- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 19 Jan 1928, p. 1-10
- Amery, the Right Honourable L.C.S.M., Speaker
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- The impossibility of separating the growth of Canada's national life from the development of the British Empire. A brief historical review of Canada as part of the British Empire. The influence of the United Empire Loyalists and their descendants upon the whole conception of a united Empire in Great Britain, with example. Canada's leading role in the development of those conceptions upon which the new British Empire is built. The Quebec Act and its role in the American Revolution. The landmark of responsible government. Lord Durham's report which laid the foundations of responsible government. The landmark of Confederation and its consequences. The Imperial Conference at Ottawa 24 years ago and how it laid the foundation stone of great developments in Imperial co-operation. The Pacific Cable and its role in keeping the Empire together. The Imperial Conference of last year and how it carried out the principles embodied in Lord Durham's report. The culmination of that desire to express more clearly the full nationhood of the Dominions which voiced itself first at the Imperial Conference in 1917 and through successive stages. Canada's political development. The unlikelihood that either Canada or Great Britain would want to sever ties with each other. Shaping the Empire of the future. Building up the framework of economic co-operation. Canada's destiny.
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- 19 Jan 1928
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AN ADDRESS BY THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
L. C. S. M. AMERY, M.P., SECRETARY OF STATE, FOR OVERSEAS DOMINIONS, ETC.
19th January, 1928.
The distinguished speaker was introduced by the President, MR. ROBERT FENNELL, as the third of the "Imperial Ambassadors" who had recently visited Toronto,--the Prince of Wales, Mr. Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister of Great Britain, being the other two who had preceded him with messages of good-will to the Dominion of Canada.
Mr. Amery who was warmly received said: You have spoken of my coming on an Embassy of Empire. Well, where else should I go on such an Embassy than to Toronto--the very heart and centre of Imperial sentiment? I know well how keen is Toronto's interest in Imperial questions. I had the privilege of attending gatherings of this great Club many years ago, and it is only eight years since I listened in this very room to the still vigorous and passionate eloquence of my old friend Colonel Denison, speaking on the whole subject of Imperial relations, and indeed of Canada's relations to her southern neighbour, with that impulsive frankness of speech which never failed him. This City and this Club are indeed repositories of a great Imperial tradition. But they are not alone in that, for Canada herself, as a nation, is the repository of a great Imperial tradition which she has played a part in shaping.
It seems to me that it is impossible to separate the growth of Canada's national life from the development of the British Empire. Her very birth was the assertion of a determination that the British Empire had not come to an end when the thirteen old American colonies broke away from the Mother-country. That great separation of the peoples of British stock belongs to history. We can judge it with the detachment and impartiality of history. But I believe that history, in an ever growing measure, will do justice to those who tried to avert the breach--not only to men like Burke, who in the old country counselled a more tolerant, a more understanding attitude towards the difficulties which the young colonies created, but also to those American loyalists who, loving freedom, just as much as their revolutionary fellowcountrymen--and their descendants have shown it since--also believed in the value of unity and in the importance of preserving the great heritage of tradition which united the Colonies to the Mother-land. And when impatience on both sides triumphed over statesmanship, and the breach became irreparable, did those who believed in the combination of Empire and freedom despair? On our side of the Atlantic we set to work again. If we had staked our all on a disastrous game of pitch and toss, we began again at the beginning and never breathed a word of our loss, but proceeded to build up once more a new Empire all over the world, destined to become even greater than the Empire which had separated itself from us.
Here on this continent those to whom the principle: of unity, the love of the old flag, the faith in the old traditions were no less sacred and precious than the freedom which they also valued--they, too, set out in faith to build up a new home for themselves in the forest wilderness which stood where Toronto now stands, and in the woods and among the lakes of Nova Scotia, and laid the beginnings of a great British dominion in Canada. How great their faith was it is difficult for us to realise.
