THE SAFEGUARDING OF IMPERIAL DEMOCRACY
An Address by VENERABLE ARCHDEACON CODY, D.D., LL.D., before the Empire Club of Canada, March 19, 1914.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,--In the past, empires have usually been characterized by great centralization of administration, and the reins of empire have been held by a few persons. It is a new thing in the history of the world to have an empire such as the British Empire is, and to have the ruling power in that empire wielded by a democracy. The British Empire is so much by us taken for granted, that we fail to realize how unique and new a thing it is in world history. By a process of evolution there has come into existence, in our British Empire a new kind of government, and in producing this new kind of government our Dominion of Canada has played a great part. Let me explain. The British Empire has not grown up as the result of a deliberate national policy, but we seem to have stumbled upon the best parts of the habitable globe and "blundered" into an imperial inheritance. So long as there was any foreign policy at all in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a bad foreign policy. But our forefathers learned the lesson, and today, although there is no Greater France, or Greater Portugal, or Greater Holland, there is really a Greater Britain. That period of bad foreign policy was succeeded by the period of indifference of the "cut the painter" policy, when the colonies were regarded more or less as an encumbrance. Today, happily, that stage is well past, and we are in the heyday of the new imperialism. But, gentlemen, the characteristic features of the British Empire are the largest possible measure of selfgovernment in the great dominions, and an imperial unity. The hands of the clock, I believe, will never be turned back. Whatever developments there are in the imperial system, they will never, be made at the cost of local autonomy. In proportion as self-government has been granted, in such proportion has loyalty been increased. (Applause.) More than a hundred years ago, when the states in the land to the south of us were seeking for a larger measure of self-government, it seemed according to the political standards of that age that the only way in which they could get what they craved for, was by the process of independence. Perhaps we do not fully realize the alternatives that alone seemed possible in that age of political development. But when in the nineteenth century in our own Dominion there came the struggle for local self-government, for representative government, for those priceless possessions that we hold dear to us today, there was discovered by the combined wit of British statesmen and Canadian leaders, a new solution for the old problem,-the combination of local self-government and imperial unity; so that today we have an ever-growing measure of selfgovernment, and an ever tightening band of imperial unity. (Applause.) We take it so much for granted, that positively we do not realize that this was a new experiment in empirebuilding.
But side by side with that development of a new thing in imperialism, whereby a group of great self-governing dominions, control their own tariffs, deal with their own local affairs, determine their own national policy, and yet are loyal to the Sovereign and throne of Great Britain,--side by side with the growth of that new imperialism, there has gone the growth of the new democracy. Today democracy in every part of the Empire where there is local self-government, is entering into its inheritance with a freshness and vigour that mark a new epoch. There can be no question today that the ultimate source of power lies with the people. The democracy is thoroughly loyal to the Crown, but the Crown today is the representative rather than the ruler of the people. (Applause.) The Crown is the symbol of the unity and continuity of our national and imperial life. As such, above all the vicissitudes of party strife, dominating the life of the common people, it can render incalculable service to the democracy by at once appealing to its imagination and acting as a trustee whereby the power and claim of unity and continuity may be secured for the people. (Applause.) As such, monarchy was never more firmly based than it is today, never more necessary than it is today, to maintain the unity and continuity of our Empire. Democracy has entered into its inheritance; it is coming to the day of its power. At the same time, the democracy has come to the day of its testing. What use is it going to make in this twentieth century, of the power it has increasingly won in the nineteenth? Democracy in itself does not carry its own vindication; it does not come by right divine; it is a form of government, and must justify itself by its power to govern. It is not a great idol before which we must fall down and say, "Great is Democracy." It is at best an ideal to be served. How is it going to work out'
Viscount Bryce has well said in a most suggestive book on the Hindrance to Citizenship,, that there is a gulf unfortunately between the theory of democracy and what democracy actually reveals. The theory of democracy, where the suffrage is virtually universal, is that every citizen is an intelligent, public-spirited, honest servant of his country's good. That is the assumption, and the assumption is not always borne out by the facts. We must all admit that. (Laughter.) What use, now, is democracy to make of its power? The imperial democracy is confronted with some of the greatest problems that ever have been set before a people. I said before that empires in the past have usually been administered by some small bodies of men, by oligarchies, but here and in the Motherland the democracy has power and ultimately determines imperial policy. There is the problem not only of building up--that has been done--but of holding together this heterogeneous empire, made up of free dominions