The Modern Commonwealth
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 30 Oct 1967, p. 127-143
His Grace The Duke of Devonshire, Speaker
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Item Type
The multi-racial Commonwealth. Changes in the Commonwealth over the last 20 years. The Commonwealth today. The Commonwealth's problems and the world's problems due to the astonishing growth that has taken place in the past 18 years. Fostering the ideal of a Commonwealth. The great road that the Commonwealth has to pave in the future: playing a really substantial part in the great challenge of the second half of the 10th century: to bridge the hideous economic gap that exists between the wealthy countries and the desperate, appalling poverty of the developing countries. Indicators of this wide chasm of the "haves" and the "have-nots." Consequences of not bridging the gap. What the Commonwealth can and is doing about it, with examples. What Canada is doing. The British Empire: what it accomplished; the fact that it was not meant to last; a thing of the past. The issue of Britain joining the Common Market. The new concept of "Commonwealth" as opposed to "British Commonwealth." The new Commonwealth growing and succeeding.
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30 Oct 1967
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Full Text
OCTOBER 30, 1967
The Modern Commonwealth
AN ADDRESS BY His Grace The Duke of Devonshire
CHAIRMAN Montague Larkin,


The members of the Royal Commonwealth Society are delighted to be able to join with those of the Canadian Club and Empire Club for this important occasion.

The Royel Commonweath Society, formerly known as the Royal Empire Society and prior to that the Royal Colonial Institute, has adapted its name and its functions to the concept of the Modern Commonwealth.

One who, by his leadership, is contributing to this development, is our guest today His Grace The Duke of Devonshire.

Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish, P.c., M.C., 11th Duke of Devonshire is the youngest Chairman of Council to be appointed by the Society and is a member of a family which is part of the fabric of English history.

One of the earliest of his illustrious ancestors who was Lord Mayor of London is believed to have slain Wat Tyler, who has been described as the first English Socialist. I suppose one can debate whether this was a good act or not--it was at least an act of historical significance. The Devonshires still battle Socialists though now by more subtle and spiritual means.

The Duke's estate at Chatsworth is celebrated for its beautiful gardens which are open to the public for a modest fee--more modest than that at Woburn Abbey. In the house hangs one of the most valuable collections of paintings in private hands.

The Duke of Devonshire is 47 and is, at that tender age, a happy grandfather. According to a Life magazine survey Dukes are, on the average, less handsome than film stars, more intelligent than European royalty, longer lived than mandarins, poorer than maharajas, less fertile than sultans, more monogamous than American businessmen.

It is invidious of course to use such averages and what we do know is that our guest is representative of the best tradition of British aristocracy. He is a man of wide interests and completely devoted to public service. As far as his political career is concerned it started when he participated in the 1945 and 1950 general elections. He is the one best qualified to describe his feelings about those campaigns. He now serves from the more detached plateau of the House of Lords. In 1960 the Duke was appointed Parliamentary Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and was Minister of State in the Commonwealth Relations Office from 1962 to 1964, during which period he visited Canada and many other Commonwealth Countries.

He is a Steward of the Jockey Club and is a keen and successful horse owner. I know that he looking forward to spending some time this afternoon with Brigadier Clar ence McKee at Greenwood and it is characteristic of his modesty that he wants to learn how we do things in racing in Ontario--I should have thought that this is one of the areas in which the British are already undoubted experts. His Grace serves as President of the Federation of the Commonwealth Chambers of Commerce and is Chancellor of Manchester University.

It is not just because the Toronto Branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society appointed me, an Irishman, from the green part of Ireland, its Chairman that I believe the Modern Commonwealth is a truly remarkable organization.

There are few better qualified to describe what the Modern Commonwealth means than our guest of honour. So it is my pleasure and honour to introduce him to you--Gentlemen--His Grace The Duke of Devonshire.

HIS GRACE THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIRE: Mr. President, Mr. Larkin, and Gentle men.

Thank you very much indeed, Mr. Larkin, for those extremely kind words of introduction. I must say in listening to what you had to say about me I would not have recognized myself. I must be quite frank; it seemed to be someone far more distinguished than I certainly am. Anyway it made very nice listening and I am extremely grateful to you.

