EUROPE AND THE BRITISH EMPIRE
AN ADDRESS BY PROFESSOR W. CALDWELL, D.Sc.,
(Links of Empire Series)
1st December, 1927
The chair was occupied by MR. ROBERT FENNELL, VicePresident of the Club; and the speaker was enthusiastically received. He spoke as follows:-I thank you sincerely for your kind reception and welcome. I indeed appreciate the honor, and of course the responsibility, of speaking before the Empire Club of Canada. I can only give myself to you, gentlemen. I frankly respond to your welcome by acknowledging that it has been my privilege for each of the last six or seven years to have been for some months, and once a whole year, in Europe, in England, London and so on, and got really in touch with things, and I have had exceptional opportunities and privileges in getting to know important movements and men in central Europe.
I was asked by the Polish authorities to lecture in Warsaw in July on Canada. The proposal was at once a glad recognition by the Polish Government of Canada's Confederation jubilee and an expression of the practical interest of Poland in Canada from the immigration point of view. I was much impressed by what a broadminded Polish diplomat said to me at the close of my first lecture. I had been endeavouring to work out some sort of connection between British liberty as seen from the point of view of the Dominions and Polish liberty as seen by the European point of view. They were very much interested in those two things, and they certainly believe in Polish liberty as a very important thing socially in view of the past of Prussia and the present of Russia. This gentleman, a prominent man, said to me that the Dominions should take an interest for themselves in all these central European questions, because there is always the danger, imagine a Pole saying that, there was always the danger of the Dominions being to some extent misled by British idealism. British idealists, he thought were always inclined to gloss over difficulties in Europe.
Here, verily, was something for a British-Canadian professor of philosophy to think about, especially one who like myself was trained in the school of British German idealism. Now I will yield to no man in my sense of the great gift of England, of Britain, to the world, namely the doctrine of personal liberty. But it is true that that doctrine of personal liberty has had to be corrected in view of the needs of an equally important thing, organization. British liberty has in England to be connected with organization from the labor point of view; and British liberty has had to be worked out from the point of view of organization in the Empire from the political view point; and British liberty, if it is to be applied to Europe, needs to be considered along with such things as the balance of power, and the part that Britain has to play, and must play in the Europe of today.
I said I was deeply impressed by that remark about the Dominions being possibly deceived by British idealism. Knowing what that idealism is, knowing Britain, being a Briton trained over there, and knowing something about Germany and German idealism, I think I know the limits of this tradition, British, semi-German idealism. I studied a long time in Germany. I cannot say with Lord Haldane that Germany is my spiritual home, because I think I have learned, through the help of the war of course, and in other ways, the real value of German intellectualism. I think our English education to some extent was on the wrong lines, in trusting too much to the mere development of the intelligence, and intellectualism. The war happened because with all our education and our idealism we were not really organized, we were not properly organized for peace, and the war showed the breakdown of some of our traditional idealistic conceptions. I am not going to go into the causes of the war, but I do think the liberal culture of England, this idealism of Free Trade and general progress, the thought that with a great belief in mere intellectual education we would come out all right, the war and the breakdown of our traditional liberalism show me that to some extent a new culture is needed today, a culture that shall give better recognition to the needs and the emotions of the individual, and the place that nationality and nationalism still occupies in the world. A new culture is needed, and I think we have learned that from the war and its lessons.
I want to connect that Warsaw remark with another remark made to me in June 1925, by President Masaryk of Czechoslovakia, whom I have the honor to call a friend. I had been telling him of my intention to go up into Poland after my Prague lectures and he spoke of "the necessity of a strong and independent Poland for the peace of Europe," and of the need of us Britishers getting rid of much of our traditional insularity and aloofness in regard to Central European affairs, and particularly those on the eastern front of Germany. " Britain, " he said, " ought certainly to take an interest in the carrying through of the Locarno proposals. The British people could lose their Empire in Europe unless they are all very careful about acting together. It is all very well to say: 'We have an Empire.' But an England that is weak or defeated in Europe would mean the loss of the Empire before the Canadians and the Australians could get over to help you. " I happen to know a good deal about the Locarno arrangements that led to Germany coming into the League of Nations. I had the privilege of seeing Germany enter the League of Nations in 1925, the greatest political meeting I suppose I ever attended in my life. I had been asked to travel with the Polish delegates from Warsaw to Geneva, right through Austria and so on. I knew their point of view. I was anxious that Poland should have a seat in the League of Nations, and I said so to Sir Austen Chamberlain in his hotel. I was very anxious that the word of the British should be kept and that Poland should get their seat. Chamberlain said he thought they would. I said, if trouble is to come in Europe, it is more apt to come on the east of Germany than on the west. Thank God for that agreement between France and Germany never to fight, and I am thankful to God for the treaties between France and Poland and Czechoslovakia, that if Czechoslovakia is unjustifiably attacked that France will help. I am glad to say I do not think there can be a war for many years, and I do not think Germany will attack Poland without the very strongest reasons. She has said she will arbitrate, and she wants to arbitrate about the corridor and so on. I was tremendously impressed by Streseman's words that a new era has come, that the Great Architect has made nations so that we can all live our nationalities, but the brotherhood of nations is greater still. I think myself honestly that Germany is in a fair way to co-operate. There are still nationalists in Germany, but she is in a fair way to co-operate with the rest of Europe in regard to peace and arbitration. That makes me more anxious, in spite of these recent rumors, for England and the Dominions to do all they can in the way of insuring the peace of Europe. I had a talk with Dr. Benes, the Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia last August in Prague, and he mentioned the same thing to me. There are dangers in regard to certain places; one of the danger spots is Lithuania, another is Hungary, and there are other dangers. There are dangers of small explosions in Europe, and that makes it all the more important for the big powers and Britain and the Dominions to stand together in regard to arbitration and security and disarmament.
