NOVEMBER 11, 1965
The Commonwealth Today As Seen By A Former Colonial Secretary
AN ADDRESS BY Lord Boyd,
THE ROYAL COMMONWEALTH SOCIETY
CHAIRMAN The President,
Lt. Col. E. A. Royce, E.D.
My Lord Bishop, General Ritchie, honoured sirs, distinguished guests, gentlemen
As you are aware, when something of great importance occurs on the national scene, it is appropriate that the President of the Empire Club of Canada comment. The recent general election certainly deserves such comment and after a tremendous amount of research and intensive study, I feel the following bit of verse covers the situation adequately
"The gallant Duke of York, he had ten thousand men.
He marched them up the hill and he marched them down again.
And when they were up they were up.
And when they were down they were down.
But when they were only half way up they were neither up nor down."
In 1759, two important events took place--General Wolfe won what was then described as a decisive victory on the Plains of Abraham and the Guinness family acquired a small brewery in Ireland. Subsequent events would seem to indicate that beer is indeed best for the Guinness interests have gone from strength to strength over the subsequent two hundred years while it is now a question of opinion as to who actually won the Battle of Quebec-at that particular moment, however, there seems no doubt that Wolfe's successor did command a working majority.
Our speaker today has been interested in both of the fields under discussion-as the former Commonwealth Secretary, he cared for the fortunes of Britain's possessions for a lengthy period and as the sole managing director of Arthur Guinness, Son & Co. Ltd., he has had a good deal to do with the fortunes of that organization in recent years.
Lord Boyd has been a Conservative ever since his early days at Oxford. He was first elected to Parliament in 1931 and continued successful in every election until raised to the peerage in September, 1960. His parliamentary duties were interrupted in 1940 when he requested leave to go on active service and for some time enjoyed the spacious accommodation of a motor torpedo boat in the Dover Patrol. He was brought back into the Government in 1943 and continued in a series of posts until 1952 when he was appointed Minister of State for Colonial Affairs. In 1954 he became Colonial Secretary and for the subsequent five years held this very important position. During his tour of duty two new independent states came into being-Ghana and the Federation of Malaya, while steps were taken in the same direction in Nigeria, Uganda, Tanganyika, Kenya, the British Honduras and British Guiana.
Turning to the business career of our distinguished guest, Lord Boyd has been on the Board of Arthur Guinness, Son & Co. Ltd. and various subsidiaries for many years, assuming the Post of sole managing director of the parent company in January, 1961. The Guinness family have been investing in Canada since 1930 and one of their early enterprises was in Vancouver where they financed the construction of the First Narrows Bridge, linking Stanley Park to the north shore at a cost of $5,000,000 and opening the way to the large developments in West Vancouver which are still known as the British properties; about the same time they bought the Marine Building in Vancouver. In recent years they have established shopping centres in the West and interested themselves in oil, building supplies and other Canadian industries. They are just about to complete Elveden Centre in Calgary-an $18,000,000 office complex.
Guinness now have an arrangement with Labatt Breweries of Canada Limited and beginning this month that well-known Canadian company will brew and sell the famous Guinness brands.
Our speaker was created a Companion of Honour in 1960 and later that year became a Viscount with the title of Viscount Boyd of Merton.
Lord Boyd, with more than thirty years of parliamentary experience, has an intimate knowledge of democracy. His deep belief in the democratic system, as he has come to know it, his wide experience in what might be termed the export of democracy and, finally, his great sympathy with the emerging members of the Commonwealth as they strive for self-government, all qualify him to speak on "The Commonwealth Today as Seen by a Former Colonial Secretary."
I am very grateful to you, sir, for your generous and quite unsolicited testimonial to the healthy and life-giving qualities of a certain drink. Thinking that I ought not to mix my drinks, I took off the Guinness tie which I have been wearing for the last three days and put on one of neutral hue, but I think I could, without impropriety, have come fully decorated in that form because of the kind way in which you have referred to the main purpose which has brought me to Canada this week.
