The World's Debt to England
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 30 May 1918, p. 253-261

Church, S.H., Speaker
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An expression of admiration of Canada's great work in contributing to win the war. This awful conflict that has brought us together in matters of religion. The world's debt to England. The nature of the British Empire. Lloyd George's response to the attack made upon him by General Maurice with regard to keeping the armies of the British Empire at work in Mesopotamia and Egypt. A thought which comes from some historic reminiscences: that great thing which we call human imagination is more Romantic and French and Celtic than it is German. Why the British Empire should endure. England's record. Words on the nature of humanity. Aims of Germany. The fallen men, each of whom has died the death of a hero. The spirit of the British Empire, depicted in a Punch cartoon, and in contrast to the German civilization. Support for the British Empire throughout its own nations and the world. America's part in this War; slow to come in, but now on the battle-front because she knew that the civilization of the world was suffering progressive destruction at the hands of Germany, and was going to go out there to defend it.
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30 May 1918
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Full Text
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
May 30, 1918

MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--It is a very great pleasure to me to be welcomed so heartily at this moment. When the kind and flattering invitation of your President reached me, I confess that Toronto seemed like Tipperary -a long, long way; but the people of the United States have learned to cherish such a profound regard for the people of Canada because of the heroic work and the endurance and suffering which have marked your record, that I decided on the instant to accept your invitation, in order that I might look into your faces and express my admiration of your great work in contributing to win the war. The war has indeed brought us all very close together. I used to feel that it would be impossible for me to love anything more than my own country; and yet I can say now-and I am sure you will understand what I mean when I try to say it-that there is one thing I do love more than my country, and that is humanity; and I love humanity more because my country is a part of humanity.

This awful conflict has brought us together in matters of religion; we do not find ourselves separated. The other day I saw a letter from a Jewish boy at the front, a graduate student of the Carnegie Institute. It was written


Mr. Church of Pittsburg, Pa., is President of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Institute, Carnegie Library and Carnegie Institute of Technology. He has for several years been associated with the direction of the educational schemes of Mr. Andrew Carnegie.


on paper of the Y.M.C.A. and mailed in an envelope of the Knights of Columbus; and I thought, "There is one of the seven wonders of the world, that can amalgamate Jew and Protestant and Catholic in defence of the flag of civilization." Some of you may have noticed that our first casualty list consisted of three soldiersEnright, a Catholic, and the other two Protestants; so that in the matter of church membership, we are shoulder to shoulder in defence of the flag.

Then we have come to Canada in another way, and taken as chief military instructor for our students in Carnegie Institute, Major Hilliard Lyle, a man who fell at Vimy Ridge badly wounded, but who happily recovered. He was a member of that organization whose heroic deeds will thrill the human heart as long as human history endures-the Princess Patricias. And just a night or two ago I met several of your Canadian soldiers, all of them, I think, bearing in their bodies incurable wounds, who did good work in our Red Cross campaign in Pittsburg. One of them gave me a message to your Mayor, who, I think, bears the same name as myselfanyhow, it is a time when all Churches ought to stand together-and the message was: "When you go to Toronto I hope you will see Tommy Church; and tell him you saw me; he won't remember me by name, but you tell him I'm the guy that took him up in the aeroplane." This man's name was Lieut. McCallum. Another of the men, an officer, said, "I hope you'll meet Tommy Church, for he is one of the whitest men in the world."

Coming from another country, I think it would be appropriate for me to say something of the world's debt to England. What is this thing, this glorious thing, that you call the British Empire? What is it that gives England, which is the heart of the British Empire, the spirit of eternal youth which gives her her unbroken power? -which enables her to adapt herself to the changing needs of civilization in every age as the years roll by? What is it that makes us want to say of her as Shakespeare said of Cleopatra:

"Age cannot wither, nor custom stale

Her infinite variety"

The historians have had for a long time the habit of dividing the great nations of the world into two groups, and. they seem to like to say that Germany and England and. America belong to the Germanic or Teutonic stock; and that Spain, Italy and France belong to the Romanic or Celtic stock. I don't know how you feel about it, but for my part I would be very glad to tear out of my system, if I could, every vestige of everything in it that is German. The other day in Pittsburg the editor of a newspaper in the German language advertized that he would lecture on Shakespeare in Germany, and the synopsis of the lecture made the statement that Shakespeare himself was a German. Well, the police got on to that man as quickly as they could, and his lecture was never delivered.

