AN ADDRESS BY DR. FREDERICK W. NORWOOD, OF
CITY TEMPLE, LONDON, ENGLAND.
20th February, 1930.
MR. H. G. STAPELLS, Vice-President, introduced the speaker. Before doing so, he called attention to the fact that Dr. James L. Hughes was at the head table, and was celebrating his 84th birthday. (Dr. Hughes rose amid the plaudits of the assembly, and bowed his thanks.)
DR. NORWOOD then spoke as follows: It is a great pleasure to be your guest today. I very much appreciate the reference by the Chairman to my native land. It seems so long since I last looked upon it, some 13 years; it is so far away that one has not yet had an opportunity to return to it. I am very glad to know that you Canadians are aware of its existence. (Laughter.) You have doubtless heard of our Pilgrim Fathers. (Laughter.) We always say it is no wonder we are rather a fine race of people, for our original stock was specially selected by the best judges in England. (Great Laughter.)
I have in my mind to say something to you, if I can, upon Patriotism and the Empire.
It is a commonplace to say that we are living in a time of transition. That is not a very original remark. Every generation has made it concerning itself since the world began. Dean Inge, who in America is often called "the gloomy Dean" and therefore is not likely to be suspected of joking, has assured us that when Adam and Eve were leaving the Garden of Eden, Adam said to Eve: "My dear, we are living in a time of transition." (Laughter.) But I do think there are some reasons why historians, perhaps a thousand years from now, will make that remark of our time with emphasis, and I would briefly suggest three great reasons which will always distinguish our time.
In the first place, the tremendous intellectual revolution, far too complicated and far too vague to discuss at this moment, but I think its most significant point was the publication of Darwin's great book, The Origin of Species. Though Darwin was a naturalist absorbed in his own particular subject, he laid down a principle capable of indefinite application, and into every department of our human life the idea of evolution has been carried. We have learned that in every respect man has made a long, long journey and has performed a laborious climb. No text-book on any subject published, say, 25 years ago would be authoritative without qualification at this moment. A great many of our easy assumptions have been shattered. In the realm of politics the assumption that almost every nation seems to make--that it stands in some peculiar relation to the Deity--has, to my mind, been shaken. I do not believe in favourite races, though I do believe in favoured races. I do not believe in election, though I do believe in selection.
I believe most firmly that the British Empire has a training which fits it for tremendous services, but I shrink entirely from that kind of national pride or conceit which assumes that "We are the People", and that others are merely the "lesser breeds" that know not the law. Humanity has a history that in broad terms is identical. It has been qualified by climate and all manner of things, but there is something fundamentally alike in the history of every race. At any rate, since Darwin published his great book we have been forced to enter into a wider human fellowship. We have looked back into origins. We have seen the laborious way in which the human race has climbed, and we ought to be able to find closer bonds of unity with other peoples. (Hear, hear.)
The second great thing which distinguishes our age is the tremendous increase in human inventiveness and in discovery. We have become masters over the forces of nature in a way that makes a sharp distinction between our era and any preceding. I do not think it is necessarily that we are greater than our fathers; but, for one thing, we have learned to accumulate knowledge, to start where our fathers left off, and discover the reign of law. We know that we may come to the universe and learn its secrets and then utilize them. And so today, not because we are greater than our fathers, brain for brain, but because we have entered into a closer kinship with nature and have learned to use her forces, we can do what would have seemed impossible to our fathers. We have made the world a very small place indeed. We are rapidly conquering space and time. The speed of our travel is dazzling to the imagination, and we are not yet at the end of the process.
But far more than any physical projection through space are the discoveries we have made concerning space itself. In my own pulpit in London, I heard a great physicist say that he was not greatly interested any more in matter, of which he seemed to think he knew a reasonable amount, but he was interested in space, in that apparent emptiness in which the material worlds are embosomed. Man is not so much a mechanic today as he is a chemist, and he seems to be passing on into some even subtler realms than that. We are beginning to understand that the really great forces are silent and invisible. This mystery that we call electricity, this marvel that we speak of as wireless telegraphy, what is it but an adventure into the realm of the unseen, by means of which we have radically altered nature and the world in which we live? We have made it a vast whispering gallery, and it seems as if we were about to make it a vast theatre. With television within sight we shall not only hear from afar but we shall see afar.
