- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 1 Mar 1917, p. 463-474
- Eaton, Rev. Charles Aubrey, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Ways in which this war has cast a searing light into the souls of the nations. Revelations about Germany, England, and this beautiful Canada of ours. Our heroic Canadian boys. Three great fundamental facts concerning the general history of mankind, revealed through the war: that democracy is the ultimate end towards which the historical process is tending; that great reality which lies at the basis of all life, the fact that freedom is worth all it costs in blood and treasure; the fact that the soul is the man, and the soul is the nation. This Dominion thrust into the very front rank of the war; we cannot go back. The speaker's judgment that Canada will become a powerful factor in world politics, exercising a tremendous influence on world politics as part of and by means of her connection with the British Empire. Also, that it will be Canada's duty as a world servant to live in the strictest accord with her own principles and her own past. Ways in which Canada can best fill her place as a world power. Conserving our own resources. Facing the actual conditions of one's nation and removing the divisive element so that we will be one at heart and allegiance, as we must be one in destiny. How Canada's place in the world is of peculiar importance to the United States because of the geographical position we occupy. Canada's position of grave responsibility; understood by, respected by and trusted by the British Empire and the United States equally. The American attitude towards Canada and Canadians. A plea for patience and understanding for the U.S. Understanding, discovering the fundamental Americanism on which that nation rests; the speaker's explication. The present position of the U.S. Difficulties surrounding Mr. Wilson. The anger of the American people against the lack of moral reaction to the great moral issue across the seas.
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- 1 Mar 1917
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- CANADA'S PLACE IN WORLD POLITICS
AN ADDRESS BY REV. CHARLES AUBREY EATON,
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto
March 1 , 1917
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--It always moves me profoundly to find myself facing a Canadian audience. The first time I ever knew a Scotchman to be mistaken was when your President told you I was born in New Brunswick. He was not there at the time, so we will have to excuse him: I was born in Nova Scotia.
I am immensely pleased to see so many old friends here today. Years ago when I was a pastor in this city, I had the honour and privilege of being associated in a very humble capacity with Sir John Willison when he was the editor of one of the leading journals here-I believe it was the Globe. Being on the Globe he greatly felt the need of some religious instruction, so he looked around for a religious coadjutor and considered Dr. Briggs first of all, but thought he was altogether too orthodox, so he asked me to furnish religion for the Globe; which I did in large quantities, but I never could see that it took with the Editor, and I had to abandon the job before it was completed. MacDonald has since been furnishing religion far the Globe, and, being a Presbyterian, he is taking a good while at it; but I hope that the Globe will eventually reach the rare religious heights occupied by the News and other Toronto publications.
I have been anticipating giving this address with fear and trembling because having admitted my birth in Nova Scotia, it naturally follows that modesty is the chief characteristic that afflicts me; and fear of my fellow men was stamped upon me early in life.
Gentlemen, I feel that any man who undertakes to discuss topics such as the one I have chosen today assumes a tremendous responsibility. I have the honor of being President of the Canadian Society of New York, and it is composed of as fine a group of men as this is, and in saying that I am paying our American Society a very high compliment indeed. The fundamental platform upon which we stand is that we are to act as mediators between the Homeland, Canada, and the great Republic. Our hope is that we may have some humble part in bringing to pass the day when the great English-speaking races shall once more stand shoulder to shoulder, united in some workable form of federation for the uplifting of the standard of liberty and democracy throughout the world.
I have believed since earliest childhood that no matter how separated through the exigencies of political strife the different branches of our race may have become, the day will eventually arrive when all men whose souls are stirred by the great ideals that had their birth in Saxon history will have to stand together in the interest of these great principles which must lie at the basis of a re-builded world.
I have come today to speak to you upon a great theme: "Canada's Place in World Politics After the War."
This war has cast a searing light into the souls of the nations. It has revealed Germany as not even Germans thought that she was. It has revealed England, too, but more especially has it revealed this beautiful Canada of ours. Who would have dreamed, for instance, that these dear boys who went about the fields and farms and villages and cities, enjoying their sports and social relationships and discharging their ordinary duties-these magnificent young Canadians-were the heroes of the ages? Who would have ever dreamed that this nation, with its desire for peace and its simplicity of life would, in one short year, leap into the notice of the world as the herald and banner bearer of world freedom and of world unity?
The war has revealed three great fundamental facts concerning the general history of mankind. The first is that democracy, in the sense of the spiritual unity and equality of men is the ultimate end towards which the historical process is tending. I believe that the day is coming, not within your life or mine, but in the distant future, when every man and every woman in the world will assume responsibility to the fullest extent of their powers for all the obligations, social, political and economic, which surround them at that time; and I am glad to see that Ontario has recognized this trend, and is now giving to the women what is their just due, the right to exercise the function of the franchise.
