- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 3 Apr 1924, p. 166-173
- Bowles, Rev. R.P., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Talking about a sentiment. The nature of patriotism. Patriotism as a natural instinct. The culture of Canadian Patriotism. The lack of instruction about patriotism when the speaker was in school. Canada's history as a pioneer history. Today, reaping the benefits of those terrible struggles and privations of our fathers. Some personal reminiscences. The inspiration that those early pioneering days ought to be for us. Some writing from that period quoted: "The Backwoodsman" from Mrs. Moodie, and a description of pioneer life from Peter McArthur.
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- 3 Apr 1924
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CULTURING CANADIAN PATRIOTISM
AN ADDRESS BY REV. R. P. BOWLES, M.A., D.D., LL.D., CHANCELLOR VICTORIA UNIVERSITY.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
April 3, 1924.
PRESIDENT BROOKS introduced the speaker, who received a warm welcome.
Mr. President,--I am very grateful to you for your kind words in presenting me to the Empire Club. I am thankful to the members of the Club for the opportunity they have given me of taking a place in the list of very great and worthy speakers who have at different times addressed them. It has been my privilege frequently to listen to them, and I am a little oppressed, and perhaps depressed, when I think of the high standard lived up to in the addresses to which they have had the privilege of listening. Moreover, today, I am to talk about what really is a sentiment, and I am conscious of the fact that I am talking to business men with a pronounced Anglo-Saxon strain and British predilections. I know that such never like either to talk, or to hear anybody else talk, about their sentiments. I know that they are not hard and prosaic-they are rich in emotions, but are not given to talking about them. Over in England now, in the Universities, they debate the value of rhetoric. I have noticed that they have
Chancellor Bowles was born at Mono Road near Brampton, Ontario, and educated at Brampton High School and Victoria University, (B.A., with honours, 1885; M.A., 1888; B.D., 1888). After filling several minor charges he became pastor of Sherbourne Street Church, Toronto, 1896; passing thence to the Metropolitan Church, Toronto; to Grace Church, Winnipeg; and back to Sherbourne Street Church, Toronto, in 1905. In this year he was appointed professor of homiletics in Victoria College and became Chancellor of his Alma Mater.
denounced it as the language of emotion. That I think it is to be regretted. In the nature of things all our great sentiments find expression in other ways than mere words. I believe it would be easier to talk about Canadian material resources. It is not difficult to talk about problems of racial and geographical origin, or the constitution, or history, or the much-debated question of "Status." It is much easier to talk about these subjects than it is to talk about such an elusive thing as the sentiment, which I am to present to you.
And yet no man ever yet was ashamed of his patriotic feelings; while there may be some sentiments that are uttered shamefacedly, this is one that no man can tolerate to hear "damned with faint praise." There is nothing to be gained by submitting it to the expert diagnosis of psychologists, and having it classified with mass or mob psychology. We know it is the only thing that keeps the citizens of any nation together and protects them from disloyalty to their own highest interests. Too often, unfortunately, folks talk too loudly, too flamboyantly of patriotism. It has on this continent produced a most expansive and specious type of oratory, which may be an offence, not only to good taste but to neighbourliness. In that respect we are not, I judge, the chief of sinners. Inasmuch, however, as such forms of speech are the accompaniment of youth rather than of age, we do well to be disposed to restraint. It is good to be young if you are not too young. Patriotism is a sentiment as noble as it is natural, which is saying something; for the love of country and loyalty to its interests and common institutions is so natural that it springs up in all lands and among all races of people. Its absence is the sign of a spiritless people. I have no appreciation whatever of cold and critical analysis which reduces it to any form of mob-passion. It is the reverse of that--it is the one thing that saves a people from being a leaderless mob. Patriotism is a natural instinct, as natural as the love of home or loyalty to college or church or any common and social interest.
