- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 29 Apr 1915, p. 173-182
- Rowell, N.W., Speaker
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- The great conflict in which we are engaged. Two of the ideals back of this war, expressed and exemplified by the German Empire on the one side and the British Empire on the other. The ideals of militarism as domination and conquest by the power of the sword, its watchword "Might is the supreme right." The ideals of democracy just the reverse; human liberty, free government, and equal justice to all, with a watchword of "Right is greater than might." These two forces contending for the mastery in Germany over the last 100 years and more. A brief review of German politics and history. The cause of democracy in Germany making very marked progress from 1840 to 1862. Bismarck's policies, striking the greatest blow which free and democratic government received in Europe during the past century. Effects in all the other countries of Europe, down to today. Two phases of policies pursued by the governments of Prussia and Germany since 1862. Pursuing a policy to undermine the power of the democratic movement by an aggressive national policy, giving voice and expression to the militarist ideals. The German government seeking to educate the German people through the public press, and through the schools and universities, to accept the government's ideals; that the monarchy is divinely ordained, that the state is non-moral, that war is a good thing in itself, that in national affairs Might is the Supreme Right, and that world empire is the rightful destiny of the German people. Evidence of the success of this movement. Today in Germany, militarism and autocracy dominant, with secure support from even the Social Democrats. The history of the struggle between democracy and military autocracy in Great Britain, in contrast to that of Germany. An appreciation of what the Government of Canada, and the people of Canada have already done in the war. Bearing in mind how small relatively is the sacrifice Canada has made compared with that made by the people of the Mother Country. Some facts and figures. Paying tribute to the valiant men from Canada who have died that the Empire might live. Asking whether we are worthy of them. Taking up the task they have laid down. Proving ourselves worthy of the men who have died for us in this, the supremest hour in our national history.
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- 29 Apr 1915
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DEMOCRACY VERSUS MILITARISM
AN ADDRESS By N. W. ROWELL, ESQ., K.C., M.P.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, April 29, 1915
BEFORE the address, the following resolution was proposed by J. M. Clarke, Esq.:
"That the Empire Club of Canada has heard with the highest satisfaction the official report of the gallantry of the Canadians in the field, and, further, that it expresses its deepest sympathy with those who have suffered bereavement in the Empire's cause."
Supporting this resolution, Mr. Clarke said: " We all fully knew that the Canadians at the front would act in the most heroic and skilful way, but I think it is fitting that this should be put on record. The deeds that we refer to will live in history. We refer only to the ' Empire's Cause,' it only being necessary to say in this club that that cause is the cause of honour, liberty, and civilisation."
Captain Perry, in seconding the motion, said: " I can only repeat what General French gave us to understand, that the Canadians saved the situation, and as I have often heard Mr. Justice Riddell say, Canadians have frequently saved the situation, and we are all proud of the boys that saved the situation on this occasion. It is not the last occasion, I am sure, when we shall witness that the Canadians have saved the situation. The boys to go forth yet will do their part; we are all very proud of them. At the same time we are sorry in our hearts for the families that have been bereft by the consequences of that brilliant charge.
The resolution was put and carried by a rising vote.
MR. ROWELL: Mr. President and Gentlemen, There is one thought uppermost in all our minds today, in the minds of all the people of Canada, of all the citizens of our Empire, and that is the great conflict in which we are engaged. It is not simply a conflict of so many thousands or hundreds of thousands of men ranged on either side, but it is also a conflict of ideals, of policies touching the welfare not only of the nations immediately involved, but the welfare of our common humanity-and in the time which is allotted to me I shall endeavour to touch upon what appear to me to be two of the ideals back of this war, so far as those ideals are expressed and exemplified by the German Empire on the one side and the British Empire on the other.
