"UNION OR HARMONY"
An Address by PERCY JAMES PHILIP Ottawa Correspondent, The New York Times
Thursday, October 9th, 1952
CHAIRMAN: The President, Mr. John W. Griffin.
MR. GRIFFIN: Members and Guests of the Empire Club of Canada: Our speaker today is an old friend of this Club. We are very happy to welcome Mr. Percy J. Philip, Ottawa Correspondent of "The New York Times" for the latest of his memorable appearances on our platform. Mr. Philip represented his great newspaper in Paris, France for twenty-one years and for the last twelve years has held his present post. He is well known to us as a stout-hearted defender of the imperial ideal and a leading apologist for the Pax Britannica as we knew it in the last century. The wisdom of his speech to this club last year, entitled "Lets return to Diplomacy" is apparent to all who heard it and have gone on to observe the dogmatic statements and election-minded posturings in which so many statesmen indulge. It is a great honour to present Mr. Philip to you again.
MR. PHILIP: Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen--It is not only a great pleasure and encouragement to be invited each year to address you, it is also, I find, extremely good for me.
In my job as a reporter I have to listen to and read a great many speeches which are mainly characterized by their singular lack of originality of thought and expression and I am always afraid that I may lapse into the same doddering routine-like an old gramaphone record. But I would never dare do that before the members of the Empire Club. Your standards are too high and your invitation comes to me always as a kind of challenge. I feel that you are paying me the compliment of wanting to know what I think, and the more independent my comment on world events the better you seem to like it.
You know that I have no axe to grind, no special cause to plead and that I serve no party. As a Scotsman who lived in England and France, has worked over thirty years for an American newspaper and is now not only a large Canadian tax-payer but a small Canadian land owner I have even no strong nationalistic preferences. Perhaps I have seen at too close quarters the weaknesses of all my countries and the tragic errors of all their governments, to believe that any one nation or any government, can have a monopoly of wisdom and righteousness. Each may be right sometimes but it is very certain that none are right always and for that reason it is the duty of every citizen to hold vigilantly to his personal integrity and his right to criticise and even, if necessary, to rebel.
It is, I am sure, because I feel that way that I find myself so much at home among you. Yours is not a club of young men with illusions or of partisans with special interests, but of mature men with experience. You are immune to emotional propaganda and, I have found, respectful of ideas with which you may disagree as long as these are honestly held and fairly presented.
So in a world which is extremely confused and confusing, in which every country is uneasy and the leaders of the greatest democracy among us are indulging in a disconcerting electoral orgy of accusations and oratorical insults, I have chosen to continue to speak to you today quietly and realistically, in the way you seem to like, and to present to you my reasons for thinking that although the situation is grave there is still time to prevent it becoming catastrophic.
I have chosen for my title "Union or Harmony." "It sounds innocent enough and a lot of loose thinking people will say, "Well what about it? Are they not the same thing." I submit to you that in human experience they certainly are not. There is just the same difference between them as between marriage and love. Of course, these two can, and fortunately often do, exist together. But they are not the same thing. Marriage is a social and legal arrangement. Love, whether it be between man and woman, or between friends, or between members of the same family is a thousand other things. But whatever it is it binds people together far more closely than priest or registrar or treaty or any written contract.
And if love ends, as it does, it usually happens privately. Each if they are civilised people, goes her or his own way sadly perhaps but without public scandal. When marriages break up in divorce there is argument, public quarrelling and usually a disgraceful display of human frailty.
It is much the same when other unions, whether they are political, national or international or ordinary business unions with legal existence come to the end of that harmony, mutual regard and sympathy which binds their members.
To my mind, on reflection therefore, it seems that harmony, which is of the spirit, is greater than union and it is that thesis that I present to you.
What I have to say, I think, follows logically from the last three addresses which I have made here on "The World Without the Empire", "Cross Roads", and "The Road Before Us".
In these I sketched the situation which the war and the break up of the Empire had left and the various efforts which were being made to do the job the Empire had done throughout the 19th Century of keeping order enough to permit the trading vessels of all the nations to sail on their lawful occasions carrying their goods across the seas, to permit new nations to grow and develop in freedom, as was certainly the case on this continent, and to allow men to think, speak and write freely under the protection of the law and an unarmed English policeman.