Now I am very happy to be here and honoured by the invitation of your Club to speak today. Your Club, as I saw stated lately, was intended to be, and has become, a vehicle of expression of the principles and ideals upon which the British Commonwealth of Nations is founded. And we are meeting, as we all know, on Remembrance Day: it is a day also that is to many of us-I think probably to all of us--a very sombre one as well. There must be many people here who on hearing the news from Rhodesia this morning, will be thinking specially on Remembrance Day of that Empire Air Training Scheme and the work and the training done in the skies of Canada and Rhodesia, the two countries that cooperated in it, and that made a massive contribution to the victory in the last War, of the allied powers.
What I would like to talk about is some of the Commonwealth problems as they seem to somebody who had experience for a considerable time. I hope it does not sound arrogant if I say I was Secretary of State for the Colonies in successive British Governments for a longer time than anyone this century has ever been, except for Joseph Chamberlain. And so in that period I did get to know something about it, and what is perhaps more important, I got to know very well the leaders of opinion of all races and in a form which enabled one to be lucky enough to enjoy their confidence which frequently took a very different form from their published declarations of statement and intent.
It seems not inappropriate, perhaps, to say something about darkest Africa, because two days ago you gave me an experience of darkest Toronto, one that I shall never forget and from a city which is lucky enough now to be fully lit, I would like to deal with some of the problems of a continent that has enormous difficulties ahead but also very splendid opportunities.
Now, if someone had asked that about the time that this Club was formed "What is the future of the British Empire?" there would, I think, only have been two answers; either-and this Club, with its motto of "Canada and a united Empire" would certainly have known what the answer was-the first would have been that the Dominion and the mother country might formally bind themselves together in a federal system, and the other that they might formally separate and go it alone. Now at that time, and to me unhappily, the first--the federal solution--was deemed to be impracticable, and the second--the formal separation--was held, I am glad to say, to be repulsive, and so a third solution was found: the policy of equal status and free co-operation of self-governing territories. Before long, great optimism prevailed. I remember hearing both Sir Winston Churchill and Mr. Amery, both Colonial Secretaries in their time, describe how they had both listened as schoolboys at Harrow to a speech made, I think, on Trafalgar Day, when the speaker said "One day, Nelson's signal will be flashed, not along a line of ships of battle, but along a line of embattled nations round the world", and it was a marvellous ideal. And what is happening now? With India and Pakistan virtually in a state of war and the Commonwealth apparently powerless to stop it; with a Commonwealth country blocking, until a month ago, Singapore's entry into the Commonwealth; with Ghana and others blocking full-blooded support of Malaysia against Indonesian aggression; with Malay and Singapore wrangling with each other when all their interests lie together; with a number of Commonwealth countries doing their utmost to prevent a fair solution in Rhodesia, many people are now shaking their heads and say "it's all over with the Commonwealth; it's nothing but a collection of countries, each of which is connected to Britain in various ways by history and to a varied and diminishing extent by tradition and languages", and people who feel like this say "Patriotism should be based on reality, not on dreams. This is self-deception, on a grand scale" and as someone said lately, "The Commonwealth Club should be wound up gracefully before it breaks up in anger". We have moved a long way from the happy and optimistic days of the past.
Now the Commonwealth is at the moment 77% Asian, 101/a % African and 111/z the old Dominions, including the United Kingdom.
Now, Gentlemen, the first thing I would like to say is this-and get this clear-that it needed no wind of change to tell the British people what our duty was. We had proudly assumed at a time of our unchallenged authority the obligation to guide and direct the natural instincts of mankind to be their own master, and our people, as yours, and we are one, had remembered as Lord Curzon said, when saying good-bye to the Indian Civil Service, that the Almighty had placed our hands to the greatest of his ploughs, in whose furrows the nations of the future were germinating and taking shape. And so the general principle of self-government and ever leading people on towards it, is one that no wind of change was needed in order to tell the British people where their duty lay. And, of course, there have been, and in recent years, a number of panic stations and sudden and often tragic ad hoc decisions, and to my mind, being in the wings now, it is part because quite a large number of people have lost the will to rule, but it is also very largely because of certain illusions and great outside pressures.