It is only two months now since I went last August, in company with a Polish officer and his men to the barbed wire gate on the three-feet-wide neutral boundary between Poland and Bolshevist Russia. I lectured on Canada in Poland; I had been there three times previously, and they asked me if I would like to see some things, and I said I would like to see the frontier. I went to a town in Eastern Volhynia, and two or three miles out of it to a blockhouse, where I saw the whole system f guarding the six or seven hundred miles of Poland
against incursions of Bolshevism. I now know better than ever I did how extremely important it is for my fellow-countrymen of Britain and, the Dominions to apprehend the reality and the value to our common cause of peace in the New Europe that has actually come out of the war. I saw there on that PolishRussian frontier (for we could see Bolshevists over there in the wood opposite us) all that my mind had been full of since I learned in Warsaw in 1925 of the arresting of the Reds there. That was a wonderful story, how Poland arrested Bolshevism in 1920 near Warsaw. I realized how important is the defence that is still going on, for Poland is still daily and nightly protecting Europe from the dangers of any further advance of the world-revolution tactics of Bolshevist Russia. I saw how important this protection was, this series of blockhouses along that long front. The best officers and soldiers of the Polish army are serving there. They do not attack unless they are attacked, but they have things so perfectly controlled that no Bolshevist can come into Poland, nor can any undermining propaganda, bribing of newspapers, etc. come in. In that same town, I saw at three o'clock in the afternoon, some Russians actually allowed to come into this town to make purchases, but they had to be back in Russia before six or seven in the evening. They are allowed to come in; they go to a storehouse where goods are exposed-boots, shoes, etc.; they have to bring dollars or roubles, actual cash, take it to the bank, get a receipt for it, and cash that receipt in commodities, and then go home over the border.
Poland has suffered terribly. Sometimes Polish officers and soldiers have been dragged over the border and killed, but so rigid has Poland been that nothing further has occurred for some months, and Poland is now guarding Europe from the dangers of Bolshevist incursion. (Applause). I learned incidentally that the test on the common soldier is very very great. He may be offered bribes, he is offered pamphlets, and ideas, and he must be a man of character and sufficient knowledge of what Bolshevism is and what Poland is, to resist all these temptations. These men are educated every morning at school, talked to about economic and social questions, they have religious talks, and it is a religious and ethical duty, they feel, that they are discharging in guarding Europe. Poland is simply forced from actual experience and from her knowledge of what is going on in Russia close to her own border to keep her country as intact as she can from the Bolshevist menace. At the same time it is all to the good of the world that she is doing what she is doing. For as Tchitcherin said some two years ago, Russia cannot get at Europe save through Poland, and no one can hurt Russia save through Poland.
I am saying all this out of the fullest sympathy for the Russian people, and the extent to which they have been victims of so much tyrrany and so much autocracy both in the past and in the present. But things are changing in Russia, although they will probably become more dreadful still before they get better.
I am anxious to point out to my fellow-Britishers every where the reality of the new Poland. There is the fact of its constructive influence against both Bolshevism and any future Pan Germanism, any future desire of Germany to go to the east, to Lithuania, for instance, over or through Poland. The important thing to remember about Poland is that she has no hate against either Russia or Prussia, however criminally or unfairly they have both treated her in the past. Poland is a great believer in getting rid of the whole war mentality, and this is a thing that makes her of value to the world today. Poland thinks that the development of economic and social relations with Germany is the best way to put an end to political and national antagonism. Then she knows that she must trade with the Russia of tomorrow, and Russia must be kept open to all the nations of the world.
