THE PHILOSOPHY OF CANADA'S POSITION IN THE BRITISH EMPIRE
AN ADDRESS BY REVEREND FRANK S. MORLEY, B.A., B.D., PI-I.D. (Edin.)
Thursday, 15th October, 1936
THE PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, I again take the opportunity of welcoming to the membership of the Empire Club of Canada a number who have joined since our last meeting. The support of the members who get the new members to join the Club now and the support of those joining is gratifying and encouraging to us and I consider it tangible evidence of the approval of the policy adopted, that is to further the interests of Canada in a united British Empire.
Our guest-speaker today, Dr. Frank S. Morley, will address us on "Canada's Position in the British Empire." No subject, I think, could be more timely. For some reasons which may be difficult to explain, Canada's status today has been challenged as never before. Dr. Morley is a brilliant student of constitutional history and is well qualified to give us a lucid analysis of the situation of Canada in world affairs today and what may in the future be Canada's position, in the British Empire, in the League of Nations, and in all this world. Dr. Morley
DR. FRANK S. MORLEY: Mr. President, Members of the Empire Club of Canada, and Guests: I wish to speak to you on the Philosophy of Canada's Position in the Empire and in the League of Nations. Nations are not sup posed to have a philosophy, or at any rate, not a very savoury one. It has frequently been suggested that while individuals might be kind and generous, nations should have no gentler emotions. Professor MacDougall, in "The Group Mind," has suggested that the personality of the Group is quite different from the personality of the individual, sand we recall Reinhold Niebuhr's more recent book, "Moral Man in Immoral Society." It reminds us of the saying of the Scots Minister to his congregation that "The almighty is obliged to do many things in his offeecial capacity which he would scor-rn to do as a private individual." We should qualify this generalization, distinguishing the ethics of the individual and the nation, considerably, for by and large the State is the individual writ large. People get the kind of government they deserve.
Now, in order to understand the philosophy of Canada's position in the Empire and the League, it is necessary to know something of Canada's development within the Empire. The history of that development has been the history of the expansive ideal of Responsible Government. I do not need to trace the evolution by which Responsible Government came from the ill-fated Canada Act of 1791, but it is good to recall Baldwin's letter to Lord Glenelg, written July 13th, 1836. In this letter he stated that there were two ways in which Canada could be governed: "By force or with the consent of the people of Upper Canada themselves." He held that "The Constitution of every colony ought, as nearly as possible, to correspond with that of the Mother Country." He wished to put the Executive on the same footing of a local Provincial Cabinet, holding, as he said, the same relative position with reference to responsibility to the King, in the Provincial Parliament, as that on which the King's Imperial Cabinet stands with respect to the King in the Parliament of the Empire. In other words, the Government of Upper Canada was to hold the same relation to the King as the Government of Great Britain held to the King.
Joseph Howe, in his famous letter to Lord Russell, reiterated these ideas. "I wish to live and die a British subject," he said, "but not a Briton only in the name. Give me give to my country the blessed privilege of her Constitution and her laws."
Lord Durham in his great Report similarly advocated this evolution. He said, "It needs no change in the principles of government, no 'intervention of a new constitutional theory, to supply the remedy which would completely remove the existing political disorders."
Arid so came Responsible Government, is Canadian achievement, which forms the corner stone of the Imperial System. Laurier, with his aptitude to put things plainly and bluntly, defined the principle of the Commonwealth thus: "The basis of the Union that now binds the British Empire remains," he said, "a proper and always permanent recognition of the principle that every community knows what is best for itself."
Now, normally, one would think that the achievement of this union of the Canadas and Responsible Government would bring perpetual happiness, but it was a Scotsman, and, therefore, presumably a wise man, who said he preferred a funeral to a wedding because "ye always ken the worst." No sooner was Responsible Government attained than fresh troubles arose. Lord Durham recommended certain reservations of Imperial control. They were the following: "The constitution: of the form of government, the regulation of foreign relations, and of trade with the Mother Country, the other British Colonies arid foreign nations, and the disposal of the public lands, are the only points on which the Mother Country requires control."
The development of Responsible Government has seen this control gradually slipping away. In 1859 Gait asserted Canada's right to place a tariff on goods corning from the Mother Country. A great pessimism as to the future of the Empire, the connection of the Colonies to Great Britain, resulted. We had many a cry of "Cut the Painter." The great Disraeli exclaimed, 'These wretched colonies are a millstone around our necks."
It was in no little measure due to this fear of the painter being cut that Confederation came into being. As Dr. Kennedy says, "Confederation was born in an atmosphere of mid-Victorian gloom." But, certainly Confederation was more than this merely negative desire for self-preservation. MacDonald well expressed the growing Canadian nationalism when he said, "We are standing on the very threshold of nations and when admitted we shall occupy no unimportant position among the nations of the world."
