THE PRESIDENT, Sir William Hearst, introduced Mr. Parsons; who was received with loud applause.
MR. S. R. PARSONS
Mr. President, and Fellow Members of the Empire Club,--I assure you I esteem it a very great honour to be asked to speak before the Club today. My subject is "The International Labour Conference at Geneva," with some observations upon general trade and labour conditions in Europe as far as I saw them. This is rather a big order for the limited time at my disposal, but I will do my best to keep within the limits imposed.
I am rather sorry to see one or two friends here who heard my address on this theme in Hamilton, and I hope it will not in any way strain our friendship because they have to hear me again. I don't know that I can even look for that kindly courtesy which was extended to the rector in the old country when, at the close of the service he said to the
Mr. Silas R. Parsons is president of the British-American Oil Company, is a past president of the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, and represented Canada at the International Labour Conferences in Washington, D.C., in 1919, and in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1921. The head of a large business and a keen student of labour conditions, he has a wide practical knowledge of trade problems, and interests himself in social and religious affairs. He is one of Toronto's most highly valued citizens.
sexton, "Well, John, how did you like my sermon today?" and the sexton replied, "Oh, it was beautiful, Sir; it was beautiful; you know, Sir, I always did like that sermon." (Laughter)
First of all, I would like to say a word or two about conditions in Great Britain as I saw them. There is, as you know, a great deal of unemployment in the British Isles today. Officially it is estimated that there are from 1,800,000 to 2,000,000 of men out of work. A great many of these are said to be unemployable, and a good many, again, are said to be leaning more or less heavily and with equanimity on the side of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. In connection with some of our deliberations at the Geneva Conference, when the question of unemployment insurance for agricultural workers came up, the representatives of the British Government stated emphatically that they could not see their way clear to support any such proposition, which would involve an enormous increase in the amount of money spent for unemployment insurance; that the nation today was bearing a burden so heavy in the matter of unemployment insurance--12,500,000 coming under the Unemployment Insurance Fund of Great Britain--that they could not possibly agree to or think of adding further to their load. I mention this particularly because there is at the present time in Canada a feeling on the part of some that the governments of the provinces, the government of this province particularly, ought to bring in some measure of unemployment insurance. Now, while we are passing through times which are altogether exceptional, when the whole world is necessarily out of joint owing to war conditions, it seems to me a poor time to bring in any such measures; for in a new country like Canada, generally speaking, men who are anxious for work can find it. (Applause) I think you will agree with me that the province already is placing a burden on the people as heavy as it can bear in regard to social legislation; and this I say with due regard to what unemployment means, and with a personal feeling in my heart that everything should be done to help in actual cases of men who are out of work and yet who are willing to work. (Hear, hear)
When I was in Great Britain there was a contract presented to British Manufacturers for between $3,000,000 and $4,000,000 worth of railway supplies for the Chinese Government. How much of that do you think Great Britain was able to obtain? Not one sou of it. Why? And who got it? In the first place let me answer who got it. The manufacturing concerns located in Belgium obtained all but five locomotives, and those went to the United States. There was every feeling of good-will towards Great Britain; it was understood that the commissioners desired to give this large order to Great Britain; yet, side by side with the unemployment in Great Britain, here was an order for railway supplies which Great Britain ordinarily was able to take care of, and should have had, but owing to the high taxation, to the high rates of wages, to the restriction of output and other such matters, Great Britain was unable in the time of her extremity, when she had 2,000,000 of people out of work, to obtain a dollar of that contract.
Now, I am sure that will lead all thoughtful people to wonder just where Great Britain is heading for. The grand old land that we all love so much will no doubt weather the gale, but it seems to me there must come a time when through government cooperation and on the side of the labour unions as well as on the side of the employers there will be a working together which will enable Britain to obtain her fair share of the world's business from overseas; for you will agree with me in this, that if Great Britain is not great in her export trade she is not great anywhere, and that is the class of business that she must have if she is going to maintain her supremacy as one of the great producing and manufacturing countries of the world. She has already a great government scheme for stimulating trade and industry. She is agreeing to guarantee the principal and interest on £25,000,000 Sterling to be used in industry, in organizing new industries particularly, where men in large numbers would be employed. There are certain restrictions which I have not time to mention just now, but it is hoped that that will help to bring about a better condition; and in other ways the government of Great Britain seems to be alive to the situation. She is certainly taking the money out of one pocket, but it remains to be seen whether she will be able to get it into another or not.
