Canada and the League of Nations
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The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 24 Apr 1924, p. 210-222


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Seager, Rev. C.A., Speaker
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Text
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Speeches
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Canada's particular, specific relation to the League of Nations. Activities and success of the League of Nations. The significance of the International Court of Justice. What the League really stands for. Seeing in the League of Nations the beginning of a great new thing which the speaker ventures to call the International Civilization. Cogent reasons why every Canadian who takes his citizenship as a responsibility should put his shoulder to the wheel to strengthen Canada's contribution to the life of the League. Canada as one of the nations signatory of the Peace of Versailles; part of the Peace of Versailles is the Covenant of the League of Nations. The formative influences which are creating and determining the development of the character and the destiny of Canada: our geographical position between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans; our close proximity to the greatest republic in the world; our intimate relationship with every nation on the globe through our share in the life of the British Empire. A discussion of each of these three forces and what they mean to Canada and Canadians. The speaker's desire to leave upon the mind of everyone in the audience a general impression that in this League of Nations we have something to read and to study and to understand and to take our responsible part in. Some concluding reasons why we should do so.
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24 Apr 1924
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English
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The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
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CANADA AND THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto, April 24, 1924. AN ADDRESS BY REV. C. A. SEAGER, M.A., D.D., LL.D., PROVOST OF TRINITY COLLEGE, TORONTO.

PRESIDENT BROOKS introduced the speaker, who was received with loud applause.

REV. PROVOST SEAGER.

Mr. President and Gentlemen,--I am very grateful for the introduction which has been given me, and for the very cordial way in which it has been received. I have attended a good many luncheons at the Empire Club, but this is the first one at which I have been called upon to suffer (laughter) but I trust that you, Sir, will not share my agony. I am consoled, however, by the subject on which you have asked me to speak.

It would be very natural to ask why there should be an address on the subject of the League of Nations at this Club, or indeed before any Toronto audience. You have had the privilege of hearing at least two very distinguished speakers on the subject-Sir George Foster and Hon. N. W. Rowellboth of whom have been personally and officially in touch with the League of Nations and with the

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Reverend Charles Allen Seager is a graduate of Trinity University, (B.A., 1895; M.A., 1896; D.D., 1914; and LL.D. (Toronto), 1922. He was rector of St. Cyprian's, Toronto; rector of All Saints', Vernon, B.C.; principal of St. Mark's Hall, Vancouver, B.C.; and rector of St. Matthew's, Toronto. In 1921 he was chosen provost and vice-chancellor of Trinity. Doctor Seager is a strong sagacious administrator, a vigorous speaker, and is deeply interested in movements on behalf of Canada and a United Empire.

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League of Nations' Society, and are thus peculiarly well equipped to speak on the subject. Toronto audiences have heard many other speakers, and one would imagine the theme had been exhausted. Moreover, everyone of us has watched the development of the League with that interest and keen fascination which so momentous an experiment must engender in the heart of every thoughtful man and woman.

The answer to that question, if it were asked, is to be found in the first word of our theme today, Canada and the League of Nations. This is a thing about which I am to speak; not the League in general, or even in particular, though I am tempted to do so; but about Canada's particular, specific relation to it. That I do not think, if I am permitted to say so, does require emphasis today; for while we all have, and the Canadian public has had, very deep and general interest in the League of Nations, I think it is not unfair to say that we cannot but miss that feeling of responsible and specific interest in the League of Nations which Canada's relations to it really demands. This, I suppose, was the motive in the request to me to speak on the subject.

But before I go on to that, I cannot refrain from again endeavouring to recall to your minds the League of Nations itself in its general outlines; to ask you to envisage the greatness of the attempted experiment; to ask you to conjure before your imagination the picture of over fifty nations of this earth, ruling four-fifths of the population of the globe, meeting together through their representatives under a deep and solemn sense of obligation, not merely to try to prevent wars'--for that is only one department of the League's activities, as you know-but really to endeavour to face and to solve that whole series of international problems with which this new age has confronted human society at the present time. This is the outlook of the League of Nations; nothing less than this. There is something immensely impressive in that fact when we allow our minds to dwell upon it.