The ideals of militarism are domination and conquest by the power of the sword, and its watchword is, " Might is the supreme right." The ideals of democracy are just the reverse; they are human liberty, free government, and equal justice to all. Its watchword is " Right is greater than might." Those two forces, democracy and militarism, have been contending for the mastery in Germany during the past one hundred years and more. Until 1840 the policy of the government of Prussia was one of repression, and many leaders of the democratic movement in the early part of the last century were banished and outlawed because they proclaimed the doctrines of human liberty, which are commonplaces to us today. From 1840 to 1862 the cause of democracy in Germany made very marked progress, and it did look as if free, representative, and responsible government would be established. You all recall the great wave of democracy that swept over Europe in 1848, and which shook all the thrones of Europe to their foundations. At that time the revolution in Prussia and the other German states brought promises of reform, promises of constitutional government, promises of larger liberty to the masses of the people. From that time until 1862 the people did exercise some control over their governments in the different states of Germany. In Prussia in the election of 1862 the Liberal or Progressive forces won an overwhelming electoral victory. They were in the majority in the Prussian parliament by two to one, as a result of that electoral struggle. That was the critical hour in the history of Prussia; as a great historian of Prussia has said, she faced at that time the same issue that Great Britain did in the days of Olives Cromwell the issue of whether the parliament or the king should rule. When the then king of Prussia, King William, who afterwards became Emperor of United Germany, thought of conceding to parliament the demands it was making, he called Bismarck to be his Chancellor, Bismarck who had been a leader of the minority combatting the democratic movement, and Bismarck as his chancellor undertook to govern the country on the basis of the absolutism of the monarchy supported by Prussian militarism. He defied the power of parliament, and carried on the government of the country, raised and expended public moneys and increased and strengthened the army, without the sanction of the people. Bismarck, by the policy he then adopted, struck the greatest blow which free and democratic government received in Europe during the past century. The effect was manifest in all the other countries of Europe, and we have not recovered from those effects to this day. Bismarck's biographer describes the effect of his action in the following language: "From that time the confidence of the German people in parliamentary government was broken. Moreover, it was the first time in the history of Europe in which one of these struggles had conclusively ended in the defeat of parliament. The result of it was to be shown in the history of every country in Europe during the next twenty years. It is the most serious blow that the principles of representative government have yet received." If democracy had triumphed in 1862 I believe we would have been saved this world war. From 1862 down to the present date, absolutism, based on Prussian militarism, has been steadily increasing its power and influence, not only in Prussia but throughout the other states that now make up united Germany. Today Prussian militarism is dominant and resistless within the whole German Empire, and is seeking to make itself dominants and resistless throughout the world.
Since 1862 the policy pursued by the governments of Prussia and Germany in combating the democratic movement has passed through two phases. During the first part of that period Bismarck followed the repressive policy which had been pursued in the early years of the century, and sought to defeat the liberal and radical movement as expressed- through the Social Democratic party by repressive measures, by punishing and imposing disabilities on its leaders. More recently that policy has been changed, and Prince Von Bulow in his Imperial Germany outlines the course which he believes is preferable to the policy of repression. It is this: To undermine the strength of the Social Democratic movement with the people by an aggressive national policy, to divert attention from social and constitutional reforms by engaging the nation in great national enterprises through a vigorous foreign policy. One can get an excellent idea of the attitude of the German government towards the Social Democratic party, which now largely represents the labouring classes in Germany, by reading Prince Von Bulow's own book Imperial Germany. He states the Social Democratic movement is the antithesis of the Prussian state, that Prussia has built up her power as a state of soldiers and officials, and the strength and power of Prussia rests on her soldiers and officials. He also tells us that one of the great problems of the German Empire today, one of the two great problems of the Empire, is fighting the Social Democratic movement. The other great problem is the national movement, the expansion of Germany. Von Bulow says it is essential to the life of the monarchy and the state that the Social Democratic movement be defeated. It is so vital to the life of the state that the government must not leave it to the political parties to fight. The state itself must wage the war. Against whom? Against the masses of their own people struggling for liberty and for a larger measure of self-government. The government of Germany has made war on human liberty within her own borders. She is now making war on human liberty beyond her own borders. Prince Von Bulow declares, at the conclusion of his book: " It is not the duty of the government in the present time to concede new rights to parliament, but to rouse the political interest of all classes of the nation by means of a vigorous and determined national policy, great in its aims and energetic in the means it employs. The criticism, to which every policy that is not colourless must give rise, does no harm so long as positive interest is aroused. The worst thing in political life is torpor, a general and a stifling calm."
In pursuance of this policy to undermine the power of the democratic movement by an aggressive national policy and also to give voice and expression to the militarist ideals, the government has sought to educate the German people, through the public press, which is not free as with us, but is subject to the control of the government, and through their schools and universities, which are also under government control, to accept the government's ideals, which are that the monarchy is divinely ordained, that the state is non-moral, that war is a good thing in itself, that in national affairs Might is the Supreme Right, and that world empire is the rightful destiny of the German people. The government has endeavoured to cultivate the feeling in Germany that other nations are jealous of German success, and are arming to make war on the German people; that the democratic governments of Great Britain and France are weak and easily overthrown. Their object has been to raise up a generation which would believe that the strength of the state rested in the monarchy and the military arm, and that its highest expression would be found in the manifestation of its military power.
