- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Feb 1909, p. 129-133
- Neville, R.S., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The speaker's observation that the North Pacific Ocean and the northern countries of Asia adjacent thereto are the only important parts of the commercial world which are not served by British cables. Reasons for this lack. Progress in recent years in both Canada and Japan. Some similarities and differences between the two countries in terms of trade, commerce, and development. Trade between this continent and Japan which will rapidly develop. Canada to use every means to obtain the full share to which her geographical position and her capability entitle her. The means of speedy and cheap telegraphic communication. The need to acquire this is Canada is to compete successfully with the United States. The need for the Canadian cable to Japan for the proper development of the commerce of Canada upon the Pacific Ocean. The question as to how we can contribute something which would be of advantage to the Empire and at the same time, consistent with our much-vaunted autonomy. Ways in which this cable project gives us such an opportunity. Predictions that the next great international struggle will be in the Pacific. Using diplomacy to avoid such a conflict. Estimating costs. Ways in which the cable ought to be a good investment. Requirements for a second line in the future. Determining the life of a cable, its maintenance and its renewals. Issues of defence, priority, rates, contingencies for war, etc. Alternative landing places on the Canadian side of the cable.
- Date of Original
- 18 Feb 1909
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- A CANADIAN CABLE TO JAPAN; ITS COMMERCIAL AND IMPERIAL VALUE.
Address by MR. R. S. NEVILLE, K.C., of Toronto, before the Empire Club of Canada, on February 18th, 1909.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
Some two or three years ago, in looking into the question of cable communication throughout the world, I observed that the North Pacific Ocean and the northern countries of Asia adjacent thereto are the only important parts of the commercial world which are not served by British cables. The reason for this is obvious; for the great trade of Japan is of recent date and the enormous trade between Great Britain and China has been served by cables that pass from Great Britain through the Mediterranean, Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean around to Hong Kong and Shanghai. Foreign cables of modern date then connect with Japan and Eastern Siberia.
Canada and Japan have made more progress in recent years than any other countries. The expansion of the commerce of each is phenomenal, and yet the commerce of each is in its infancy. From an international point of view Japan is young, like Canada, but in reality she is an ancient community and has a great population ready at hand to carry on all her undertakings. In her new fields of activity in Manchuria and Corea she has ample scope for her unbounded industrial, productive and expansive energy. Canada has much Zreater resources and is rapidly acquiring the population necessary for their development, and these two countries face each other on the North Pacific as Great Britain and Canada face each other on the North Atlantic. A great trade between this continent and Japan will rapidly develop and Canada should use every means to obtain the full share to which her geographical position and her capability entitle her. One of these means, and a very important one, is speedy and cheap telegraphic communication, and it must be acquired if we are to compete successfully with the United States. A Canadian cable to Japan is therefore necessary to the proper development of the commerce of Canada upon the Pacific Ocean, and a glance at the map would indicate that the North Pacific is the one, part of the world peculiarly suited for Canadian enterprise and development.
For some years, too, we have been discussing the question as to how we can contribute something which would be of advantage to the Empire, and, at the same time, consistent with our much-vaunted autonomy. This project gives us. an opportunity; for the cable would be under Canadian control and would be of immense benefit to the commerce of Great Britain with the northerly countries of Eastern Asia; it would also complete an all-British line of telegraphic communication between Great Britain and her Eastern ally; and would be the only all-British line between the two countries. It would be the shortest and cheapest of all the lines for commercial use, and in time of war it would be hard for European enemies to reach. Besides, there would be no stations in mid-ocean on either the Atlantic or Pacific which would be open to attack, and it is very difficult to cut a cable lying on the bottom of the deep sea. It would be, therefore, the safest from interruption in time of war of all the lines in existence; and if Great Britain and Japan were called upon to fight side by side pursuant to the terms of the Treaty between them, this line would be the means of directing the combined operations of the fleets and armies of the allies. It might be the only possible line; for the other cables would be more accessible to an enemy and could be easily cut and communication interrupted.
It has been predicted that the next great international struggle will be in the Pacific. That struggle has been so far put off through the wise diplomacy of Great Britain and through the Japanese alliance, and we know that Great Britain is using all the means in her power to secure the peaceful development arid international stability of all the countries which border upon the greatest of our oceans. Nevertheless, it is a danger-zone, and British interests in that part of the world are so enormous that apart altogether from the Anglo-Japanese Treaty, Great Britain could hardly be an idle spectator while other nations fought for the great prizes, commercial and territorial, that, without British interference, other nations might win. One may safely conclude, therefore, that both in peace and war; for offence, for defence, and for commerce; a Canadian cable to Japan would be a worthy contribution to the strength and interests of the whole Empire, while, at the same time, it would be most of all valuable to develop Canada's own legitimate North Pacific trade.
