AN ADDRESS BY PERCY JAMES PHILIP
Chairman: The President, Mr. Thos. H. Howse
Thursday, March 31st, 1949
GENTLEMEN: As, a matter of record I feel I should make some reference to a historical event in Canadian history which will take place tomorrow, when the oldest colony in the British Empire becomes the 10th Province of Canada.
This event adds a vast undeveloped territory to Canada which is virtually our front door, but what is more important brings into union with us a population which has always been outstandingly British in sentiment.
The Empire Club of Canada would like to place on record, through the medium of its Year Book and also by suitable salutations to Newfoundland's first Lieutenant Governor, Sir Albert Walsh, the fact that we welcome Newfoundland most sincerely into Confederation with Canada and we are confident that that spirit of friendship which has always existed between us as neighbours, is a guarantee that the greatest harmony will prevail now that Newfoundland has become one of the Canadian family.
HONOURED GUESTS AND GENTLEMEN
When considering what I should say in my introduction of our guest of honour today, I was forced to the conclusion that anything I might say must of necessity be more or less a repetition of many previous introductions, because this is the ninth occasion on which our guest speaker has addressed this Club. I, therefore, decided that brevity on my part would be appreciated by both our guest speaker and our members.
I think the fact that this is the ninth occasion that Mr. Philip has addressed The Empire Club proves one thing-his previous addresses have always been so outstanding that our Speakers' Committee has never hesitated to invite him back.
For the benefit of those in our audience who have not heard Mr. Philip introduced before, I will tell you that he was born in Scotland, received his early education at George Watson College, Edinburgh, and later attended Oxford University. As correspondent for The New York Times, he spent 21 years in France, and since 1940 has represented that highly respected journal in Ottawa.
It now affords me very great pleasure to introduce Mr. Percy James Philip to members of The Empire Club for the ninth time, and on this occasion he has chosen as the title for his address "Cross-roads."
It was with some reluctance that I accepted to come again to address The Empire Club for the good reason that I did not know what to say, or how to say it. During the war years it was easy. All that you, or anyone, wanted to hear was an appeal to endurance and effort--a kind of tapping of drums.
After these grim heroic years--too easily forgotten--we could at least nurse the hope that, as matters could not be worse than they had been, they might be better. So, with caution, I spoke of the difficulties and the imponderable elements in the fashioning of a new world, but still on a note of restrained optimism. Then, the last time, somewhat disillusioned, I took as my theme the very actual situation of the world in which the British Empire had ceased to be the law enforcing agent it had been, and in which the responsibility for the preservation of order had fallen on others.
There I seemed to have come to the end of the road, or at least to a cross-road, where there were no sign posts and only vague undefined trails leading out into uncharted regions. I felt that it was none of my business, and beyond my capacity even to comment. The next move was up to those who had so vocally taken charge of the future from their vantage point of back-seat drivers.
At that cross-road, too, I found a multitude of excited people all giving different advice on which road to take. Most of them, it seemed to me, were urging that we take what seemed the downhill road of easy confidence, trusting all men, while a few were eager to drive ahead where there was no road at all. It looked as if we were drifting into conflict and chaos. I was so discouraged that when I received your flattering invitation to come back for this ninth successive year, I was tempted to decline and asked that at least my coming be postponed until events and my own ideas allowed me to see more clearly.
I understand that the gentleman who talked about television took my place-which seemed appropriate. He was, perhaps, better able to see round the corners and obstacles which obstructed my view. It certainly is astonishing that we should have invented ways of seeing at a distance through brick walls, people and things reflected on a little screen and vet have not even made the least advance since the days of the Roman Empire in the art of Government. I don't think much of what I have seen of human and political relations. During these past weeks things have happened which have helped me to see a little light ahead and helped spare you the gloomy and foreboding speech you might otherwise have had. I intend, however, to stick to my suggested title of Cross-roads, for it, I think; most adequately describes the point at which we stand at the end of the old road of Empire authority and at the moment of decision as to whether we shall take the Russian Communist road along which so much of Europe and Asia have already travelled, or the Atlantic road which we may call the seaway, the free way, the road of civilisation for civilisation, whatever you may think in Toronto has always risen to its greatest peaks among maritime peoples.
