- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 21 May 1941, p. 13-24
- MacDonald, Right Honourable Malcolm, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club.
The testing of the British Isles as never before. The heart of the people. An anecdote to illustrate the spirit of Britain, and its King: no doubts, no questionings, a certainty of the rightness of what they are doing. Defending their liberty. The philosophy of Hitler and his brutal confederates. What they have already done in Europe. The knowledge by the British people of the fate that awaits them, should Hitler succeed. A cherishing of liberty by the British. The British advancing their defence of liberty in their colonies and Dominions. The main purpose of the British Commonwealth as that of training for self-government. The conflict between a regimented dictatorship as it is today in Greater Germany and the development of an ever greater freedom for all peoples as it is today in the British Commonwealth of Nations. A tribute to Britain and the nations who joined her in her fight, especially after France collapsed and they could not count on her contribution. The certainty of victory when our material strength equals our spiritual strength. Canada's work in this war, with some details and figures. The Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Canada and throughout the Commonwealth. The speaker's visit to one of the air training schools. The names of the battles of this war and their symbolic significance. The Battle of Britain. The expected victory in the Battle of Britain.
- Date of Original
- 21 May 1941
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- DEFENCE OF LIBERTY-THERE AND HERE
AN ADDRESS BY THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MALCOLM MAcDONALD
High Commissioner in Canada for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
A joint meeting with The Canadian Club.
Chairman: The Honorary Secretary of The Canadian Club, Mr. J. Gerald Godsoe.
Wednesday, May 21, 1941
MR. J. GERALD GODSOE: Gentlemen: Today it is my privilege, and my very proud privilege, to be able to introduce to you one who is only forty years of age, who is a Privy Councillor, and who has been Parliamentary UnderSecretary of State for Overseas Dominions, Secretary of State for the Colonies and for Dominion Affairs, and, in the Churchill Administration, Minister of Health, which portfolio he resigned to accept that of High Commissioner in Canada for the United Kingdom--hard-working and able Malcolm MacDonald. It is said of him that at all times he knows where he is going, and, if I may be permitted to say so, in this day and age, when we are able to open our papers and to learn much of Mr. MacDonald's activities and interests-and sometimes even more than he feels he knows himself-we also know where he is going, and we know that he is destined to play an important role in the history of the Empire and in the history of the that grand old citadel across the sea, which today more than ever before means so much to all of us.
In now asking Mr. MacDonald to address the members of the Canadian and Empire Clubs, may I say that it has been our proud privilege to be addressed on a previous occasion by his distinguished father whom we all remember with esteem and with affection--(applause)--and may I say further that today we greet Mr. MacDonald as a worthy son of his father, who in his own way and by his own efforts has reached a position high in the counsels of his country.
Gentlemen: the Right Honourable Malcolm MacDonald. (Applause.)
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE MALCOLM MACDONALD Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: I thank you sincerely for your welcome and your hospitality this afternoon. It is indeed a great privilege and honour to meet the members of these two famous clubs, The Canadian Club and The Empire Club of Toronto.
Of course, the thoughts of all of us are turned in the same direction, towards a certain little "sceptred isle". When we read the brief prose of those war communiques which announce that the Island's young men have been bombing German invasion barges gathered along the northern coast of Europe, we reflect how apt is the majestic description of that beloved place which was written in poetry more than 300 years ago
"This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands, This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England!" (Applause.)
There have been many testing times in the long and remarkable history of that "happy breed of men", but there was never one so testing as the present. Their Island is being battered, their homes are being smashed, their bodies are being broken, but none can break their hearts! (Applause.) Hitler has some strong suits. He can lead tanks, he can lead mechanized units, he can lead aeroplanes. But, my friends, hearts are trumps in this great conflict, the high stakes of which are the destiny of mankind; and the people of the Island have hearts, which are strong and serene and even jubilant because they know, through all their suffering, that their cause is right and good.
I remember one morning when the King was visiting some shattered streets in a poor part of a city which had suffered a terrible bombardment during the evening before. The inhabitants of the place crowded around him. Amongst them were many who had lost their homes and all their material possessions during the night's evil work, but they were laughing and they were cheering. They pressed around the King, seeking to shake his hand, and one burly costermonger shouted to him, "Thank God for a good king". And His Majesty laid his hand on the costermonger's shoulder and replied, "Thank God for a good people". (Applause.) In that democratic exchange of greetings on that ruined street is told the whole story of what is happening in Britain today,--an entire generation of British citizens without any distinction of persons just doing its duty. There are no doubts and no questionings, there are no waverings. They are certain that what they are doing is the "rightest" thing that they ever did, and King and costermonger, dustman and dockman, and maid servant, labourers, professional men, typists, housewives, Prime Minister--every single man and woman there is prepared to conquer or die. They are defending the most precious possession that they have. Without it they don't wish to go on living,--it is their liberty.
