IMPERIAL, DEFENCE AND TARIFF REFORM.
An Address by Mr. J. Ellis Barker, British Author, Journalist and Publicist, before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, February 2, 1911.
Mr. President and Gentlemen
My address is entitled "Imperial Defence and Tariff Reform," because, in my opinion, Imperial defence and tariff reform are very intimately co-related and connected. The first instinct in individuals and in nations is the instinct of self-preservation. You require defence of your person, of your house, of your family, of your nation. You want to defend your traditions, your possessions, and your liberty. The British Empire is unique in the world in this: that it is an Empire which was founded by men who rode the sea in ships, and it is the only Empire at the present moment which is essentially a naval and maritime empire. There have been such empires in the past from the time of Phoenicia down to the Empire of Great Britain. If you will run through ancient history, beginning with Phoenicia and Carthage and going then westerly with the trend of civilization towards ancient Greece and the great Italian republics, you will find that empire after empire has arisen from the seas; and it has risen mainly by mercantile, naval and maritime ability, by the ability of the merchant, coupled with the strength of a navy able to defend the outposts of the empire and the motherland.
The characteristic of all mercantile empires has been this: that they have been made extremely vulnerable by the sea; that this fact has made necessary a large navy; and the British Empire is no exception to the rule. If you look at all the great empires on the European continent, you will find that the great towns are lying inland as a rule. Berlin, Vienna. Paris, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Rome, all these towns lie inland. If you look at the British Empire you will find in England that all the big towns lie on the sea, and the same thing is seen in Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. The big towns in the Colonies were for long simply magnified trading stations. The trading station is put at a point where there is a good harbour and security against attack, and gradually the trading station has grown and grown until it became a New York in one place or one of the other big towns in the present Colonies. The avenue which connects the various towns of the Motherland is the sea. Therefore, the Colonies and Great Britain have this in common: they can be defended only on the sea.
To defend yourself against an attack from the sea and against the possibility of your great oversea trade being cut off, you require a strong navy. The sea is between. You cannot have, as you can in continental states, a big army which protects one part and another big army which protects another part. You must have a navy of overwhelming strength if you want to defend a naval empire. If you look into the history of the maritime states you will find they have all fallen because they neglected their fleets. The Dutch were the wealthiest nation in the world in the middle ages or in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Down to 1650 the Dutch were by far the wealthiest nation in the world. They had three-fourths of the maritime trade, the English had to send their goods in Dutch ships to their own possessions, they were the greatest manufacturers in the world. They were the greatest traders, the greatest colonizers, and the greatest bankers. The wealth of the world was in their pockets.
The Dutch financed all the countries in the world, and in the seventeenth century 2 1/2 percent. Dutch stock was quoted above par. Such was their wealth, but they neglected their navy 1 England was poor and ambitious, and, under Cromwell, the English struck at the Dutch fleet, which had been neglected, and colony after colony was lost to the Dutch. New York used to be called New Amsterdam. If you look at Australasia, you will find New Zealand called after the Province of Zealand in Holland. The Dutch Empire fell to the ground, and the Netherlands, which was the greatest state in the world, is now perhaps on the point of extinction. It is now a small but still nominally independent state, and the time may come, say, in a hundred years, when even the Dutch language may have disappeared.
Canada is very fortunately situated in this, that the danger of invasion seems a small one. If you have lived in the interior of Canada you may occasionally have heard something like this: "The United States mean well with us, Japan will scarcely attack us, England will protect us. We need no defence." I think such talk is very shortsighted. Philanthropists and unpractical men measure the danger of attack by sizing up their potential or possible means of resistance. I think that is a mistake which we do not make in private life. If you have a house, you arrange the strength of your front-door and of your shutters, not in accordance with the character of your neighbor, but in accordance with the value of your possessions. I have travelled through a very large number of countries but I have found universally that the strongest front-doors and the strongest shutters are found in the houses of the wealthiest men and the wealthiest shopkeepers
You cannot improvise an army, you cannot improvise a navy. You can improvise an army to a certain extent if you have enough rifles in the country. If every man in Canada has a rifle of his own, which he uses at your rifle ranges and occasional manoeuvres and that kind of thing, you will be able to hold your own on land for some length of time if your people have the proper spirit. Rifles, a sufficiency of cartridges, and the warlike spirit which the Canadians showed in 1812 and which they will show again if need be, may be sufficient to defend your land. Now, you cannot improvise a navy. A navy is a desperately costly thing. Sailors you can create in almost any nation which is of warlike inclination. I believe the Dutch are excellent sailors. I believe the Germans and many other warlike nations will make just as good sailors as the English or almost as good sailors. So far, England has won many wars through the excellence of her sailors and the excellence of her admirals. But you cannot always count upon meeting an inferior class of sailors and inferior admirals. You cannot guarantee that Great Britain will always have a Nelson to fight her battles. As the security of the ocean is vital to you, you must be sure to have a fleet of overwhelming strength. Now, whether you have a fleet of overwhelming strength or not depends, after all, on money, because the longest purse can pay for the strongest fleet, and every nation of warlike inclinations can always provide a good sort of man to man their ships.