I noticed that one of our last night's papers called me Farmer Parsons (laughter) and it stated further, as I understood it, that I had not been brought up on a farm, and had had no experience of farming. However, that clearly indicates that I speak with authority on agricultural questions. (Laughter) In connection with agriculture in Great Britain I was surprised to learn that during the last two or three years agricultural interests had failed considerably. I asked a member of the British Government delegation at Geneva, an officer of the British Government in the Ministry of Labour, if they were becoming self-supporting in the matter of, raising food-stuffs, as was prophesied during the later war years. He replied, "No, we are not raising anything like the quantity of food-stuffs that we did then." I said, "Well, I am greatly surprised, with all the unemployment, and so on, in Great Britain, that you have not been able to do that; I am rather glad to hear of it, though, because it means a greater market for our Canadian food-stuffs, but what is the reason?" He replied, "Well, the farmers of Great Britain are only offering from twenty-two to twenty-four shillings a week, and therefore they cannot get men to work on their farms at such a figure as that, and it means that we have not been able to raise crops that we otherwise should have produced."
In speaking of affairs in Britain I want just a moment to emphasize the need of the support of Canada towards a new organization in London-the new Canadian Chamber of Commerce. It is headed by Sir George Maclaren Brown, the European Manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and there are associated with him the agents-general of the various provinces of Canada, and a number of representative business men who are domiciled in England. This institution, to my mind, is going to fill a long-felt want in making Canadian products known in the Old Land. Everywhere you see California products such as those that we produce here, but ours are not on sale in the Old Land. It appears to me that now is a very good time, when the High Commissioner is resigning his office, to separate the office work and have the diplomatic part entirely distinct from the business end of it. You can hardly find a business man who is skilled in diplomacy and able to handle that part of it; besides, it means too much work. What we need is some unity of effort in London if Canada is going to secure her fair share of trade in the British Isles. (Applause) I am persuaded that this can be brought about, and that it is a very feasible proposition; the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has been formed for this very purpose, of making Canada known in England. I have not time to go into the details of that proposition, but I just mention it here. In various ways it is operating, and I feel that it ought to receive unqualified support, not only of purchasers and of manufacturers, but of provincial governments and of the federal government in Canada. This country must wake up if she is going to secure what other Dominions have already secured. South Africa spent $75,000 a year in advertising herself and her products in Great Britain. How much has Canada spent? South Africa spent £1,500 the other day in connection with a dairy show in London. I am glad to say Ontario spent £200; but notwithstanding that smaller expenditure Canada, by the excellence and variety of our products, obtained a prize equal to that secured by South Africa. (Applause)
This leads me to say one other thing. In our present condition in Canada it appears to me that we must emphasize the need of products of our Canadian farms and factories getting to the old world at smaller transportation costs than at present. I have always believed that the privately owned railways of this country must have justice done to them, and looking back over the years we can see what they have done for Canada and her people; but if Canada is going to fill her place in the markets of the world and secure that which she should from her geographical position and from the point of production, it must be by lower transportation rates. (Hear, hear, and applause) I don't know just how it is to come, but it must come; and as men belonging to the city you and I have a special interest in that problem, and must help our producers on the farms, because unless the farmers are prosperous we are not prosperous. (Hear, hear) In some way we have to work together and wake things up in connection with this. very important matter.
Now, just a word about conditions in France before I pass on to Geneva. There is very little unemployment in France, and that possibly for three reasons. In the first place, many of the gallant Frenchmen were killed off in the war, and the evidence of that is seen on every hand in France. In the second place, France maintains a large standing army. In the third place, France is strong in intensive agriculture. Going from London to Dover on the Saturday, we saw very few people in the fields in England. When we got to the other side of the channel and went from Calais to Paris, men, women and children were there until late at night working on their little farms and producing that which was necessary to their subsistence, so that today we see very little in the way of unemployment in France. Of course her currency is depressed. Her franc, usually worth about nineteen to twenty cents, is today worth only eight cents in our money. In other ways she feels the burden of heavy taxation, but is getting along, I believe, one way and another. France will require some of our hard wheat to mix with the softer wheat which she grows in such abundance.
In Switzerland the unemployment question is more serious than in France, and for a very curious reason. As you know, the Swiss currency is not depressed; you saw in our papers the other day that Switzerland was the only country in the world where the American dollar was at a discount. Switzerland not having taken part in the war, not having any great expenditure, therefore, has remained in what you might call a strong position if it were not for countries which surround her where the currency is so depressed. But you see that whatever she produces is produced at a high cost as compared with production in France, Germany and Italy because the currency in these countries being so depressed; she cannot export her products. Hence there is a good deal of unemployment there today, yet the Swiss government feels that it is perhaps easier for them-I am speaking financially only-to take care of a certain amount of unemployment than it would be to take care of a great big debt brought upon them by the war.
