Difficulties and Opportunities of the British Empire
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 22 Sep 1921, p. 227-236

Gough, Rev. A.W., Speaker
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Post-war problems in Great Britain. Such problems not the result of the victory. The speaker's opinion as to the cause of the troubles. Finding the most enthusiastic expression coming from the lips of people whose hearts are set upon destruction. Examples of such orators in Hyde Park. The speaker's work as Chairman of the British Workers League for London and the Home Counties. Comments on Ireland. The issue of Internationalism. The underdog idea as the idea of pity for certain classes and for certain persons. The kind of underdog that British Imperialism and that sound humanitarianism are really concerned with. Nothing more human than British Imperialism. Some comments about Canada.
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22 Sep 1921
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Full Text
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto
September 22, 1921

PRESIDENT MITCHELL introduced the Reverend Prebendary Gough as an ardent imperialist, the pastor of one of the largest congregations in London, a high official of St. Paul's Cathedral and chairman of the Maple Leaf Fellowship.


Mr. President and Gentlemen,-I have to speak to three meetings this afternoon and I do not want to go over just the same ground. I am not likely to, for I have a terrible memory; but in the train coming here I jotted down three fairly separate outlines of thought in order that, if possible, I might not trespass in case any one of you should be at Upper Canada College, or by some circuitous route get into the Ladies' Canadian Club and be fatigued by repetition.

Our subject is the "Difficulties and Opportunities of the British Empire." Well, first, I have no tendency to be pessimistic, and there is nothing pessimistic in my soul. I will say something about the difficulties. As I came along in the train it occurred to me that if an observer from Mars had alighted in Great Britain at any time since the Armistice he might have come to the opinion, if he were a hasty person like the Psalmist,--who said that all men were liars, because he was in such a hurry,--he might, I say, have come to the opinion that really it was an unfortunate thing to win a war.

We had very great troubles, as you know. They have not been singular to England; they have been elsewhere. But it has been strange that nations that have had greatest victories through their armies and in human endeavour should have had so much to plague them since victory crowned their efforts. It is singular; and yet I do not think it is difficult to explain. Certainly it is not due to the fact that we have been engaged in a great war and that we have won the war. Our troubles are not the result of our victories. Some of the troubles of course must be expected to be found in a nation, in a race, in a group of peoples that have gone through such a strain and have had to climb such heights of sacrifice. Of course there have been certain reactions, but all these are very different from all the troubles that we have been wearied by. I will tell you what I think some of our principal troubles are. One of our principal troubles has been this--that the best people in our land, the soundest people, have not been so assertive, so expressive, so united as they ought to have been. (Hear, hear) There is that dear old England-full still of such a splendid generosity of life-yet if you put your ear to the ground, or put your eye near the column of the newspaper, you might come to the opinion that it was the most distressful land, and that everybody who had anything worth saying was saying something which was uncomfortable for good people to listen to. And the real fact of the matter is that the good people undoubtedly have been rather tired by the immense expense of energy and soul during the war, but that a great many other people were not tired at all by the war. Oh, not at all. Some of them went to very comfortable places during the war (laughter) and some of them went to places from which they were able to level discomfort and distress upon the patriotic, the overwhelmingly more numerous sections of the nation. Those people were not a bit tired when the war came on. Now was their time; they had not fought; now those men were going to march forward to war and they have. Those people are full of a certain kind of enthusiasm and energy. It almost seems as if the very powers of darkness felt that their time had come when the forces of righteousness had won the great victory. Everywhere these embittered people, these people with a grudge against society, these people whose animating motives are predominately destructive, came out into the open, and unfortunately they attracted far too much attention.

