THE EVOLUTION OF CANADIAN SENTIMENT.
Address by the Hon. G. W. Ross, LL.D., M.L.A., lately Prime Minister of Ontario, on Friday evening, May 12th, 1905.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,-
I have been looking for, almost waiting for an opportunity for the last year or two since this Club was formed to avail myself of the privilege of meeting its members and speaking to them, if ever so briefly. I knew the objects of the Club, I knew the spirit which animated its first President, Colonel Mason, and I might properly say its founder, and I knew that its purpose was quite in harmony with my own views; and in general terms, I just felt it would have given me a great deal of pleasure perhaps to exchange opinions with the members of the Club and to congratulate the President upon the great success which attended his efforts and to congratulate the Club upon its excellent and progressive membership. This was when I had a great many cares on hand and when I felt I liked to have a hand in almost everything that was going on. Since I have retired to the dignity and repose of private citizenship my ambition in many respects has been curtailed, and I must feel as if my past services to the country were sufficient. However, I could not, resist the importunity of your President to be with you to-night, if I could say ever so little, even if I could say nothing at all, but to catch if possible the tone and spirit of the Club and to learn from others who might speak what the purpose of the Club really was. I am glad I have come and I suppose some of you will be glad when I go. We will leave that an open question for the present.
I am glad I have heard Mr. Cockshutt's speech; its wide range and its conclusive facts, its thorough Imperialism, shall I call it, for that is not a new word now, although it was new a. few years ago, is refreshing even to as hardheaded and persistent a Canadian as myself. Now, I cannot tell you much that is new. I suppose this Club is so thoroughly informed in regard to all matters pertaining to the history of Canada, her aims, her ambitions and her ideals, that no one living amongst you can reach beyond the points to which you have gone. I thought, however, just a gleam of light, if I could throw but a gleam, upon the evolution of Canadian sentiment would rather elevate the plane upon which we Canadians now stand, would perhaps, if not by the searchlight, at least as by a blazing of the trail which is truly a Canadian term, indicate the course through which we have passed in the last fifty or one hundred years from what might be, what biologists would call, a protoplasm of Canadian loyalty to the rather fuller development which I trust we have now reached.
It is not hard to believe, I think you will accept the proposition readily, that there was a time when there was no such thing as Canadian loyalty. I suppose that is true in the evolution of a family. There is no such thing as the full development of the spirit of home in man until he feels he has a home for himself. When our fathers came here they came to a land in which they had their fortunes to make if there was a chance for them; which land was entirely destitute of a history and in order to give themselves any identity or individuality at all they had to attach themselves to the land from which they came. It is only, Sir, within the last few years we knew we were Canadians. I am sorry to say in Great Britain they hardly know we are Canadians yet. They generally speak of us as Americans, as if there was not in the term " Canadian " a sweetness and a power which cannot issue, and which we must not allow to issue from the rather mal-appropriated term " American " which some people in this country use for themselves. I said our first sentiments of connection with Canada were entirely that of British connection, and all our first efforts to preserve our identity were efforts not to preserve the identity or the existence of Canada, but were to preserve that British connection which we transferred, or our fathers transferred, to this country by their settlement here.
The War of 1812 was not a war engaged in by Canadians for Canada, it was a war to maintain British connection. The object of the Americans was to annex us. We fought to maintain British connection. There may have been perhaps a scintilla of Canadian love and loyalty; there may have been in the minds of some of us the idea that we were fighting for the land in which we live and for the property which we possess and for our homes, but these ideas were in the form in which a man fights for any goods he may have in his possession when waylaid by the highwayman. But the prevailing idea and the main consideration which led to the fight of 1812, so far as we were concerned, was to preserve Canada to Great Britain and not to preserve it to Canadians. When we came to the rebellion of 1837, many years afterwards, that trouble was suppressed through the idea that the promoters of the Rebellion had in their minds the diversion of Canada to the United States. We fought then in 1837 without any prevailing or predominating idea that we were fighting for Canada or fighting for Canadian privileges; we were fighting to remain under the British flag.