Nor can I refrain from reminding you also of the extraordinary measure of success which has attended the League in its practical activity. The more one reads of the League--and I follow it closely--the more one is impressed with this actual achievement under immense difficulty. It was launched upon a somewhat skeptical world--a world which, perhaps naturally, is constantly saying, "Show us the results of your work, and we will believe you." Well, people who ask for results must be satisfied with results; and while it would be impossible for me here to begin to enumerate all of the remarkable achievements of the League, there are such things as that amazing accomplishment, the financial reconstruction of Austria (hear, hear) a veritable triumph; a triumph which could have been repeated more easily in Germany than in Austria. The effect of that must impress the mind of every thoughtful man.

Even that much-criticized incident, the GreekItalian Controversy, in which the League has been citicized very severely, still stands as a monument of its efficiency and success. Again, to a society which asks for results, we may honestly request that it be satisfied with results. After all, that little ebullition of swashbuckling imperialism did subside. The thing was done. What more do we want when we ask for results? What more can we ask?

Or who can contemplate the significance, so to say, the symbolism--of what appeals to me, at any rate, as perhaps the most extraordinary achievement of the League-the International Court of Justice (hear, hear), without feeling that in that institution is, really represented the beginning of those developments of international law upon which the future of this world really must depend?

As one looks broadly over the League and asks himself what it really stands for, I will tell you the way it impresses me. I seem to see, although it may be imaginative-I do not think it is-in the League of Nations the beginning of a great new thing which I venture to call the International Civilization. (Hear, hear) It may be we are not impressed with the idea o f International Civilization. In nations and in races and in empires we are accustomed to civilization. If a man steals my goods or blackens my name or threatens my life there is no need-and because there is no need there is no permission--for me to put a six-shooter in my pocket and go out and get after that man. The moment such a thing threatens, there immediately rises up about me a marvelous system, legislative, executive and administrative, that rushes to my protection; and to that great system, hammered out in the history of a thousand years, I commit myself with confidence. (Hear, hear, and applause)

We are so accustomed to that kind of civilization surrounding us every day, national civilization, that we do not always realize that there is no analogy whatever in the international situation of the world, and that in an age which has annihilated space and thrown the peoples of this world into violent contact with one another, something analogous to that is the necessity of the time. (Hear, hear) And the next great achievement of the human society, heralded by the League of Nations in all its ramifications, is what I venture to call nothing less than the beginnings of a new International Civilization. (Applause)

It is just as absurd that a nation, in order to defend its people, its possessions or its honour, should have to send out a million soldiers with bayonets and guns-fundamentally and logically just as absurd--as that I should go out with a six-shooter to defend my life in the streets of Toronto. It is only because there is no development of International Civilization that such a thing is inevitable, because it is the only thing to do; and let us hail with optimism and with enthusiasm the League as perhaps the dawning of that which cannot be created in a day, but which must be hammered out in generations of painful experience, an International Civilization.

But all this is passing. I am not here to speak about the League as such; our point is Canada and the League of Nations, and there are cogent reasons why every Canadian who takes his citizenship as a responsibility, who desires to be swayed not by prejudice or whim or fancy but by fact and by principle, should put his shoulder to the wheel to strengthen Canada's contribution to the life of the League.

In the first place, Canada is one of the nations signatory of the Peace of Versailles, and part of the Peace of Versailles is the Covenant of the League of Nations. We must not forget that that Covenant is not an interesting document expressing somebody's idealistic fancies, but is a "scrap of paper" to which our name has been affixed, and which we are in honour bound to keep intact. (Applause) There is sufficient in that one consideration to arouse that sense of responsibility in the breast of every loyal Canadian which ought to be there; one need hardly say more. It was a great day when Sir Robert Borden rose from his place and affixed his signature, as a representative of this nation, to the Peace of Versailles and to the Covenant of the League of Nations. It was a great day in a good many ways, and for many reasons; amongst others it marked a new step in the development of the national life of this country. We hear a good deal about that kind of thing, but we don't seem to believe it. It is true, nevertheless. Stages and steps in the enfranchisement of this nation are perfectly easily traceable in history, and that represents the latest.

