AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY
THE DUKE OF DEVONSHIR, K.G.,
GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF CANADA
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto.
Thursday, Nov. 11, 1920
It being Armistice Day, the Doxology was sung instead of the National Anthem.
PRESIDENT HEWITT, in introducing His Excellency said, Gentlemen, with what grateful joy we hailed the news that the Allied Arms had triumphed over the enemy hordes, and that hostilities had been suspended under the terms of an Armistice! There may not have been much reason in the thought, but was it not then in the mind of most of us that, with the signing of the Armistice, had come an end of anxiety, an end of turmoil and, strife, and that henceforth there would come a return to the peaceful calm of pre-war days, or rather, the ushering in of a sort of millennium. Gradually, but surely, we have been disillusioned in this regard, and today, after two years of effort, we are still struggling toward peace. But we must not allow that disappointment that the millennium did not come with the signing of the Armistice to cause us to forget our duty. Let us never forget either that the. Power which is great enough to create and sustain the Universe will not; cannot finally fail in any of His purposes
Your Excellency, you are surrounded today by men engaged in business and professional callings-glad of their opportunity to express to you, .as the representative of His Majesty, their loyal devotion to him, and their dutiful respect for constituted authority. As an Empire Club, we rejoice on every occasion when the principles for which the Empire stands are vindicated, and on this anniversary of Armistice Day we are glad that Your, Excellency has seen fit to honour the Club with your presence, and that you have chosen to speak to us on the subject of "Citizenship," than which no subject could be more fitting to the times, or more suitable for discussion before the Empire Club. His Excellency, among other things that he will have to say to us today, will make reference to the urgent appeal that has gone forth under the auspices of the Canadian Red Cross Society for funds to aid in the relief of 'those suffering millions of Central Europe. I want to say .this .at this stage so that you may be prepared to hearken and give your closest possible attention to what His Excellency may say on that subject; and, on your behalf, I desire to welcome his Excellency to our midst .and I now introduce him to you.
HIS EXCELLENCY THE DUKE OF
Mr. President and Gentlemen, May I say at the very outset bow very closely I wish to associate myself with the note which you, Sir, struck in making special reference to this day as the great anniversary on which the Armistice was proclaimed. Throughout the Empire this day is being observed, and as time goes on it will be marked with even a greater sense of relief and thankfulness for
the very great mercy that was vouchsafed to us on that day two years ago. It is indeed right and proper that that day should be for all time marked as a great occasion in our National life, and that we, who are brought into closer contact with the great events of the last seven years should hand down td those who come after us the feeling and sense of our gratefulness. (Applause) The anniversary also augurs and suggests a certain amount of retrospection, and an attempt to gather up, as it were, what has passed since the occasion which we wish to celebrate. You said, Mr. Chairman, and I am afraid with only too much justification, 'that in our minds we might feel some sense of despair that our more sanguine hopes had not been realized. In my opinion that is true, I .am afraid ominously true, to those who follow, even in a perhaps cursory manner the events which have taken place throughout what I suppose we must still necessarily call the civilized world(laughter)-which, at any rate, I hope we shall shortly be able to prove a little more worthy of that term. (Hear, hear, and applause)
In making even a very hasty glance at conditions as we see them today it might be with a sense of bitter disappointment that still throughout vast areas in Europe a condition prevails not only of war, but of war in its most aggravated form. But even although that aspect may be dark, we can only continue on the path which we as an Empire have determined to pursue-to help restore peace and prosperity to those unfortunate countries, distracted as they were by, war, suffering now as they are from famine and disease and all the necessary concomitants of restlessness and distress. We are determined, so far as we can, to relieve that distress; .and consequently the Canadian Red Cross Society felt that they were again justified in appealing to the sympathy and generosity of the people of Canada on behalf of those starving millions, and that we were to join in with the other nations of the world in endeavouring to do something to relieve that distress and promote better conditions in those countries. The problem is an enormous one, with .a large section of the earth in .the state in which it is today, with epidemics raging and with children starving. This appeal has been launched by the Canadian Red Cross Society in its capacity as a member of a Red Cross League of Nations, and as part of an Empire movement, with the full support of the League of Nations with the full support of a League of Red Cross Societies. It was launched at the very centre of the Empire, apt the Mansion House in the city of London, with His Majesty the King as patron and with his full support. I know well the generosity which is one of Canada's greatest assets and the splendid support that they have given to all movements which have for their object the relief of distress and the alleviation of misery; and although I know that appeals show no signs of diminution, in fact very much the reverse, yet again I hope it will be possible that we in Canada shall keep up our reputation and make a substantial contribution towards the relief of this distress to which I have alluded. (Applause)
But if I may leave that subject and 'turn to a possibly still wider one, although we know that this hideous trouble is still raging in Europe, we may take a view of what has passed in those two years in relation to the British Empire as a whole and upon Canada more in particular; and conclude that although progress may not have been so rapid as some of the sanguine of us wished for; I am still determined to label myself as an optimist. (Hear, hear, and applause)
Although there may be anxious and possibly disquieting symptoms, there is no reason for panic, there is no reason for alarm. We have and shall have, a difficult time, and probably though I know that you know a great deal more about this than I do,-probably the next four or five months will prove, especially in those areas of the country more closely connected with industrial undertakings, that we may have some very difficult and complicated problems to face. But after all, I think we have some reason in Canada to be extremely grateful that we have been able to get through two years with as little difficulty, relatively speaking, as we have had. (Hear, hear) I hope you know me well enough now, to know that I am not going to waste your time in paying you empty compliments, but I do wish to say that from my experience in going through the country from Halifax to Victoria one could not but notice that the public-I use the term in its widest sense-made up their minds to make the best of conditions. They knew that we were living under particularly artificial circumstances; and after all, if I may venture to trouble men of business, men of affairs, with ordinary every-day, common-place observations-what is the position in which we found ourselves?