And I am extremely grateful, Mr. President, to the Canadian Club and the Empire Club as well as the Royal Commonwealth Society for the very signal honour you do me in inviting me to be your guest here this afternoon and have the great privilege of addressing you.

It is particularly happy for me to be in Toronto for the first time during Canada's Centennial Year, an occasion which has caused great celebrations through the Common wealth. It is also particularly satisfactory to me because it is my first visit as Chairman of the Central Council of the Royal Commonwealth Society--my first visit to a Commonwealth country.

Now I am extremely diffident at addressing such a distinguished audience, and particularly as many of you are so actively concerned in business and I am very ill-qualified to talk about trade and industry.

It was put to me in London that on this particular occasion in view of the calibre of my audience that I should say something about trade. Well, this filled me with gloom because I know very little of anything about it. And I was very conscious that you would all be great experts. However, I did do some homework. I read a number of articles about Anglo-Canadian trade, and particularly I read two papers by two distinguished economists about the effect of the Kennedy Round on Anglo-Canadian trade. Having been a Minister for some time I have learned the trick of not wasting time thumbing through the paper but to read the conclusion, of course. So this I duly did. In the first paper I read the distinguished economist came to prove in no uncertain terms that as a result of the Kennedy Round there would be substantial benefit to Canada in her trade with Britain. So that was the first paper. I then read the second paper, and the conclusion paragraph read as follows--and I can say, Gentlemen, that this distinguished economist said: "I can say without fear of confrontation there will be no benefit whatsoever to Canada in her trade with Britain as a result of the Kennedy Round."

So after that I thought perhaps I had better skip it.

I then, however, discovered that no less a distinguished man than our President of the Board of Trade was to address this Club only a fortnight before I did. So I felt that clearly exonerated me from any talking about trade, as he more than covered the ground.

I would, however, just say this about business, because I am in business. I am in the stately-home business. And very profitable it is, too. But I did learn something this summer: that one should never be sure of the reaction of one's customers.

One Sunday I was going round mingling with the people going round the house to try and test what I think is called "consumer reaction". I came across two young men gazing at a picture by a very great artist. The picture shows Samson and Delilah, the famous scene when Delilah cuts Samson's hair. And Delilah is clad, it is true, in what used to be called a dress with a plunging neckline--very plunging. It is also true to say that (and I must spare the ladies) that Samson's right hand is in a -well, shall we say--somewhat equivocal position.

Anyway there is this great picture, this famous old master. And these two young men gazed and gazed at this picture. I was looking forward to hearing them say, "Oh, well, it has most marvellous composition and marvellous flesh tints" and "Look at the background; how beautifully painted the sky is."

But not at all. After a long, pregnant silence one turned to the other and said, "Yes, I suppose that is the best way of having one's hair cut."

So, as I said, far be it from me, a very humble businessman, to offer you any advice. But I certainly learned something from that conversation!

Now, before I turn to my subject I must amplify something that Mr. Larkin said -and I must thank him not only for what he said but for what he did not say. He made a very brief reference to the fact that I sat for Parliament. And he had the courtesy and good manners not to go any further. But I would not like you to think there was anything dishonourable about my short-lived political career. I will tell you exactly what happened.

I did stand for Parliament in 1945 as a Tory. And, not very surprisingly, I was unable to get a very good seat. And, as some of you may remember, the 1945 election was not a good one for the Tories.

But, even so, when the poll was declared I was not exactly in a tearing hurry to dash off to the post office to send a telegram to my nearest and dearest, saying, "Marvellous result; only beaten by 12,000 votes."

This was the beginning of my political career. Five years later, having tried -perhaps not very surprisingly, but having tried in vain--to get a better seat, I stood for the same seat. And, again as some of you may remember, I think, the Conservatives did not win the 1950 election, but there was a tremendous swing to the right everywhere--in London, the West Country, in the Home Counties, in East Anglia, in Wales, in the Midlands, in Lancashire and Yorkshire, the border counties, and Scotland; everywhere. The whole country swung strongly to the right. Except in my constituency.

On this occasion when the result of the poll was made known I was beaten by 17,000 votes.