I was not in Germany, but I was told by those who were there that the men in industrial life in Germany are working hard, for long hours, but that their wages are altogether insufficient; they cannot live decently. However, this means that the industries themselves are somewhat prosperous at the present time, but they are using up the scrap which they obtained from war supplies, and when that is exhausted and Germany has to look to other countries for her raw materials, there is going to be a very serious time for her unless she has more money than she seems to have to pay for her share of what is now due in connection with the reparations. It is said that some industries are purchasing coal in France which has been brought from the Saar Valley under the terms of the Treaty, and sent back again to Germany to supply the needs of the industries there.
Now, a word about the League of Nations before I speak if the International Labour Conference.
I said to Sir Herbert Ames, who is the financial adviser of the League of Nations--our old Canadian fellow-citizen from Montreal, whom many of you know and all greatly respect, "What do you think of the League of Nations, now that you have been living here for some time and have had opportunity to see how it is functioning?" He replied, "Well, there is much to criticize without and within, but I believe the League has been doing a good deal of good work;" and he told me of cases where, in the settlement of international disputes between the smaller nations especially, they had been able to prevent war, and had in one way and another helped some nations to get on a better footing. Mr. Kipling made the remark some time ago that it was very much easier to resume a broken sentence than it was to resume a broken world, and this fitly describes the situation abroad, especially in continental Europe today.
Now, as to the International Labour Conference. Some of you will ask, "What is this? How was it organized? How did it originate? Give us some information about it." I have been asked such questions on all hands. This is the way in which it originated. Just before the signing of the Treaty of Peace in Versailles it is said that prominent labour men went to the Peace plenipotentiaries and said, "Now, unless you do something for labour, we are going to have revolution in all the countries of the world." Well, it looked somewhat like that. You remember about that time we were rather uneasy in Canada. They were much more uneasy in continental countries than we were here. So, whether rightly or wrongly, Part 13 of the Treaty of Peace, referring to labour exclusively, was added.
Now, I am not sure that my labour friends who are here will agree with me in what I state, one way and another, in connection with labour this afternoon; but in meeting the representatives of labour I have always found it better to be out-and-out, and tell them where I stood and just what I thought of all their plans and policies. I think in that way one stands on a better footing with them, even though they may not agree altogether with one's views. (Hear, hear) Now, the question may be fairly asked, "Why only one section of the population of the world was included in that special way in the treaty of peace, why farmers were not included in it; why doctors and lawyers were not included; why manufacturers were not included?" I cannot, for the life of me, see any good reason except that there was fear in the minds of people that something might happen if labour were not dealt with in some way. That is the only reason I can see why labour was specially included in the treaty of peace.
At this last International Labour Conference it was found that there were fifty-four countries that were members of the League of Nations, and as such had the right of representation in the Labour Conference. Part 13 of Treaty provided that each country which was a member of the League was entitled to four representatives, two of them representing the government of the country, one representing the employers of the country, and one representing the employees of- the country; and that each of these delegates had the right to as many technical advisers as there were questions on the agenda. At the time of the International Conference in Washington, where I had the honour of representing the employers of Canada, I had five technical advisers with me. This time, the government of Canada felt that they could hardly agree to that proposition, to pay expenses for such a large number, and therefore they cut down the number to one; and Mr. Tom Moore, representing the Trades and Labour Congress of Canada, also had one adviser. Senator Robertson was to have gone as the chief representative of the Canadian Government, but owing to the elections coming on more quickly than was anticipated, he had to remain at home. So that a member of his department, Mr. Gerald H. Brown, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Labour, and Col. Obed Smith of London, were the two government representatives. They had with them as advisers such men as Hon. Walter Rollo, whom I am glad to see with us here today, as you all are, Mr. Gallipeault, the Minister of Labour of the Province of Quebec, Professor Roy, an officer of the government of the Province of Quebec, and the Hon. Thomas Johnston, AttorneyGeneral of Manitoba. Those were the advisers present representing, or at least helping, the Canadian Government delegation.
