Development of the Imperial Idea
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 11 Jan 1906, p. 121-130


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Sutherland, Hon. R.F., Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
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The very best course to produce a united and progressive Empire for the people of the Motherland to recognize the progress in culture and self-governing capacity that Canada has made during recent years and the important factor which she and the other Colonies are commencing to be when the Mother-country is negotiating with foreign countries; and on the other hand for Canadians to realize the benefits of the past, and the present and prospective value of being associated with the Motherland. A verse applicable to Canada and the two great races which form our population. Changes in regard to Colonial policy within the last 25 years which are little less than extraordinary. Some of the reasons in part responsible for the changes. The Confederation Act which removed most of the irritating causes on which Old Country men looked with dismay and despair, as well as the statesmen of our own country. The acquisition of the North-West and the brining of Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia into Confederation. The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The educational influence and work of our Governors-General which they were able to bring upon those in public life in the Old Land when they returned home from Canada. Our varied experiences with our Governors-General. The development of Imperial ideas in the Colonies; marked and appreciated by Imperial statesmen. The incomplete nature of a Canadian's British citizenship and the difficulties this causes when asked to participate in the maintenance of the British Army or navy. Attempts to reconcile the situation. Nevertheless a rejoicing at being citizens of the British Empire.
Date of Original:
11 Jan 1906
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English
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Full Text
DEVELOPMENT OF THE IMPERIAL IDEA.
Address by the Hon. R. F. Sutherland, K.C., M.P., Speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, before the Empire Club of Canada, on January 11th, 1906.

Mr. President and Gentlemen,-

In the constituency of North Essex, which I represent in the Canadian House of Commons, we are rather more familiar with a Club manufactured at Walkerville, therein known as "Canadian Club," and which in view of your recent vote on license reduction some of you may already have heard of, than with the Empire Club, a portion of whose members I have the privilege and pleasure of addressing at the present time.

It is said that the celebrated French artist Vernet was once travelling by rail from Versailles to Paris and in the same compartment with him were two ladies to whom he was apparently known by sight. At all events by their looks and actions they made themselves extremely annoying to him and he devised a plan to disconcert them. Suddenly the train rushed into the dense darkness of the St. Cloud Tunnel and the artist, raising his hand, gave it a resounding kiss and awaited the denouement. On the train emerging into the daylight the scene appeared suddenly changed. The ladies, who had been sitting close to each other, were now sitting at the opposite ends of the compartment and each eyeing the other with surprise, suspicion and apparent horror. The situation remained unaltered until their arrival at Paris. Thereupon the artist prepared to leave the compartment and raising his hat as he passed out said "Ladies, I shall always be puzzled to know which of you kissed me in the tunnel."

Now his difficulty was undoubtedly an assumed one, while mine on accepting the invitation to speak to you at one of your interesting functions and in casting about for a congenial and appropriate topic was genuine. Now, let me say at once, that there were in the earlier history of your Club many suitable themes, but on looking these over I found the field fully and capably covered. I see that the objects of your Club are the advancement of the interests of Canada and a united Empire and, I think, that the best results in this direction can be obtained, first, by mutual respect between the people of the Mother-land and Canada and, next, by increased intercourse between and information of each other.

Emerson said that "the secret of education lies in respecting the pupil," and, I think, a mutual respect between teacher and taught would be, better. It will not do for the men in the Mother-land to look down' upon Canadians as mere colonials and consequently a little inferior, nor for our public men to regard those of Great Britain as antiquated and slowin a land which has produced such gifted men as she has. The very best course to produce a united and progressive Empire is for the people of the Mother-land to recognize the progress in culture and self-governing capacity that Canada has made during recent years and the important factor which she and the other Colonies are commencing to be when the Mother-country is negotiating with foreign countries; and on the other hand for Canadians to realize the benefits of the past, and the present and prospective value of being associated with the Motherland. Let Canada leave the Empire tomorrow and the Empire would be weaker, but the future of Canada precarious and uncertain indeed. I was reading a year or so ago the biography of that great Irish lawyer, judge and statesman, Lord Russell of Killowen, and in doing so I came across a verse which no doubt was intended to apply to Great Britain and Ireland and their relationship, but which also is equally applicable to Canada and the two great races which form our population. It was this:

No matter that at different shrines
They prayed unto one God,
No matter that at different times
Their fathers won the sod;
In fortune and in fame they're bound
In stronger links than steel,
And neither could be safe nor sound
But in the other's weal.

