- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 31 Oct 1913, p. 51-59
- McBride, Hon. Sir Richard, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- A few western words on a theme of Canada and Empire. Canada emerging from the status of youth, and quickly taking on ourselves that of the full grown man; a time of trial, a period that needs courage. Taking on the full responsibility of national manhood by closer co-operation with the British Empire. Material prosperity in Canada today due to the contact that we have had with the great money markets of London. If we are to continue to go to London for our financial aid, that treasure house must continue to be protected; that protection involving an efficient navy. Owing it to ourselves and to those who have gone before us to approach this theme upon higher and nobler grounds. A consideration of the naval question. A great division all over the country with regard to what was proposed by the Prime Minister of Canada a few months ago. The failure of Canada a few months ago to give over the $35,000,000 to London for emergency assistance and how it has created a most profound impression in the Old Country. The best way to reach the superlative degree of loyalty of this kind is to be true and loyal Britishers as well. Looking upon a picture that the next 50 years will bring, if we all pull loyally and strongly together, which must place Canada in the front place in Empire history.
- Date of Original
- 31 Oct 1913
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- Full Text
- CANADA AND THE EMPIRE
An Address by Hon. SIR RICHARD McBRIDE, Premier of British Columbia, before the Empire Club, Toronto, October 31, 1913.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,--When you asked me to say what subject I would select for my address to your Club, I answered off hand, without a moment's hesitancy, Canada and the Empire. You have the reputation of being one of the heart centres of Empire, and it struck me at the time that perhaps nothing would appeal so readily to you as a few western words on a theme of this kind. This is a rather interesting period in the life of the Dominion of Canada, I shall not say a critical one. We are emerging from the status of youth, and quickly taking on ourselves that of the full grown man. In the life of an individual this is always a time of trial, a period that needs courage, and so it is today with the Dominion of Canada. It is a time of trial for the people of the Dominion, and it is a season when in man-fashion they must assemble all the courage that they are equal to, because presently, from self-respect alone, we ought to take on the full responsibility of national manhood. (Applause.) Now, the question is, in what fashion may this best be done? I give you the answer as I read the Canadian people, by closer co-operation with the British Empire. (Applause.) In all the years that bring us down to date what we have we must credit principally, if not entirely, to the connection which we have enjoyed with the Mother Country, and if up to this state of affairs we have been brought along so well, surely there is every warrant that the future by the self same contact will promise us still better, still greater things. It would be idle for me to argue with you in a commercial sense, what good business it must be to continue on Canada's part more closely the connection to which I have referred. You know yourselves that if there is material prosperity in Canada today, it is largely due to the contact that we have with the great money markets of London, the Empire centre. I was struck most forcibly recently while spending a few weeks in London with an experience that I met, not daily but hourly, especially in the great business part, the money centre of that world's metropolis, and it was this, that you met Canadians right and left coming and going, all looking for money, and I said as I here and there met a man who was very indifferent on the Imperial question but keen on the dollar, what kind of a heart must that man have who is here looking to the treasure house of old Threadneedle Street for means whereby to help on Canadian development, yet who would hesitate at this time in our Empire's life to come up with his individual share of Empire responsibility? (Applause.) It is logical that if we have to go to London for the means, it must be because the wealth is there; if the wealth is there, it must be because the Empire is strong and powerful, and able to protect wealth. And at the present day it would appear to require in the way of protection efficient naval defence. The sequence must be that if we propose to continue to go to London for our financial aid, that treasure house must continue to be protected, and that protection unquestionably involves an efficient navy. (Applause.) Now, there is the position from a clean-cut, cold-blooded, commercial viewpoint. That may open the hearts of some Canadians--I hope to Providence there are very few of them who must be appealed to on a ground of that kind. (Hear, hear.) In a crisis of the sort--well, hardly a crisis, but an interesting period of the sort through which Canada and the Empire is passing. I have given you the facts, the conditions are as I depict them, and who can question the fairness of the logic that I have offered? But let me appeal to you, my brother Canadians that we owe it to ourselves, to those who have gone before us to approach this theme upon higher, upon nobler grounds. (Hear, hear.) There is a sentiment about it that in itself ought to sufficiently appeal to every one of us at this time, to stand up in this our manhood with a full and generous heart, keeping close by the Mother Country, and give to her, if it be possible, even more in the way of succor and help than she may have asked. And this leads at once to the consideration of the naval question. I read in this morning's paper that the naval question had been settled in a constituency down here where some bye-election has been held. Now, I do not wish to be controversial at -all, but I think it is an offence to the good sense of the people' of the Province of Ontario that any suggestion of that sort could be offered for one single moment. Sometimes I am constrained to the conclusion that we in Canada are inclined to put politics before the country, that we seem to think that the welfare of a political party in the Dominion is of first importance, the well-being of the state next. To my mind it is a most unfortunate thing that the question of naval defence has found its way into the