Really as I read history Canadians did not feel even then we had a Canada to fight for. And what is true of our efforts, and very proper and praiseworthy efforts they were, to maintain British connection is also true of much of our trade arrangements of the time. For instance, if you read the life of Lord Elgin you will find that the Treaty of Reciprocity was made not from a Canadian standpoint as much as from the British standpoint. By the abolition of the Corn Laws and the abrogation of the Preferential Tariff which existed then between Canada and Great Britain in the matter of lumber and wheat and flour, our trade with Great Britain was practically destroyed and the instructions to Lord Elgin were, in order to overcome the discontent which prevailed in Canada at the loss of business, to make an effort to establish better trade relations with the United States in order that the Canadians might be content and continue their allegiance to the British Crown. So that the whole history of Canada up to Confederation, and that itself, as I will show in a moment, was a history in which the standpoint of the Canadian was that of British connection, a worthy standpoint to be sure, but yet a standpoint which had not in it those elements of loyalty which were subsequently injected into the Canadian mind.
And, coming to Confederation itself, if you read the discussion in the House of Lords when the Bill was introduced by the Colonial Secretary you will there find one of the objects of Confederation was to unite the Canadian Provinces so that they might present a united front to the Americans should the Americans be too aggressive. The preamble of that Act shows that pretty clearly because it refers to the establishment in Canada of a Government after the model of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. So that even in that very recent stage in our history the Canadian standpoint was one of British connection rather than of, shall I say, an integral, ingrained, devoted loyalty to Canada itself. The next stage was a different one that practically grew out of the Confederation of 1867, largely moved, too, by a party organization at that time known as the Canada First party, which had some excellent qualities and which for some time endeavoured to direct Canadian sentiment; in some respects I think wrongfully, in other respects rightfully, towards the intrinsic merits of Canada itself and directing us also to the duty of loving Canada because it was great enough to be loved, because it was good enough to be loved and because it had in its constitution those elements of freedom and liberty which made for greatness; that it was our duty not to fear about greatness but to look boldly upon the future and to meet it with a loyal heart, remembering the words of Tennyson
We sailed wherever ship could sail;
We founded many a mighty state.
Pray Heaven our greatness may not fail
Through craven fear of being great.
And we got that sentiment, and that sentiment grew in the Canadian mind. I do not want to call it Canada First sentiment except for the convenience of the term; for I would like to sever it from some elements that constituted the Canada First party. Let us look at the evolution from the time of the Confederation of 1867. I believe we builded better than we knew then. I believe the Fathers of Confederation, like the Fathers of the American Republic, even like the great Bismarck who founded the German Confederation, did not conceive of the future which we now see, much less of the future which our children shall see, as the foundation stone of that Confederation was laid in 1867. The first thing we did was to look around and with true Scotch frugality and British prudence endeavoured to see if we were having a clear title to the half of this Continent and we immediately negotiated with Great Britain or with the Hudson's Bay Company for possession of Rupert's Land, thus getting our hands upon practically a great empire, that which may be the greatest part of Canada yet, reaching from the boundary of Ontario on the west to the foot of the Rocky Mountains and north as far as ship can sail and farther still.
That showed that before we were practically twelve months old we had caught the inspiration of true Canadianism and we were seeking to clear the decks, as it were, for greater prosperity and progress and we got that great territory and it was well we got it then, for had we delayed the purchase thereof it would have cost us much more. Then having got the territory what did we do? We began as four Provinces and immediately we had this little family of four members it multiplied and it increased and we, as by a repetition of history, became possessed with the same spirit which animated the founders of the American Republic. They began with thirteen States and in a few years there were fifteen and seventeen and so on. As Madison said to Jefferson when they were trying to get the Constitution of the United States adopted by the other States: " We must not allow State rights to interfere nor must we look upon this Federation of ours from the standpoint of individual States, but we must think continentally." And the Americans thought continentally and they got Florida from Spain and Louisiana from France and they took Texas for themselves. They would have done more if we had let them. They thought continentally. Think of their getting from France the vast territory which they did. They thought continentally.