The security of the British Empire is largely, as I have said, a question of the purse. Now, unfortunately, the position is at present this: that Great Britain finds it from year to year harder, financially, to defend the British Empire. It was right and proper that Great Britain should defend the Colonies single-handed when the Colonies were mere trading stations which were used in part for the aggrandisement and enrichment of the Motherland, but that time has passed. The little trading stations have grown into powerful nations, and Great Britain finds it more and more difficult from year to year to defend herself financially. Great Britain has forty-five million inhabitants, Germany has sixty-five millions, and the United States has almost one hundred millions. The wealth of Germany is considerably greater, and that of the United States is very considerably greater than that of Great Britain. Not only is the wealth greater of Germany and the United States, but you will find by a large number of official publications, to which I won't refer for the moment, but to which I can refer you, that not only has Great Britain to provide more money in taxes, but that she has to provide more money from a smaller number of people-consequently the weight of taxation is greater on Great Britain's people than on any other people. Not only that, but countries like Germany or the United States, which are chiefly continental, have not many foreign possessions to defend, at least their defence is not of vital importance, but Great Britain must scatter her defences all over the world, and for that reason she must not only provide a larger number of ships than her opponents, but coaling stations, etc., as well. She must scatter her forces; Germany and the United States can concentrate theirs.
Now, the wealth of Great Britain has either been shrinking or it has not been increasing at a sufficient rate, and it has been shrinking largely because of Free Trade. I put forward the proposition that ten years ago Great Britain was living on her capital and has been living on it since. It, of course, depends upon what you mean by living on one's capital. Great Britain has been living on her capital in the way in which any one of you might live on your capital. If any one of you inherited from your father a street full of houses in Toronto, and if every year you sold one of these houses and the remaining houses increased in value with the growth of Toronto until they were worth more than the whole street was worth when you inherited the property from your father, you might say: "I am much richer now than when I got that property from my father." But you had been living on your capital because the principle of selling part of one's investments cannot be continued indefinitely. Now Great Britain has been making money in some ways and has been losing money in tremendous amounts in other ways, and the loss of money in other ways is going on very rapidly, whilst the accumulation of money has come almost to a standstill. Agriculture has been undoubtedly ruined by free trade and I want to dwell on agriculture for a little while, because Canada is an agricultural country, and perhaps the farmers in the West and here in Ontario may be interested in what I have to say.
The British trading statistics relating to agriculture don't go as far back as 'the introduction of free trade in 1845. They only go back to 1873. Please take note how the acreage of all the different crops has shrunk since 1873. In 1873 there were under wheat 3,670,000 acres; in 1908, 1,664,000; a shrinkage of over two million acres; The barley shrinkage was from 2,574,000 acres to 1,824,000 acres, or 750,000 acres; oats showed a shrinkage of 9,000 acres, and there was a shrinkage of 401,000 acres in beans; peas, 157,000 acres; potatoes, 264,000 acres; turnips and swedes, 641,000 acres. There is here a total shrinkage of 4,222,000 acres in corn and vegetable crops alone. Then you have an enormous shrinkage in other things. What effect has this enormous shrinkage in acreage had upon employment? The number of agricultural labourers in England and Wales decreased between 1851 and 1901 by more than half a million; that in Scotland by 70,000; that in Ireland from 850,000 to 212,000-less than one-fourth. So you see considerably more than a million agricultural labourers with their wives and children were cleared off the land, and another million who provided for them as carpenters, builders, implement makers, cobblers, tailors, etc., were also cleared off the land. Two million families or ten million people were thus cleared off the land by the introduction of food from abroad. Now, England was once in the happy position that the people driven off the land could go into the factories in the towns. You have very few factories and very few manufacturing towns here, comparatively speaking. You are chiefly an agricultural country. You are in similar position in that respect to Ireland when free trade was introduced in 1846.
