- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 9 Feb 1911, p. 186-193
- Pratt, A.C., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Some impressions from the speaker of the recent British elections and then, from the viewpoint perhaps of an Imperialist, something as to Reciprocity. The extreme rapidity and suddenness with which Great Britain plunged from dissolution to voting at the polls, locked in combat the day the House dissolves with the election on in a surprisingly short time. The way a constituency fights its battles on the issues. The type of men in public life in Great Britain. The lack of pay for the politician, the member of Parliament in old Britain. The importance of the issue over the man. Canadian politics in contrast. The British elector, looking upon the franchise as his inalienable right, and using it at the polls. An illustrative anecdote. The issue of tariff reform. The lack of correct viewpoint on this issue in Canada. The labour problem. Canada's relationship with the United States; her relationship with Great Britain.
- Date of Original
- 9 Feb 1911
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- BRITISH POLITICS AND RECIPROCITY.
An Address by Mr. A. C. Pratt , M.L.A., before the Empire Club of Canada, on February 9, 1911.
Mr. President and Gentlemen.:
I have been asked today to give some of my impressions of the recent British elections and then, from the viewpoint perhaps of an Imperialist, do say something as to :Reciprocity. Well, sir, the impression which struck me most forcibly when I landed in Great Britain was the extreme rapidity and suddenness with which they plunged from dissolution to voting at the polls-locked in combat the day the House dissolves with the election on in a surprisingly short time. Another thing which impressed me was the foot that notwithstanding the long-drawn-out fight, I never went to a single constituency where they fought the issue with any thought or regard for the preceding election or the surrounding ones. For instance, in this country, if we hold a :general election, and a bye-election is held a week later, the bye-election invariably swings toward the winning party. It seems characteristic hers, .but over there it is entirely different. Every single constituency fights its battles on the issues, clear-cut, and it does not make any difference apparently to the British voter if 99 out of every 100 goes against his personal views; he goes out and polls his vote on the issue that confronts .him. Now that is an exceedingly good thing, and it wonderfully impressed me in Great Britain.
Another thing that impressed me was the type of men in public life in Great Britain. I was amazed, sir, at the public spirit, the wonderful ability, the self-abnegation of the public men I found on both sides of politics in Britain -men who have ideals, intense ideals, and so thoroughly do those ideals possess them, that I know of young men giving up their lives, working almost day and night, and spending their fortunes, on what they believe to be issues that are for the good of .their country. Remember this, gentlemen, that the politician, the member of Parliament in old Britain receives no pay=he is under great expense. I was also greatly interested in the fact that on every platform on which I stood ,there was the wonderfully straight type of statesmen that you find in politics in good old Britain.
Another thing that vividly impressed me was the fact that it is the issue in Great Britain rather than the man. Now imagine, if you can, an Englishman or Scotchman coming to this country to contest a seat-it is ridiculousit is absurd to us, because we are of a different make-up. In England it is not the man at all, but the issue-the question he represents; and, as a consequence, I want to say to you that Canadians in Great Britain today are absolutely welcomed in political life, and there is the greatest kindness and consideration given to every Canadian. He may enter politics there without any fear or thought that it will be thrown up at him that he is an "outsider," and this is abundantly exemplified in. the record of such men as Hamar Greenwood, Sir Gilbert Parker, Donald McMaster, Hon. Joseph Martin, Max Aitken, and Bonar Law, and the great many others I might mention. They are growing every year-growing rapidly-and just let me interject here that there is probably no man so welcome, and whose name is so well known to the British electorate as our own Bonar Law.
When he went to the north, to Lancashire, to issue a challenge to Winston Churchill on the enemy's own ground over the question of Tariff Reform, I tell you it touched the core of the British heart. Mention his name and there is not a hostile word throughout the country. Perhaps I am wrong, but my own belief is that when the day comes that Mr. Balfour or some other Unionist forms his Cabinet, I will not be surprised if Bonar Law has a place in that Cabinet, and has a very active part in framing .the policy of the Tariff Reform party, if it is ever adopted. Now that is characteristic of the electors over there. They want to think out the issues for themselves and, so far as I could judge, and I had the opportunity of forming -an opinion, no matter where you went this thing impressed me, that the British elector looks upon the franchise as his inalienable right, and he is going to use it at the polls-whether he has a great deal of influence, or whether he .is poor, the result is the same.
