- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 28 Feb 1924, p. 97-108
- Whidden, Howard P., Speaker
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- Item Type
- The relations of the English-speaking nations as one of the most vital in things in the world's life at the present time. What the Empire stands for. Countries we think of when speaking of the English-speaking nations, and those we leave out. Narrowing down to talk about the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. A consideration of the United States as an English-speaking Nation. Developing stronger relations between Canada and the United States. A quotation from H.H. Powers from 1916, entitled "The Things Men Fight For." Another quote from Prof. Giddings of Columbia, from just after the U.S. came into the war. How Prof. Giddings' statement holds true today, after the war. The speaker's conviction that we need to recognize the important part both English-speaking nations of the North American Continent are to continue to play. Canada's position, different from any other member of the British Empire. Drawing nearer the Motherland by reason of the progress of science and invention. Canada's relationship to the U.S. Canada's difficulty in developing a clear and clean-cut type of nationhood for herself. A response to the question "Are we Americanized?" A word with regard to Canadian development. A quotation from Lord Dufferin. Canada nearer the heart of the Motherland today. A plea to the audience that we Canadians shall recognize our very evident opportunity and come to know the Americans as no other English-speaking people in the world know them. Interpreting to the United States this or that phase of Empire activity of thinking, this or that phase of a misunderstood situation in the United Kingdom. Canadians as true interpreters of British policy and ideas to our cousins.
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- 28 Feb 1924
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CANADA'S PLACE AMONG THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING NATIONS
AN ADDRESS BY HOWARD P. WHIDDEN, B.A., LL.D., D.D., CHANCELLOR OF MCMASTER UNIVERSITY.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
Thursday, February 28, 1924.
Chancellor Whidden was received with loud applause, and expressed his great appreciation of the kind words of introduction, and said he would be very happy if he felt as sure of the results of the selection of today's Speaker as he was of the kind of service this Club had rendered to the growing life of our country. He also appreciated the privilege and honour of being asked as a fellow-citizen to speak on a subject, which he trusted might prove mutually interesting and beneficial. In standing before the Club he felt a good deal as Artist No. 1 felt when, after greeting Artist No. 2, he told his friend, "I never felt better; I have just got a commission from a millionaire; he wants his children's portraits painted very badly indeed"; to which Artists No. 2 responded, "You are just the man to do it; I recommend you heartily." (Laughter)
The relations of the English-speaking nations is one of the most vital things in the world's life at the present time. The set we give to the thinking,
Chancellor Whidden is a Nova Scotian, a graduate in Arts of Acadia University, and in Theology of McMaster University with study at Chicago University. He was pastor of a church in Dayton, Ohio, for nine years; president Brandon College, Manitoba, 1912-23, and inducted as Chancellor of McMaster in 1923. During his presidency of Brandon College he represented Brandon Constituency in the Dominion Parliament, 1917-21.
and the acting, the co-operative acting in particular, of the English-speaking nations in the next few years, is going to affect very materially the progress of civilization and the destiny of the non-Anglo-Saxon races. (Hear, hear)
I do not think we who believe in the Empire Club and what is much more important still, who believe in the Empire--desire to think or speak in terms merely of flag-waiving and barn-storming, in these serious and epoch-making times. We feel a good deal more like Milner did when he spoke to an audience in Montreal a number of years ago--it is given in the introduction to his book, "The Nation and the Empire." He said, "I am intensely conscious of all that the Empire stands for in the world, of all that it means in the great march of human progress; I am so anxious to give the fullest and yet unexaggerated expression of my sense of the high privilege of British citizenship, that there is nothing so odious as cant; and this is a subject on which it is particularly easy to seem to be canting. Not that I am afraid to be falling into a strain of boastfulness--that the last thing that the thought of Empire inspires in me is to boast-but to show how real Britain is, when I think of it I am much more inclined to go into a corner by myself and pray." Perhaps some of us did not know Lord Milner felt that way about it; but coming from a man of his temperament and his experience, as expressive of the serious aspects of this whole business of Empire relationship and Empire development, of Empire influence and Empire service to the great wide world, I think it puts into simple earnest sentences the feeling of all the best men in this city and in this Dominion at the present time. (Applause)
Now, for our purpose we go a little beyond the Empire when we speak of the English-speaking nations. We are thinking of the United Kingdom, of Australia, New Zeland, South Africa, possibly Newfoundland--though, more properly speaking, still a crown colony-and of Ireland, latest-born of the separate members of the Empire. We are thinking, of course, of Canada, and then we add the most populous section of the English-speaking world, the United States of America. You see we leave out India; we leave out the important colonies and dependencies; we leave out the little bits of important critical centres that are owned by the United Kingdom, such as Gibraltar and Malta; and we confine our attention entirely to the group named, and within that group to a much smaller group. We find Newfoundland dropping off, as standing in a place by itself. Then we find that South Africa, Australia and New Zealand are so widely separated both from the Motherland and from the United States and Canada that while we would hold ourselves in readiness to give more sympathetic consideration to the outstanding problems of those important parts of the English-speaking community of nations than we have ever done, I am satisfied that for the purposes of our thinking today we must leave these nations out of our thought, though with utmost concern and regard.
