- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 1 Mar 1962, p. 195-207
- Amory, The Right Honourable Viscount, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and the Toronto Branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society.
The Commonwealth described as the most imaginative and ambitious project in multi-racial co-operation that the world has ever known. The next four years likely to be of decisive importance for its future. A definition and description of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth today, astonishingly different from what it was even 20 years ago. Stresses and strains within it which reflect the strains that afflict the whole of the contemporary world. The Commonwealth's influence for good. What is has accomplished. The makeup of the Commonwealth. Where the Commonwealth goes from here. The links for the future. Economic links. Capital aid. The issue of the European Common Market and the impact on the Commonwealth. The new Commonwealth which will emerge in just a few short years when there will substantially be only independent countries as members. The English language as a cohesive influence. Other unifying forces. The Voluntary Service Overseas in Britain and the Canadian Overseas Volunteers. Responsibilities of Canada and Britain as members of the Commonwealth today. Acting quickly to prevent the collapse of developing democratic political systems. "A potent influence for sanity and stability in this harassed and bewildered world."
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- 1 Mar 1962
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- Full Text
- THE COMMONWEALTH
An Address by THE RIGHT HONOURABLE VISCOUNT AMORY United Kingdom High Commissioner in Canada
With the Canadian Club and the Toronto Branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society
Thursday, March 1, 1962
CHAIRMAN: The President, Dr. Z. S. Phimister.
DR. PHIMISTER: This is March 1, St. David's Day, the National Day of Wales. Perhaps the day should not pass without a salute to the Welsh who, both in joy and in sorrow, have always found reasons to sing and who have, in all history, been on the side of freedom. We are particularly pleased to have at this table two distinguished sons of Wales and two great Canadians, Mr. Leonard Brockington, and The Reverend Emlyn Davies. We salute them and all others from Wales in this room on this St. David's Day.
We do not have a speaker who claims to come from Wales but I may say that our speaker's ancestral ties are in the West Country, in the County of Devon, which is not so far from Wales, at least in a geographic sense.
If one were to try to distill into one word the life work of our speaker today, that one word would have to be duty or service-words which are almost synonymous. For, in England, the tradition of great public service on the part of many old families runs like a pattern of scarlet threads through the fabric of English history. The life of our distinguished speaker today illustrates the figure.
As a boy, Derick Heathcoat Amory attended Eton, that famous school which has contributed so many men devoted to public service on both sides of the House of Commons. Later, after Christ Church, Oxford, Lord Amory became a member of The Devon County Council where he served as Chairman of the Education Committee. Ever since that time Lord Amory has had an intense interest in young people's work and has been closely associated with the Boy Scout movement, with young farmers' groups and with the boards' of management of several schools and universities.
For twenty years Lord Amory was a territorial officer before going on active service in 1940. In the air-borne operation at Arnhem in the fall of 1944, he was severely wounded and taken prisoner. In 1945 at the behest of Mr. Winston Churchill, Lord Amory entered politics and won the Tiverton Seat. He became a Member of the Government in 1951 and held a number of cabinet posts culminating in his appointment as Chancellor of The Exchequer in January, 1958.
Although he had wished to retire from office in 1959, Lord Amory was persuaded to remain with the government until 1960, when he took his seat in the House of Lords in October of that year. But new responsibilities were urged upon him, and in the autumn of 1961 Lord Amory was named as High Commissioner to Canada.
Our guest today has had experience and heavy responsibilities in many aspects of man's affairs-agriculture, manufacturing and business, finance, education and government at many levels. Moreover, he is aware that these are matters of vital concern to everyone in a democracy. Through his travels and close contacts with many groups of workers, he has come to have an intimate knowledge of the way these matters are seen through the eyes of the man in the street.
This lifetime of service to the United Kingdom and The Commonwealth is an example to all who feel deeply about the responsible conduct of human affairs. For our part, I may say to you, Sir, that no matter where you go in the English-speaking world today, you will not find an audience more cordial in its reception, nor more devoted to the ideals of The Commonwealth for which you are such an eloquent spokesman. The Commonwealth has been described as a union not of parchment but of men's hearts and minds, and it is in that spirit that the members of the Canadian Club, the Royal Commonwealth Society and The Empire Club of Canada welcome you here today, to address us on the subject "The Commonwealth."
