THE BRITISH LEAGUE OF NATIONS
AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY LT.-COL.
LEOPOLD S. AMERY, M.P.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
Monday, June 14, 1920
THE PRESIDENT, in introducing Col. Amery, said:Ladies and Gentlemen, I should like at the outset to express my personal gratification at seeing so many ladies present. The visit to our country of members of the British Government are rare, far too rare, I am sorry to say. But when they do happen, we like to see the ladies have the same opportunity that we have to hear them. Col. Amery, as you know, the ladies had a large share in winning the war, and I do not want you to go back with the impression that the women of England did all the work, because our women in Canada emulated their example.
We have a further honour conferred upon us to-night; we have present with us Sir George and Lady Kirkpatrick. (Applause) Sir George has seen Empire service during a great number of years, in India, in South Africa, in Australia, and, Ladies and Gentlemen, he is a Canadian born. Chief of the staff in England during a number of years of the war, he had largely to do with organizing the Australian Army, which, like our own; did their full share as one of the sister Dominions in winning the war. We welcome Sir George and Lady Kirkpatrick who have not visited Toronto for quite a number of years. The changes that they will see will be very remarkable indeed.
It seems to me, after hearing something of what Col. Amery has to say on the subject of a British League of Nations, that it is the easier way out, and is the only solution to a guarantee of peace. We are delighted indeed that Col. Amery has come to talk to us on this vital question. This Empire Club is exceedingly ambitious to learn, as much as is possible for humble citizens to know, about the affairs of the Empire, that its members might, perchance, find some little way in which they could serve the Empire; because we feel that there is a part for every individual in helping to build up an Empire such as the British Empire. If by these occasional visits of our friends from overseas, we are enabled to get a clear insight into the ways, and -means by which we can help to bind 'together still closer the bonds by which we are united, then it is worth while for these emissaries to come from across the seas and get into personal touch with us. We are delighted indeed in having Col. Amery with us here to-night. When we realize the many positions that he has filled and the long experience he has had in diplomatic affairs, his military life, and his services in various parts of the Empire, we realize what is possible for an able and young man to do; for let me tell you that Col. Amery, though yet a very young man, has accomplished .a great deal, and has been most successful in the efforts which he has undertaken. We are delighted to have him talk to us to-night on the great British League of Nations. I want Col. Amery to feel that he is coming right into the bosom of the family; that in addressing the members of the Empire Club he is addressing those who are as true to King and Country as the people of the City of London are. I have great pleasure in introducing Col. Amery. (Loud Applause)
My. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,--Let me state at the beginning that I don't feel a stranger here. I am delighted to see so many old friends, .and also to see so many ladies here. I like to see them, as I was once more than delighted to meet a particular lady from this part of the world. (Laughter) It is a good many years since, and as far as I can make out, your city has grown greater and busier than ever, and its outskirts more beautiful. I also find that my old friend, Col. Denison appears to be getting younger. (Laughter) Well, why should a man not get younger when he administers justice among so crimeless .and so virtuous a population as Toronto? (Laughter) When you see all those things for which you fought in good repute and ill repute from your youth up, and come to realize that they are being carried out on a far greater scale than you ever dreamed of, when you see your country doing that which all your life you dreamed it might do, it is enough to make a man feel proud and young. My dear friend, Col. Denison, may you have many more years of youth in which you will see, in increasing measure, all those things for which you so strenuously fought and dreamed of in the past.
Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, there has been an ideal which has been very much to the fore in recent years, during all the last agonies of the great struggle, during the long months of negotiations for peace. Bereaved humanity, hoped that something might be done which would eliminate from the world this horror, this waste, this wickedness of war. Something was expected to be brought about by wisdom of statesmanship by which war would be, if not averted, at least minimized, and made as rare as possible, by which great issues could be settled by compromise and discussion between the different nations of the world. It was expected that something would be accomplished by which the weaker and more backward nations should not be left to the selfish exploitation of the strong, but would be lifted up and protected by a common trusteeship of civilized mankind. It was a noble idea, and a noble and genuine effort was made to lay the foundation of that idea in the constitution of the League of Nations. When that was first framed, hopes rose very high, but since then experience has taught mankind not to hope too quickly for great results.