Now let us cast a glance at free trade in Ireland because that is a better precedent, perhaps, for your guidance than England. Ireland had a very prosperous agriculture. She furnished her own people and she exported between 1805 and 1845 constantly growing quantities of foodstuffs. The exports increased from 306,000 quarters in 1805 to 3,352,000 quarters in 1845, an increase of eleven times as much in 1845. Now three million quarters are sufficient to nourish something like three or four million people. In 1845 Ireland had 9,000,000 inhabitants, approximately. She exported for about three million people and provided food for about twelve million people. Free trade was introduced and the agricultural land was rapidly abandoned. In 1847-those are the first figures I can get Ireland's acreage under wheat was 744,000 acres, and in 1909 her acreage was 43,600 acres, or one single twentieth of her former acreage. Nineteen-twentieths of her acreage under wheat was lost through free trade. Oats shrank from 2,200,000 to 1,035;000 acres. Her population decreased from nine millions in 1845 to 4,364,226. Meanwhile Ireland developed large manufacturing industries, shipbuilding yards at Belfast, linen and that kind of thing. If it were not for that the population of Ireland would probably have decreased to one=fourth, instead of one-third, of what she had when free trade was introduced.
Now, the emigration from Ireland! You know all about that. Millions and millions have been driven over sea. In this way England has been living largely on her capital, not only taking its capital but agricultural resources, because money is not everything in individuals as a nation. If you want to know what the losses have been you will find that the Commission on Agriculture in 1890 computed that since 1873 more than $5,000,000,000 had been lost in twenty-five years, and the loss was afterwards estimated to be $10,000,000,000. That is a sum three times as large as the National Debt of England, or five times as large as the capital value of all your 30,000 miles of railways in Canada, a loss which is equal to 120; 000 miles of railway, all wiped out by the blessings of free trade! And you can measure it not only by the loss of money. You can take your land and cultivate it and grow things where very little grows now, but the great loss in capital, which cannot be so easily replaced has been the destruction :and the deterioration of the national physique through driving ten million people out of the country.
Free trade means an enormous loss in productive power. We have in England a people that have raised children and presented the grown-up children gratis as producers to the United States and other countries. The potential value of a grown-up colonist is supposed to be $300. Now, you have ten million people who have left the country. Multiply $300 by ten million and you have a loss of $3,000,000,000. Just imagine that is one loss. Then there is the loss in national physique. The deterioration of the national physique is evident to any one who goes to England and sees the people of the slums. It is only natural that when you have almost nine-tenths of the population crowded into the towns and unable to go to the country for any length of time, that physique must deteriorate; and there you have a permanent cause of injury in Great Britain. Perhaps the few words I have said to you will be a warning to those people who look at national affairs purely from the point of view of pounds, shillings and pence or dollars and cents.
Imperial defence and tariff reform go hand in hand, I think, in this way, that tariff reform will provide very largely for future financial requirements; I mean the requirements of the immediate future in naval defence. Great Britain is gradually bleeding to death financially; it is gradually becoming exhausted. The Colonies cannot help much, as yet, because their money has to be devoted to their own development. Therefore, Great Britain has, in the first instance, to look after the naval defence of the Empire herself, and she will be able ,to finance her fleet very largely by the increase of revenue, direct or indirect, which will be caused by tariff reform. You are interested as much in tariff reform as Great Britain herself because if Great Britain grows too poor to adequately provide for her navy you 'must either do it yourselves or must be prepared for Canada to fall into the hands of one or the other of those nations who are anxious and eager to increase their territory at other people's cost.
Put yourself for a moment in the place of the man in the interior of Canada who says, "No one threatens us." Put yourself in the place of the Japanese or Germans, the Germans on one side with the central European nations as well, and the Japanese on the other side of the world, and both living in over-populated countries. Everywhere population is rapidly increasing, and the means of subsistence are gradually shrinking and they cast longing eyes to countries where they can go to. In the middle, between Japan and the over-populated countries of the East and Germany with the other over-populated European nations-right in the middle is marked. Canada and the United States. ht is only natural that patriotic Japanese and patriotic Germans, or patriotic Austrians or Frenchmen, should say, "Why should we be crammed and crowded in our narrow possessions when these few millions in America hold vast lands sufficient to nourish 1; 000,000,000 of people?" It is perfectly conceivable, and i2 is, to my mind natural that the tension existing between people of Europe will relax at some future date, perhaps earlier than you may imagine. The nations of Europe may say to themselves, "We are fools, we are forming armed camps and watching one another whilst the Anglo-Saxon people are conquering the whole earth."
Therefore, I say, provide against danger, not by sizing up the character o£ your possible opponent, but by taking stock of your immensely valuable property and of the less valuable properties around you and the possibility that one day some one will wish to possess your property. And, gentlemen, think of this, that your interests and the interests of Great Britain are inextricably interwoven. Great Britain is not merely your banker. You have not only to defend your cash-box. In defending Great Britain you defend at the same time the citadel and naval base of the British Empire, you defend your own liberty, you defend your own fleet, and help in the defence of that small outpost which protects you against the over crowded nations of Europe.