EMPIRE UNITY--THE BULWARK OF CIVILIZATION
AN ADDRESS BY BRIG.-GENERAL SIR HENRY PAGE CROFT, BART., C.M.G., M.P.
Chairman: The President, J. P. Pratt, Esq., K.C.
Tuesday, August 30, 1938.
THE PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, our guest of honour at this special meeting of The Empire Club of Canada is Brigadier-General Sir Henry Page Croft, C.M.G., M.P., who has represented the constituency of Bournemouth in the British Parliament for 29 years. During Sir Henry's college days he was a noted oarsman. Twice he won the Thames Cup at Henley and for three years he rowed for his college. Immediately upon leaving college he entered politics and has been inspired with the ideal of a real brotherhood of nations within the British Empire. To this end he has worked tirelessly. Sir Henry believes that the present reciprocity of trade within the British Empire is not enough but there should be complete co-ordination; above all, co-ordination in purpose if the co-operation of the nations of the British Empire is to provide a practical solution for the present day perils in which we live.
During the war Sir Henry served with the 1st Battalion of the 1st Regiment. He was several times mentioned in despatches and was awarded the C.M.G. In 1916 he was promoted to the 16th Infantry Brigade, being then the youngest General in the British Army.
Sir Henry has chosen as his subject "Empire Unity--The Bulwark of Civilization." It is my privilege to introduce to you BrigadierGeneral Sir Henry Page Croft. (Applause)
SIR HENRY PAGE CROFT, C.M.G., M.P.: Mr. President and Gentlemen: I need hardly say that I regard it as a very great honour to be entertained as your guest here in Toronto today. It is one more proof, if such were necessary, of the great hospitality which any traveller from the Old Land always finds in your Dominion. I experienced the same kind of treatment 26 years ago and I see that you are still the same wonderful genial hosts.
Now I cannot address any Canadian gathering without asking the privilege of just telling all ex-service men in Canada that we old fighting men of the Old Country can never forget the great and decisive part which our kinsmen, the Canadian Expeditionary Force took on so many occasions when we had our backs to the wall. I wish good luck to the Canadian Legion, the Canadian Corps and the British Empire Service League which is not only; as I have discovered recently in my six thousand miles of travels, a wonderful organization, but which is a comradeship of valiant hearts which must be an asset to any great nation in the world and which I believe is appreciated as such by all your people throughout the Dominion. (Applause)
In 35 years of public life, 29 years of which I have had the privilege of sitting in the House of Commons, it is true, as some here know, that my principal aim has been to promote reciprocal trade as the shortest basis perhaps of Empire unity, and this unity was never more vital than today if our great fraternity of people is to take its part in leading civilization back to sanity, progress and prosperity. It is very many years since Canada first extended preferences to the products of Great Britain and in 1931-32 we won a great victory for that old cause, the cause of Joseph Chamberlain, when we were able to reciprocate what Canada had done so long and I venture to think that the fruits of that revolutionary change in British policy are far greater than most people imagine. Just think for one moment what this change of policy has done for Great Britain. For the last three years we have sold more manufactured goods to British countries than to the foreign world, and in the first six months of this year we sold a greater total of all goods and commodities of every description to the British Empire than to all foreign nations put together. (Applause) We sorely needed it because the economic nationalism of certain great states in the world was excluding our goods, so that some of our best customers of the past had turned into our fiercest competitors. Thus you will appreciate the fact that the preferment of British goods by all the various countries of the Empire under the Ottawa Agreement helped us to survive. Thank you for the part that you played in this respect.
But I find that even among some of the best informed Canadians there is not a complete conception as to the extent of the benefits which your country also has derived from the Ottawa Agreements. Permit me, therefore, if I may, to quote just one or two figures-more, I know, on an occasion like this would be unpardonable; it doesn't help the digestion. In 1932 Canada's exports of domestic produce to Great Britain totalled £178,000,000. In 1937, five years after the Ottawa Pact, you exported £404,000,000 worth of goods and commodities, or an increase of 125 per cent. This increase during five years of reciprocity I think you will agree is really remarkable and I, as an Englishman who has striven for this cause of economic partnership within the British Empire, am indeed proud of this story because, is it not convincing proof that reciprocity during these dark days of world depression must have saved many thousands of your primary producers from ruin, just as you and the other Dominions, the Crown Colonies and Protectorates who came under the Ottawa scheme have helped to keep the ship of state in the Old Country afloat in these same dark days?