LORD AMORY: I very ouch welcomed the chance of talking to you this afternoon about the Commonwealth for two reasons. First, because it is the most imaginative and ambitious project in multi-racial co-operation that the world has ever known. And, second, because the next four years are likely to be of decisive importance for its future. As Britain and Canada are the two most senior of the independent nations of the Commonwealth, I am sure it is right that you and we should be doing a lot of thinking together about the nature of the Commonwealth and the best guidance we can give to the new members who have recently achieved independence.
I hasten to assure you that I have not lured you her today under a pretence of speaking to you on the Commonwealth, only to inflict on you another harangue on the Common Market. If I should unconsciously drift back into Common Marketry at any point, I hope you will excuse it as a symptom of my occupational disease.
It is generally a good thing at the start of a talk like this to agree on a definition of the subject of the discussion. What precisely is the Commonwealth? Alas, few things are more difficult to define. The Commonwealth has often been described as a family or a club. I am not at all sure that either of these provides a really adequate definition of the Commonwealth as it is today. In thinking of the Commonwealth as a family there is perhaps a danger of putting too ouch emphasis upon sentiment. Without wishing in any way to detract from the very real part played by sentiment in our relationship, I believe it would be a misreading of contemporary history to believe that the Commonwealth is founded on sentiment alone. The analogy of the club is perhaps better but is it quite good enough? The Commonwealth does not have the minimum number of rules which govern the conduct of even the least purposeful club. There can therefore be no penalties for breaking rules.
The Commonwealth has no secretariat or central organization. It has no formal links at all except the recognition and acknowledgement of The Queen, not as its Sovereign but as titular Head of the Commonwealth-a kind of honorary appointment. There are some who consider the Commonwealth to be essentially an exclusive trading community, but this is an even less realistic assumption. Our links and our strength are certainly not only based only on our co-operative trading relationships, important as these have been in the past, and are today. Indeed, it is a tantalizing paradox that the Commonwealth can often best be defined in negative rather than positive terms. This leads some cyincs to the conclusion that it is a negative association. But such a conclusion would be wholly wrong both as to present fact and future potentiality.
We are not a power bloc; nor are we a third force. We are not united by membership of any defence alliances. We are not a substitute for the United Nations. We are bound by no written undertakings. We have no formal constitution. We have no shared religion. We have few habits or ways of life and no standard of living common to us all. The pattern of our voting on United Nations issues over the years reveals none of that rigid uninamity of view that is a dubious asset ofthe Communist countries. Though we can take pride in the fact that on one issuethat of disarmament-all Commonwealth countries agreed at the last Prime Ministers' Meeting to make a determined and united approach.
When our Ministers meet they are not concerned with scoring debating points off one another; nor do they need to be concerned that what they say is going to be trumpeted around the world, because Commonwealth Ministerial discussions are confidential. One of the great advantages of these meetings, therefore, is that representatives of different Commonwealth countries can speak frankly to one another as between friends and colleagues. No collective decisions are made which would infringe the independent sovereignty of each member nation. One of the best descriptions of the Commonwealth was that of the late Mr. MacKenzie King who called it a continuing conference of Cabinets.
Another former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Fraser, once described the Commonwealth as 'independence with something added', or independence plus, and 'not independence with something taken away'. Both descriptions go to the heart ofthe matter; that our combined wisdom and experience is greater than the sum of our separate contributions; that membership of the Commonwealth enhances rather than reduces the freedom and the maturity and the influence of its separate members. And there we begin to recognize its positive nature. The member nations belong because spontaneously they want to. And they want to because they feel they derive some benefit from belonging. Those who have attended Commonwealth conferences will know this positive spirit. It is not just sentiment but enlightened self-interest that provides the motive-and when one looks at history, that has ever proved the most enduring cement in international relationships.
