OUR NATIONAL, ASPIRATIONS.
Address by the Rev. Dr. E. D. McLaren, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, before the Empire Club of Canada, on Thursday, January 18th, 1906.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,--
Without national aspirations there can be no worthy, progressive national life. Self-respect and a certain measure of self-confidence are essential to the success of a nation as well as of an individual. One of the most gratifying features of our Canadian life during the last quarter of a century has been the steady growth of a spirit of Canadian nationality--an everwidening appreciation of the marvellous capabilities of this vast new land, an ever-deepening conviction that Canada has an important part to play in the development of the life of the world at large. And this conviction is not begotten of a foolish, groundless pride; our great expectations in regard to our country's future rest upon the most substantial basis. Consider, for example, our vast extent of territory. Our national inheritance is so immense that it is only by instituting comparisons that we can form any adequate conception of its immensity. Here is an illustration used some years ago by a writer in the United States, which I have been obliged to modify somewhat in order that it may represent correctly our greater Canadian commonwealth. Take six of the larger kingdoms of Europe-the British Isles, France, Germany, Austria, Spain and Italy; add to them four of the smaller kingdoms-Denmark, Switzerland, Portugal and Greece; imagine these ten kingdoms consolidated into one mighty empire; and then glory in your Canadian heritage as you reflect that you could lay that empire down one, two, three times in the Dominion of Canada and still have enough of land remaining to form two Norways and two Swedens. Another comparison--for which I am indebted to a Canadian writer-dealing only with a single province, may be of additional assistance to us in our efforts to realize the magnitude of our inheritance. Out of British Columbia alone you could carve two Englands, three Irelands and four Scotlands; and there would still be left on your hands sufficient territory to make half a dozen of the petty principalities of Central Europe. If superficial area counts for anything at all, Canadians have surely abundant ground for asserting that they are citizens of no mean country.
Think, too, of our indescribably grand scenery, of majestic mountains, stately rivers, noble lakes and wild, primeval forests; and of the important mental and physical qualities that our material environment naturally tends to develop and strengthen. We have all heard of the glorious scenery of the Alps; I wonder how many Canadians ever stop to think that they can travel for thirty hours in Canadian territory and during every moment of that day and a quarter of railway travelling be in the very midst of Alpine grandeur. Switzerland! Why, you could hide the whole of Switzerland in one little corner of British Columbia's wonderful "sea of mountains."
Consider, further, the bewildering magnitude of our material resources. Recognizing the impropriety of a clergyman being concerned, even indirectly, in the working up of a mining boom, I will make but one remark in regard to the mineral wealth of Canada; but that remark is so staggering that I would like to give you my authority for it. On Dominion Day of last year the Winnipeg Free Press stated that the coalbeds of the Crow's Nest Pass are estimated to contain coal enough to last for 5,000 years if mined at the rate of ¢,000,000 tons a year. You may throw off 90 percent of those figures for exaggeration--a fairly liberal discount even in the case of a western yarn--and there will still be left an annual output of four million tons for 500 years.
But the safest mine a man can invest his money in is the productive soil, yielding in perpetuity its annual harvests of rich golden grain. The agricultural resources of Western Canada are almost inconceivable. The wheat crop of Manitoba, Assiniboia, Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1904 amounted to 60,000,000 bushels. The total area under cultivation that year-not devoted to wheat alone, but to oats, barley, rye, flax and roots as well-was only a very little more than 5,000,000 acres. Dr. Saunders, Director of Government Experimental Farms, has stated that the arable land in the four districts I have mentioned amounts to 171,000,000 acresthirty-four times as much as was under crop a year ago last summer. Thirty-four times 60,000,000 is 2,040,000,ooo. Those astounding figures mean that if all the available land, even in that portion of the North-West, were brought under cultivation, we would be able to supply the wheat markets of Great Britain ten times over, and still have 40,000,000 bushels left for home consumption. Surely it is a glorious land-this land of the Maple Leaf-vast in its extent, vast in its resources, vast in its inspiring possibilities; throbbing, too, as no other new land has ever throbbed, with a rich complex life, the product of the thought and the toil of a thousand years; for, let us never forget
We, too, are heirs of Runnymede, And Shakespeare's fame and Cromwell's deed Are not alone our mother's.
Having such a magnificent heritage, it is inevitable that we should cherish high expectations of our country's future. Fancy, fired with patriotic fervour, conjures up before our mental vision pleasing pictures of the glory of the coming years. We sweep, with delighted gaze, our broad and fertile plains, covered with the homes of millions of happy, prosperous citizens. We hear on every hand the noisy hum of countless industries. Flashing in the sunlight we see on every ocean the white wings that are bearing to distant lands the products of our mills and factories and mines. And as our aspirations rise to higher levels and our minds turn to more valuable, though less visible, elements and evidences of national prosperity, we dwell with pride and satisfaction on the thought of a new, if not a greater Britain, slowly rising into prominence on this Western Hemisphere, and proving herself not altogether unworthy of the rich heritage of the past by being true to those principles and traditions that have made Britain's name a name of honour in the world's great muster-roll of nations.