We know in Britain what our fate would be sooner or later if we made any compromise whatever with Hitler. He and his brutal narrrow-souled confederates cannot live beside a great independent people. They demand that everyone shall conform to their will. That is their philosophy, the philosophy of a superior, a master race. If ever a philosophy was practised, they are practising theirs. Ask the Jews, ask the Czechs, ask the Poles. When the Jews in Germany and the Christian leaders in Germany, when the Czechs in their native country and the Poles. in theirs, refused to bend to the Nazi will, then the Nazi rulers determined to break them to it. They held them in concentration camps, they revived the vilest forms of mediaeval torture, and then, when red-hot persecution did not succeed, they turned to a policy of cold extermination. They organized in Czecho-Slovakia and in Poland mass executions by which they got rid of every man who had a glimmering of a pretence to be a leader. They deliberately rendered women who were loyal to their race incapable of bearing more children. They closed the universities and the national schools. They destroyed every emblem and every relic which might keep alive the national spirit, and they calculated that, by these brutal policies, within a generation or so, those ancient independent, courageous nations in Europe would be dead and buried deep in their graves.
Now we know that that is the fate that would await us in Britain if we were to compromise with Hitler, and if Hitler's will were to prevail. But the British people cherish their liberty more than they cherish anything else. The main theme of British history for many centuries has been the struggle of those people to establish their own liberty. And when they had established their own liberty, they set to work to establish the liberty of other peoples as well, for one of the extraordinary characteristics of the British people is that, when they think a thing is good for themselves, they think it is good for everyone else. The most significant feature of British Imperial policy during the last two or three generations has been the deliberate endeavour by a process of constitutional advance similar to their own, to extend freedom amongst all His Majesty's subjects in whatever part of the world they live,--in the Dominions, in India, and in the Colonies. I say "the Colonies" deliberately. I have sat in the chair of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and I know that the main purpose of British administration, even amongst the most backward races in Africa and the South Sea Islands, is to train those peoples always to stand a little bit more securely on their own political feet. We believe in freedom, we believe in the right of people to be themselves. Everything that is good in local ways of life and local beliefs of every tribe, every community, and every nation inside the British Commonwealth, is cherished and preserved, because it is an underlying principle of British thought that all separate peoples in the world shall be free to develop themselves according to their own characteristics, their own native traditions, their own idiosyncracies, their own genius, to the end that each one of them may make its own particular contribution towards a human civilization rich in proportion to its magnificent variety.
And so there you have the central issue in this war, the issue between a regimented dictatorship as it is today in Greater Germany and the development of an ever greater freedom for all peoples as it is today in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
That theme of the steady spread of freedom for themselves and for other peoples, with but one or two unfortunate breaks, runs true right through British history. In the past we have often had to engage in grim and painful struggles in defence of liberty. The present generation of British citizens who are fighting for liberty again today are only acting in the character and tradition of their own ancestors. We have not always had good and wise kings. I regret to state that some of the Scotsmen amongst them were the most troublesome. (Amusement.) There were two or three of them in the 17th century who sought to establish a personal tyranny by claiming the Divine right of kings. We overthrew them. Well, if we refused to yield our liberty in the 17th century to the Divine right of a king, we are certainly not going to yield it in the 20th century to the diabolical right of a house painter. (Applause.) I have no objection to the fact that Hitler was a house painter; the pity is that he ever became anything else. I believe in the common sense and innate decency and the sterling character of the working man. No society will ever be good which does not recognize and place the highest value upon the dignity of labour. I am proud of the fact that my father was a prime minister, but I am equally proud of the fact that my grandfather was an agricultural worker. Our quarrel with Hitler, Britain's quarrel with Hitler, is not that he started as a house painter but that he ever abandoned that honourable trade for the trade of a gangster who demands that we shall not be free to call our souls our own. On that issue the people of the British Isles will never give way. (Applause.) They will fight, confidently, even though others fail. If the French now choose to default further, they will do us grievous injury, but we shall not be dismayed and we shall not be deterred: we have suffered that kind of experience before and we have survived it.