But before I begin to examine the chances of the Atlantic Pact doing the job the Empire and the British Navy did for so long in "promoting stability and well being in the North Atlantic area" to quote the preamble to the Treaty which is to be- signed next week, I would like with your permission to dissertate just a little on this matter of cross-roads. As a boy I toured nearly all of Scotland and a great deal of Ireland, North England, and many districts of France and Germany on foot and as 1 never had any definite objective beyond enjoying myself I used always to sit down when I came to a major crossroads and examine where each might lead me and which promised the most interest, the best scenery and fair prospect of good accommodation at the end.
I took my time about it, because the essence of a walking tour is that one should never hurry. Sometimes of course I made mistakes but I learned one thing--that it was always wiser to keep along the crest of the hills than to take the easy road down into the valley. When I was tempted to take that easy road I always landed in some dull built up area and there was always a steep hill to climb on the other side.
Now the European walking tour is a very different business from your occasional habit of going hiking in the bush, usually with a gun or a fishing rod and some definite objective. I have had some very pleasant two and three-day walks along the trails in the Gatineau Valley, stopping the night at cottages and inns. But your distances, your roads and the utter desolation of large areas are discouraging to the walker and your inns, if I may speak frankly, are not what they might be, even with your improved liquor laws. The tourist camp is not a real substitute for the English village pub or the restaurants of France where the cooking is done only after the customer has arrived,
Our roads, too, wind about in such a pleasant unexpected manner, perhaps, as Chesterton suggested because
"Before the Roman came to Rye, or to the Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road".
Yours go straight and the straighter they go the better you like them for they permit the motorist to rush along--getting somewhere in a hurry and missing everything on the way, sometimes even the right turning. I think there is no duller road system anywhere in the world than the smooth, graded, landscaped parkways round New York, where everybody drives at fifty miles an hour, or more, and you cannot stop to admire the view, or take your breath, except at a regulation stopping place. There are more "no parking" and "no picnicking" signs along these parkways than there used to be "verboten" signs in Germany.
Now I do not wish to seem critical but I sometimes wonder if there is not more wisdom in the reflective walking tourist in Europe, who constantly changes his mind about where to go, than there is in the hurrying American, hell bent on getting some place called forward. We certainly kill fewer people and there is more to it than that. You have to correct your tendency towards speed by sticking up an enormous number of notices-like soft shoulders and sinuous curves-which are pleasantly suggestive. But you constantly disregard these signs and notices and dozens of times I have been carried miles out of my way by some confident of-course-he-knew-the-way-driver in a hurry who refused to stop, look and listen when he came to a cross-roads.
Perhaps I am stretching the analogy a bit far but, speaking as a European, I have found that this tendency to dash ahead with complete assurance and a momentarily inflexible idea, marks much of the political action on this continent, as well as its driving. It is, for instance, now admitted by many that it was a mistake to take some of the short cuts used to end the war as quickly as possible. Mr. Churchill's plan for the invasion of central Europe by the Danube Valley, as well as through Normandy, was rejected as likely to take too long. But it would have prevented a lot of subsequent headaches if we had reached Budapest, Vienna, Berlin, Prague and even Warsaw ahead of the Russians. One American friend of mine goes even further than I do in his attitude. He says we should have pushed right on to Moscow and dictated peace from there.
By dropping that A-bomb on Hiroshima we probably did shorten the war against Japan but we sowed dragon teeth which have kept us in a dither ever since. It would have been wiser to stop and think of that cross-roads in history.
Looking back, these rush decisions remind me of the story of the man who jumped out of a third floor window and broke his legs. When a sympathetic but inquisitive friend went to see him in hospital and asked "But why did you do it, John?" the injured man wearily answered "Oh I don't remember now, but it seemed a good thing to do at the time."
I am afraid that that is the only justification some of our political and military leaders can offer for some of their decisions.
We hurried into the United Nations organisation without, I fear, a great deal of critical reflection or attention to road signs. There was a lot of high-pressure salesman ship. To anyone who had lived through the experience of the League of Nations as I did from the first meeting in Paris, in January, 1920, to the last in Geneva, in December, 1939, this new effort at a world parliament and a world Government without a police force, was a hopeless undertaking from the start. It was based on the absurd premise that all peoples are as capable of democratic self-government as the Anglo-Saxons who have been striving after it since Magna Charta was signed at Runnymede and not even now with complete success.