We have seen one of the great nations, through its representatives-indeed, the chief exponent of that idea finding it impossible in practice to accept that particular constitution. I impute no blame to the United States; they have looked into the question very closely, perhaps more closely than many other nations, and have come to the conclusion that the particular difficulties seem to them too great with which to bind themselves, and the obligations too many for them to assume, which some of us have assumed in good-will and in the hope that somehow or other the difficulties will adjust themselves as we go on. Again, many of us have discovered that after all there is nothing behind the League of Nations unless the individual members of it are prepared to put their money and their troops and their enthusiasm behind it. You will remember the case of Armenia: That mandate could not be carried out unless the people themselves were prepared to supply all those things which were necessary to its success.
Secondly, there has been a good deal of disillusion and a good deal of reaction. I do not think that is necessary. I think we realize that human nature is not so easilv changed, that there is no short cut to any man's soul. The League of Nations embodied in the present constitution represents an idea, or ideal, which is still only in its early stages, to a large extent, an ideal dream of the distant future. Meanwhile do not let us forget that that ideal, that dream, is already a reality for more than a quarter of mankind. (Applause) Remember that 450,000,000 of India's people and 62,000,000 or more of the British Empire, covering all that is meant by the League of Nations, as we may hope at some distant date it will be, is already carried out in practice. There you have a nation of every race, every colour, every creed, every diversity of economic interest in every climate in the world, from the -Equator to both poles; you have here all these immense differences, and yet binding them all together you have a common sentiment, a common sense of citizenship. Each of- these diverse races has a duty and an obligation of loyalty which binds one to the other. That is one example of the federation of mankind. It is a system under which we are capable of enjoying the freest government the world has yet ever known. It makes those, for whom a free government is not possible, very envious of our tolerant form of government, since this trusteeship gives responsibility to these people by gradual stages to the fullest and highest measure of mankind.
The British Empire exists not for exploitation but for cooperation in well-being and in the advancement of everyone. That, I venture to say, is a wonderful thing, and no League of Nations could make it more so. Your League of Nations is a scheme that men of wisdom brought in to the best of their ability in a week's time, but the British League of Nations goes far back in history; it goes back to Magna Charta, to the struggles between the Commoners and the Crown. It founded the great principles of democratic self: government, a task in which statesmen and soldiers and sailors and traders and missionaries thousands and thousands of such individuals have collaborated, generation after generation, slowly, from precedent to precedent. Right down through our glorious history and traditions, there have emerged those democratic institutions which have marked a country like this from the older Mother Country. These common ideas, these common traditions and great heritage which are ours are embodied and personified in the British Crown and in the person of the King himself. (Applause)
Other countries sometimes find it difficult to understand our particular type of government. We have in the British Empire the freest and most responsible democratic government in the world. (Applause) What the Crown stands for is the sense of common unity in ideas and common traditions which affect the whole. When we speak of our loyalty to the King, we do so in no spirit of servility. We are loyal as free men, and recognize in the Crown the simple elements of our national and imperial life which transcend local interests or the passing phases in politics, and which stand for all our hopes and ambitions. All these are embodied and symbolized in the person of the monarch. When that symbol is personified in a man of noble purpose and high endeavour, as in the case of our present monarch, there is not much danger of the disentegration of the British Empire. (Applause)
Again, I; would like to point out another difference between us and the other nations. That common tradition is also embodied in the fact of common citizenship. The British Empire consists of many states-autonomous states to a very great extent. That is another proof of citizenship. Our citizenship holds good throughout the Empire. A man who is a British citizen in Canada is a British citizen in any part of the Empire. (Applause) When I am here in Toronto at this moment, I am not here politically as a stranger, I am; for all practical purposes a Canadian, and I have the same rights and the same privileges and the same liberties as any one of you here; and the same remark applies to any one of you who should go to any part of the Empire. There are many Canadians building up the Empire in recent years. We have Mr. Bonar Law, and the present Secretary of State for Ireland, not the least difficult task that any man could assume, and, if he is not .a native of Toronto, he comes not very many miles from it. (Applause) Your chairman has mentioned Sir George Kirkpatrick's brilliant career and military service in behalf of the Empire. There is another man who holds a very high position, also a Canadian, the Governor of East Africa and Nigeria and now Governor of the Gold Coast. If there is one thing more than another that he has done, it was to bring trade between his colony and Canada.