You can go before any audience you like, it does not matter who, the Prime Minister, Asquith, Balfour, Winston Churchill, no matter who, or where you may speak, if the audience does not agree with you, you must expect to have numerous interruptions, and stand some heckling, because the British elector claims it as his right to ask questions and to insist upon those questions being answered. They must not be hedged or dodged, but answered straight to the man that asks them. Sometimes you are heckled, sometimes you are annoyed, sometimes you are very uncomfortable, you may be asked some very troublesome questions, but that is the institution. They play fair though. But you must answer the questions, and if your can't, why, say so; that is all right, but you must not try to avoid them. That is one thing that warms a Canadian's heart, their British fair play. They will tell you to your face if they don't like you, and sometimes if they do like you. .
I might tell you of an experience down in Deptford, East London, where Mr. A. W. Wright, whom many of you know, and myself, were to speak to a hostile audience. Just in front was a young German in working clothes. I spoke first, and he was most persistent with me, and I think if he asked me one question he asked me twentyfive. Stuart Coates followed, and he did not let up at all on him. Then Mr. Wright came on, and he persisted in annoying him. After standing his heckling for some time, Mr. Wright said to him: "My friend, you seem to be a very enthusiastic Free-trader," and he said, "I am." "It will surprise you when I tell you that neither your father nor mother are Free-traders," said Mr. Wright. "They are," said the heckler. Mr. Wright insisted they were not, to which the German replied: "My father is just as enthusiastic a Free-trader as myself, and I got it from him." "They were not Free-traders, and I can prove it to you," said Mr. Wright. "today I got a German shave from a German barber and I talked German with him, and think I could talk German with you, and that barber told me that for the last two years lie had been settled 'in London, and it did not cost the city or the country a penny to get that adult German barber! Statistics show that it costs £300 pounds to raise a child from in something is not right, that some change has got to come. I think that tariff reform will work a partial solution, and just here I will give you a little story.
I was in conversation with a young man I happened to meet, a representative of Park Brothers, big meat importers of Liverpool. John Park, the elder brother, came across on the Lusitania the other day and we got well acquainted. Park Bros. import 10,000 to 50,000 carcases of lambs per week, and import beef by the shipload, and they found it absolutely necessary, in order to meet their demands, to go to the Argentine and make contracts. John Park made contracts with five of the largest ranches there to take their entire output, and he was to get his meat at advantageous prices, on a five-year contract, providing the ranches were not sold. They distributed the meat for a time and realized advantageous prices for the British consumers, and did a splendid business. Then ,the wealthy firm of Swift and Armour invaded Great Britain and began competition, but found that Park Bros. could undersell them. So Swift & Go. sent an agent to the Argentine and they purchased the five ranches from which Park Bros. received their supply. Then came the notice: "Kindly consider that at the termination of this year you can buy no more meat from the Argentine Republic." John Park crossed the Atlantic, went to Chicago and was the guest of the great Meat Trust. They took him to dinner, and he told me it was the greatest dinner he ever had in .his life, and if it cost a cent it cost $50.00; then they said to him, "Mr. Park, we like you. We have the profoundest regard for you, we love you Britishers, but you cannot buy any meat from us-you are in direct competition, and we have got our agents all through Britain selling meat at inspiring prices." Do you know what Park Bros. are going to do this year (John Park has been in Toronto for the last two weeks and sailed on the Mauritania the other day); they are going to close up, shop this coming Christmas because the American Meat Trust makes it absolutely impossible to do business with'n their own country.
Will you tell me in the face of this one instance, of which there are dozens, that tariff reform is not a great need for Great Britain? Would it not be a good thing for Park Bros? Would it not be a better thing for the people who buy their meat if they had competition there? For a moment let me read a little item I have in my hand: "Canada acceding to this Confederation, and joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted to this Union." Is that an extract from a recent speech of President Taft? I will tell you. It is an extract from the first Constitution of the United States, and for over 135 yeas, gentlemen, the United States have never wavered an eyelash from the belief that one of these days they would plant Canada as a star in their banner. For over 135 years that has been in their constitution, and it has been their aim and belief that one day this Continent would be all United States.