The second great reality which lies at the basis of all life, and has been revealed by this war, is the fact that freedom is worth all it costs in blood and treasure. I thank God that every drop of blood in my veins is Saxon blood. I should be ashamed, no doubt, of saying that before a Scotch President; but the Scotch are just as Saxon as we are. There is something in the men who live under the British flag that loves liberty; and no matter how broken in our spiritual life we may have become, when the test really faces us, the great majority of the people of our breed would rather die free than live slaves, and we know the meaning of words when we make that statement. And this is why that great sacrifice, that great unnecessary sacrifice of the fairest sons of the world has been laid upon the altar: To buy for mankind that priceless thing we call freedom. That is what is going on, as I see it, in the world to-d4y. It is the same thing that was fought out on the battlefields of England and in the American Revolution and the American Rebellion; the same thing that we strove for from the beginning in Canada-Freedom.
We now come to the third great principle that has been unveiled, which is the fact that the soul is the man, and the soul is the nation. We have been given over to a sort of trifling and mechanical form of religion. We have thought of life as something separate and distinct from the message of the spirit, and have built up our great political and economic institutions as if they were something to be attended to on week days and totally distinct from the worship of God on the Sabbath. We have discovered that the soul is the man and nothing else is the man; that the soul is the nation and nothing else is the nation; and we are placing these great realities that lie at the base of all life as a proposed foundation for permanent democracy.
These are the great mountain peaks of human consciousness that have been revealed by this war.
This Dominion has been thrust into the very front rank of the war, and one of the things that has been borne in upon our consciousness is that we cannot go back. We are out on the wild and stormy sea of universal relationships. We have become a world power and have taken our place amongst other craft sailing on the troubled waters of world politics: and for us there is no retreat. We must order our future domestic institutions in the blazing light of these international relationships. Henceforth no Canadian can be a parochialist. He must be a citizen of the world and believe in the common destiny of mankind, and strike with an iron hand at all those influences which divide men and nations from each other; and exert the utmost force of his being to advance the principles of universal justice, right and truth.
The Canadian nation, in my judgment, will become a powerful factor in world politics. It is very rash to prophesy, but one man's prophecy is as good as another's, and as far as a minister's prophecy, well, people are accustomed to accept it whether they believe it or not.
Canada will exercise a tremendous influence on world politics as a part of and by means of her connection with the British Empire.
When I was a boy in Canada I used to grieve over the absence of that spirit of nationhood which was lacking in those early days. Well do I remember the night the news came to Toronto that Pretoria had fallen, for then I witnessed, and you witnessed, what seemed to me to be the birth of Canadian nationalism; a consciousness that we were a part of the great family of nations. And when I saw the leading citizens of this city beating tom-toms throught the streets, and the half of them--well, no, I would not say drunk, but "lit up "--I felt it was a serious drawback that my profession excluded me from associating myself completely with the general rejoicing-I realized then the birth of a national spirit which up to that appeared to have lain dormant in our consciousness.
Gentlemen, you cannot have a nation except through the travail and pain of sacrifice. There is nothing great in the world that can be bought at a cheap price, and that is why I consider pacifism per se to be a delusion and a snare. The pacifist thinks you can get results that are a power in life without sacrifice. It cannot be done. In proof, I look upon Canada now finding her destiny as a world servant in and with the British Empire.
In the second place, I believe it will be Canada's duty as a world servant to live in the strictest accord with her own principles and her own past. I believe that Canada is as true an example of democracy as the world contains, and democracy is the key to the future. I believe Canada is as successful an experiment--in the federal idea as the world contains; and Canada must stand for the great principle of federalism; for it is that principle which must be tested on a world scale after the war is over, and Canada has the proud distinction of being fully prepared for she has been a federal experiment under the most difficult and adverse conditions fifty years. I believe that Canada's destiny as a world servant in world politics will be along the line of applying the federal principle, which she has worked out with such pain and cost, to world relations.