But even if these pleasurable anticipations of what is possible in the way of material development should become the splendid realities of our national existence, we would not necessarily be the great nation we aspire to be. Bigness is not synonymous with greatness. Industrial and commercial activity is not the highest form of national life, or the truest test of national success. Material prosperity may be purchased by a nation as well as by an individual at the cost of moral degradation and spiritual destitution. More important than any mere question of commerce or of agriculture is the question as to the place we are to occupy amongst the nations of the world and the spirit in which we are to deal with the problems connected with the evolution of our national life. What is that place to be? In the matter of national relationships, whither do our aspirations lead? Twenty years ago there were not a few able and loyal-hearted Canadians, who, anxious that we should at once assume all the responsibilities of an independent national existence, were ready to exclaim with Roberts, in half-impatient, half-defiant words:
How long the ignoble sloth, how long
The trust in greatness not their own ?
Surely the lion's brood is strong,
To front the world alone.
It is remarkable how largely the desire for national independence has given place to a desire for a close an permanent connection with the old home land beyond the sea. Almost without exception Canadians have come to recognize that not only the interests of our own Dominion, but also the desirable object of a confederation of all the English-speaking peoples of the globe will be best served by our maintaining our present position as an integral portion of the great British Empire; and with practical unanimity they enthusiastically endorse the eloquent appeal that came years ago from the graceful pen of Miss Machar
Canadian blood has dyed Canadian soil For Britain's honour, that we deemed our own: Nor do we ask but for the right to keep Unbroken, still, the cherished filial tie That binds us to the distant, sea-girt isle Our fathers loved, and taught their sons to love, As the dear home of freemen, brave and true, And loving honour more than ease or gold.
Recent events have added immensely to the force of that appeal. "Canadian blood has dyed a foreign soil for Britain's honour, that we deemed our own." We have an interest in Great Britain now that we never had before; for on the plains of South Africa the light of many a Canadian life went out in Britain's defence. And Great Britain takes a pride in Canada now that she never took before; for Canadian volunteers, fresh from the office or the workshop, the store or the ranch, proved themselves worthy of standing side by side with the war-worn veterans of the British army. But even the closest connection with the Empire we are so proud to belong to is not enough. Surely our national ambitions cannot be fully satisfied even by the highest possible degree of political power any more than by the largest possible measure of material prosperity. Our aspirations must take a wider range and have a loftier aim; for a country's highest glory dwells in the character of its citizenship.
Our national life, so varied in its origin and so complex in its composition, must be unified by the compelling power of a deep-rooted and intelligent patriotism. High ideals of civic excellence must be kept before the new communities that are so rapidly springing up, and in the breast of every citizen there must awakened the sense of his personal responsibility for the general well-being and for the national honour. The loftiest moral standard must be insisted upon in the case of all who aim at public leadership, and in our dealings with one another as private citizens we must cultivate the keenest sense of personal honour; for only thus can we prevent the recurrence of such discreditable events in the political and in the commercial world as have lately brought the blush of shame to the cheek of every true-hearted patriot and every honest man.
There must be in every heart a deepening sense of our dependence on a higher Power, if we are to be saved from the empty-headed pride that worldly success has such a tendency to foster; and in every enlargement of our national life and power we must recognize a summons to bear a larger share of "the white man's burden"-to take a larger part in the moral elevation and spiritual betterment of the whole human race. Only in the cherishing of such lofty aspirations as these can there be found any guarantee of abiding national glory. And it is now, in the early morning of our great work of nation-building, that these ideals must be wrought into the rapidly uprising framework of our national structure. tomorrow grows out of today; and the aspirations and activities of the present determine the channels along which all the energies of the future are to flow forth. The times we live in are big with opportunity. This is the gracious, solemn, formative period in the national life of the land we love. It is for us to say what the future o f Canada shall be.
Through the young giant's mighty limbs, that stretch from sea to sea,
There runs a throb of conscious life--of waking energy.
From Nova Scotia's misty coast to far Columbia's shore,
She wakes,--a band of scattered homes and colonies no more,
But a young nation, with her life full beating in her breast,
A noble future in her eyes--the Britain of the West.
Hers be the noble task to fill the yet untrodden plains
With fruitful, many-sided life that courses through her veins;
The English honour, nerve and pluck--the Scotsman's love of right,--
The grace and courtesy of France,--the Irish fancy bright,--
The Saxon's faithful love of home, and home's affections blest;
And, chief of all, our holy faith,--of all our treasures best.