- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 6 Jan 1931, p. 1-13
- Ferguson, Hon. G. Howard, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Some phases of public activity and public problems that seem to the speaker to be uppermost in the mind of every Britisher at the present moment. The speaker's conviction that it is not only desirable but essential to the safeguarding of all liberty and the spirit of justice and freedom throughout the whole world that Britain should hold a dominating place in the shaping of the world's course and the strengthening of the fibre of civilization itself among the nations of the world. How this is to be brought about. The speaker's belief of what the British Empire must be in terms of unifying the purposes and aims of countries of the British Empire. An example set in Canada. The striking example of the advantages of consolidation and co-operative effort that was to be found in the great conflict of 1914-18. A further example in the more recent Indian Conference taking place in London. An Empire that cannot live on sentiment alone. Some words from men whose study, whose life-history and position commend their opinions to us: Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain; Rt. Hon. W.M. Hughes of Australia; Lord Melchett. Encouraging investment in Canada from British capitalists. The extent of Canadian resources. The new story of Canada to be told to the Britisher. Evidence of progress in Canada. Encouraging the migration of British people to Canada. Some words on the speaker's position as Canadian High Commissioner in London.
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- 6 Jan 1931
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- Full Text
- CANADA'S REPRESENTATION AT LONDON
AN ADDRESS BY HON. G. HOWARD FERGUSON, K.C., LL.D.
6th January, 1931
LIEUT.-COL. GEORGE A. DREW, Vice-President, called on SIR WILLIAM MULOCK, K.C.M.G., Chief Justice of Ontario, to introduce the speaker of the day. Sir William, who was received with cheers on rising, said
The Empire Club of Canada has done me the great honour of inviting me to introduce our distinguished guest of today, the Honourable G. Howard Ferguson, and as we are impatient to hear him, my remarks will be very brief.
Mr. Ferguson having devoted his whole life since early manhood to the service of his native Province, it is most fitting that" now on the eve of his departure from Canada, this Club should manifest its appreciation of the public spirit which has impelled him to lay aside the high office of Prime Minister of Ontario in order to take upon himself the serious task of serving his country in these troublous times in London, the heart of the British Empire. (Applause.) Mr. Ferguson is an Ontario man, born and bred amongst us. His whole life gives evidence of his love for his native Province. That may account for his deciding to be born in Ontario. (Laughter.) But however that be, beyond reasonable doubt, his deep interest in the welfare of Canada and the rest of the Empire explains two outstanding features of his life; one being that of a quarter of a century of unselfish public service, and the other his impending sacrifice of all personal considerations in order to serve his country in the Motherland.
Throughout a long and strenuous public career his has been a masterful mind. In him are united the capacity, energy and strength necessary in order to manage men, and it has been said-with what truth I do not know that he has ever possessed the art of so taming his opponents, whether in his Cabinet or in the House, that they actually relished feeding out of his hand. (Laughter.) His legislative record has not been colourless and many of his public measures have encountered criticism. No one care materially improve the order of things without offending the views of many. We cannot have omlettes without breaking eggs. Gentlemen, the public are inclined to expect perfect governments-an idle dream. My study of public men has led me to the conclusion that as a rule they are, according to their light, true to their trust. Doubtless many exercise unsound judgment; no one, except a natural born critic, is always wise. But there is a vast difference between a mistake of judgment and a dishonest purpose. It is not in the public interest that without good and sufficient justification the purity of the acts of public men should be challenged. A man's honour is one of his most precious possessions. If he does wrong condemn him for his wrong-doing, but not otherwise. Unfair treatment of public men deters many a capable and honourable man-one who values his fair name-from a public service which is liable to put his good name in jeopardy. (Hear, Hear.) Without expressing any opinion as to the merits or demerits of Mr. Ferguson's public acts, I confidently believe that in his public career his guiding star has ever been the promotion of the public welfare. (Applause.)
