Imperial Solidarity
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 12 Oct 1922, p. 244-253


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Chamberlain, Neville, Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
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Finding a cordial welcome and a generous loyalty to the ideals of Empire in Canada. The success of the British Empire. Something in the British tradition or the British temperament of a special gift for administration. Comments on imperialism. The meaning of Empire: toleration, not tyranny. Examples of toleration in different parts of the Empire. A definition of imperialism. Latter-day imperialists regarding their position in the world as a great trust which they are administering for the benefit of mankind. In that spirit, accepting fresh burdens in the mandates under the League of nations. Being the guardian of order as an honourable profession, but apt to involve one in a row; an example. Tracing the history of the different phases of thought which from time to time have prevailed upon the relations which should subsist between the various members of the Empire. Some early theories. Reference to the speaker's father, who came to Toronto and spoke in 1887. Some words from that speech, and how they illustrate the change in the ideas of the position of the great dominions which had taken place in the period from 1887 to 1905. Since then the Great War, and Canada emerging with the fuller recognition of her enhanced powers, prestige, and title to be considered as a nation. Some words from Sir Robert Borden, 1918. The British Empire, founded upon mutual understanding and sympathy, mutual toleration and mutual support. The speaker's confidence that Canada will never disown the glorious pages in the history of human achievement which we all possess in common.
Date of Original:
12 Oct 1922
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English
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Full Text
IMPERIAL SOLIDARITY
AN ADDRESS BY MR. NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN, M.P.
Before the Empire Club o f Canada, Toronto,
October 12, 1922.

THE PRESIDENT, Sir William Hearst, introduced Mr. Chamberlain who was received with loud applause, the audience rising and giving three cheers.

NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN.

Mr. President, My Lord Bishop, and Gentlemen,--To be invited on two successive days by members of such influential and important bodies as the Canadian Club and the Empire Club of Toronto is an honour of which I am deeply sensible. One might possibly conceive of other ways of spending a holiday, less exciting, but after all, Gentlemen, I have come here to try and exchange views with the people of this country, and as you cannot possibly all talk to me, perhaps it is best, now we are face to face, that I should talk to you and try and judge from your applause or your groans (laughter) whether you agree with any views that I may put before you.

Sir, it is encouraging to one who comes from the Old Country to find everywhere so cordial a welcome and so generous a loyalty to the ideals of Empire to which the Old Country is faithful, as well as you. Your name denotes that you are devoted to the British Empire, and I take it that you are prepared

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Mr. Neville Chamberlain, M.P., son of the late Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, P.C., was educated at Rugby and at Mason College, Birmingham; Lord Mayor of Birmingham, 1916-16; Director-General of National Service, 1916-17.

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to urge and to support all steps which may promote imperial solidarity, imperial prosperity and imperial influence. (Applause) If that is so I am with you heart and soul; (applause) for I am a profound believer in the British race, whether it be found in the country of its origin or in any of those distant parts of the globe to which it has been carried by its own enterprise and its own genius for colonization. I do not say anything boastful, Sir, but it seems to me that the records of our past success in governing territories under the most varied conditions, containing different peoples under different climates, demonstrates clearly that there is something in the British tradition or the British temperament of a special gift for administration. If I ask myself what has been the secret of the success I believe it is to be found in that deep spirit of freedom and love of liberty which we have inherited from our forefathers and which leads us always to give peoples over whose destinies we may be responsible the utmost possible measure of freedom in their customs, their creeds, their laws and their habits.

"We must be free or die,

Who speak the tongue that Shakespeare spake, The faith and morals hold that Milton held."

What we claim for ourselves we try also to give to others.

