PREFERENTIAL TRADE WITHIN THE EMPIRE.
Address by Colonel Sir C. E. Howard Vincent, K.C.M.G., C.B., M.P., A.D.C. to the King, on September 20th, 1904.
My. Chairman and Gentlemen,-
The long statement that Colonel Mason has read to you concerning myself has placed me in a position of very considerable difficulty. I don't quite see how in the half hour or so that I am to have the privilege of addressing the members of the Empire Club of Canada; and, also, if I may venture to say so, the Daughters of the Empire, as represented in the gallery this evening by the President of that Imperial Order-I can hardly see how I am to live up to all those substantives, and all those adjectives, which you were so kind, Sir, as to read from that paper. However, I cannot do otherwise in commencing the observations I am anxious to lay before you this evening, not on my own behalf wholly, but on behalf of my constituents, of my friends and associates in the House of Commons with whom I am working in the Imperial cause, and on behalf of many others; I can but recall the words which were sung to us this evening from the gallery, " Marching away for the Dear Old Country." I can but recall them, Colonel Mason, when I remember your long and conspicuous services in the defensive affairs of Canada; and when I recollect that the last time I had the privilege of seeing your distinguished son, Major Cooper Mason, was with the Royal Regiment of Canada under Colonel Otter, when that regiment was leading the way of the British army before the Boer trenches at Paardeberg.
Nor could I do otherwise when I see and when I know that the Honorary President of the Empire Club of Canada is that most distinguished man, that most distinguished son of Canada and of Britain, Lord Strathcona, who uses his money so wisely and so patriotically to the advancement of the Empire; in every way which can contribute to the progress and the success of the Empire; and who from his own pocket paid the whole expenses, not much less than half a million sterling, for Strathcona's Horse. My address tonight is not of a military or a militant character, but I think, Colonel Mason, that you will pardon an allusion to this matter when I see before me so many who have contributed to the defensive strength of the Empire, and so many who in one capacity or another did so much to help Britain in the hour of need. The object of this gathering this evening I know, though nominally to do me honour, is rather to take counsel together upon the present condition of the Empire, upon the best means of furthering its interests in east and west and north and south, wherever under the Union Jack the Briton lives in freedom and in liberty, and in the advancement of trade, of commerce, and of peace. The Empire Club is assuredly doing good work in this direction. Now, the problem which I am anxious to lay before you to-night, and to confer with you upon this evening, is the interests of Canada and of a united Empire, and I would submit to you for your approbation and adoption that the interests of Canada lie in a united Empire.
A friend of mine has placed upon the walls of this hall this evening a map which I rejoice to say has been adopted by the majority of the educational authorities throughout the Empire, which shows what the British Empire might be with a proper regard to its mutual interests; the drawing of its bonds closer by the advancement of commerce for mutual benefit. I have been reminded by an old friend during the course of the evening of what the British Empire consists. It has thirteen millions of square miles of territory, covering one-fifth of the entire globe, with one-twentieth of the population of the whole world; commanding the sea, commanding the gates of every ocean, with four hundred millions of people. Over those four hundred millions of people there rules in succession to our great Queen Victoria, who was viewed with such veneration throughout her Dominion of Canada, whose son-in-law presided at the Government House of Canada; there rules King Edward the Seventh, a sovereign of supreme tact and commanding ability, who in the three years which have ensued since his accession has been conceded-not alone by his own subjects, but by the nations of the earth-the title of the Peace-maker. That enthusiastic friend of ours at the bottom of the hall after the Chairman gave the toast of the King, which was received so enthusiastically, as it is always done throughout Canada, could not restrain himself from singing " He is a jolly good fellow." That is the way in which he is regarded by all those who have the privilege of being brought into connection with him, however lowly or humble of degree, and he is the very last man who would be in the slightest degree offended at the exuberant loyalty of my honourable friend.
Now, let us view this Empire; let us view the Empire as it is, as it might be. Forty-two millions of people at home. Three million, five hundred thousand square miles of territory, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific in this our Dominion of Canada. Three million square miles of territory in Australia. The great possessions in South Africa; the possessions in Fast and West Africa. That gigantic Empire nineteen hundred miles in length, with a population of three hundred and fifty millions which we hold in Asia.