It is said that although a woman may know that she is loved, still she likes her lover to tell her so. And so it is also with men who are supposed to be made of sterner stuff. Mr. Ferguson knows that he enjoys a liberal measure of public esteem and respect, but, nevertheless, I think I am reading his heart aright when I express the view that it gladdens him to be told by this representative body of his fellow-citizens that his integrity of purpose, his public spirit, his unselfish ambition to promote the best interests of Canada. command their unqualified confidence. (Loud applause.) When I contemplate the separation of Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson from their native home,-Sweet, Sweet Home,-I cannot but picture to myself what a wrench it must be to them. Here are all the precious things of their lives; their interests, their relatives, their companions, their friends, priceless treasures. Here are the scenes of their childhood and their maturer years. All these precious life associations to be left behind, to become mere memories. What a sacrifice! In: a few days they will be sailing away from Canada. In imagination I see them now, hand in hand upon the ship's deck, watching the shore as it gradually recedes from their view, with tears that will not be denied upon their cheeks; and when the last glimpse of Canada has faded away, I see them turn to each other and in spirit exchange the thought that as Canada has been, so it will ever remain in their hearts,
their own beloved home. (Applause.) My imagination also tells me that there will be this further consideration in their minds: "We are leaving home in response to the call of duty, but no lotus fruit of other lands shall make us forget our Homeland, or cease longing to return to it. So long as we are absent Canada will
be a magnet ever attracting us homeward, and our happiest moment will be when, the task now at hand completed, we shall again stand on a vessel's deck, homeward bound."
In bidding Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson farewell we would assure them that it is with mournful pride we speed them on their broader and more Imperial way. We are confident that in them the noblest and truest of our Canadian life will be held high in the exalted theatre where they will live and toil, and that both Canada and the Motherland will be enriched by their labours in Old England.
In the name of all here assembled I assure them that we shall follow their career Overseas with deep and unwearied interest, and shall ever long for the happy day when we may welcome them back to our beloved Canada. (Loud applause.)
Horn. Mx. FERGUSON was received with loud cheers, the audience rising. After expressions of regret at the absence through illness of his personal friend, President Stapells, and the difficulty of speaking in view of the deep feelings that had been stirred by the generous introduction of his always affectionate friend, Sir William Mulock, and his deep appreciation of this great gathering of busy men, expressing by their presence their good-will and good wishes, he said: I came here with the idea that I might discuss with you perhaps for the last time for a year, at any rate--(Laughter.)-some phases of public activity and public problems that seem to me to be uppermost in the mind of every Britisher at the present moment. Recently I have been looking up some history of the Empire Club since its inception in 1903, and I have observed two things that suggested to me a line of thought that I might appropriately discuss with you.
In the first place, that great genius of Canadian development and imperial expansion, the late Lord Strathcona, was your first Honorary President. In the next place the purpose of the Club is set forth in its early minutes in these words--"The advancing of the interests of Canada and a united Empire." So that you see from the birth of your organization your purpose has been to promote the unity of the various sections of the great British Empire; and the challenge comes to us, is it still worth while to struggle for the maintenance and the unity of this Empire? I take it that you are all convinced that it is worth while, and that you are conversant with the reasons that make it worth while. (Applause.)
History teaches us very clearly that the policy of the British people, their spirit and their character, have shaped lines of activity and developments that have made for the advantage and good of their own people. Standards of living, of culture, of industry, of enterprise, of pioneer undertakings such as the world has never known are the fruit of the joint efforts of British lands throughout the centuries. Is it not worth while to preserve for the people of the British Empire themselves the organization that makes possible such conditions and such standards?
I make no apology for my imperial views. I am firmly convinced that nowhere in the world are there people of the character and genius of the British people(Hear, hear)-and it would be an irreparable loss should they fail in their efforts to conserve their identity and their national existence as a great civilizing force. If it is a good thing for the British people, has it not been a good thing for the world at large? Has civilization itself not benefitted tremendously by the ideas, the ideals, and the leadership that have come from those British Isles? And can we not find the inspiration, if not the foundation, of every phase of life worth mentioning coming from the British people? Industry, agriculture, finance, the arts, the cultural side of life, and the development of manly character,, the spirit of freedom and justice, have ever been alive amongst the British people, and have extended their influence and their inspiration to other nations throughout civilization.