Ever since Blake's burning phrase of his Aurora speech, where he saw in Canada. "Four millions of Britons who are not free," down through MacDonald, Laurier, Borden, Meighen, and Bennett and King, there has been a constant application of a National Policy. As Dr. Wallace puts it, "The history of Canada since Confederation has been the history of the rivalry of the two great political parties for the favour of the growing national feeling of the Canadian people." Professor Brady, in his book, "Canada," makes a similar suggestion.
After 1870, with the great growth of the great nations, trade rivalries and increased armaments, there was a revival of the Imperial spirit. The Boer War astonished Britain with the hostility of Europe and also with the weakness of her own military position. The Colonial Conferences, on the other hand, had grown into the great Imperial Conferences and gave promise of an economic, military and political union, but all Chamberlain's efforts for Imperial consolidation broke on the rock of Laurier's nationalism. During the war there was a revival of the Imperial Federation ideal. Sir Robert Borden warned the Federationists that there would be an exactly opposite result in the growth of Domidion nationalism. He said that the Great War would not result in an Imperial Cabinet with close Imperial consolidation; rather there would be a marked development of Canadian nationalism. And he was right. His prophecy turned out to be most accurate. The Dominions demanded that they sign the Peace Treaties individually and Sir George Foster contended, with regard to the League, "We consider that we have equal rights to representation on the Council and otherwise with everyone of, the 56 members of the League of Nations, and we do not propose to waive that right." Canada, in the League, then, took a full position in no way abridged, and her activities have shown the utmost independence.
Canada's power of treaty-making culminated in the Halibut Treaty, of 1923. For some time Canada had been negotiating her trade treaties, but on this occasion Mr. Lapointe signed the Treaty alone as the King's sole plenipotentiary.
In the "Chanak" incident of September, 1922, Lloyd George sent out his ill-fated wire as to, the action oaf the Dominions and the possibility of a war with Turkey. Canada replied that her Parliament must decide what action was to be taken. Now, notice this, because the same thing arises with regard to the possibility of war at the present time. The Canadian Government said that her Parliament must decide what action was to be taken and that has been the consistent attitude of the Canadian Government, whatever government may have been in power, that the Canadian Government alone must decide. The Canadian Parliament must decide what action was to be taken in the event of war.
This, of course, brought up the historic argument which resulted in a distinction between active and passive belligerency. The distinction cannot be quite absolute. When I was at school I guess f was always in a state of passive belligerency with my teachers and only occasionally did the belligerency become active. The distinction cannot be absolute, but it does mean that the Canadian Parliament would decide just what part Canada would take in a war, although the fact that the King is at war means certainly that all his subjects are at war.
In 1922, the Lausanne Treaty was .an occasion for further misunderstanding between the British and Canadian Governments and for once Mr. Thomas and Mr. MacDonald and the London Times were at one. The Canadian Government, not having been invited to send a representative to the Lausanne Conference and not having participated in the proceedings of the Conference and not being, far this reason, a signatory to the Treaty on behalf of Canada, did not feel in a position; to recommend to Parliament approval of the Peace Treaty with Turkey or the Convention thereto. "Was Canada still .at war with Turkey then?" asked the Tinges. "We never stated," said the Canadian Prime Minister, "that the Lausanne Treaty would not bind the whole Empire. We have never questioned the fact that when the Treaty was signed it would bind us." But his contention was that before Canada could be committed to active obligations she must be consulted at every stage of treaty-making--issue of full powers, negotiations, signature and ratification.
A similar confusion arose with regard to Locarno. It is significant here that Britain only guaranteed the inviolability of Germany's western frontiers. That was the point that concerned her, not the eastern frontiers. The policy that worked itself out was that Canada told Great Britain. "You attend to what concerns you; we will attend to that which concerns us, and, in times of difficulty, if we decide your cause is just we will stand together."
In the recognition of the Soviet Republic, Canada demanded that her government give separate recognition. In all this, the attitude of the Canadian government was perfectly consistent and intelligible to one who understood the philosophy by which Canada has acted ever since the time of Confederation.
However much many other British statesmen might misunderstand this philosophy, Lord Balfour at any rate grasped the principle of Dominion Nationalism at the Dominion Conference of 1926. He brought in this Report which should be memorized by every school boy
"No account, however accurate of the negative relations in which Great Britain and the Dominions stand to each other can do more than express a portion of the truth. The British Empire is not founded upon negations. It depends essentially, if not formally, on positive ideals. Free institutions are its lifeblood. Free co-operation is its instrument. Peace, security, and progress are among its objects. And though every Dominion is now, and must remain, the sole judge of the nature and extent of its cooperation, no common cause will, in our opinion, be thereby imperilled. The British Empire is held together far more effectually by the broad loyalties, by the common feeling and interests--in many cases oaf its history--and by devotion to great world ideals of peace and freedom. A common interest in loyalty, in freedom, in ideals--that is the bond of Empire. If that is not enough, nothing else is enough."
