WORLD POLITICS OF CANADA AND THE EMPIRE
AN ADDRESS BY DR. H. F. MUNRO, SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION FOR NOVA SCOTIA
12th April, 1928
PRESIDENT FENNELL introduced the speaker, who had kindly consented, at short notice, to take the place of Sir George Foster, who could not be present on account of illness. Dr. Munro said: World politics may not appear to be so much in the public eye as they were eight years ago, but none the less they are exceedingly important, and more than ever important to Canada, because if there is one thing that we are all agreed upon it is that Canada is a nation. Of course constitutional lawyers may differ as to the interpretation of the expression "nation", as to its significance; but we all know that Canada today is mistress in her own house; she has practically all the autonomy she needs within the Commonwealth; and being a nation means that she has been admitted into what is called the family of nations. Coming into that family she faces a certain situation, and that situation is what I call world politics. Canada is not only a nation, but she is internationalized, and today, politically speaking she has to bear her share of international responsibility. It is therefore very important for her to know the situation that she faces.
It is not my purpose to describe the aspect of the international field at the moment. But there are certain permanent features internationally that always obtain; they obtained for hundreds of years, and will obtain in the future, that we as Canadians, as a member of the family of nations, have to recognize.
The study of world politics is an immensely fascinating one. It is a study that has not yet found a great place in our schools or universities, but it will become more and more so in Canada as time goes on. In the United States, and to some extent in Britain, a great deal has been done in the study of international affairs, which is a kind of science; there is an attempt to find the fundamental principles that underlie the life of nations. The more we study international relations, the further back we go, the more convinced we become that there are certain fundamental underlying principles that govern the life of nations, and that change very little, if at all, with the centuries. It is a few of these principles that I wish to discuss today.
These are principles that are not foreign to us; they are not something remote; they touch us; they affect us; they affect our lives and fortunes; they have so affected us in the past, and will affect us in the future. It is therefore desirable that we as a member of the family of nations should be acquainted with them, to know what are these tendencies that are operating about us all the time that have pushed us into war in the past and may push us further into war in the future, unless we learn the valuable lessons from history which possibly we are failing to learn.
Perhaps the outstanding feature of the family of nations as at present constituted is the principle of nationality, or nationalism if you like that term better. Our present state system, our modern family of nations, is based on the system of nationalities. That is so prevalent, so universal, that we take it for granted; but it is not necessary, and is not inherent in the nature of things that we have all these nationalities; and it is conceivable that some may have changed to a different value. If, 2,000 years ago, the Roman Empire had only made a certain political invention, it is quite possible that the present state system as we have it could never have evolved. If the Roman Empire had invented what Great Britain invented many centuries later, namely, representative government, it is conceivable that the Roman Empire would have persisted as a political entity down to our time. Now it is certain that one great benefit would have followed from that; we would have had merely one world state, and war would have been eliminated. In the western world, at the time of the birth of Christ, 2000 years ago, for a brief time there was universal peace, and I am not sure that there was ever such a moment since; but I think if the Roman Empire had continued to exist on a basis of representative government, if they had a certain instinct and genius to have made that invention, the world would have profited. That however is not the way we have evolved.
In the suburb of Boston, at a certain place, there is a bronze tablet with this inscription: "Paul Revere would have passed this house on the night of his famous ride if he had taken the turn to the right," (Laughter.) Now, mankind, I feel sure, would have avoided a great many complications, and especially would have avoided a great flood of war, if we had evolved differently.
The state system is with us, this system of nationalities or, as I should term them, nation-states: that is the system we have to take into account as a member of it, as a member of the family of nations. Now, the state system, as such, proceeds in a rather unsatisfactory way. For the last four or five hundred years there has been no international organization as such. Each nation-state is jealous of its sovereignty. We are living in what political philosophers say is a state of nature. If a Frenchman and a Dutchman, a Briton and an Austrian were to find themselves on an uninhabited island unpossessed by any state they would be, legally speaking, in a state of nature. That is to say, there would be no system of law to govern them, no sovereignty; each would be a law unto himself. . Now, that is precisely the condition of modern states. There is no daysman, no supreme judge, no sovereign; each of the nation-states is sovereign, a law unto itself.