The lesson, Mr. President, surely is that your strength is our strength, your prosperity and health means very much to us, your trials and sorrows are of deep concern to every British citizen and the same, I venture to hope and believe, is true, looking at the picture the other way around. Mr. President, independent as we are in free nationhood, yet we are vital to each other in the matter of our fortunes and, it may be a vulgar thing to say-I have said it once before since I have been in Canada-but I do suggest both from your point of view and ours, you should remember "where your treasure is there should your heart be also." So far we have been almost timid, we have almost apologized for making some contribution to each other's welfare. Can we not extend this policy of reciprocity by giving even more materially in all the things that matter, in trade, where possible, in shipping, in finance, in the use of capital, in development and in the flow of population?
I came to Canada on this occasion, after an unpardonable absence of 26 years, at the invitation of one of your provinces, British Columbia, in order to explore possibilities of developing and settling the western end of your great country and more especially the centre of that province running out to the Pacific Coast. We had a most wonderful and encouraging tour, and what is the good of a brother if he doesn't tell his brother what he thinks about it, even if it isn't always to the brother's credit. I hope Canadians will always be free in their expressions as to how we are going wrong in the Old Country and if I offer a suggestion I hope you will realize that it is only as a suggestion that comes from my heart and it is not meant as criticism. What is the practical lesson which hits us in the eye? It is, Sir, that without a greater flow of population Canada remains static and will have to continue to bear that immense burden of overheads in railways, roads, schools, telephones, public services and debt. which clearly are intended for a far greater population. (Applause)
As an outsider who truly cares for Canada, such has been my Imperial upbringing, as much as I care for Scotland or Wales, or even Yorkshire, I cannot help wondering if your present troubles and travail are not due primarily to the complete cessation of immigration and the fact that new wealth consequently is no longer circulating through all the various wheels of your industry and agriculture. Frankly, I am such a believer in your country that I cannot believe that its destiny lies in this sub-continent with a population hardly bigger than that of Belgium. Sir, as a life-long student of economics I believe that trade follows population, as surely as night follows day, that capital follows trade and that mineral development and secondary industries are the components of the capital movement, and I would say to you, don't allow your tails to get down but continue to open up your country. You need capital and, above all, I believe most firmly that you need population and I would add just this: in this chaotic world when no man can rightly judge what is going to be the end of all things, I believe that the country which is most surely based upon a large population of mixed farmers will be the country which in the last test will survive the best.
Sir, I have a dream, so I have been told, but it is not a bad dream, and it is not an impossible dream. It is that we should once more see a flow, not an overwhelming flow, but a steady flow of our people of British blood coming to Canada. We in Great Britain are people that are cramped and congested, and I am afraid it is no exaggeration to say that at least one million men, and many of them with families, something like two or three million souls, can probably never hope to fine remunerative productive employment in the Old Land. I wonder, therefore, and I have only come to learn, not to lay down suggestions, I wonder whether, with the adventure, initiative and pioneering character of their fathers which is still in their blood--those fathers who hacked their way through the bush and who laid the foundation upon which you built your great nation--whether the sons of those fathers are not yet needed in considerable measure if you are to preserve the character, the tradition and the great spirit of your race. (Applause)
My conception is that backed by British credit, if the British Government can only be persuaded to get a move on, a great corporation should be formed not only to settle communities but to stand behind them and see them through to success. In other words, the success of such corporation would depend upon the success of the settlers. When speaking out West I suggested a plan of perhaps five years, of 10,000 settlers with their families coming into the wonderful areas which, as I have seen with my own eyes, are as yet almost untouched though undoubtedly of rich and fruitful soil.