I have no doubt that if this were not a patriotic gathering, and if I were to appear in a gathering, even in this warm centre of the empire-I suppose the best place in Canada for a generous constructive idea to set upon its way in good hope-yet if I were to gather together even in the city of Toronto the people who are against the Empire, and say something violently destructive, I should attract far more attention and advertisement than I wish to do by speaking among friends of Britain. (Applause)

It is a formidable fact that almost throughout the Empire the most enthusiastic expression seems to be found coming from the lips of people whose hearts are set upon destruction. You find it if you go on Sunday to Hyde Park and listen to the orators of the various groups; find where the big crowds are, find where the flung hand, the swinging arms, and the enthusiastic crowd are-there you find in most cases that those crowds and those orators have expressed something which is against the interests of humanity and against the interests of England. A terrible thing. Why won't the good people be a little less mild? (Hear, hear) Why must they take it that to be a good man means to be a dumb man and that to be a pious man means to be a man who washes his hands in invisible soap and seems constantly to be wanting to apologize to Almighty God for being such a worm? Oh, the pity of it! If we could only get the multitudinous good of Britain and of Canada to be as expressive as that sporadic mischief which is seeking to poison the Imperial life and bring down the Imperial edifice, then the difficulties of the Empire would vanish away like smoke and the glorious sun would shine over the. Empire, with no clouds, but with endless visions of hope. (Loud applause)

Now, the boldness of those troublesome people in Britain at all events, at the present time, is largely due to the fact that they were not treated as they ought to have been treated during the war. They were treated too well. It is an extraordinary thing. As an old and patient plodder for well on twenty years on Universal Service, at the beginning of the war I pleaded with our government to make the situation just by imposing universal service as England wanted it to be imposed upon the whole of our people. Instead of that, you know some of the people gave themselves to the war and some of the people did not give themselves to the war, and some who did not give themselves to the war were presently got hold of by that ingenious and ever-working German propaganda and made difficulties in the industrial life.

It is my business, as Chairman of the British Workers League for London and the Home Counties, to follow the behaviour of those people with a good deal of attention, not only in London and the Home Counties, and I am entirely sure that much of the trouble that Britain has had during the war is directly due to the fact that those people became chartered libertines of mischief during the war, and under hardly any restrictions of any kind. They merely had to pop down into a coal mine or some such place, and from that safe place they were able to work mischief for the community. It is because of that wicked liberty that was given to the workers of iniquity during the war that those people rose from one height of boldness to another, and from one demand of audacity to another, until when war ended with many laurels to their credit they were able to prepare once more to hold the community to ransom. I believe that that is very largely the reason why we have difficulties in the British Empire.

But there are others. Englishmen are extremely patient people. Fortunately there is another side to that virtue which the German Kaiser used to call obstinacy (laughter); but it is only in gravely difficult situations that the indomitable, courageous obstinacy of our race is wont to assert itself. At ordinary times we are extremely good-natured. We suffer fools, and others who are worse than fools, I won't say gladly, but much too patiently; and since the war, instead of dealing with the elements of the national life and the imperial life that were most worthy of attention, we have been giving nearly all our time to dealing with the people who are making trouble. It is most extraordinary. Wherever people did not do anything much to help the war, they first started to make exorbitant demands as soon as the war was over, and our authorities were largely occupied in trying to satisfy these demands and to remedy the extraordinary complaints of those people.

Now, I do not know--it would be perilous for me to refer to Ireland, because if I speak on any subject I say exactly what I mean. I will only say this about Ireland, that Southern Ireland has taken immensely too much of our attention since the armistice, immensely too much; and a great many Englishmen, and I dare say a great many of you over here, are now coming to the opinion that Ireland-Southern Ireland--is not the most precious jewel in our imperial crown and that in point of fact Southern Ireland, having lost the most glorious opportunity, when she was a member of the noblest family of peoples in all history, is now not much good to the British Empire. Many of us are disposed not to attach very great importance to the supposed strategetic dangers that might await on future wars if Southern Ireland were turned out of the Empire, where she evidently is not at home, to be a little nation not capable of much mischief or much good. That is the opinion that many of us are coming to; and you who in your history have a glorious and a wistful passage relating to what happened to the United Empire Loyalists when they came over here, might perhaps make a suggestion as to the way in which the Loyalist element of Southern Ireland might be treated. Certainly if we were richly to compensate every Loyalist in Southern Ireland who might desire to be evacuated, we could do so and leave a margin, with the money which we are at present expending on bearing the total cost of Irish education and meeting other large charges of administration. I think it would be a great relief to the British Empire if Southern Ireland were told to go her own way, only remembering that just as Great Britain has a supervising interest in the foreign politics of Belgium, so we should have a say by a great navy in regard to any treaties which she might wish to form; and inasmuch as she has no coal and no iron and very little timber, I do not see what the future history of Southern Ireland,, until she came back humbly, would be, excepting that of an economic dependent upon the only country in the world that would want to buy her agricultural produce. (Applause)