What then governs us in our relations with one another? Up to the present, a haphazard system of diplomacy; that is all. I am leaving aside for the moment the whole question of the League of Nations, but up to the time when the League of Nations was set up some nine years ago, international relations between the nation-states depended on diplomacy. Well, you know how that worked out. We usually plodded along for about a century; then came to some world war; there was one three hundred years ago; there was another one 200 years ago; there was another 100 years ago, in Napoleon's time, and there was one in our time. They seemed to come every century, and in between were little wars, with certain arrangements of diplomacy, certain alliances, etc., that carried on the life of the family of nations from one year to another. Diplomacy produces great wars, and we usually have great peace congresses to settle the affairs of the world on a permanent basis. If you read the preamble of the treaty of Vienna or Utrecht you will find that what was there contemplated was not an immediate settlement, but a settlement for all time; but that settlement never held. It reminds one of the story that was told of Mr. Barnum, who knew human nature very thoroughly. He used to make a specialty of happy families; in a cage he would have a lion and a tiger, a gazelle and a lamb, all lying down together. Some skeptic who doubted this arrangement asked Mr. Barnum if it were genuine, and he replied, "Well, in the main it is but I presume that the lamb has to be renewed every little while." (Laughter.) So with our great international settlements prior to the League of Nations. For a while--for a century or half a century--we get along very well, then some formula is produced, and the whole thing has to be fought over again. In between, the diplomats develop a system of diplomacy which, on the whole, works very well. I am not one of those who consider that the work of diplomacy is futile, and a menace to peace; on the other hand, diplomacy is the great buffer between states, and for every question that diplomats fail to settle, they settle ninety-nine in a very satisfactory way.
As you know, the great art in diplomacy is to find a compromise or, as they now speak of it, to find a formula. Of course the parties have to concede something, but in the main the finding of the formula very often helps us out. There is a good story told about a darkie parson who was very indignant at the way his congregation were stealing chickens; so he admonished them one morning about it, and became very personal, and he said, "At this very moment I see before me twelve chicken thieves including Deacon Johnson." During the week Deacon Johnson got rather hot under the collar, and held a series of diplomatic conferences with the parson, and parson agreed to take back what he had said. So on the next Sunday morning he said he had done injustice to Deacon Johnson in saying that he had seen before him twelve chicken thieves including Deacon Johnson, and he added, "I wish to retract that statement, and say that I see before me eleven chicken thieves, not including Deacon Johnson." (Laughter.)
Well, you see that is the way diplomacy works. It works out a formula which pleases everybody, and the thing goes on as long as no great supreme world interests are involved; but there comes a time in the international system when the question becomes too great for the diplomats, and no formula in the world can meet it, and war prevails because there is no other way to settle it.
Now, that is what I am concerned with pointing out at the moment, that an international organization like an international Supreme Court, or whatever you like to call it, is the only way to settle international disputes. War is not immoral; it is rather unmoral, or amoral, as the philosophers say. Our problem is to get another means of settling international disputes, but you cannot get it by branding war as wholly immoral, because that is the only way in the past that disputes of great moment could be settled. You remember the old phrase, that war is the last argument of monarchs; but it is equally true that it is the last argument of peoples or states, failing an international system; and that is the whole distinction of the League of Nations, that it provides an alternative way of settling international disputes. War has the precedents of thousands of years, and it will continue to be the way of settling international disputes unless we make another way. You cannot change the thing by denouncing war; we must get something better, and the League of Nations does give something better. (Applause.) It offers settlement by arbitration or judicial settlement or compromise or conference,--anything but war. But until we recognize that we have something that is substantially better than war, we shall have .war.
I have passed over these points very rapidly. Coming back to the family of nations, it has certain machinery,--congresses, conferences, diplomatic machinery--but there is one fundamental aspect of the family of nations that I wish to emphasize, because it is the whole explanation of the last 400 or 500 years of war. It has affected us in Canada, and it will affect us as long as our particular family of nations exists, and that is what is called the operation of the balance of power. That is rather an abstruse phrase to the layman, but if you consider it a moment it is the most natural thing in the world.