Such has been their success in this movement that in the year 1907 the government succeeded for the first time in securing the support of the whole Liberal party, both the national Liberals and the ultra-Liberals, for their enlarged military programme, but even in 1907 the Radicals and Social Democrats still opposed the government's military measures, and fought against the government's military policy in the general election which followed. But with that persistence and thoroughness which are so characteristic of the German government this policy of educating the nation has continued with the result that in the year 1913 for the first time in history the government secured the vote in the Reichstag of the Social Democratic representatives for one of the greatest military measures it had ever proposed. It is interesting to note that under the constitution of the Social Democratic party they vote as a unit; the decision of caucus settles how all their members vote. In an article recently published a very interesting light has been thrown on the circumstances under which the Social Democrats supported the military measures of the government in 1913. In the caucus there was great difference of opinion, and the argument which finally won over the majority to support the government was this: The government proposed that the new taxes necessary to support this enlarged army programme should be raised largely on land. This would impose the burden on the Junker class, which in the past had been the leading supporters of militarism, and they succeeded in convincing the majority of the Social Democrats-so the apologists for the Social Democrats say that if they permitted this programme to go through, and the landowner class had to bear the burden of the increased taxes for this greatly enlarged military programme, they would gradually become sick of militarism themselves, and it really would be a movement in the interests of anti-militarism and peace. By that method of reasoning, and others, they succeeded in 1913 in getting a practically unanimous vote of the German Reichstag in support of the large military programme which the German government submitted at that time.
This, in brief outline, is the history of the struggle between the two movements and forces in Germany, so that today militarism and autocracy are dominant in Germany, and by the teaching of the ideal of world empire and an aggressive foreign policy, they have, in large measure at least, secured support for their policies from even the Social Democrats. Today Germany is the great representative military autocracy of the world, and the menace that is to the world is shown by Germany's conduct in this war. Christian civilisation itself is at stake.
By way of contrast, what has been the history of the struggle between democracy and military autocracy in Great Britain? From the earliest times our fathers have resisted the right of the Crown to dominate and control the government of the country; they have resisted the right of the military to control the civil power. In the days of Oliver Cromwell our fathers settled once and for all, for the Anglo-Saxon people, the question of the divine right of kings, and of the supremacy of the civil power. So strong is the control which the civil authorities of Great Britain the people-exercise over the military arm--in contrast to Germany where the military dominates the civil power that His Majesty, Mr. Asquith, and all his government, could not maintain a standing army of ten men without the consent of parliament. So resolute is the control which parliament retains over this privilege that they never extend the right of the executive to maintain a standing army beyond one year at a time; and in the Act by which the extension is granted, they specify the exact number of soldiers that may be maintained.
The supremacy of the civil power is one of the cardinal principles of government in Great Britain. The people of Great Britain are determined that they never will let go that control, that the military shall be a useful arm to aid the state in hours of national emergency, but the military shall never dominate the state in the management of its affairs. In order that absolutism in government should control an intelligent and progressive people, it is essential that it should be supported by strong military forces. Militarism and absolutism go hand in hand. But in Great Britain, where democracy controls its own affairs, and where we have free representative and responsible government, the military is the servant of the state and not the master.