There is no longer possible any national segregation. Geography is deceptive. The United States people appear to think, publicly at any rate, that the wide Atlantic or the wide Pacific separates them from other races; but the Atlantic and Pacific are not as wide today, relatively, as the English Channel was half a century ago. (Hear, hear.)
They are not isolated; there is no nation in the world so intimately connected with every other nation as the United States, unless it is our own British Empire. There is no national segregation any more; it is one vast world; and because we did not see that clearly, there came upon us the third thing which I believe will always distinguish our era.
I mean the Great War; and from my point of view just now--I am only speaking of it under one aspect, and that is that it was a world war--the first world war that ever has been. Alexander and Caesar and Napoleon and the rest of them talked of world campaigns, but they were not world campaigns. Why, they did not know anything about America, anyhow; and, still more amazing, they knew nothing about Australia. (Laughter.) But in the last great struggle there was not a corner of the globe where the war itself was not actually raging. But far beyond that, in realms of commerce, in realms of politics and of religious faith and literature and thought, it was a world war. Nobody meant that. Some people knew it would be a wide war, but nobody knew it would be a world war, or surely nobody would have consciously launched it. But we have seen illuminated, as by lightning flame, a truth that we had not recognized because it dawned on us so slowly and so silently; that is, that we have now got to think in world terms. I think I could sum up what I have to say by quoting words written by Alfred Zimmern: "Man's needs and desires have brought about a world-wide civilization. His next task is to create its institutions."
Now, I would not say, Mr. Chairman, that we are civilized. I should hope that the members of the Empire Club in Toronto are approximating to that condition--(Laughter)--but nobody can look thoughtfully upon the world and perceive its anomalies, its stupidities, its injustices, and dare to say that we are really civilized. We are on the road there. Mr. Wells says, in a moment of optimism, we may reach the goal in 3,000 years. (Laughter.) He is subject to spasms of extravagant optimism now and again. (Laughter.) I do not know whether we will be there in 3,000 years, but I do not think that we are there yet; it is so much the honester way to believe that, instead of filling ourselves with all manner of sweet sophistications, and just calmly to recognize the fact that we are simply blundering, stumbling, striving on to some goal that is yet far away; and that the chief job for lovers of humanity is not to persuade themselves that everything is beautiful in the garden, but it is to cherish still more affectionately what is beautiful in the garden, and go to work to get rid of the weeds. ("Good", Hear, hear.) Therefore, though I am a patriot, as every decent man must be, I neither am nor want to be the sort of patriot who assumes that his nation stands in a special relationship with the Deity, exemplifying all that is noble and beautiful, and will find its future in simply shutting outside those who are of another race or another colour or another creed. (Hear, hear.)
Is it not possible, fellow-Britons, to be intensely patriotic and yet also have a world view of things? What is patriotism, anyhow? Words are very illusive things. They have had their history, no less than men and women. When you look into the root meaning of the word "patriotism" you discover that it means "reverence to fathers". Well, I would say that reverence for your fathers alone, in the modern world, would disrupt any existing state. (Laughter.) It just is not possible. The British are quite proud nowadays to confess that they are a mongrel race. That phrase was flung at them, I think, in contumely at one time, but, like many such phrases, it has been adopted. We know that we have Roman, Norman and Celtic splashings, and all manner of inconspicuous admixtures, and in some curious way the existing British race is an amalgam. When you turn to the overseas Dominions-except Australia, which, as I think unwisely, has restricted itself virtually entirely to Anglo-Saxon blood--96% of our Australian population is of Anglo-Saxon stock. That is not true in Canada, I take it, for my friend over here who belongs to the Bible Society tells me that 104 translations into foreign languages of the Bible are needed for the Canadian population.
Loyalty to your fathers would break Canada into fragments--(Laughter)--and as for the United States, you need to have the international complex to contemplate it. (Laughter.) There will be a century at least before they can trust the principle of loyalty to the fathers. That is the reason they are so intensely nationalistic; I do not think any nation in the world flaunts the national flag more than our friends below the line. One sees the Stars and Stripes on every ice-cream shop, and I really think that when the cat has a birthday some people run up the flag. (Laughter.)