Then I suppose it is always safer for a man who is unfortunate enough not to be part Irish just to leave Ireland where it is, and perhaps think of Ireland largely in the old relationship, as a part of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
That narrows us down, then, to the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. It would be impossible to speak adequately of the United Kingdom, of all that has come to be centered in that little Island, of all that has gone out from that sea-girt Isle, as poets have termed it. I think we shall have to refer to the United Kingdom by referring especially to the United States and Canada in their respective relations. What about the United States as an English-speaking Nation? We remember our histories, and they were written sometimes with a little squint. Being so close to the United States, we have found it hard to forget some things; but I may say this--that notwithstanding things that happened, notwithstanding the failure to co-operate at times, and the parring notes that entered in, yet that following the satisfactory disposition of the Venezeula affair, there came a better understanding between Canada and the United States. We have not appreciated just what influences were brought to bear that strengthened and hastened that development. Some of us know journalists who had a very considerable part to play; and we would not be courteous and mindful if we did not mention, as an outstanding representative of that group, the illustrious father of one of our distinguished guests--a speaker to this Club in 1923-1 refer to the late Ambassador Page, of course. (Hear, hear and applause)
Then the strained relations began again--did it not?--in August, 1914, and it continued until early in 1917. It was not so much that most of us Canadians had any grudge against the American people, but we felt some way or other that their government was not steering things just right, that their kind of neutrality did not altogether coincide with Canadian views of world responsibility. Be that as it may, they finally got started as supporters of the same cause, and things began to go rapidly towards harmonious and mutual understanding-the conception of British men towards American, and of American men towards British men.
Whatever our conception of the late Woodrow Wilson may be, I am sure that what he said as a Professor at Princeton back in 1895 will meet with your approval. Here is one sentence; "The Common British stock did first make the country and has always set the pace." (Applause) Not Canada, but the United States. Just a little later Senator Lodge--who, to speak frankly, bedeviled the whole League of Nations situation so far as the unity and complete agreement of all English-speaking peoples in relation to such a world court is concerned--was nevertheless a good student of history, of patronymics, and all the rest of it; and about twenty-five years ago he found that of 14,243 leading Americans, 12,519 had British names. In 1915, of 387 high officials in State Governments, 326 had British names. These are only straws, but when thrown on the current they show which way it is running. (Applause)
But to give something of more importance--something that it seems to me commits all the really representative and farsighted American leaders to a similar position--I will quote H. H. Powers, who wrote well and wisely before his Government brought their country into the war. Late in 1916, in "The Things Men Fight For," he said:
"Which will win, I do not know; which is best, I will not say; but one thing I do know and will say, yes, I will proclaim it from the housetops,--the British Civilization is ours. In it we live and move and have our being. Outside it we have no future. Let no man deceive us. Let us listen to no specious sophistries about our composite people and our distinctive civilization. We speak one language, we cherish one literature, we recognize one political principal of temperate central rule and local freedom, and these are the language and literature and the ideals of Britain. Our civilization, like our language, is the gift of a single people, and the difference between here and there is hardly greater in civilization than in speech. And this civilization will survive or perish as a unit. If it triumphs in its present struggle, we share in its triumph. If it fails, we shall as certainly see these instincts and these institutions discredited and ultimately discarded."
Now may I tax your patience to read just one more expression--this from Prof. Giddings, of Columbia, just after the United States came into the war. In making a contribution to "International Conciliation" he said:--
"The English-speaking people of the world are together the largest body of human beings among whom nearly a complete intellectual and moral understanding is already achieved. They have reached high attainments in Science and the Arts, in education, in social order, in justice. They are highly organized; they cherish the traditions of their common history. To permit anything to endanger the moral solidarity of this nucleus of a perfected internationalism would be a crime unspeakable."