Then I think Canada can best fill her place as a world power by conserving her own resources, for as I look across the line and see over here the identical problems which have confronted the great republic for so long, I say it is the duty of every patriotic Canadian citizen to study well the conditions in the republic and to avoid the mistakes which .the great republic has made. I understand there is a movement to fill this country up after the war with alien immigrants. I would consider that an unmitigated calamity, and I hope Canada will have no one but Canadians in it, and I cannot see how you can produce Canadians except you take plenty of time. You have to digest the mass you bring in, and therefore I would see to it, if I were you, that only picked men, whose souls are in attune with the soul of Canada, be allowed to come in here and take part in the life of the nation. Otherwise, when you think you are a nation you will discover you are a house divided against itself, and if history teaches anything it teaches us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. If you have an ulcer in your national heart, if you have a division of race or ideal or character, you cannot go on permanently to build your institutions. You must face the actual conditions of your nation and remove the divisive element so that you will be one in heart and allegiance, as you must be one in destiny.
The other day, at the Bankers' Club in New York, you may be surprised that I should be there? I was getting a free lunch-I was talking with an ex-Canadian who is a great expert in doctoring sick corporations. This gentleman informed me that he had recently been visiting the Pacific Coast for the purpose of studying the forests of Canada, and he said to me: "Please tell the Canadians when you go over there that they have an empire's resources in their western forests and they are handling them like damn fools." Now, he was not a member of my church, but that is what he said. I have not the slightest notion what that adjective means, but it seems to have evoked a responsive chord here.
You have almost unbelievable resources in the natural power of your waterfalls. Those ought to belong to and be administered in the interests of all the people. The man with the little factory who employs a dozen men should have as free access to the natural power in the possession of this nation as the man with the large factory employing ten thousand men. The waterfalls should be regarded in the same light as the public highways and railroads, free to all.
You have enormous resources in your forests, and particularly in your pulpwood. They should be carefully tended by experts without regard to party or individual politics, so that when the time comes the great Canadian people of the future will rise and call you blessed because you have discharged your obligations to posterity. I would like to see this great nation with its unlimited resources placed in such an economic position that posterity will be able to realize the highest expression of democracy. Therefore if Canada is to play her true part in the world she must gird up her loins and determine to avoid the mistakes of extravagance, selfishness and inefficiency which the democracy of the United States has fallen into one generation in advance of you.
I come to the last point which I wish to make today, and it is that Canada's place in the world is of peculiar importance to the United States because of the geographical position she occupies. I can speak without any prejudice because my family have lived in New England since the Mayflower. We have also lived in Nova Scotia for 150 years; so I think I have in my soul all the traditions of the British Empire and of New England.
The first piece I ever learned to speak in public was:--
"If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, and a foreign army were entering my country, I would never lay down my arms--never! never! never !"
Then I learned Patrick Henry :--
"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but, as for me, give me liberty, or give me death."
When I looked into the face of Abraham Lincoln I thought I saw there the spiritual ancestry of my people of Saxon blood and Saxon speech, for his roots were in the British Nation through his ancestry of New England.
So I feel, gentlemen, that I can speak as a member of the one great English-speaking family, and my ideal is to see the day when the breach which occurred 150 years ago shall be healed, and these two mighty nations holding the destiny of the world in their grasp, shall swing in shoulder to shoulder and unite in some form of federation in the common service of that liberty and justice upon which our nations are builded.
Canada occupies a position of grave responsibility because, in the first place, Canada is understood by, respected by and trusted by the British Empire and the United States equally. I wish that you knew the different attitude towards Canada which has come over the American people, especially in the east, in these last two years. I stood in Times Square the day the battle of Ypres was fought and watched the reports. There were thousands of people packed as far as the eye could see, and as those reports were put out moment after moment and hour after hour, telling of that wonderful, marvellous, divine heroism of the boys of my native land, I looked over that crowd and saw the tears running down their cheeks and the roar of their cheering could be heard across the Hudson. What was it? The great truth that blood is thicker than water, that brotherhood is of the soul, and that, when men are born by the same mother, they must unite in time of trouble.
I want you to try to understand and to be patient with the United States. There are many of us that have found it pretty hard during these last two years to restrain ourselves. I was on the St. Louis--which is now "interned" in New York Harbour--during her maiden voyage. She had a maiden captain and he got us in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on the 4th of July and held a 4th of July meeting and rose and made a speech that was the most abominable production I have ever heard outside of some of my own. A United States Senator who was sitting beside me became so disgusted that he went out and he was followed by a gentleman from Colorado. Presently I thought I would go and when I reached the deck I walked over to the rail where the gentleman from Colorado was standing; but before I could address him he looked off towards the horizon and then up to the sky, took a long breath, and began to swear. Being a preacher I have heard some profanity in my time but that certainly was the most complete and artistic handling of a case that I have ever listened to. I heard him with a sort of awe in my soul and when he got through I went over and said: "Thank you, sir, the ethics of my profession forbid me to do justice to this occasion, but I must say that I think you have filled the bill."