I have heard more patriotic addresses in that country than anywhere else. We do not make them in England (Hear, hear); we assume they are not necessary. (Applause.) We do not show the flag except on great occasions; we assume it is in the hearts of the people. (Hear, hear.) But our friends, for the sake of self-protection, out of sheer necessity, are inculcating a kind of nationalism, with all its appropriate symbols, that on a calm discovery is almost pathetic; and they are doing it because they dare not trust the principle of patriotism in the old sense of the word.
When you look across to Europe what do you see there? Who could trust patriotism in the Balkans? Who knows where Europe would get to if every man were simply true to his fathers? In the Great War there was nothing more horrible than that. We made the discovery, with breaking hearts, that the principle of patriotism divided families, put husbands and wives in opposing camps, and indeed in some cases divided the children themselves. Espionage became a disease; the spy-devil we called it, and it was all due to the fact that our modern world is not true to our territorial boundaries. It has become intermixed. Bloods are intermingled, and for better or worse we have a civilization that is world-wide. That is the point.
But what we discovered in the Great War was this: that we had no institutions that corresponded with the facts. All our political institutions were nationalistic. They assumed that their functions ceased at the frontiers. There were but the crudest and most tenuous means of extending them beyond the frontiers. Embassies and consulates in all manner of nations had the greatest difficulty of communication. Very seldom did significant statesmen in neighbouring countries meet face to face like ordinary humans. If the Foreign Minister of Great Britain met the Foreign Minister of Germany-well, he didn't do it if he could help it-and when he did, he did it in the dark, for if it were known that they were meeting, the world would be alarmed. When King Edward VII was over in Europe to take the waters about 1910 and paid a visit to his nephew, the ex-Kaiser Wilhelm, the world was startled to its very depths.
No institutions corresponded with the facts. Only national political institutions based upon the age-old assumption that you could be at war with your neighbour at any time, and therefore, even under the profession of friendship, you must secretly be worming out their secrets and matching their plans as against some vital disaster that might take place. And during the War we found we had a world war, which showed we thought we had a civilization of a kind, but that there was not a single institution that had any valid authority; not a tribunal; not a court of any kind where, amidst four or five years of bitter destruction, some principle of peace could have been found.
That is why the dream arose in many minds of a League of Nations; it did not only arise in the mind of President Wilson, but it was he who put it over; I do not suppose the spokesman for any other nation would have been trusted. But this nation which had no international political history, so to speak, which seemed to have come into the war unwillingly, and not to have any purposes of aggrandisement to come out of the war, was allowed to put it over in the way the Americans always do, a completely organized new department. Having put it over, they went their ways. (Laughter and applause.) They succumbed to the appeal of home politics. The national spirit drew back, and the United States went behind their barriers more inveterately than ever before. The great gates that had been flung open for a century or more to the peoples of the world were shut with a clang, and now it is with difficulty that a stranger from afar can enter the paradise of the West.
Out of the war there came these two principles--the principle that culminated in the League of Nations, and the principle of nationalism, cruder than ever. Look where you will and you will see the world in the grip of those two tendencies. Nationalism was never so inverterate and fierce, and 100%0, as it is in many parts of the world today. (Hear, hear.) Look at Russia, gone into a hermit's cell. Look at Italy, organized completely upon nationalistic lines. Look at the United States, in spite of herself trying to separate herself from the world and maintain a condition of things which was legitimate enough in Washington's day, which was tolerable in Monroe's day, but which is simply ludicrous today when you envisage all the facts. Look at India, in the grip of a national spirit. Look at China, shaking herself free from an age-old sleep, and determined to assert her national characteristics. Look at Japan, walled around with steel and forcing her way into the midst of the councils of nations. Look at the black folk of Africa, even they--most patient, least ambitious of peoples, probably--yet they are feeling the urge of this spirit. And all the while the voice of the universe shouting, if we would only hear, that it is one world we are living in now; that our frontiers are largely fictitious, because already man's needs and desires have not stayed behind the frontiers, but have gone into every part of the world.
I do not remember what I had for lunch now, but I feel sure that if we cast our minds back upon the meal of which we have just partaken we would be reminded that the corners of the globe had to be ransacked to put it on our table. There is not a shopkeeper in Toronto, no matter how small his business, who is not essentially an internationalist; his shelves proclaim that his small business has affiliations that run throughout the globe. And the problem of the future, as I see it, is very largely whether we can reconcile these two apparently opposing forces; whether you can find legitimate scope for a rational patriotism which will allow you to build up a political order that corresponds with the world as it actually is.