Now, it is often possible that some persons, loyal subjects, loyal sons of the Empire, living in some portion of the Empire, think their interests may have been slighted, or may have been ignored in some manner, or in some connection; but let us view ourselves, not as fragmentary parts, but as members of a whole Empire, whose interests are united, whose united interests must ever be the concern of the Imperial Government, and of all other Governments within the Empire. We have this Empire at the present time unfortunately connected entirely or merely by sentiment, by loyalty to the one Crown, by the common language, by the common system of law, the common habit of thought. Now, there arises the question as to whether it would not be possible, without infringing in the slightest degree upon the individual liberty of any portion of the Empire, to make this bond more solid, a more permanent bond of interest as well as of sentiment, which would be advantageous not alone to the Empire as a whole but to every portion of the Empire. Let us therefore consider if it would be possible to do this. If we say it would be possible to do it, let us consider in what way and by what means it would be possible to do it. If you are agreed, as I think you will be by your past action, by your recent history, by your present sentiment, by your presence here in this hall to-night, that this is desirable; let us take counsel together as to how we may perform this, how a course may be adopted which will bring about so desirable a result.
We only have to cast our minds back a comparatively short space of time, fifty or sixty years, the life of two generations, time well within the recollection of more than one present in this room tonight, when we saw an entirely different state of affairs to that which prevails at the present time; when communications between different portions of the Empire, either of individuals or for business transactions, was extremely prolonged and extremely difficult; when news from a distant Colony was ancient history when it reached the Mother-land
and when, unfortunately, a sentiment prevailed amongst many of our statesmen at home, not from any ill-feeling, but simply from ignorance, that a colony was rather an encumbrance than a source of strength. Happily, gentlemen, that sentiment has absolutely and entirely disappeared. Those statesmen have given place to other statesmen, who recognize that we have the greatest Empire upon earth, the greatest Empire which has ever been known to history, an Empire which produces everything which we require, either for the necessaries or luxuries of life; statesmen who recognize that the best way to secure the permanence of the Empire is to unite the Empire by a commercial union. And who should I quote in this connection more worthy of attention than that distinguished statesman who was for eight years the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain. (Loud and continued applause.) These are his words: " There is a universal desire amongst all the members of the Empire for a closer union between the several branches. It is desirable, no, it is essential, for the existence of the Empire. Experience has taught us that this closer union can be most hopefully approached in the first instance upon its commercial side."
I see one of the evening papers of Toronto this evening says I have been kept on the jump with engagements. I certainly have had the pleasure of being kept upon the jump by the representatives of the local press throughout the day, and enterprising and able as those gentlemen are, they may in the hurry of my observations about this matter not have quite rightly understood me, for one of them states that I had said that " Chamberlain was a drag upon the movement." I did not give expression to any sentiment such as that, and I do not hesitate to say that to the Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain the thanks of the Empire, the thanks of all orders for all time, will be due, for the courage, the ability, the perseverance, with which he champions the cause of an Empire united by commerce, united by trade. I referred to the state of affairs existing two generations ago. I referred-and in that connection I had in my mind of course, and you had in hearing me, the campaign of Mr. Cobden from 1840 to 1846. I had no intention of saying anything derogatory to the memory of Mr. Cobden. He was a man honest, persevering, according to his lights. He spoke for 1846. What we have to consider is 1904 and the years to come. A system of free imports into England was established; it was established under promise to an enlightened public that other countries would at once see the advantage' of free imports, would at once follow the example, and that within five years their tariffs against us would be- destroyed. It is never safe to prophesy; Mr. Cobden prophesied and his prophecy has been singularly unsuccessful. Not one single nation not one single British Colony, not one single country upon the face of the earth has adopted the system of free imports; and the spectacle which we see is that of tariffs raised higher and higher against us in every foreign country, and heavy fiscal barriers even in the Colonies of the British Empire.