As a consequence of the war we have necessarily committed probably every sort of offense against the ordinary lines of conduct which are prescribed both for individuals and for communities: What have we done? We have hypothecated to ourselves what is the property of those who are coming afterwards; in fact, we have mortgaged the future. We know-I again say, either looking at it from the individual point or the collective point-that that is a practice which is and ought to be generally deprecated, and if possible -permanently prevented. We have done it. We have, I think, some excuse. Not of our seeking, we were forced to do so by the conditions of the war; we were compelled to make use of our resources for the purposes of waging war;. we were compelled to send the very best type of young men, who ought to have been developing wealth, for the purposes of creating destruction; we were using our raw-materials, our forests, our mines, not for the purpose of adding to the wealth of the world but for the purpose of destroying it. Well, we knew what the horrors of war were. We appreciated it, possibly not to the extent and the magnitude with which we can look back upon it *now, but we knew full well, as a nation of business menshop-keepers if you like; I am willing to welcome the expression-we were called "A nation of shopkeepers" -(applause)-we were compelled to use those for purposes of destruction. In order to be able to do that we necessarily had to raise vast sums of money for that purpose. It is not now my wish, -even if I were qualified to do so, to either praise or blame the methods which were used for this purpose. Sir Thomas White was to have sat next to me; whether he .had some anticipation of what I was going to say, I do not know, (laughter) but I venture to say that if we look at those movements in proper perspective and see 'the part 'which Canada played financially, they will come out as well-I cannot put it higher-as the services which you rendered in every other aspect of the war. (Applause)
Well, we have had to borrow, to mortgage our future, for the purpose of conducting the war. We shall therefore have a debt-a debt of very considerable mangnitude -to pass down to those who may follow after us. But, gentlemen, we will have something more than debt to pass down. The answer lies in our hands today; if we can pass down, as well as debts, a world freed from the horrors and possibility of war, I do not think the future generation will have so much reason to mind the debt to which they are committed. (Hear, hear and applause) The answer to that question rests in your hands today. We, as one of the recognized nations of the world, we, who, as a nation contributed to the victorious conclusion of the war, can take our part-even if we cannot make war altogether impossible in the future-in using other means by which efforts can be made to avoid that cruel and bitter arbitrament of war. (Hear, hear) We have today a chance, in connection with the other great self-governing portions of the Empire, of uniting with the old mother-land in using our influence and our best efforts with great results; and if we can look forward, as I venture to say we can, with some confidence to the results which I have suggested, we shall have some reason to be proud of the part which we played, and I do not think our successors will have so much reason to regret the part that we did play. (Applause)
But, gentlemen, to get back, perhaps, to every day affairs, we find ourselves, possibly for the first time since the conclusion of hostilities, in changed conditions, especially in the industrial areas. As a rule I do not attempt to indulge in metaphors-they have a nasty way sometimes of conveying other meanings which you do not suspect. (Laughter) Occasionally they come back on one-(laughter)-but I cannot help feeling to a certain extent that we may be somewhat in the position of travellers who found themselves on a mountain, who. were enjoying bright views, bright skies, and to whom everything looked fair and bright, yet who knew full well that that mountain was liable to landslide, and who my or may not have taken precaution to get off of that mountain before the landslide occurred. That is what we have got to do today, gentlemen. Perhaps we have been lulled into too great a sense of security, so that we may possibly have imagined that the conditions which prevailed during the last two years were likely to be the normal and permanent conditions of the future; but undoubtedly we use rather loose phrases in general conversation over these subjects, and we rather vaguely talk about them in phrases such as, "We have got to get down to bed-rock," and "We have got to get back to normal conditions." I venture to say it is perfectly true that we have got to get back to normal conditions; and the question which is before us at this moment is, how are we going to get back? Don't think for one moment, gentlemen, 'that I am going to tell you how to conduct your business; you all know a great deal more about it than I do, and I certainly shall not attempt to interfere; but what I do wish to impress upon you is that in dealing with those conditions consequent upon the return to a peace footing it will require the same foresight, the same courage and the same self-sacrifice as it did to carry on the war in the way in which it was carried on. We have, and shall have, to face disagreeable processes by which the transition can be made from the present artificial conditions in which we are living until we get back to more normal conditions; and it is for all of us to see by what means we can make that transition, which can never be a pleasant one-to make it as little unpleasant' as we possibly can. (Hear, hear, and applause) This will and does call for the highest attributes of citizenship and statesmanship, in order to be able to deal with those various problems as we come to face them.