Now, I believe that the League of Nations is inevitable. I do not say it is perfect; I wonder that it is alive--(Hear, hear)--when I remember how it was born after four years' war, when men's nerves were over-wrought and their hearts were broken; when their passions had been even artificially inflamed-for there was nothing more deadly scientific than the way in which passion was kept at white heat those four bitter years. The soldiers could not do it at all; their passion died away in a sporty comradeship; they were quick to admit the good qualities of even the men who were seeking their lives; but at home, amongst the folk who were far away, among the privileged people who occupied armchairs and seats of authority, by the most diabolical and skilful propaganda the world was persuaded to believe that all the saintly virtues were within its own borders and the hellish vices were outside. And yet, born at such a time, the League is not dead, but it grows. (Hear, hear.) Herr Stresemann, that gallant German who literally gave his life for the cause, who was truly an internationalist, who came to be admired and almost loved by all the peoples of the world, when he brought his country into the League of Nations and had to face the spirit of nationalism that resented it, made use of these words: "The League is now the centre of world politics, and no thoughtful statesman dare stand outside it." (Applause.)
Well, I believe in the League of Nations as I believe in Parliament-which means that I watch it. (Laughter.) Because I believe in Parliament I want to get the right people in power. Because I believe in Parliament I will challenge the people who, in my judgment, seem to be the wrong sort of people. It is a poor way to deal with the League to say, "Well, we have got the League; that is all right" The League with Clemenceau at its head might be a different thing from the League with Lord Cecil at its head. All human institutions take their ultimate character from personnel; and we must keep the League vital, and get into it the kind of men who clearly see that world-civilization is one; and the position we must arrive at is one where the just rights of Nicaragua, or Siam would be as safe as the just rights of the British Empire or the United States. (Hear, hear, and applause.)
Rights ought not to be scaled according to gun-power; and if you watch closely even this Naval Conference which is now sitting, I think it will be hard to resist the conviction that what we are really concerned about is prestige and bargaining power. If we mean the Kellogg Pact, then our armaments are comparatively irrelevant. (Hear, hear.) No private war is legal now; only the right of self-defence remains, according to law; and that self-defence will have to be strictly defined. I take it to mean defending yourself when attacked. But what will happen if, thinking yourselves to be attacked, you make war against another nation and beat them, and then find that in the process you have overrun a considerable amount of territory? What about it? I maintain that you have no claim in law to territory overrun. You had the right to defend yourself, but not to make annexations. Get that principle established, and we have gone a long way.
Now, Gentlemen, we have the British Empire, which is not perfect, but which is eminently respectable, and which has achieved a certain character. We, at any rate, understand what we mean by British fair play--(Hear, hear)--and I think the world vaguely understands it, not so enthusiastically as we ourselves do, but I still think the greater part of the world knows that there is something about the British attitude of mind which can be clearly defined. If you will forgive the illustration, and not think
I am using it because I am a parson--it just happened the other day when I was in Chicago, the guest of a very eminent Jew, Mr. Samuel Levinson, of the Outlawry of War Movement. A certain eminent Rabbi had spoken over the radio rather disparagingly of what is called the Christian Spirit. He pointed out the anomalies of our Christian civilization, and my friend the Jew said to me, "Well, I am not a Christian, but the Rabbi is wrong; there is such a thing as a Christian spirit; it is not always lived up to, but we know what is meant by it." And that is the great thing. (Applause.) Now, we know what is meant by the British spirit. We overseas people illustrate it; you Canadians and we Australians are intensely loyal to the Motherland, largely for the reason that the Motherland lets us alone. (Laughter.) If she were to monkey about with us and want to govern us from Westminster, no matter how generously, even sending us cakes and ale for Christmas, we would be rebellious. She says to us, "Go your own way", and we go our own way; but when the Motherland is in danger, we are there. (Applause.)