It was almost more of an instinct than any conscious realisation of how Canada was destined to develop in future years. A handful of settlers in the wilderness here, separated by another handful of French Canadian settlers, with vast tracts of forest and muskeg between, from another little handful in what is now the Maritime Provinces. And yet that little handful of men carried with them a torch which has burned more brightly ever since.
It would be very interesting if some student of Imperial affairs ever took the trouble to trace the influence of the United Empire Loyalists and their descendants, and those who carried on their traditions, upon the whole conception of a united Empire in Great Britain. There can be no doubt that men like Joseph Howe, Sir J. A. Macdonald, Sir Charles Tupper, George Parkin, had great influence in shaping thought in the old country in the last generation. To take a single man--very long your fellow-citizen here--Dr. Parkin. He was, I believe, mainly instrumental in first interesting in Empire problems a great statesman recently lost to us, Lord Milner, one who has, played in our time as great a part as any man both in the actual conduct of Imperial affairs and in the shaping of our ideas on Imperial problems. I well remember the deep impression which a lecture of Dr. Parkin's made on me as a small boy at Harrow. Take another instance. Take Mr. Chamberlain, who, with Lord Milner did more than any other
man to shape Imperial thought in Britain in recent years. I know how profound was the influence upon his mind of his visit to Canada, and particularly to Toronto, in the early eighties. It would be interesting to trace the influence of the United Empire Loyalist tradition, through all its ramifications, upon the whole growth of sentiment throughout the British Empire. And from those days
onwards, and even before, at every stage Canada has taken the lead in the development of those conceptions upon which the new British Empire is built.
The Quebec Act, which immediately preceded it, was in no small measure responsible for the American Revolution. Its acceptance of equal rights for the religion and the race of His Majesty's French Canadian subjects was at the moment a grievous stone of offence in the eyes of New England. The Quebec Act .was a great landmark in the history of the new Empire, because it opened a new chapter by making it clear that the British Empire of today is built not on racial exclusion but upon toleration. Its foundation is not only freedom for the individual but freedom within it for communities, for nations, for creeds and for languages. That is one great landmark which characterises the British Empire of today, with its infinite diversity, from, the more uniform and homogeneous structure of the great American Republic.
Take another, and perhaps the greatest, landmark of all responsible government. The foundations of responsible government were laid down, its principles first enunciated, in that great report of Lord Durham's which he penned here in contact with the atmosphere of Canada, realising that freedom and equality, trust in His Majesty's subjects wherever they may live, need not mean separation, but in the long run mean closer unity. The seed sown here in Canada spread over the whole Empire, and responsible government to every people of our race throughout the Empire. By slow stages, as conditions make it possible, it is spreading, too, to other subjects of the King, who belong to different races, and have an entirely different history and tradition behind them. No easy task of adjustment, whether in India or anywhere else, it is still a great ideal to fulfill, and one which, in one shape or another, we shall fulfill in the course of time. (Hear,hear.)
Take another great landmark of Empire--Confederation. The idea that scattered British colonies could be united into one great federation, following in one sense the American model, but with the very opposite object--with the object of strengthening their union with the rest of the Empire, strengthening their position in the Empire--that great conception was Canada's. There again, in Australia, in South Africa, the Canadian example was followed, and other great British nations have come, or are coming, into existence, based on the same principles of national development, national individuality, national freedom, coupled with a sense of Imperial unity and Imperial responsibility.
Even in the dependent Empire--in East Africa, in the West Indies and elsewhere--that conception of a wider grouping, first inspired by Canada, is taking shape. Indeed one, and not the least effect of Confederation in its early days was to lead to the belief that in some form or other the same federal principles could be successfully applied to the Empire at large; and as some of you will remember, Canadian Confederation was followed for two or three decades by a strong movement throughout the Empire on the part of keen students and thinkers in favour of some scheme of Imperial Federation. Contact with the realities of the problem, contact with the growing national life in each Dominion, with the immense distances which separate us, with the difficulty of ever really arriving at any division of functions which would not at the same time be both irksome and embarrassing to the free development of national life, and yet not at the same time also be far too narrow to cover the whole field within which we wish to, and must, work together, led to the gradual abandonment of that idea as unpractical, at any rate in our day and in the existing conditions of the world, and substituted for it the idea of consultation and co-operation.