I really think that, as the British Empire has a great many things to do that seem to me more important than looking after those people who constantly tell us how alien they are from us, (and who certainly behave as though they were alien) if we told them that they had not behaved as men who were bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh and heart to heart with us, that we wanted to live for our own Imperial family, for our sons and our daughters, our kinsmen of this great Dominion, of Australia and South Africa and other parts in heart and purpose a United Empire. A courageous statesman might well do this and something further and if he did it, the world that cares for human interests, would not be sorry. (Loud applause)

I have specially marked down the labour question for the Women's Canadian Club, so I will not deal with that here. But this I will deal with; I should like to deal with the story of that atrocious thing, the Internationale. I should like to show you, if I could, that what is called Internationalism, as it is worked in the world of labour, is really nothing else than Pan-Germanism intended for consumption and operation outside of Germany. That is exactly what it is. I just throw that out; I cannot now give you my evidence, for I have something else to say that I think is almost more important; but I have got it, and I am prepared to give it.

I want to deal with something that that Pan-German movement of thought has really been doing amidst industrialism throughout the British Empire. In the German Empire it has been busy in exalting the entity called the Superman. You know something about him, don't you? (Laughter) But outside of Germany it has used the ethical side of its Internationalism to promote the interests of an entity called the Underdog. Now, do you know what I mean by that? I was speaking the other day at Hamilton and I was a little shocked to read in a local paper that I had said we had scorn, not pity, for the underdog. No, no; I am really quite a soft-hearted person in the right quarters, I hope. I am always ready, my time and other engagements permitting, to help a lame dog over the stile. There is nothing, almost, I like better to do than that; but what I do object to is, in this world of competition, with Germany still active in the prosecution of her mental and propagandist war, I do object to carry the underdog on my back. (Applause) Germany has done everything she can to inculcate a false humanitarianism in the British Empire, while she has taught the most horrid and brutal Nietzscheism within her own boundaries; and she has done it in order to emasculate and enfeeble the great power which is the only power in this world that she really has feared-the power of the British Empire.

Now, I do not attribute this curious worship of the underdog entirely to German influence. We have our soft side in England. We are wont to turn sentimental on occasion, and sometimes not on occasion. If I were privileged to give you a lecture to explain to you just how it has happened I think I could fairly clearly show this. The old healthy humanitarianism of the latter part of the eighteenth and the first part of the nineteenth century out of which modern democracy barely emerged, a democracy which had for itself two great principles--the greatest happiness of the greatest number, and the giving to every man his opportunity--how that became vitiated and perverted until we have reached a state of things in which nobody but the underdog is to have much opportunity. Instead of giving liberty to the wholesome powers of the nation and to the capable men and women to do their best, its wretched current is working day and night to prevent the capable people from using their capacity, and to load them with this imperious underdog.

But here is the worst of it. Just as the French Revolution began in a perverted sentiment of pity, so here is this perverted sentiment of pity going out sometimes to people who do not need it at all, like manual workers. Why should it? Why should a man, because be is called a manual worker, be looked upon as an object of pity? The only enjoyment I had out west was a week I had on a ranch working like a nigger. I did not want pity. It is a wholesome thing to do; I did not feel that I was an underdog when I was steadily working, shooting grain into a barn, chopping down trees, digging, and all that sort of thing. But this underdog idea is the idea of pity for certain classes and for certain persons; and after a time, pity goes beyond giving them help, and in order that the person that is pitied may not be disgruntled it gives him the top place. The underdog helped from being an underdog into a real worker, into a real servant of the community-that is the kind of underdog that British Imperialism and that sound humanitarianism are really concerned with. Just because a man works with his hands he has no special claim to be chosen to be a prophet, and because he is a mechanic he is not necessarily a heaven-born diplomatist; and because he happens to group himself with some other people in what he very strangely chooses to call a Labour Party, he has not therefore of necessity a claim to become the party that is to rule the destinies of the Empire.

