IMPERIAL CO-OPERATION IN DEFENCE AND TRADE
An Address by Mr. H. PAGE CROFT, M.P., Unionist Member for Christchurch, before the Empire Club of Canada, on September 12, 1912.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,--I need hardly say that it is a very great privilege for me to have the opportunity for the first time of addressing a representative audience in this great Dominion. If I had an hour, I should like to speak for three quarters of it upon my impressions formed in my very short experience since I arrived, I can only tell you, gentlemen, that it would be difficult for me to do justice to my feelings in that time, and I think you will realize, as I certainly do, that business is far too pressing to discuss such a question now. I want rather to say just a few words, not about your affairs or our affairs in Great Britain, but our affairs as a family of the British Empire. (Hear, hear)
First, may I say this, that I am proud to think that there are some thirty or forty colleagues of mine who have recently been visiting, in the short time that is permitted us, this great Dominion, and who are endeavouring to acquaint themselves with the problems which confront you. I can only say that I do hope that this means, that as communication becomes more easy we will get to know each other better, and perhaps the Canadian opinion of the Englishman will be no longer guided by the remittance man, and our opinion of the Canadian no longer guided by those who have perhaps in the past fled your country because you did not regard them as desirable citizens. (Laughter)
I think I can truthfully say that there is a very great awakening in the British Isles as to the true meaning of Empire. Recent events, the elections in this country, and your Premier's visit have, if I may say so, entirely altered the outlook of the average British citizen upon Canadian affairs. They have created an interest and affection, which I believe neither time nor stress will obliterate. World events are rapidly causing every thinking man in the British Empire to come to the conclusion that it is time that the British peoples come together, thinly together, act together, trade together and, if necessary, fight together for our own ends.
I think you will all agree with me that man-power is now the controlling factor in the world and is a thing which has to be considered, and with our emigration overtaking our birth rate, as it is in the Mother Country, we cannot hope to stand alone in the future, and neither can, I believe, the Dominion of Canada, or the Commonwealth of Australia, or the Union of South Africa stand alone against the union of nations which has taken place; but if the parts of the Empire, while retaining' their complete freedom and autonomy, come together in Council, with good understanding, with a common control of matters regarding foreign affairs and defence and trade, then I believe that we can truly say that the British, standing together, can resist any economic or military pressure from any rivals, or any group of rivals, which they may meet in the days to come. The surest way to federation in my belief-and I make no bones about it, and I hope and pray for the day when federation may come,-is through partnership in trade. (Hear, hear) It seems to me the greatest binder will be community of interests and, once you have that, there will be a common desire for defence and, once you have that, it will be imperative that you shall have common control of that defence in which all parts join.
The Dominions have in the past realized this more keenly than we at home, and we can never forget, those of us who are fighting the Imperial battle at home, that it was the Dominion of Canada which first extended a trade preference to the other parts of the Empire. Neither are we likely to disregard the fact that that preference has meant that our trade with the Dominion of Canada has been multiplied by four since it was introduced. (Applause) Other Dominions have followed, and with the difficulties of time and space we have found the enormous advantages of trade preference. Today we are proud to think that Australia, with four and a half millions of people and thirteen thousand miles from the Mother Country, is buying more manufactured goods from us than the great German Empire with sixty-five millions of people at our very gates.
But now we fully realize that it is our turn in the Mother Country to move in answer to this policy which has been adopted in the Dominion, nor will we fail. I believe the enthusiasm of the average elector in the British Isles for the policy of Imperial preference is in a very few years and, as I think, months, going to sweep all before it, and there will be a response from over seas to you for what you have done in the past which I believe will delight all British citizens in whatever part of the Empire they may dwell; and let me say in this connection how pleased I am to see around this table those who have helped the Imperial mission in Great Britain. Here is Colonel Denison who has so frequently assisted us by encouraging visitors to come and talk here. Here is Mr. Cockshutt who put me into Parliament. Then I see in this room my old friend Mr. Wright who so successfully assisted us in Midlothian not so many years ago. I only hope it means that the bond of union between the Imperial men and the Empire Club will be sustained, and that we shall have further visits of the same most useful character.