Well, many of us in the United States have felt like that during the last two years, but I want you to understand the situation. In the United States there is a substratum of Anglo-Saxon ideals, principles, laws, language and institutions. The foundations of the Republic of the United States are identical with the foundations of Canada, the only difference being that Canada did not break with her historical past, while the United States did. Our public life is ill-nourished for the lack of deep roots in the past. With that difference, the fundamental principles and ideals of American life are identical with those of Canada. Now, over that nation has flowed an avalanche of races, creeds and ideals, until it is necessary to dig deep down to discover the fundamental Americanism on which the nation rests.
We did not believe that a great war was possible, and if it did come we did not believe that it would affect us; for we were saturated with the belief that the United States could live its great life without any entangling alliance with the rest of the world. When the war lit the whole world with its terrible gleam, half of the American people awakened from their stupor and leaped in response to what was going on. Our President, representing all the people, was elected by little more than half, and the half that elected him live in the west and middle west, far away from contact with the outer world, and still ignorant of the fact that half the world is in a death grapple for freedom.
The President issued his neutrality proclamation and I meditated about it for a month or so and then made up my mind that he had asked the American people to commit a moral wrong--for I do not believe there is such a thing as neutrality on a moral issue, and if there ever was a moral issue fought out since the dawn of time that issue is being fought out upon the battlefields of Europe at this moment. So I got up and said I was not neutral. I wanted my children to remember that I was not neutral. I do not want them to be neutral and I did not think that the American people could be neutral in thought unless they were hypocrites. Mr. Root, Mr. Choate and many others said what they should have said under the circumstances, and so, while we were officially neutral, the people of the republic as individuals began to express their true sentiments.
Now we have reached the point where we are embarrassed by the most skilful and remarkable propaganda which the world has ever seen. Twenty-five years ago John Hay pointed out to all Americans that if the emissaries of the Kaiser's Government came across the sea and won the German people of the United States away from their allegiance to their adopted land and bound them back to the Fatherland, our great Republic would be split in twain. But his warning was unheeded and that very process went on until this war started, when the brains and ability behind this propaganda were demonstrated in no uncertain manner. But the movement has failed for the simple reason that it went contrary to the fundamental attitude of the normal American life; it failed and was destined to do so.
Gradually we worked along towards our present position. And now I want you to remember that Americans of all breeds and creeds are completely and passionately opposed to war as a method of settling disputes. I cannot at this time explain why, but the fact is that the American people are a pacifist people. Similarly the British nation was a pacifist nation. England was not, prepared for war on land, and she, like us, had to fight that pacifist attitude on the part of her public, as well as the German influence. The English-speaking people are not a war-loving people. They want peace because that is now the normal condition for them. Where our Government has failed in holding its grip on the American people is not in its policy of pacifism. The difficulties surrounding Mr. Wilson have been most terrific. No President of the United States ever faced such conditions before, and Mr. Wilson is deserving of the highest admiration for having come through as well as he has. But the thing that has angered and disturbed and outraged the masses of Eastern Americans is that the Government has revealed in its public utterances and actions not the slightest moral re-action to the great moral issue across the seas.
Now we are inching along and I think that America will yet stand up before the world and show that in spite of the terrific internal conditions which must be met, in spite of the sectional divisions north and south, east and west, and the racial and economic divisions, that America, at heart is as sound as any other portion of the English-speaking world, and that by and by we shall have welded our diverse elements into such a unity that our Government can speak for a united land. I have to say that I am firmly convinced of the loyalty of the majority of the German people in the United States to the country of their adoption should Germany and America enter into war with each other. They have been hoodwinked and bedevilled by that militaristic cult across the seas, but up to that time they were among the very noblest of our American people.
I have reached the end of what I had to say. I rejoice and thank God for this day of testing and of pain. I know that war is a horrible thing. I can realize something of the scars it leaves in human hearts and the awful unsettling of established institutions; but when I see the glorified souls of men, purified and set free in the baptism of pain and suffering; when I see the soul of this, my native land, and of the other great warring nations purified and gloriously responding to the universal appeal of the great principles of democracy, then it is, I think, that just as the salvation of men was worth the sacrifice of the Son of God upon the Cross, so the salvation of men from slavery, the bringing of men out of the bleak and dead land of Materialism and social indifference into the haven of spiritualism and social liberty-is worth the pain and sacrifice of this war. And we must see to it, we Canadians and Americans and all men who speak the English tongue, that this great sacrifice be not in vain.
A hearty vote of thanks was passed.