The other day Lloyd George, in answer to that extraordinary and astounding attack which was made upon him by General Maurice,--based on the fact that the British Empire was keeping its armies at work in Mesopotamia and Egypt when Gen. Maurice seemed to think they should be withdrawn and put on the battlefront in France said: "There was once an Empire which withdrew its armies from its distant outposts in order to defend its soil against the Goth, and those armies were never sent back." He referred, of course, to the fall of the Roman Empire, when those German tribes were roaming in the forest to the north of Italy and attempting to destroy the best civilization which existed in their day, and made their assault on the soil of Rome. She did withdraw her armies from Britain and France and Spain and Mesopotamia, and, as Lloyd George truly said, they were never sent back; and he is still keeping the British armies in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

I would like to expand that thought of his in the way in which it may possibly have passed through his mind.

The Romans were in Britain for 400 or 500 years, and then they were withdrawn. Then came over the Angles; and when an Englishman says of the United States or Canada, "You are such a young country," I like to tell him, "You are something of an immigrant yourself!" You can readily prove this to him, for the name of his own country was brought over there by somebody else; there was a tribe up there in that strip that separates the Baltic, from the North Sea, and there were Angles there who brought over to Britain the name of their country. It is easy now to sound it "England" instead of Angleland. Then came the Saxons, and the Jutes came from Jutland, where you had such a naval victory-or rather, where the Kaiser had such a great naval victory that he has never dared to send his ships out since.

This is the thought which comes from those historic reminiscences: that great thing which we call human imagination, as it exists in the great body of British culture, is more Romanic and French and Celtic than it is German. I might have reminded you of the Great French army which once conquered England, since which time -1466--there has never been a foreign foe who invaded that land. Take the body of British culture and the men who made it, with Shakespeare at their head; their poets -Chaucer and Byron and Tennyson and Burns; their historians,-Macaulay and Freeman and Gardiner; their scientists,-Huxley and Spencer and Darwin; their orators-Burke and Pitt and Sheridan, and the rest; take all of them, and the works which they produced, and compare them with the greatest men and the greatest works which Germany has produced, and you will find that the culture which has moved the world, inspired its thought and its action, and has made the phenomenal progress that it has, has not been Germanic, but strictly British.

Now, why should the British Empire endure? What has she done, that she should carry on her great burden of civilization, and maintain it under her own organization? Two huge institutions have existed in the world for at least a thousand years, which have retarded the progress of the race and more or less oppressed mankind: those twin evils are feudalism in the State and feudalism in the Church. I say that with a great deal of sympathy and respect, but I state it as an historic fact. In Russia today we see the fruits of those two evils at their very worst; there is a nation held down by both of those powers. If they did not hold them down, why was not that nation lifted up? They were held down for centuries by those powers, and when that great nation suddenly stands in the sunlight of liberty, it is unable to perceive the beauty of life, because their eyes have been blinded by their former masters with darkness. And this is so with other nations, without my naming them they will occur to your minds as readily as to mine.

But what has been England's record? Why is it that England is called the Mother of Parliaments if it were not to strike at this first evil-the feudalism of the State? And why is it that the Morning Star of the Reformation broke through the thick night of religious life in England more than a hundred years before it could be perceived in any other country in the world? The words of John Wycliffe lay at the very heart and fountain of religious liberty in England-"No power shall stand between me and my right to go before my God as I will!" When, seven hundred years ago, the Barons found that they were oppressed in their civil liberties, they exacted that mighty charter from King John which has been the foundation of human liberty for British-speaking peoples from that time to this. And right here is the contrast between the two civilizations; for in the time of King John, away back in that dark age, the Barons federated with the people for liberty against the King, while in our own time--when people ought to know better-the Barons in Germany have federated with the Kaiser for autocracy against the people.