May I speak frankly as one member of a family, as I think that members of a family should always speak, to another. We in Great Britain at the present moment are doing our best for, and many of us have absolutely staked our political reputation on this policy of Empire union and Empire consolidation; but we want your moral support and, if you believe that that policy is a good policy, it is your affair just as much as ours, and we do ask you Canadians to speak out plainly and without reserve upon this all-important question. I think the time has gone by when we should treat one another rather like French dancing masters bowing across the Atlantic, and yet hesitating to say what is for the good of all. I think the time has come when straight talking will clear the air, and we shall know better where we stand. Now, we have recently seen, as a result, as I said, of the reciprocity elections and Mr. Borden's visit, a greater confidence on the part of the Mother Country in all things Canadian, and with the assistance of your most able Canadian Finance Minister in London-of course I refer to Mr. Lloyd George,--(Laughter)--we have seen an enormous increase of investment in this country, and a desire among all our fellow-countrymen at home to have some stake in this country. We have also seen the enormous increase of emigration to your shores because of the opinion of those who have come here that they find the best traditions under which they have been reared and, at the same time, an opportunity of rebirth in this land among the honest and the strong. (Applause)
I am not a shy person, and I am going to practise what I preached just now. I am going to ask you, you who have so much influence in the affairs of this great Dominion, to re-affirm your trade policy and to tell us definitely that you maintain that policy, that you still believe in the policy of granting preference for preference; and it is my honest opinion that the more expression you give to those ideas the more amply are you going to be repaid by having the best that the Mother Country can give in order to help you to raise your country to the glorious destiny which awaits you. (Applause)
But if this great emigration is going to keep on at the present rate from the Mother Country, if the rate for the last three months is continued, it will have overtaken the birth rate, and I would ask you what of the women who are left behind? We are suffering in the United Kingdom from an excess of women. (Laughter) I did not say excessive women, because I always refer to militant people with a great deal of respect, but the fact remains that we have one million four hundred thousand more women in the Mother Country than we have men. You are suffering from a contrary complaint. I have read, as carefully as I can, Canadian history, and it seems to me that Canada never lacks courage in big questions. If it is not very impertinent for a young and inexperienced person from over seas to make a suggestion I would urge that you use your influence to persuade your statesmen to endeavour to grapple with the question of organized female emigration to this country. I offer this suggestion most seriously, because I believe it is a great problem. I believe it would pay the Dominion of Canada, and I believe it would pay the Empire as a whole, if necessary, to pay the fares for picked and selected women, and to take them out to your more distant cities where there is such an excess of the inferior sex. (Laughter) This is a big question, but it seems to me as an outside observer with the very little knowledge I have, that if you are, going to keep your trees you must plant, if you are going to keep your fish in your rivers and lakes you must preserve, and if your race is going to prosper you must see to it that you encourage to your shores women of the best kind who will be a credit to your country, and who will, after all, do something towards helping out the problems of the future. I cannot help thinking that the problem is one which should exercise the mind of everybody, and I believe the more the question is gone into the more you will realize that possibly I was not so impertinent as I seemed when I made the suggestion at this gathering today.
I said just now that trade co-operation, I believed, was the best road to ultimate federation, and that common defence resulted from co-operation in trade. This brings me to the naval question. We cannot hide facts, and no one can deny that for the first time in modern history the fleet of the British Empire is seriously challenged and that, at the present rate of building by a certain rival power, our certain victory in the near future will become a doubtful success. Now, we are not on our knees to the people of Canada, and we do not in any way beg you to help us, but we state the truth when we tell you that the burden which we are bearing is falling very heavily upon all classes of people in the Old Country; but if you feel in the Dominion of Canada that you can not help us it will make no difference to us; we will spend our last penny in taxation, because we realize that in this question is wrapped up our whole existence, our life, and we know that the fleet is our all in all. But although we are not praying to you for your help, at the same time we would suggest that those in Canada, far from the. North Sea, who state that there is no danger and that this question is a bogey, are mistaken. and we would say that, in our opinion, we believe they are either blind to the fact or are the enemies of patriotism; and we do declare that our clangers are your diners, (hear, hear) and that the fate of Quebec or dangers, is bound up just as much with the British fleet as is the fate of Scotland or Wales on the other side of the Atlantic. I have seen it suggested in the newspapers since I have been on this side that armaments are no affairs of Canada; but, gentlemen, I suggest that it is impossible for you to develop the arts of peace and to build your great canals and railways unless you feel and know that you are sheltered under the win; of your fleet and our fleet, which alone makes your way secure. (Hear, hear)
We are told by certain gentlemen that the German peril is no peril, that it is a bogey. Personally I do not call it a peril, but I call it an actual fact. There is no particular hatred by the German people for the British nation, but there is a feeling which runs through every class of the German people that the destiny of the German nation is that she shall be Mistress of the Seas as well as the strongest military force upon land, and there is a feeling which will not down, and that is that he German people must expand. The same people who tell you in this country that the German question is a bogey immediately complete their perorations by telling you that Germany's only trouble is that she requires territory. They are answered by their own arguments. It is simply a question of expansion, and all I would suggest to those gentlemen is this, that if they believe it is a question of territory, who are the last people on the face of the earth that ought to take care to stand together, if it is not the British people who have the most sparsely populated and it lands on the face of the earth's surface? (Applause) I believe there is a general impression at home at the present time that there is only one way to stop this mad race for armaments, and that is that it shall be made perfectly clear that the fleet supremacy is not the affair of the little Islands in the North Sea alone, but that it is the affair of all the nations of the British people throughout the world who desire not only to have peace, freedom, and security, but who are determined to preserve these blessings and will pledge themselves in union to maintain them.
