Empire Conditions and Imperial Defence
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 14 May 1906, p. 247-250
Clark, Lieut.-Colonel Hugh, Speaker
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Item Type
The human impulse to strike back at the man who strikes you or insults you. Looking for something else than peace, while praying for peace. The need for armies and navies. The preparedness of Great Britain for war. The magnificent history of expansion and progress the meaning of the word "Imperial" has undergone. The British soldier. Those who are engaged in Imperial defence having a great thing to fight for.
Date of Original
14 May 1906
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Full Text
Address by Mr. J. P. Downey, M.P.P.,
before the Empire Club of Canada,
on May 14th, 1906.

Mr. President and Members o f the Empire Club,- You observed, Sir, in the gracious remarks with which you opened the proceedings here to-night that when the request reached you that you should preside over the destinies of this Club you accepted the responsibility of that office with a great deal of reluctance.

Well, Sir, in contradistinction to your attitude on that occasion, I want to remind you that when my good friend, Mr. J. Castell Hopkins, honoured me with an invitation I accepted that invitation with the greatest possible cheerfulness, with the greatest possible alacrity, but I think Mr. Hopkins owes an explanation to this audience. I think, if I remember correctly, that he gave me the impression that it was to be quite an informal meeting, and if we should be called upon for a few remarks they need only be of a very informal character, and consequently I looked forward with a great deal of pleasurable anticipation to sitting at the feet, as it were, of the members of the Empire Club, and learning from them lessons as to how we in this Province of Ontario and in this Dominion of Canada should best promote that cause which constitutes, I apprehend, the very foundation stone of this Association; that cause, the dominant note of which rings through every one of your meetings.

I did not come here, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, with the expectation at all of being able to say anything that would be profitable, that would give new or fresh inspiration to the members of this great organization. The bases of your Association are not, as my friend, Colonel Clark, intimated in his opening remarks, altogether in your companionableness and good fellowship. The purpose of your Club is not good fellowship! The object of your Club is not to meet once a week in order that you may enjoy the companionship of the good fellows who constitute the membership of this Club. The purpose of your Club, Sir, is not to intensify the loyalty that already flows up through the heart of every member of this Association. I take it the purpose of your Club is to make your members and those whom your members can influence realize to a greater and deeper extent than they have realized in the past the situation which this mighty aggregation of self-governing peoples, known as the British Empire, now finds itself in. It is not to intensify your loyalty. It is to seek out new methods of inculcating the ideal of Imperialism in this great Dominion and the ideal of Imperialism in our great sister commonwealth of Australia, and in New Zealand, South Africa, the Crown Colonies, and the Islands of the sea which compose this vast aggregation of self-governing peoples. Therefore, it might be proper to say one brief word or two about what the British Empire means to the people that are blessed with the privilege of living under the folds of the Union Jack, and to the people even outside the bounds of this great Empire.

The British Empire is a unique political conception. It differs widely from that ancient empire which we all have read of, the great Roman Empire, that old empire that was ruled over by Caesar. That was an Empire that was ruled by despotism, with a despot whose chief motive was greater conquests; not because Caesar wanted to carry civilization beyond the bounds of the Empire that he then ruled, but in order to build up a mighty empire for the benefit of those materially concerned in its welfare and in its prosperity. It was a despotic empire built up for the purpose of aggregation and conquest. Different it is, too, from that other Empire which is regarded by many as the glory of the Middle Ages, known as the Holy Roman Empire, which gave for three centuries or thereabouts a splendid rule and gave to history the most magnificent procession of German Hierarchies that the world has ever seen, beginning with Otto the Great and ending with Frederick the Second. And it is different from any other Empire that we have in the world today.

Leading historians unite in saying that the Imperial idea dominates three great nations at the present time--Great Britain, Russia and the United States--and looking at those three we find that Great Britain occupies a unique and clear position in contradistinction to the others. In the Russian Empire we find an inheritance, so to speak, of the principles and purposes that underlay and dominated the empire of Julius Caesar, despotic aggregation and conquest being its abiding purpose. In the United States we find that the national idea overtops and dominates the imperial idea, and they have put on record their views on the matter. The United States was founded not with the idea of becoming a world empire or a world nation, and the genius of the American Constitution seeks only to provide for the prosperity, the well-being, and the happiness of the people who are pledged to live under the Stars and Stripes. By accident, it is true, the United States has become a world-power, but the United States today finds itself more concerned in the promotion of the National idea, in the promotion, still, of the State idea, than in the extension of the dreams of those who would make it a still greater world empire.

