Address by Mr. Ernest Howard Crosby, of New York, before the Empire Club of Canada, on Wednesday, November 15th, 1905.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,--
I happened to come into the Dominion the other day at Brockville by ferry, crossing over from my own State of New York, and it was a particular pleasure to me to see no threatening sign of any kind there which would indicate that I was passing from 'one country into another. There were no fortifications; there 'were no troops. I couldn't help thinking how very different it would have been passing from one country to another on the Continent of Europe. Passing from Italy to France for instance, you have two peoples of very much the same race and blood-at least on the border-very much alike; and yet separated from each other by enormous fortifications, and the whole region covered by armed men at an enormous expense, causing very heavy and burdensome taxes; and they are continually changing the fortifications and armament to the most approved and modern type.
We are so accustomed to that kind of thing on the European Continent that I don't think we notice the very anomalous character of the situation. There are the two countries of France and Italy, for instance, armed to the teeth against each other-as all the others are on the Continent-and yet on the most friendly terms, their rulers out-doing each other in excessive courtesy and their ambassadors unable to express themselves with sufficient politeness when addressing each other; and yet those very countries are armed cap-a-pie against each other. If such a thing could happen in our individual lives we would see what an anomalous condition it is. I happen to live on a farm in Duchess County, New York, and if I would get up some morning and find one of my neighbours, owning an adjoining farm, setting up batteries all along the line fences how surprised I would be; how extremely strange such a thing would seem to be. It is very certain that friendly relations between us would cease at once. He would not be likely to ask me to dinner and I am very sure I should not be likely to ask him to dinner afterwards. And yet just such a condition exists between countries and is kept up at enormous expense, at least on the Continent.
It seems to me that is one of the problems today in its widest relations for us to solve, to bring the nations to which we belong to the point of good manners, if you please, that we have reached as individuals. It is perfectly true that we do as individuals carry revolvers, especially if we live in a lonely place, but we only carry them for protection against the criminal classes. It is analagous in nations to arming against brigands or things of that kind, but that is a different thing to arming against your social equals. But on the Continent we see the nations arming against friendly nations in the most excessive and costly way. Now, of course, there is just this to be said in favour of such a condition of affairs and that is, since we can recollect, it has always more or less existed, but I see no reason why it should be. If we could go back in the history of Italy for four or five hundred years, we find that they used to have one city armed against another city; Pisa and Florence and all the rest of them had their tremendous fortifications; and if it was on the sea they had their navy like Genoa, and at that time a great part of their income went to provide for the expenses of these things, and there was continual fighting between them; and I can imagine if we had dropped down in Italy then or France, for instance, and said, "What a foolish thing it is," and "Take down these fortifications, these people are no more anxious to fight you than you are to fight them," I can well imagine how we would have been treated. It is quite likely a man would have had his head cut off for his pains. They would have said, " We have always done this way." And yet if we go to Italy today we find those cities entirely at peace with each other.
Now, you will say the answer to that is that they have consolidated themselves into a union. But that is only one way to bring these things into that condition. It is the same as it is between individuals. But we find that cities that are far short of having any form of consolidation are not quarreling with each other nowadays. In fact it would be difficult to think of a cause of dispute. If we had the same state of affairs that existed in Italy four or five hundred years ago today we would have great fleets on the lakes and we in Toronto would be on the lookout for expeditions from Kingston or Hamilton or wherever it might be, but see how different we are today. And the same way with the cities on the other side of the lake. And that is the position with the cities of Rochester and Buffalo or any other cities on Lake Ontario. So why can't we apply the same principle to nations, and do away with these enormous armaments on the Continent of Europe?
We have not got anything of the kind here but, I think, there are not wanting signs both in the States as well as here that there are a few people who favour the state of things in Europe. They would like to copy things over there and throw away our born right to devote ourselves to industrial and domestic affairs. So I think we have a good deal to learn from Europe, but I think it is in the way of warning. Let us keep up the system of living as nations on this side of the water in a gentlemanly way. I think one way to keep up the good feelings between the countries is to remember when we see or hear little things that are not always pleasant that the people of a country are very rarely unanimous about anything. If some person says something or does something that you do not like it is nice to think of the great number of people who do not agree with him and who would much rather it had not been done. We have our Governments representing the majority, but I am not sure whether it would not be a good thing to have representatives of minorities go across the waters and confer with the other countries. I consider myself a patriot in every sense of the word, but I think I can say that there are times when we do things in the United States that a great many people would rather had not been done. So you must not think that a single action that you didn't like is the unanimous will of the people. That could not possibly be so.
In considering my own country I would like to call your attention to the fact, and, of course, you know it very well, that the most conspicuous actions of our President have been in the direction of peace. We are all of us proud, I think, in the United States that he was able to bring about the great result that he did at Portsmouth, and every credit is due to him for it. And I would like to remind our people sometimes when we are talking about our President--I like to remind them--that his greatest achievement is not that of flourishing the big stick but of banishing it, and in coming over to your country I am glad to say that the King has won the popular title of peace-maker by achievements perhaps not so conspicuous but of the same kind; and it is a good augury to have at the head of nations men who have acted and are acting in that way.
Well, sentiment is a very good thing as far as it goes, but I know you are all practical men. I am somewhat tempted to yield to it sometimes myself, and in the way of sentiment I may say, before I come to the practical part, that I had the good fortune to live for some time once in a small community in Egypt which was almost exclusively British and the only thing I discovered in my British neighbours at Ramleh, just out of Alexandria, the only difference between them and my own countrymen, was that they treated me a great deal better than I should have expected to be treated by people of ray own land, and it wasn't a mere matter of temporary hospitality either. Never for a moment did they allow me to feel that we were surrounded by foreigners, and I always felt at home under the Union Jack. I would like the time to come when every American would feel at home under it and I would like every Canadian to feel at home under our flag. It seems to me that we are in a very good position to set a good example to the world.