Talking of the spirit of citizenship and loyalty to the Empire, I need not remind you of what happened when the first war clouds came and burst over us nearly six years ago. From one end of the Empire to the other our sons answered the call, and some of 'them came from places from which you would hardly expect such ready response. Look at South Africa, look at the record of men like Botha and Smuts, and it is all the more marvellous when you think that not so very many years ago these same men were our enemies. Look at the wonderful record of some of those out-of-the-way places, the contributions in men and money from places you scarcely ever heard about-from the West Indies, from the West African Gold Coast, from the Straits Settlement. The records of these people teem with instances of devotion and heroism which have never' been told in any book.
I think, Ladies and Gentlemen, it will be many a long year before the League of Nations can ever inspire that same instantaneous response, that same whole-hearted feeling, that wider patriotism, that breathes right from end to end of the British Empire when crises have come. We hope that may come about in time. We hope that there maybe a time that, when any trouble arises, these nations joined together in the League will feel the same stirring patriotism, the same resolve to do the one thing necessary, but personally I am afraid you would only have large assemblies and long discussions and possibly no definite conclusion or agreement arrived at. I know that there are a certain number of people who put forward the view that a League of Nations would make the British Empire unnecessary, that we need no longer trouble about our own closer league, our own close comradeship, that the interests will all be applied in the wider league which they would have us think about. I believe the very contrary. I believe if the British Empire broke up, or the ties were loosened, that that would be the final end of any hope of building up a League of Nations of the World. (Applause) I believe that only through co-operating with us will the hopes of the other nations, of a lasting and enduring peace, be fulfilled. After all, we are the only power that can supply the traditions and the kind of interest that will make a League of Nations work. Our inhabitants have a home in every continent in the world. There is not a continent in the world where peace is not the first British interest, where we are not concerned in avoiding the possibility of disputes, not only between ourselves and other nations but between other nations. Where our outlook is a world-wide one, it is an outlook that makes for peace among the nations. For that reason I do believe most sincerely that the best we can do towards the future unity of mankind is above all things to maintain our own unity among ourselves. (Applause) Strengthen the bonds that bind us together, fulfill the duties that lie upon you in that wider heritage that is yours, accept the responsibility .that falls upon you, and a great and glorious future is before you. (Applause)
This British Empire is Canada's Empire just as much as it is Britain's. Your forefathers came and helped to build up this great country, your sons and daughters maintained it, and saved it on many a field during the last number of years. It is yours to build, and it is yours to save and to guard in every sense, just as much as it is ours. I cannot look upon Great Britain as a kind of solar system and the rest of the Empire only satellites more or less dependent on it and circling around it. Each link binds .the whole chain together, and it is from that point of view, -the point of view of Canada as the centre of the Great British Empire, that I want you to look at it. We have .an immense problem of development before us. We have in the British Empire nearly four times the wealth of that of the United States; and the British Empire has come out from the furnace of this war the cleanest and newest of all the world's great powers. (Applause)
And Canada again-not only in consonance with Canada's history and traditions, but because of her future -Canada again, I say, must take up the great work of developing her material resources, and obtain 'the fullest development possible. You are in a very different position from the United States. Theirs is a great block of territory embracing every variety of climate from tropical to cold. It naturally; looks within itself for its own development. Canada is a great, long stretch of territory, and more largely endowed in natural resources, in natural harbours and in ocean traffic than any country in the world. With its vast resources, its future possibilities are tremendous. Your whole course of development will, in time, be far greater than that of your neighbour. I think the same applies in politics. With the wider responsibility of a worldwide Empire your outlook will increasingly be an Empire outlook, a United Empire Loyalist Outlook. I believe that in that way you will get the fullest development, not only from your material resources, but, what matters far more, from your human resources-the fullest, the richest, the most varied and most responsible national life. That is after all the highest that any man can desire for his fellow-citizens. I believe the choice lies before Canada of being a lesser United States or being afar greater Britain, and I believe, taking Canada's position, you will have no hesitation as to which will be her choice. (Loud Applause)