Now, Mr. President, I believe that statement of Prof. Giddings holds true today, after the war; and the last sentence of it holds true just as much as it did in those critical days of April, 1917; and while cousins always claim the right to have their little differences we must see to it, as thorough-going lovers of our Empire, that we use our influence at all times to promote the solidity of English-speaking nations in the free--and shall I say loosely-related--arrangement, by means of which all that has been suggested by those representative Americans shall be conserved for the sake of Canada and the rest of the British Empire. (Applause)
There is one thing, when we think of the United States, that we simply cannot get away from, and that is the fact that it is the largest single nation in the world speaking the same language that we speak; and as, Professor Dunning said:--"An intimate like-mindedness (which the use of a common language begets) is the indispensible factor in permanent international amity." (Applause) One of the things that convinces me that we need to recognize the important part both English-speaking nations of the North American Continent are to continue to play in relation to this whole matter to which reference has been made, was the reply of Bismarck to a question asked of him. Skaggs in "German Conspiracies in America," page 65, 66, says that Bismarck a few years before his death, on being asked to name the single greatest fact in modern political history replied instantly--so the story goes--"The inherent and permanent fact that North America speaks English." (Applause) Ah, the old iron fellow saw it. He did not understand it. He did not understand the psychology of the situation, but he recognized the fact and knew that all of his plans and his successors' plans in Germany would have to be made in full recognition of that outstanding fact, in view of all its intricate bearings.
Now, what of Canada in relation to this whole business? It is not a new thought, and yet I find a great many intelligent Canadians do not seem to have recognized it adequately yet. Canada stands in a quite different position from any other member of the British Empire. (Hear, hear) We are not near the Motherland, and yet we are drawing nearer by reason of the progress of science and invention. We are not near Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, as has already been indicated, but we are very near the one English-speaking nation which is not within the bounds of the British Empire. I have no patience with the extreme sentiment expressed by an English writer just before the war began, when he said, "Britain is waging a deadly conflict with America for the possession of Canada's soul." (Laughter) Ah, no; no, no, no; Canada owns her own soul (applause), and proposes to give her heart's best affection and her head's best loyalty and her hand's best strength to the Motherland for many long generations to come. (Hear, hear and applause)
But now, here we are. We are not going to talk about that 3,000-mile stretch of undefended borders. We do not need to do that. The fact of it is, however, that it is not altogether a protected border, and we are open to unconscious influences that perhaps need to be called to our attention from time to time. I think the examination of any Canadian's library table will reveal what is going on. You go to the same kind of library table in Australia--that of a manufacturer or a merchant or a professional man--and you will find a different assortment of literature altogether. (Hear, hear) Australia is working out its own educational problems very largely in view of natural relationships with the Mother Country, studying Oriental development and studying European developments, and taking what it cares to select. We are right here on the border. We are not a wealthy people. Especially is that true of our studious young men and young women; so, even in the matter of university training, post-graduate work, and what not, we find that educationally we in Canada most naturally are influenced in a very large way by the educational institutions of the United States of America. I am not going to speak of commerce and economics; you might think that I was on one side or the other in politics, though it would be pretty hard to tell which side some people are on, from the discussion of economics today. (Laughter) Socially there we are. Canada has the greatest difficulty of any member of the British Empire in developing a clear and clean-cut type of nationhood for herself--(hear, hear); but we are doing it, and we propose to do it even better. (Hear, hear)
Are we Americanized? I think not; yet we are more like the Americans than any other English-speaking people in the world. Why do we propose to remain Canadian and to develop what, for want of a better term, we frequently call Canadian spirit? Well, simply because we are here as an entity. We are a Canadian unit, a Canadian people; a Canadian Nation, if you please. We have developed a distinct type of life and a national consciousness of our own. On the south side of our exposure there is all this contact and inter-relationship with the most populous and most wealthy member of the group of English-speaking nations. But then we have an eastward exposure, which means that in building up our nationhood, in talking of the tradition and inheritance that we propose to retain, we do so with glad and grateful recognition that the bonds are tightening all the time between us and the country that sent us hither generations ago. (Applause)
Now, just a word with regard to Canadian development. It would take a long time to go through that. I was interested in picking up not long ago a little remark that Lord Dufferin made in a letter written to Lord Kimberley back in the Dufferin regime. I think it is rather interesting. Now, several keen and, shall I say, pro-British-American writers have been very much interested in recent years in noting what a marked sense of uncertainty pervaded the minds of many people in the Canadas in the early Victorian and midVictorian era, and that a majority of members of both Houses at Westminster, were feverish and perturbed when it looked as if there was likely to be anything in the nature of self-government over here. But this is what Dufferin said, in his characteristic way:
"I have been very much bored and worried, and it is vexatious being dragged into such a dirty quarrel; and I regret coming into collision with any section of my Canadians. But I don't think their ill-humor will last long, and I am not sorry to have an opportunity of showing them that however anxious I am to be gracious and civil I don't care a damn for any one when a matter of duty is involved."
