THE DEFENCE OF THE EMPIRE.
Address by Colonel Sam. Hughes, M.P., on Thursday, February and, 1905.
Colonel Mason and Gentlemen,--
Let me thank you, Sir, at the outset for your very kind introduction to this audience. I am pleased to see today so many of my old Toronto friends--my old fellow-students, a number of my old fellow--lacrosse players, and a number of old volunteers. I don't want to complain, but I hardly think it is fair for you to give away to the public why I went to South Africa. My wife made me go. (Laughter.) However, I have nothing to look back upon with regret in relation to either the antecedent or the succeeding incidents in connection with my career in South Africa. I sympathise very much with the aims of your Empire Club. The subject that has been selected for me--not of my own choosing, although it is very congenial--is the Defence of the Empire. I do not know that I deserve the parallel that was drawn by Mr. Corley at a meeting in Toronto which I attended recently, to show that I liked fighting the best of any man in the country. I certainly am no better fighter than thousands and tens of thousands of Canadians.
However, the points that I wish to make today refer to the defence of the Empire; and at the outset I may say that I can regard no possible defence of the Empire that does not involve a full partnership union of Great Britain and all her Colonies. It is not necessary that I should enter into the details of that proposition today, with the limited time at my disposal. In my opinion the geographical position of Canada, divided into east and west with a very large coast line and a very small population, at the present time absolutely precludes the idea of either independence or annexation--because independence would mean annexation. I shall not enter into details of that proposition today, but will at greater length in the immediate future take that up before the people of the Dominion of Canada. Then, in connection with our full partnership union with Great Britain and all her Colonies, and the defensive system, I maintain, and as you are well aware have always maintained, that any system must be largely democratic--must be of the people. It would be impossible to maintain large standing armies and navies sufficient to be ready at all times--I mean leaving the rest of the people untrained--to meet the exigency that might possibly arise from some autocratic nation, such as Russia or other powers, that might seek to overthrow the union of Great Britain and her Colonies.
In the interest of the peoples concerned I maintain it is necessary to have a democratic defence system. It will reduce the cost to a minimum. It will add strength by having the whole of the peoples of the various parts of the Empire united in one common bond of sympathy, and it will give to each component part of the Empire an interest in the others. The shipping interests, the commercial interests, will all be more or less directly benefited by closer unity. There will be thousands of high and prominent positions that will then be thrown open to the young men of the Dominion of Canada, because we will then be full partners in the Empire, and will have as much right as have the people of the old Mother-land today to share the commercial agencies, the consular agencies, the various offices in state affairs as well as in military and naval affairs. It will open up to the young men of this Dominion a vast sphere of usefulness, and I maintain it will tend to the betterment of the whole Empire and to the peace of the world.
Now, Sir, why is it necessary to have a defensive system at all? Why should we not go along without spending any money on defence? The same as Corea, the same as Costa Rica, and various other nations that we could mention in the world? I noticed in your Toronto press the other day an address from our good friend, Mr. S. H. Blake, in which he condemns in unmeasured terms the policy and the spirit of Militarism. Let me say here that I heartily endorse every word that Mr. Blake has said against Militarism. But I am prepared to prove, as I have on other occasions endeavoured to prove, that Militarism is the exact antithesis of a Militia system. It is not necessary to enter into the details further at this point. Mr. Blake also pointed out that Canada had no right to bear any of the cost of Imperial administration, or for instance, to take any part in sending troops to quell any disturbance or to enforce any principle in far-off Thibet; and he supplemented that with the words "situated as we now are," and I heartily agree with that statement of Mr. Blake also, Sir; but his words did not to my mind involve having no defensive system at all. I will quote from an editorial in the Toronto Telegram last year, dealing with the benefit even to the farming community, much more to the commercial community, of having a strong Navy Agriculture would see its products rot on the fields of Canada if Britain shared Sir William Mulock's one-sided love for the "lifegiving plowshare." The agriculture-preserving battleship enables the farmers of Canada to get the products of the life-giving plowshare to the markets of the world. Every country needs plowshares, but unless the despotism of a military nation is to rule the earth, the free nations must shelter the life-giving plowshare behind the rifles of an army and the battleships of a navy.