From my study of history and my almost casual contacts with British peoples, my investigation of their methods, their type, their ambitions, I am firmly convinced that it is not only desirable but essential to the safeguarding of all liberty and the spirit of justice and freedom throughout the whole world that Britain should hold a dominating place in the shaping of the world's course and the strengthening of the fibre of civilization itself among the nations of the world. (Applause.)
The question naturally follows, how is this to, be brought about? Here is a great aggregation of a quarter of the world's population scattered over all parts of the globe; how are we to bring to bear the joint influence of the people who have been trained under such conditions, who are inspired by such ideals? Can there be any other way than by unifying their purposes and their aims by joint co-operation in their efforts? Must they not be brought closer together so that all the great forces that make for the good of man shall be consolidated into a unifying force that will have a striking power and an influence that will be irresistible throughout the whole world?
That is my belief of what the British Empire must be; and while it is an Herculean task because of the great variety of conditions, distances, races, religions,, and types of people, I believe it can be achieved if we are to judge from the record of the accomplishments of this great people.
We in Canada have to some extent seat an example. Let us recall our conditions seventy or eighty years ago, when we had distinct units, aggregations of people scattered and isolated, with authority to pass laws largely by themselves; with separate customs regulations entitling them to obstruct the free flow of commerce from one to the other; even with a distinct type of coinage in many Provinces, and the right to have distinct postal regulations; separated in almost every sense, because in those days Nova Scotia was for Nova Scotia first, last and always. The Western Canada man would have nothing to do with the Quebec man. We had all the complicational difficulty of difference in civil law between Lower and Upper Canada. We had racial difficulties to overcome, complex languages-almost all those factors existing in Canada in miniature as they exist in the British Empire today. Then in the matter of distance, Eastern Canada was 3,000 miles from the west of Canada, British Columbia, was not a mile further from the Atlantic boundary of Canada than the Atlantic boundary of Canada is from the British Islands today. Yet, while for a time there was strife with Macdonald, Cartier, Mowat and Brown, when those men realized that persistence in their differences meant inevitable disintegration of the Canadian people, they had a high enough conception of their public duty to come together, waive those differences, and agree upon the Union on a common basis. (Applause.) They realized that sentiment alone is not sufficient to hold the people together, and they found that the Atlantic and Pacific had to be bound together by lines of steel, by possibilities of communication and intercourse, by trade for the development of commerce; and the nation undertook tremendous burdens to bring about a closer unity, to make it possible to consolidate these great scattered peoples into one unit, one Dominion: of Canada.
It is true that there is still a variety of conditions here, and we in these great central sections of Canada have to recognize that the Maritime Provinces, for instance, are a long distance from the central market here, and are entitled to favorable consideration in the way of transportation and other matters. We have to recognize that the extreme Western people must be given a fair opportunity, a fair chance with the rest of us in their economic situation. Only the other day you saw that the Prime Minister had said that the new Hudson Bay Railway should have favorable treatment as far as freight rates are concerned, in order to put those people on a reasonably equal basis and give them a fair opportunity with the rest of their fellow-citizens. Such have been the conditions in Canada, and they have been overcome by the genius, the public spirit, the courage,, the ability of the men whom we were fortunate enough to have in public life in all phases of politics at the time that the movement was undertaken.
Can there be a more striking illustration of the advantages of consolidation and co-operative effort than was to be found in the great conflict of 1914-18? Men from every part of the Empire, men of all colors and races, sprang to the call; for what purpose? Was it merely to preserve the political entity of those little Islands in the North Sea? Was it only that we thought we were going to save Canada for Canadians? Was there not a greater ideal and deeper purpose that inspired every man who shouldered a rifle, and every woman who made a contribution? Was it not that we were going to preserve this great force, not only for our own benefit but for that of the world at large? (Applause.) There, again, I say we saw the tremendous advantage of cooperation, of unification of effort, of common purpose.