Here, too, Canada has played a very leading part. Twenty-four years ago the Imperial Conference met for the first time--and I do not see why it should be the last time-at Ottawa. That Conference laid the foundationstone of great developments in Imperial co-operation. It was at that Conference that, Britain alone dissenting, the self-governing Colonies and the Dominion of Canada agreed upon resolutions in favour of some system of Imperial Preference; and to those resolutions Sir Wilfred Laurier gave practical effect three years later when Canada initiated her first preferential tariff-a preference then unreciprocated, but gradually reciprocated in a wider measure throughout the Empire, and today being reciprocated, at any rate to the extent to which we do impose duties, to Canada by Great Britain on every article on which we have a duty.
That same Conference also laid the seeds, thanks to the unwearied enthusiasm and persistence of Sir Sanford Fleming, of the construction of a great link of Empire communication, the Pacific Cable, which for more than a generation has helped in the task of keeping the Empire together, and carried us to these days in which newer forms of communication are, I believe, destined to bring us closer yet.
In all these fields Canada has been a leader; and so too, in the last stage of development which culminated in the Imperial Conference of last year. In one sense that Conference was simply a final carrying out of the principles embodied in Lord Durham's report. In another sense it was more particularly the culmination of that desire to express more clearly the full nationhood of the Dominions which voiced itself first at the Imperial Conference in 1917, and through successive stages at the Peace negotiations in Paris, at the meetings of the Imperial War Cabinet in 1917 and 1918, in the establishment of the League of Nations. All that has followed since was largely brought about by the guidance and through the influence of Canada's representatives-Sir Robert Borden in the earlier years, and Mr. Mackenzie King during the negotiations of a year ago. Throughout that development it was not a case of an insistence from Canada which Great Britain or other Dominions demurred to. It was a case of a progress as to the desirability of which we were all in agreement and all unanimous.
Now today that great stage of evolution of our young Empire which began with Lord Durham's report has reached completion. But let us look back over the chapter. At every stage in that chapter the growth of national sentiment and of national life in Canada has been indissolubly bound up with the growth and the deepening of the sentiment of Imperial unity. (Hear, hear, and applause). Every great struggle in which Canada has been engaged, the fight against the invader, when British and French Canadians fought side by side, at Queenston, at Chateauguay, or wherever it may have been, was the beginning of a common Canadian nationality. The South African War was followed by a keener realisation of Canada's national individuality and character. No less obvious to those who studied the situation was the strength of the Imperial sentiment that sent Canadians across the seas to South Africa. The same was true in the Great War. Who could disentangle the effect of the Great War, both in heightening Canada's sense of her own personality, her own individuality as a nation, and on the other hand her sense of the inseparable, the unseverable, bonds that join us all together? (Loud applause.
It was the same in her political development. Self-government came to Canada not as a step to separation, but as clearing the way for a truer unity. Confederation was intended by its founders to make of Canada a nation, but a nation within the Empire, an Imperial nation; and that, I believe, in even greater measure will prove to be the consequence of the conclusions to which we came just over a year ago. I know that to some those conclusions seemed dangerous. It seemed as if, in our desire to asseverate formal equality and unlimited freedom we were loosening bonds that still had value in keeping the Empire together. I doubt if we loosened anything that for a generation past had had any real influence compared to the essential things that bind us together. Those essential things are summed up in our allegiance to the same Crown, which was affirmed as clearly and as emphatically in those resolutions as was the freedom which we each enjoy.