That sentiment in the closing lines is similar to that I expressed a moment ago as applied to Britain and her Colonies. Neither can, as things are at present, be as safe or sound save in the other's weal, and those who seek to impress this thought here and elsewhere throughout the Empire are promoting its unity and perpetuation and furthering the object for which this Empire Club came into existence. Now while sentiments like these are pretty prevalent at the present time it was not always so. There have been Imperial statesmen, intelligent men, in the Old Country who seemed to have a preview of the possibilities and importance of Canada, but there were others who were perfectly dense as to these. It is equally true there have been Canadians who lightly prized British connection. Our best and greatest of both political parties have, however, appreciated it at its true worth. I shall not at present speak of the divergent views of our own people. I shall endeavour to point out that up to a certain date there was in the Old Country a feeling that the Colonies were not a matter of much importance to the Mother-land, but were a menace and danger in certain directions; but there occurred a change of view at one time which has gradually increased until now there are very few in the Old Country who do not rejoice in the connection of the British Empire.

In December of the year 1875, the Earl of Derby, speaking on general politics in Edinburgh, used these words: "There has been a change in regard to Colonial policy within the last twenty-five years which is little less than extraordinary. When I entered Parliament in 1849 and for years afterwards a member who should have laid stress on the importance of keeping up the connection between the Colonies and the Mother-country would have been set down by advanced thinkers as holding respectable but old-fashioned and obsolete ideas. The doctrine most in favour was that a Colonial Empire added nothing to real strength, involved needless expense, and increased the liability to war. Now everybody is for holding on to the Colonies which we have got and a good many people seem to be in favour of finding new ones."

In the same address Lord Derby referred to having read with admiration and enjoyment the excellent speech lately delivered by the Rt. Hon. Win. E. Forster, on "Our Relations with the Colonies." This Imperial Federation address of Mr. Forster, delivered also in Edinburgh earlier in the same year before the Philosophical Institution, has been considered by Sir T. Wemyss Reid, his biographer, as "marking the beginning of a movement which has since attained such large proportions." Now whether it be true or not that in that speech Mr. Forster initiated the movement which resulted in changing the view which British statesmen had, undoubtedly the speech helped along the movement in that direction. Let me quote to you a few of the words which Mr. Forster himself used. "I believe that our union with our Colonies will not be severed because I believe that we and they will more and more prize this union and become convinced that it can only be preserved by looking forward to association on equal terms. In other words, I believe that our Colonial Empire will last because, no longer striving to rule our Colonies as dependencies when they become strong enough to become independent, we shall welcome them as our partners in a common and mighty Empire." Again he says: "Who talks now of casting off the Colonies? What more popular cry at present than the preservation of our Colonial Empire?"

Now it will appear from these things down to about 1875perhaps not exactly that date, for perhaps the influence had been at work prior to that date-but about that time it came to be recognized that there was a turn in the opposite direction and at this time they seemed to be gradually going towards the idea that the Colonies were a most important asset which Britain should hold on to. It is little wonder when we look back upon the history of this country-and in this address I intend to refer almost entirely to Canada-that the statesmen of the Old Country were for a time dubious about the Colonial connection or its expediency. It must be remembered that Canada had given the British Government a good deal of worry. There were the agitations in 1846 over the withdrawal of our preference in the English markets under the Tariff Act of 1843. Tariff matters seem still a fruitful subject of discussion if not of agitation. There was the burning of the Parliament Buildings in Montreal in 1849; the Annexation manifestoes and other petulent proceedings; the clamour for self-government; the dissensions and difficulties prior to Confederation. Even that great boon to Canada was looked upon by many in the Old Land with doubt and distrust, as indeed but a stepping-stone to complete political independence. Can we be very much surprised then to find that even such an important Imperial statesman as Disraeli, in 1852, writing to Lord Malmesbury, should say, "Those wretched Colonies will be independent, too, in a few years and are a mill-stone round our necks." There was a general impression about 1870 that members of Mr. Gladstone's Government were quite willing to allow the Colonies to drift away. In this year Lord Granville wrote to Lord John Russell, that he was of opinion that "the British North America Colonies would become independent." In 1873 the Times newspaper told us that "the days of our apprenticeship were over and that we ought to be able to go alone." Lord Derby seems, therefore, justified, in 1875, in saying what he did about former views, and Mr. Forster did a worthy act in commencing or continuing a movement to set the current flowing in the opposite direction. From this point on the course is clear. British opinion, official and non-official, has changed. Now there are few, if any, who care to be "Little Englanders." We are glad that this has come about. May I venture to point some of the reasons in part responsible for the change.