They had a hard time in preserving their liberty in England; they adopted in their Parliaments more than thirty statutes to preserve and defend the principles which were laid down in the mighty charter; but it was not until Oliver Cromwell came up from his farm at Huntingdon in his homespun clothes and made himself the master-spirit of the British people, that feudalism in the State and feudalism in the Church were crushed out for ever throughout the British dominions.

And now a word about our problem. It is our problem because it is a thing which lies upon the conscience and the heart of all the decent and all the civilized nations of this world. I asked a group of scientists in New York the other day, "Why is it that Germany has produced up to the present so many things that are helping them win success?" Their answer was, "This German military group have deposited their problems in the Universities and Schools of Germany, and have given them instructions that they shall apply all the science of modern times to the destruction of human life; and they have done it." What our men in the United States, and probably what your men are doing, is to meet that scientific knowledge and discovery by an equal knowledge of the facts. And so Germany has started out to establish what will be the equivalent of the Roman Empire in the world today. She wants to master and subjugate all the people who are not German.

The Kaiser spoke a while ago of country being swallowed up in humanity. The Kaiser's view of that is, that humanitarianism is a contemptible thing for any man to cherish, for he once said, "I confess that when you speak of the human family, my own view stops at the boundary of the German Empire." And so that great country is turning aside from the civilization which had made her the wonder and admiration of the world, and which, if she had gone on that way, would have made her the master of the world; and she has started on a debauch of murder, outrage and plunder.

Let me say this in plainest terms: Every man who has fallen in defence of France or of Belgium has died the death of a hero; and every German soldier who has fallen since this war began, being an invader and a murderer, has died the death of an outlaw. That is the spirit which the world is facing and combating today--this desire, this passion to destroy, to kill, to rob, to ravish, to plunder everything that exists in the civilized world. It faces you here in Canada; it faces us in the United States; it faces us on the battle-front in France; and it will oppress and destroy and kill the best that we have, until we make ourselves able by united effort to say, "You foul assassin, we have you by the throat, and we are going to keep a strangle-hold on you until we cast out this devil that is in your soul."

The spirit of the British Empire was well represented by the cartoon in Punch which pictured the British Lion standing upon a mound and emitting a roar which only a lion could emit, which came from the depths of his nature, and all around him his cubs were answering from Australia and New Zealand and South Africa and India and Canada, and coming to his rescue. How is it with German civilization? Germany controlled those two stolen provinces for more than forty years; she would not permit them to use their own language, or to sing their songs, or to follow any of their traditions. You remember that when the poor lame shoemaker made the wry face at those brutal German soldiers that were marching through the town of Zaborn, the commanding officer drew his sword and cut the cripple clear down through the shoulder; and the Crown Prince of Germany, who wore upon his hat always the pirate's emblem of the human skull, telegraphed his congratulations to this officer who had saved the Kaiser's uniform. Well, when the blast of war blew, those people had been forty-six years under the government of Germany; had had the chance to see what German civilization and German Kultur, when applied to human life, really meant; and 50,000 men from Alsace and Lorraine fled across the border and took service under the only flag that their hearts could recognize-the ancient oriflamme of France.

I have heard men sneer sometimes at the British conquest of the South African Republics; but when this war broke out, Britain had given those Republics a degree of freedom of which they had never dreamed under their own tyrant, Paul Kruger. But here was their chance; if the accusation of tyranny and unjust talk had any truth at its foundation, there was nobody on earth that could coerce a single man from that country to take service for England. What did they do? With the blast of war the last Boer left his land and his farm and came out and fought for liberty under the British flag.

