JOURNALISM IN ENGLAND.
Address by Mr. Walter Frewen Lord, M.A., Professor of Modern History at the Durham College of Science, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, before the Empire Club of Canada, on December 6th, 1906.
A short period of thirty minutes is allowed to me in which to say something on the subject of English journalism. I shall attempt to deal with this very large order of treating the press of England, in a more or less satisfactory manner, by roughly stating what it is and which are the more influential among the publications; secondly, to estimate what I think is the tendency, the almost universal tendency, of the English press in the direction of the motto of your Club: " The Advancement of the Interests of Canada and a United Empire." The press of England falls quite easily into four classes, the quarterly, the monthly, the weekly and the daily. Of these I should say the quarterlies and weeklies are considerably declining in influence. The Quarterly (Tory) Review and the Liberal Review, etc., are very large, bulky, expensive, and are issued but seldom, and if you take up any of these today you will wonder first how anybody could write them, and, secondly, how anybody could read them.
I think these are the reasons why they have declined in influence. At first they were written by extremely interesting men; brilliant men they were who wrote for the quarterlies; men like Sir Edward Hamley, a man of great versatility and great profundity, critic, soldier, artist, man of the world, member of Parliament, etc.; and if I could parallel him on this continent I could illustrate to you what would happen supposing you had a review here to which it was announced that Sir William Van Horne contributed anonymously. That is the secret of the early success of the great quarterlies. Everyone knew that highly eminent men contributed anonymously. The weakness was that they came so seldom, every three months, and, secondly, that the articles were always unsigned. The great monthlies had the policy that nobody ought to make an anonymous speech or write an anonymous letter; second, that all interests ought to be represented. These two flags being hoisted, the new Reviews rose at once to a dominating position. The monthlies are all following the same lines. People demand, nowadays, signed writing.
Now we come to the weeklies. I thinly the weeklies have declined for very much the same causes. Weeklies give information too often. Every week is too often to bombard people with editorials. A question of immense importance is that of the great dailies. As you see by today's press, The Times has been turned into a limited company. That is a great thing in English newspaperdom; almost an earthquake. The power in England is in the daily press, the sixpenny press goes down, and the ha'penny press dominates them all. Harmsworth is known as "Ha'penny-rag," which, I think, is extremely rude. (Laughter.) These publications reach the lower classes of people and supply them with good matter, and we want the lower classes to think like us. I think the Ha'penny press is the greatest blessing we have had in England for a long time. All the new Ha'penny-rags, so called, are strongly literary. Among the older journals, the Daily Telegraph is now one of the dominant papers. The Standard lately has had many vicissitudes, but has done excellent work. It has taken a very patriotic line and has talked strongly in regard to our abominable poor rates. Gladstone used to say, " John Bull is a terrible person when he is roused, but you can't rouse him with less than an earthquake." The Standard took the lead in the matter of securing a reduction in the rates, and the getting rid of these rates was of very great service to the country. Only a paper with heaps of money behind it could dare to do that. The English press, however, has this characteristic, it does riot mind what any person says, and that is an important feature of its strength.
How does the British press stand in relation to the Empire? There is a strong and almost universal tendency on the part of these organs to put the empire above party politics.* Of course, we have our local squabbles about which you know nothing, and plenty of them, and you have your local squabbles about which we know nothing, but we can, of course, both work for the good of the State. I know quite well that some people in England say, " Oh, you will never do that, you will never get the empire above party politics," but let us consider the advance in the last twenty years and see what great departments have been taken above party politics. Begin with the Navy. Of course, when I was a boy it was a regular thing that where the Tories expend the Liberals economize. They made a great show of economy. Twenty or thirty years ago we might have been rushed by anyone who had a mind to rush us because of the economy on the Navy. A Navy is a very difficult thing to maintain in a state of efficiency. Lord George Hamilton's bill was the greatest determined effort to raise the Navy above party politics. No English party could now dare to tamper with it. The really powerful people now insist that the Navy shall be efficient
* Upon this general subject Professor Lord writes the Editor
under date of October Loth as follows
" Since delivering my address two events have occurred which nullify a statement of mine, viz., 'The Empire above Politics.' These are the change in the government of London and the management of affairs in South Africa by the Radicals. We Tories said, 'London above Party Politics,' and faithfully followed this noble maxim. But it was not until we made the government of London a party question and expelled the Socialists that we succeeded in getting a decent government for London. It is clear from the behaviour of the Government with respect to Imperial affairs, that we must most distinctly abandon the maxim, 'The Empire above Party.' Every sound Imperialist will have to admit in the future that as regards England the watchword must be, 'The Tories or Ruin.' The Tories do, most, want to keep the Empire together. It is clear to a demonstration that the Radicals desire to destroy it."
according to standards decided by experts. No party would attempt to get popularity by keeping down the expenditure of the Navy. That is a rather important point, because it seems to me that so long as you are the greatest maritime power in the world it is only right that this supremacy should be maintained.