Gentlemen, I know there are some who find in imperialism something aggressive, something jingoistic. Some of them are so sensitive that they hardly dare to speak the word "Empire" at all, and they feel that it is very democratic to talk about the "British Commonwealth of Nations." I am not sure that they would not be shocked by the name of this Club, although if you had to bring it into line with the British Commonwealth of Nations you would have to enlarge your stationery and lengthen your luncheon interval. (Laughter) But, Gentlemen, do not let us be ashamed of a name that is suggestive of the glorious traditions of the past. (Applause) The British Empire is not the same as any other empire that has ever existed. Surely that is a reason why we should be proud of having given to the word a new significance which is more in accord with modern thought and modern sentiment. To us, Empire does not mean tyranny; it means toleration. It does not mean compulsion or oppression; it means a voluntary association of free peoples, each of whom is at liberty to live its own life in accordance with its own ideas. It would be easy to multiply instances of this toleration of which I speak within the British Empire. You can find it in Canada herself. You can find it in South Africa, whose famous General Smuts, formerly one of our most formidable foes, led British soldiers in the Great War, and sat side by side with British Ministers in the War Cabinet. (Applause)

You can find it in Egypt, where, redeemed from bankruptcy and chaos, and brought to order, power and wealth, and which we have handed back to independence-a country which perhaps has never fully realized what she owed to us until the British administrator left and she found herself depending upon her own resources.

You find it again in India, where, in spite of much criticism and some disappointments, we are patiently striving to lead and to educate the Indian peoples so that they may gradually come to take places which have hitherto been held by British men, and that they may learn to govern themselves as well as we have been able to govern them.

And Ireland--Ireland herself--Ireland, which has so long been held up by the enemies of England as the most conspicuous and notorious instance of her selfishness, her rapacity, her callousness to the feelings of Irishmen-Ireland has been given the most generous measure of self-government that was ever accorded by any state to what had been an integral portion of itself; and now all the world can see how far the tale was true, how far the Irishman's inborn love of peace and hatred of disorder were subjugated and coerced by Anglo-Saxon brutality. (Laughter)

No, Gentlemen, imperialism is not jingoism; it is something very different. We latter-day imperialists regard our position in the world as a great trust which we are administering for the benefit of mankind (hear, hear); and it is in that spirit, and in that spirit only, that we have accepted fresh burdens in the mandates under the League of Nations. I say burdens, because they are adding, and adding very considerably, to the load of taxation which we in the Old Country are already finding almost more than we can bear. But we would not disappoint those who have been helpful and loyal to us when we were engaged in struggling for our lives, and when they expressed the desire that we should come in and administer their country, we did not feel that we could risk the responsibility; and though we are accused, as sometimes I believe we are, of having profited by the war because of having accepted these mandates, let it be remembered that not every nation was willing to accept mandates or responsibilities (loud applause) in distant lands when they were invited to do so.

To be the guardian of order is an honourable profession, but sometimes it is apt to involve the constable in a row, and then he has to look after his staunch and loyal comrades who will come to his aid, confident that he has not been an aggressor, and that if he has engaged in it, very likely he has law and order on his side. (Applause) That is one of the penalties of world-wide influence and power, that any disturbance in any part of the world is likely to involve you in it. When I left England the first victory of the Turks over the Greeks had just been announced, but there was nothing to show that it was likely to lead to a European crisis, and yet I had hardly arrived on this side when the situation had become acute, and Great Britain found herself obliged to take a momentous decision, either to face the possibility of another armed conflict or to abandon, before a show of force, those conditions which had been imposed on Turkey after her defeat in the Great War.

What was the purpose of those conditions? It was not to punish Turkey; it was not to humiliate her, although Heaven knows, she deserved no good treatment at our hands, (applause) who by her treachery had cost us thousands of lives and millions of money and had prolonged the war for at least two years.

No, Gentlemen, it was not punishment, but the object of those conditions was to prevent Europe from being the victim of such massacres as had taken place in Asia Minor, and prevent Turkey from again basing her position as the guardian of the Straits by neutralizing them and putting them under some international authority which could be depended upon to show favour neither to one side nor to another. (Applause) Were we to give up those things after all our victories, after all that we had achieved, because the Turks had achieved some successes over a parcel of half-hearted Greeks? We were not taking sides with the Greeks. We had no cause to love them, either. We were acting, as we have so often acted before, as the policeman of Europe.