He must have been reading Burke's great historic words: "My hold of the colonies is in the close affection which grows from common names, from kindred blood, 'from similar privileges, and equal protection. These are ties which, though light as air, are as strong as links of iron. All this, I know well enough, will sound wild and chimerical to those vulgar and mechanical politicians who think nothing exists but what is gross and material. But to men truly initiated and rightly taught these ruling and master principles, which, in the opinion of such men as I have mentioned, have no substantial existence, are in truth everything, and all in all."
So we have achieved freedom of government. If there are any reservations such as that of amending our Constitution, they will shortly pass away and we are an independent nation in every sense of the word. But, Gentlemen, we are unfit for freedom unless we are prepared to accept responsibility. If the child has become an adult, then the adult must assume a responsible place in society. When we have broken the shackles of control, we must knit the strands of co-operation. Independence doesn't mean isolation. It is because of failure to attain this nice balance of freedom and responsibility that so many nations have reverted to tyranny.
The British Empire stands for freedom, freedom for the individual, and for the nation. A German statesman is quoted as saying, "We spit on freedom." How impossible this phrase would be to British people! To take away freedom of speech, of the press, and of government, and to introduce a system of espionage, to regiment a free people into military dummies, would be to stifle civilization and roll back history's pages a thousand years. If freedom were banished from the earth, it would still find a home in every truly British heart.
Yet this freedom, with the nation -as with the individual, demands discipline, intelligence, and a sense of social responsibility. We live far too much under the shadow of the Monroe Doctrine and seek to avoid the evils of the world by isolation. Our present depression should rid us of that fallacy--salvation by isolation is impossible today. Carlyle said a good many years ago that an Indian beating his squaw on the banks of Lake Superior, affected world trade by raising the price of beaver. That unity is much more evident today when we can cross the ocean in a few hours; when, as Dr. Grenfell told us, the Ethiopian War had cut off the market for the fish of Labrador and had brought about consequent suffering among the fishermen of Labrador. We are linked culturally by radio, and by cable, and the economic health of one nation obviously depends on the health of every other nation. My criticism of Father Coughlin lies in that, that he seems to think the United States today can live like the medieval saint who sat on top of a pillar and refused to be dislodged. That is not our ideal of sainthood. To the very contrary, we remember the story of the Good Samaritan; a man lay wounded by robbers while two sanctimonious fellows passed by, carefully keeping their skirts clear of the blood, and our ideal of sainthood, is in the man who came and helped him who had been robbed and wounded. Isolation is deplorable from every point of View, ruinous economically, politically, socially, and morally.
At this time the clouds are gathering and sinister forces are platting. Downs in the misty depths of human hatred there lurks the 'insanity of another war. Like turns to like; each nation seeks its own camp. The British civilization must stand or fall as a unity. Our destinies are joined. In the coming Armageddon we must fight shoulder to shoulder or die alone. If we seek to play a coward's part, we shall lose our lives trying to save them. The United States should be with us in this great effort to save for the world an idea of international democracy, in preserving the traditions of culture and freedom which may perish from; the earth. For let them not think that if Great Britain perish they will escape; there have been too many dark shadows in recent years to justify any such optimism. "Woe to him that is alone when he falleth for there is none to help him."
The forces of separation have gone far enough. We must now put into effect the -mechanism of co-operation. In the immediately future history of the world, which is going to be most critical in the history of our civilization, Canadians must not play any sluggard's or coward's part. We must play a full part and assume full responsibility. Let us decide as a free Commonwealth of Nations our responsibilities in the world and let us prepare to meet them. We want an association of nations which all nations will respect, which wicked nations will fear and good nations will love. That is our ideal in the British Commonwealth of Nations.
It has always made me very proud to consider that I have a share in British ideals, British history, and culture. I remember going for my holidays to Windermere in England and climbing to a high place to look down on the brown and. the green of the fields and the silver of the lake and the little gray stone fences winding across the hillsides and standing in the place where Wordsworth conceived his poem on "The Daffodils," and where De Quincey wrote his essay on "The Opium Eater." All these spats, historic spots, were mine, part of me. Or, in the Edinburgh Castle and in the' Scottish War Memorial where the granite of the hill comes up through that building as if to commemorate as long as the hill endures, the soldiers who died in the war. This, too, is mine, it belongs to me, it is a part of my very bones and of my lifeblood. Some one has said, "The crimson threads of kinship bind us all." The whole Empire is a part of me.