Turning to Great Britain we find this, we find that while in every movement that has gone on for the increasing of the prestige and power of the British Empire and the promotion and good and happiness of the people of all nations, we find in the doing of this thought has always been had for the peace and happiness and contentment of the nation itself. The Nationalist and the Imperialist find a happy combination in the British Empire, and there alone the National and the Imperial ideas go hand-in-hand. The men at home who have all along contended, and some of them are contending today, Sir, that the Government of Great Britain should give their first and only thought to the good government 0f the people who live in the British Isles and that the Colonies should look out for themselves; these men are aiding, I take it, Sir, the cause of Imperialism because they exert at some times probably a wholesome restraining influence upon those who would carry to extremes the other idea; and that constitutes the happy whole that makes up our National and Imperial aspirations at the present time.

Now, Sir, we sometimes hear criticisms of Great Britain, that her foreign wars were inspired by desire of conquest and lust for new territory, and yet, Sir, I do not suppose that the nation has ever lived, or will ever live, whose history shows down through all the centuries so marked a desire to refrain from conquest and so absolute a determination not to reap the fruits of conquest. Why, Sir, the abandoned possessions of Great Britain would constitute the greatest colonial empire that any nation outside of Great Britain possesses today. It is not necessary for me to enumerate them. You are all familiar with them. Starting away back with Guadeloupe and Martinique-three times was Guadeloupe handed back without any consideration whatever, and five times Martinique was handed back without any consideration to Great Britain, after they had conquered that possession. Take the Island of Cuba, where they sacrificed five thousand men before Morro Castle and gave a fitting reprimand to Spain for her double dealing with prance; but no sooner was the war over than Great Britain rewarded Spain by handing back the Island of Cuba--an island which is now regarded as a most valuable dependency of the United States. And the same way with Java, some six hundred miles from farther India, conquered by Great Britain and handed back, after five years of splendid administration under Sir Stamford Raffles, which elevated that Colony far above what it had ever known before. And what about the Ionian Islands? What about Malta and the many islands of the sea that one after another have been conquered by Great Britain and handed back without any consideration whatever.

I recall these things, not because you are not familiar with them, but because it is well to remind ourselves of occasions of this kind. We are here to consider our duties and it is well to impress upon ourselves the lesson that history teaches us, and that lesson is, as it has been well put, that in a fit of absence of mind we have created the greatest Empire that the world has ever seen. Why, Sir, if there is a destiny that shapes the ends of individuals, rough-hew them as we will, there has been a destiny surely shaping the ends of the great British Empire by putting into the hands of this mighty power, this great agency for good, the possessions that are in every sea and in every continent of the civilized world today. And, Sir, the attitude of Great Britain towards the possessions that she has acquired from time to time has been quite in harmony with the utterances of her public men. It was in the late Sixties or Seventies before there was anybody in the Motherland of any considerable importance who thought it worth while to rise up and say that the Colonies were 0f any advantage whatever, and it is striking to notice what the utterances of some men whom we have learned to regard in more recent years as Imperial statesmen were forty or fifty years ago.

The Duke of Newcastle would have seen a dissolution of the Old Land and Canada with the greatest pleasure. Sir Henry Taylor called the Colonies a troublesome heritage and Lord Salisbury, in a speech delivered in the Guild Hall, said that he viewed with disapproval the colonizing of the Cape and New Zealand. You will remember, gentlemen, that these utterances but reflected the disposition of the Mother-land in those days; they reflected the feeling of the people in Great Britain who saw these mighty possessions that they had in the various parts of the world, but did not look far enough to see that if they were men of courage and put their hands to the duty that came before them and realized the immensity of the responsibilities that this vast Empire placed upon them, they could make of it what Lord Rosebery has described and what Colonel Clark has quoted, an agency for good, not alone for the people belonging to and pledged to live within its borders, but an agency for the general good of the whole civilized world.

Now, Sir, I do not know that it would be fitting, since I know that there are some other things that you have to proceed with, to take up much of your time on any particular phase of the Imperial question. I apprehend, Sir, that from time to time before the members of your Club men have spoken who have made a study of the many questions as they come up for solution, and it would be presumption on my part were I to take up your time in any endeavour to repeat in a scattered and less effective way arguments that have been forcibly and logically advanced before you during the year which has drawn to a close. But let me tell you that I think the people of Great Britain, the people of the Mother-land and the people of the Colonies, have not come to realize and appreciate the immensity of the question that is now knocking at our very doors. It is there and it can't be evaded and it can't be shelved. It can't be eluded. It must be grappled with and that is the question that has been thrown into the political arena by Joseph Chamberlain in the Mother-land:

It is all very well to say, as some people assert, that we should leave well enough alone, that the tie of kinship which now binds us and the scattered Colonies of the Empire to the Mother-land, that that thread of kinship is strong enough to endure, and that Great Britain and her Colonies can go on down the centuries without any strengthening of the ties. I hope it is not necessary that that tie should be supported or supplemented. But surely it is the part of business wisdom and discretion, looking abroad and seeing how many are the forces that are making for disruption; surely it is the part of national wisdom, at any rate, for the men in the Old Land and the men in the Colonies, leaders of thought, leaders in the various governing bodies, to take counsel together and endeavour to arrive at some scheme to make it beneficial in a national sense, as well as in a political sense, for the Colonies to remain a part of the British Empire. I give you a motto, said Mr. Chamberlain, addressing the Manufacturer's Association on their recent visit there, Let us buy of one another." Is it such a stupendous, impossible motto to abide by, to hang up in Canada, and to hang up in every Colony in the British Empire?