There is one more aspect of the-naval question, and then I have finished. War at the present time is quite a different thing to what it was a few years ago. In August of last year we were undoubtedly right on the verge of war for several hours. In fact no one who knew anything about the situation could tell whether the morrow was going to bring peace or battle. Thank God that war was averted, as I believe, by the strength of the British Imperial Fleet. But supposing that what was so near had happened? Even supposing the British fleet had been victorious, naval experts will bear me out when I say, that if there is anything like an equality of fleets contending, even the victorious navy will lose from one quarter to one half of its effective fighting ships for future use. Therefore, even if we had come out of that struggle victorious, as I believe we should have done, the supremacy of the seas would have been taken from the British and would have been handed over to the United States, and that is, I say, a position which no man, even if he is more commercial than patriotic, would care to see,-if he really sees how absolutely interdependent are the questions of defence and trade in this year 1912. Therefore, whatever way we can look at it, as different members of a great family we must agree that it is better to trade with those who build dreadnoughts for us rather than with those who build dreadnoughts against us. (Applause) We have been led to understand that this great Dominion may shortly decide to share in the naval burden. If that is so, I can only tell you that it will arouse an affectionate response among those who dwell on the other side of the Atlantic, an affectionate response of a value which no man can estimate, because it will be the love of a brother shown for a brother in a brotherly way, and I believe you will find that the feeling which will be expressed in the Mother Country will be worth much to you in this Great Dominion.
I had the great pleasure in the House of Commons of extracting from the First Lord of the Admiralty his first speech on naval defence of the Empire, that is to say from the point of view of Imperial co-operation, and I remember telling him on that occasion what I believed the Dominions were prepared to do if the British Government told the statesmen of the Dominions frankly what was the apparent situation and took them into its confidence in regard to foreign affairs; and I remember on that occasion I suggested that in a five-year programme I did not believe that the Canadian people would think it was unreasonable that they should contribute four dreadnought cruisers-extended over five years-and I remember making a similar suggestion in regard to the other Dominions. The First Lord of the Admiralty agreed with every word I said, including what I said with regard to the control. I said, if the Dominion of Canada, or any other Dominion, was going to give ships, we had arrived at the time when it must be absolutely understood that the Dominion must share in the control if they were going to contribute generously to the Imperial Fleet. He agreed, and in a forty minutes' reply his only criticism of what I said was that he feared the Honourable Gentleman was far too optimistic. Well, I hope that I was not much too optimistic, and I hope there may be something done in that direction. But one thing, do please, gentlemen, understand, and that is there is no man of any party at home who does not welcome the idea that those who contribute to the Imperial whole shall share in the control and take part -in its direction. (Applause)
Now, in conclusion, may I say how extremely grateful I am to you for having given me this privilege. I can only tell you this, that the policy of Imperial union appeals to those who act with me in the Imperial mission, and indeed to every member of my party in Great Britain, with irresistible force. Some of us, I think, can truly say we have entered politics solely for this reason. We have dedicated our lives to this policy, and we intend to prosecute it fearlessly, believing that our cause is so good that it is absolutely irresistible. I can only say that my friends over seas would ask me to tell you that it is no flabby hand which we extend to you now. We appreciate the expressions of brotherhood and fraternity brought to us by Mr. Borden, and there is a response in every British heart over seas, and we will extend to you the steady grip of a brother whenever you decide to become one with us in this policy. I can only say that, in my opinion, if the election in the Old Country came tomorrow, you would find the majority of the man there ready to meet you and to do everything they could to establish a thorough union between the various parts of the Empire. I thank you, gentlemen, (Applause)