A NEW OVERSEAS PROBLEM
AN ADDRESS By DR. HENRY MARSHALL, TORY,
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
November 8, 1917
Mr. PRESIDENT AND GENTLMEN,--The overseas problem which I am to discuss is the question of what we may do in assisting our soldiers overseas through an educational programme. When Major Birks was here in the spring conducting his campaign with Mr. Bishop and the other secretaries of the Y.M.C.A., they told me they were confident that there was a work of education that could be done among the soldiers overseas, if it could only be organized and put upon a proper basis, and they asked me if I would give my summer holidays to a close and intimate study of the question. I consented, and went to England. I went at once to Whitley Camp, where the thing I had come to see was right before me, and the whole problem made an emotional sort of appeal to me, and I had to be constantly on my guard not to be moved by mere impulse or emotional zeal for what might not be real. I had not been long in Witley Camp before
Dr. Henry Marshall Tory is the well-known and distinguished President of the Alberta University, Edmonton. His versatile gifts as Author, Orator, and Educationist eminently fitted him for the call to go overseas at the request of the Dominion Government to lay plans for the rehabilitation and return of men to civil life. After spending months in the camp and billet life of France and England, he developed a programme which was heartily endorsed by the Dominion Government and received by the Educational authorities as the greatest move ever made for the development in civil pursuits of men under arms. The Club was very fortunate in having Dr. Tory make the first public announcement of the completed plans for the Khaki University.
I was convinced that there was an educational work of great importance that could be done provided we could organize the machinery for carrying it on in a definite and concrete way, and in such a way as would bring knowledge that would be attractive to the men. In conversation with them I found certain things about which they were particularly thinking. For example, the men were deeply interested in the history of England, especially of that particular district in which they were living, and they were visiting surrounding villages, seeing English country houses and old churches, and getting knowledge about that particular kind of thing of a more or less historical character. We owe a debt of gratitude to the English people in the country districts surrounding our camps for the way they have opened their homes and kindly treated our soldiers. Lord Middleton opened his house every Saturday afternoon for the men at Witley Camp to let them see the things he has there and take tea with him. Lady Middleton spends one day every week serving at the canteen in one of the huts in Witley Camp, a scheme for which her husband did so much. (Loud Applause.)
After visiting Witley Camp I made a tour of other camps in England, meeting men in little groups, meeting the officers and talking to them, and everywhere it was apparent there was a great opening for educational work, and that it would be effective for two reasons-first, because the men had got over the excitement of the beginnings of the War and were commencing to tire of the routine of the machinery of the war; and the instinct of every Anglo-Saxon to think about things and the work of his country and the ordinary business affairs of life, was reasserting itself, and there was no opportunity to have their thoughts directed in connection with such matters apart from their ordinary discussions. The second reason was that they were tired of the types of entertainment that were being given to them. There was therefore an opportunity to get at the men in a way we never could do at home, because in reality there was no competition. I give you an illustration. I was with 700 men and heard an illustrated lecture on the Tower of London, but if I had not known the Tower of London I do not think I would have understood very much about it, and it was not a thing to which an ordinary crowd would be attracted, yet those 700 men sat for an hour and a quarter on a summer evening before sundown, with a baseball match going on in the field, and not a man left the place till the lecture was through. That was evidence to me of the hunger on the part of the men, at least, of a certain percentage of them, for something of an intellectual character that would take them away from the daily, deadly monotony and routine of the army.
The same impression grew upon me as I travelled from one part of the camp to another. Then I went over to France on a permit for ten days, but I found so many interesting things there, and the authorities of the army were so much interested in what I had to see them about, that I had to stay three weeks. I got as close to the men as I could. I met them in meetings and in little groups, and I had the privilege of meeting the officers at banquets and speaking to them, and of meeting the men on parade and speaking to them, then talking to them in little groups. I was able to get a fair impression of the possibility of interesting the men in intellectual things even when they were behind the lines waiting for the next forward movement. At one meeting attended by about 1,000 men, I launched out on a lecture that I give to freshmen in the University. It was a lecture on our public institutions--what they mean to us, and why we should love them, and the significance and value of education in relation to our public institutions because safety and security is based on the understanding of them. Those men were to go in two days into the battle line, and as a matter of fact they shared in the attack upon the town of Lens. After I had spoken three-quarters of an hour I offered to answer any questions, and for another three-quarters of an hour I did not get a chance to sit down. Those men asked questions about the opportunities for getting an education when they got home, the chances for getting reasonable terms of settlement on lands at home, what the Canadian people were thinking about the War-a series of the most sensible and direct questions ever asked of me; I never had questions of a similar character asked by any body of students. They indicated the anxiety of the men as to what was going to happen to them when they got home.