Now as to the illusions, one of the most frequent and most dangerous is that all Africa, for example, is united and is at one on demands on the white races of Britain and other former colonial powers, and the nightmare that this has conjured up of millions of people with a single and common purpose has frequently driven Britain and other former colonial powers to hasty and unwise retreat. Now I do not believe it has ever been true that Africa is united, and it is most certainly not true now. If it were not confidential, I could disclose to you numbers of instances of people coming to me and saying when, for example, drawing up defence treaties with different territories "when you ask us to make this port or this aerodrome open to Commonwealth troops, does that mean that so-and-so is going to have the right to come here?" naming another member of the Commonwealth. "Britain yes, but not them." None of this, of course, can one disclose, but in fact, it is true that Africa and Asia is as deeply divided as, and even more so I think in many ways, than Europe herself.
Now, Gentlemen, in the last two weeks we have seen--and I said I do not believe it is true-in the last two weeks we have seen the collapse, anyhow for a long time, of Dr. Nkrumah's dream of a Union Government for all Africa. I know Kkwame Nkrumah very well, have been his guest, and am fond of him in many ways. But his dream for one government of all Africa received a staggering coup de grdce only a few days ago, and all the time, with the emergence of China in particular, new alignments are taking place in Africa and old feelings are being revived. And it has even now become fashionable to talk of the end of the Afro-Asian myth. Now I will come a little later, if I may, to Rhodesia, on which needless to say I have very strong views. At this moment all I would say is that we are sometimes urged to do the wrong thing because of the dangers of a race war if we do not. But the killing that is going on in Africa today is in the Sudan, in Burundi, in Ruanda; it is not black men killing white men, or white men killing black men; it is black men killing each other. This is what is happening in the present terrible wave of terror going on in Central Africa.
Now the second illusion has been to take as their considered view what Nationalist leaders say publicly, though so often, like politicians in all our countries, they cannot afford to be thought less extreme than somebody else, and so publicly they will come out with all sorts of high sounding declarations. But privately, if you had a long acquaintance with them, the story is quite a different one. Without mentioning any names, I would just say that I was once at the end of a conference asked both by the leader of the delegation and his chief opponent to introduce an emergency regulation under which certain people would be arrested in that territory. I did do this. I was immediately and publicly attacked both by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition as a fascist reactionary who had left it to the last minute to sting this bombshell though they had urged me to wait until the last day. All over, on their journey home, at every port of call, they said that Britain had come in the person of the Colonial Secretary, a dictatorial and fascist power. Well, I found this a little difficult to bear and I sent a protest saying this is not really fair. They said "Your shoulders are very broad"--this is the price of admiralty. But the Prime Minister on one occasion went a little too far even for me, and I looked up a restoration play by, I think, Wycherley, in which a husband returned to his wife's bedroom and found a young man there, and he said to her "What is he doing here?" and she said "Yes, what are you doing here?", looking at the young man, "Get out", and pushed him out of the room and down the stairs. And he called up from downstairs "Perhaps you are right to dissemble our love, but why did you kick me downstairs?"
Now the third great illusion is that democracy can be universally exported--the Chairman referred to this-and I say that the longer I live the more sure I am that democracy in the Whitehall fashion is not for universal export. A number of people are making very brave efforts to make it work, but they are, unhappily, in a minority. Now I tried innumerable variants on the democratic theme--the qualitative franchise, the quantitative franchise, and things of that kind, but we were oppressed by this terrible difficulty. We had for so long, since the days of Victorian confidence, sold to new territories or territories shortly to be new, our ideal of democracy as being the only form of government, that anything else offered them other than the Westminster model seemed in their minds to be second-rate, second best, and today, of course, there is a large number of people in Rhodesia and elsewhere who are asking for "one man, one vote", not with a view to starting the Whitehall (Westminster) Canadian experiment at all, but to have "one man, one vote and one election", and after that no more elections, and the rule of whoever happens to be in charge on the happy day of the one and only election.