Whenever the German army captures a city of their enemy, why is it that the people wail and gnash their teeth? And when the British army captures a citadel of her enemy, why is it, as at Baghdad and Jerusalem, that the people run out with open arms and with glad shouts of welcome and rejoicing? It is because in one case you have to deal with an army of murderers, while in the other you have an army of chivalrous soldiers. When the German Emperor made his entry into Jerusalem, he was a hero in a moving picture show, clad in shining armour, with a plume on his helmet, spurs on his boots, a sword at his side, a neighing horse to ride upon; and the people looked upon him with contempt. When the British soldier, General Allenby, went into Jerusalem on the 10th December, he went in bare-headed, on foot, unarmed, with the companions of his battle in similar attire beside him', and the people stood there and recognized that that was the symbol of a greater entry which meant peace and justice to the people.

And now, what of America's part? At Windsor Castle, my wife and I found from the friendly guide that the vine upon the wall was a Virginia creeper; and then, catching the spirit of the occasion, he pointed to the flag on the highest tower and said, "That flag up there, the great flag of England and the British Empire, is held aloft on a staff of Oregon pine." I do not know that that was so, but there was some comfort in thinking there might be some truth in it, after all. I am reminded of the most beautiful story in the world, of the General who was condemned to death by starvation, but the jailer allowed the General's daughter, who was the mother of a little child, to visit her father in his cell every day, provided she brought no package of food to him. It was observed that the old General was not perishing, but seemed to have strength and vitality; so the jailer set himself to watch, and he found that the daughter was nourishing the life of her parent as she nourished the life of her child. And if the occasion should come-though I do not believe it ever will-when the glorious mission of the British Empire should be imperilled, then I believe and know that her great daughter would be glad to sustain the perishing life of that dear parent from the overflowing fullness of her own breasts.

Our country was slow to come in. Many of us felt that our rightful place was on the battle-front from the day that Belgium was invaded. It took us a long time to wake our people up to that; and while we have had our own grievance-sour ships sunk, foreign trade destroyed, our territory threatened with partition, our people murdered on the high seas-yet I believe in my heart of hearts that America is on the battle-front today because she knew that the civilization of the world was suffering progressive destruction at the hands of Germany, and she was going out there to defend it. Our sons are going now as fast as our ships can take them. All the resources of the wealth and the supplies of that country have been dedicated to the purpose of winning the war; and our men are going to stand shoulder to shoulder with yours in that furnace of hell and death which Germany has made for us all, until, all united and all together, we shall rescue justice and the law, and until righteousness and peace shall be established.


At the conclusion of the address, the annual meeting of the Club was held, and Mr. F. J. Coombs was elected as President for the coming year. After expressing his thanks to the Club for unanimously electing him as President, Mr. Coombs spoke of what the Empire Club of Canada stands for, as follows

1. The advancement of the interest of Canada and a united Empire.

2. That the term "British" should apply to all citizens of the Empire.

3. That the Empire should be so organized that Canada, and other self-governing Dominions, should have a share in the control of the Empire's destinies, particularly in matters of peace and war.

4. That in Imperial organization there should be preserved to the several self-governing Dominions their autonomy and the control of all local, as distinguished from Imperial, matters.

5. That all articles of growth, produce, or manufacture within the component parts of the Empire be given preferential advantages in the respective markets of the Empire and that measures should be adopted to prevent any of the Empire's resources being utilized to injure British interests.

These, gentlemen, are some, among others, of the principles for which the Empire Club stands, and I am sure that these principles carry the endorsement of every Britisher who is present today.

I do not enter into the duties of my new office, with which you have been good enough to honor me, without realizing that it means a lot of hard work; in fact, I would feel that the job would indeed be a heavy one were I not supported by the splendid officers and Executive Committee which have been elected today. I will, doubtless, make many mistakes-not too many, I hope--but in these I crave your indulgence, and I can again assure you of my earnest endeavor to do all I possibly can for the interests of the Empire Club and I ask for the hearty co-operation and help, not only of my fellow officers, but of every member of the Club. Every one should feel that he has a personal interest in the welfare of the Club. Constructive criticism and suggestions will always be welcomed, particularly as to available speakers and subjects.