Along with the new Poland, or even before it (for the Czechs declared their independence before the armistice) there is the wonderful new country of Czechoslovakia. It is made up of old Bohemia and Moravia formerly under Austria, and old Slovakia, that suffered so bitterly under Hungary. And with Czechoslovakia, the two other countries of the Little Entente-Yugoslavia and Rumaniaare united for peace and progress. I was in Slovakia last summer when Rothermere wrote those letters that Hungary had been unfairly treated, and the only effect of the letters was to stir up a greater loyalty on the part of Slovakia to the new republic, and a greater conviction on the part of the Slovaks to retain their position in the modern Czechoslovakia. What Poland and Czechoslovakia can together do to prepare the way for a United States of Europe, when the two generations that have known the war shall have passed away, is of the utmost importance. It is for them to lead and to keep together the eighty to a hundred millions of new free peoples, chiefly Slavs, between the Baltic and the Black Sea. These peoples are all for peace and for progressive social development. It is gratifying to note that Central European newspapers have recently been speaking of the many efforts at an increasing rapprochement between Poland and Czechoslovakia.
In the national history of both Poland and Czechoslovakia there has been at work a kind of religious emancipation philosophy, a "Messianism" as it is called, a belief that they have both had to live and die and rise again, as it were, for the benefit of mankind as well as of themselves. The old Russia, by the way, had a similar Messianic belief before the war about what she could do for the good of the nations. And it is a pity that for the time being she has been forced to suppress her soul for an economic materialism that is the death of all civilization. (Applause).
I bring back then to Britain and the Dominions a message and an assurance that in spite of the menacing talk about the next war, there are in Central Europe about a hundred millions of free peoples whose continued existence and whose will to peace and true democracy depends on the maintenance of the status quo in Europe, brought about by the peace conditions of Locarno. And this maintenance I wish to point out is also dependent upon the interest taken by Great Britain and the Dominions in this status quo, and the League of Nations, which is its chief supporter.
I did not go to these countries out of mere curiosity I was asked to an important conference for the reaffirmation of the world's moral ideal in Caxton Hall in 1922 and from what I heard I made up my mind that I would see Prague, that new centre of Europe. I knew the history of Bohemia and John Huss, in connection with our own Wycliffe in England; I knew that one million people had left the Roman Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia, in the interests not of breaking away, but of founding simply a national Catholic Church. And I had heard about President Masaryk. It was arranged that I should talk to the students in Prague, and in that way I was sent all over the country and saw all the important things there. I know the importance of the new republic of Czechoslovakia, and now recently the new republic of the restored Poland, to the peace of Europe and the conservation of the British Empire. It is very important to Britain and her holdings in India, Iraq, and Palestine. The Empire is far safer with a strong Poland between Russia and Germany, that it would be without a Poland. In guarding the British Empire life, if it is to be conserved, it is very important that we should do all we can to strengthen this new force that is at work in Central Europe for the new order of things.
Now, gentlemen, what has Canada to do with all this? I am a Canadian; I have been more than twenty years in McGill; I am proud to be a Canadian, and I am anxious to think of what our own country has to do with this. I want to avoid no difficulty; I know perfectly well a great many people think we have comparatively little to do with what is going on overseas, and I know of the autonomy movements in the Dominions. I know what some people in the Dominions are alleged to feel in regard to Locarno and peace and arbitration and guarantees. And yet we all know that Canada recently acquired a seat on the Council of the League of Nations. We know how honorable the work of Canada has been in the League from the very beginning, and the good impression the Canadians have made there. (Applause). And there is much to be done in which Canada can effectively take part. There is a big movement; I believe we must go as far as we can with arbitration and that very difficult thing called disarmament. A good many people doubtless are still indifferent to the League here and perhaps in Britain. Of course it is entirely wrong to say that Britain might as well give up the League now and concentrate on the Empire. It is impossible to do that, in view of the fact that Canada was put on the Council. Britain refused to sign the Hague optional clause about compulsory arbitration; she could not commit herself owing to the fear of guarantees. Senator Dandurand has said it is possible that Canada might consider the signing of that clause under certain conditions. As to the alleged indifference of Great Britain to the League, the action of Canada in going on the League is an answer, and the words of Dandurand in saying Canadians might still be willing to sign the clause is an answer. I think there is a reaction in Great Britain now, in view of the terrible necessities of England, for going as far as possible in the matter of arbitration and disarmament among the nations. I know the League decisions have no binding force on the countries represented there; they are only recommendations, but the League is becoming every day more and more powerful. I have studied philanthropy in connection with social philosophy. The League stands at the very top of all the social reform and social philosophy of the last thirty or forty years. If the menace of the possible destruction of human life on a large scale, the crippling of men and boys for years, is not removed from humanity, what is the good of all our education and of our progress? (Applause). Bertrand Russell said in Montreal that if the financiers of the world held together they could stop any threat of war. They certainly could. But they don't. But instead of the force of money or the force of arms, being behind the League, we must get a greater force, the moral outlawry of war by the civilized world. The League is already a moral force of the greatest value. There is no power in the world today that is big enough or strong enough or vain enough or foolish enough to think she could go ahead in international dispute without the opinion of the League. The opinion of the League against any contemplated war movement would actually kill it at present, and nobody would go ahead in face of an adverse League decision. The League is the outcome of the work of years and it is of the greatest importance that we Canadians, we British people, ought to do all we can to strengthen it at the present moment in the matter of the peace of Europe and the east. I know Germany said she will arbitrate, to be sure. But in view of dangerous clashings about Lithuania it is possible there might be friction there, and we must do all we can. We are not asked to guarantee to fight if Germany attacks Poland; we are not asked to fight at once at all, but we can now say that we respect and believe in the efforts on the east of Germany towards peace, and that we are morally supporting it through the League, and that is of great importance.
