EMPIRE CONDITIONS AND IMPERIAL DEFENCE.
Address by Lieut.-Colonel Hugh Clark, M.P.P.,
before the Empire Club 0f Canada,
0n May 14th, 1906.
Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Empire Club,
Your ease and dignity and complacency, as well as your altogether companionableness, leads one to think that you are quite at home as an Empire Club in Canada. It leads me to suppose that you are not worrying much about the destiny of this land of your adoption, if not of your birth. At meetings of this sort it is too often the custom for speakers to dilate upon what they conceive to be the destiny of Canada. I shall not do that. I consider the matter settled in a little passage at arms that took place between a Hamilton paper and a Buffalo paper. The Buffalo paper said that Canada did not know enough to come out of the Rain Britannia, and the Hamilton paper said she knew enough at least to keep out of the Hail Columbia!
There was a General here a few weeks ago who spoke to a similar Club to this upon the beauties of peace. I agree with everything he said. I would do almost anything for peace myself, but I can't say that I would go so far as to agree to have peace at any price. I should not, for example, for the sake of having universal peace, like to see every Irishman in Canada die of ennui, and I am afraid that is exactly what would happen in such a contingency.' (Laughter.) But while it was all right and very beautiful to speak in that way of universal peace and to desire it, yet we all must recognize the fact that so long as the world endures and man is man so long may we look for something else than peace, while praying for peace. So long as the human impulse is to strike back at the man who strikes you or insults you, so long may we expect to have something else besides peace, at intervals, and consequently it will be almost a necessity to have armies and navies. Our armies are nothing more than national police and our navy is nothing more than police to protect our maritime commerce, and while we are in that position it is our greatest duty to remember what has been frequently said before, that the greatest assurance of peace we can have is preparedness for war.
I don't know that Great Britain--the Imperial forces of Great Britain--were ever better prepared than they are today, and yet I suppose that in every stage of that country's history, when the country is not at war, there are people who really believe that their fighting forces have gone to the dogs. I suppose for years after the Armada was defeated the people in England thought we had no such men as Drake and Frobisher. I suppose after the Marlborough victories there was a period in which they thought much the same, that the glory of England had died there. I suppose that after Waterloo we had the same period when everybody thought that Britain's fighting forces were on the wane. I suppose that after the Crimea-I am speaking about events I don't know of because I was unavoidably absent in those days-but I suppose when the Crimea was over some thought that the day when Britain could force her way and make her name feared among all nations had gone by.
I can remember when everybody thought that we would never again know such a thing as the charge of the Light Brigade. It was a blunder, but it was an inspiration and it has been thought so ever since. And I can remember that previous to the South African war and previous to the other war that occurred in Afghanistan, we had that idea that Britain's forces were on the wane, and I can remember with a great deal of pleasure after the battle of Dargai Gap-for I am Scotch myself -that Richard Mansfield in New York was asked to recite a poem composed by himself, night after night for several weeks, which ran
" Bulldogs, hark, did your courage fail?
Bulldogs, hark, did your glory pale?
What of the slander that says 'decayed,'
'Gone to the dogs since the Light Brigade.'
For the blood and the bone that humbled Nap.,
'Twas there again, boys, at Dargai Gap.
"Did you hear the swish of the flying shot?
The roll of the drum and the rattle-pot?
The music that rose clear over that yell
Thrilled through our ranks and raised up hell?
Come, Highland Laddie, head up and step forth
A crown of glory--'Cock o' the North.'
"You 'Cock o' the North,' aye, pipe away;
With both stumps gone and you led the way.
You may lean your head against comrades now,
They'll moisten your lips; they'll kiss your brow;
For you fought like men; and a man may weep
When he lays a man to his last long sleep.
"Bulldogs who sleep on the Dargai ridge
Fall in! Quick march! and over the bridge;
With the pipers ahead and the same old air
To pipe you to heaven and veterans there;
And you'll tell the heroes who humbled Nap.
The glorious story of Dargai Gap."
Britain's history will never be without such illustrious examples of what Britain's fighting forces can do, and when we speak of our Imperial forces I am reminded of what a magnificent history of expansion and progress the meaning of that word " Imperial " has undergone. I can remember seven or eight years ago when you used the word " Imperial forces " you thought of the old line regiments of the Old Country, but when you speak of them today you speak not only of those old line regiments but of the forces in Canada and in Australia and the other dependencies beyond the seas, and I don't know that I need say anything in. praise of what our forces, the Imperial forces, have done in the recent war. It may take the British soldier a longer time than it takes other soldiers to accustom himself to environments -he is very conservative. I am speaking now not politically--he can't be too conservative in that way for me.
It took the British soldier a very long time to get accustomed to the idea of sneaking behind the stacks and wheat and things. He liked to stand up like a man and fight it out. It was a sneaking kind of business, but we had to do it, and the soldier today and for many years to come will have to do the same thing. We are not going to now estimate a soldier's fighting qualities by the way he loses his life on the battlefield; we estimate it more by the number of lives he is able to take while saving his own. The British soldier, while conservative, while exceedingly conservative, is after all today what he was not before, an intelligent unit; not a little bit of mechanism, a bit of skilled mechanism may be--he is more than that. He has to exercise individuality today. He is not as he was in the years gone by when they had the solid squares of Waterloo and when one man did just as his right-hand neighbour did. Today the field of battle may extend along the front of forty or fifty miles and orders may be given by long distance telephone and telegraph instead of gallopers. But if a man wants to fight for the Empire he must exercise his own individuality and initiative. He has got to be an intelligent fighting machine, and it is worth the price.
Those who are engaged in Imperial defence have a great thing to fight for. They fight to make Great Britain what she is today, to maintain her position at the far front of nations and to make the bounds of freedom wider yet. They fight to protect the old flag, the old flag that is, as Cecil Rhodes said, the greatest asset that the Empire possesses. They fight for the integrity of a great nation, which, as Lord Rosebery said, is the greatest agency outside 0f Christ existing for the good of the world. The Imperial forces which fight not only at home but abroad can say with the greatest degree of truth that
"Wherever the wind of heaven blows over the human race,
There waves a mighty banner that has never known disgrace;
Wherever the trackless ocean is plied by a British keel,
The home of the whale and the walrus, in the place of the bounding seal;
In the regions of endless summer, in the land of continual night,
We have carried that deathless ensign, with watchword, 'God and right.' "