Now, Gentlemen, I would like to say, if I might, a word about Rhodesia. It was said of one former minister who spoke a great deal after his retirement, that the lava of an extinct volcano is seldom hot, and I realise that. But I realise also that with some knowledge but inevitably being out of touch and out of date in many ways, it is very easy for people like myself to add to the difficulties of those who have to play the cards and that is the last thing I would want to do. I had for over five years responsibility for Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Nyasaland (now Malawi), and, of course, I had close contact with the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, both of them forming part of it, and I had very considerable contacts with the then Southern Rhodesian Government. I was all the time in the closest possible touch with Roy Welensky, and I believe with him in the maintenance of the Rhodesian Federation, which would be based neither on black nationalism nor white nationalism nor on apartheid, but on a union of all races and a non-racial government. And on Rhodesia we have got this moment to remember that if there had been no Federation of Rhodesia, then Rhodesia herself, the former Southern Rhodesia and now the State of Rhodesia, with her forty year record of peaceful self-government, would have been one of the very first African territories to be granted independence. Now many in Southern Rhodesia did not want Nyasaland in the Federation at all; I was one of the British delegates to that Conference and I know this very well; they didn't want it in. Britain, in part to relieve herself of the financial obligations of Nyasaland, wanted her in the Federation and Nyasaland was put into the Federation against the wishes of many of the leaders of Southern Rhodesia.
Then a wide degree of independence was granted to the Federation and to Rhodesia within the federal framework and after the break-up of the Federation--an ever-to-be lamented event in African history--after that break-up, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland were given independence, Southern Rhodesia was not. Now today they have taken it. Many people say "Why had they got to do this?", surely these people would argue--and I regret it as deeply as anybody, I may say, very deeply indeed the action taken this morning-many people will argue "Things are surely going their way for Southern Rhodesia". Are not the events in the Congo, the terrible massacre of Christians and others now going on in the Southern Sudan, the massacres in Burundi and Ruanda about which you hardly ever read and the goings on in some other Commonwealth African countries, are they not convincing gradually more and more people, that in their efforts to maintain standards but not privileges-maintain standards but not white privileges-the Rhodesians may be right? And didn't even Marjorie Perham, an old and dear friend of many African Nationalist Leaders and of mine as well, write last week in a letter to The Times of London ". . . it is unrealistic for African leaders to reiterate 'One man, one vote' today and expect the minority whose capital, enterprise and commercial and agricultural skill have played the main part in creating the impressive but vulnerable state and economy of Rhodesia, to surrender it overnight for a majority which for whatever reason is unready to carry the responsibility". Now if one was asked why had they done it, I think their answer would be three or four things. First of all that the United Nations will never be brought to realise that Britain cannot constitutionally interfere in Rhodesia's internal affairs--and this they could not be brought to realise until Rhodesia was independent.
The second argument which they have often used to me and others is that while there is, in the minds of all Africans, divided authority and while they can look over their shoulder from their own Government to Whitehall, every malcontent, and non co-operator who in any other country would have to work with the Government of his country to try to improve it, can always get in touch with Whitehall and constantly appeal to Westminster behind the back or over the head of their own Government.
The third argument they would use is one of National pride: that "countries which are less well advanced than others, where the conditions of the black African people is terrible compared with ours, have been given their self Government and why should we not as well?"--this is their argument and I repeat again, that I deplore the action that has been taken and have prayed that it would not happen. But, gentlemen, I fear much of the reason and the agitation for what is called U.D.I. springs from the loss of faith and the distrust of Britain in Rhodesia today; I hate to say this and it certainly does not apply to one party more than to another.
I am bound to say without in any way expressing approval of subsequent steps that Mr. Wilson's Government may take in England-without in any way doing that--that I think he deserves praise for his courage, enterprise, persistence and patience as shown in the last few weeks in contacts with Rhodesia. But there is this terrifying distrust and what is it due to? I hate to mention myself again, but I think the first reason is, the abandonment of what was called the Lennox-Boyd Constitution, in Northern Rhodesia, of 1958, despite the fact that in that Constitution were provisions for an ever growing black African participation in Government and the solemn promises that I made on behalf of the Government to the Federal Government that we would do our utmost to preserve this Constitution for a period of years. This, I believe, was the beginning of real distrust. The second was the widespread feeling that exists in Rhodesia that different instructions were given to the Walter Monckton Commission on the Federation from those that were published; this is a very real grievance, as was the handling by the Commission subsequently of the secession issue which led to the break-up of the Federation.