If ever you feel a little uneasy or a little critical of the reverses which sometimes come to our arms in North Africa and the Balkans and the Middle East, remember that we never expected that we should have to fight alone in the basin of the Mediterranean. We anticipated that we should have French armies as our allies in that quarter and French territories upon which to fight. We were entitled to expect that we could count firmly on that fact, and all our plans, all our dispositions there, were made on that firm assumption. Then suddenly the French collapsed and deserted us, and the wonder is that, so swiftly after that tragic event, we were able to achieve such successes as we have had. It is a tribute to our resourcefulness and our resilience. It is a tribute to the generalship of our leaders over there, and it is a tribute to the intrepid valour of the Australians, the New Zealanders, the South Africans, and the Indians, who have come from far-distant and various shores to share the honour of fighting and dying for human liberty. (Applause.)
I do not believe that the issue of this war is in any doubt, because the spiritual strength of these free peoples of the British Empire will long outlast the brittle discipline of the enslaved German nation, long outlast it. Even in our moments of greatest material weakness those spiritual qualities have given us a certain advantage. Remember this: we shall never be so weak in relation to the enemy as we were last June when France collapsed and we were, left alone with an army which had lost almost all its equipment and weapons and ammunition, waiting for the invasion of the Island. If we were able to survive those black days last June we shall survive anything that the enemy can do to us now. (Applause.)
It is quite true that the enemy has built up a mighty armament. It is quite true that his material strength is much greater than ours today. But remember this: he has been preparing for this war for six or seven years; he has come to the maximum of his tremendous output of war weapons and ammunition; we have not yet come to our maximum. By gigantic leaps and bounds we and our friends are still increasing our production of guns and shells, of tanks and ships and aeroplanes. And when our material strength is the equal of his, then those other spiritual qualities of our people will make decisive the victory that we shall gain. (Applause.)
The issue of this war is not in doubt. The only question is this: when is that day of victory going to come? Well, you people in North America can answer that question better than anybody else. The answer to that question lies in the shipyards and the factories and the arsenals of the United States of America and of Canada. It is from them that there will come the material resources which will be decisive in this conflict.
Canada has a magnificent work to do in this war. Canadian labour has as honourable and as vital a part to play in bringing victory as has any other element of any of the belligerents in any part of the world. Every blow of the Canadian hammer forging a war weapon, every rivet driven into a Canadian ship in a Canadian shipyard, every successive completed stage of a gun or ship or tank or aeroplane in a Canadian factory, is shortening the war. I know how good is the spirit of Canadian munition workers in your factories here. It is as good as the spirit of their comrades in munition factories in Great Britain. I am beginning to familiarize myself with the manifold practical details of Canada's great war effort. For instance, I visited a munitions factory the other day somewhere in Canada. I went into the shops, I saw the giant machines at work, I watched every stage in the production of a certain important implement of war, and I watched the finished products leaping out of the presses, 1,000 of them, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, 40,000, 50,000, 60,000--more than 60,000 every week out of that one factory, out of one shop in that one factory. And I watched the men at work and I was told that those men had worked seven days a week every week since the factory first came into production last October. That is the stuff to give us victory. That is the stuff to give our troops in Britain, to give your troops in Britain, to give the Commonwealth troops around the Mediterranean, and to give the men, women and children who are the citizen soldiers in Britain, defending today your liberty and mine. We are in honour bound in Canada to see that those people do not suffer their present ordeal one minute longer than is absolutely necessary.
Let me say something about another activity here in Canada, which is a most powerful reinforcement to the Commonwealth's gigantic war effort. There are many such activities but I want to refer to only one of them. It is the Commonwealth Air Training Plan. In numerous air-training schools scattered throughout this Dominion, safe beyond the reach of the marauding enemy, there are thousands not only of young Canadians but also of young Australians and New Zealanders, men from Great Britain and from Newfoundland, all learning to use their wings.
The Dominion authorities in the Air Ministry and the Royal Canadian Air Force, who are responsible for the organization of that great air-training plan, are to be warmly congratulated. They have been so efficient that the air-training plan is already months ahead of its schedule and has grown far beyond the bounds of the original plan. (Applause.)
Now one of the most important elements in this war, from the military point of view, is mastery over the air. ' The Air Training Plan in Canada has gained us priceless ' material advantage, and I believe that it is going to make decisive our air-mastery over Germany before many months are out. (Applause.) I have been to some of those air-training schools, and I do not know of a more thrilling experience anywhere. I went, for instance, four or five days ago, to one of the biggest of them. There was an enormous area of cleared flat ground. On its edge were grouped the school buildings. Across its length and its breadth there stretched a number of wide, long runways. There were hundreds of young men actively engaged over the ground on their various tasks, and all clay long the ground and air were alive with those yellow-bodied training aircraft. I watched pupil after pupil in plane after plane practising taking-off, circling around, and landing again. Taking-off, circling around, and landing again. Taking-off, circling around, and landing again. Perfecting themselves. And I tell you that sight gave me tremendous confidence. There is a famous statue of the Classic Age of Greece which is called "The Winged Victory". Those young men in the air-training plan are the winged victory of the modern age. They and the Canadian workmen whom I have spoken about, and all the rest of you here, know perfectly well that the troops and the citizens who are fighting in Great Britain are defending not only the liberty of that Island, but also the liberty of Canada. They are defending the liberty of all the Dominions; they are defending the liberty of free men in every part of the world.
