Industrial Conditions in the Homeland
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 19 Sep 1928, p. 185-196

MacMillan, Right Hon. Hugh P., Speaker
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A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club.
A series of incidence in the speaker's life over the last 48 hours which together seem to him to be typical of the life of Canada. Sentiment and adventure, industry and enterprise, and admiration for the beautiful reflected in these events. The need for more interpreters of each other to each other, with illustrative instances. Economic conditions in the Old Country, with figures. The Trades Union Congress' recent approval to the policy of industrial reconciliation. Men from the Old Country eager and ready to work who would be an asset to Canada.
Date of Original:
19 Sep 1928
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Full Text
(Before a Joint Meeting of the. Empire Club and the Canadian Club,)
19th September, 1928

MR. R. O. DALY, President of the Canadian Club, presided and introduced the speaker, who was received with applause and spoke as follows: An English friend of mine one day went back to his place in the Highlands, and the next morning went down to the riverside to see his gillie, and ask him about the fishing. He found the old man and said, "Well, Donald, and how is the world treating you?" And Donald's answer was "Very seldom." (Laughter and applause.) Gentlemen, that has not been my experience as your guest in Canada. (Laughter.) Do not misunderstand me. (Laughter.) I make no reflection whatever upon the admirable revenue system of Ontario. (Laughter.) I am glad to be here in this loyal city of Toronto, to take the opportunity of thanking you for the welcome you have given me. I know that you do not care for conventional adulation; neither do I. On the other hand I think you may care to have from me a few reflections by the way.

In the last forty-eight hours there have been a series of incidents in my life which together seem to me to be typical of the life of this great Dominion. The first one is on a note of pathos. As our train, a couple of nights ago, drew in at Sioux Lookout, a name itself redolent of the romantic history of Canada, I observed a coffin being carried along on a porter's barrow and put on the train. I asked about it and I was told that it was the body of a young Scotchman in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, that body misnamed "A Company of adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay." And this lad had only come out from Scotland a few months ago, and had gone up country and had met his fate in a canoe accident on the river, and his body was being shipped back to Scotland for burial. It seemed to me rather striking that one should have brought so vividly before one at this day the perils and the adventures of the old days in Canada in that dramatic form, and I realized that although here we meet with all the appanage of civilization in a great city, yet close at hand the old life of adventure and pioneering is still going on in Canada, the life which has made so many of the great heroes of Canadian history.

From that incident I passed in a few hours to a visit to one of the great paper mills in the north of your province, and there I saw the process whereby the immemorial forests of Canada are being converted into newsprint. I think hereafter we shall have to regard the spruce as being the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Laughter and applause.) You will recall, I suppose, that the word for a book, "liber," is itself derived from bark, the old books in the classical period or the preclassical period, being written on bark. But I observe in these big paper mills that the first thing to do was to shred all the bark off, and now it is the wood itself that is reduced to pulp and then converted into these wonderful rolls of paper, which are thereafter rendered more, or perhaps, less, valuable, by what is imprinted upon them. It gave me really a thrill to see great trainloads of paper pulling out every day, going in this particular instance to the States, for the purpose of carrying news throughout the whole of the world.

Then the next episode was a visit to one of the gold mines, and in no time whatever I found myself precipitated into the bowels of the earth and making my way along underground passages, reminding one of nothing so much as the pictures with which Gustave Dore illustrated Dante's Inferno. I need scarcely say how interested I was. I have been down coal pits before, but I had never been down a gold mine. I was a little disappointed; I thought I would see gold nuggets sticking all over the place, but I merely saw some strata of quartz which looked rather uninteresting, but which, I was told, contained the precious metal. I was not trusted with any of it. I realized from that visit and what I heard of other great mines that are developed in the north of your province, how very soon it would be that South Africa would have to look to its laurels, and Canada become, not as I think it is about to be, the second gold producing country, but the first gold producing country in the world. (Applause.)

Then my next visit was to a copper mine, and there I saw one of the most to my mind, dramatic industrial exhibitions I ever saw, when you saw the ore passing through the furnace and the copper issuing in a stream into the crucibles, and ultimately run off into the ingots or pigs of copper. A magnificent process being carried on with the greatest possible efficiency out in that distant outpost of your province.