It is of the culture of Canadian Patriotism I am to speak, and the accent falls strongly on "Canadian." The fact that it is interwoven with a love of the home land of one's fathers, and has also interwoven into itself the love of empire, it is the more interesting to ourselves although a mystery to outsiders. I deal, however, not with this wonderful synthesis of sentiment which to the uninitiated seems impossible -logically absurd, destined to break up and pass away--but the one simple, elemental love and loyalty and devotion to this land of the Maple, this King's Dominions over the seas, this nation, this--I care not what they call it-these nine millions of folks who are combining themselves together in a common national bond and setting their faces to some common destiny to be wrought between two peoples on the northern half of a continent. (Applause)
To me it is unimaginable that there should not manifest itself among us a great and wonderful love of country. There is no need for exhortation. We have not to create something. It is here upspringing in the hearts of the younger generation beyond what was dreamt of by their fathers. Strange indeed it would be if to the people of this country there could be no guiding ideals which, while restraining would also develop and enrich this natural love of country and loyalty to King and Country. This sentiment is something born within us, which is one of the natural results of our environment.
Let me say that there was not very much done in my school days that would help us young Canadian citizens of forty and fifty years ago to find our Canadian souls. We were left pretty much to ourselves. The church did not help us very much. I believe I have an uncanny memory for sermons. (Laughter) It is amazing to me to look back to those days and remember the sermons. But do my best, however, I cannot recall a single one that was devoted to the end of helping me to realize as a young man what I owed to this country. I can recall plenty of sermons addressed to me as a miserable sinner, which no doubt I was. (Laughter) There was nothing in those sermons, however, which tended to arouse the instincts and sentiments of love for one's country. Even in the prayers there was no mention of the King. One thing I could tell, though, was the strain of politics which underlay some of those sermons (laughter); and if, in addition, mention was made of the Royal Family, I knew that the congregation was composed chiefly of good Orangemen. (Laughter)
Canada's history is largely pioneer history. There is no doubt about that. Our history really began in the backwoods settlements, in the log cabin, in the log school-houses, and in the log churches. I hope we will never forget that. I have a profound contempt for anyone who wants to forget it. (Applause). Patient endurance, undaunted courage, immeasurable toil, never excelled in the history of any people, through these our pioneer fathers laid foundations that make this country what it is. (Applause) And we, today, are reaping the benefits of those terrible struggles and privations, of our fathers. Some people might think that the picture of pioneer life is crude and sordid, compared with the elegancies of the present day, but it is a picture of the realities of life endured for the sake of the present generation. Sordid! Well, there was something sordid about Flanders Fields, but it had a meaning. So had those wonderful achievements of our fathers, a meaning which makes their commonplaceness wonderful and transfigures their outward nearness.
I was not brought up on the Arabian Nights' stories. Other stories filled my imagination when I was a lad. I loved them. I loved to hear of the stories told of my grandfather. He came to Muddy York in 1826. He came from Tipperary. (Laughter and applause). No doubt my grandfather thought it was a long way, because it took him about three months to get over. He never called this place anything else but Muddy York. Building chimneys he had earned and saved about $126, when one day he met a man who would sell him a farm. My grandfather bought it. He never saw it until he arrived there. He bought also a yoke of oxen and a sled and went into the wilds, thirty-two miles north of here. He worked hard, very hard, as all the old pioneers did in those days. I used to like to get my grandmother to tell me some of the stories about their early struggles. She would tell me of their life long ago, how they built their little shanty, and how they carried water from a little spring nearly half a mile away, and how she carried on her back from the mill, four miles away, a bag of meal which helped to sustain them through the long winter months. She used to tell me stories of wolves and bears which roamed the woods. These stories were all very real to me, and gave me an insight into the realities of life endured by the early pioneers.
Those early pioneering days of our fathers ought to be an inspiration to us. They lived very close to Nature, and were hard-working, God-fearing men and women. They were happy, too, in their little log shanties. Of amusements, as we know them today, there were practically none. Speaking of hard work I remember a story told of a neighbour of ours who used to go out in the moonlight and work in the woods chopping at night the side of the log on which the moon beams fell so that he would have less work to do the next day. That was daylight saving, was it not? I know that even today work in the factories and on the farms is very often hard and laborious, but compared with the immeasurable toil endured in those days it is child's play. We ought to be proud of our ancestors. (Applause) They have set us an example which we would do well not to forget. They lived and laboured and loved and having served their generation they fell asleep.
