The Fatuous Insolence of the Canadians
Publication:
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 4 Feb 1904, p. 61-67


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Creator:
Hunter, A.T., Speaker
Media Type:
Text
Item Type:
Speeches
Description:
Dealing with two quantities in this address: the fixed and the variable—Canada and the Canadians. Canada, with today the bulk of her lands untilled, unoccupied, unexplored and unguarded, remaining the unlocked storehouse of Nature, the unalloted prize of the ultimate masters of the world. The variables—the Canadians. Some characteristics of Canadians 15, 10, or even 5 years ago. What we called ourselves. The day of national modesty and mothering gone forever. Canadians, taking on the first requisite of a great people: Insolence. An examination of insolence and its role in the greatness of nations. Proving the insolence of Canadians, and reckoning the cost. A consideration of how we got this insolence. Illustrations of our reckless doings. A list of what we have to face. Canadians doing great promise-work in connection with the militia as far back as anyone in the audience can remember. A comparison of Canada with another small nation, to which in our military preparations we bear a singular resemblance: the modern Kingdom of Greece. Time that we passed from the eloquent omniscience of the Greek to the slim ignorance of our new fellow-subject, the Boer. Urging us to graduate from a fatuous insolence to a condition of preparation.
Date of Original:
4 Feb 1904
Subject(s):
Language of Item:
English
Geographic Coverage:
  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 43.70011 Longitude: -79.4163
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Full Text
THE FATUOUS INSOLENCE OF THE CANADIANS.
Address delivered before, the Empire Club, Toronto, on Thursday, February 4th, 1904, by Mr. A. T. Hunter, B.A., LL.B.

MR. PRESIDENT,--I enter upon the treatment of this subject, which I have chosen without any assistance or advice, I wish to thank you for my admission to this Society, which I think offers uncommon opportunities for a man of peaceful temperament. There are other excellent patriotic dining organizations. There is the splendid Canadian Club of Toronto, whose initial Dinner I attended, and being pressed for an opinion, expressed with the frankness of a common Canadian a number of opinions, some of which I then held, and others of which I thought would be novel and interesting to the new organization. They never invited me again.

There is also the Anglo-Saxon Union, wider in its scope than our own Empire Club, inasmuch as it welcomes not only British subjects, but American subjects. But such a Union I do not think as good for our purposes as this organization, in that it offers no opportunities except for gushful blandishments. You cannot freely express your opinion of the wisdom and profundity of English statecraft when some American is present to interpret your words as a compliment to himself. It is the glory of this Empire Club that it is magnificently organized for both beginning and ending those family quarrels which make home life dear to us, and with whose progress we suffer no outsider to interfere. I take it as an opportunity not to be neglected that each of us can here meet with a large body of citizens loyal to the Empire; and with whose general and particular opinions he can vigorously agree or differ and whose judgment he can vehemently admire or despise. I take it that I am not a free man if I cannot, no foreigner being present, exalt or abuse the Kangaroo, condemn the Africander, or call attention to the besotted imbecility of the old Englander.

Today, however, believing that there are few present from the distant parts of the Empire to whose comfort or information we can add, and that the vast majority of us are those who by force of birth and other circumstances, over which we have no control, are true Canadians, I shall deal with matters that are real, even. if unpleasant, and suggest things which being gravid with consequences are, therefore, unusual subjects of oratory. We shall deal with two quantities, the fixed and the variable-Canada and the Canadians. Some of us have seen and others may have subscribed for it, almost paid for, books on the " Builders," and on the " Makers " of Canada. The honest truth is that Canada has by the hand of man been neither built nor made. Acadia has been both made and remade, and old Lower Canada and old Upper Canada have been conquered from both man and nature. But all the Canadians that have ever been-English, French, or nomadic Indian-have never made a conquest of Canada; they have merely hacked at the fringe on her robe. It is a matter of pride with our orators that in the North-West wheat can be successfully grown some Boo miles north of the International Boundary, and that the Territories can support a population of fifty millions.

That this should be a matter of pride is merely another instance of the strange things men take pride in. Had we peopled the North-West the pride would be legitimate. But our scanty settlers stand out to view like the pins with which you tack down a map to prevent it being blown away. With today the bulk of her lands untilled, unoccupied, unexplored and unguarded Canada remains the unlocked storehouse of Nature, the unallotted prize of the ultimate masters of the, world.

Let us now deal with the variables-the Canadians. Fifteen, ten, or even five years ago, what nation could you select more unknown, more unassuming and more docile than the Canadians. In our own land we permitted ourselves a mild native-wine sort of ecstasy, for what was always hyphenated as this Canada-of-ours.