Then again a little later we passed a wayside station where my eye was caught at once by the beauty of that station garden there in the wilds, a beautiful garden full of old English roses, glorious gladioli and a little green lawn. I asked my companions about it and I was told that the man who is posted there was a great lover of gardens, and is one of the most efficient men on the line. We never prompted him but I saw him gathering a bouquet of flowers, and in a few minutes he was up by our car and he handed my wife a beautiful bouquet of old English flowers. That was a very charming incident, and I was delighted to see that in a region which is now developing on the industrial side so vigorously and actively, there was still a place for those simpler and more charming pleasures of life. And then a little further down the line I was taken into a conservatory where I was shown a whole lot of plants being brought on, and I got a hint there that I am going to take back to the Old Country, where I have a good deal to do with the railways. This was a conservatory where plants were being brought up for distribution to the stations along the line in order that the men might take some interest in their stations and cultivate flowers. I am going to tell the men in the Old Country. We have competitions there as to whose is the best station, and I think this encouragement by the management is a splendid thing.

My day ended with a magnificent drive through the primeval forest along the road which I am glad to know is worthily associated with the name of my friend the Prime Minister, the Ferguson Highway. (Applause). If all his works of public utility are as beautiful as that, then I congratulate you on your Prime Minister, because he certainly gave me an afternoon of undiluted pleasure as we drove through that magnificent national heritage, preserved, and so wisely preserved, for the future. With the autumn tints appearing on all the trees, and beautiful lakes shimmering in the level rays of the sun, I said, "This is indeed a good land, a goodly heritage which you do well to preserve for the future." We in the Old Country are trying now to recover from the results of industrial destruction; you here are taking time by the forelock and are arranging, as you can arrange in a new country, to appropriate provinces of pleasure and toil. We are only trying to sort them out again now, because we set out with no original plan, but you here can lay out your country as you will, and one of the most interesting things to me has been to see how wisely you are allocating to the different provinces of life their proper share of the earth's surface.

Gentlemen, there in forty-eight hours I had an incident that recalled the old pioneering days of the Hudson's Bay Company, I had had a visit to a most up-to-date and magnificent mine, to a great paper producing mill, and then a little human incident, concluding with a magnificent drive through natural scenery. Was there ever a better epitome of Canada. Sentiment and adventure, industry and enterprise, and admiration for the beautiful. And I felt today that it was only due from me in common gratitude to you to express the sense of appreciation which I felt in having thus represented to me within the span of only forty-eight hours a complete epitome of all the finest and worthiest characteristics of this great Dominion. After all, gentlemen, there is a tremendous lot in sentiment. It may seem almost indecent for a lawyer to speak about sentiment, (Laughter.) but lawyers themselves are as sentimental as anybody else, and I feel that sentiment that does not degenerate into sentimentality is probably the biggest thing in the world. We may pretend to be above it, but we are not the least above it. I remember standing at Westminster one day this summer; a large number of newly enfranchised women had been brought up to see the Houses of Parliament and to learn their duties and to be impressed indeed by the members of parliament who were looking after them. But at that moment a carriage and pair drove past, and in it was the little Princess Elizabeth, and I can assure you that not one of those members, who came there to attend to politics and talk about their principles gave a thought to them after that. Their whole interest was in the little princess and I am bound to say, I am exactly the same myself. That is not childish, gentlemen, it stands for something very big; it stands for our recognition of the bond that binds us all together, the bond of sentiment and loyalty which it is very difficult to attach to a committee or a president or a chairman, but which you can attach to a throne. (Applause.)

Now, gentlemen, there is one thing I would like to say and that is of a practical nature. Here am I among you; I have come not to impart knowledge, but to acquire knowledge, and through your hospitality and generosity my education has been advancing by leaps and bounds, I am bound to say also at the rate of about forty miles an hour for the last six weeks. And the feeling that I have about it is this that we want more interpreters of each other to each other. (Hear, hear, and applause.) Many courteous members of the press have interviewed me, and I have said to them this, I miss very much indeed in the papers at home an adequate reflection of the life and interests of the Dominion. It is not because there is not a welcome for material of that sort in our press it is because the material is not provided. You, gentlemen, in this country, are perhaps too busy doing things to talk about doing things. In the Old Country there is perhaps more leisure to think about those who in other parts of the Empire are doing things. I should like very much to see more articles in the English and Scottish papers, not merely articles upon the dividends paid by your gold mines, excellent things as they are, or upon commercial matters, but upon the real spirit of the country. I do not think I could do it, but there are others. There are people like my friend, John Buchan, for instance, who I think has addressed you in this room; there are men of that sort who can write about what they see, and I am satisfied from my knowledge of my own friends at home that they, not having been privileged as I have been to come amongst you, have not really the least idea of your life and interests and your history. I say that in no disparagement of them; it is because they have not the means, the material is not put before them, and I think some of you might do well in the cause of Canada if you were to enlist, not merely penny-a-liners, but enlist a few of the greatest writers of the age who can write well and truly on the things that matter in Canada, not merely the great financial interests, which are always carefully chronicled, but upon the things that interest you, the history of Canada, the beauties of Canada, the intellectual development of Canada, which is advancing so rapidly-topics of that sort.

