PRESIDENT MITCHELL: We have with us today Professor Fay, lately from Cambridge and now of the University of Toronto. (Applause) The subject on which he is to speak is one that will interest all those who are in earnest about the welfare of the Empire; and amongst the various links of Empire which we have had described to us during the last twelve months, the link of Education is not the weakest. Professor Fay is going to tell us how best these links can be forged and strengthened through the medium of education. I have much pleasure in calling on Professor Fay.
PROFESSOR C. R. FAY
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,-Everybody will agree that sentiment is a very important thing in Imperial affairs, but I also invite you- to consider this point-that sentiment unaided by knowledge is not able to effect everything. I sometimes think the tendency today is to over-estimate the place of sentiment, and to trust to mere feeling to solve the problems that can only be solved by the application of the best brains we have in all parts of the Empire. Therefore, while I do not for a moment suggest that sentiment is not a mighty force, I want to try and show you that there is something more than that in the field of activities, which is indeed very closely connected with sentiment, and that is the field of education.
Everyone of us here bears in him or on him the marks of the experience that he went through in the last few years, in particular the period of the war. One saw it from one angle, one from another. The angles from which I saw it were twofold-the training of the troops in France, and the organization of contact between the different arms in France-the two angles of training and liaison. I confess that when I went from college to France to do the work of a machine gunner in the line, an old-fashioned spectacled don as I was in those days, I never expected that the war would take such a form that I should end up as a teacher, and that is how I did end up-a teacher of machine gun tactics.
Then it began to dawn on me that this thing called war, instead of being a blind unorganized thing, into which you put sentiment and little else, was a most carefully and elaborately thought-out thing, prepared for by month after month of the most careful training, each new arm, each new mechanical device requiring a school to get it generalized throughout the army and each new manoeuvre requiring elaborate rehearsal In our battles we put our education to the test-six months' training of a splendid new division, followed by half an hour or an hour of fighting, and then they were gone. Now, coming back home from that experience. I kept pondering over this thought: If all this organization and education were necessary, and worked so well when the object was war, cannot we switch these efforts into the service of peace? (Applause) Cannot we adopt the same kind of determined purpose in order to secure social results? This inevitably involves schools and education. Schools and education were written all over the work done in France. Is there not a similar place for them in the purposes of peace?
A second thought I came home with was this: I had read about Canada; in 1909 I had made a hurried visit to Canada; I was one of those who took a month on a trip out west in which you spend most of the days in a railway train, where you are shown all the wonders and all the newest things and all the largest things, and go away overwhelmed and exhausted and understanding nothing. I said to myself, How different it was in France! I had the big honour of working there in close contact with the Canadian corps. It so happened that it was my task to collect the reports of the various machine gun units up and down the front-French experience, the experience of the Imperial divisions, the experience of the Canadian machine gunners (for the machine gun was my special department) and I found out that each of the different allies was contributing particular solutions towards the great problem of how best to handle machine guns.
One of the ways in which it was most effectively employed, namely for overhead barrage fire, was, as you may know, pioneered by the Canadian machine gunners. (Applause) There was a regular service of liaison, interchange of documents and interchange of people, and interchange of teachers. Infantry and artillery officers used to come down and teach at our G. H. Q. machine gun school, and we went to their schools, and thus there was an interweaving of experience. The thing we fought was the thing we had learned from each other, putting together all that was best of every man's bit of experience, combining it for one purpose--which in our case was, the right use of the machine gun in support of the attacking infantry.
Now, that was no mere experiment. We went on month after month, and I might almost say year after year, until in the end we had extracted certain fundamental principles of co-operative action which were absolutely true. It has been well said that the principles of war are few, but their application to different conditions requires the highest exercise of ingenuity.
Now, what is my moral for our purpose today? It is this. I have been always a very keen student of the Empire, and I have witnessed this inevitable evolution taking place that as the different self-governing dominions attain to full nationhood, many of the old bonds of Empire must change their form. We know quite well, as we read our history, that there was a time when the political government of this country was mainly directed from Downing Street, by officials sent out from England. We also know that the main military establishment of Canada was similarly controlled by the Imperial authorities. We also know that the fiscal policy of Canada was dictated from England. But all through the nineteenth century, as a result of co-operative action between the Dominion and the mother country, there has been a gradual handing over of functions, which has now attained to its full dimensions in the sense that both in war and peace Canada is as fully as England (as I understand it) a complete nation.
But this development that has taken place has inevitably reacted on Imperial relations; and there was a school of people before the war who argued like this: "The tie of Empire is fading away into nothing; cannot we hold it down at a certain point and introduce, let us say, some close scheme of political unification or political federation?" I am not here to discuss the pros and cons of that argument, but what I do want to say is that we have to be extraordinarily careful before committing ourselves to a solution which would insult the sense of nationhood which undoubtedly is felt in all the self-governing dominions. We have to give scope for the two feelings of Empire and nationality side by side.