Today the Commonwealth is astonishingly different from what it was even twenty years ago: and there is no denying that there are many stresses and strains within it which in the main reflect the strains that afflict the whole of the contemporary world. We would be foolish not to recognize them; it would be less than statesmanlike if we did not take account of them in our policies and plans. We in Britain like to think that the Commonwealth is a unique example in the world's history of a progression from Empire into something much more ambitious and imaginative. The world has seen many Empires come and go; the usual pattern has been for Empires to decay and to be destroyed by force. But the British Empire is on the way to being transformed voluntarily into a co-operative Commonwealth whose influence for good is widely recognized by the outside world.
My Prime Minister has recently described the Commonwealth as being at the point of dawn rather than of dusk. And indeed, it is profoundly important that we should remember that in our new relationship we are indeed a young association. We should, therefore, always be looking forward, ready for whatever further changes in aims and structure are called for to meet the challenges of this rapidly changing world. This very concept of youth however points to certain dangers. For youth is impatient. It wants results quickly. It is often easily discouraged when things go wrong. And there is no denying that in our youthful association, as I have said, there are many strains, some of them potentially dangerous. That throws a special onus on us-the more senior members-to show patience and sympathy and understanding and to give the best guidance we can from our longer experience.
What after all is seventeen years in the life of civilized man? Yet in this period since the Second World War, an immense transformation has taken place, not only in terms of scientific discoveries and social developments, but in terms of the destinies of nations. During this very brief moment in history the Commonwealth has grown from five independent countries to a total now of thirteen, with the prospect of several more within the next few years. It has grown from an association mainly composed of peoples of British origin to one in which Asian and African peoples outnumber those of British stock by ten to one. These few years have seen more than 600 million people achieve independent sovereign status. Is not that an astonishing achievement? Today only six per cent of the population of the Commonwealth remain in British Colonial dependencies. Ninety-four per cent are in independent countries, represented at the United Nations, taking their place in the counsels of the world.
It is fashionable in some quarters today to decry Imperialism and Colonialism as dirty words. And this habit has been most actively encouraged by Communist regimes who themselves have enslaved one nation after another and held them down in rigid subjection. But Britain is proud of her imperial and colonial record, in bringing so many peoples to the appreciation of nationhood and teaching them the arts of self-government. Lord Macaulay wrote about a hundred years ago: "To have found a people sunk in the depth of slavery and superstition, to have so ruled them as to have made them desirous of and capable of all the privileges of citizens would indeed be a title to glory all our own."
The freedom and independence to which we have brought so many peoples have not come as a result of pressure from outside but as a result of a premeditated and consistent policy voluntarily practised by successive British Governments over the past hundred years. It is indeed a fine record, in which I think most Canadians share our pride. There is one tendency we are witnessing in the United Nations today, which is highly dangerous. A readiness in some quarters to support any action which has an anti-colonial aim regardless of its moral justification. Force, it is alleged, is justifiable if it has an anti-colonial objective. Such an attitude surely is in direct conflict with the principles and objects for which the United Nations was founded.
Another current danger is the misuse of the words "justice" and "democracy," again actively promoted by Communist regimes. Many things are being done today in various parts of the world in the name of democracy which are in fact in flat contradiction to its principles. So much for the recent past and the present.
Where do we go from here? What are going to be the links of our Commonwealth association for the future? First of all there must be a common recognition that where there are rights there must also be responsibilities and duties. Member countries must put something in as well as take something out-must contribute as well as take. Without responsibilities and duties, membership would be likely to become too diluted to mean much. This is an aspect of membership which I believe calls fo urgent thought and study if the Commonwealth is to endure. Peering into the crystal ball, it is impossible to see which of our existing bonds of association will prove the most enduring; one can take encouragement that there appear to be potentialities in them all. Let us consider what they are.
The Crown will mean more to the older members with ties of ancestry and long shared traditions than to the newer. That is natural. Republics will presumably be a common feature among the Asian and African countries. Democratic Parliamentary Government is the system in which Colonies have been trained and it is the system they have spontaneously opted for on achieving independence. Those of us who have practised this system longest know that, while for us it is the best, it is also the most difficult system of government. It calls for more patience, forbearance and tolerance than any other. It is by no means necessarily the most efficient in the short term. Whether it will in fact prove the most suited to the needs of all the new members we do not know. They will decide for themselves in the light of practical experience.