The ink was scarcely dry upon our Constitution when we began to think constitutionally. We began to think federally; we carved out Manitoba in 1869, we federated with British Columbia in 1871, with Prince Edward Island in 1873, we are making two more Provinces just now. Amid a great deal of confusion and a great deal of debate and discussion this new baby is born under certain disquieting circumstances but we will have two Provinces more. These twins will add to our Provinces and make them nine, and the true Canadian will not rest until Newfoundland is within the boundaries of the Constitution. That was the spirit that was born in 1867 and that is the spirit still. We must have elbow room. Britain has about one-quarter of the whole habitable portion of the globe today and John Bull sometimes feels himself a little squeezed in approaching certain portions of his territory. We must have elbow room, not for ourselves simply, but for the generations yet to come. We have got it and therefore we have territory enough to call forth the highest demands upon our loyalty.
Then as another evidence of that spirit, having got the country we sought to apply to it the energy which has characterized the Saxon race. Because the Saxon does not rest merely on the advancement of the civilization of any country he possesses, but he immediately begins to transform it so that it possesses in its outward appearance, as well as in the spirit of its institutions, some characteristics of the Anglo-Saxon mind. We felt we had a string of Provinces from the Atlantic to the Pacific but in order to communicate with those more remote in the West we had to go through the United States by rail to San Francisco and by boat to Vancouver. The route was too long and it was not upon Canadian soil; and with that spirit which you cannot praise too highly, and an enterprise which admits of no exaggeration, we projected the Canadian Pacific Railway to connect these Provinces from Montreal to the Pacific on the one side, and the Intercolonial Railway with the Provinces on the Eastern side; so that from ocean to ocean we could span this country upon Canadian soil. An immense enterprise. From what did it originate? It originated from the determination or rather, shall I say, from the devotion which Canadians have towards their own country-prepared to saddle themselves with extensive burdens of debt, if necessary, and prepared to conquer the land and possess that which they had secured by negotiations with the British Government.
Then as another evidence we resolved that we should be masters of our own trade, to quote the language of the House in 1878. You see how fast we were progressing. The C. P. R. was first projected in 1872. Chronologically then comes the great event in the history of Canada known as the National Policy when we shook off those relations with the United States whereby she impinged upon our trade and we resolved that Canada for Canadians would not be a bad policy. There you have another assertion of our love for our own interests; and you cannot have patriotism unless you are prepared to surround yourselves with such protection in business and in, as my friend Mr. Cockshutt says, military matters as will secure you against your opponents. Some said that that protection was unfavourable to the British connection. That was one of the dreams of the times. It has not so resulted. Great Britain in her way, in fact Free Trade was her way, showed her determination to build up her industries. It is the converse of protection and yet it was the very process at the time which best suited her. She could not have done so well any other way. But by her peculiar geographical position and from want of capital and from various other causes too numerous to mention it seemed to be her duty and it has turned out to be a wise thing. It seems to have been our duty also, to see that our industries were placed in such a position as to give employment to our own people and to thrive in spite of the competition of those who would have destroyed them. That was another act of devotion to Canada. It was the spirit of taking care of yourselves, of loving your own self first. " To thine own self be true and thou canst not then prove false to any man," Shakespeare says.
First to be true to Canada, to her commercial interests, to her material interests, to her geographical interests, and these we had to fight for. When you and I were boys, Colonel Mason, Canada had no legal habitation or name except upon our geographies. It fact it was called British North America then, a very loving term indeed, but still more loving is the term by which it is now known, " The Dominion of Canada," and we Canadians members of that Dominion. That is the second step in the evolution of Canadian sentiment. We were then somebody or thought we were somebody. We were working for something and that something was the glorification of ourselves, a very pleasant talk at all times. That something was the making of ourselves a position which other nations would notice, making for ourselves a name which historians would quote with respect, making for ourselves a reputation which would win us the affection and esteem of the Mother Country; and although then we said less about British connection than we did in the first half of the century, we thought none the less of it, though it was to a certain extent submerged in the name " Canadian."