Well, we have gone a long way since then, gentlemen. We have gone a dangerous way; and I insist that we are nearer the heart of the Motherland today than we were then. (Applause) Confederation came in the years that followed, and gradually, unannounced, and almost silent development of spirit and self-consciousness. Then came the Boer War, and the results of our participation in it, and further developments in the piping times of peace; then the Great War, and all that that leg in the journey has meant in the development of real, practical moral self-consciousness of our own Canadian Nation. (Applause)
Before resuming my seat I would like to make this plea: that we Canadians shall recognize our very evident opportunity, since we are here on the North American Continent, since we are next to the United States of America, since there is interplay and interrelationship, and we do come to know them as no other English-speaking people in the world know them. I want to make a plea that in no self-satisfied or Pharisaic way we go about our business, but ever being ready to lend a hand in interpreting to the United States this or that phase of Empire activity or thinking, this or that phase of a misunderstood situation in the United Kingdom, because we have the eastern exposure as well as the southern exposure. We know and love the Empire and the Motherland; we understand and appreciate it-and never more than in recent years has that been true; and our position makes it possible for us to make a magnificent contribution as true interpreters of British policy and ideas to our Canadian cousins.
And it is going to be needed. The very fact that there have been breaks, the very fact that there have been misunderstandings, again, and not infrequently since Armistice Day, shows that we must hold ourselves steady, that we must think calmly and sanely; that, for instance, we will never take quite the extreme position that I heard a rather distinguished elder statesman in the House of Commons take one time when he declared that he would never have five cents worth of trade with a country that would discount the currency of his country by one five cent piece. (Laughter)
After all, has not Kipling hit it off, Gentlemen?
Truly ye come of the Blood! Flesh of the flesh that I bred, bone of the bone that I bare. Start as your sons shall be, stern as your fathers were. So long as the Blood endures I shall know that your good is mine, ye shall feel that my strength is yours In the day of Armageddon, at the last great fight of all That our House stand together, and the pillars do not fall. (Applause)
It is for us, in this new, sparsely settled country with a rich and mighty heritage, with boundless natural resources, with traditions and institutions and ideals to become great within ourselves, great in our relations with the American Republic--the most populous, thus far, of all the English-speaking nations--and great in our relations with the United Kingdom and the other glorious members of the Empire, of which we Canadian men have never been so proud as at the present time. (Loud and continued applause)
REV. DR. SEAGER expressed the thanks of the Club, which he was sure was grateful for the wisdom and the courage of Dr. Whidden's message. (Applause) He was a courageous man who in any Canadian audience, it did not matter of what nature, would stand up and make a plea such as had been made, not for this or that specific thing so much as that we Canadian people have really and honestly to face the facts and try to understand that great people to the South of us. (Hear, hear) That was the essence of the plea made today, however distasteful to many Canadian minds and traditions may be the idea of the United States, he hoped that all would take it to heart. At any rate, here was a duty which as responsible citizens of the world as well as of our own country we should endeavor to discharge. The speaker's message had been not only a courageous one, but a wise one, carefully stated, without exaggeration, with no undue claim upon us, but an appeal to our moral sense of social responsibility. There were three great forces lying behind the possibilities of this nation: The first was that she exists north of the 49th parallel on the North American Continent; the second, that behind her she has the urge and consent and impulse of the British traditions; and the third, her proximity to the United States of America. Those three forces form the underlying determinant elements that are making this people--whether we like it or not--and the Canadian citizen would be wise who recognizes those outstanding certainties. Dr. Whidden has enabled his audience to feel them as perhaps they had not been felt before, and hence the audience would no doubt be glad to have their very grateful thanks expressed. (Loud applause)