Already this system is being subjected to severe strains and stresses in some countries. It may be, at any rate in the early years after independence, some of them may feel the need for a stronger central authority than is normally provided by democratic parliamentary control. The point I think is that we older democracies should watch their experiments with a good deal of patience and sympathy because, after all, it has taken us centuries to find the form of government best suited to our needs. And even now those of use who have had close experience of the working of our system will perhaps be least inclined to claim perfection. You may regard that as a typical instance of British understatement. Then there is the link of a belief in the freedom and equality of the individual citizen under the law, and a respect for minorities. That I feel is the most fundamental of the principles which we share. But it is of course not unique to the Commonwealth. And againlike parliamentary democracy-there are signs of strains and stresses and imperfections already showing in some countries. But it is a principle at least acknowledged by all members as the ideal to be aimed at. Racial equality is another fundamental principle of the new Commonwealth. Indeed one member country's resignation was recently brought about through a failure to accept this principle. It will be important that the newer members should be vigilant to ensure that this principle is as conscientiously applied in the case of a white minority as in the case of a coloured minority.
Then we come to economic links. There is clearly no common level of living standards. Indeed, on the contrary, unhappily dramatic divergencies. The income per head in some of the poorer countries being no more than 1/15 or 120 of that of the wealthier countries. In such circumstances, and if membership of the Commonwealth is going to mean anything, clearly the wealthier members must do their best to help their poorer partners strengthen their economies and improve their living standards. There are three ways of doing this: by trade, by technical assistance and education, and bythe provision of capital through investment, loans or gifts. All three will be needed. But trade is the best form of aid and so our clear duty must be to see that we help the poorer countries to help themselves by opening our markets to their exports. That is common humanity and in the long run good business too. There is at present no Commonwealth trade system or organization apart from the tariff preferences mutually offered over part of the trading field. These unfortunately have tended gradually to diminish in importance over recent years, as most of the Commonwealth countries have wished to build up their own secondary industries behind effective tariff protection. Britain has continued to give free entry in most cases for Commonwealth products though the preferences she receives in return on her manufactured goods exported to Commonwealth countries have tended to diminish. No Commonwealth country other than Britain has been willing to consider over recent years any scheme for Commonwealth free trade.
As regards capital aid, the demand is enormously greater than the supply. Much is being done. Apart from private investment, the British Government has been of recent years providing about $500 million a year in grants and loans. And now British private investment in the Commonwealth has been running at a rate of about $900 million a year. In regard to private investment it is important for the would-be receiver countries to realize that everything will depend on the long-term prospects of political stability, and security for the investment. But perhaps the most important lesson for us to remember is that if we are going to be in a position to help the less developed countries with capital or gifts, it is essential that we keep our own economies strong and efficient.
In this current issue of the European Common Market we have a development which seems in line with the requirements of the age we live in. This is bound to make an impact on the Commonwealth. The test is whether it will contribute to the growing unity of the free world. The British Government believe that the objectives of the European Economic Community are to be applauded and supported. The twenty or so countries of Western Europe are still divided by customs barriers and other restrictions. When faced with the group of totalitarian countries the other side of the Iron Curtain that makes no sense today and will make less in the years ahead. My Government's considered assessment-not lightly arrived at-is that if Britain can join the Common Market on terms that are reasonable and fair to Britain, and to the Commonwealth, we shall be a source of greater strength to the Commonwealth as a trading partner and a supplier of capital than if we remained isolated from Europe. The fact that we should be participating actively in European affairs does not mean that we should be losing interest in the Commonwealth.
On the contrary, Mr. Macmillan has said in the House of Commons, "if a closer relationship between the United Kingdom and the countries of the E.E.C. were to disrupt the long standing and historic ties between the United Kingdom and the other nations of the Commonwealth, the loss would be greater than the gain.... I do not think that Britain's contribution to the Commonwealth will be reduced if Europe unites. On the contrary, I think that its value will be enhanced."