THE PRESIDENT: I am glad to have the pleasure of calling upon Col. Denison. Before doing so, I wish to take the opportunity to make a small request of our guest before he goes back home. The Empire Club is never going to be satisfied until it gets Mr. Lloyd George over here to talk to us. (Applause) We hold him very highly in our esteem; just tell him from the Empire Club of Canada, when you see him, that we want him here to let him know directly what we think of him. Take that message to him. (Applause)
Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,-I am very glad indeed to have the opportunity of being here this evening to say a few words of welcome and friendship to my old friend Col. Amery. When I say "old" friend, I do not exactly mean in years, because I was old when he was still young, and as you know the years are rolling on. He speaks of my being able to hold my own, on account of carrying on in my business in the Police Court. There is nothing in it. (Laughter) The great secret of it all lies in the principle which I have laid down all the time, of letting the other fellow do the worrying. (Applause) I want to have the opportunity of saying a few words tonight. A good many of you must remember that a few years ago, while the war was going on, I made an address to this Club in which I expressed my views in the first place as to what I thought our allies should do, and in the next place I gave my prediction as to what would happen when the war was over. I told you that our men would fight and fight on until they had thrashed the enemy, and that, though the men in the field would win the war, the politicians and philosophical idiots would cause us to lose the result: (Applause) What has been the result? The war was won, and Foch said, "What is the need of an armistice? I have them now." Our allies had these people, and there was no reason in the world why we should have let them go; only some philosophical fools wrote a letter to the German Embassy which threw .the whole thing open, and gave them an opportunity to plead for peace, gave our enemies an opportunity for entering into negotiations and discussing matters that never should have been allowed. There was one in our ranks, a representative of the United States, who was allowed to go to help them along during that crisis. What has been the result? Instead of having the war finished and settled satisfactorily in the course of a month or so, this thing has been going on and on and on, and they are talking and talking and talking, and everything is not settled yet. The whole thing is unsatisfactory and inconclusive.
There is only one bright point, and that is the point our young friend, Col. Amery, referred to, a League of British Nations. There is one power sufficiently strong, with the assistance of 'the French, and possibly the Italians, to be able to keep things from going to utter ruin. We could never improve on this League of Nations. If you want to have a League of Nations, have a League of Nations of the British Empire such as Col. Amery has spoken of; let us have a League of people -we can depend on; let us go into partnership with a League upon which we can depend. (Loud applause) I remember when I was a boy my father talked about the question of going into partnership. He said it is a dangerous thing to go into partnership with a crook (laughter)-and as a Police Magistrate of forty-three years' experience in dealing with 'that particular class I can assure you that that would be my view of going into any kind of business with, or entering into negotiations with, a crook. I want to say this: that the only League of Nations worth bothering about is the British League of Nations, as suggested by Col. Amery.
We advocated years ago the idea of a Trade Treaty, a preferential tariff around the Empire. I have been two or three times to England advocating that idea, and I must take the opportunity now of thanking Col. Amery most heartily for the great help and assistance that he was always ready to give me during my various visits to the Mother Country. I wish to state now that I received nothing but the most sympathetic and friendly support from my friend Col. Amery, and he was in a position to help a great deal. He was one of the younger brilliant band of politicians, one who strove to do his best in the interests of the Empire. What has been the result? We have now got a real British League of Nations.
Some thirty years ago we tried to stir up that idea in this country, and there are some of the older men here who will remember it. We were laughed at, we were called political faddists and subjected to all manner of ridicule, and were caricatured in the newspapers because we wanted to carry out the idea of a League of Nations of the British Empire. We were told we could never get Canadian soldiers to fight across the seas. We were told that in the most positive manner. What has been the result in the late war? We have seen about 500,000 fighting men sent over to fight for the Empire, and we have spent millions of money in helping to win the war.
We were told that we Canadians would never make sacrifices for Britain. It was not true; it has been proved to be absolutely the opposite. I need not say anything more. You have all heard me speak before, and you know exactly what my feelings are. I hope my friend will carry out his idea, and let them know over there that we are as true to the Empire as they are, and that we are as British as they are. One word before I sit down, I don't want to go into any partnership. (Loud Applause)