At the present time we are not buying as much from Great Britain as we should. Looking over the trade returns recently I found that while Great Britain takes forty-six percent of the Canadian exports that Canada only purchases twenty-five percent of its imports from Great Britain. The Australian Colonies do better. New Zealand buys sixty percent of her imports and sends sixty percent to Great Britain. Australia buys some seventy percent of her imports from Great Britain and sends in the neighborhood of forty percent of her exports, to Great Britain. On the whole, looking over all the Colonies we find that considerable less than half of the imports are purchased from the Motherland. The foreign nations, in other words, enjoy half the trade of the Colonies of Great Britain, while the Mother-country has to be content with the lesser part of that trade. Now surely this should be capable of remedy. Mr. Chamberlain has pointed out an easy solution of the problem. He has pointed out that certain necessaries of life, such as tea and coffee, are taxed. To hear some of the opponents of Mr. Chamberlain you would almost think that everything came in there free, that nothing was taxed at all. Mr. Chamberlain says the solution is easy. Let us shift the taxation from tea and sugar and coffee over to the flour and meat. Necessaries of life they are, it is true, but not more necessary than the articles that are now taxed, and if that were done what would be the result?

A small tax, a small preference given to the wheat produced in this country and the flour produced in this country and the meat produced here; the same in Australia and New Zealand and the other parts 0f the Empire; would give to the Colonies a very real reason--apart altogether from those of loyalty and kinship and friendship that must endure to the end--a material reason, for continuing their relations with the Motherland. Let me point out to you that the day has come. The day has come when Canada can well say to the Mother-land, we are in a position, come what may, to be the granary of the British Empire in times of peace, in times of stress, in times of war. Lord Strathcona, speaking not long since, said that in ten years Canada could produce enough grain to supply the whole of the Mother-land. Mr. Theodore Knappen, interested in one of the great flouring centres of the United States, has said that in ten years the North-West of Canada would be able to supply Great Britain with 250,000,000 bushels of wheat annually. One of the Dominion Government officials makes a calculation that of fifty-seven districts in the North-West Territories any one of them, if cultivated and if the average yield came up to the average yield of Manitoba for the past fifteen years, would supply enough grain to feed the whole of the Motherland.

This gives us an idea of the immensity of our resources and. of our power to co-operate with the Motherland by sending our raw material in the shape of grain and flour and meats and taking back from her something that need not be in competition with our manufactures. No, but taking back a portion at any rate of that which we are now importing from the United States. Do you know that our imports from the United States have increased year by year at a greater ratio or percentage than the increase from the Mother-land? In fact, for about two or three years, there was an actual decrease of imports from the Mother-land. As the years go on the United States will become less and less able to provide Great Britain with food products. At the present time the lands of the United States are nearly all taken up. The great prairies of the United States are all settled and the immigration is now crowding into the centres and will have to be fed, and in the future the amount of flour and grain to export will be becoming gradually less; and at the same time Great Britain is year by year requiring more flour, more bread, more meat than at the present time. In 1875 the population of Great Britain was 31,000,000, and she had under cultivation 3,737,000 acres. In 1901 her population had grown from 31,000,000 to 41,000,000, but instead 0f having over three and a half million acres her acreage had decreased by 951,000, showing conclusively that while they are increasing in population, and while the capacity of the United States to supply that market must gradually decrease as the years go 0n, and our ability t0 provide increases, Great Britain will be more and more compelled to take our products.

Now that is rather a dry subject and one which has, I suppose, been touched 0n by other gentlemen who have addressed your Club. But let me say this, that I think the question which Mr. Chamberlain has raised is a question, as he has put it, which should be absolutely above party. Unfortunately the political parties 0f the Mother-land divided on his proposition and, s0 far as the seats in the Imperial House go, he suffered a very severe defeat, though if you look into the figures, the aggregate votes recorded for and against his proposition in that election, you will find that the majority is very small, that some forty-five, I think, out of every hundred voted in favour of the proposition by Mr. Chamberlain. But I care not what the result of that election may have been; or the result of other elections may be; I care not what the attitude of the Dominion of Canada may be, or what it may be for the next ten or twenty years; I am satisfied that the people of Great Britain and the people of the Colonies must take up that question and they must deal with it along the practical statesmanlike lines laid down by Mr. Chamberlain; or else, I fear, Sir, the picture that he has drawn will be realized and that instead of coming closer together we may drift further and further apart.