You have the state system; many states competing for power; that is the position in the world today. States are organized to compete for power, for privilege, for industrial supremacy, for economic opportunity, for all other elements that enter into power. But the power in the world is fixed. The amount of water is fixed; the amount of resources is fixed; so that inevitably the competition between nations produces clash and rivalry. Furthermore, each nation-state has dictated to it by nature the policy it follows. For instance for centuries France has followed what is called the doctrine of natural limits. If France had to deal only with nature, with geography, France would have had her border on the Pyrenees and on the Alps, as she now has, and the history of France for centuries has been to get her natural frontiers. Russia, on the other hand, had her foreign policy dictated by nature. She had to get to the sea, with the result that before the great break in western Europe she gradually moved--toward the sea, and finally reached the Pacific. Nature has dictated the policy of Britain. To Britain there are just two elements that are necessary in her foreign policy. One is the control of the seas--sea power; the second is the control of the countries immediately opposite her shores--Belgium and Holland.
Now, that being so, the family of nations competing among themselves for power, each state having a policy that is more or less natural, based on the necessities of the case, what happens? In the past you find that this struggle for power usually results in the alignment of nations into two camps. Perhaps the best instance--one that will serve as an illustration for us in our time is what happened before the great war. France and Germany, hereditary rivals of centuries gathered around them alliances; certain states came to France; others came to Germany. The result was that each grew more powerful. Then there came a time when they became about equal in power. Something must break. War broke, and we had our great war.
For hundreds of years in Europe that has been the situation France against Germany, with Great Britain off to one side holding the balance of power. The balance of power is perfectly natural. You hear some dreamers, persons who are not versed in war, inveighing against the balance of power; but the balance of power is impersonal, it is essential, the only thing that can give states their environments. We do not want world empire; we throw that out of our system; and we do not want it made possible for any state to start out to build a world empire. We fought Louis XIV; we fought Napoleon; we fought Germany; and we will fight the next one too to make world empire impossible. But the only way to fight them in the past, and up to the present, has been by forming a counter alliance to the aspiring power. That is what we did with Germany; that is why Britain went in with France and Russia. She did not like those countries particularly; I venture to think we might have found more congeniality with the Germans; but France was thrown, willy-nilly, into the circle with England and Russia, effected the Alliance, and war ensued.
In Canada we have been affected by the Seven Years war, the Napoleonic war, and the Great War. What is more, a nation like the United States, that thinks she is outside the balance of power, has been drawn into every war since her beginning. She had to enter the Napoleonic war in 1812, and she had to enter the Great War, and she has been sitting up backwards and thinking she has to do nothing in that concrete sense, but she will be in the next Great War, and so will we.
That is why I urge the study of foreign policy upon you. If you are to be a nation, if you want to rejoice with the family of nations, you must bear the duty and responsibility, (Hear, hear.) and one responsibility is to inform yourselves of the international situation and see from the past where you are going to line up in the future.
Incidentally I have in my outline mentioned that great fundamental principle that the United States sponsored, what is called the Monroe Doctrine. That doctrine is a plea on the part of the United States to say "Hands off" to Europe, and the rest of the world of course. It was Europe at first, but now it is the rest of the world. The Americans declare that the American continents, north and south, are to be considered closed for any further colonization or exploitation and there must be no importation of the European political system, no family compacts, and so on in American affairs. So far, the United States has managed to make a success of that, but in spite of her Monroe Doctrine she had to participate in the last Great War.
I want to point out that we Canadians are interested in the Monroe Doctrine, too, and we are acting on that, although we may not think so, confidently. Why is it that Australia is so interested in a naval programme and anxious to have a naval establishment and we in Canada are not? Did you ever think of that? The fundamental reason, the subconscious reason, the reason we do not formulate to ourselves, perhaps, but the one which" we say to ourselves is, that as far as danger to the American continent is concerned, the United States will take care of us. That is the Monroe Doctrine. So in that sense we are, or ought to be, interested in the Monroe Doctrine.