We called her, and a few still call her, a young country, because her forest trees are of immemorial age and her undisturbed rocks and unharrowed prairies are as they may have looked in the first light that gave day to the world. We called ourselves, and a few still call us a young people, in order that the cub statesmen of what we designate "The Motherland" may mother our hoary-beaded public men or maternally pat their venerable pates, telling us Canadians what a promising lively child we are, and what a good kind man Lord Alverstone to put up with our romping. But this pertains to the past--the day of national modesty and mothering has gone forever. There is no Canadian of fifty or sixty years of age that will now submit to be ruled in opinion by an Englishman, his junior in age; and there is no Canadian of thirty but will back his opinions against any Englishman that ever lived. Inspired by the new won laurels of Paardeberg and Hart's River the "Men of the North," have taken on the first requisite of a great people, that is, Insolence. For no nation ever yet rose to greatness or fell to disaster save with insolence. Who so insolent in his day as the Athenian or the Roman citizen? No one save perhaps the modern German or Englishman. But insolence is of two kinds, benignant and malignant, or sustained insolence and fatuous insolence. When Napoleon I. advanced with a battalion square of 200,000 men to meet Prussia at Jena, his was a sustained insolence. As they say on the street, " he had the groceries." But when Napoleon III. tried the Berlin route with 350,000 men his was a fatuous insolence. And still their folly in 1870 could almost be forgiven the French. It is true they had not won Batoche or Paardeberg; but Magenta, Solferino and the Malakoff were not bad, and Napoleon the Little had a bigger and more gorgeous army in 1870 than the British Empire ever at one time put in the field.

But let us return to prove the insolence of Canadians and to reckon the cost. Let us consider how we got this insolence. I shall digress for a moment, and then come back again. You remember ten, certainly fifteen years ago, nearly all the Canadians who now are reckoned orators were filling the platforms with what subject? Simply Temperance. And why Temperance? Because they thought it could never get close enough to hurt them. And now that Temperance has got between the shirt and the skin they are all talking Imperialism and the eternal glory of the Canadian soldier. Within another ten years their subject will be the blessings of peace in our time and their silver voices will come up through the floor of the barn. There is not an Imperialist orator in Canada but may yet be asked in some form the ancient query, "Where is now thy mouth with which thou saidest: 'Who is Abimeleck that we should serve him'"

These orators who have been going up and down the country the last few years telling and retelling the story of Canadian valour in South Africa have not succeeeded in inflating with vanity the veterans of that war; because actual soldiers who have performed well usually let the bars on their medals talk. But every loose-waisted, paddle-footed, undrilled man in Canada has come to think that by virtue of being a Canadian he is a naturalborn rifle-shot, warrior and strategist. He could rip up and reorganize the War Office in about twenty minutes. This spirit would do no harm if we were sure of not fighting. This spirit would do no harm but for the fact that the trial of the Canadian army is coming. You ask how I know that we are going to be involved in a war. I shall give you some reasons, which I think you will find worth considering why we shall be involved in a war, and a war not to help England, but on our account.

The first is, of course, our new spirit of insolence. We Canadians think we can fight and you need not go out to Woodbridge Fair to know that when a man thinks he can fight he is not long in clashing. But we have a better reason. The same brilliant speakers that are puffing us up with postprandial valour have, with the assistance of a great many able Government agents, been spreading all over the world a knowledge of what we have. They have told all and sundry, and for the first time have had the misfortune to be believed, that we Canadians have a glorious heritage, meaning thereby that we have the forests of timber which we are too penurious to cut; the unwrought mines which a short time ago we used as a pretext for selling each other all kinds of weird and wonderful mining shares; and the vacant granary of the North, for which, if we don't make more haste in its occupation, some one else will find a tenant.

Among all our reckless doings the most daring is this insolent advertising to the powers of the world that we have unparalleled national resources and no army to protect them. Having enjoyed peace undisturbed, save by petty and unsupported raids since the War of 1812, we have forgotten the source of this peace; we have had peace because no one knew we had anything worth stealing. Let me illustrate. Who of us ever heard of Manchuria until the events of the Japan-China War suddenly drew the speculative eye of the Muscovit emperor of brass-knuckled Peace, Lord of the double-headed Vulture, to the existence of Manchuria's resources. Most of us never heard of Manchuria, and if any of us, being like our friend, J. Castell Hopkins, an encyclopedist, had ever read of Manchuria, he read that she had enjoyed peace after the Chinese model since about the year after Shakespeare's death. But who, ten years ago, would have dreamed that more Russisan battalions than Canada has companies, with more batteries than Canada has guns, would today be trying to hold Manchuria! Well, the advertising mischief is done. As they say in police circles: " We have been showing our wad." We cannot dis-advertise and we might as well double and treble the insertions. Let us now briefly state what we have to face

1. Canada is known to be worth stealing.

2. England might in six hours lose for six months the command of the seas.

3. Acting on South African experience, no power would invade Canada with less than 50,000 men.

4. Acting on the same experience, the invading force would not give Canada time to get ready as England gave the Boers time.

