THE EMPIRE OLD AND NEW
An Address by NORVAL W. HELME, M.P. for Lancaster Division, Lancaster, England, and President of the Chamber of Commerce, before the Empire Club of Canada on October 17, 1911.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
I thank you for the hospitality which you have extended to me, as a representative Englishman coming across the ocean, and finding himself at home. (Hear, hear.) Here the old flag floats, the old spirit prevails, and it is the pride and the pleasure of everyone taking any interest in the welfare of the Old Country, to do his best to cement the ties that bind the distant parts of the Empire together. Because of this, I responded with pleasure to the invitation which you were kind enough to extend to me to say a' few words in meeting you now, as I have the pleasure of doing this day. In coming across the continent from Quebec on the east to Victoria on the west, we have had the opportunity of seeing the conditions under which you live and in which this Canadian Dominion is helping to work out the welfare of the Empire. Of course at first sight, one is struck by the beautiful scenery through which we have passed, the varied character of it, the rocks, the hills, and the trees and the prairies, and then those magnificent mountains, the Rockies, that may well become the playground of the world. Switzerland is spoken of as the playground of Europe, but Switzerland with all its beauty can be put into one corner of the great national pleasure ground which I understand has been dedicated to the use of the public forever. Certainly, you have scenery here that is magnificent and such as will attract, in increasing numbers, those who desire to see these interesting parts of the Empire. Not only do the physical conditions of the Dominion attract one, but the commercial possibilities as well. The virgin soil of those almost limitless prairies is capable of producing food for man and beast to an almost incalculable extent. Varied climate offers opportunity for the cultivation of different sorts of produce. Your enormous natural resources will prove the increasingly strong foundation upon which the commercial greatness of this Dominion will be successfully developed.
And when one goes to the towns and notices the phenomenal growth, and visits some of the prairie and other cities of the West, one is perfectly amazed with the phenomenal prices that are asked for what are called corner blocks and town sites. Coming here to Toronto and Montreal, we find ourselves in surroundings that more nearly correspond to our life at home. When one thinks of the fact that you can provide a home for millions of people, yet to come, you may look with great confidence to the development of this Dominion.
Now, one thing that struck me is the wisdom of the policy that you have pursued, namely, the arrangements that have been made for the education of the young. Therein you are laying a safe and a sure foundation for the successful management of the affairs of life, in any direction whatever. I have visited some of your schools. This morning Mr. Hughes was kind enough to take me to see the foundation work. Yesterday I went through the University. I can only say how thoroughly glad one is, coming from the Old Country and having, for over 20 years, had a personal interest in the development of education to see the provision that you have made for it. You scarcely would believe the fact that it was only in 1870 that England woke up to, the necessity of educating her children. Prior to that it was quite a matter of choice, whether anyone went to school; and, when I was a boy, the great majority of old men and women in the country places could neither read nor write. The problem that you have before you, I take it, is how to influence the incoming foreigners, to assimilate them, and to imbue them with that national patriotism that you desire to develop. There, of course, is an important question. You have successfully dealt with it in the past, and I am glad to note the virility of effort of the churches throughout the land in endeavouring to carry forward, with the advancing lines of civilization and population, the higher teaching that must lie at the base of high character, sound morals, and honest dealing which will make a people successful, if accompanied lay .the knowledge of the arts and sciences. And so it is that I have looked, from the standpoint of a visitor interested in the welfare of the Empire, with great pleasure at these aspects of life that have presented themselves to me in coming through the country.
Now one thing I have been proud of. We, in England, have rejoiced under an absolutely pure system of administration of justice. (Hear, hear.) We pride ourselves on the inviolability of the British Bench, and I am glad that those who have come from across the border, speaking as citizens of the United States, have assured me that in Canada there is a respect for law and order which is the admiration of those who do not share the privileges of your citizenship. (Applause.) Hence I would say that nothing could be better-I don't know how you appoint your judges
Mr. NEVILLE : The same as yours.
Mr. HELME : In that is the secret, in my opinion, of success, because the respect for law and order lies at the base of all civilization and organized life.