By guaranteeing cherished rights, protecting minorities, promoting unity and a common national aspiration, and granting and assuring wider self-government, the Confederation Act removed most of the irritating causes on which Old Country men looked with dismay and despair, as well as the statesmen of our own country. In the second place, the acquisition of the North-West and the bringing of Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia into Confederation-Manitoba in 1870, Prince Edward Island in 1873 and British Columbia in 1871-gave a breadth and consolidation to the Dominion which appealed as well to the imagination as to the judgment of Imperial statesmen. This must now be intensified by what happened last year when we added those two great new Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan to the Confederation.

In the third place I would point to the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. This was looked upon as a great Imperial link in the chain of Empire, and if that is so then the construction of the Grand Trunk Pacific will also enhance that view. A great statesman had much to with the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway and another great statesman had much to do with the initiation of the Grand Trunk Pacific scheme. Then the assistance of Canada to Great Britain in her wars, first in a small way in 1885 and in a larger and more glorious fashion in 1899; Canadian soldiers as truly helped to cement the Empire and enhance its prestige at Paardeburg as Nelson did at Trafalgar.

Then I point out as one of these elements the educational influence and work of our Governors-General which they were able to bring upon those in public life in the Old Land when they returned home from Canada. Prior to Confederation the names of two Governors will always be remembered with gratitude and admiration by all patriotic Canadians. However, some of the Governors did not always realize their duties. Lord Lytton once set forth the duties of the Governor of a Colony in these words: "Remember that the first care of a Governor in a free Colony is to shun the reproach of being a party man, give all parties and all ministries formed the fairest play. After all, men are governed as much by the heart as by the head. Evident sympathy in the progress of the Colony, traits of generosity, kindness, devoted energy where required for the public weal, a pure exercise of patronage, an utter absence of vindictiveness or spite, the fairness that belongs to magnanimity, these are qualities that make Governors powerful, while men merely sharp and clever may be weak and detested."

Now, our experience with our Governors-General has been a varied one. So far as Lords Durham and Elgin are concerned little can be said of them that is not complimentary. Each in his own way did much to educate the people of the Old Land in right views as to Colonial Government. In a short work entitled, "A Short History of British Colonial Government," by H. E. Egerton, it says of Lord Durham: "The earliest and ablest advocate among British statesmen of full responsible government was Lord Durham, through every page of whose famous Report there breathes a passion of Imperial patriotism, strange enough at the time." And he also says: "It is hardly too much to say that this Report is the most valuable document in the English language on the subject of Colonial policy." In passing may I just say that this Report is often said to have been the commencement of a successful Colonial policy.

As to Lord Elgin his aim can be seen in the significant words he wrote in 1850 to Lord Grey: "To render Annexation by violence impossible, or by any other means improbable as may be, is, as I have often ventured to repeat, the polar star of my policy." His views were in line with Lord Durham's. His theory, as Bourinot points out in his biography of this great man, was to remove any feeling of discontent, "by granting to Canadians what they desired, the great principle of self-government."

No one saw in a clearer light or more beautifully depicted the future beauty and greatness of Canada than Lord Dufferin, or more heartily strove to impress these upon the attention of people in the Old Land. Listen to one familiar and fanciful but beautiful sentence of the many in which he spoke so- highly of the country over which he presided. "Like a virgin goddess in primeval world Canada still walks in unconscious beauty among her golden woods and by the margin of her trackless streams, catching but broken glances of her radiant majesty as mirrored on their bosom, and scarcely recks as yet of the glories awaiting her in the Olympus of Nations." In his day Canada was not known and appreciated as she is today; not only here but over there is she beginning to be prized at her true valuation.

Another cause may be seen in the development of Imperial ideas in the Colonies-marked, no doubt, and appreciated by Imperial statesmen. The speeches of Sir Charles Tupper and Lord Strathcona, that old man wonderful who succeeded him as High Commissioner of Canada, have been charged with ideas that must have had their effect in Great Britain. Even so cool-headed a writer and thinker as Sir Charles Dilke points out the influence attached in Great Britain to the words of the present Premier of Canada when abroad. He says, in his work on the British Empire that "the jubilee ceremonies of 1897 popularized the figure of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and his speeches in Paris formed the weightiest of modern discouragement to our foes in all parts of the world." What could he mean but that those speeches testified to the world the unity of the British Empire? Now let me add another reason for the change in British feeling-the Canadian Preference. Nothing perhaps ever appealed more sentimentally to John Bull than this Preference. It was an Imperial idea and act. It was, moreover, practical as well as emotional. There is a great and difficult work before statesmen in Canada and the Empire. Every Canadian rejoices, I am sure, very much, in the fact that he is a British citizen. He is sensitive as to this very matter, realizing that his status as a British subject is a very limited one, but I believe that this organization and similar organizations are doing a good work in educating the public to an appreciation of what the British Empire means and what citizenship therein means.