If, conceivably, the north part of this continent, which is Canada, were by a great disturbance of nature put out in the Pacific, 3,000 or 5,000 miles from the Pacific coast, we would develop a naval policy very quickly, for the very same reason that Australia and New Zealand have a naval policy; but at present we do not think of it--whether rightly or not I am not saying; whether it is proper for us to do so, I am not pretending to say--but the real reason, I think, from the point of view of world politics is that we feel that we are American in that sense and in accord with the United States.
There are one or two other points of world politics that I will merely allude to. One is sea-power. The mere mention of a naval policy leads naturally to that. If you read history aright, if you take the long view of history, if you read it in 500-year doses, you will find that the great world decisions have been made on the sea. Sea-power is world power. The man who perhaps taught that best was Admiral Mahan, of the American navy, who wrote many works on sea-power. Now, sea-power is of vital importance, of course, to us British--the British Commonwealth. The great victories that have made the Empire, from the Spanish Armada down, have been won on the sea; and sea-power still remains the deciding factor in world war. I think we will all agree today that in the last analysis that it was the last strangle-hold that Britain had on Germany through the navy that starved Germany out.
This leads me to the next fundamental. In the past the great battles on the sea, the great struggle at sea, has been for the Atlantic. The Atlantic was the centre of the great world battles that were on sea, the great naval battles; but in the efflux of time the scene has shifted. The Atlantic is bare; now we are ushered into the Pacific. The great arena for the conflict of world politics in the future will be on the Pacific ocean.
More than half the human race live on the shores or near the shores of the Pacific. Count them; China 400,000,000; Japan, 65,000,000; India, 350,000,000; the Philippines, Canada, the United States, South America, Australia and New Zealand--to say nothing of the islands of the Pacific--more than half of the human race; more than half the economic resources; and what is more important, the great open spaces we have are all on the Pacific; and that is the rub--Canada, Australia, South America, the United States, New Zealand.
Now, if the operations of nature would be allowed to work we know what would happen. The yellow races would occupy those open spaces. They are the nations that need the open spaces; but here they are; we have got them nailed down, with notices up--"No Trespassers". There is the whole crux of the coming great world conflict. We have to settle that. We have, some way, to persuade the oriental peoples to obey the conditions. Some modus vivendi must be arrived at. Is it going to be war? Apparently it is, unless we devise means of settling without war.
As you all know, we, at least those who are interested in international affairs and are serious-minded, are all giving some attention to this great problem of war and disarmament. We have set up the League of Nations, but I need not tell you that the League of Nations is not set up to abolish war as such. There are a great many people who believe that that is the object of the League of Nations--to settle international disputes as they arise. Well, that is part of it, but the great principle that underlies the League of Nations is not the abolition of war as such, but it is international co-operation. (Hear, hear, and applause.)
Now, line up all those principles that I have laid down--the principle of nationality, the principles of foreign policy, the principle of the balance of power, and the Monroe Doctrine, and sea-power, and the mystery of the Pacific, and all the other fundamentals. Study them as Canadians, and as citizens of the world. Canada has already done something to contribute to the stock of political ideas. Canada has possibly developed a principle that may be the principle that will finally unify the League of Nations; because, after all, what is the British Empire? Not unitary states--states that are centralized like Prance, or federal states like the United States. It is what we call the Dominion type of government, first set out to the world in Canada. The Dominion type of government simply shows how a people can have complete autonomy and yet remain within the all-inclusive interest. It is a synthesis of different ideas that normally were thought to be in conflict. but we have reconciled them, in a high sense, in Confederation. It was worked out here successfully and imitated in Australia and South Africa and the Irish Free State. The British Empire may be defined as a League of Nations; and what has worked well in our Empire may work in the greater League of Nations of the world. It is the realization of autonomy with general interest, and that is Canada's most characteristic contribution to political development up to the present moment. (Applause.)
Hon. N. W. Rowell, on behalf of the Club, voiced appreciation to the speaker for his address.