The final reason, I think, is the failure of Britain to stand firmly behind the 1961 Southern Rhodesian constitution of Duncan Sandys; despite the fact that Messrs. Nkomo and Sithole, the two black African leaders, backed it and the former claimed credit for it, but withdrew their support under pressure-African pressure-and intimidation from outside. Under the Constitution there was a reasonable chance-and this is the philosophy of the good Southern Rhodesian which is quite different to the apartheid which personally I detest--under this Constitution there was a reasonable chance that when majority rule came the black African with the growing middle class, an interest in standards and stability would vote not as a racialist but on the merits of the various political problems that divide men of all races elsewhere. And we cannot forget that it was on the British assurance of the maintenance of this Constitution that Rhodesia co-operated in the distasteful task of breaking up the Federation. And, lastly, I think, gentlemen, the final reason for this distrust has been the deep resentment by white Rhodesians, including many liberals, of attacks made on them by other countries, which have not solved their own racial and colour problems, by other countries in Africa and elsewhere which have made far less progress to a free and full life for the black African than has happened in Southern Rhodesia itself. Of course, there are certain unavoidable economic consequences of the action that the Rhodesian Government has taken: the loss of imperial preference, the loss of the Commonwealth sugar agreement and things of that kind-they will undoubtedly follow; punitive economic measures, which would be self-defeating and harm the very people whom they are designed to help, raise quite different considerations. I said, gentlemen, that the troubles in Africa, and the hasty and ill-considered decisions, were due to illusions and I mentioned some of them, but I feel they are also due to outside pressures and I have hinted at one or two of these. I cannot as a former Colonial Secretary exaggerate how infinitely one's tasks were complicated, by the interference of people with no responsibility in territories of that kind. Fond as I am of the United States, vital as is the maintenance of our friendship in the Commonwealth, I am, I must say, a little intrigued to see the different way in which they approach the problems of an independent British Guiana on their doorstep to the problems of the independence of other territories a long way away. I think events have shown that those who have the power and responsibility should be pushed only a certain distance by those who lack the responsibility and sometimes the power as well. As for the actions in U.N.O. in Africa and elsewhere, the task of a Colonial Secretary can be made astonishingly difficult; though I firmly believe in the maintenance of United Nations, I do wish a touch of realism could enter into their deliberations on matters of this kind.
I am very glad to hear a report in the message I had from London this morning that Mr. Michael Stewart has gone to the United Nations meeting today-I'm not quoting Mr. Wilson's words but it was something to this effect--to say firmly that this is a matter for Britain to settle herself; to doubt the reason for going to U.N.O. and sending the British Foreign Secretary there was--this is not quoting Mr. Wilson in any way, but no doubt it was--to anticipate some other country raising this matter at the United Nations. But, as I say, I am very disturbed indeed, and was always very perturbed by outside interference of this kind.
There has been a good deal of publicity lately about a speech made by a leading Conservative former Minister, about Britain dropping her responsibilities east of Suez. I cannot imagine anything which could do more harm to the orderly development of the world than that thought getting about, and insofar as it is the Far East to England, it is-as Sir Robert Menzies is always saying-the near north to New Zealand and Australia and under modern conditions it is the near west to Canada; any abandonment of the British presence in that way would be a poor contribution to the peace of the world.