It is not a pleasing picture to contemplate. It is a picture I hope we will never be called upon to contemplate. It is useless for gentlemen to get up in Canada and say, we have given a preference to British products, to the products of her factories and as a result certain industries have been affected. That may be so. We can't hope, Sir, as a Dominion, to enter into an arrangement for mutual trade within the Empire without bringing about some changes, and if we hope to bring about an arrangement all to our own advantage and all on our side, then we haven't the proper disposition to enter into an arrangement at all. We are not concerned about any arrangement because the very fact that we look for the advantage all on our side would indicate to sensible, rational, people that if the give and take principle is not in the contract then there is no desire for a contract.

Now, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I listened with a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction to Colonel Clark's reference to the splendid position that the Imperial forces occupy today. As a soldier himself he has been able to speak to you in a practical, may I say business-like way, of the great revolution that has taken place in reference to the military forces; but as one who has had no hand or part in military matters so far during my life-and I see no immediate prospect of being made a General here in Canada at any rate-I want to say that the lesson of the South African war was the lesson that Colonel Clark impressed upon us to-night. Up to the time of the South African war there was a disposition 0r tendency among ourselves to count the might or strength of the great powers of Europe by their standing armies. Germany was a mighty military Power, because she had an enormous standing army; France the same, judging by her well-trained soldiers. Russia was an immense Power with her millions upon millions of soldiers, and so we measured the might of these great Powers by the numbers of their standing armies, and Great Britain was low down in the scale. The South African war taught us and the world a signal lesson that the might of Great Britain was not only to be measured by the numbers of her standing armies, but by the millions upon millions of far-born sons across the seas; the millions who responded to the call when the Empire was in danger, when one by one the whelps of the lion answered to the call. On the battlefields of South Africa were buried the last remnants of that party known as the Little Englander party and their graves are the graves of the men who died fighting for the cause that Great Britain had espoused in that country. The men from New Zealand came, and the men from the far plains of Australia and our own men from Toronto and from the Provinces to the east and west, who fought and died came; and from their graves there has grown a mightier and greater Imperialism.

There is now a greater responsibility resting upon us, if we only realized it, greater still in its possibilities, in promoting, in furthering and achieving, the arts of peace. Canada has her part to play. Canada has done well. Canada has built from ocean to ocean a great imperial highway making a route from the Mother-land, from Great Britain to her possessions in the East, independent of any other nation on the face of the globe. Canada has taken over Halifax and Esquimalt and is carrying on these two posts now and she is indicating that she is desirous of promoting still further her union with the Mother-land. But we look out into the sea and we see our commerce and we shout that we are the fifth maritime power in the world today, and we see our commerce travelling over every sea safely guarded by Britain's navy, and then we go down to the Union Station, Toronto, and we see hundreds and hundreds of Englishmen and Irishmen and Scotchmen, and we say, you are the men who in the Old Land have been paying the taxes that have protected our commerce on the seas. Is that right? Is it a self-respecting, honourable part to continue doing as we are? Australia and the other Colonies are doing some little in the way of showing their appreciation. Supposing--and let us suppose it that danger never can menace our shores, supposing the footstep of the invader shall never re-echo on this Canadian soil, surely for the protection of our commerce on the seas it is necessary that the British navy should be kept up to its present high status and we should do something towards defraying the expense of that navy.

Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, we have behind us a record of which any people would be proud. We are the heirs in possession of the glorious traditions of an Empire on whose dominions, as someone has said, the sun never sets, whose morning drum-beat following the sun, circling with the west, keeps time to one continuous strain of the martial airs of England. We are heirs in possession of the glorious achievements of the men who have died fighting for the liberties that we now enjoy. We are descendants of the grand old pioneers who came into this country, and who beat back the wilderness, who through loneliness and trial have paved the pathways we now in safety are privileged to tread. But we have our, duty to perform in the present and we will be faithless and unworthy of those sires, we will be unworthy of this inheritance, if we do not realize the fact that we owe a duty to the Empire at the present time by endeavouring to bring about a consummation of the policy that has been enunciated by Mr. Chamberlain, and if we do that we will have reason, I am satisfied, as one of the partners in that great aggregation of nations, and our children and our children's children shall have reason, to be grateful in the years that are t0 come for what we endeavoured to achieve.

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Empire Conditions and Imperial Defence

The human impulse to strike back at the man who strikes you or insults you. Looking for something else than peace, while praying for peace. The need for armies and navies. The preparedness of Great Britain for war. The magnificent history of expansion and progress the meaning of the word "Imperial" has undergone. The British soldier. Those who are engaged in Imperial defence having a great thing to fight for.