And now I would ask-If it be true that we now enjoy, each of us, a freedom which would make separation easy if we willed it, are we really likely to make use of our freedom for such an end? Is Great Britain, who has shown in every direction, I venture to say, in recent years a greater sense of her Imperial responsibilities, who has shaped her foreign policy more and more from the point of view of realising the interests, the attitude, the ideas of the rest of the Empire, who is coming round from her old attitude of economic isolation, or economic internationalism-I think the former is the truer word in fact-to realising that her economic future depends upon co-operation with the rest of the Empire, is she likely to make use of this formal liberty assigned to her in order to forget all her past?-in order to throw off that responsibility for the maintenance of Imperial unity, for the development of the whole, which is in fact emphasised by the resolutions of the Conference? I think not.
Well, if that is the case with Great Britain, what about Canada? Is Canada any more likely than Great Britain suddenly to go back on the whole of her history-a history where the growth of freedom and responsibility has gone side by side from the very first step with a keener sense of Imperial responsibility and Imperial unity? Is Canada going to be less of an Imperial nation in the future when her full Imperial status has been recognised as equal to that of Great Britain? For, remember, the status recognised as due to the Dominions by the Imperial Conference is not the status of ordinary common nations; it is the status of equal freedom with Great-Britain, and Britain is no ordinary or common nation. She is a nation truly Imperial in virtue of her history, in virtue of the mighty part she has played in the world, in virtue, above all, of her sense of responsibility towards the great Empire of which she is part, and so through that Empire, to humanity at large. (Applause.)
After all, service to others and a sense of responsibility are as essential a part in the greatness of a nation as they are in the moral development of the individual; and there is all the difference in the world between some little nation, nominally independent, but living in perpetual fear of its neighbours, living in covetous desire of its neighbour's territories perhaps, living in a narrow circle, thinking only of a limited class of interests, with little responsibility for anything outside itself, and a great Imperial nation. Now, the status which Canada has reached is not the status of one of these lesser nations it is the status which Britain herself holds-the status of a responsible equal partner in the great British Commonwealth.
Well, then, I would ask-Is it likely that Canada in the future is going to go back upon her own history, close herself into a narrow circle of irresponsibility, contract her outlook, narrow her patriotism? On the contrary, I believe that in the shaping of the Empire of the future, an Empire whose wonderful possibilities we are only just beginning to descry, whose power for good influence in the world we are only just beginning to realize-that in that development Canada will take at least as dominant and leading a part as she has taken in the development of the Empire in the past. (Hear, hear, and applause.)
Great Britain may be an old country in one sense, an old country full of great traditions: but we also believe we are still a young country full of initiative, full of vigor, still able, as that Conference showed, to adjust our minds to the developments of the Empire and of the world; and we are not by any means ready yet to abandon the tasks of Empire, to throw up the sponge and say that we are finished. But we do realize, and we are proud to realize, that in an ever-widening and growing task there are younger partners who will shoulder that task with us-partners who share our great traditions and have never separated from them; partners who are even younger in spirit, it may be, than ourselves, partners whose resources are infinitely greater than ours, and who may-who knows?-in the fullness of time play an even greater part in the partnership as a whole than we do ourselves.
These are the things of the future that no one can predict. Certainly in the economic sphere it seems to me that Canada is almost inevitably destined, by the character of her great resources, and the great external trade, to develop, to play a leading part in the building up of the frame-work of economic cooperation. Be that as it may, one thing that is clear to my mind and I speak a$ one who comes from outside and looks at Canada, looks at her history as it was, looks at Canada as she is today-I can conceive even in a series of brief visits how Canada is going to develop. I have no doubt whatever that Canada will develop along the lines of her own personality-based on racial equality and toleration, based on freedom, based on faith in the British Empire and in co-operation. And there, I believe, the greatness of her destiny knows practically no limit. (Applause.)
Sir James Woods voiced the thanks of the Club to the speaker for his inspiring address.