I think it was reading the dreary debates of the annual U.N. Assembly in Paris last Fall that produced that feeling of acute depression, which made me reluctant to come here and make a report to you. I just cannot regard all that almost hysterical business of setting up a kind of sentimental state in Palestine as a great accomplishment and, with the spectacle of independent Burma before us, I cannot approve the meddlesome interference of U.N. commissioners in the affairs of the Dutch in Indonesia. The Dutch were always good administrators--they are an adult people--under whom Indonesia prospered, while these alleged Republicans were Japanese puppets at a time when we were all fighting desperately for our lives.
Just about that time when the U.N. was showing itself so trifling and inadequate in face of the giant problems of the rule of law in expansion of Communist influence in Asia, and of the chaotic state of central Europe, I happened to attend a dinner given in Ottawa by the Canadian Government to a distinguished visitor--Mr. James Forrestal, then United States Secretary for Defence. It was there curiously that I felt the first little gleam of hope that perhaps despite all the argument and confusion of ideas and advice, we might get back on to the right road. Mr. Forrestal is a quiet man and quietly in the middle of an unreported speech he dropped this remark: "Most of our troubles arise of course from the fact that the British Empire is no longer doing the job it did. Many people thought that that would be a good thing, that the British had been on top too long. But some of us now realize, far more than we ever did before, how important that job was and how well it was done. We have not yet found anyone to do it or any organisation to put in the Empire's place."
When I heard that statement from an American I could not resist letting forth a lonely little cheer from my place at the foot of the table. It atoned for so much superior criticism that I had had to endure. But it seemed to give some of the Canadian Ministers and dignatories present just a bit of a jolt. They were obviously surprised and slightly embarrassed. Perhaps it had not occurred to them that the peace and security of the North Atlantic area, and many other areas, was not just a natural phenomenon. They had never admitted that perhaps they owed the security to British statesmen and the British Navy.
For the first time in these recent months this Continent has become aware that wishful thinking, being smart, and dependence on someone else, are not enough to assure its safety, that it had better do something about restoring the Pax Britannica of the 19th century by creating a new authority.
It is at that cross-roads that we stand today. What the British cannot any longer do alone, and what the United Nations has so obviously failed to do the nations of Western Europe and North America will next week agree to try to do. If I may again quote the preamble to the Treaty which is to be signed in Washington: "They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security."
It is along that road that Canada has agreed to travel, in good company. It is to that course that you are committed. It is for you and the United States to prove that you have got what it takes to do this task.
Now I have seen too many solemn treaties made and broken, or allowed to fall into discard, to welcome the signature of even the best of them with unqualified enthusiasm. What matters, I have found, is the public spirit, the character of the people behind the signature and the moral courage of all the signatories to live up to the spirit and the letter. I most sincerely hope and pray that this Treaty will not be a dead document but a living force. And to that prayer should be added at once another that that force will be used authoritatively for the preservation of peace, wisely and prudently and not rashly in a manner which will lead to war.
We have been told, and to a certain extent it is true, that this treaty is not like the treaties and alliances made between nations in time past for their mutual support, because it is not directed against any power or group of powers. We are told, too, and again to a certain extent it is true, that this strong association of free peoples will by its very existence assure peace because it will make any would-be aggressor think twice and perhaps more than twice about the risk he would run in provoking war.
These are good arguments for public consumption. But, I submit, they could be bad arguments if they were to lead to any acceptance of any complete sense of security, and forgetfulness of the need for constant vigilance. It is true that this treaty is not directed against Soviet Russia, but let us be realists. It is directed against the expansion of Russian imperialism in the .name of Communism. It is directed against a system of government which denies individual and national liberty, which is not founded on the principles of democracy and does not respect any law but its own. If we are to defend our own liberties we cannot altogether remain on the defensive, satisfied with our own small world. Ours must be an active and not a static defence of our principles. We must talk high with the power and the will to enforce the law. Those who have taken the succession of the Empire must have the moral strength to govern without having to use their force.