With all that freedom to trade, to grow, to talk being fully exploited as it was, I do not think that we can say that that world of the 19th century was a united world. But it was amazingly harmonious.
For its destruction the Germans, who have been great believers in Union since Bismark welded all their kingdoms and principalities into a single nation were primarily responsible. They wanted efficiency they said but that, of course, was only another way of saying that they wanted things done the German way--somewhat in the barrack square manner.
We twice beat that German effort to make an orderly tightly organised world, but alas we did not defeat the idea and since the last war we have been told, almost deafeningly, that our only hope of survival lies in Union. The British conception of peace by harmony has been forgotten.
But let us look a little closer into how Unions work. I can fully understand the American faith in the Union formula. Their own great nation was built out of the union of the original thirteen British colonies in spite of a lot of reluctance and even resistance at the beginning. It was preserved by the victory of one side in a bitter civil war which at least in the north, is more regarded as the beginning of the prodigious rise of the country to wealth and power than as a disaster in which many even greater values may have been lost.
Basically the war was, of course, caused by some members of the Union insisting that others members of the Union should alter their practises and conform to a general rule. In the United Kingdom we had a similar experience when a few bigoted people in England wanted to make us good Presbyterian Scots into Episcopalians.
We will not go into the merits of either case but merely point to this common experience that in both the Unions of the United States and the United Kingdom, excellent though they were, there quickly developed a tendency for some of the partners to try to coerce the others, even to the extent of making war against them. That experience is worth keeping in mind at this time when there is so much high-pressure propaganda in favour of Unions of all kinds.
There is another small but significant disadvantage especially for Canadians to the union of peoples in a single entity which came to my notice recently when there was a meeting in Ottawa of supporters of the Atlantic Union idea of nay old friend Clarence Streit. I am sure it is a perfectly defendable idea, but it just happened that among the American delegates was a member of Congress, from Illinois I think, who had a French name. But when I introduced him to Mr. Lionel Chevrier our very courteous and, of course bilingual Minister of Transport, I discovered that my American with a very French name did not speak a single word of French. It was too good an opportunity for me to miss and I could not resist explaining mischievously that the racial harmony which exists in Canada and allows two cultures and two languages, and even two ideas about how taxes should be collected, to exist and flourish side by side might prove a richer civilisation then the standardised outcome of any political union.
As some people have difficulty in accepting the word Dominion as a distinctive part of the name of your country, and you are certainly not a Union, I think I might venture to suggest that you might call your country "The Harmony of Canada". It might stimulate your own people to set a new pattern and good example for others to imitate.
I have already referred to the union of the German countries by Bismarck and all the calamities which have followed as one of the dangers of the kind of union which creates too strong a unit especially when it is under the domination of a single member of the union as Germany has been under the domination of Prussia.
And there is another Union which has grown rank and dangerous, the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. Quietly, far removed from interference and even observation Imperial Russia during the last century expanded her rule over the independent central Asian countries amid the general approval of a great many people in other lands who felt that Russian rule would improve conditions in these largely Moslem and allegedly backward but very ancient mountain states. Only the Germans and a few British officials and soldiers gave any thought to the inevitable danger of an excessive Russian expansion. The rest of the world kept on saying that Union was a good thing.
But now we are keenly and fearfully aware of the terrible strength that union has given to the central authority in Moscow. It has under its command fifteen or more armies of different races and can use any one of them against another, if need be, to check revolt. In a general war such as the last it has command of fighting men of first rate quality and many races, all of them expendable if need be by a government which has shown both in war and peace that individual lives and even racial communities count for nothing as long as they, the masters, remain victorious. In Moscow they talk glibly about freedom for the other Asian and African peoples from British and French "domination" but during these past thirty years the Sovietization of the Central Asian peoples has been carried on by execution, wholesale banishment into other parts, and the suppression of all liberty of thought and speech which has set a new world mark in tyranny. It is an outstanding demonstration that union is a mistake if it places too much power in the hands of a central government. Men are never to be trusted with uncontrolled authority.
But some will say, the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation are not like those of Germany and Russia. We are voluntary members of these associations for mutual defense against aggression and in them we retain our independence and freedom of action.