The difference between this war and many of the wars of the past is most significantly illustrated in the titles of their battles. In those old wars battles were called by the names of small towns and villages-Waterloo, St. Julien. Those famous names are the names of villages and they were events in campaigns which were designed to conquer countries. But this war is on a much more gigantic scale. In this war the battles are called by the names of whole countries and they are successive events in a campaign which was designed to conquer the world. There were the battle of Poland, the battle of Norway, the battle of Holland, the battle of Belgium, the battle of France, the battle of Greece. They have all been lost, one after another, but the battle of Britain is still going on. (Applause.) And as sure as you and I sit here, if any mishap were to occur which caused us to lose that battle of Britain, it would be followed before very long by the battle of America. It might start with the battle of South America, but the battle of North America would follow very shortly afterwards. You have the Germans already trying to procure from the North African and West African colonies of the French, bases for waging that battle when the time comes.
However, my friends, I have seen the people in Britain fighting the battle of Britain; they are not going to lose that battle. With your help, they are going to win it, and so avert the danger which threatens the shores of North America. They are not alone. The peoples of the Commonwealth are not alone. We have many brave and faithful allies. There may be small nations whose bodies are lying prostrate under the feet of the conqueror today, but the spirits of those nations live on in their armed forces who are gallantly fighting by our side. We have a Polish army and a Polish air force in Britain; we have a Czech army and a Czech air force in Britain. There are Norwegian sailors and men of the Norwegian air force in Britain, and I am going to have the honour this after-noon of visiting other Norwegian airmen training in Little Norway.
There are by our side fighting forces of many more of those small peoples. I tell you, the British people are guarding today the hopes and the liberties of all mankind. It is the greatest enterprise that we have ever undertaken. It is the most sacred trust that has ever been placed in our hands. Let us fight on today and every day until our ideal is accomplished, let us conduct ourselves so that we shall prove worthy of that trust. (Applause.)
MR. J. GERALD GODSOE: The Honourable G. Howard Ferguson will thank Mr. MacDonald for his address.
THE HONOURABLE G. HOWARD FERGUSON: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: I am indeed grateful to you for giving me the honour and pleasure of saying a word in appreciation of the splendid address we heard from Mr. MacDonald. I would like to say at the moment that I have a rather close relationship with Mr. MacDonald. He served with conspicuous success as Secretary of the Dominions when I was in England, and I must tell you that in England, in all England, Canada had no greater friend and no-one more deeply interested in the welfare of this country than Mr. MacDonald. He was a great inspiration to me, as he has been to you today. He was always anxious to co-operate in any feeble efforts I made while I was there.
And moreover, I think it is fitting that you should select one forty-year-old to congratulate another forty-year-old on an occasion of this kind. Mr. MacDonald does mot need any introduction to Canada. You know he has been here already six times, and we have begun to look upon him as a Canadian living abroad when he is in England.
We are to be congratulated again in having amongst us one who has had such an excellent training and such a Splendid background, and who has the diligence and the enthusiasm required for his work.
As Mr. MacDonald said to us so exceedingly well, this war is unique in the history of wars. Usually it is a question of territory. Usually it is a case of aggrandisement of some kind. But in this war the issue is much wider and broader and more significant. We are fighting not for a country alone but for a cause, and a cause that is confined within no geographical limits and knows no national boundaries, a cause that spreads throughout the world, a cause for betterment and security of the individual rights of the human race. Mr. MacDonald has pressed that home to us, and has done a great deal not only to portray to us the actual conditions that exist over there but also to enthuse us in the cause in which we are so deeply interested. I am bound to say we have plenty of enthusiasm if we only knew some place to use it. All over this country thousands of young men are clamoring to be permitted to take an active part in this war, and Canada in the end will be able to produce and put into the field many times more men than we have already in our enrolment. That is not by any means confined to this loyal old province. I have just recently returned from a trip to the far west where I spent a good deal of time in British Columbia and Alberta. I found the same spirit existing everywhere. Local issues have been submerged, the political spirit has been restrained. Everybody is concerned and determined to make a success of the cause that means so much for humanity.
Mr. MacDonald, speaking on behalf of this splendid audience composed of these two major groups in Toronto, I take very great pleasure in thanking you for a very excellent address which we shall all remember long.