Can such a state of affairs long continue? Now, I do not say to you anything which I have not said times out of number before greater audiences of my countrymen at home, before masses of my constituents. I do not speak with one voice on one side of the Atlantic and another voice on this side. I represent a constituency, and have represented it for the past twenty years, almost wholly composed of working men. They feel that the present system cannot possibly continue. What system can we replace it by? The system by which we can replace it with advantage to ourselves, with advantage to the whole Empire, is that of Preferential trade within the Empire; and it is on this ground that the United Empire Trade League was formed twenty years ago, to develop trade within the Empire, a mutually advantageous trade on a preferential basis. Now, there are some people who want to know every detail of this scheme, every cent, every dollar; they want to have the tariff before the principle is adopted. But let us have the principle first of all. Now, I wish to quote what was said by an excellent friend of mine before a great gathering in the City of London. He is a man of wide experience. He said, when a young man is courting a lady he doesn't settle beforehand every detail of the domestic organization, because he has the good sense to know that would lead to disunion rather than to union, but he says, " Let us have union, and let us trust to common sense to work out the details of the hours for meals and the daily routine of the domestic circle." That was a very apt example, and it is a plan which I think we may well adopt as regards the whole Empire
Now, Canada in many ways, in many directions has led the way. You have a vast territory. Its capabilities even yet are but partially developed, I may say only partially known. Each successive visit I have paid to Western Canada opens my eyes wider to its enormous capabilities. We see how in a few years, in fifteen years, in twenty years, that which was almost unknown, the Province of Manitoba and the far West and British Columbia; how they are developing year by year more and more to what they are becoming, the granaries of the Empire, the feeding ground of the Empire. Then we can see what the Empire may be in fifty or sixty years, if you, if we of this generation but do our duty to all those who are to come after us, and leave the Empire more united that we found it. Coming as I do now from the North-West; crossing as I have recently done the boundary of comparatively unfertile land, and seeing the golden ears of the wheat stretching as far as the horizon on every hand, I say the problem is answered as to how the British people may be fed by British grain raised by British hands from British soil.
Canada I say has led the way, and it is impossible for anyone, whatever their feelings as regards this question may be, whatever their political feeling may be, not to recognize the noble example which has been set by Canada as soon as her hands were freed from the treaties which prevented that inter-commercial union which is so desirable, and hindered the Colonies from riving a preference to British goods over foreign goods. That policy initiated in 1898, that preference of 25 percent, which was increased in 1900 to one-third per cent:, prevails at the present time. Such has been the effect. Colonel Mason, of the example of Canada in this direction, that already at the present time British goods in South Africa, receive a preference over foreign goods of a5 per cent. Whatever Ministry may rule over the destinies of Australia, we are assured that in the early future even a greater preference will be given to British goods by the great Commonwealth of Australia. To have accomplished so much in such a short space of time is a thing of which the Dominion from ocean to ocean may be proud, for she has set an example which is bearing abundant fruit, which is appreciated by every individual within the Mother Country, although there may be some slowness as to the possibility of reciprocating. This is the object for which Mr. Chamberlain is working. This is the object for which one-third of the present members of the House of Commons are working. This is the object for which many organizations, many clubs, and associations of the people in many districts of England, are working. I would ask any of you who feel inclined to be impatient by reason of the comparative slowness with which reciprocity is given by the Mother Country, to reflect that it takes some time to change an old and conservative country, and that it must be done carefully, slowly and cautiously.
I have no intention, Mr. Chairman, of wearying you with figures. You have all opportunities of consulting those interesting charts with which the Dominion Government brings information so clearly to all its constituents throughout the Dominion, and those charts show most clearly, with a study of but a few minutes, that although full reciprocity has not yet been adopted in the Mother Country, that the action of Canada has borne abundant fruit, and that the doubling, the nearly trebling of your trade with Great Britain between 1896 and 1903 is the fruit, the abundant fruit, of this policy which you initiated, and of this example which you set. Nor is it alone a question as regards Great Britain, however true it is that we have forty-two millions of people there-that is, many times the population of this great Dominion-but it. is that your example has been profitable in other parts of the Empire, and is increasing Canadian trade with Australia, with South Africa, and also in some degree with the far East. Therefore, I would urge you to persevere in this course, sure that it is successful up to the present time, sure that it is appreciated at home, and that we at home will make every exertion to reciprocate to the full the generous example you have set as regards the whole Empire. Let me take advantage of the opportunity, Mr. Chairman, of saying in this friendly and informal gathering that if any member of this Club is in need of any information which it is possible for me to supply him with I hope that he will not hesitate to ask me either verbally or in writing any question. I should be delighted to furnish such information as is at my command, and no trouble will be too great to advance the knowledge which I desire to disseminate.