Our fathers did not write their history. They were too busy bringing vast tracts of country under civilization's sway, but their story is a theme worthy to be glorified in the nation's literature. I hope to see it written some day. No one has really done it yet--that is, no one has ever done it justice. And what wonderful literature it would be, stimulating us to nobler things! I do not care whether a Canadian writes it or not, although I should like if it were. There is so much that can be said. I would like to see all the finer meanings brought out for the culturing of today's patriotism. There was not very much to help me as a boy to understand the real significance of it all. I remember there were selections from Mrs. Moodie's "Roughing it in the Bush." There were some selections of which I have some recollection. There was the story of the Indian woman who, slew the bear. You remember that. Those stories appealed to us youngsters. There were other sketches, and some poetry, too, which appealed to my youthful imagination. Take this, on the life of the backwoodsman, as an inspiring example:-
Son of the Isles! Rave not to me Of the world's pride and luxury; Why did you cross the Western deep, Thus like a love-lorn maid to weep O'er comforts gone and pleasures fled, 'Mid forests wild to earn your bread?
Did you expect that Art would vie With Nature here, to please the eye; That stately tower, and fancy cot, Would grace each rude concession lot; That, independent of your hearth, Men would admit your claims to birth? No tyrant fetter binds the soul, The mind of man's above control; Necessity, that makes the slave, Has taught the free a course more brave; With bold, determined heart to dare The ills that all are born to share.
Believe me, youth, the truly great Stay not to mourn o'er fallen state; They make their wants and wishes less, And rise superior to distress; The glebe they break-the sheaf they bindBut elevates a noble mind.
Contented in my rugged cot Your lordly towers I envy not; Though rude our clime and course our cheer, True independence greets you here; Amid these forests, dark and wild, Dwells honest labour's hardy child.
His happy lot I gladly share, And breathe a purer, freer air; No more by wealthy upstarts spurn'd, The bread is sweet by labour earned. Indulgent Heaven has bless'd the soil, And plenty crowns the woodsman's toil. Beneath the axe, the forest yields Its thorny maze to fertile fields;
This goodly breadth of well-till'd land, Well purchased by his own right hand, With conscience clear, he can bequeath His children, when he sleeps in death.
There is one writer who brings home to us very realistically old-time scenes on the farm-Peter McArthur. This is what he says
"Boiling-in has its old-time charm. Although that neat little arch that I have made up my mind to build every spring for many years, and which I have neglected to attend to every summer, is still a thing of dreams, I cannot keep away from the sugar-bush, 'When the sap be gins to stir.' As we have tapped only thirty trees I am in no danger of being rushed, and the job takes on something of the aspect of a tonic holiday in the woods. By using a minimum of energy I can keep ahead of the sap, gather wood for the fire, and see to it that the sap in the pan is boiling merrily. A discarded bucket, turned upside down, serves as a seat where one may enjoy a meditative pipe. A highholder spent most of yesterday afternoon pounding out his love-calls on a hollow limb near by, and the crows cawed in the restrained manner they have before a rain. There was just enough wind stirring to make a draught under the pan, and it was blowing from the right direction. During the afternoon a couple of visitors came in from the road, and the time seemed ripe for talking over the affairs of the world in general. The air was warm enough to make an overcoat unnecessary. On the whole, conditions were ideal, and I kept right on boiling-in until the sun went down and the moonlight filtered down through the clouds. As twilight began I heard the owls hooting in all directions, and a spirit of loneliness brooded over the woods and fields. By previous arrangement a helper presently came out to the woods, and we gave the syrup in the pan an extra boil before taking it off. Then we tramped across the pasture, carrying our half-pail of thick syrup. It was all very primitive and elemental and refreshing."
I hope that no great building up of the cities, no inrush of immigration, will tear the roots of this country from the things that are real, primitive and elementary. (Loud applause)
MR. A. E. AMES expressed the thanks of the Club to the Chancellor for his interesting and inspring address.