I will give you an instance. This spring I saw in The Times, in the best part of The Times, an article which at once caught my attention; it was on the Mounties. Hitherto I had only known in a vague way about the old Northwest Mounted Police, now the Canadian Mounted Police. I had heard about them but I now learned about them, though I am a comparatively well educated Scotsman. I read a column and a half and it inspired me at once. I said, "This is magnificent." I hastened away to my clerk and applied to the Canada House to get the last blue book report on the Mounted Police, which I read with the greatest interest and found that history was being made in Canada and that the old traditions were still being maintained in this year of grace. If it had not been for that article in that English paper I would not have known about it except in the vaguest possible way. Now I know a great deal about it, because I have bought about half a dozen books, some of them novels, some historical books, on the Northwest Mounted Police, and I am prepared to pass an examination on it with any gentlemen in this room. (Laughter.)

That is only one instance. There is a matter of the intensest interest to us all, a case where the best traditions of our country have been upheld and filled with a romantic aroma. It is part of our heritage. What I would like to see is your other interests brought home to us from time to time in attractive and interesting articles. The thing ought to work both ways. I have rather missed in the press here articles telling you about affairs at home. You always hear if there has been a murder trial or a divorce case, news of that sort -and it is quite proper to chronicle these matters-but there are matters of much more importance happening at home than murders and divorces, and I should like to see the presence in the Canadian press of more articles written by people who understand Canada and who can reproduce the current history of affairs at home in such a way as to make it interesting and palatable to readers in Canada. (Hear, hear.) There is no link so valuable as that, and it only wants doing. There is lots of ability, and lots of men who can write well, even these days, and the press is always alive to what the public wants. If you can show the press that you are anxious to have that side of journalism developed, the press is ready to rise to the occasion and can, now-a-days, with its resources, lay under contribution the greatest minds of the day.

Another thing I want to say is this. The position at home is perhaps not always so well appreciated here, just for the reason that interpreters are needed. We have been having a very difficult time at home, but it is not so bad as those who would like it to be bad have been making out. (Hear, hear.) I can give one or two figures which I venture to offer you. Since Mr. Baldwin took over office, 360,000 more persons have entered registered employment in the British Isles. More millions of men and women are employed in the Old Country than ever before, and at a higher average level of well-being. (Applause.) We still own one third of the world's shipping and build one half of the whole world's ships. (Applause.) And the Old Country pays all its debts. (Applause.) It hits us pretty hard, it hits us in taxation on a scale which you would regard as almost shattering. I put it to myself in this way, that for practically five months out of twelve I work exclusively for His Majesty's Revenue. That is not an exaggeration, gentlemen. If you work it out it comes to about that. Of every pound you make, you hand over first 4/6 to His Majesty, that is merely 25/0 right away in income taxes, and in addition to that if you are fortunate enough or unfortunate enough to have more than £10,000 a year, you have to pay super-tax on a very stiff graded scale above that up to 50°0. Consequently it is no exaggeration to say that a reasonably successful lawyer-not, of course, in the American scale of success, but on the Scottish or English scale is in point of fact for about four or five months of the year working exclusively to pay the debts of the nation and keep up the head of the country in the world. And the result is that Lombard Street is still the financial centre of the world, and Wall Street has failed to secure that position. (Applause.)