I have found only one criticism which might appear at first to have some substance. That is, why bring more people into Canada when we have so many unemployed? Sir, the answer, in my opinion, is decisive. It would not aggravate unemployment but would tend greatly to help your unemployment problem. Let me in a brief moment or two explain what in my opinion must inevitably happen under such a settlement scheme. Take this example of 10,000 settlers. What are their requirements? They immediately want 10,000 houses, with also an immediate stimulus to the whole of the Canadian lumber industry. They would want under our scheme 20 acres per settler, cleared by Canadian labour--200,000 acres. They would want roadways to link up new farm districts with existing highways, requiring Canadian labour. They would want 20,000 horses, as a minimum, at once from Canadian ranches. They would want from 50,000 to 80,000 cows and cattle from Canadian stock raisers and 20,000 Canadian sows, not to mention 100,000 or 150,000 poultry, in order to start their chicken farms. That is the animal side of the picture.
What about secondary industry? They would want at once 20,000 agricultural machines as a start, and 40,000 in three years, and if I am not incorrect they would all come from Ontario, provided it was decided by that corporation, as it certainly should if Canadians are going to welcome the scheme, that those machines should all come from Canadian manufacturers, employing a large amount of Canadian labour. They would want stoves, pots and pans and all the other products of your secondary industry which are essential for the settler and for his wife in any modern civilization.
Mr. President, it has been estimated in my hearing--I don't know whether right or not--that every settled farmer in this country means $750 a year to the Canadian railways in traffic, etcetera. Well, it seems to me that $7,500,000 a year would not come amiss to your railways, even today. (Laughter) I believe no one who has really studied our plan, outside a mental institution, could contend that such a policy would aggravate unemployment. I believe such a policy would certainly be helpful to our people in the Old Country and would also be a Godsend to Canadian life, and the 25 to 30 million dollars which would be spent on the needs of such settlement, provided such a scheme were accepted by our government, would, in -my candid opinion, go straight into Canadian pockets.
I said this is a dream, Sir, but already one province is almost aflame at the new hope and is ready through its Prime Minister to grant free land if the Federal and Imperial Government can find means for such a scheme coming into existence. Other provinces also have expressed great sympathy, and may we not hope, that your magnificent Province of Ontario will at least provide such ginger as is necessary in order to persuade the Federal Government to hold a Conference in order to explore the possibilities of such a scheme. (Applause)
Now, such a policy as this can, of course, only be carried with the support of all governments concerned. I would dearly love to go back to the Old Country and meet His Majesty's Ministers, with the help of that great fighter, Beverley Baxter (Applause) and say, "Now, what about it?" Baxter and I have voted £3,000,000 per annum for 18 years in order to settle and develop the British Empire and none of that money has been required. It has all gone back in the pot. If we could vote this in days gone by, I say .has not the time come when development can start, when we shall extend the boons of capital advances to the British Dominions we were so ready to extend to Continental countries in the past in order, we hoped, to preserve the peace of the world, finally used and expended, I am afraid, in many cases in the building up of armaments which we now have to meet.
Now, Mr. President, why do I regard this question as urgent today in Great Britain? We have a surplus population, as I have mentioned, of magnificent people, but ten years hence we may have no surplus to spare. That is why I wan' to see something done this decade. Some foreigners, I am aware, are trying to insinuate to the world that Great Britain is on the down-grade. Don't believe it. Precisely the same old stuff is there. The land of so many of your forebears, the builders of early Canada is, I think I can tell you with absolute truth and sincerity, still foremost in the world and in spite of the drilled, regimented and organized competition of neighbouring states, Britain lives. Liberty is the breath of her nostrils, freedom is in her soul, and when ours, the highest taxed nation on earth, was suddenly confronted with a great peril staring her in the face because, no doubt with noble intention but perhaps lack of statecraft, we had almost disarmed to the bone, the British fleet was getting a very old lady, the Air Force which was first in the world at the end of the Great War had sunk to fifth place, we couldn't get recruits for the regular army, the territorial army was pathetic in its weakness. All these things had happened with the best intentions, but to show you that our spirit is not dead I would remind you that our nation-I think I can say our nation, for all parties except one, the then single Communist, are voting for defence estimates-decided to lay upon ourselves the unprecedented burden of £1,500,000,000 in order that we might be true to our trust and to the Empire as a whole, in order that we may help to defend civilization itself if it is truly necessary.