I am sure we all regret that our Ex-President, Mr. Sommerville, is away today. We miss his genial presence, his able direction, and his ready fund of eloquence which, as many of you know, he is now using in the United States in a series of public addresses on behalf of the American Red Cross and other War Funds, and I am sure that no more able pleader for this wonderful cause could be found. During the past week Mr. Sommerville was honored by being made an Honourary Life Member of the Clark County (Ohio) Bar Association, in which honor we all rejoice and we so expressed ourselves in a congratulatory telegram sent last week at a meeting of the Executive Committee of this Club. The late President McKinley was the only other Life Member. Mr. Sommerville has also been signally honored by being requested by the Governor of the State to deliver the Memorial address today on the steps of the Capitol at Columbus.

Gentlemen, I cannot conclude my remarks without referring to the subject which concerns the hearts and lives of all of us more than anything else. The great war is still upon us; the armies of the Hun are still plying their diabolical trade of murder, fire and pillage; our sons and brothers, and those of our gallant Allies on the Western Front-France, Belgium, Italy and America-are still shedding their blood and laying down their lives in checking the enemy's attempts to break through their unconquerable lines. God grant that the time may soon come when the beast will be hurled back over his own frontiers and the world be forever free from the menace of militarism, and such awful frightfulness as has been seen in Europe during the past four years.

But out of the bloodshed and horror of this terrible war, where the sons of Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, India and other parts of the British Empire, have fought shoulder to shoulder with the sons of Britain, has evolved a great spirit of comradeship which has done more in a comparatively short time to unite and cement the ties of Empire and nourish that spirit of Imperial Unity, which has been one of the main objects of this Club, than could otherwise have been done perhaps in generations. The dream for many years of every true Britisher has at last become a reality and, through the carnage and bloodshed in Europe, the seed of Empire, which had been germinating and growing for many years, has at last blossomed forth until the whole Empire is now welded together in an indissoluble union, upholding those great principles for which the British Empire has stood throughout the ages. And what does this mean? We are told that nineteen centuries ago the great Roman Empire had spread its power and influence practically over the whole of the then known world, thus unconsciously providing a means whereby the new doctrines of Christianity were enabled to be spread abroad in a manner far more completely, and far more quickly, than would have been possible if such a far-reaching National Organization had not existed. What then may be the power for good, of our great British Empire which extends its influence over so much of the world at present? Knowing, as we do, the foundation upon which the British Empire rests, which has its source in those same principles which were delivered on two tables of stone to the Patriarch of old, and, knowing the high ideals of truth, and honor, and justice for which the Empire has always stood, we are sure that, if we are all true to these principles, this great influence will tend only to the good and happiness of all. Couple with this the influence of our great neighbour to the South, whose people speak the same language as our own, whose best sons are of the same stock as ours and who are now mingling their blood with that of the best sons of the British Empire on the plains of France and Flanders, with their vast resources of wealth, and energy, and progress, and standing, as they have shown themselves to stand, for the same great principles of honor and justice for which our own Empire stands-with this united front who can tell what great era of progress is now dawning before us and what great things the future may bring forth.

Gentlemen, in doing all we can to further cement these relations of unity and friendship-by encouraging interchange of thoughts and ideas between our own country and that of our great neighbour and Ally to the south, and throughout the Empire, there is still a great work for us to do. In this work let us make sure that you and I play our part.

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The World's Debt to England

An expression of admiration of Canada's great work in contributing to win the war. This awful conflict that has brought us together in matters of religion. The world's debt to England. The nature of the British Empire. Lloyd George's response to the attack made upon him by General Maurice with regard to keeping the armies of the British Empire at work in Mesopotamia and Egypt. A thought which comes from some historic reminiscences: that great thing which we call human imagination is more Romantic and French and Celtic than it is German. Why the British Empire should endure. England's record. Words on the nature of humanity. Aims of Germany. The fallen men, each of whom has died the death of a hero. The spirit of the British Empire, depicted in a Punch cartoon, and in contrast to the German civilization. Support for the British Empire throughout its own nations and the world. America's part in this War; slow to come in, but now on the battle-front because she knew that the civilization of the world was suffering progressive destruction at the hands of Germany, and was going to go out there to defend it.