One has even a further example in the more recent Indian Conference now taking place in London, when men of all shades of politics-Socialist, Conservative and Liberal-are represented, all waiving their political differences in the hope that by friendly discussion they may bring about a condition of affairs satisfactory to the Indian people, and that they may be able to maintain those 320,000,000 people as a part of the British Empire, to help strengthen. her position and extend her opportunities. The records are full of examples of the desirability and success of co-operation and the waiving of petty differences and national animosity.
I said that the Empire cannot live on sentiment alone. It is true that the Crown forms the keystone of the great arch of Empire which adorns the world today; but the arch must rest upon a solid foundation if the keystone is to serve its purpose. The buttresses must be such that the buffeting of the waves of competition and even the storms of national jealousy shall not disintegrate the adhesive factors that hold them together, shall not undermine and destroy the pillars upon which the arch stands and into which the keystone locks those pillars.
It has been said by more than one man that mere sentiment under conditions of this kind is not enough; and may I be permitted to give you one or two quotations from men whose study, whose life-history and position will, I am sure, commend their opinions to you?
Rt. Hon. Joseph Chamberlain said, many years ago
"No doubt the burden of this great Empire is tremendous, and the responsibilities and the obligations which fall upon us are greater than those which have weighed upon any other nation in the history of the world. It is true, as was so well said by the poet, that 'the weary Titan staggers under the too vast orb of his fate'. But, if we face our obligations, if we perform our duties well and faithfully, the honour and the credit will be proportioned to the sacrifices that we may make; while the abandonment of these duties would be as fatal to our material prosperity as it would be discreditable to our national character and our honour." (Applause.)
At a later stage Rt. Hon. W. M. Hughes (Australia) said very bluntly: " 'Where the treasure is, there is the heart also.' Along with migration, the best way to ensure the unity of the Empire is to develop inter-Imperial trade. A family of nations whose members, while speaking kindly of one another, do the bulk of their trade with foreign countries, is in a fair way to disunion. The revolt of the American Colonies proved conclusively that sentiment alone would not hold peoples together, even though they came of the same stock and spoke the same language."
Lord Melchett, who passed away within the last few weeks, said in 1928: "I am the last man to underestimate the strength of the ties of sentiment and good-will., but they will not keep the Empire together without an economic complex of some kind." And only last summer he said: "Certain parts of the Empire in their preferential agreements treat some parts of the Empire more favourably than they treat other parts, because of reciprocal advantages which they have obtained, and there is no reason why the United Kingdom should not do the same. All that I seek now is that the people of this country should accord to some future Government freedom to take the steps necessary to make the Empire a real economic unit."
No, -Mr. Chairman, the Empire cannot live on sentiment alone. There is-and we cannot forget it-the sentimental side. There are the pride and affection and loyalty to the Sovereign Power-and I tell you we are fortunate in this Empire today in the character of the man who wears the crown-(Applause)-a man of broad sympathy, of wide knowledge, of marvellous public-spirited and sympathetic interest in his peoples all over the British Empire, who takes an active personal interest in the management of public affairs, who can by no means be said to be a figure-head, but a willing servant of his people. That is the King George of today.
(Renewed applause.) But there is more and it touches myself and this new field I am about to enter. I know little, practically nothing, of the specific functions of Canada House. I have no doubt that its purpose is to promote trade in a larger way not only with the British Islands but with every part of the Empire; and its further purpose is to develop increased intercourse and opportunities of knowing one another. I fancy it will be part of my duty to make an effort to interest British capital in Canadian opportunities, because I am
convinced that to a large extent the lack of greater investment on the part of British capitalists in this country is due to a want of accurate knowledge of the conditions and. opportunities in Canada. I fancy it will be part of the problem of the High Commissioner to reveal to the British investor, what the business men of Canada have in store for him; to tell him something of the wide expanses of territory pregnant with material wealth, the open spaces everywhere waiting the application of the hand of man and the investment of capital.