There is of course the practical and difficult side to it all. It is true we have over a million unemployed. These are the surplus which our industries have not been able to develop fast enough to overtake. We have maintained, as I say, the output of our industries, we have maintained the pre-war level of employment in quantity, but we have not been able to absorb the excess, the natural increase of population by a corresponding growth of our industry, and that in turn has been due largely to the difficulties in the basic industries of iron and coal. I am not going into these economic questions here and now; they are extraordinarily interesting, some of them, but I am hopeful that the tide is turning there also. Mr. Baldwin has devised a method that will go a certain distance, which will not be a panacea but it will be a palliative, to help the basic industries in this way, that he is giving a certain measure of relief from local taxes to the railway companies on condition that they apply the entire amount of the rebate in a diminution of their freight charges for certain of the basic industries. The railway companies are not themselves to benefit by the rebate in taxation, but they are to reflect it absolutely in a diminution of freight charges. In this way we may be able to take a certain amount, a few pence, off the ton of coal, and every penny we can take off the ton of our export coal means an advance of, say, fifty miles into the European continent. The economic frontier which we are up against moves back and forward in Europe according to the price of our coal, and every penny we can take off the ton enables us to make a little advance in competition with the coal fields of Poland and France and Germany. Some relief will undoubtedly come from the improved conditions generally, and best of all from the improved industrial spirit. (Hear, hear.) I would like to tell you one personal incident, because a concrete instance is worth a ton of theory. I do not think I am being indiscreet, but if I am I do not care a bit. This spring one day in my chambers at Westminster in London, just opposite the Victoria Tower, I was waited upon by a deputation. It was the most interesting deputation I ever received in my life. It was composed of four or five trade union leaders and four or five employers. They represented the great ship-building industries, the painters, the carpenters, the electricians, fitters, and all these able men who are engaged in our ship-building industry, one of the most difficult industries economically, and one that has perhaps suffered worse than any other. On the other side were half a dozen leaders in the shipbuilding industries, representing Harland & Wolff, and others who are all associated in the Ship Builders Federation. They produced to me an agreement and they said, "Mr. Macmillan, we have entered into an agreement that there shall be no strikes in our industry until the question at issue has been discussed between us at a local conference where the trouble has arisen. If an agreement cannot be reached there, it is to go to a larger conference, and if an agreement is still not reached by conciliation and conversation, it shall go to a central conference where the whole trades shall be represented by their trade union leaders and by the leading employers. And we have provided for an in. dependent chairman. The Minister of Labor is to appoint the independent chairman to mediate between us if we cannot agree upon one, but the employers and employees have agreed in asking you to be chairman." (Applause.) This is not told you in a spirit of egotism; I am telling you that for this reason: I was more moved than I can say by the spirit which was exhibited on that occasion. One man there, the chief spokesman on the trade union side, whom I had known as a man who had been through some of the worst trade union disputes, turned to me and said, "Mr. Macmillan, we mean this; this is not eye wash; we mean this; we have come to realize that strikes and strife mean loss for us all and we hope that through this medium we may be able to diminish the element of strife, the element of grit from the machine. We do not make you an arbitrator, you observe; we have not reached the stage of compulsory arbitration, we think that is sometimes a mistake; but we do think that if we can have it out in the presence of someone who will mediate between us, and elicit from one side or the other the factors we might not elicit from each other, if we do not agree in these circumstances, it must be because it is not susceptible of agreement; and we are sure machinery of that sort will go a long way to eliminate senseless stupid disputes." I am sure that is a true forecast. That is only one incident.

The Trades Union Congress recently has given its wholehearted approval to the policy of industrial reconciliation. Gentlemen, all strife is loss, not only for employers but employees, and the sooner that is realized throughout the world the better. (Applause.) I am happy to be able to report to you today from many small experiences, and from the much larger experience of others that has been reported to me, that that great fact is being realized, and that we may look forward, not to a millenium, because no trades union leaders and no employers are going to grow wings all of a sudden and I am not sure that it would be advantageous if they did-but we may look forward to an infinitely more reasonable relationship between capital and labor, between employer and workman, than has marked the past tragic year. In that there is great hope for us all. You have your industrial crises here; the problems have perhaps not been so acute with you because this is the land of opportunity, and you do not suffer as we do from a large surplus population, not of work-shy men, but men of ability, the great bulk of them, who are thwarted by the lack of opportunity in the Old Land. There is no use in sending out to Canada people who are failures at home-(Hear, hear.) I thought that would interest you-if their failure is due to lack of ability; but, gentlemen, if their failure is due to want of opportunity, what then? I am satisfied that there are among the surplus men of our country, especially the younger ones, dozens and dozens who would be useful citizens in this country, who are men eager and ready to work but who are suffering from what is the most distressing of all things, the thwarted desire to make good in this world, which is due simply to the fact that the Old Country cannot offer them opportunity, through no fault of their own. They are not work-shy; they are able fellows.

Here opportunity awaits them, and I am convinced that you will welcome all who come animated with that spirit ready to endure hardship as the old settlers endured it, for a time, and assured of brilliant success as I see so amply manifested around me. (Applause.)

The thanks of the meeting were tendered to the speaker by President Fennell of the Empire Club.

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Industrial Conditions in the Homeland

A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club.
A series of incidence in the speaker's life over the last 48 hours which together seem to him to be typical of the life of Canada. Sentiment and adventure, industry and enterprise, and admiration for the beautiful reflected in these events. The need for more interpreters of each other to each other, with illustrative instances. Economic conditions in the Old Country, with figures. The Trades Union Congress' recent approval to the policy of industrial reconciliation. Men from the Old Country eager and ready to work who would be an asset to Canada.