There is another point that has been taken above the level of party politics, and that is the administration o£ India. It has often been said that if India were ever lost it would be lost in the House of Commons. Interfering people who did not understand what they were about went to India and came back and wrote their impressions of things they did not understand. This went on till about fifteen years ago, when it became so ridiculous that the bottom dropped out of that sort of thing with a shout of laughter. Some most respectable, most religious and the most well-meaning people decided that it was wicked for England to sell opium to the people of India, and stated that it had mast deleterious effects upon the users, destroying digestion and resulting in moral degeneration. Upon investigation it was found that opium, as a matter of fact, is no more deleterious to those people after dinner than a cup of tea is to us. The Royal Commission, at the expense of twenty thousand pounds, which came out of the pocket of the tax-payer, found that the influence of opium was not demoralizing, and one member of the Commission ventured to move for a Royal Commission to inquire into the influence of whiskey on the natives of England. The subject could be handled only by thoroughly qualified experts. The result is that India has been lifted above party politics altogether. It has civil and religious liberty-that is what the British empire stands for. Before the English went to India it was the greatest bear-garden in the world. The third great department of political activity which has been raised above party politics is the foreign policy. A friend of mine lost a seat and said to me afterwards: " Old chap, I lost my seat because I said foreign politics should be above party." Lord Salisbury, Lord Lansdowne, Lord Rosebery, who is a Radical, and the. present Secretary, a strong Liberal and a good Foreign Secretary-for no other reason than that he never opens his mouth if he can possibly avoid it; they have all preserved the same foreign policy with regard to England's relations with Europe.
With regard to the direction in which the press is moving. It is moving in a very reassuring manner, very slowly, but at the same time all in the same direction. It is extremely rare, indeed, now, to see men that want to break up the British Empire. They may hum and haw about details, and ask foolish questions, but they do not, as a matter of fact, wish the empire to break up. The commercial interests are woven together so closely that, to take the lowest ground, it would not be good business. If you ask me what are the agencies directed to fostering the Imperial spirit, I cannot quite say; the best thing I can say is one that I heard from your Chairman: "To properly develop the Imperial question is to insure that the youth of the country shall know what it is; to have your school-children taught what the Empire is; what it is driving at; and when they grow up they will know what they are talking about." I should like very much to know what exact details have been approached and dealt with. Do the children in connection with this subject laugh at you or do they abide by it?
Something along this line has been done in connection with Empire Day. I think, so far, it has been largely carried on outside of the press. A considerable organization is supplying the children in England with flags. The decay of the House of Commons is, I am sorry to say, incontestable, which tends to enhance the power of the press. It occurred to me this year that all the great things of the British empire had been cone without any interference from the House of Commons. Far example, all the Indian work, the British Fast African Company policy, and many other things. These are all material achievements which have been pulled through without the interference of the House of Commons. The House of Commons loves "squabbling" about little petty interests which do not concern anybody outside of England and Ireland. The House of Commons has declined in authority in every respect, and this leaves greater authority to the press. The press has nominally and admittedly done a great deal to foster Imperialistic sentiment. I do not know what there remains for me to say. In my articles in the quarterlies and monthlies I try to be independent and express an independent view, and, by the way, that is one of the great weaknesses of the press. There are so many money interests interwoven in the press that it is very difficult to secure expressions of opinion which are not to some extent affected by these interests.
The question of whether to preserve the Empire or not is practically answered by the name of your Club and your presence here today. I look at this country of yours and the size of it. That is nothing; it is the people in the country; that is the important thing; it is what they have done. When I see what you have accomplished in this enormous country and the difficulties you have surmounted; when I see your practically boundless future and prosperity; I can hardly believe that in this great country you could really want to give up connection with the greatest of empires. Then, there is only this one last word that I want to add, if I may, and you see that I speak frankly as an enthusiast--other people speak to you as statisticians or politicians, but for me. I am an enthusiast--I like a man with a good bias, because you can always discount what he says. I wish to refer to your great Universities, which make the soul of this country. When I was writing "The host empires," I said: "The British Empire is not lost yet, but there is no reason why it should not be if sufficiently mismanaged," and the real danger of those people who say that they do not care for England or the Empire, is that they will end by saying, "I do not care for anybody."
Chairman: Mr. Lord has referred to the question of what is being done in our schools, and as Controller Jones had some experience in this direction not very long ago, I would ask him to kindly inform Professor Lord what the schools have been doing as to disseminating information about the Empire.
Mr. S. Alfred Jones: I can speak only as to what the Ontario schools have been doing. Unfortunately my scope does not extend outside of them. I may say that they give special attention to the empire geographically, and the larger question of Imperial spirit and aspirations. The flag has been taught very thoroughly; not only are the different British flags explained, but the children are taught to actually construct the flags themselves, and I think I may fairly say that there is no part of the British Empire that gives more prominence to this feature in the curriculum of the schools. The Manitoba Government has taken official action to compel the British flag to be flown from all the schools. The same proposition in England, a short time ago, did not receive the same enthusiastic support.