Mr. President, I think that mighty burden which we have undertaken, which we shall carry, some of us certainly to our graves, shows no sign of decadence, because we decided to do it almost without a groan. But in a country also which went through a phase when many of our pastors, masters and dons and professors were teaching the youth that the best way to avoid future war was simply to disarm, to stand there naked on the shores of Brighton and Bournemouth and Hastings, and the other seaside resorts and offer to be the batman of any invader if they were only good enough to land, and that would avoid war. I think that phase has gone by and although our forces were so miserably weak, I am glad to tell you, that the Royal Navy, which had become a rather proverbial thing as an old lady, in two years time will be worthy of Britain's place in the world, the finest fleet that sails the ocean. At the same time I am glad to be able to tell you that during the last twelve months we recruited more men for the services-the Royal Navy, the Air Force, the Territorial Army-than in any single twelve months when our country has been at peace in the past.
I just mention these little things to try to convince you, if I can, that we are not a lot of down-and-outs in the Old Country.
Now, Sir, I think you will agree that such efforts are worthy of your sister state. Under the wise, calm leadership of Neville Chamberlain, Britain is again proving worthy of her trust and believe me, toleration, patience, striving for peace is not weakness. The days of Palmerston when every petty insult was avenged by bombardment have gone by. Today the terrible instrument of war which might involve--and never forget this responsibility on the shoulders of our Prime Minister and Government--all our faithful kinsmen, that terrible instrument must only be used if all pacific means have failed. Please God they do not fail. Please God that should they fail we may still be worthy of our history and our past. (Loud applause)
Rest assured, Sir, however, of one thing, and that is that if one single inch of British territory, in whatever part of the world is assailed, we will spend our last man and our last shilling in its defence.
The collective ideal, to the grief of all sane people the world over, has broken down. Several of the greatest nations in the world stood outside with the result that most, I am afraid it must be said, all of the small nations are not prepared to take the risk of committing their nations to actual warfare on behalf of the collective ideal. The ideal remains and something may yet arise to bring the nations of the world to their senses in days to come, but admitted the ideal is a magnificent one, is it not yet possible to promote some form of collective security among that quarter of the world which lives under our common flag, collective in ideal, collective in thought and spirit and, as a last resort which we pray may never come, in defence? So it seems to me, if we are without definite commitments one to each other, if we are known to be absolutely united in the spiritual aims of our race we may yet keep peace through strength and unity, for after all, this wonderful collection of countries,--what we used to call an Empire and I don't mind the old word, personally, which some call the Commonwealth of British Nations, which is equally good, we all know what they mean--is perhaps the last great bulwark of peace, of freedom and of the right of a man to worship the God in whom he believes.
It seems to me when you observe the tendencies of other countries that we must admit we are happy indeed that the precious things of life are still to be found in every part of the British Empire. Let us realize what a menace it would be to the world if we were to weaken in our attachment or if we were to fall apart. Let us preserve that unity above all else, so that in the last resort if ever that time should come, this year, a hundred years or a thousand years hence, we may find these great people, born of liberty, which have given such great gifts to civilization, populating this great country and may we find in the last great fight of all the house may stand together, its pillars may not fall. (Prolonged applause, followed by three cheers for Sir Henry Page Croft)
THE PRESIDENT: Sir Henry, I feel that it would be a waste of words for me to add anything to the applause and the cheers which have greeted your remarks. However, I cannot permit the meeting to close without thanking you most sincerely for your wonderfully inspiring address. To a Club whose motto is "Canada and a United Empire" it is particularly appropriate. (Applause)