After which it was not altogether surprising that I retired to that peaceful haven, the House of Lords; and pleasantly refused to renounce my title when given the opportunity.

So, I say, that was the beginning and the end of my political career.

Mr. President, I have the privilege of talking to you this afternoon for a short while about the "Modern Commonwealth". And I am deeply appreciative of having such

a distinguished audience to talk about a subject which is, I think, of great importance both to Canada, certainly to Britain, and indeed to the world.

And I am very pleased to be talking to a Canadian audience, because I know that you in Canada, like nearly everybody in Britain, takes a forward-looking view of the modern Commonwealth. Because there are certain tendencies in certain countries (which shall be nameless) to hanker after the past, to look back, to hanker after the days before the last war when the independent Commonwealth was a group of five nations, primarily of European stock, all enjoying a high standard of living-as I say, it was a small, closely knit group of countries--to the days when the independent Commonwealth consisted of the Dominion countries.

Well, I am not saying that those days were not admirable in their way. But they are in the past, just as the British Empire is in the past. And even if we wished, you cannot turn the clock back.

But I--and I know people in Canada feel the same--do not wish to turn the clock back.

The present Commonwealth, if it is one thing it is multi-racial. And if it is not multi-racial, it is nothing. And if the concept of a multi-racial Commonwealth is not accepted, then the Commonwealth will wither away. Of that you can be absolutely certain.

The Commonwealth has, of course, changed--changed beyond recognition--in the last 20 years. At the end of the war it still consisted just of the five old Dominion coun tries. By 1960 it had progressed to eleven countries including countries from Africa and Asia.

Today it consists of 26 countries and it is a complete cross-section of the whole world.

It contains rich countries and poor countries. It contains vast countries such as India and tiny countries such as Malta. The whole spectrum of the globe is covered by the Commonwealth. Physically it contains a quarter of the world's population. And it occupies a quarter of the world's land surface.

So the Commonwealth's problems are the world's problems. And the last thing I would wish you to think this afternoon, Gentlemen, is that all is well; everything in the Commonwealth garden is rosy. That is far from the case. But the problems that do arise, are arising, and will be with us for some time to come, are, I think, very largely due to this astonishing growth that has taken place in the past 18 years.

To use a homely phrase, we are suffering from growing pains. We need time to digest the vast changes that have taken place. We need time to assimilate this great wave of

nationalism that has been the great feature of history since the last World War.

But I am convinced that every right-thinking man and woman should do all he can to foster this ideal of a Commonwealth. Because this is something new.

Ever since the beginnings of history there have been empires; countless empires. Empires have come and gone. But never before has there been a Commonwealth. This is something totally new, this idea of a free association of sovereign peoples.

It is a free association not so much of like-minded people but of unlike-minded people; people who have totally different backgrounds, totally different problems, and totally different standards of living.

So I say that we are building for the future. In any of our lifetimes 18 years--which is the length of time the modern Commonwealth has been in existence--is a very considerable slice. But in historical terms--and we must think in historical terms in this new concept -it is but a moment of time. It is literally a mere, very short phase. And in thinking of the modern Commonwealth and its future we must be building not so much for the next ten years but for the next fifty and indeed for the next hundred years.

To my mind the great road that the Commonwealth has to pave in the future is that it can play a really substantial part in what I regard as the great challenge of the second half of the 20th century. And that is to bridge the hideous economic gap that exists between the wealthy "have" countries, such as Canada, Britain, the United States, and the desperate, appalling poverty of the developing countries of Africa and Asia.

With modern communications the world may be a very small place today. But it is certainly not one world. It is two worlds. It is the "haves" and the "have-nots".

Just to give you one example, what is paid in Britain in national assistance--that is, what is given by the State to destitute families to live on; what is considered the absolute bare minimum that a family, a man or woman can live upon -is wealth; wealth beyond the dreams of avarice to countless millions of Africans and Asians. And that is a true fact. That is only just one indication of this yawning chasm that exists between peoples of the world today. And that is, I say, to my mind a great challenge and the problem we are faced with.