The Toronto News, in commenting upon the policy of drift in military matters, and of taking no part in Imperial defence, said at that time in criticism of similar views: " For land defence we will depend upon the kindness of our good neighbour, Uncle Sam. For maritime defence we already shelter behind the skirts of Great Britain. This is definite, and, of course, carries with it a high spirit and a self-respect eminently suited to young Canada." Those are the words of two of your city papers in relation to the matter of a defensive system. I will supplement them by a very able quotation from the Ottawa Citizen of a recent date. Referring to the incident wherein Admiral Togo had addressed the Japanese people on his return to the capital, and commenting on his heroic dead, the paper observed:
In some countries the very best people differ from Admiral Togo. Their business interests are so important that they really could not think of dying for their country. War is brutal. And, besides, it is very disturbing to business and vested interests. In fact no person who has not an amiable weakness for risking his skin would go to war. It's not business. But war has now become more than ever before in history a matter of hordes fighting hordes. The first exponents of modern war on a grand scale happen to be unique. One sends hundreds of thousands to the slaughter because it is an autocracy and the hundreds of thousands have to go whether they like it or not. The other sends hundreds of thousands because they are a race that is afflicted with what a Higher Criticism regards as fanatical patriotism.
But it will be a nice question as to what will happen some day when a nation afflicted with fanatical patriotism decides to measure its strength with a nation blessed with what might be termed by a still Higher Criticism a fanatical commercialism. If one-half the population of the latter nation won't have time to go to war for business reasons, and the other half won't go because they don't have to, where are the hundreds of thousands to form that particular horde to come from? And if they cannot get a horde out to fight for them, what will become of the business interests?
If time permitted I could point out by figures that there is no nation on the face of the earth that pretends to have any commerce to defend but what spends millions on a Navy for the defence of that commerce. Canada, ranking about sixth in the tonnage of the world, is the only nation that does not contribute one dollar to the defence of that tonnage, and we are content to live hanging on to the skirts of Great Britain, and letting the British tax-payer do our defensive work. Mr. Blake is a man of strong ideas. I have always admired the strong hold that he takes on public questions. But let us follow Mr. Blake's line out to its logical conclusions. He objects to certain things in men, in governments, and in nations. To follow out his objection he must have something more than the mere strength of his voice. In dealing with nations and governments and peoples, it is necessary at times, when oligarchies become all-powerful, or when nations become tyrannical, that people should go farther than mere words, and should assert themselves in open fight. Therefore, to carry out Mr. Blake's own words to a logical conclusion, he would of necessity be obliged to keep up an army of some defensive force for preserving liberty among the nations of the earth. It will not do to go on with the policy of the Quaker and have no fighting force, except it be the policy of the Quakers who were coming over on a sailing ship in the days of pirates. These Quakers refused to bear warlike weapons, saying it was contrary to their religious principles, but they hinted to the Captain that they had seen a number of axes on board, and as they were very handy with that weapon they might be of service with the axe. It was noticed that the Quakers were bringing the axes down on the heads of the pirates as they clambered over the vessel, and one was heard to say: " Friend, if thou wilt persist in placing thy head where I am about to strike, thou must take the consequences." So that the most peaceful type of Britisher that I have ever met, when he is brought face to face with danger has fight in him, and rightly so, too.
There are in Canada, Sir, five classes of people. One class aspires--some publicly, more of them, unfortunately, in their hearts--for independence from the Motherland. I am pleased to say that, in my opinion, that class is waning. There is another class which aspires for annexation to the United States. Of the two evils--independence and annexation--well, you can take your choice, but I would prefer annexation to the United States to Canadian independence tomorrow, and I am prepared to give my reasons at any time. There is another class which says: "Let us stop as we are, and control and pay for our own defence." I shall not enter into the details of that here today; I think on the' face of it it carries its own condemnation. There is another class which says: " Stay as we are, a colony of the Empire, and contribute not only to our own Militia, but also vote sums to the Imperial treasury for battleships, and to carry on wars in foreign lands."
That carries with it, to my mind, its own condemnation. It involves the principle for which our neighbours across the border fought and died, and which has been recognized throughout the world ever since--that taxation carries with it the right of representation. Then the final class--and I believe it represents the sentiment that is paramount throughout the length and breadth of the Dominion of Canada among those who have any association directly with the old Mother-land--want a full partnership union, a federal union of Great Britain and her Colonies along lines wherein we shall share their burdens, their joys and sorrows, and take part in the upbuilding of a great Empire. With that end in view, I have this Session, as in other Sessions, given notice before the Parliament of Canada that I will move:
That in the opinion of this House the best interests of Canada and the Empire at large would be advanced, and the peace, progress and prosperity of humanity be assured, by a full partnership union of Great Britain and her Colonies; wherein there would be a united Imperial Parliament, empowered to deal with Inter-Imperial, International, Commercial, Financial and other necessary National problems; but leaving to the existing Parliaments their present powers, functions, control of tariff, and other matters necessary for their own purposes.