After leaving France, just to make sure of my judgment, I repeated my experiences in several camps in England; the result was we put our heads together and made a plan divided into two parts-one dealing with the present hour, another with the great demobilization period.
For the present hour we organized in this way. I got together groups of men. In the chaplains' service there are a good many men accustomed to teaching; officers of the army are old teachers; a number of Y.M.C.A. men have been in the teaching profession. We asked them if they would be willing to undertake teaching work in the spare hours of the men, between half past eleven a.m. and half past four p.m., and I found a general willingness to teach, and the same desire on the part of the officers who never knew about teaching work, and I found a keenness on the part of many individuals to co-operate in any work of this kind we might do. This is the sort of scheme we blocked out. I found the men were particularly interested in things of a historical character related to their surroundings, and more especially in relation to war problems. We planned a course of popular lectures based upon certain text books, with lantern slides to be used in presenting them; first, a series with respect to the nations at war, giving a sketch of the racial peculiarities of the people and their popular institutions; then another group relating to the British Empire, its growth, an outline of how we came by each part of it and its relation to the whole. Then we followed with a group of lectures on the campaigns of the War. While the men did not want to talk about the War in the ordinary sense, they were deeply interested in such problems as the campaigns. For example, I heard a lecture on the Mesopotamian campaign given to a body of men in the army in France, and afterwards we heard men saying, "Wasn't that splendid?" "I feel better about the fighting I am doing here, now that I know what is going on in Mesopotamia, and why we are conducting a campaign there." Then we have a group of lectures on Canada, Canadian problems, reconstruction, what our Constitution is like, how it relates men to the whole British Empire, our natural resources, the significance and value of education, a study of Canada as a place of domain, a description of other outlying portions of the world, that are now unsettled, and subjects of that character. Finally, we planned a course of lectures on Agriculture and Science, such as modern methods of Agriculture as compared with ancient methods, the aeroplane, the chemistry of explosives, the submarines, etc. This course of lectures, that will be given in the camps during the winter, with modern slides and cinemas, will probably require seven or eight months to carry through. There is enough material planned to go through the whole of the coming winter. Then we arranged to have group study courses for the men, relating these group studies to the historical subjects mentioned. That was my first suggestion, but I found we hardly got the thing started before we realized that the men were prepared to take up more specific and definite work of a semi-academic character; for instance, there is a class in Greek in Witley Camp I found an individual man who was carrying around a small Hebrew dictionary, which language he had been studying before he left Canada, and he was trying to do something with it. We arranged to bring together remaining groups for guidance in their studies, the first thought being to relate their studies to the subjects we had arranged for public lectures. today there are between 700 and 1,000 men in Witley Camp organized in these classes, and there are 40 men-practically an organized college faculty, giving them instruction every night in the week after the day's work is done. (Applause.) There are five camps in Witley, and for each one of these there will be a library bearing on the studies outlined. We have also arranged that any particular book that is to be had in England, will be loaned to any soldier who wants it. (Applause.) If a lecture is asked for on any other subject, we will arrange for it. Capt. Cole reports that a very large part of his time is taken up in getting books out for the men. We have' undertaken to organize any group of men in any subject desired.