And, Mr. President, it is one that we must solve. Because, unfortunately but truly, this division between "haves" and "have-nots" runs very largely also-is also the dividing line between those with white skins and those with coloured skins. So it is not only an economic gulf that has got to be bridged, but it is a racial gulf.

It is by gross misfortune that the coloured races are those who are at starvation level; it is the coloured races whose standard of living is unconscionably less than that of those with white skins.

And unless this gap is bridged, is solved, then I can only say I truly believe then the world is set on a collision course for total disaster.

The challenge is, I think, both one of moral principle, and also one of self-interest to the developed countries. Obviously it is not right there should be this hideous difference between standards of living. And it is clearly not right in this day and age, with so much scientific knowledge, technological advances, and all the rest of itit is not right there should still be a very, very large section of the population of the world living on virtually starvation diet.

But it goes further than that. It is also in our interests to see that their standard of living is substantially increased. Because I do not have to remind an audience such as this that it is where there is poverty, it is where there is suffering, that there are the breeding grounds for Communism. And so long as these countries do remain so desperately poor there is the ever-present threat of them becoming totalitarian regimes and adding strength to the Communist bloc.

If, however, by our efforts we can get the economies of these developing countries really off the ground, if we can offer hope of an ever-increasing standard of living to the teeming millions of Africa and Asia, then they are likely, as has been seen frequently in the past, to turn their backs on Communism and that form of dogma and turn to the ideals of democracy and those of the West.

So I say it is a challenge both on moral grounds and on the grounds of self-interest, and for our own wellbeing and the security of our own future.

Well, now, you may say, "Well, that is all very well but what can I do about it? What can we do about it?" And, "This is a matter for the governments and not for individuals."

But I do not think that this is the case, Mr. President. To my mind above all else the Commonwealth is a relationship of peoples, of individuals. The Commonwealth is tied together not by the ropes of formal treaties. Commonwealth members are not bound to have any form of Commonwealth treaty to bind them. The Commonwealth is held together, and increasingly held together, by a myriad of threads which jointly, when taken as a whole, are far more resilient and can take far greater strain than one treaty.

Just to give a few examples, there is the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which is very active, I know, here in Canada and throughout the world. There are such things as the Commonwealth Medical Association, the Commonwealth Law Society. And it goes through. There is hardly a professional body of any kind that does not have its own personal Commonwealth link. And these, I say, are the threads that hold the Commonwealth together.

Equally important, and perhaps even more so, there is this enormous interchange of students between Commonwealth countries. And here I am happy to say, Mr. Presi dent, Canada plays a very leading part with providing bursaries and scholarships and opportunities for students from other Commonwealth countries. And let us remember that these visiting students are of paramount importance because these developing countires can only afford to send their very, very best to uni versities such as yours. They simply have not got the money, the resources, to do it otherwise. So when these young men and women return to their countries they will in a very short time be among the leaders of their countries. And the sort of reception they had while a guest of our countries will colour their whole opinion not only of that country to which they have been accredited, so to speak, but also will colour their whole opinion about the Commonwealth.

Every time any family has a visiting student into his home, at holiday-time, at Christmas, or in vacation, that is yet one more thread to hold the Commonwealth to gether. You may say it is a tiny thing in itself but, to use a somewhat hackneyed analogy, it is the same as the little trickle way up in the mountain, and in due course that trickle joins another and another and in the end it is the St. Lawrence River.

So just by kindness, co-operation, having someone in your home, giving someone a drink, inviting someone to come for a weekend; it is only a trickle but, taken with the countless million examples, of it, will form a real bond, a real Commonwealth unity.

I cannot stress too highly, too strongly, the importance of personal contacts with visitors from the Commonwealth, whether they be university students or whether they be visiting businessmen. It all helps to create this bond and to link together, as I have said before, not likeminded people but unlike-minded people.

Now, it is a very happy thing to say such remarks to a Canadian audience because I know very well, both from my experience of four years in the Commonwealth office and from my time as Chairman of our Commonwealth Society, how outward-looking you in Canada are in this respect and how that you are aware of the need for links to be forged between different Commonwealth countries. You have here in Canada these very special links with the Caribbean countries. And this is as it should be. They are developing West Indian, independent countries and you are a highly developed, highly sophisticated country, and yet you are putting out helping hands to get these Caribbean countries firmly established on the road to prosperity.