From the days of Oliver Cromwell, the rights of the democracy in Great Britain have been steadily and increasingly enlarged. The whole history of the development of the British constitution is a history of the ever enlarging power and control of the people over the management of their own affairs. today Great Britain stands as the great representative democracy of the world. Now what has been the result upon the two nations themselves? In Germany, Prince Von ulow again being the witness, the people do not possess the faculty of government; he says, " Of the many great talents possessed by the German people, the talent of government has been denied them "naturally and inevitably denied them. If you deny to men the right to share in the management of their own affairs, and to develop the faculty of government, you will find the men without that faculty. In that one sentence, Prince Von Billow passes one of the most severe judgments which can be passed on the autocratic and militarist form of government in Germany. What has been the result in Great Britain? The people, by the practice of self-government, have learned how to govern not only themselves, but a world-wide empire. Throughout the Empire we enjoy free government and representative institutions, and the Imperial Parliament recognised by all nations as the mother of free parliaments the world over, and the greatest bulwark of democracy and free government in the world today. Democracy fought and won its battle in Great Britain. It fought and lost in Germany. Militarism axed absolutism won the victory in Germany over their own people. They are now seeking to preserve their position in their own country and carry out the ideals for which they stand by endeavouring to impose their will and their ideals upon others by the might of the sword. Back of this world conflict lies the issue for which our fathers fought and for the triumph of which they gave their lives. Our fathers would not accept the tyranny of their own kings. Shall we, their sons, submit to the greater tyranny of alien kings? Militarism and democracy--these two great forces as represented in those two great empires--now face each other in this the supremest conflict democracy has ever faced. Professor Delbrooke, who succeeded Treitschke in the chair of history in the university of Berlin, said as late as 194: " It will take another Sedan, effected not by us but on us, before the army and its officers will recognise the supremacy of the German parliament." The path of liberty for the German people themselves, the only path of liberty, lies in the overthrow of militarism and absolutism in Germany. On the other hand, the only path of continued freedom for us rests in our pressing this war to a victorious conclusion,-for only thus can we preserve the liberties our fathers won for us.
We all appreciate and greatly appreciate what the government of Canada has already done. We appreciate what the people of Canada individually, and through their patriotic and philanthropic organisations have done. We appreciate what the provinces of Canada have done, but when we congratulate ourselves on what we have done, it is well for us to bear in mind how small relatively is the sacrifice we have made, compared with that made by the people of the Mother Country. According to the best information one can secure, Great Britain has under arms today either at the front or in training between two and three millions of men. If we in Canada had the same number in proportion to our population we should have between 350,000 and 500,000. The city of Birmingham alone, which has a population only slightly larger than Toronto, has given to the colours over 60,000 men, more than Canada will have in the fighting line when both our contingents are at the front. And notwithstanding this great army of men, within the past few weeks, the government of Great Britain and the recruiting committee, representing all parties in Great Britain, have commenced a new campaign of public meetings throughout the United Kingdom calling for more recruits. They recognise that such is the struggle before them that up to this time they have not provided all the men necessary for the successful accomplishment of the task. I for one--and I have said it ever since the war opened, and I repeat it again today--cannot see why we in Canada, in proportion to our numbers, should not give just as many men as the Mother Country. Are not free government and human liberty as precious to us as to the men of England or Ireland or Scotland? Does not the defeat of the pagan doctrine that might is right mean as much in the life of this new and growing nation as it does to the life of the older nation? I cannot bring myself to the conclusion that we have done our whole duty until we have done at least as much in proportion to our numbers as the people of Great Britain.
It is fitting, Mr. Chairman, that at this Empire Club one should pay a tribute to the valiant men from Canada who have died that the Empire might live. They have died for us, and for each of us and for every lover of human liberty the world over. They are worthy of Canada, all nations join in paying that tribute to their memory. A much more searching question for you and me is this
"Are we worthy of them? " Does their death, which we mourn, and the sympathy which we extend to the ones who are bereft, inspire us with a new and stronger resolve and with a nobler faith and passion that by all the power and strength that in us lie we will take up the task they have laid down, having given their all for its accomplishment, and carry it through to a successful conclusion? I ask you as I ask myself this afternoon, what an inspiration it would be to the men who yet remain in the trenches, what an inspiration it would be to the people of Canada and all the people of the Empire, what a note of courage and confidence it would give to the men who are now leaving us to go to the front, if our government were to cable to Great Britain and say, because of our belief in the cause, and the love we have for the men who have fallen, in addition to all that we have promised or offered, we will send another hundred thousand men into the fighting line to see this thing through. And if, in addition to that, all our political leaders would go through this country and on a common platform tell the Canadian people how vital is the issue to our future well-being, how deep is our concern in the success of this war, and appeal to the common patriotism, the common love of liberty of the young men and the older men who have made Canada what it is, Canada would respond as one man to that stirring and noble appeal. And just as our brave men have mingled their blood on the soil of Belgium that we may maintain our freedom, so men of all classes and races and creeds in this country would unite in one holy and common resolve and say, " To the last man and to the last dollar Canada is in this fight to see it through "; and we would prove ourselves worthy of the men who have died for us in this, the supremest hour in our national history.
A vote of thanks to the speaker was moved by Mr. Justice Riddell, seconded by Sir John Willison.