Now, there are two ways in which questions are dealt with and brought forward in the Conference; one by way of a Convention, which is really a parliamentary bill put through in proper shape to be adopted by the different countries of the world, and if adopted by them it becomes law and must remain on the statute books for ten years without change. The other is by way of Recommendation, which is just what the word implies, and comes to the government of a country, which may take it up in that form or some other form as it may desire.
You will ask the question, "Is it necessary for any government to adopt a Convention or Recommendation which was agreed to at the International Labour Conference?" The answer is, "No, the Conference is not legislative; it is advisory in its functions." The secretary of the League of Nations, according to the terms of the treaty, has to send to the different countries represented in the League a draft of all the bills agreed to at the International Labour Conference, whether by way of Convention or Recommendations, then it remains for each government to take them up and deal with them as they may see fit. In the case of a federal country like Canada much of the legislation required is provincial, and therefore it is passed on to the different provinces to be dealt with.
The official languages used are English and French, and there is a whole army of translators, so that if one speaks in either of these languages the words are translated into the other, and the records are kept in both English and French. In the case of Italians or Germans or other nationalities that cannot speak English or French, they bring their own interpreter, and the words are translated into English or French.
The President of the Conference was Lord Burnham of London. Viscount Burnham was out here the summer before last in connection with the Imperial Press Conference, and many of you met him. He makes an excellent chairman; he has had long parliamentary experience and is in every way absolutely fair, so that I think he secured the goodwill of all the members of the Conference. I must tell you that both Lord and Lady Burnham said to me that they never were in a country that they thought so much of as Canada, and they had been in all parts of the world. They were here for three or four months, and in all that time they said they never got homesick, and there was no country in the world that they loved so much as our own Dominion of Canada. (Applause)
Mr. Albert Thomas is the Secretary and Director-General of the International Labour Office, which is set up in Geneva and functions in connection with the League of Nations; and he is, of course, secretary also of the International Labour Conference. Mr. Thomas is a very able man, a fine speaker, very clever; he is a socialist--I think that is known everywhere on account of his pronounced socialistic views--and I think I had perhaps a greater respect for him than before when I knew that, notwithstanding his theoretical socialistic views, like many others he was not unwilling to receive an allowance, covering salary and entertainment expenses, of about $35,000 a year. (Laughter)
The chief questions on the agenda concerned agriculture. You remember that at the Washington Conference the eight-hour day in industry was passed after much discussion--eight hours a day and forty-eight hours a week. I will have something to say later about the countries that have adopted that. At Geneva the chief question on the agenda was as to the possibility of adopting the eight-hour day in agriculture. The government of France had sent in a formal protest against agricultural questions (because that was the first one and there were a number of others being considered), and they gave very good reasons for the protest, and their two government representatives spoke in the Conference against the adoption of such rules and regulations as applying to agriculture; yet you will be surprised to learn that when it came to a vote even the delegates of the French Government abstained from voting. Playing politics was so clearly one of the things in evidence, not only by the government of France, but by the government of Great Britain and other governments there, that it was difficult, as it seemed to me, to arrive at anything like a proper vote. Of course the agricultural workers' vote is large in France, as it is also in Great Britain. Later on I will tell you something about the government delegates of Great Britain. I voted "no" on the eight-hour day, after two or three days' discussion, and on some other agricultural questions, for reasons which I will give you later.
I think there was a cable sent over here, and there were headlines which intimated that Mr. Tom Moore and myself had got into an altercation over the question of wages. I was dealing with the particular question of agriculture, and showing how impossible it was to apply the eight-hour day and other conditions to agriculture. I showed that it was a seasonal occupation, and that it would be just as intelligent to attempt to regulate the sun and the wind and the habits of the animals as to put into effect the eight-hour day, for agriculture is an occupation in which you must make hay while the sun shines. I need not give you my arguments here, as it would take too long, but I was showing how impossible it was, from all standpoints, to apply certain rules and regulations to agriculture, and I also showed the disparity of wages. For instance, the Workers' Delegate from India said that ten shillings a month was the wages in that country; the officer of the British Government told me the wages were twenty-two to twenty-four shillings a week, and I put it at twenty-four to thirty, but even that was objected to by Trades Union representatives; and according to the Labour Gazette of Canada the rate was sixty dollars a month with board in this country. Those were perhaps extreme wages on the one side and on the other; but there is such a disparity in any case that you will see that to apply to agriculture generally universal conditions and hours, would be foolish, and I for one could not agree to it at all. I spoke of Canada having such large agricultural interests that the adoption of such rules would really set her back in the world, and that she needed to have encouragement along lines of production on the farms in order that she might succeed nationally and individually.