So I want you to believe that Britain in negotiating with Europe is in no sense attempting to loosen the Commonwealth links or to turn aside from the Commonwealth. She is rather seeking a new relationship with Europe that should add to her strength and influence in the world and so to her value to the Commonwealth. Looking to the future one obvious danger is the possibility of some of the small countries now achieving independence-some having a population maybe of only a few hundred thousand -not proving economically viable or capable of standing alone on their own feet. One would expect that the answer particularly for small countries of that kind would lie in association in regional Federations or Confederations. It is very disappointing in that connection that the proposed West Indian Federation has foundered through lack of agreement between the islands concerned.
It is in a sense ironic that at a time when the biggest nations are acknowledging their interdependence and consequent need to associate together, a spirit of eager nationalism is bringing into existence a large number of new small and economically weak nations. Perhaps however that is in keeping with the ways of nature. In a few years' time the phase of colonial administration and education will be over. There will substantially be only independent countries in the Commonwealth. It is a remarkable tribute that to date almost every colony on achieving independence has voluntarily opted for membership of the Commonwealth. The new Commonwealth will be based on diversity of races, religions, colours and cultures. Let us not forget that some of the new members themselves have ancient traditions and cultures.
The English language will be a cohesive influence. Perhaps the strongest unifying force of all will be the shared acceptance of a kind of code of decent conduct and way of life centred on the freedom of the individual and respect for minority views, and give and take in practical affairs -that sense of fairness that is probably the greatest gift of the English speaking nations to the world. Consultation and intimate contacts at all levels and in all kinds of activities will be a continuing essential. Our Ministers and senior officials must know one another personally and intimately. A friendly sense of humour is an essential ingredient. We have in Britain a voluntary project called Voluntary Service Overseas. This organization makes arrangements for young men and girls to give a year's service in an underdeveloped country. It has shown that often young people can establish contact with their contemporaries in the countries visited better than older people. Both the young themselves and their hosts seem to have benefited. You have a somewhat similar organization called Canadian Overseas Volunteers. I think these schemes are worthy of all possible help.
It seems to me that we in Canada and Britain have a great responsibility as members of the Commonwealth today. There are two big tasks ahead of us older members. The first is a practical task and the second a moral one. The practical one is the problem of helping to raise the standards of living among the peoples of Asia and Africa. In many parts of the Commonwealth there is and always has been acute poverty and people cannot be expected to work for great ideals on empty stomachs. The Commonwealth is perhaps the only group in the world which includes the haves and the have nots, the wealthy and the poor. United Nations statistics prove unfortunately that the gap between the richer and the poorer countries is increasing, the rich tending to become richer and the poor, poorer. This is a trend we must reverse, and in doing so we must make sure that the self-respect of the recipients is not injured and that the donors are not impoverished.
But we must act quickly enough to prevent the collapse of developing democratic political systems. This may well prove the most intractable and difficult problem of the next decade, but we must face it with determination. The moral task is at least as important. Some of the people newly come to independence are weighing in some bewilderment the performances of the free nations of the West and the Communist regimes respectively. There are beams enough in our own eyes and many things in our civilization that must puzzle and bewilder some of our friends from other civilizations-strife in industry, the sordidness of some of our cheap literature and films, and perhaps sometimes the ostentatious luxury of our affluent society.
We must prove that the way of life in which we have staked our faith is in practice as good as the claims we make for it. Then we can feel that we have a sound base from which to offer leadership and guidance in this tremendous experiment of a multi-racial Commonwealth of free nations. I have always liked some words that are inscribed on a column outside, I think, the President's House at New Delhi in India:
In thought Faith, in word Wisdom, in deed Courage, in life Service, so may
India be great. Perhaps those words provide us with not a bad epitome for the spirit of our new Commonwealth. It is indeed a great project in which you and we are participatingcharged with problems, with difficulties and uncertainties -but charged too with challenges and opportunities. Let us save it with faith and loyalty, for it is surely a potent influence for sanity and stability in this harrassed and bewildered world.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Morgan Reid, President of The Canadian Club.