Well, now, Gentlemen, we were not the only power that signed the Treaty of Sevres, and it would have been discourteous, to say the least, if when action had to be taken to preserve the substance of that treaty we had not at least given our co-signatories the opportunity of saying whether or not they still desired to be associated with us. For my part I am glad that I was in Canada at that moment, because I was able to see, by reading the papers the other day, how thousands of Canadians were pouring in offers of service, anxious to go to the side of the Mother Country (loud applause) even before they could know what really were the issues at stake. Sufficient for them that the joint action of the British Empire had been challenged, that imperial solidarity was threatened; and at once, as in 1914, they demonstrated that although we may be separated by thousands of miles of sea, yet in our essential spirit the race is the same the world over. (Loud applause) Gentlemen, the crisis is past, all danger of war is over, I hope; the situation has been saved, thanks to the firm action of the British Government and to the support that was received, conditions have been preserved. But although perhaps not a single soldier will be required from the Dominion, believe me, Gentlemen, the action of the Dominions, of those Canadians who came forward so quickly and so promptly to offer their services, will not be forgotten in the Old Country. We shall feel, as we felt in the great Boer War, and as we felt again in the Great War, that when one part of the Empire is threatened we may always rely upon all the other members to come to its side. (Applause)

It has been remarked of the British Empire that the greater the opportunity for separation, the less the desire for it; and it is very interesting, nay, I think it is fascinating, to trace in our history the different phases of thought which from time to time have prevailed upon the relations which should subsist between the various members of that Empire. The earliest theory of all was that the colonies were simply little bits of England, and that Englishmen that went overseas remained Englishmen, with just the same rights and privileges as those who had remained at home, except that by reason of the distance they were not always able to exercise them.

Well, that was a view which was succeeded in the seventeenth century by another one not so fair or so just. Under this second view the colonies were plantations, the principal purpose of which was to furnish the Old Country with raw material and with customers, and to which, in return, the Mother Country was prepared to offer the means of defence against external enemies. It was not unnatural that colonists did not agree with that view; that they pressed again and again that they should be allowed to have representative government, and that finally, in despair of getting them to tax themselves for their own defence, the British Minister got the Stamp Act passed, and there followed the War of Independence and the loss of the American Colonies. Well, the loss of the American Colonies was a terrible shock to public opinion in the Old Country, and it was succeeded for quite a long period by a sort of pessimism about the future of colonies at all. That was the time when it was suggested that the colonies were like fruits-they clung to the mothertree until they were ripe, and then they fell off; and there were not wanting men who thought it was a good thing that they should fall off, from the point of view of the Mother Country, for they were only a burden and an expense to her. Well, there again there was a difference of opinion between the colonies and the Mother Country. The colonies did not take that view; they did not desire to be separated; and fortunately there were men like Durham and Elgin and Gray who saw the point of view of the colonists, who realized, too, that at bottom the people of England did not desire to be separated from their kinsmen overseas, and who set themselves to see if they could not work out some system of self-government which would satisfy colonial aspirations, and at the same time avoid a severance. You know better than I do what measure of success attended their efforts, and indeed they converted so many of their countrymen that there came a reaction, that there came a wave of desire for closer relations with the colonies, and then the movement for imperial federation and an imperial customs union came into being.

But, Gentlemen, whilst those in England were working on the idea of imperial federation, in the most advanced and most progressive colonies there had already begun to awaken a sense of nationhood, a sense of something which could not be satisfied even by imperial federation. Sir, I have been reminded since I came to Toronto of a speech that was made here by my father in 1887 (applause) and may I say that it is deeply gratifying to me to find how all through Canada his name is still remembered and beloved. (Loud applause) Certainly my father could not be accused of want of sympathy with the colonial point of view, but in looking at that speech I was struck with one phrase in it which seemed somehow to strike strangely on the ear today. He said

"I am here as a representative of Great Britain, in behalf of her colony, Canada, whose interests Great Britain is bound in honour to maintain and defend."