I see that your Secretary, Dr. Goggin, has tried to catch me in a trap; he has put on the notice of this luncheon this phrase:--"Canada's status has been the subject of much discussion in many places." But, Sir, I am not to be caught, even by your astute Secretary. (Laughter) I have no intention of entering into the discussion of the national status of Canada. As a matter of fact it does not need much discussion, because it is here. (Hear, hear) We must not forget that Sir John Macdonald at the time of Confederation was very eager indeed that the new Dominion should be called "The Kingdom of Canada," and that the only reason that the British Government objected to it was that it might offend the susceptibilities of the people of the United States. (Laughter) I mean to say that when we are thinking along these lines, we need not forget those little facts (hear, hear) so that if anybody claims that Canada is a Kingdom, I don't know that I have much objection, but if anybody asks who is the King we shall come to the salute, and say, "His Gracious Majesty, King George the Fifth." (Applause)

But I must not enlarge upon that. If you want any literature, hot and strong, on this subject I might refer you to "The Kingdom Papers." (Laughter) If you want something more mild, but by no means less cogent, I strongly recommend you to read the publications of my friend, Hon. N. W. Rowell (hear, hear) who writes in a quiet, sane and strong and convincing style which is so peculiarly his own. However, my point is this: If Canada took a step forward in the development of her national life through the signing of the Covenant of the League of Nations, there should arise, corresponding to that, a deepened sense of that national duty and that national honour which are just as impressive in the case of nations as they are in individuals, and just as binding, upon which the safety and prosperity and security of international life must depend. (Applause) We are pledged to it, therefore as a matter of course we are profoundly interested.

But there are other reasons, and very cogent ones indeed, why there should be in the heart of everyone of us, and of every Canadian, that responsible interest in the League of Nations which participation in its obligations must engender. Those reasons lie deep in those formative influences which are creating and determining the development of the character and the destiny of this country. As I remarked here on another occasion, those forces which are making this nation, of whose activity and energy Canada as a nation is the product and result, are three in number.

The first is that as a country we lie, geographically, between the Atlantic and the Pacific, and north of the 49th degree of latitude.

The second is our close proximity to the greatest republic in the world. We rub shoulders with it from day to day. We are profoundly affected by its life and activity, and in an ever-increasing, a vastly increasing degree, that republic is going to be affected by the activities of our life and our doings in the days that are to come, even as it is already.

The third formative influence behind the development of Canada is our initimate relationship with every nation on the globe through our share in the life of the British Empire. (Applause)

So far as I have been able to discern, those are the three forces; and he is a wise man who takes his citizenship responsibly, who faces the fact of those three forces and tries to understand them and to adjust himself to them. Those are the three forces which are making this Canada of ours-its geographical situation, its proximity to the United States, and its relationship to the British Empire; and in every one of those deeper forces lies a reason for our responsible interest in the League of Nations. Take the first, our geographical situation. Canada lies between the Atlantic and the Pacific, north of the 49th degree of latitude. It represents the link between the Occident and the Orient. At one front door, because we have two of them, lie the great vast countries of Europe; at the other lies that unknown, that immense, and that portentous future of the East. We lie between the two--the connecting link. The old western pioneer explorers followed a true instinct when they sought across this continent a way to India and Cathay. I can think, as you do, of those explorers-of Jacques Cartier in 1534 thrusting the nose of his ship into every indentation of the Gulf of St. Lawrence--think of it--hoping eagerly that in some one of them he would find the way through to the western sea and the shores of India and China. I can think of them, as they saw the tumbling rapids of the St. Lawrence, crying "Lachine! Lachine! "-China! China! I can think of Champlain going up the Ottawa and coming to the shores of the Georgian Bay and looking out over those waters wondering what lay beyond. I think of LaVerendrye and his sons battling against the blizzard's of the north-west, striving and struggling westward, ever westward, trying to find the mysterious passage through. I can think of everyone of those explorers, from Verrazzano to Sir John Franklin, every one of them stirred by the same instinct and the same motive-seeking and seeking, with toil and privation and death, to find the shortcut across or through this continent to the magic regions of the east. And then I get on a train in Halifax or in Montreal, and I travel quickly and luxuriously across this continent, and I arrive at the Pacific Coast, at Vancouver or Victoria, and as I see those two frail lines of steel disappearing behind me, as I have often done, I think of them as a veritable apocalypse--the secret revealed unfolded--the secret short-cut to Asia. Here it is. The instinct of those men was right; their dream was a dream of truth whose significance is far vaster than they ever imagined; you know the sentiment in those lines:

God beckons men with lesser lure, Not fronting them with awful Plan; The child-heart strains for rainbow gold, And, straining, moulds itself to man.

(Applause) Those great men followed a true instinct, and no will-o'-the-wisp. They found the way, and this is the way from east to west, from Occident to Orient-this land is the link between the two.

What does that mean to us? It means that the destiny of this Canada of ours, as the centuries unfold, is nothing less than an international destiny, and an international destiny of the highest and most vital sort. It is an international destiny that is involved in the development of all the future; which is bound up in the development of the Pacific Ocean and of the countries which adjoin it. The future lies before us-if I were an Irishman I would say our history is yet to come-(laughter); but it is coming, and it is a history pregnant with events not merely within the country itself, but in its vital significance to the world's life; and if there is any people on the face of this earth who ought to be interested in the great movement toward International Civilization which is represented in the League of Nations, it is this people of Canada, who hold that strategic relationship to the world's life which I have feebly endeavoured to indicate. (Applause) We are a people small in number, but before this century closes, and 40 millions of people dwell north of the. 49th parallel, there is going to be a shift in the centre of gravity of the life of the world.

But there is a second influence, formative of the national life of Canada. It is our proximity to the United States of America, the greatest Republic in the world. In this is embodied a second cogent reason for a really responsible interest in the League. By what a strange but clear and unmistakeable movement of the Providence that moulds the nations did it come to pass that, from the Arctic Circle to Mexico, the North American Continent is substantially English in speech, in institutions, in law and in tradition? At one time it did not look as if that would be the case. From the days of Frontenac to the days of Montcalm, French policy in North America stands perfectly clear. They had a vast conception. Their policy was to hem in the English colonists on the Atlantic Coast and prevent them forever from going beyond the Alleghauy Mountains. Perhaps the most significant figure who symbolizes that policy is the sad and tragic figure of La Salle. From his centre at Fort Frontenac, from his Fort on the Illinois, on his explorations in the Mississippi Valley, he is inspired by one thing, behind which was the brain and the energy of Frontenac--to hem in those pestilential English east of the Alleghany Mountains so that they might never get across, and to keep the vast west to be New France. That was the policy, as we all know. The English might have the seacoast if they could keep it; France was to have the rest.

Next to the motive of finding a way to the east, that was the motive which lay in the souls of the explorers of that time. How the bubble was burst by the bayonets of Wolfe on the Plains of Abraham is of the A, B, C, of our knowledge. How at a time when the English political system was very imperfectly developed, and under the influence of a very mistaken policy, the thirteen colonies of America revolted and formed the United States of America, we know. Now, a vastly changed English political system has developed and a great new science of Empire has grown up within the last seventy-five years, by virtue of which the English Colonies in the northern part of the North American Continent did not have to revolt, but are today a self-governing Dominion, and to their vast advantage and gratification are still members of the British Commonwealth. (Applause) Then, how those two great Anglo-Saxon nations in North America have lived together for over one hundred years, and have kept the peace, we also know.