With regard to the Empire. You have here the conditions under which people live in the new world. We; on the other side of the Atlantic, have to deal with the old conditions, and there, of course, another aspect of affairs meets us. Now, all I can say is this, that representatives of the old and the new met at the time of the Coronation-I was glad to hear you say, sir, yon were present in Westminster Abbey-it was my privilege to be there. I saw the anointment of the King and the crown being placed upon his head, and I felt he was there crowned the King of Great Britain and the Dominions beyond the Seas, and through that act became the object of that all pervading loyalty which centres in the person who occupies the throne; and so we said in glad acclaim that rang through the arches: "God Save the King." . That was the welcome that was given, and I am satisfied that whether it is at home or in the distant parts of the Empire, we are all of us actuated by that common sentiment which it is the object of your Club to develop.
Now, as to the conditions under which we live. We have a population crowded into the small area, of the British Isles. We have the difficulties that come from the needs of that population, which, in many of its component parts do not enjoy the prosperity that is common to your people. We have a submerged mass that it is a difficult problem for the Government to deal with. Now, with increasing determination, the Government has addressed itself to the task of grappling with some of these conditions. It was in order that help might be given to the aged poor, who were unable to maintain themselves and were under the necessity of going into the workhouse, that -suggestions arose that have caused immense differences of opinion in the Old Country, and that affect the policy of the future.
Now, I want to put before you the difficulty today which presents itself in the Old Country in regard to the proposal that was made by Mr. Chamberlain in the year ,when he was a member of the Conservative, or rather, as we call it, the Unionist Government, and left his position as Colonial Secretary. His resignation, was immediately followed by those of the Duke of Devonshire, Mr. Ritchie, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Lord George Hamilton. The member: of the House of Commons wondered what the cause of all this was. Mr. Chamberlain failed totally because he had not carried out a policy which he had advocated; namely, the establishment of a fund to establish old age pensions. In reply to that challenge I heard him make a speech some eight years ago in which he said that his reason for not having done it was that he had not had the funds at his disposal. He said: "If you will give me the opportunity, I will do two things; I will provide you the money, and by the effort to raise that money, I will do that which will bind the different parts of the Empire most closely together." Well, with such an object every man sympathized. The binding of the different parts of the Empire together more closely is an object that does not belong to, and is not the property of, any section of men at home. It is shared by the whole of the British people, irrespective of parties in any degree. (Applause.) When the method was proposed, it was heard with great interest in the House of Commons. Up to that time, both parties had been recognized as free traders, and the proposal was to put a duty on the import of food stuffs and manufactures coming from outside the Empire, in order that the business between the different parts of the Empire, being free, might be greater, and so the sympathetic interchange of commodities might develop the interests of the outlying districts. Now, I am putting the matter from an abstract point of view. We came to the problem: Can England afford to do this? Many said, "let us try it;" others said, "if we try it, we run a serious risk and, as we are dependent upon the maintenance of our manufacturers and the export of our goods' for the employment of labour, if you restrict in any degree the exchange with the larger nations of the world in favour of the smaller populations within the Empire, then you run a grave risk of reducing the volume of business which is absolutely necessary to maintain the conditions and employment in which our people live. Ever since then, we have had this great question and it is not settled yet. That is to say, those who approve of what is called fiscal reform are determined that they will not accept the verdict which the people at the polls gave. This, I suppose, from time to time may occur here. One party carries its policy at a general election, then the swing of the pendulum comes, and the next election reverses the judgment that was pronounced. So it is with us, but all through the whole of this we are en deavouring, side by side, to work for the welfare of the people at home.
In matters of education we are taking steps forward. We have already, in the development of our technical instruction, succeeded in training the sons of the foremen and higher artisans in the theory and science that underlies manufactures, and we are not afraid of the future; we look forward with confidence. England is at the present time, with greater ability than ever, developing its processes in order to make more perfect its manufactures, and so be able-to hold its own in the markets of the world.
And here, let me speak of the beauty of the old land. We have historic associations that appeal to the aesthetic tastes of the people, but we are endeavouring to hold aloft the spirit of nationality at home; and it is with great pleasure that I come here, as a representative Englishman having some share in the public affairs of the home land, to meet gentlemen, as I now have the pleasure of doing, and to carry away impressions that I gather. When I get back home I shall be glad to speak to those in positions of authority and tell them that the loyalty which we understood to exist, has been demonstrated to me in a great many ways and in many parts of this great Dominion. I shall be glad to tell Mr. Asquith, who now holds the position of Prime Minister and Leader of the Government, that Canada is loyal at heart, true to the core from one end of the land to the other, that her people, while determined to work 'for the welfare of Canada as an integral part of the Empire, are ready, with the other Dominions beyond the Seas, to do their duty by the Mother Land.
I beg to thank you for the opportunity of speaking to you. (Applause)