Among other subjects on the agenda were unemployment, protection of women and children, technical agricultural education--just fancy India, ninety-five percent of whose agricultural workers can neither read nor write-and yet they talked about applying some sort of universal technical education for the agricultural workers of the world. Of course we believe in technical agricultural education here, but our people generally can read and write. Other subjects were living-in conditions of workers; guarantee of rights of association and combination. We all agree in these days that men have a right to combine in unions and associations if they like, but there is facing the world today this fact, that the combination of workers in Great Britain meant no coal, and the combination and association of workers in the United States two years ago would have meant no coal if the government had not interfered. If the agricultural workers of the world got together, I -ask you if there is a possibility of no bread? Just think over that question for yourselves. Then we had questions relating to protection against accidents, inability, old-age, and proposals concerning the night work of persons in agriculture. As was pointed out by Sir Daniel Hall, one of the government representatives of Great Britain, this last proposal, if followed out logically, would mean that a farmer could not have his hired boy water his horse or groom him, or milk the cow, or anything of that kind, except during certain hours of the day; and even in the hours of the day the proposition meant that he was restricted during school hours or before or after school. I have not time to go into it all in detail; but Sir Daniel Hall pointed out that in the hop-picking season it would greatly interfere with the production of hops, and in the lambing season it would interfere with a boy coming out during the night time to assist his father and getting a chance to see what the bringing in of young lambs would mean; and in India, where men were married and had families before they were eighteen years of age, see what it would all mean-the blocking of agriculture and the interests of agriculture everywhere. Yet, notwithstanding Sir Daniel Hall's arguments, with which I agreed--and I voted according to his own statements--he himself and the other government delegate from Great Britain abstained from voting. (Laughter)
The question of the infection of wool was carried over, and the prohibition of white lead in painting--I have not time to go into all those questions, which are very interesting to labour and to employers. On the question of the weekly rest day I am glad to tell you that in the meeting of employers which was held every morning at nine o'clock for talking over matters before the Conference met at ten, there was not an employer representing any country in the world but was anxious for and wanted a full weekly rest day. (Applause) But I happened to be on that committee or commission, as they called it, and this is the suggestion which was put in by one of the workers: "That there be inserted in that bill a compensatory rest period."
Now that meant that if a man worked four or five hours on his rest day--I mean special work, not regular work which carries its own compensation--he would have an opportunity of an equal number of hours "off" on some other day of the week. That looks very fair, but on examination, the unions say that if a man works on Sunday or any other rest day on special work he must get perhaps time and a half, double time, or triple time, as it is largely in continental countries. In addition to that-which the government delegates of Great Britain spoke strenuously against, but which was carried all the same they want a compensatory rest day. Let me give you an extreme instance showing how that would work out. Suppose you had a small plant with one engineer, and the machinery broke down, and a man .had to put in four or five hours working on Sunday; on Tuesday he would say, "I am going to have four or five hours off." But there is only one engineer, and therefore you have to close down the plant in order that he might have his compensatory rest period. I think that a very unfair proposition, and although I am entirely in favour of a full weekly day of rest I had to vote against that general proposition when it came to the conference, just because of that unfair and unworkable clause in it.
In a published interview the employees' delegate of Canada voiced his disappointment with the results of the Conference. I can say that the employers' delegate and government delegates in many cases felt just the same way. One of the workers' delegates denounced countries that had not adopted the Washington Conference Conventions and the Recommendations. He showed that in some cases the governments, as well as private employers, had really increased the working hours. For instance, on the government railways in South Africa they increased from eight to nine hours a day, and in other cases the hours had been increased, and therefore he said something like this--that if the Conventions adopted by the International Labour Conference were not to be carried out by the different countries of the world, there was no use in our meeting here. But I can tell you that up to the time of the director's report, only four countries of the world-Greece, India, Roumania, and Czecho-Slovakia, had adopted the eight-hour day in industry. I do not mean to say that the eight-hour day is not usual in some cases--like they have it in Great Britain, and as we have it in many of our industries in Canada; but by legislative enactment, up to the time of publishing the director's report, only four countries had adopted this measure--and they are not the chief industrial countries. Great Britain's attitude was this--I am quoting "His Majesty's Government have no option but to decide that they cannot ratify the Convention, and suggest modifications for provisions which may appear to be too inelastic for the varying needs of the different industries in the respective countries."