and lands peopled by men of all colours and creeds and civilization and ideals. Will the new democracy show itself equal to practical imperialism? The democracy in our own Dominion of Canada is faced with great problems. One of our great journals the other day referred to that "wasp-like waist" of the Dominion of Canada between the east and west; a good simile, and it suggests a real danger. Will that wasp-like waist ever break in two? One great problem is to keep the democracy of east and west together. We have the problem of assimilation to make the new comers adopt our ideals, to understand the principles of our government, to share with us in the common hopes and aspirations that have led our fathers thus far on the way to national life. In addition to those problems that history and position have laid upon the democracy, beyond a shadow of doubt the democracy of this century is going to set itself to another distribution of wealth. If the nineteenth century is the century that marks the great production of wealth, the twentieth century will have as its great problem a wider distribution of wealth. No man can shut his eyes to this problem in front of us--by vote, by legislative action, by combination of workers, in some way or other, the industrial democracy is going to seek for itself a larger share of the results of labour.
Of all forms of government, democracy most of all demands efficiency in the individual citizen. What I wanted today to say to you was that the elements that go to make up and to safeguard an efficient imperial democracy will be found in certain characteristics of the citizens. These I wish to sum up under five or six heads.
The first element that enters into an efficient democracy is the deepened sense of individual civic responsibility every man in a democracy is directly responsible for the results of government. In an oligarchy or a monarchy, or perhaps in any form of tyranny, the subjects are only to be docile, but in a democracy every man is responsible. The great basic weak point of our democratic system is summed up in the old proverb, "What is everybody's business is nobody's business." A duty that is shared by many seems to be less of a personal duty than one that is laid upon us solely. The great task is to increase the number of citizens who really care. Indifference becomes a national danger when the power of government is in the hands of the indifferent. We must increase the number of people who really care, care enough to think, care enough to write, to speak, and to act.
The second element of efficiency is education. An ignorant democracy is the greatest possible danger that can arise in any community, and under any form of government. When the people are sovereign, they must be instructed. As we look back on our educational development, after all, how little have we been able to accomplish! We spend millions of money; we have taught people to read; how difficult it is to teach them to read the right things, to distinguish between good literature and bad literature! The number of readers is increasing enormously the whole world over. How easy it is to learn to read, how hard it is to learn to think. We have people who are instructed so as to be able to read and to listen to speeches. How difficult it is in regard to speeches to tell the difference between sentimentality and sense, between reason and rant, between force and fluency! One of the results of true education is to know the differences between things, between apparent knowledge and real knowledge. The only remedy for half-education is fuller education, and not ignorance. The democracy is compelled to go forward on the line of sound wide-spread education. (Applause.)
Thirdly, an element of efficiency may be called loyalty to leadership. Now it is well to say that democracy means equality; it means in a sense equality of opportunity; but it does not mean that one man's opinion is as good as another's and that every man can do as he likes. I was looking at a cartoon in Punch the other day. The scene of it is laid in Ireland; the proprietor of a certain piece of land is driving down a lane and he finds a man trespassing. The man is a typical countryman, with his black thorn in his hand. On the farther side of a gate he remonstrates "Trespassing is it? Just wait till we get Home Rule and every man will do as he likes, and them that won't will be made to." "Every man to do as he likes"--it is a popular definition of democracy, but a false definition. The difference between democracy and other forms of government is just this, that in the democracy you choose your own leaders, but you do not dispense with the necessity for leadership. No form of government needs leadership more than democracy. (Applause.) A democracy without sound leadership is but a mob, and may be the prey of every designing knave. Are we going to choose as leaders, men independent, men who will tell us what they believe, or men dependent, who will tell us only what they think will please us; men who will flatter the multitude to use their power to get what they can for themselves, or men who will speak the truth to the multitude and try and lead the multitude to give what they can to the public weal? Gentlemen, I believe that statesmanship, in the long run, always pays better than mere politics,--(Applause)--and that the man in public life who always appeals to the highest, who gives his opponents the fullest credit for good intentions, who stands on the highest and most honourable plane, and puts character and the good of his country first, last, and all the time, will in the long run be the man who will win and hold the votes of his country. (Applause.) It is a profound mistake, I believe, to think that mere party advantage, the attempt to score off anything, is going to strengthen permanently any political leader. We want leadership, we must have the best, and the democracy must be loyal to its best leaders.