Let me touch history here if you will-in history there is no politics. When England- was shaken to her very core, when she was struggling to keep her head above water, fighting the battles of the nations of the world against Napoleon, the United States thought it was •a good and opportune time to write the star of "Canada" upon her banner. She invaded us, but Britain in all her stress, sent her ships and her men here to help us maintain our national integrity. The United States have harboured our enemies and permitted them to cross the borders; they have fomented sedition against us within her borders; they have built strong tariff walls to protect their own industries-with the hope that they would compel overtures from us; and the only reason they are not doing it at this present moment is because they have learned that "Molasses will catch more flies than vinegar."
In my humble opinion we are ,getting a mild application of molasses, and have been getting it for some time. (Voice-"Give it to them !") No 1 God forbid that I should "give it to them." I want to live in peace and amity with the people to the south. But, my God, gentlemen, I was born a Canadian. I want to live and die a Canadian 1 I love Canada, I imbibed this feeling from my mother's breast. I love the British Constitution and this great Empire of 450,000,000 people, of which we are no small part. I want to tell you I got a reception with- in recent weeks in England and Scotland that could not help but touch the heart of any man-the love that those people have for us--,the wonderful love. I had one dear old woman, 80 years of age, wait in the corridors in Edinburgh till I came out, in order that she might tell me how much she loved this country, and to say what a shame it was that they could not give our country the preference we would like in return for what we had given them. Everywhere I went there was absolutely an outpouring of affection and love for this Canada of ours.
Now we are face to face with a question, perhaps the most serious since Federation, yea, since the making of our constitution. The American census returns show that in the Southern States there are 10 millions of negroes. Let me tell you why the fruit men and the vegetable men are protesting. I will not give you my own words, but will quote from the "Saturday Evening Post," which you will all admit is most careful and conservative. Yet in a recent editorial here is what appeared: "A considerable portion of the negro population are so low in the industrial scale as to give a very fair imitation of pauper tabour." Now, sir, we are facing a situation where we are thrown into direct competition with a population of negroes of the lowest type of civilization, casual workers, greater than our own population in Canada today, perhaps, in direct competition with us. But I cannot go into it or I could show how their vegetables and fruits would interfere with our markets, woefully interfere with them.
There is also this issue. We have spent millions in transcontinental lines-we have three of them practically crossing this continent; we have subsidized them so that we might have recinrocity from province to province, and trade from the East to the West. We have built our canals and subsidized steamship lines to swing the trade East and West so that our brothers in Regina, Sask., and our brothers in Halifax, Nova Scotia, might all be one great unit. Sir, can you tell me one single instance in the history of this old world; go back if you like to the days of Greece and Rome, to the days of Carthage; tell me one single instance in British history, where the "flag follows trade" and not "trade follows the flag?" Show me all the advantages you want, show me the "mess of pottage" if you like, be it ever so tempting and ever so rich, but if we are by any chance to exchange our birthright for this, then for God's sake let us serve in any capacity as Canadians-in the streets if you will-rather than live in the tents of the United States. (Loud and continued applause.)
They have got their problems there, domestic, social, and political problems; their divorce question, and I was taught in my schoolboy days that "Evil communications corrupt good manners." All these things we would have to face-their divorces, their unwritten law, their lynchings, their negro problem, their great trusts, for we need not expect them to be any more considerate of us here in Canada than of our brethren in Liverpool, if we permit them to establish themselves here.
I want to say to you, gentlemen, that I hope the time will never come when it will be said that Canada was the first to break the "roll-call of that British drum that today beats around the world." I hope, trust and pray, that whatever may be done we may maintain within our borders our Canadian spirit. If there must be any change made, surely, surely it is possible for the United States to indicate their belief, their faith in the wisdom of that change, by putting their tariff on a parity with ours, thus permitting us to go to them in a dignified and self-resnecting manner. For 15 years we have been self-supporting. We have been growing, it may be slowly, but steadily. today when we are hearty and strong, shall we look over our shoulder at the Motherland, with her great problems on her hands and, when she needs us more than ever before, calmly turn our back on her and say that there are dollars to be gained across the border? Shall our love and filial duty count for nothing? Is that the type of men Canada is made up of today? If so, as Canadians, we should blush for shame at the ingratitude we should show the Motherland across the sea.