The cost would not be great. The world's submarine cables, long and short, have cost about $800 a mile. Deep sea cables alone have averaged higher. The American cable to the Philippines, 6,912 miles, cost $12,000,000 but on account of its great length it had to be laid in sections, necessitating stations at different islands and a number of expensive " shore ends." Shore ends, of course, are very costly and often extend many miles out from land before they reach water deep enough to ensure the cable's safety from injury through the action of the tides. Besides, a long section of the American cable was laid over a mountainous bottom, which added greatly to the expense. The cable from Vancouver to Australia has also several stations; but it cost only about $1,100 a mile. A Canadian cable to Japan would require no intervening stations, and the British Admiralty charts, giving the soundings, show the bottom of the North Pacific to be favourable for cable laying. It is practically certain, therefore, that the cable would be cheaper than the Australian cable. Probably $1,000 a mile would cover the cost, and by taking the nearest points between Canada and Northern Japan, or possibly the Kurile Islands, the distance could be reduced to less than the length of the span of the Australian cable between Vancouver and Fanning Island, 3,600 miles, which is now the longest distance between stations in any operating cable. The Japanese Government would be interested and, no doubt, would wish to control all connections from the main landing station to their system of land lines of telegraph. Canada's expense would end with the first Asiatic station. Indeed, if Japan were approached she would probably agree to share the responsibility for the whole line. But assuming that Canada should pay all the cost, a single line could be built for less than $5,000,000.
Apart from the national and imperial benefits derived, the cable ought to be a good investment. It would be thousands of miles shorter than the line of communication from San Francisco, via Honolulu, Guam and the Philippines or Bonin, to Japan. Not only, therefore, would the initial cost be much less, but it would be much speedier and therefore cheaper to work. The speed of a cable is in inverse ratio to the square of the distance, and for this reason every cable on the Atlantic between Great Britain and this continent, whether British or American, has its American landing station in Canada or Newfoundland. A direct line to the United States was once projected, but the company was forced to change its plans and land in Canada because along cable cannot compete with a short one. The Canadian line across the Pacific would have the same advantage, and for the same reason must attract most of the business from all parts of North America to Japan. It must be remembered, too, that the business of all the northeastern Asiatic mainland with this continent would be gathered to this line over the Japanese Government and other foreign cables. A second line would probably soon be required, but only when business demanded it, and had grown large enough to make it profitable. The more the better as long as the lines pay.
I shall not take your time to consider the life of a cable, its maintenance and its renewals. These, however, can be approximately determined from the experience of existing cable companies throughout the world. I need only say that the character of the bottom of the North Pacific Ocean is favourable to long life and economy in repairs. Nor will I venture to discuss the question of public ownership. But it must be noted that the public ownership of a cable between distant parts of the same Empire is a question quite distinct from public ownership of a line between different nations. It has been found that it is easier for a private, company to obtain facilities for doing business in foreign countries than for Government agents to do so. Foreign Governments are shy of political telegraph lines. But if a private company is to build and operate a cable the Government should make sure, when it grants it landing rights, or a subsidy or guaranty of any kind, that the landing stations are located where they can be defended in time of war; that there shall be an agreed efficiency of construction and service; that Government messages shall have priority and reduced rates; that the rates shall be subject to the International Telegraph Convention; that the Government may operate the line in time of war, subject to compensation; that the line shall be controlled by British subjects, and that the contract shall not be assigned or sublet without the Government's consent.
I have in my possession a sketch of the Pacific Ocean showing the American line from San Francisco, via Honolulu, Guam and the Philippines, to Shane-hai, from which American messages have to reach Japan over a foreign line. It also shows a projected branch from the main line at Guam direct to Japan, via Bonin. It also shows the present line from Vancouver to Australia and New Zealand, and finally it shows the suggested Canadian cable to Japan with alternative landing places on the Canadian side at Vancouver and Queen Charlotte Islands and similar alternative landing places at the Japanese end, either in the Kurile Islands or in the northermost of the large islands of the Japanese Empire.