I tell you that all those thoughts, trends, movements, really come out of a morbid pity which is not a humane thing. There is nothing more humane than British Imperialism. I;o to my soldier friends when I want to find not only the most gallant but the most gentle hearts. I go to men who have risked their lives for the world and for the women and the children if I want to find a true and sweet humanity. I do not go to those mouthers of theory; I do not go to those people who in the name of humanity would destroy the hopes of humanity, who would pull down that splendidly although slowly raised edifice of justice and of freedom which is the British Empire. We stand for what is human and for all that is human in the British Empire; all that belongs to human welfare hangs for its future hope of progress upon the welfare and the progress of the British Empire. There is none other name or organization under Heaven that can secure human progress in a career of courage and of sweetness and of ultimately irresistible genius but the British Empire; and because of this, my brothers, I meet you here in Canada.

Well, as your chairman has rightly said, I feel very much at home here in this true and splendid Canada, whose foundations were laid by the mighty patience, energy and courage of your first pioneers; whose great place today has been earned for her, and whose great promise today belongs to her because of what you and others in Canada did in the Great War for human liberty and love and righteousness.

The spreading splendour of your vast Dominion calls for the old determination of the pioneers (for when will pioneering in Canada be over?) calls on you to achieve what was denied those men of faith and indomitable courage, calls on you to make this country the land of beauty which they pictured as in a vision in those far off days. Remembering this land of pleasant atmospheres, lusty distances, unplumbed resources and stimulating calls such as the people of no other land have had sounded forth to them by Nature and by Providence, I wish to banish from your hearts and your policies all tendency to mitigate human energy. Let loose the strength of your Canadian hearts and limbs upon the glorious field of your opportunity. If I were not an Englishman I would be a Canadian. (Loud applause)

As I think of what you have of hope and opportunity given you by Nature and by God in this materially splendid land of yours, it seems to me that here within the boundaries of this great Dominion the Anglo-Saxon race has found a place where it can renew its youth; where it never need grow old, where that great spirit of adventure which, till lately, had to be satisfied in England by passing from the Island home to the fringes of the world might be fully satisfied with no seas to cross. Seeing this and feeling this with all my soul, and feeling the touch of the true atmosphere-human, patriotic and imperial--of this gathering today, I say "lift up your hearts". Our race is called to a greater career than it has yet run, and in this land, I believe, the greatest part of its career will find its place and movement. Here, under the shining of those old stars under which our forefathers fared forth-the stars of justice, of generosity, of courage, of obstinacy for truth-under those old stars I see a career for our race here in Canada that shall carry it, the ages through, always to a new glory. (Loud and prolonged applause)

PRES. MITCHELL expressed the hearty thanks of the Club to Prebendary Gough for his stirring message, the members standing and cheering enthusiastically.

The President of the British Empire Club of Providence, Rhode Island, Mr. Spencer Over, was the guest of the Club at this meeting and was introduced by President Mitchell in felicitous terms, the members applauding heartily as Mr. Over bowed his thanks.

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Difficulties and Opportunities of the British Empire

Post-war problems in Great Britain. Such problems not the result of the victory. The speaker's opinion as to the cause of the troubles. Finding the most enthusiastic expression coming from the lips of people whose hearts are set upon destruction. Examples of such orators in Hyde Park. The speaker's work as Chairman of the British Workers League for London and the Home Counties. Comments on Ireland. The issue of Internationalism. The underdog idea as the idea of pity for certain classes and for certain persons. The kind of underdog that British Imperialism and that sound humanitarianism are really concerned with. Nothing more human than British Imperialism. Some comments about Canada.