The matter of arbitration is a ticklish one to touch upon. Arbitration is a new thing between nations. Nothing works perfectly when it is first tried. If you get your Blackstone and study the jury system you will find how hard it was to get it started. For a long time they decided the guilt or innocence of a person without a jury but it was a very bad way, and then they called in the bystanders, but that wasn't satisfactory because the bystanders had prejudices. Finally the witnesses were separated from the jury and their functions were specialized and we have the jury system of today of which all English-speaking peoples are proud. But it wasn't a success at first. And in this matter of arbitration I think there is real danger. I think sometimes our arbitrators may be chosen in an unwise way just as the jurors were at first. The ideal arbitrator is a judge with no ideas but judicial ideas and no interests but the interests of his country. I will not say that my country has not been a sinner in this respect. It is too often that we have selected advocates, and we have had arbitrators who thought it was their duty not to decide on the absolute facts but to take other things into consideration, and that may happen several times again; but let us be patient for awhile and let us do what we can to improve the thing. It is going through the same first stages that the jury system did and, at all events, it is better than to have a war between two nations who ought to be friendly.
Then there is the little arrangement that was made between Great Britain and the United States away back in 1817. Now, it is quite possible that as you live on the great lakes it is a very trite piece of history to you, and possibly so to the citizens who live on the borders, but I can speak for -the most of my countrymen when I say that most of them are in absolute ignorance of this Treaty. I got a book down to ferret it out, but I was astonished to find just a few lines on the subject. They call it an arrangement, not a Treaty, and out of that whole book, dealing with Treaties, I am not sure but that arrangement does not contain the germ of one of the most important, if it is not the most important, precedents that is laid down there in that Treaty or that the United States Government has made up to the present time, and yet it has been overlooked. I am not speaking for the Government, but I would like to publish and spread abroad in all parts of the world where it would come to the notice of all people who are thinking of such subjects the ideas that are contained in this little so-called arrangement. It was made in the year 1817, just after the war between Britain and the United States, just after a time when our great lakes were filled and dyed red with the blood of the British and the United States people, and it seems just at that time they wisely determined to do all in their power to prevent such a thing happening again in the future.
I just jotted down a few little things about this little arrangement which was completed April 28th, 1817. The Navy force to .be maintained by His Majesty and the Government of the United States henceforth should be confined to the following vessels: on Lake Ontario to one vessel not exceeding one hundred tons burthen and armed with one eighteen-pound cannon, and on the Upper Lakes to two vessels of the same burthen and the same guns and on Lake Michigan another similar vessel, and all other armed vessels in these Lakes should be forthwith dismantled and no such vessels should thereafter be built or armed. Just imagine what the state of affairs might have been if that had not existed. Suppose, with the naval record behind both parties we had entered into a naval rivalry upon these lakes. Think of the fortifications that would have been necessary. Think of the ship-yards devoted to building navy vessels. Think of all the discoveries that have been made in naval arms, how the old vessels would have to be set aside and others built, and then think of the fortifications all along the line of all kinds that would have been necessary. Think of the different water-front that Toronto would have presented in order to have all those strongly-armed vessels and fortifications; and all this has been avoided by this little so-called arrangement.
Now it seems to me that there is a principle there that could be very well taken up and applied in other countries. The Eastern question is the great question just now. Is there any reason why the advocates of peace should not go to the great Powers and say to them: Here is a little simple arrangement that has worked over here in the West and why can't the same principle be applied in the Pacific? Why isn't it possible for representatives of the Powers to sit around a table and see how many ships would be necessary and designate the number. Why isn't it possible to go to the Mediterranean and say the same thing there and after gradually taking in first one sea and then another why can't the same principle be applied-why can't the same precedent be followed everywhere? Isn't it perfectly logical to come to that conclusion because we have tried it on a small scale ourselves and it has worked. And if you can do it upon the sea--perhaps it is going to a Utopian degree--why couldn't this be done on land? Why couldn't those standing armies be reduced? And if the scoffers should say it is impossible, why say it has worked on a small scale and it can work on a larger scale, because if things will work on a small scale they ought to have a good chance of succeeding on a large scale.
It has been our experience during the ninety years since the War of 1812, to have the little quarrels and disputes which are almost unavoidable between peoples living with a long frontier between them, but, thank God, we have never had a war. I am thoroughly convinced that that would not be a true statement if we had had armies lining the boundaries line between Canada and the United States. It is perfectly certain that if these dangerous toys had been lying about we would have found some provocation for using them, or taken advantage of some misunderstanding for using them.
But I want to express my opinion--perhaps with a little diffidence to express an utterly different opinion from a distinguished member of my country who thinks that there is a place for great armies and great armaments. There is a great minority in the States who think there is no place for them, and we are very glad that the only idle ships that have been lying around the great lakes have been of 100 tons burthen and the little gun that they are armed with. Gentlemen, can't' we do something, you on your side and I and my friends on mine, to create a public sentiment that will refuse to go any further in the somewhat unneighbourly manner that has been in the past. Believe me when I say that sentiment is far better today in our country than it ever has been and do not let us do anything to change it or alter it and let us not think for a moment that any degree of peaceful hostility should show itself on either side. Let us keep our borders unfenced and then I think we shall have an opportunity to continue for a very much longer time than we otherwise would as good " Next-door neighbours."