You will expect from me, Mr. Chairman, some observations as to the course of affairs at home, as to how it is that there is apparent difficulty in making material headway. Those who have followed the recent course of events in England will have noticed that in 1902 we re established the registration duty upon imported meal and flour. That brought in some thousands of pounds a day to the public coffers, but did not effect in the slightest degree the price of bread or the price of flour. Why was this duty rescinded then in 1903 ? That is one of the problems which I am afraid I can't answer. I think it is a very great pity that it was rescinded, but there are Cabinet secrets which are only revealed after the lapse of long years. I hope that I shall be living when that Cabinet secret is revealed. It is a great pity that it ever took place. Unfortunately the price of bread has since gone up. These matters are mixed very strongly with party politics, and some people were afraid of the strong party feeling which was agitated over the re-imposition of this registration duty on imported corn and meal. Some of them got nervous. Well, the worst politicians of all are nervous people, and the most unsuccessful people are those who are always thinking about the opinion of their constituents and the vote of their constituents. An elector likes above everything a straightforward and honest politician, who is not always trimming his opinions according to what he believes the view of the moment of some section of his constituents, but who goes straight at his point and sticks to it in good report and evil report. However, we are only able to deal with facts. We lost the registration of imported corn and meal, that measure was rescinded, but in a very few days after we won to our cause the very statesman and the very leader on whom we had always fixed our eyes, the man who understood the Empire as very few do; on the 15th of May, 1903, we obtained for Preferential trade the leadership and support of the foremost man in this Empire, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain.
Well, an election will come within a few months in all probability in the United Kingdom. It will be a fiercely contested election. Very likely the party which for seventeen years out of the last twenty has held office will receive a setback. Whether that will be so or not I cannot say, but I bring up this matter, not in any party spirit, as I am anxious, Mr. Chairman, to avoid any reference to party politics either at home or in any part of the Empire; I bring up this matter in no party spirit, but ask the members of the Empire Club who hear me to-night, and the people of the Do= minion of Canada who may read my words, and to all friends of Preferential trade within the Empire, not to, be discouraged by any temporary setback. The Hon. Mr. Foster said in his speech at Liverpool, after speaking in many districts in England and Wales, that the present progress would not have been possible if the soil had not been well prepared. Be sure of this, when the soil has been further cultivated; when the cause is championed by a man of the character, the ability and intellect of Mr. Chamberlain; when it is endorsed by the great masses of the people in all the centres of intellect and industrial activity; then no temporary setback will arrest this cause. It is bound to win because it is founded on common kinship, it is based upon a common Empire, and it is welded with a common interest. The object, therefore, of my observations upon this head, is to ask you, one and all, not to be discouraged; is to beg of you, one and all, to have patience, feeling, as you may do, as I assure you may be done, that those working with you in the Old Land, who are marching with you for the dear old land, holding up their banner, holding up your example, will do all they can to develop your great possessions and to encourage your great industries.
There are some people--I fear there is one individual in the City of Toronto-who never can help being hypnotized with the great glamour of our active and energetic kinsmen to the south of the boundary. There is one such in the City of Toronto, but I doubt very much if there are more; if there are, I speak only of them with respect; I am sorry for them. Stick to your own country. Stick to your own land. Let this be your motto, "Britain for Britons, British trade for British hands, British markets for British producers," and let every man here, every man throughout the Dominion, feel that the maxim for him in life is the maxim which was propounded by the first Vice-President of our United Empire Trade League, the late Right Hon. Sir John Macdonald, " A British subject I was born, a British subject I will die." (Loud and continued applause.)
With these words I might well conclude the observations which I have been anxious to lay before you, but cannot resume my seat without once more thanking you for the past, thanking you for your attitude in the present, and asking you as one devoted to your interests, as eager as any member of the Empire Club for the advancement of the interests of Canada, and of a United Empire, to persevere in the course, which you have followed in recent times. Be assured that therein lies the true greatness and the true welfare of every son of this Dominion. Be assured that it is in this lies your future, in this lies the future prosperity of those who come after you.