At one of the religious meetings conducted by Capt. Cameron, at which 500 men were present from one camp, I asked him to announce that the men might discuss with me the problem of their future life in Canada. and 200 men stayed behind. I stood before those 200 men and outlined what I had in mind and asked them to think it over and meet me a week later Those 200 men were there the next week, and I found that 60 were anxious for a course in Scientific Agriculture; I found 30 anxious to devote their lives to religious work-these I turned over to Capt. Cameron; I found 30 young fellows who had been associated with business in Canada but had no special training for their work and they were exceedingly anxious to get something that would prepare them for their future work in Canada. Out of those 200 men there were 160 who mentioned specific and definite things that they wanted solved for themselves. The other 40 said they would be glad to do anything that would improve their minds and make life a little more tolerable:
I was anxious to justify my judgment still further, and taking a certain group of men I asked an officer to make a personal investigation of a brigade. We selected one of the brigades of the Fifth Division, and broke that up into a battalion from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, two battalions from Ontario and Montreal, and one from Western Canada. I said, "Take time to interview these men personally; this is not to be a show of hands, but see if they are interested in having such study organized in respect to a particular problem for themselves. You cannot take time to interview 4,000 men, but cable me the results when you find out what the men are thinking about." He interviewed 1,875, and 1,360 expressed a desire to have specific and definite subjects organized for studies during the demobilization period. (Applause.)
If 40% of that is a real, genuine desire, then there is in the army a body of men, as there is today in all our institutions of higher learning in Canada, who are anxious to have some instruction given to them. (Applause.)
With those things before me, I felt justified in making a definite recommendation for work during the demobilization period, of a more definite character than I had dreamed of. I recommended to the Y.M.C.A. Board first, that we undertake to plant an institution of learning in one army camp during the demobilization period; second, that we try to get permission of the army authorities to bring to that camp during that period the men who would undertake intensive study; and third, that we plan to carry on the equivalent of an extension department of a great modern University, reaching out to every camp in England, and giving an opportunity for the vast mass of the men to get the benefit of a more general instruction than that which will be given in the more central and highly organized camp where the more intensive study will go on; and finally, that we plant an Agricultural College there. I am convinced that there are over 40,000 farmers in the Canadian army who would like to get access to the national service courses. They have not yet been classified, but I am confident that we can bring intensive agricultural education into a camp in England during that period of demobilization that will be so difficult to our men from the disciplinary and moral point of view, anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 men. Of the 60 men mentioned who wanted to study Agriculture I found these were the facts-they were all sons of farmers; the majority had left the farm and gone into towns and villages and had been living in commercial or business life. They said they could not go back to that old life and that if they had an opportunity of learning how to farm properly, and if the Government gave them an opportunity to adjust themselves into farm life, they would be glad to go into it. (Applause.) So we intend to plant an Agricultural College, and put into it the equivalent of a year's work of any of our Agricultural Colleges at home. (Hear, hear and applause.)
I found a great many boys who had left home just at the time they would enter college, and who had got away from the idea of college, and were wondering if they could ever get back to where they were before they enlisted. I made up my mind that if we went into this matter with missionary zeal we could save most of those men for intellectual pursuits. (Hear, hear and applause.) So my plan is to organize for the express purpose of bringing these men to such a state of mind during the demobilization period that, when they come home, they will be content to go forward with the very thing that they originally intended. I told the men that we did not for a moment contemplate their taking a lower walk in life than the one they had in view. (Applause.)
Further, I recommended the planting of an equivalent to our modern Business College, and to see that the men got a chance to study the economic laws of business so that they might plant themselves in a better business way than they otherwise would be doing.
Then I recommended that we organize in every camp a great department such as we have in our Universities, to carry out a series of lectures dealing with problems like the British Empire, our own Canadian economic problems, the social betterment of the country, reconstruction and what it means, agriculture, and all that means to us. There is an unlimited possibility of development in the hands of good strong men if we can bring ourselves together as a co-operative force for the purpose of carrying out that work.
I recommended an organization for men who wanted to take up religious studies, and it may be a first-class service for men who are teachers in the chaplains' service to take hold of those men and fit them as religious workers in Canada. I cannot conceive of any greater service that could be done than to bring home from the army a body of men who will be trained, religious leaders, who will bring to bear on the life of this country that religious comradeship that has been a feature of their life there. (Loud applause.)