At the time of the election of the National Government when the pound was slipping and when prominent economists thought it would go to four shillings, when Europe gloated over the collapse of the great financial giant, when everything seemed hopeless, I remember how a man with a Scottish burr in his voice rallied the shattered forces and restored the morale of the people, roused them to fighting pitch and led his government into a tremendous triumph; and how Snowden whose patriotism had often been doubted--I remember almost feeling kindred tears with him when he sat down saying, "I have balanced my budget." He had just quoted those historic lines,
"Shakespeare's voice and Nelson's hand,
Milton's faith and Wordsworth's trust,
In this our chosen and chainless land;
Come the world against her,
England yet shall stand."
We all thrilled with him. And I remember Baldwin, whom I consider one of the most heroic figures of that time, in that crisis. I remember how he prophesied that that government would come to a certain place. Surely, if they pursued certain policies they would come to this crisis and to that crisis they came. His prophecy was fulfilled and yet he was a big enough man to, step down and let another man take the leading position as Prime Minister of that Government, in order that the country might be united. The finest traditions of British statesmanship were upheld in that unselfish act.
Of all these things I am proud. They are, as I said, a part of me. But I am most proud of being a citizen of that group of nations who, are saving for the world today the ideal of international democracy wherein nations, themselves free, can freely associate to bring about the highest ideals of peace and justice. The Commonwealth of Nations is a microcosm of the League of Nations.
Dr. Frank Russell, in a recent book, "Theories of International Relationships" suggests that we should develop a dynamic international political system, capable not only of maintaining the status quo, against a violent change, but of modifying or effecting adjustments as justice and goodwill may demand. Has not the British Empire developed that political system? Have the members not shown to us that system with a dynamic, a free self-government, and a free association and co-operation Have they not already revealed to the world an ideal and a method which we can put into effect in the League of Nations?
I am particularly proud that Canada has been the pioneer in this magnificent achievement. It is in no little measure due to Canada that the Empire has come to appreciate Burke's philosophy that nations may co-operate in a spirit of goodwill, retain their culture and religion, and act in perfect liberty. The dynamic of the future must be the faith that the greatest unifying force comes with the simple confidence that dwells among free born men. Not by military leagues is the world going to, be saved. We do not want to create a condition in which there will be a fair fight. We want to create the attitude oaf mind where nations won't want to fight in .any case.
An iron-clad imperium over the British Empire is forever gone, dislike it as we may. It has passed into the limbo of outgrown things, as all institutions do serve their turn and then pass away. They five a life of pragmatic sanction. All programs and platforms die; it is a habit they have. The inspiration alone endures: And the British Empire has given the inspiration for peace, justice, liberty and equality which can never die, but which will live as the 'life-blood of a loftier conception.
Masefield has some haunting lines in "Men of Bedfjord:"
Who! died, uncouthly, most, in foreign lands,
For some ideal, but dimly understood,
Of an English city never built by hands,
Which love o f England prospered and made good.
And what part has Canada played in the attainment of this truth? I turn back the pages of Canadian history and have no envy for the man, whose eyes do not grow misty. I see Baldwin, worn with a long hard fight, standing before Elgin, asking if he, too, believes Russell's prediction of separation. I see Metcalfe, with cancer blinding him, fighting far the Empire he loved so well. Bagot, the well-loved of French Canada, lightly laying wagers that he would not live to see again his native land. We hear the stinging words of Howe, the lofty eloquence of Laurier. They are a gallant company. Their memory comes like some fine old cordial to set the blood racing and dancing in our veins. We, too, must face our problems with the same high courage, the same high faith. Whenever the clouds darken and the mists thicken we shall steal away to memories of their devotion and feel our hearts grow brave and strong again. We cannot do otherwise than play the man, not we, who come of such a breed. Thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Dr. Morley, in thanking you for this address today I should like to say I am quite sure all within the reach of your voice have had a comprehensive outline of our history, something which is essential in order that we may consider present day conditions.
It is most appropriate that we have the honour of having Professor Wrong, for many years Professor of History in the University of Toronto, on your right, gracing our head-table. I' seem to remember, in years past, Professor Wrong saying something to the effect that one couldn't understand anything without a knowledge of history. I can safely say that the understanding of all who have heard you today will be greatly increased as far as Canada's position in the British Empire and in the League of Nations is concerned, at least.
In thanking you for giving us this address, I don't think I can do better than quote again what you said in your speech, "If freedom were banished from the earth it would fold a place in every British heart." Britons never shall be slaves! Thank you. (Applause.)