But, Gentlemen, all our Dominions are not precisely like that. We have a certain part of the Empire called India which presents us with the problems of Empire in the acutest possible form. Now, I believe there is no difference of opinion in Great Britain concerning the ultimate destiny of India; two Prime Ministers have distinctly said that India is to have Dominion status; the shades of opinion are concerning the speed by which it is to be accomplished, and naturally our conception of speed is slow, and just as naturally their conception of speed is likely to be fast; and the problem will be to reconcile those two rates of speed. I would plead for liberal minds. You can be cautious and yet liberal. Pray God it may not be in India as it was in Ireland--hat, meaning the right thing all the time, as the British generally do, by the time they made their proposals, which to them seemed a great advance, the spirit of insurrection in Ireland had passed beyond that point, and was no longer satisfied with what was offered.
If we were to have in Great Britain statesmen who could dare to take the risk, dare to go a little bit faster rather than a little bit too slow, I for one would give them my support, for I believe that in the end the only foundation of a strong empire is that it should consist of a family of free peoples. (Hear, hear, and applause.) "Commonwealth" is the word we are learning to use, instead of "empire", and it is a great word; "commonwealth"; a central part, central by reason of its history, its genius, its consolidated strength, but a true Motherland surrounded by her sons and daughters who are in the Empire, not because they are kept there but because they want to be there. (Hear, hear and applause.)
There is another Empire forming south of you. That is what I have been telling them, anyhow; they have not always liked it, and some portions of their press have said some very illuminating things about me; but I have been simply pointing out to them that, though they are a republic and a democracy, and though they have no foreign territory except a few little excrescences like the Philippines and other places, concerning which they are not at all sure whether they want them or not, yet they are sending dollars all round the world-eleven billion dollars of American money invested among the peoples of the earth, and about a billion dollars a year more following in their tracks; and unless we can create the institutions that belong to a world-wide civilization, then I for one see no possible means by which the United States can avoid becoming an empire. Where the dollars go the ships will go. Where one has trouble anywhere, or American money, American property, American lives are in danger, then American ships, American marines, American troops are likely to follow, and once they are there they may not come back by the next boat; they seldom do. That is how the British Empire grew. You know we never meant it-we can say that amongst ourselves as a family-we did not mean the Empire; it grew in a fit of absent-mindedness. (Laughter.) We just were trading. For instance, merchants went out to India and established trading points at Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, and so on, and then of course trouble occurred and had to be straightened out, and when it was straightened out--well, the frontiers were enlarged, and we just happened to forget to come home. (Laughter.) We have never stolen anything in our lives; we have only occasionally seen a place that looked as if it was losing itself, and we shepherded it. (Laughter.) We just went sailing around the world, travelling and trading, beaming genially through our glasses like Mr. Pickwick, and then put our hand in our pockets and drew out an island or half a continent, and said, "Now, how did that get there?" (Great laughter.) And they have already started strolling. They blundered into a place called the Philippines and said, "We don't want it, still, we had better take care of it till things straighten out." And the date for straightening out the things is indefinitely postponed. (Laughter.) They don't want an empire, if you ask them; they are not thinking that way; they are in the midst of a complex world, and things happen without being planned; and it might conceivably come to pass that the United States would some day present to the world the phenomenon of a nation cradled in the ideas of the Declaration of Independence, but stabilized among the nations by the strongest armies the world has ever seen.
I see no alternatives, Gentlemen; only this fight between the spirit of a narrow nationalism and the spirit of a broad world citizenship. I see no task in the future comparable with the supremely challenging one of slowly building up through successive generations institutions of conciliation, of arbitration, of law, which become more and more valid, and which have this supreme virtue, that they correspond with the facts of the world as the world has come to be. And in that great task I think I see, I dream I see, I hope I see, I pray I see, one people supremely qualified in history, accustomed to contact with all manner of nations, with the genius for trade and for government, with the genius for law, with the genius for fair play; and I hope and pray that the British Empire may crown her glorious history by giving the constructive political statesmen's leadership, the moral leadership that the world needs today, and go down through the coming ages not merely glorious because she had an Empire upon which the sun never sets, but because that Empire showed the way, by itself becoming a Commonwealth of Nations, to that vaster circle in which the rights of the weak are as valid as the rights of the strong. (Loud applause, followed by the audience rising and giving Three Cheers and a Tiger.)
THE CHAIRMAN: Gentlemen, I know I express your thoughts when I say that this has been one of the most thought-provoking addresses that this Club has ever listened to. (Hear, hear.) I may say on your behalf, I am sure, that Dr. Norwood has come, he has spoken, and he has conquered, and we thank him. (Loud applause.)