Now I started by asking whether the Commonwealth should be wound up gracefully before it breaks up in anger, and I put some of the problems and the dilemmas that are worrying people. My own answer to that would be an emphatic "No!" I am quite certain that we should take no steps--by trying to draw up a code of rules too rigidly and driving out people who don't follow them--we should take no steps ourselves to see it break up. I saw that someone wrote lately "The Commonwealth may not create the brotherhood of man, it may sometimes dramatise the lack of it, but without it we should all have one less chance of getting anywhere along the road towards this infinitely elusive goal". I don't think that shrewd world travellers have any doubt which race and which company of people have done more to carry people along that road, or will do more in the future, and this is people like yourselves, our two countries, the United Kingdom and the old Dominions. I wish that the people who feel like this in Africa and elsewhere could get the same press elsewhere--and this applies also to the United Kingdom--as those who say disturbing things about the Commonwealth relationship and bitter and partisan things about neo-Colonialism. I will never forget standing in the great stadium in Nigeria when, having ceased to be Secretary of State, I was asked back to their Independence, and hearing Abubakar, the Prime Minister of Nigeria, turn to this vast multitude saying "We are grateful to the British officers who came here, first as masters, then as leaders, finally as partners but always as our friends." I think also, and this is helping the West and the Commonwealth, that steadily the idea is growing in Africa and elsewhere that we give aid without attaching unacceptable strings and they are also more and more beginning to realise that independence and freedom are not necessarily synonymous.
You may remember the story of the man who stopped his large car by the Hyde Park orator some little time ago and the speaker interrupted his speech, pointed to the car, then pointed to a large house in Park Lane and turned to a little man in the crowd and said, "When the day of freedom dawns brother, you'll have a car like that and you'll live in a house like that." "But," said this man, "I like my little house and I like my little car." But the outraged speaker said, "When the day of freedom dawns, brother, you'll damn well do what you're told!"
Finally, gentlemen, we have all got to realise certain things about each other: I think our new Commonwealth friends have got to listen to more rough talking than has been done in the past. We have all been so excessively anxious not to hurt their feelings and we have all suffered--or many have suffered--from the illusions to which I drew attention at the start, and we on our side, particularly in the United Kingdom have got to realise that the Commonwealth, not being a political unit or unhappily, a defence once, can't arrive at the common political or defence policy that we might like to see it adopt and that on our own, in the old days, we could have organised. Secondly, the desire of new members to be independent and to prove it a reality, makes them in the early stages assert it on every possible occasion. But meanwhile, there is, of course, enormous co-operation and a constant buzzing of the wires between Commonwealth countries on all manner of issues, quite apart from this unsung and largely confidential contact which goes on endlessly; I think it was Voltaire who said "If the Holy Roman Empire didn't exist it would have to be invented"; one feels that about the British Commonwealth. Apart from all this there are innumerable contacts: the Trade Conferences, the highly successful Commonwealth Education Conferences, the Medical Commonwealth Conferences, the regular Commonwealth Law Conferences and I personally hope the eventual evolution of a Commonwealth Court of Appeal, the Commonwealth Games, the ever growing getting together of professional people in the Commonwealth and finally, very important, the emergence at last of a Commonwealth Secretariat. Arnold Smith, the first Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat and a most distinguished Canadian, is, I believe, at this moment in Central and East Africa. I was very glad indeed to see that on his appointment he said he proposed to be a gardener rather than a planner. "Planners," he said, "have to schematise things; I just hope to encourage them to grow." Now he has got a lot of seeds and there is a great chance that they will grow and we can all help him. And not least members of a club like this which is keeping alive in difficult but challenging times, the ideal of Commonwealth unity. And as such I wish it every possible success.
In view of the very special circumstances of the Declaration of Independence by Southern Rhodesia, COL. ROYCE concluded the meeting with these words:
I feel compelled to add one word on Southern Rhodesia and I hope I speak for the Empire Club as a whole when I say-these are our brothers as loyal to the Queen as you and I but facing a problem to which there is no easy solution--perhaps no solution at all.
Our own state of political grace and moral excellence make the urge to give unsolicited advice almost irresistible and I have no doubt a substantial number of our citizens will succumb.
May I submit with the greatest humility and sincerity that this is a time not for uniformed criticism but for anxious thought and the prayers of every one of us.
Thanks of the meeting were expressed by Mr. Graham M. Gore.