I found this feature in the Conference, that in many cases workers of the world who spoke, expressed great disappointment, especially those from what we might call the backward countries of the world. Somehow or other they thought that Part 13 of the Treaty of Peace meant to them a new heaven and a new earth where there would be very little work and a good deal of leisure, and high wages, and all that sort of thing. They were frankly very much disappointed. Now, it seems to me that is a mistaken view of life and activity. I think we will all agree that a reasonable amount of work is the finest panacea in the world for our physical, mental and moral ills. (Applause) I believe in reasonable hours of work, and where that work is heavy the hours should not be too long; but my conclusion is this, that today the workers of the world have their minds fixed too much on the hours of work rather than the hours in which they are free. There is an awful lot, of loafing done; I mean to say that very little is oftentimes done with the hours of leisure. Take any of the heads of great industrial corporations in Canada, and it has been ascertained by actual investigation that nearly all of them came from the lowest rung of the ladder in their industry. Do you mean to say that if they had worked but eight hours a day they would have got to their present position? Not at all. When you tie a man hand and foot to an eight-hour day it seems to me you do an injustice to that man in many cases (applause) and you prevent him from exercising his God-given individuality, and making the, most of what is in him: That is the objection, that I have. I am anxious and concerned for the men, and I believe that we have to take care of them in some better way.
Now, I come to a great question and ask,--Is there any solution to our industrial ills? Well, I don't believe it is going to come through International Labour Conferences. I don't believe it is going to come through organizations of men on one side, and of employers on the other. Organizations are losing membership rapidly, especially on this continent. We must get back, it seems to me, to a condition which characterized industry a great many years ago, when the employer knew his men, met with them, and was friendly with them. Now, as long as we have organizations of employers on one side and employees on the other, what have we got? We have got two standing armies that are there facing each other, and ready for conflict. (Hear, hear)
Well, then, what can we do? We must get together in each individual unit of industry; and the employer who does not in every way cultivate the friendship and good-will of his own men is making a very great mistake. (Applause) The only way by which we will ever bring about industrial peace is working in each individual unit of industry in such a way that the men and the company are not opposing each other, but are working together in mutual interest. Hard work sweetened by the leaven of goodwill is the only remedy.
I must take time to relate one incident, although I will have to omit a good deal of what I had hoped to say in order to relate it. One particular incident at the Conference impressed me very much; it was this. On November 11th, Armistice Day, it was whispered to the members of the British Delegation that we would get together by ourselves for two minutes, and just before eleven o'clock seventy or eighty of us gathered in a room in the Conference building. Lord Burnham, the President, was there, and he said that at one minute to eleven o'clock General Bailey would give us the time, and again at eleven o'clock, and afterwards he would tell us when the two minutes were up. So we stood about in silence in a circle. I cannot tell you what passed through the minds of others who were there, but there was one Canadian who felt, first of all, great resentment at the nation and the people who had brought on the war, and this was perfectly natural, I think. After that I began to think of our boys who were lying not so far off, sleeping their last long sleep in France and in Flanders. One could almost hear the refrain--
"If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
On Flanders' fields."
and, thinking of the motives which actuated them in laying down their lives for us, for the world, for great ideals, I began to wonder whether we who had not made any such sacrifice had any really exalted views of life and of duty. It was a very sacred moment and a time of much heart-searching.
As a Canadian, my dear friends, I come back to you feeling that Canada is the finest country in all the world; but I would that we had a greater national sentiment in Canada, leading us to national unity. Dying for principle is all right; it is a grand thing, but living for principle is both harder and better; and that is for us to do, it seems to me. I ask, is there a possibility of our having, in some way, that proper national sentiment? And I answer--no, there is not while we have French-Canadians, and English-Canadians, foreigners of many nationalities, protectionists and free-traders, Orangemen and Roman Catholics, farmers and manufacturers, employers and employees, socialists and constitutionalists, men and women all arrayed against each other and unwilling to get together around the national table.
What we need in Canada more than anything else is a voice ringing through all our national life, calling us to that unity of thought, purpose and sentiment which will enable us to stand unitedly upon a platform as broad as our vast Dominion.
It is time to build up and not tear down; a time for cooperation and not opposition; a time to stand to our tasks and not be found shirking; a time to act unselfishly and not be moved by greed; a time for national unity and not discord; a time to fight all our battles bravely and not lose faith in God; that right, not might, shall rule in all the world. (Hear, hear, and loud applause)
PRESIDENT HEARST expressed the thanks of the Club, which were adopted with three cheers and a tiger.