And do not let us lull ourselves into indifference and inactivity by believing that the men in Moscow will be afraid of us. They are not that breed of men. I am sure that they will, just as I hope we will, try to avoid war for anyone who has had experience of war in his own country is not going to be so foolish as to risk it again twice in his own lifetime. The Russians are too well aware that among their satellites there are much stronger fifth columns, of anti-Communists than any Communist fifth columns we may have among us. But these men in Moscow are fanatics-who believe in their system and are already drunk with a sense of their own power. They have a brave, enduring people. In a cold war, which is what we must expect, they will be patient, obstinate and skilful. We must be prepared to fight this cold war with perhaps even more patience, obstinacy and skill, of which we have not shown a great deal, never neglecting the essential basis of our unity and our collective force, to which every member country must contribute its fair and full share.
Our aim is peace, but among nations, just as in the home, the school and the community, you cannot have peace without authority and good direction. People work best when they are governed--lightly if possible, but governed. At present, and we better face it, we have lost or nearly lost the authority and leadership we had. Except for our old friend Malcolm Macdonald fighting his little war in Malaya, the Dutch struggling to maintain law in Indonesia, and Nehru facing a wave of communistic revolt in India, all Asia is looking towards Moscow and not London and Washington for direction. They do not know how harsh the government of Moscow can be. Our Western Christian democratic civilization has lost prestige while we have been fiddling about with idealogies, and putting our trust in atom bombs and not in law and the spirit.
Our hope today is that we are setting out on the right road at last. But it is going to be an uphill road and we better get rid at once of a lot of that heavy impediment we have been carrying of sentimental ideas about how things should be and face the reality of things as they are. You cannot have peace and security without moral fortitude as well as military strength. And you need also common sense.
The great new feature of the pact is, of course, that it goes as far as can possibly be managed or expected now to assure that if the western nations of Europe are again attacked from the east-whether it be Germany or Russia or Asia-in which democracy has never been a living thing, the United States will be under obligation to take some part from the beginning. We hope we shall not have to wait another two or three agonising years until some incident or their fears compel them to take part. I do not think that we shall hear any more about cash and carry or too proud to fight. The isolationists have lost their long battle-although I noticed that Mr. Bevan was greeted with tomatoes and there was a small feminine group at the dock to meet Mr. Churchill when he arrived in New York, screaming that they did not want to be dragged into war. It was the last flutter of protest, as he recalled with a chuckle, to the storm which his Fulton speech aroused only three years ago. When the United States moves, it moves massively, for the instinct of the people is sound, however, at times, it may be misdirected. There is only one more thing I want to say as we start out along this new road. It has been the habit on this Continent in these past years to think and say that you have been dragged into wars by Europe. That conception of things permitted you to enjoy a smug feeling of moral superiority. It has been only since the real scare of the last war, and since the threat of Communist Imperialism with all the weapons of modern war began to trouble your sleep that you have, even in Canada, realised that in fighting the Kaiser and Hitler you were fighting your own war for the maintenance of the security of the North Atlantic area.
But now I feel the tables may be turned. In this new alignment of the forces of Western Europe and North America for the defence of liberty and the rule of law it may just happen that it will be the countries of Western Europe which will be most reluctant to begin to fight. In the first place they have had enough war-more than enough. They know that a nation and a civilization may be destroyed by the cost of victory just as completely as by defeat. They will fight the cold war against Communism with better heart because the pact gives them the assurance that America will stand by them but they will not easily be pressured into war.
And there is another thing. The English philosopher, William Stapeldon who told that curious world peace conference in New York last week that the British people would never be as wholeheartedly against Russia as they were against Germany. That I think is true, and it is true also of the French, and of others. They may dislike the Communist system and method just as strongly as any on this side of the Atlantic but they will do their utmost to check its spread and defeat it without fighting another of these wars which bring only desolation and heartbreak. In that reluctance of the Europeans to fight, there seems to me a fair guarantee that we will not be induced to drive too far and too fast this new automobile we have built, along the road we have chosen to travel together.
Gentlemen, I am glad that I have been able to speak to you in a happier mood than I was in when I received your invitation. We have chosen the up-hill road. It may be hard for a time for there are steep grades and nasty corners to be negotiated, but I think we can be sure that we are on the right road. Now we must hold to it undiscouraged if we want to preserve liberty and law, truth, honour and happiness in this world of people.