There is no voter, however humble, in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales but has a voice through his vote in the affairs of the British Empire, but there is no Canadian, however eminent, who has such a voice, and the British statesmen who ask and urge Canada to participate in the maintenance of the British Army or Navy do not seem to see how sensitive Canadians are to the expenditure of their money under such conditions. The Canadian, on the other hand, realizing that his British citizenship is, shall I say, an incomplete one, is resolute to ask a wide control of the government of Canada, seeing as he does in this a complete citizenship which appeals to his national pride. It is to reconcile such views and to devise, under such circumstances, plans to unite and strengthen the Empire that is the subject of anxious thought of patriotic men here and at home. While there is a sense in which the people of the Old Land must have wondered at our views, we rejoice in being citizens of this splendid Empire. It is an extraordinary Empire, when we come to think of it, ruling about one-quarter of the surface of the globe and about ' one-third of the combined trade of the world, an Empire that sends a Viceroy to India and a Governor-General to Canada and another one to South Africa and so on. Yet as I say the people of the Mother-land must not wonder that we look upon Canadian citizenship as a citizenship very broad and very free and altogether a complete citizenship which we do not find in the British citizenship.

In the many addresses already delivered before this Club, some of which I have had the privilege to read, there is a constant and refreshing reminder of the spirit of our fathers, the heritage of fame and glory which as citizens of the Empire we possess on land and sea, at home and abroad, in remote and in recent times. It is by such reminders that we and our children are inspired to continue the good work of consolidating and strengthening the Empire. We have lately been celebrating the glorious deeds of Nelson and among the most apt and inspiring things I have seen in this connection is the cartoon, and yet not a cartoon, a historic picture rather, appearing in Punch. Lord Nelson is depicted as standing on a rocky bluff jutting out into the ocean. He is an heroic figure with his Admiral's uniform and cocked hat, naval cloak and telescope. As he looks upon that ocean he loved to traverse he sees on its bosom not the wooden walls of his day but the ironclads of today, and to which he is represented as saying: "My ships are gone, but the spirit of my men remains." Many of our great historical patriotic Canadians who assisted at Confederation have passed away and gone, but their spirit remains in the public men of Canada today and will, if remembered and perpetuated, assist us to fulfill the prediction of our own Canadian poetess when she said

So in the long hereafter
This Canada shall be
The worthy heir of British power
And British liberty;
Spreading the blessings of her sway
To earth's remotest bounds,
While with the fame of her fair name
A Continent resounds,
True to her high traditions,
To Britain's ancient glory,
Of patient Saint and Martyr,
Alive in deathless story;
Strong in their liberty and truth
To shed from shore to shore
A light among the nations,
Till nations are no more.

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Development of the Imperial Idea


The very best course to produce a united and progressive Empire for the people of the Motherland to recognize the progress in culture and self-governing capacity that Canada has made during recent years and the important factor which she and the other Colonies are commencing to be when the Mother-country is negotiating with foreign countries; and on the other hand for Canadians to realize the benefits of the past, and the present and prospective value of being associated with the Motherland. A verse applicable to Canada and the two great races which form our population. Changes in regard to Colonial policy within the last 25 years which are little less than extraordinary. Some of the reasons in part responsible for the changes. The Confederation Act which removed most of the irritating causes on which Old Country men looked with dismay and despair, as well as the statesmen of our own country. The acquisition of the North-West and the brining of Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia into Confederation. The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. The educational influence and work of our Governors-General which they were able to bring upon those in public life in the Old Land when they returned home from Canada. Our varied experiences with our Governors-General. The development of Imperial ideas in the Colonies; marked and appreciated by Imperial statesmen. The incomplete nature of a Canadian's British citizenship and the difficulties this causes when asked to participate in the maintenance of the British Army or navy. Attempts to reconcile the situation. Nevertheless a rejoicing at being citizens of the British Empire.