And in a different way, a small way but not less important, there are the splendid activities of the Canadian Universities Overseas Service where young men from university go out as teachers or as leaders, and that kind of thing. And I have travelled a lot in developing countries of the Commonwealth and have heard nothingnothing but most glowing terms of praise for the work done by people sent out by CUOS. That again is absolutely admirable and just what is, I am sure, required in ever-increasing numbers.

Then there is the very, very considerable aid that you as a country give to the developing countries of the world. And this is as it should be. It is generous, but it is morally right. And, as I said earlier, it is also in our own interests that that aid should continue and indeed, if possible, that it should grow.

By they way, I would just like to say a very brief word on how delighted I am to learn since I have been here of the strengthening of cultural ties between Canada and the former French African territories, although they are not in the Commonwealth. No matter; this is again an example of the different worlds getting together and finding ties with the other.

So that is where I say we the individual comes in. This is a personal thing. The Commonwealth is a relationship of peoples above all else.

Having said that I would just like to digress for a moment and talk a little bit about Britain's problems with the Commonwealth. Because at this moment we are in two respects in a special difficulty; first of all because we are still tarred with the colonial brush.

The British Empire is a thing of the past. There are very, very small spaces now on the map, on any map of the world, that are still coloured red.

I am one who is proud of what the British Empire achieved; and I am even more proud of those men and women who served it, went out from Britain as teachers, as missionaries, as administrators, for very little material reward and frequently working in appalling physical conditions. I am proud of what they did, of what they did to defeat the real enemies of mankind: ignorance, poverty and disease.

But the British Empire was never meant to last. It was the policy of successive British Governments of all parties for many, many years past to bring those countries which we had the privilege of administering to independence at the first possible moment that we considered that country could bear the very considerabla strains, both political and economic, that independence brings in its wake.

So I say, while I am proud, and unashamedly proud, of the British Empire, it is a thing of the past and, again like the old Dominion days, it is no good hankering after the past. You have to move with the times. And times change.

But unfortunately still those who wish to make mischief for us can point the finger with just enough element of truth to make it stick in some quarters that we are still a country of reactionary imperialists. And this has been highlighted and made more difficult by the hideous problem of Rhodesia.

I will not digress and talk about that great tragedy. There is no other word can adequately meet it, other than to say that let us sincerely hope that the forthcoming visit of the Commonwealth Secretary Mr. George Thomson may by some miracle find a way of breaking the deadlock. Because so long as the Rhodesian problem remains we, Britain, will be in for constant criticism both at United Nations and from our Commonwealth partners, particularly in Africa. So this is holding up our progress as a Commonwealth country.

So that is one problem. The other difficulty, of course, is the vexing question of us joining the European economic community.

People feel--and it is understandable, I think--many people do feel that should we join the Common Market--I must admit the prospects at the moment do not seem particularly rosy, but people feel if we do, and even the fact that we want to, means that we wish to weaken the Commonwealth link.

Well, now, Mr. President, I assure you this is not the case.

I must admit that I am a convinced marketeer. I think Britain's future economic role, future dynamic prosperity, must lie joined closely to Europe. But I see no reason whatsoever why, should we join the Market, the Commonwealth would be weakened. Indeed I think it is just the reverse.

Because, first of all, the Commonwealth has never been an exclusive club. Canada and ourselves, we belong to NATO. NATO is abhorrent to some members of the Commonwealth. Equally all the African countries of the Commonwealth belong to the Organization of African Unity and yet without in any way weakening their membership of the Commonwealth.

So if it is all right for a Commonwealth country to belong to NATO or the OAU, why not ECM? That seems to be a perfectly logical argument.

I think in many ways should we join Europe the Commonwealth will ultimately be strengthened, because if it leads to greater prosperity--and I am not quite qualified to judge, but the best advice I have is that, by creating a domestic market of 250 million as opposed to our present domestic market of 50 million, and providing we can meet the challenge that will be presented to us and get our fair share of that increased market, we in Britain will become more prosperous and will have more money available to give in aid.