"Her colony, Canada"--and that was thirty-five years ago; and in those days that phrase passed without comment and without criticism. I mentioned that at the time it may have been said to have fitted the situation; yet, eighteen years later, in 1905, my father was again addressing Canadians. He was proposing the toast of "Prosperity to the Canadian Manufacturers' Association" in Birmingham, and he used these words

"The British Colonies are no longer colonies in the sense in which that term was originally applied to them. What are we all? We are sister states, in which the Mother Country, by virtue of her age, by virtue of all she has done in the past, may claim to be first-the first only among equals."

Gentlemen, I think that those two phases aptly illustrate the change in the ideas of the position of our great dominions which had taken place in the period from 1887 to 1905. Since then has come the Great War, and from that mighty struggle Canada has emerged with the fuller recognition of her enhanced powers, prestige, and title to be considered as a nation. Speaking in London in 1918 Sir Robert Borden said

"We come here to deal with all those matters on terms of perfect equality with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and his colleagues."

Then he went on to describe the War Cabinet, and he said

"I should describe it as a cabinet of governments. Every Prime Minister who sits around that board is responsible to his own parliament and to his own people. The conclusions of the War Cabinet are only to be carried out by the parliaments of the different nations of our imperial commonwealth. Thus each nation, each dominion, retains its perfect autonomy. I venture to believe . . . ."

He concluded

"that in this way may be found the genesis of a development of the constitutional relations of the Empire which will form the basis of this unity in the years to come."

(Applause)

And so, Gentlemen, we see how, as the years go by, the patient exercise of those ideas of toleration, of allowing each member of our great federation to put forward its own notions of the best way in which we may preserve our unity, the British situation is slowly developing and forming itself into a material whole. There are no laws, no codes, no books in which its terms may be found; but, Gentlemen, it is stronger than any written constitution, because it is founded upon mutual understanding and sympathy, mutual toleration and mutual support. (Applause)

Mr. President and Gentlemen, it may be that in the future Canada will exceed the Mother Country as much in material resources as she does today in area, but I feel confident that you will never disown those glorious pages in the history of human achievement which we all possess in common; and that, partners and kinsmen, we shall share alike the honours and the responsibilities which are the inevitable destiny of a great and united people. (Loud and continued applause)

THE PRESIDENT expressed the thanks of the Club to Mr. Chamberlain for his magnificent and patriotic address, and the Club showed its appreciation by giving three cheers and a tiger and singing, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

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Imperial Solidarity


Finding a cordial welcome and a generous loyalty to the ideals of Empire in Canada. The success of the British Empire. Something in the British tradition or the British temperament of a special gift for administration. Comments on imperialism. The meaning of Empire: toleration, not tyranny. Examples of toleration in different parts of the Empire. A definition of imperialism. Latter-day imperialists regarding their position in the world as a great trust which they are administering for the benefit of mankind. In that spirit, accepting fresh burdens in the mandates under the League of nations. Being the guardian of order as an honourable profession, but apt to involve one in a row; an example. Tracing the history of the different phases of thought which from time to time have prevailed upon the relations which should subsist between the various members of the Empire. Some early theories. Reference to the speaker's father, who came to Toronto and spoke in 1887. Some words from that speech, and how they illustrate the change in the ideas of the position of the great dominions which had taken place in the period from 1887 to 1905. Since then the Great War, and Canada emerging with the fuller recognition of her enhanced powers, prestige, and title to be considered as a nation. Some words from Sir Robert Borden, 1918. The British Empire, founded upon mutual understanding and sympathy, mutual toleration and mutual support. The speaker's confidence that Canada will never disown the glorious pages in the history of human achievement which we all possess in common.