I recommended that we lay this whole matter before the Universities of Canada, and organize a Board of Management representing the Universities and the Y.M.C.A., and that we make this a great educational scheme, and make the Universities responsible for it in an important sense. Since my return I have talked with a great many University presidents and have received nothing but words of commendation and promises of help. (Applause.) Sir Robert Falconer has committed himself to the very limit of his strength and power and the limit of his organization and of the University in helping this work. (Applause.) That is the position taken by every University and president with whom I have had the privilege of talking. We have agreed on the organization of a Board on which McGill University will be represented by Mr. Wm. Birks and Mr. John Ross; the University of Toronto by Sir Edmund Walker, Col. Leonard and one or two others; Dalhousie by Mr. John Campbell, President of the Board of Governors; and Chief Justice Harvey, who is the President of the Board of Governors of my own University. We are gathering together a group of men who will be helpful to us in putting before the people of Canada the plan for which the Universities of Canada, I think, will be responsible.
As to teaching power, I believe there is nearly enough in the army today to carry on our plan--in the Y.M.C.A. secretaries, in the chaplains' service, among the army officer--seven among the non-commissioned officers and men there are many men who have devoted their lives to teaching. My first work is to organize and classify that material, and then we will select from Canadian Universities men to fill up that organization, and I believe the Universities will give us the men. (Applause.) When I say Universities, I mean the Agricultural Colleges, and a good many men from the schools.
This matter was taken up with the authorities in England, and we had the heartiest co-operation and promises of help from Gen. Turner, who has charge of the army in England, down to the humblest officer I met. Gen. Turner said, "I will place at the disposal of this organization all the machinery that we now have, which we are using in training our officers. The moment we are through with training officers, it may be made part of this great campaign." (Applause.) He further assured me that as far as it was consistent with plans for demobilization, he would allow us to have our work done in the central camp, and carry it out along the lines I have suggested. I hope in the very near future we will have the plan so perfect that we will be able to say, "Here is a machine for the purpose of teaching these men, settling them, bringing them back to their native land in a state of mind very much better than if they were allowed to spend that demobilization period without anything very definite to do." I have laid this matter before the Government of Canada, and have received an endorsation from Sir Robert Borden and the members of his Government, and they have given us the assurance that they will be behind us in every possible way. (Applause.) Consequently I am able to say that the scheme is fairly launched, and the only thing now is to bring together the threads of organization and make it possible to see our way to the end of our plan and decide what particular groups of study should be given.
May I say, in closing, that we have a right to be proud of the men in France. Gen. Haig reviewed the First Brigade after the battle of Lens. It was not the ordinary form of review, where the review officer salutes an officer, leaving the men, and then passes on, talking to his staff officers as the men walk by; but as the men saluted sharply to him as he went by, Gen. Haig went on saluting the men, and loud enough for all his staff to hear he kept saying, "Every man of them is a hero!" He said that a dozen times. (Applause.) That is the understanding, that is the belief, of the leaders of our British army as to this little Canadian Corps in France. (Applause.) And I will say this one other thing: they are looking to you and to me to see that they are supported in the line. (Applause); and if we hesitate an hour in our decisions to do that, we are unworthy of the race from which we sprang, and we are unworthy of the Empire to which we belong. (Loud applause.) I have heard some little grumbling since coming home, about certain things that are happening in England. I have heard of the resolutions that have been passed indicating that we will do our part when certain things happen in England that we want to happen; and I have been saying to myself, "Are there people in Canada who have forgotten that the reason we cannot do in England what they did in Russia at the beginning of the war is because we are not Russia? Are there men who are forgetting that the very things we dislike in England are there because liberty is there? And are we to say we will do our part when the home of liberty, the land from which liberty has sprung-(Applause)meets all our wishes? When we look out on the world today, we find that the whole world has its thought centered upon the England of today; that the public institutions and organizations of the world are being re-patterned on the pattern shown them. We hope we can improve our pattern somewhat; we hope we will give an impetus to the development of those institutions on a higher plane, but it can never be done except on the basis of recognizing the liberty of man. We have the Empire today to which our leaders have given a new significance and there is a new meaning to the moral interpretation of the law's rule, and no man can disregard the judgments we have passed when we entered the War in respect to Belgium. No nation can disregard the judgment of British leaders passed when they entered the War; and I do hope we will keep ourselves, amid differences of opinion, united in hand and heart till we see the finish of the War, and then we will take up the work of progress and establish our liberty on a higher plane. (Loud applause.)