Now we know that Canada was put on the council partly, of course, on account of her great record in Europe. Canada has a great name and a great chance at the present moment. She is regarded as a possible interpreter between the two great branches of the English speaking race; though probably no nation wishes to be, or indeed can really be interpreted by another nation, for each has its own distinctive characteristics. President Masaryk remarked to me once: " I believe in the future United States of Europe, but I could not help saying to myself, when visiting America, a strange thing here are two great English-speaking peoples; why, after all, could not these two people unite and form a great dominion. " I said, " I appreciate what you say, but the fundamental difference between Great Britain and the United States is that we do not practice the 'melting pot' theory; we do not try to turn out a homogeneous product; the British Empire exists for the development of a great many communities. We have French-Canada in Canada, we have South Africa., and so on, and they are all working out along the lines of British liberty the continuation of the principles of self-government. If we are going to take away the monarchy, the Empire would go to pieces. " He said, " I think you are right. " And the Queen of Roumania, when she was here, felt the difference between the people on either side of the boundary line. I have American friends who appreciate the fact of another civilization different from theirs along their border line. We have a value in our traditions, in our present, for problems in the League and in the Empire just because we are where we are. The British Empire is a type of civilization, rather than an Empire, and may be stated as a common way of thinking about liberty and constitutional government and the development of the lives of less civilized peoples. It is a common way of thinking about personal liberty, about constitutional government, about rights and duties, liberty and cooperation and world service. The Empire is clearly confronted with the duty of serving the world now, not merely holding on. And Britain to be strong in the Dominions, must be strong in Europe. The Empire, to have the respect of the world, must be actually doing something to bring about a better order of things. Roumania has many of the ideals of freedom, the ideals you find so deeply rooted in the British character; and the present century may witness an expansion of Anglo-Saxon culture, just as the 18th century saw the downfall of French domination, and as the Germans thought the 19th century would see the enthronement of German culture. Every nation, I believe, has a spiritual mission, both for herself and for what she can give to the common life of the world.
I close by asking you to think of what Canadians can do in maintaining what is good and true in Anglo-Saxon ideals, and in the principles of western civilization. I believe that Canada can lead, and I think that she can exercise a stabilizing influence within the British Empire, in the development of freedom, and therefore a stabilizing influence in the new Central Europe and the League and the new nations that have come out of the war. We are witnessing a greet emancipation today of the workers and the peasants, and many who have been under, and there is a great war still coming between the forces that tend to build up civilization and the forces that tend to break it down, and it seems to me that Canada has a great role to play in conserving for herself and for the world the truth and ideals of British freedom, and the new doctrine of co-operation within the Empire, and the co-operation of the nations. Where is the intellectual supremacy of the world now? We owe our religion, our culture, our universities, our institutions, to the Old World. Some people say that that supremacy is passing slowly from Europe. Whither? To the United States, to Canada-to this continent? Westward the course of empire certainly takes its way. I do not think there can be any intellectual supremacy to a single nation, any more than in the sense that Greece once was supreme, that Rome was supreme; that Shakespeare's England exercised, that British trade once exercised. The supremacy must be in the co-operation of moral sense, the unanimity of the peoples in the spirit of the League of Nations, to get together to save the life of Europe and the life of the world. (Applause).
A vote of thanks to the speaker was moved by MR. HECTOR CHARLESWORTH.