One marvellous thing in favor of Canada at present is that the old day of steam-power has passed away. The energy that drives industry, makes comfortable the home and transports products today, is produced from water power, and we in Canada have been munificently blessed by a kind Providence in inheriting the tremendous -I was going to say almost unlimited-resources in the way of water power. If these things are made known to the British people, to the men interested in business enterprise and industry, and we can induce them to come and see for themselves rather than read books and look at movies, perhaps one will be able to do something to help bring about closer cooperation and a more consolidated effort between these two sections of the Empire. That, I take it, will be one of the duties I will be called upon to perform. And I think that not only should one endeavor to secure branch industries and British houses, but also warehouses in this country for great British enterprises so that Canadians could study their products, and they could study our markets. Perhaps these are small matters, but in a cumulative way they will tend to bring us closer together and promote the purposes we have in mind.
I think we shall all admit that there has been more profitable intercourse between our people and the British people in the last ten years than in the whole history of this country. The great gatherings that come here- The Metallurgical Society, The Chambers of Commerce , etc., bring men of affairs, of influence, of wealth, and of business as well as those of culture, and these men have been telling to the Britisher a new story of Canada. In my observations over there I was led to marvel at the change in the situation within the last five years-the keener interest, wider knowledge, desire for information, that exist to a much greater degree than a few years ago.
I fancy that one of the things I will have to encourage, when the time comes properly to do it, is the migration of British people, of British stock, to this country (Applause)-because I am firmly convinced that the vigor and vitality of our life requires fresh infusions of the right type of Old Country people. (Applause.) The present moment is not favorable for this movement, but it gives the opportunity to lay plans and shape policies, so that when the time does come, we can have well-selected immigrants located in different sections of Canada where they will find the best opportunities. Careful selection and location of new people should be the basis of any immigration efforts. (Applause.)
I am told in some places that my future position is an obscure one, that the Canadian High Commissioner is never heard of in London. Well, I am not concerned about that. (Laughter) I am not going for the sake of the position. I am going because it has been impressed upon me that there is a possibility that my services might be of some value. I am giving up the contacts with the tens of thousands of people in the Province of Ontario, in every walk of life and of every shade of politics, religion and race, who have kindly and generously shown to me their good-will and good wishes; and after all, gentlemen, the most valued possession one has in life is the friends he makes. (Applause.) I quite realize what it all means, and it is more of a wrench than I can express to you in words. It is the sort of thing one feels without being able to make it understood by others. Yet I think this to be our duty not only to Canada as such, but to Canada as a part of this great political organization which we believe is essential to the welfare of humanity; and every little cog and every little pin has a place and a use in this great machine, this great organization; and I may be the most Obscure pin or rivet or a bit of rust in the whole thing--(Laughter)--yet I can assure you, that, keeping my ideals always in mind, the office will have the best of whatever ability I may have, and the best of my energies and efforts. (Applause.)
I went to church yesterday-(Laughter and applause) -Sir William was not there-(Laughter)-and I heard my friend Dr. Cody preach, as he always does, a marvellous sermon; and one of the things he said-it may have been a quotation from somebody else---(Laughter)--was this:-"When you have difficult problems to face, pray not that your task may be easier, but that you may be given added strength to overcome the difficulties". (Applause.) May I suggest to you that in the work which I am facing at the present moment I need not only your good will and your good wishes, but your devout prayers that I may have the strength and the wisdom to perform the duties efficiently and well. (Loud applause, long continued.)
The Chairman then presented the guest with a silver writing set from the Empire Club.
HON. MR. FERGUSON: MR. Chairman, I appreciate this tangible evidence of good-will on the part of the Empire Club. It is quite evident that you intend that I should write home. (Laughter) I will do it, and I can assure you that I will not, in all the years of my life, forget the constant courtesy and generous encouragement I have had at the hands of your organization. (Loud applause.)