With that carried out, Sir, we would then be prepared to go on with the democratic plan for the organization of the Imperial Militia. There would be no extravagant taxation under a broad Militia system. There would be no creation of classes. There would be no humiliating of the men by making the private soldier a separate class by himself and the officer a separate class by himself. But you may well ask: Have the Militia ever defended the Empire, or could they defend the Empire today? Of course a regular standing army and an enormous navy for such an Empire would be absolutely necessary; but it would not require anything like the great strength that the present plans would involve. But as proof that untrained Militia boys right from the plow, who had never shouldered a rifle before, can be and have been of service, I will point to South Africa in the recent War; to the War of the French Revolution; to the War of American Independence, and to various other wars that have been carried on from time to time in the world. Those are three notable instances in which men have done splendid service for their country without any training. And South Africa bears witness to the fact that a trained Militia can take its place side by side with the crack British regiments of the regular Army.
I saw the Toronto Company march in from Sunnyside, and they carried themselves, after a long and tedious march and difficult fighting, with all the credit that could be given to any Imperial Regiment; and this was the opinion of Colonel Pilcher. And, Sir, the annals of the Battle of Paardeberg show that the boys of the First Contingent, trained militiamen of the Dominion of Canada, did their work with the Gordons or Cornwalls or any other Regiment of the Imperial service that fought on that bloody field. The argument that these boys, once they have taken part in active service, are of no further use to the country, but that they become loafers and lazy fellows, lying around the various towns and cities of the Dominion, or the country from which they would come, is answered by the fact that your own son, Sir, takes his place in the Office;* that every boy, so far as I know, who fought for Canada in South Africa is today following some useful employment back in his own old home and is just as good a citizen as though he had not gone to the front. Now, coming down to the details of an Empire Militia system, I have never believed that discipline and training meant abasement to the men trained; it never meant repression or slavery. On the contrary, discipline means polish, education, the development of the spirit of individuality and of liberty; it means patriotism and loyalty to your country; it means development of the physical, it means manhood; and from the military viewpoint it means knowing how to shoot: I have never been of those who, once I happened to get a commission in the ranks of the Militia, wished every young fellow to walk up and salute me as though I were a superior genius, not even when I was in uniform; but on no consideration would I allow any man to regard me as a military man when I was not in uniform. Keep down this spirit of militarism, this spirit of class, and recognize that it is worth that has made you, Sir, respected by the men of the City of Toronto, and not the fact that you happen to wear the rank of Colonel. It is worth that has made by good friend Denison here respected from one end of Canada to the other, and not the mere fact that he happens to be Colonel Denison. It is the man that commands respect, and not the uniform.
What would be my plan in detail? I am an old school-teacher and naturally gravitate in that direction. I would divide the Empire according to school divisions, and I would begin with the boys at the age of twelve. You may smile, but if you look back you will realize that at that age you could criticize the teacher as well as you could in mature years. If you train a boy to use a lacrosse stick, it will instinctively come to him when he is old. Therefore I would have a system in the Empire, democratic and cheap, by which these young fellows would be trained at ages from twelve to sixteen. When they would get older I would have them drafted into regiments and brigades, with the present system or some proper system, and division into the various units that are absolutely necessary for the upbuilding of an army. Then for the training of officers I would pursue a democratic course. When I was attending the old Military School I stood side by side with a Colonel in the ranks; he was of no more importance in that School than a humble private. We were there not as soldiers, but as cadets. The test was educational and not military. I would have these young fellows trained to be officers in the various military schools of the country as cadets, and I would have them take out a commission as full colonel, if possible, before they left school, so that when the call to arms would come these young men could leave their shops and counting-houses and farms and take their place in the ranks of the country. That would give us a trained Militia. Let us take the United States, which is usually considered the most expensive country in the world, except Great Britain, from a military viewpoint. Last year the United States spent for their Army $115,035,441; for their Navy $102,956,102; and for Pensions $142,550,266; or a total of $360,541,779 spent in war; equal to $4.50 per head for every man, woman and child in the United States. Canada spends for Militia 47 cents a year, and on her Navy not one cent.
In conclusion I would point out that the great resources of the Empire--not only of Canada, but of the other great Colonies and even of the Motherland--are yet in their infancy, and that today the cry throughout the length and breadth of the Motherland and of many Colonies is towards Canada
To her deep verdant valleys and broad fields so fertile,
Where wealth's for the winning if will guides the hand,
Where flowers bloom fairer and landscapes are rarer,
And skies are more bright than our own fatherland.
Give us a full partnership union, where the people of the Motherland and of the various other Colonies would have all the rights of citizenship in the Dominion of Canada, and where we would have equal rights with them and, mark you, Sir, this country will, from the material viewpoint alone, from the view of its progress and prosperity, be greatly benefited much more so than we can realize at the present time.
Note. Major J. Cooper Mason, D.S.O., Manager of the Toronto branch of the Home Bank of Canada.