Then comes the next stage in which we began to think Imperially, as Chamberlain said. Now the evolution of that stage is very interesting. I see they are establishing a chair of Colonial History at Oxford. If I were twenty or thirty years younger I would apply for that chair. It is most interesting to notice the evolution of Canadian sentiment. How did we come to think Imperially? There were various circumstances, taken one after another, which led us to that step by step, and we did not know whither we were going. Perhaps the angels that ascended and descended on Jacob's ladder knew what they were doing, but we were ascending a stair, not Jacob's ladder, and did not know whether we were approaching the gates of Heaven or not. The first real step towards establishing an Imperial relation with Canada, on the part of Canada, was the appointment of a High Commissioner to Great Britain. That step was not approved by many and yet you see what it has led to. It has placed a Canadian with a Canadian spirit, with Canadian ideals, in easy connection, in immediate connection, with the Colonial Office; and the rank and dignity of the men appointed have done a great deal to intensify and strengthen the relations of Canada with the Empire. Take Sir A. T. Galt, a man of learning, a financial expert of the highest standing. Take Sir Charles Tupper, a man of great force and a thorough Canadian. Take the present occupant of the position, Lord Strathcona, and you can see how by the influence of these three men, an influence increasing by the successive appointments that were made, what a change has been brought about in England through contact with our Canadian Commissioners from time to time. That was a step to. get us Canadians to think Imperially and to get Englishmen, or Great Britain, to think in a wider spirit.
Then the next step came at a somewhat later time but still had a profound effect upon British public opinion, namely, the concession of a Preferential Tariff in Canada for imports from Great Britain. And those of you who remember-it is only a little while ago-the impression that was made in Great Britain, will have noticed the effect it had upon British opinion. It was regarded as a most unequivocal evidence of Canadian devotion to the Crown; scarcely expected, it came unsolicited, and with a generosity far beyond what they had any reason to assume in advance. That Preferential Tariff is one-sided yet. We hope to see the other side of it before a great while. We have done our duty, we cannot withdraw it, we should not withdraw it; it is a gift, as Mr. Cockshutt has shown, that costs us about $5,000,000 a year; it is a gift we do not begrudge; we get the benefit o f that ourselves in cheaper goods to a certain extent; but that is small compared with the fact that it is a standing offer to Great Britain to concede to us what we have conceded to them; and a man who has a gift in his hand from you and holds it there from year to year without returning you consideration in some sort of way is a man that has not much appreciation of your friendship; and we do not suppose and we cannot believe that with this upon the Statute book and remaining there from year to year, Great Britain will not feel that that concession of good-will from us to her is one to which she should not respond. I believe she will when the proper time comes.
Then we were taught to think Imperially, somewhat, by the invitation given to the Colonies at the time of the Diamond Jubilee and the Coronation. Since the days of King Alfred kings and queens were crowned at Westminster and sat in that Coronation Chair over that magic stone stolen from Scotland--how many things Scotland has been deprived of by force it is hard for me to say--the talisman which had made the British throne secure. Kings have been crowned since the days of Alfred and Queens, too, and great and notable they were, and England has had Colonies since the time of the Spanish Armada and yet never before was a Colonist recognized as having any right or part or parcel in the crowning of that King whom he was sworn to honour and whom lie was bound to defend; but from some evolution in British sentiment, an evolution responded to in the most cordial manner from our Colony and all the other Colonies, there came the invitation. We must see the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen; we must see her, the greatest Regal force in the Empire; her whom all nations of the world delighted to honour, whose word was law to 350,000,000 of her people, and whose reputation was in the custody of a quarter million of British soldiers. We must see her in the hour of her triumph and her third Coronation.
And when the present King, Edward VII., came to the Crown, when he came to the throne with all the dignity that pertained to that position, the son of the greatest Queen that ever reigned, himself honoured because of his own meritorious qualities, we then must see him crowned and the formula by which he was crowned must be changed, for he was not simply to be King of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India, but he must be crowned as King of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas-crowned for the first time in the history of England as King of Canada under the expressive term " His Majesty's Dominions beyond the Seas," as well as Emperor of India; and all his Colonies were there to see him crowned. A wider outlook given to us then. Then came that Colonial Conference of all the Colonies by which the affairs pertaining to the. Empire had to be considered. Just think of how a statesman like Beaconsfield had said the Colonies were a millstone around their neck; Gladstone who thought they might be disposed of; and Earl Grey, the grandfather of our present Governor-General, who thought they were a needless encumbrance; and the Under-Colonial Secretary at the time of Lord Dufferin's appointment saying to Lord Dufferin : " We hope you will see some way of getting rid of these Canadian Colonies."