I do not wish to appear to be one of those who have been recently accused of seeking to diminish either UNO or NATO. But surely we can indulge in some of the freedom of criticism which is characterising the United States election speeches and mildly indicate some past mistakes and present tendencies.
For instance I can never give my confidence again to those alleged world leaders who pressed for the inclusion of Russia in the United Nations Club and with the power of veto. Only a very little common sense and experience were needed to show that there could be no harmony in that Union. It would have been better for all of us if the anti-Red hysteria which now stirs the United States had begun earlier, been less violent and somewhat more intelligent. As it is, the United Nations Assembly which is due to meet next week in New York threatens to produce a new series of disturbances to all our nerves which can be extremely dangerous. I do not envy our friend, Mike Pearson, his task of presiding if he should be elected to that office.
Let us be frank about it, the Union for Unions sake of the United Nations has proved a mistake and may become a menace. Unless it can get more harmony into debates and decisions its end will be even more inglorious that was that of its predecessor the Wilsonian League of Nations.
For NATO I incline to be more indulgent. It was in large measure thrust upon us by the stark reality of our unpreparedness for defense. Also I am glad to find there has been much greater harmony, even cordiality, among its members than among those of the larger Union.
But, gentlemen, you know how delicate human relations always are. In the early days of the Empire the British learned at the cost of the loss of the American colonies that they could not demand, much less impose, the cooperation of the colonists even in matters of mutual defense. Here in Canada you profited long and skillfully from the fact that London had learned that lesson.
You were loyal members of the Empire, but the Empire was not a Union in which every member was bound to contribute to the defence of the other members. I cannot remember Canada contributing any ships to the Royal Navy in peace-time. Yet the unstrained harmony of peace-time proved stronger than any Union in war-even to the point that some have come to consider that the Canadian tenor carried the whole opera, with England in the role of light soprano.
In that same spirit you have gone vigorously, almost unquestioningly, into this business of making NATO an effective barrier against Communist aggression. You are spending unprecedented sums of money in defence preparation, expanding your navy and airforce, and, for the first time in your history, stationing troops at danger points abroad.
Luckily until now you have been able to afford it. That always makes a difference in one's outlook. But, over in Europe it has not been so easy for some countries to meet the demands made on them in the name of mutual defence. The idea o€ a contributing union is too new to many of them. They have been accustomed, through long and honourable histories, to planning their own defence needs according to their own estimate of the danger and their financial ability. Many of them learned, too, in the old days of international harmony to depend on other things than guns and bombs, and allies, for the preservation of peace and independence. We did not then live all the time in an atmosphere of war.
Among these peoples, who are adult and of strong character, there has developed a tendency to resent being told by an international committee of military and other experts how much they should contribute to mutual defence. They resent it more when foreign generals and even colonels give interviews in the press and issue statements saying that these countries are not providing enough divisions and that the troops are not sufficiently trained.
The Boston tea party happened a long time ago but the mistakes of experience, arrogance, and impatience which caused it do not seem to have perished from the earth--they have only shifted their geographical position.
It may be just coincidence that the pressure which has been put from outside on these western European countries to rearm has seemed to stimulate the formation of a western European association from which both Russia and the United States would be excluded. One of the stumbling blocks is, as you know, that most of them want the United Kingdom to come with them and the British government is reluctant to commit the nation to anything which excludes the Commonwealth countries. The British do not lightly make new associations or forget old friends.
If it is ever successfully formed and becomes operative this Western European Union could, and I think would, become the pivot of the whole world, for neither Russia nor the Americas, nor all Asia have such a solidly founded civilisation as are to be found along the banks of the Rhine.
The men who are dreaming of and working for this new association of old rivals are not trying to get it all fixed up quickly. They know that there must be harmony first before any worth-while Union can be made.
Perhaps it will take too long and not be given time to mature. Atom bombs explode easily in the hands of those who put their faith in them. If that should happen then I fear we shall have a new world such as there was when the Roman Empire collapsed. Men call it the Dark Ages.
But as long as there is hope, and I cling to it, that harmony and not constraint will be the cement of our Unions, and that nationally and individually we shall remain free men, then I have no fear of either the ideas or the barbaric hordes of the men of Moscow.
THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Major Gladstone Murray.