during the progress of 'it. One great thing that we learned was that the unity of the Empire was no mere expression but a complete reality, for it wasn't the forces of Great Britain that lent so much to the final victory, it was the forces of the Empire that achieved that end.
After the war we led the nations in an endeavour to establish the world peace. We, perhaps more than any other nation, gave our backing to the League of Nations. It is doubtful whether the League of Nations would ever have continued had it not been for our backing. We reduced our armaments in the hope that Europe would also disarm. We reduced them to the danger point and beyond the danger point. We made mistakes in doing so, but I think the effort was worth making, but we made a mistake. Incidentally, Gentlemen, we are one of the very few nations that freely owns that we do make mistakes. It doesn't matter owning up to a mistake if you are prepared to learn a lesson from those mistakes. (Applause.)
Now, we have been forced into a position, admittedly, that we don't like. We have been forced to rearm and we are rearming. Make no mistake about it, Gentlemen, the rearming of Great Britain that is going on at the present time is a very real thing and a great effort. It is comparable with the effort that she made in the Great War. She is carrying a heavy burden of taxation, yet all our people are resolved to see this thing through and in the course of a year or so you will see a rearmed Great Britain, ready to give the full force to her old motto of "Defence, not Defiance." I say that the effort that is being made is a real one. If you could visit England at the present time you would see it going on. In my home, where I live, I am just south of a great tract of country in the Midlands, known as the Black Country, and I go up to the hills behind my home and look to the north and see that country where the people live in a bleared twilight that passes for day, under those sulphurous skies, but in that country men are working day and night. It is a steel and coal and iron country and they are working day and night producing armour, producing the munitions, the numberless other things that go to make up the armaments of a great nation.
We may ask ourselves why should all this be? Is war then so 'imminent that we have got to take our place in the race of rearmament? It is perfectly true, as you all know, Gentlemen, that Europe is restless, that the nations over there exist side by side in fear, suspicion, distrust of one another. You, over here, may not fully realize that. It is perhaps too much to expect that you would because, after all, you are not living on dynamite. The smallest spark might start another war and another great war in Europe and it is for that reason that we, who, believe that world peace largely depends on us, have got to rearm to prevent war.
Before I came on my visit here a friend of mine said to me, "You will find Canada very Americanized." I have thought of that expression a very great dealt on the voyage out and since I have been in Canada and came to realize what it really meant. What my friend had in mind I really don't know but I am taking the phrase he expressed because it will add force to what I am now going to say. It is perfectly true that anybody landing first in Canada meets several features that are common to the United States and Canada but you very quickly come to realize that the sympathy between the two great nations is a sympathy of understanding, a sympathy of culture, but by no means a political unity. (Applause.) Each of these two great countries has got its own political destiny, has got its own political ideals and each of these two great countries intends to work out those political ideals in their own way. You, here in Canada, have got that tie with Great Britain, a tie as light as air but stronger than any forged steel could make it. To imagine that anybody on the other side of the ocean thinks that there is any desire on the part of Canada to loosen that tie, would be absolutely and entirely false. We are looking for the answer to this problem in altogether a different way.
The Americanization of Canada. Why not the Candianization of America? It means just the same thing. Carry it one stage further and ask yourselves whether we do not need, over on the other side of the Atlantic, for England to become more Frenchified, for France to become more Germanized, for Germany to understand England and France better. Then, we can perhaps get Italy and Russia to complete it. (Laughter.) That is really the meaning of the phrase. You have come in this continent to this real understanding. You read each other's newspapers freely. Great tides of tourists and traders cross your borders like the ebb and flow of the ocean. You have given us the lesson that we require in Europe to understand our neighbouring countries. You have dome more than that. In this situation, in this international goodwill which now exists between Canada and the United States lies the only real foundation for the peace of the world, and all the world must achieve it or perish. But world-peace must be built up first and foremost on an understanding between all the English speaking peoples of the world. In this structure, Canada has already achieved her understanding with her great southern neighbour, and in the consummation of the solidarity in Anglo-American understanding, Canada is the keystone of the arch. All our hope in the future is founded upon that understanding, is founded upon that policy, and we look to Canada to give us that help in achieving the result for which we hope.
Is war then inevitable? I have been asked that question more than once since I have landed in Canada. I never believe in inevitable wars and the very danger of the situation over in Europe is one of the factors, perhaps the greatest factor which will prevent such an explosion breaking out.
No doubt you read in the press of the United States, in your own press, various comments upon the situation. Let me for a moment read another comment which I have got from a paper: "It is a gloomy moment in history. Never in the lifetime of those who read this has there been so much grave apprehension, never has the future seemed so 'incalculable. There is universal commercial prostration and thousands of our poorer fellow citizens are turned out against an approaching winter without employment and without the prospect of it. In France, the political cauldron seethes with uncertainty. Russia hangs like a cloud, dark and silent upon the horizon of Europe. All the energies and resources of the British Empire are sorely tried in coping with India. It is a solemn moment and no man can feel an indifference to the issue of events." Yes, that is all very well, Gentlemen, but that quotation was culled from an American paper, Harper's Weekly, and it was written in 1857. With the alteration of a word here and there you could repeat it verbatim for what we are reading in the papers today, and that is a matter of great encouragement and hope. There are always and always have been these Jeremiahs, expressing such feelings in the papers, and it becomes still more hopeful when we remember that the fifty years after 1857 were fifty years of perhaps the greatest peace and prosperity that our nation has ever enjoyed. So, there is reason and real reason for hope, but at the same time, of course, the situation is not altogether an easy one.
I have indicated the direction in which our hopes are set in achieving a world peace in the closer union and closer understanding of the English speaking peoples of the world. It is a great policy and it is .a policy worthy of our people to undertake. It is difficult to see how in any other direction we can achieve that world peace. Treaties, alliances and pacts and protocols are being freely torn up every day and the only real world peace can rest on that greater sympathy, that greater understanding between the nations of the world. "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in." When Abraham Lincoln used those words, his eyes were set on a closer horizon than that which I am asking you today to survey but, Gentlemen, the work we are all in is really none other than the work for the peace of the world.
This Royal Winter Shaw of yours in rightly dedicated to the youth of the Canadian nation. When we think of that isn't it right that we should consider what sort of heritage we are going to pass on to that youth? It is up to us, every one of us, to work, to strive with all our might to achieve that understanding, to work for that peace and so to hand on a torch of which at least we shall not be ashamed. (Prolonged applause.)
PRESIDENT: Your Lordship, on behalf of the large meeting of our members and guests and also on behalf of all within the reach of your voice on the radio, I wish to thank you for this message of hope that you have given us.
I again wish also to thank the Royal Winter Fair which has been instrumental in having this, your first visit to Canada, so I believe, made possible. Your address has given us a fresh inspiration toward the aim of the British Empire for which this Club stands. You have taught us that the Old Country will not only lead the British Empire into the ways of understanding and peace, but will lead the whole world to that understanding and peace for which we all should strive. I thank you, Your Lordship, for coming here today and giving us this inspiring address. I need add very little to the manifest appreciation of the audience here today. Thank you. (Applause.)