Well, ever since any one here can remember, the Canadians have been doing great promise-work in connection with the militia. It is one of the misfortunes of the case that we cannot go into detail concerning Canada's defence; it would be as unpatriotic to do so, as never to mention the subject. But you can get at it for yourselves by two illustrations; by comparing Canada with two other small nations, one African, the other European. The Boer Republics, prior to the Jameson Raid of December, 1895, were in the same state of fatuous insolence that we are rapidly approaching. It was all Majuba Hill and every man was a Heaven-born rifleshot. The raid scared them; and their insolence became a sustained insolence. In 1896, instead of Sir Frederick Borden's $2,000,000, which we think a large sum, they spent 2,000,000 pounds, and after that averaged a million and a half pounds every year until the war.

As the saying is, they "took business seriously." They got a rifle for every man; we have 40,000 rifles in Canada to arm 200,000 men. Their artillery weapons were the best that Europe could produce; our Canadian cannon are cemetarial monuments. They were ready, and twice beat England to a stand-still. Nothing overthrew them but the unmeasured strength of the Empire and their shoulders weren't squarely on the mat at that. You expect the Minister of Militia here soon. When he does come tell him to make it $10,000,000, and get the job done. Had we spent it five years ago we would have had more land and less Alverstonian patronage.

And now, in conclusion, let me compare Canada with the other small nation, to which in our military preparations we bear a singular resemblance. I refer to the modern Kingdom of Greece. True, Greece has a fine navy. But, of course, in 1897, just as happened to the French in 1870, her superior navy never did anything when she needed it. Let us not depend on navies. Greece in 1897 had a toy army as to numbers. We have a toy army, which by repeated skeleton camps and 50cents-a-day inducements, is becoming an imaginary army. The Greeks were not ready; there were no uniforms for the recruits who asked to be led against the enemy. We would be in the same box and like the Greek Government we couldn't get uniforms in time-not enough cloth to be had. There were no rifles and their recruits had to break into the gunsmiths and get sporting rifles; as we would have to do. They had no ammunition. Let us draw a veil over our supply of ammunition. They lacked discipline. We lack discipline. They had their terrible panic at Larissa, which, I suppose, is Hellenic for Ridgeway.

But you will say the Greek is a degenerate and I answer so was the Egyptian. Give Lord Kitchener the Greeks and the money and, as he reached Khartoum, he would reach Constantinople. But what ailed the Greeks? I shall tell you, and then sit down. The Greeks attribute their downfall to an institution known as the café-politician, who' was omniscient and talked excitedly of the indomitable Greek soldiery, of the brave deeds of 1828, and of the ancestral glories of Marathon and Thermopylae--which names I take it are a free translation of Paardeberg and Hart's River. Assuredly we have no café-politicians in Canada. On the contrary we have become great by having clubs in our midst where we dine together once a week and tell each other, amid thunders of applause, that we are a great people. Thus greatness feeds on itself.

Gentlemen, is it not time that we passed from the eloquent omniscience of the Greek to the slim ignorance of our new fellow-subject, the Boer? Let us graduate from a fatuous insolence to a condition of preparation. I thank you for having listened so patiently to words that I trust you would not have allowed other than a native Canadian to speak.

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The Fatuous Insolence of the Canadians


Dealing with two quantities in this address: the fixed and the variable—Canada and the Canadians. Canada, with today the bulk of her lands untilled, unoccupied, unexplored and unguarded, remaining the unlocked storehouse of Nature, the unalloted prize of the ultimate masters of the world. The variables—the Canadians. Some characteristics of Canadians 15, 10, or even 5 years ago. What we called ourselves. The day of national modesty and mothering gone forever. Canadians, taking on the first requisite of a great people: Insolence. An examination of insolence and its role in the greatness of nations. Proving the insolence of Canadians, and reckoning the cost. A consideration of how we got this insolence. Illustrations of our reckless doings. A list of what we have to face. Canadians doing great promise-work in connection with the militia as far back as anyone in the audience can remember. A comparison of Canada with another small nation, to which in our military preparations we bear a singular resemblance: the modern Kingdom of Greece. Time that we passed from the eloquent omniscience of the Greek to the slim ignorance of our new fellow-subject, the Boer. Urging us to graduate from a fatuous insolence to a condition of preparation.