And the amount of money that is really required in aid is so gigantic that we need all the prosperity we can get so that we can feed them expertise and money to help these countries find their feet-again back to the vital need to bridge the economic gap.

But I do see that there is beneath this feeling of sentiment -people feel if we wish to look towards Europe we must be looking away from the Commonwealth. And the difficulty is that not to wish to see the Commonwealth weakened is an admirable sentiment. But I think in harder terms once we have joined Europe I think history will show the Commonwealth link not weakened and ultimately the Commonwealth as a whole was strengthened due to Britain's increased prosperity.

I have talked quite long enough. I would just like to add something on one note.

I have talked a little bit, very briefly, about the British Empire. But some of you may have noticed I have talked strictly about the Commonwealth. And this was not accident.

It was the "British Empire". But it is not the "British Commonwealth". It is "The Commonwealth". And we in Britain, like you in Canada, are just two members of the 26 countries that comprise the modern Commonwealth. And I think it is very important for the concept of the modern Commonwealth to be established that it is realized that, although the Commonwealth evolved from the British Empire and there would not have been a Commonwealth had there not been a British Empire, the two are totally different; and that the British Empire was red on the map; it was administered from London; whereas the Commonwealth is not red on the map; it is not administered by Britain. And we are now just one country. There is, I think, an analogy that fits it very well. In the old days of the Empire you could liken it to a wheel with Britain being the hub and the spokes going out. With the modern Commonwealth it is still a wheel, but it is the rim that matters now. We are all part of the rim. And we must all work together as partners to see that the rim of the wheel goes round smoothly.

And if I leave no other thought with you, Mr. President and Gentlemen, it is this: that the Commonwealth is totally different from the British Empire and we are but one member of it. ,

We have naturally very great responsibility for it because it was through having an Empire that it came about. But now the Empire has passed and the Commonwealth has taken its place we are very conscious that we are but one member among twenty-five other peoples.

I am convinced that this new concept and, as I say, this new ideal, is worth working for, is worth fighting for. But if we do not work for it it will wither away.

And that is why I am so proud to be in Canada on behalf of the Commonwealth Society, because there are people here in Canada who share my ideals, many of them, and will help to make it work.

It is just like a new, tender plant. It must be nurtured and fed, a hothouse plant, so that one day it can grow into a great tree and flourish. But if we do not work on it it will wither and die.

Mr. President, the other day I was speaking at a dinner, and I was very nervous and frightened. And my neighbour, who was infinitely more distinguished than I, on this occasion was not speaking. But anyway the moment arrived and I turned to him and I said, "Oh, my goodness, I do hate speaking."

He fixed me with a steely eye and said, "Oh, do you? I don't mind a bit. I can't bear to listen."

Mr. President, you have done me a very great honour in inviting me to be your guest and allowing me to address this very distinguished audience on a subject that is very close to my heart. This afternoon has been an occasion I shall always remember with gratitude and with pride. And I am immensely grateful to you, both personally and on behalf of the Royal Commonwealth Society, for giving me this opportunity of talking a little about the modern Commonwealth. And I do hope you realize that this is a concept and an ideal that we must work at and see that it does grow and does succeed.

Thanks of the meeting were expressed by Graham M. Gore, President of The Empire Club of Canada.

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The Modern Commonwealth

The multi-racial Commonwealth. Changes in the Commonwealth over the last 20 years. The Commonwealth today. The Commonwealth's problems and the world's problems due to the astonishing growth that has taken place in the past 18 years. Fostering the ideal of a Commonwealth. The great road that the Commonwealth has to pave in the future: playing a really substantial part in the great challenge of the second half of the 10th century: to bridge the hideous economic gap that exists between the wealthy countries and the desperate, appalling poverty of the developing countries. Indicators of this wide chasm of the "haves" and the "have-nots." Consequences of not bridging the gap. What the Commonwealth can and is doing about it, with examples. What Canada is doing. The British Empire: what it accomplished; the fact that it was not meant to last; a thing of the past. The issue of Britain joining the Common Market. The new concept of "Commonwealth" as opposed to "British Commonwealth." The new Commonwealth growing and succeeding.