Yet, do we really know how it has been done? Since 1812 there have been many causes of friction. There have been live coals blown almost into flame in the north and in the west and the east, by land and by sea, between Canada and the United States, and yet there has not been any war. Why? Because we learned, somehow or other, the science and the fine art of negotiation and arbitration; that is why. (Applause) We learned the value of discussing matters, of getting together and trying to solve our disputes. We have acquired a habit of peace; that is why there has been no war. There have been causes of friction between us far more provocative of war than those which have been behind many of the historical struggles in the past, and yet we have not gone to war; we have trusted to negotiation and arbitration. Sometimes we have been beaten in the game, of course, we in Canada. I begrudge, with all my soul, that long strip of white that goes so far south down the northern Coast of British Columbia. I begrudge that very much. (Hear, hear) There are other things I begrudge. However, it is all in the game. We have played the game, and we have lost sometimes, and we have won sometimes; and one thing is certain-that the chances of our losing in the future are very slim indeed. (Laughter and applause) Meantime, out of it all we have battered out a new science of negotiation and arbitration. We have discovered, in a hundred years' experience, the secret of how to keep away from war. In other words, we have discovered the principle of the League of Nations. (Hear, hear)

Now, this is the point: As Canadians, as the partner that owns the northern half of this continent, as signatories of the Covenant, it is our business so to contribute to its efficiency, so to help make it work, as to bring it to pass that the American people will come to see, as great numbers have already seen, and as majorities are going to see before long, that the secret of negotiation and arbitration, which has been tried out between us for a hundred years, has simply got to be tried out in world-relationships (applause); and that no nation, and least of all these new and young nations with their history in front of them on the North American Continent, can afford to stay out. We must be in it, in the great task of developing what I have ventured to call International Civilization.

But somebody might say, "You talk about the contribution of Canada towards the efficiency of the League; it doesn't amount to much." It amounts to a very great deal, and for this reason (aid this is my third point), that in Canada's support of the League of Nations she is not alone; she is a member of that great world-wide Commonwealth called the British Empire. (Hear, hear) What she does is part of a far larger contribution. She is a member of a greater League of Nations, which has also in the process of time hammered out a certain science of living together.

The soul of the problems of the world in the future is how people are to live together in safety and in peace; and Canada's contribution to the League and to its development, if it be honestly and thoughtfully and responsibly made, will be far larger in its effect than, in its intrinsic magnitude, it might appear; because Canada is one of that great congeries of nations called the British Empire, and because the life of that whole great institution is behind her and flowing through her, and particularly because of the geographical situation which we occupy, and because of our relationship to the great Republic to the South. (Applause)

My single desire, and it is a very earnest and a very sincere one, is to leave upon the mind of everyone this general impression--that in this League of Nations we have not something to laugh at, something to criticize, something to stand aloof from, but something to read and to study and to understand, and to take our responsible part in; first, because we have sworn on our honour to do it; secondly, because our whole future, that great contribution which this country will make more and more to the life of the world as the centuries go by, calls upon us, for our own sake and our children's sake and the world's sake, to get to work in laying a few stones, if they be only a few, in that great temple which will be the great building of this new age, across whose door will be written the words-practically unknown in the history of the world before--

"THIS IS THE TEMPLE OF INTERNATIONAL CIVILIZATION."

MR. JENNINGS, Editor of the Toronto Mail & Empire, expressed in strong and appropriate language the appreciative thanks of the large audience to Provost Seager for his inspiring address.

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Canada and the League of Nations


Canada's particular, specific relation to the League of Nations. Activities and success of the League of Nations. The significance of the International Court of Justice. What the League really stands for. Seeing in the League of Nations the beginning of a great new thing which the speaker ventures to call the International Civilization. Cogent reasons why every Canadian who takes his citizenship as a responsibility should put his shoulder to the wheel to strengthen Canada's contribution to the life of the League. Canada as one of the nations signatory of the Peace of Versailles; part of the Peace of Versailles is the Covenant of the League of Nations. The formative influences which are creating and determining the development of the character and the destiny of Canada: our geographical position between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans; our close proximity to the greatest republic in the world; our intimate relationship with every nation on the globe through our share in the life of the British Empire. A discussion of each of these three forces and what they mean to Canada and Canadians. The speaker's desire to leave upon the mind of everyone in the audience a general impression that in this League of Nations we have something to read and to study and to understand and to take our responsible part in. Some concluding reasons why we should do so.