Men who would not be thought of fifty years ago as having scarcely judgment enough to manage their own affairs, sat down with the Colonial Secretary, sat in conference at times with the Prime Minister of England and took counsel together as to how that Colonial Empire must be consolidated and strengthened. Taught to think Imperially because, first, we made Canada so important that it could not be overlooked. They recognized the position we had attained and said: Yes, we will take Canada into our council at the Conference and see what we can do for the Empire of which Canada forms a part. Then came two little circumstances, apparently, which also broadened our outlook-Penny Postage and the Pacific Cable. Connected with Australia by way of the Pacific on the west, and the same rate of postage across the sea, and vice versa, as pertains between Canada and other parts of this Continent. Broadened again because of our relations by electricity and by Her Majesty's mail. When came the Boer War, a sad and terrible war-I then thought and have always thought that it might have been avoided with a little more patience, perhaps more deliberation, but somebody lacked in that respect. But it was a war for what? A war for maintaining the integrity of that part of the Empire; almost as great a part of the Empire" in some respects as the Dominion of Canada.
Britain was not in any particular straits, she had men and she had guns and she had the money, too, and she could have reduced that war without any assistance. What was the spirit that took possession of us? If this is a war for the maintenance of the Empire-we are thinking now Imperially-Canada is prepared to have a hand in it; Canada is prepared to give such assistance as may be necessary. We sent 2,000 of our sons, commanded by our own officers, to take a part in maintaining for the Empire the greater part of South Africa. Thus again, seemingly not by commercial bonds as a Preferential Tariff, not by facilities for transportation as the Pacific Cable or ocean steamships, but seemingly by the best blood of Canada the relations were broadened between this Dominion and the Empire beyond the seas. Then again how wide our horizon has become. Ali, we could look to Queenston Heights and defeat Van Rensselaer and drive his miserable soldiers across the cliffs into the Niagara River, but that was the work of an invasion and it was well done; we could perhaps fight at Chateauguay and put down a little rebellion by our hand, or even send Colonel Denison or Colonel Mason to settle troubles at Batoche, and it was well done, but that is at home; that was settling a little quarrel as the Police Magistrate settles a row here in Leader Lane under his elbow; but this was a war for the Empire far away. What interest could we have in it? What did we care for the Boer or what did we care for a few aliens in that country? That was not the thought. Britain needed help, or if she didn't need help she would take it. She was not too proud to take it and we were loyal enough to give it and with so satisfactory a result. Another extension of the Imperial idea.
And, lastly, what is most in evidence now before us is the effort on the part of England's greatest Colonial Secretary, Mr. Chamberlain, to persuade the people of England that the complement of a preferential tariff from Canada is a Preferential Tariff on the part of Great Britain. The two go together, they are part the one of the other. Our part is complete, or if not it is at least in an intelligible condition. The other part is not yet complete. When or how it will be completed it is not for me to say because I don't know, and yet I think it is going to be. If not yet I believe after a while Great Britain will feel that to have 100,000,000 sterling of foreign goods forced upon the British market to the displacement of 100,000,000 sterling of her own manufactured goods is not a good thing for Great Britain. And if it is not a good business proposition I think she will feel, even if she has to make a little sacrifice for it, like showing the world that the British Empire is one and indivisible, that it is worth making that sacrifice for. You know the climax of Daniel Webster's reply to Senator Hay was, " A union one and inseparable, now and forever." I think the climax to the best oration that can be announced today in the British Empire is " A Colonial Empire now and forever, one and inseparable"; and to make it one there must be not only the cords of sentiment, and these are strong, thank God, but there must be every other cord which enters into relations which are to be permanent and secure and which human ingenuity can -devise; and among these a most influential one in the history of every country is that commercial cord which introduces into the relations of the countries this spirit of self-interest. It may be a base spirit but to a certain extent it rules the world.