Again, I do not wish to be too optimistic, but I have that deep sense of faith in the common-sense of the nations which compose the British Empire to know that the greater the difficulty is, the more vigorously we shall tackle it, and we shall be able to arrive at safe and sound solutions. (Hear, hear, and applause) I am going to give you only one instance of it. We have all read, during the past few /weeks, of what might have been the greatest catastrophe in the Old Country if that coal strike had developed. I am not now concerned, in fact I do not know and do not in the least care whether the men won a victory or whether the- owners won a victory, or whether victory was won at all; all I can say is that the British people won a victory. (Hear, hear and applause) I say nothing now about the terms of 'the settlement, but I believe that the settlement of that strike was not only made possible but was absolutely forced upon the various parties concerned in that great industry, the mining industry; that public opinion was so strong that it said, "You are to get together; you are to work out this problem;. you are to' dig up more coal, and you are to get paid for what you do; you are to get paid a proper wage." And I am not at all sure but that, coming as it did at this moment, instead of being one of the most appalling catastrophes that could possibly have occurred it may turn out, both in its indirect and direct action, to have been something of a blessing in disguise if it has only done more to bring all the classes of the community closer together and enable them to get on with their work and help to solve their problems. (Hear, hear, and applause) I trust that we shall never have to apply the lessons learned at so much cost as they were over the production of that settlement in the Old Country; but if such an occasion ever did arise I feel pretty confident that the common sense of the people of Canada would equally well produce solutions on the lines which are indicated by the settlement of that great dispute. (Applause)
But if I might be allowed to make one suggestion I would say, do not wait for 'the dispute or the stoppage before getting together. (Hear, hear, and applause) Get together before that happens. (Applause) I know full well-I do not wish to hide anything-that men in the process of getting back to what we vaguely speak of as normal conditions must make big sacrifices. It may mean that profits of industrial concerns may shrink -may shrink very severely. It may mean .that wages and salaries have to be very largely reduced and cur-_ tailed. But, after all, those sacrifices have to be made; if they can be foreseen, if they can be arranged by negotiations and discussions before hand, the process is infinitely less disagreeable, and we shall be able to get a still greater combination in developing the undoubted and admitted resources of this country. (Applause) We may have to face those processes during the next few months, but yet we know that with the earnest endeavour on the part of all concerned, whether governments or great organizations whether of capital or labour if by joint action they are able to contribute to a settlement and readjustment of present conditions in which we are living-the really insecure positions in which we are living-they can help to make the process by which we can return to better conditions with. perhaps as little distress and dislocation as the process would inevitably involve (Applause) We shall have to face this condition in the very near future; but if I may venture to say so, after four years of what I hope has been an intelligent and certainly, a sympathetic wish to acquaint myself with the problems of the citizens of Canada in every portion of this Dominion, I believe that you will bring to bear in the solution of these peace problems the same qualities which you brought to bear under the infinitely greater problems of war during those terrible five years. (Applause)
I can only say how very deeply I appreciate the honour you have done me in asking me here today. I was told before I came to Canada that Canada was a very large place, and that I had better make up my mind that I should never go anywhere more than once. (Laughter) But on certainly more than one occasion you have kindly invited me to be the guest of your Club and I certainly esteem it a very high privilege that you should have done so; and however good may have been my resolution to inflict only one speech on any one institution, I can only add .how deeply grateful I am to you for having given me the privilege of saying a few words to you today, and to meet and greet you on an occasion to which I shall always be glad to look back with pleasure. (Loud applause)
PRESIDENT HEWITT: Gentlemen, on your behalf I desire to extend to His Excellency our thanks for his goodness in coming 'to us. His message has been well worth while; and coming from a man-I was going to say a human man-(laughter and applause)-he has come to tell to us, good loyal citizens, something of our duty; but he has told us something more; I think he has added to the optimism we already possessed, to our strong confidence in the future, and to our ability to overcome our difficulties, no matter what they may be. (Applause) Your Excellency, I desire, on behalf of the Club, to extend our very hearty thanks to you.
The motion was carried amid applause, the audience rising and cheering.
The meeting closed by singing the National Anthem.