And the fourth element is the element of discipline. An old thinker on politics, Plato, the Greek philosopher, described democracy as giving the reins to the emotions and' impulses and anarchical elements in human nature; and there sometimes is a danger lest that picture should be realized. It is absurd to neglect the impulses of great masses of men; it is foolish to ignore them, it is impossible to stop them; the part of wisdom is to guide them. Now the democracy can never do without discipline. It must have the discipline of patience. It must be willing, to change slowly, and to remember in making an economic or industrial change that it is an easy thing to break down one industrial system, but a desperately hard thing to build up a better; that it is foolish, in making changes for the better in the future, to neglect the experience of the past. Short cuts are proverbially dangerous in making permanent improvements. There must be also the discipline of work. To earn a living by doing nothing is a science much craved for by some, but it is bad, inherently bad. There must, in the discipline to which the democracy will subject itself, be the recognition of the honour and honesty and thoroughness of work. There must be the discipline of conscience. This brings us to the quick of things. That is the one personal sovereignty which the democracy dare never put off the throne.
The last element of effective citizenship to which I would refer is the element of disinterestedness. The political prophets who wrote from 1830 to 187o-as you may see in almost every book of that period-thought that the mere advent of democracy would of itself bring order and industry and prosperity. That prophecy has not been realized. We are finding out that the increased extension of state activity is bringing with it new temptations, that the same old opportunity to seek his own advantage is presented to the democrat, even as it was presented to the aristocrat in days gone by. There is a danger that the majority may seek its own material advantage to the serious loss of the minority. It has well been said that the test of a noble democracy will be found in its treatment of minorities. (Applause.) And you can have class legislation just as much on the part of a majority as on the part of a minority. Of course we must have majority government; it is the only way, rough and ready, in which we can carry on our government. Somebody put it this way, "The majority is an ass." Well, the answer is obvious that the minority also may be an ass, and we have agreed to allow the more numerous ass to carry the day. At any rate we can never turn back in this process of development. As the state interferes more and more, takes over-shall we say-public services, handles increasing sums of money, the opportunities to self-interest in a wider range are increased. Therefore from the citizens of this imperial democracy we must call for a wider, a more exacting and disinterested public service.
Gentlemen, after all is said and done, you cannot get away from the problem of character that lies underneath the democratic form of government, as under every form of government. In fact, it is only from and through the will and spirit of the people that permanent improvement can be made. Your central problem is always the ethical problem. That famous authority on the housing of the poor, the late Miss Octavia Hill, who was a practical reformer as well as a theoretical one, who built many houses for the better housing of the needy, said that the centre of the problem lay in the person. The degraded, she said, live in poor houses, partly because of their poverty, but more because of their character. The house may be good, but if the character has not in some way or other been brought up to the level, it will deteriorate the house. The problem comes back at last to this, "Does the pig make the sty or the sty make the pig?" It is an interesting problem of life. It is only another, way of saying that the problem of character must always be taken into account along with the problem of conditions.
Here we are, gentlemen, in this our broad Dominion, one section of the imperial democracy. We have half a continent as the material basis for our national structure; we have as the raw material the sons and daughters of the races that have led in the march of civilization; we have all the experience of the past to be our guide; we have a glowing hope in our hearts; we have a unique opportunity before us in world service. We have the fear of God in our hearts. Surely this imperial democracy in Canada should rear as fair a national fabric as has ever been erected by the wit of man and under the guidance of God! (Applause.)