Now that I have reached the third stage of Canadian sentiment, the stage at which we have now arrived, how do you like it? Isn't it a good thing that we have the larger citizenship which this stage pre-supposes and suggests? It is big enough, perhaps you will say, for any of us to be a Canadian citizen and to love Canada because of its extent and resources and possibilities; and we are not big enough perhaps to take all that and what it implies in our arms; but after all does it not make for largeness of vision and for liberality of thought, that we can feel that while we are Canadian citizens, in addition thereto, if these new conditions are brought about, citizens of the Empire in -its largest sense. Naturalization laws adapted to our conditions. A British subject once, a British subject always, a British subject anywhere, a British subject everywhere. Commercial relations that do not simply assist the exchange of goods between Canada and Great Britain or make Liverpool the terminus of our great railroads; but make the termini of our trade pd great railroads wherever the British flag gives an entry to a Canadian ship, or wherever a Canadian ship can sail. That larger citizenship wherever evolved. The smaller the pit the fiercer the rats fight. The smaller your ideas of citizenship the meaner you become. The men who live in the back lane are not as broad-minded as the men who live on the front street. The man who isolates himself is not as big a man as the man who lives in a town or in a community with his fellow-men.
Large as are the ideals of Canadians they will be still larger in my opinion if we throw our vision beyond our own land and include in that vision Canada as part of the great Empire. Then I think this will also lead to a larger citizenship. The measure of the nation's greatness is really the measure of its statesmen. It was Thomas Carlyle who said that the institutions of a country are but the shadows of its great men. You cannot have a large shadow without a large man and if you study history and look at those who have survived from twenty, to fifty, to one hundred years, you will find in every case they were men who had made more than an ordinary impression upon their times. How the vast sponge of time wipes from the calendar the names that for the moment seem to occupy the front of the stage. But the names that cannot be pushed back out of range are the names of the men that are written large in the history of their country and in the evolution of its institutions. What has made British statesmen, perhaps, greater than other statesmen in other countries of the world is that the British Empire is greater; they had to grow up to the magnitude of their task. To govern a city like Toronto might be a matter of great importance and may require large men, but as you widen the area of government you require your men to widen in proportion, and the Peels and the Pitts and the Beaconsfields and the Gladstones and the Salisburys and others who held the helm of state during England's peril, or during her most progressive periods, were men who were as big as England's wants were at the time being; and if we want to evolve that higher class of statesmen which will be big enough for Canada we must try to give them the wider outlook so that they will measure themselves, not by ordinary standards such as prevail among us, but they will measure themselves by the standards which have been given to us by the Empire.
Our politics are perhaps good enough for us as we are. They rise to the level generally of the men who have them in charge, and yet I sometimes feel that we have not impressed upon the people of this country the higher elements of politics to which they ought to look today in Canada as a whole rather than to special advantages which they are to derive themselves directly from the representative or representation of their constituencies. We want a wider outlook and we want, if possible, that the future of Canada should be moulded by the models which the Imperial Government has given to us, and these models were framed out of the necessities and the strength of the British Empire.
And, lastly, this larger citizenship will give us more accurate ideas of what Imperial supremacy means. Is Britain the highest representation of what we call civil and religious liberty? Has she, as Gladstone has said she endeavoured to do, set before the world an example of disinterested justice and at great sacrifice protected the liberties of the helpless and attempted to strike the shackles from the slave mentally, morally and physically? Is the record of the British Empire, taken all in all, a record of the highest water-mark in civilization and the progress of Christianity? If so, if so, let us bring that record nearer to us by associating ourselves and our future with that Empire and in such close relations that we will absorb knowingly or unknowingly, it may be, but absorb perhaps unconsciously the spirit of that British civilization so that we can say to all Canada and to every Province therein, to her sons and to every alien that comes to our shore and to every man that takes the oath of allegiance to our Government, that he has here the highest opportunity of realizing all the privileges of citizenship and contributing whatever powers he possesses to extend these privileges. I present, therefore, Mr. Chairman, these views to the minds of the members of this Club. We are still in the making and, Sir, I think in a process of evolution from a lower to a higher plane, and having reached the plane we now have we may feel that the goal of today is but the starting place of tomorrow and what we enjoy is far less than what we have to transmit and endeavour to communicate to our sons.