Here I think the experience of the war has been profitable. At first it was thought that to have a Canadian war office in London and a separate Canadian unit in France was subversive of unity; but I am safe in saying that nothing helped the Imperial forces more than the fact that there were those distinctive units from the Dominion working within the larger unit falling in with the common plan, but making their own peculiar contribution to it. It was very obvious in many cases that the Canadians, through their independent position, either got power or took power to do things which were viewed with hesitation by the Imperial authorities. (Applause) I remember an incident in connection with the employment of the machine gun barrage at a time when it was a novelty. G. H. Q. objected, urging first of all, that it would disconcert the infantry, and secondly, that it was unsafe, because the first bullet from each belt went low. The Canadian authorities replied that neither of these objections were felt in the Canadian corps. The infantry expressed their delight at the plan; and as to. the technical difficulty about the first bullet going low, that was overcome in the Canadian corps by removing the first bullet from each belt. (Laughter)
And now, I come to the application. I believe that even if there is no central political authority, nevertheless we can maintain the unity of the Empire in a real sense provided that we have a constant interchange of ideas and of men to mold our general development to a common purpose. (Applause)
Now, Gentlemen, that is why I am in Canada. I believe that I can best help the cause you have at heart by going back and letting my country know what the real Canada is. That is my purpose. And even as I come here from Cambridge, so I hope the day will come when each big university in the self-governing dominions will send its students to do research work in Oxford and Cambridge, and when the professors also will interchange, so that we may achieve real unity of purpose, working in sympathy to a common goal. I believe that is adding to sentiment something which is sensible; in other words that it is common sense.
Let me develop this point. Suppose we try to envisage a future in which large numbers of English people come over to Canada. Now, we do not want a state of affairs to grow up in which the only use that Canada has for the old country is an annual draft of farm labourers and domestic servants. If that is the only point of contact, the Empire goes in ten years. But of course what is perfectly true is that there are certain fields of employment in Canada into which it is desirable more people should enter. The land is an asset that Canada has to offer in unlimited abundance; and I venture to say that the schools and the training authorities ought to take their part in securing that what you get from the old country are not the unemployable;, because those are the people who sign up as farm labourers as you will find out when you go to the old country; (laughter) and if you do not understand that you will reject the best potential farmers, who do not register as such. The young fellows, the boy scouts of 17 or 18, do not write themselves down as farm labourers and these are the type of settlers which you should aim at securing.
My next point is, that in the improved relations that are coming to exist between the universities and the world of business, the business men are taking a share in the training of the young man who comes to them from the university. The university takes him a certain way, gives him a general training, the power of thought, the power of logical reasoning, but does not specialize him prematurely. The business man comes in at this point and puts him through his industrial apprenticeship, specializing him to his own purpose. We are thus getting an improved liaison between the university and the world of business; we have a proper channel of communication; but the university cannot do everything; the business man must help in the work himself.
Now, to apply this to our original problem, the relation between the old country and the new; I think, similarly, we shall in the future have to regard a person coming out to this country as a person that the old country has carried a certain way in training; and the healthiest relation will be one in which he is able to go to some training place and be trained for work on the land. Then you will get your class of boy scouts on top. It is absurd to suppose that you will be able to get fully trained men and nothing else. You will never get that sort only, and if you make the attempt, what you will get will be industrial refuse; they will be your unemployables in years to come.
You must then expect to take a share in the training of the young people who come out; and you must assume responsibility for their placement and supervision in their early days out here.
If that aspect of common responsibility by the old country and the new for their young citizens, alike British, whether in England or Canada, be worked out, I believe you will have a much finer future, and I believe you will avoid the disaster,-as I think it would be-of regarding the old country as a place from which there comes an annual draft of domestic servants and farm labourers. (Applause)
What I am suggesting is but a very little contribution to a big problem. It is not a great scheme of imperial unification; it is no great ready-made solution, but I think that more and more we are coming to feel that the course of trade depends on understanding by one country, of the commercial wants of the other; and though I, for one, am a believer in imperial preference, I think it is not enough to have that if you do not understand the wants of the other country, because then surely you must lose the trade. This idea of mutual understanding, beginning at the schools, ought to permeate right through the different classes of the business world-your merchants, your consular service, and so on-and I think you will find that by the increase of common knowledge you will have got a wonderful fertilizing source of further trade. It is no great scheme, I believe, which will create the real bonds of the future; but it is by this steady work of mutual understanding, piece by piece, through all levels of society, that we shall really in the end get further. And I do not believe that this is a cause of despair. People have said to me, "If you don't have a federation, then the Empire has gone." I refuse to accept that conclusion. You might just as well have argued that because the Canadian corps was practically independent in France, therefore it would have to drive a bargain with the Imperial authorities in order to get its due. There was no such thing; there was co-operation at once and throughout. Therefore let us get to work in our new imperial environment. Let us not think that we are trying to hinder and cramp the sense of nationality; if we did that, it would be hopeless. Nationality is the expression of a nation's life, and without it Canada would be hopeless. Nationality is the expression of a nation's life, and without it Canada would not be what it is today. We have come into new relations in a different way, and I, as a teacher, believe there is a sad amount of superficial knowledge that passes as real knowledge--the information of tourists staying for a few weeks. Let us replace that by the effort to live long enough in the new country to look at it from the new country's angle, and then we can go back with that knowledge and that knowledge will be of imperial service. We want to see our imperial problems through Canadian spectacles, through South African spectacles, through Australian spectacles and so on. That is the way in which our whole policy is to be built up. For the British Empire of the future must be the British Commonwealth of self-governing nations.
So, just as I believe we teachers or business men froth England can do something-I put it to you, cannot you help, too? Cannot you use your influence that there shall be a system of your students and teachers coming to the old country? Cannot you in business, while in England, look at what the universities there are doing, and examine the problems they are trying to tackle. We must not be content with a one-way traffic-the old country constantly out; we must have a return traffic. Just as the Canadians in France gave as much to us as we gave to them, so we must look to any industrial future in which we have as much need of you as you of us. Only when there is that return traffic can there be a real traffic, a real imperial policy. There is one man's idea, and I thank you for this opportunity of expressing it, and for your attention. (Loud applause)
PRESIDENT MITCHELL asked Mr. Hewitt, Ex-President, to express the thanks of the meeting.