zone of political controversy--(hear, hear)--and yet it may have been that there was no other course. If you are about to build a navy, and the records of the Mother Land be of any service-and they ought to be, because there is to be found the best navy in the world--will you not agree with this conclusion that naval experts, tried and experienced sailors are the men to work out the appropriate plan of navy building, and not the council board of a political cabinet? (Hear, hear.) If you come so far with me you must take the next step and agree that any attempt of a political cabinet to frame and settle upon a naval policy is the crudest possible sort of experimentation. I will say not one word to offend a single individual in this room who may have at the moment strong faith in the political doctrines for which Sir Wilfrid Laurier must stand responsible, but you will permit me to go this length, and I do it, I hope, without causing the slightest feeling of criticism one way or the other, the navy that Sir Wilfrid Laurier gave to Canada three years ago was looked upon the world over as a screaming farce. The proposal to bring to the Dominion of Canada for the purpose of Canadian defence two ships that had been condemned and that were obsolete, was something that it was difficult indeed for the people across the line, and in many centres of Europe to take seriously. It was an experiment, it was a farcial one, and it brought absolutely no result. Much better would it have been had some well studied plan been produced on advice and investigation of a most thorough character, so that the Canadian people could have secured better results for their money. There was a suggestion that the Rainbow was to come to the Pacific Coast in order to train our boys and fit them for service in the Canadian Navy. Well, if you enquire from headquarters how many boys volunteered, and how many remained on board and were trained, you will find nothing but confirmation of the opening observations that I have just given you; and if you would enquire on the Atlantic coast, pretty much the self-same condition, I am sure, would be found. After all, experience has shown that in young countries it is impossible to recruit ships for a navy. Here is the American nation today, with upwards of ninety millions of people, yet with a good deal of work to do on the land, and the records show that even at this time, only with extreme effort has it been possible for Uncle Sam to get ships' companies for the latest battle ships, and even then they are not the trained and finished product you get in the British Islands; because the men will stay on the land, and the boys will follow the men just so long as there is land development to be undertaken. So if my study of the question in this regard be of any value here today, I give it to you, with the conclusion, after submitting these illustrations, that only upon most mature consideration, most careful study from the most experienced course, may we expect to find some business-like, some efficient policy evolved that will make every Canadian share in Empire defence by way of naval assistance. I take it without the slightest question that you all agree with me that we must do our part in helping out with naval defence-(applause) -and that when that part is undertaken it should be along the best, the most efficient, and the most up-to-date lines. So it is that I would leave this section of my address today with the observation that when Canada is prepared to offer to her people something in the way of a permanent naval policy--and the time cannot be far distant--let it come to us from the most experienced source, so that in years to come we may not have failure written against our attempt. Recollect that it takes ships of the best type, and men of the best training to have results of the very best character.
If you grant me that Canada is part and parcel of the Empire, and that she has the determination to ever remain so, you must agree with me that the defence of London with the proper patrol of the North Sea and the Mediterranean is equally essential for Imperial purposes as is the defence of the Pacific coast--(hear, hear)--because if there is injury to the North Sea there must be irreparable damage to the Pacific coast or to the Atlantic, as the case may be; but just so long as our Navy at home in the Old Country waters is able to hold its way and stand for the dominance that it has been enabled to successfully claim for all these years, just so long will we be strong and powerful as we always have been in this section of the world. Now, if I speak of the moment in which we live, and I address myself to the question of naval defence, what must I be confronted with? A most interesting situation indeed; one where I believe for the first time in our Empire's history there has been what is substantially a call from the Mother Land to Canada for naval assistance. It has been called, and I think properly so, an emergency case. I have read, as all of you must have done, the various returns sent from Downing Street to Ottawa a few months ago by the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Right Honourable Mr. Churchill. Is there a man in this room who would propose to give a fair interpretation to those documents, prepared to tell me that substantially they meant anything else but a direct call on the Canadians to come over and help them? I would like to know in the name of common sense and fairness how you who pride yourselves upon your loyalty to King and flag would have the British Admiralty approach you? On hands and knees with hand outstretched begging of you to come up with some assistance? I should say, Never. Never in the nature of things could a Britisher undertake a task of that kind. There is the national pride and dignity that has lived there all these ages, and that is too valuable to be jeopardized by any such line of action. I have read the speeches of public me on the platform, and I have carefully followed criticism in the House of Commons, and I say it as a Canadian that I was ashamed as I followed these proceedings, to find that there were Canadians whose expressions amounted to this--that they were unwilling to do their part, man-fashion, until the Admiralty pleaded with Canada that she was in trouble and that assistance must be forthcoming from Ottawa. (Applause.) Is it to be a case that we are not to arouse ourselves as true Canadians to right responsibility until England is in trouble and war vessels are at her doors? I wonder what panic and consternation would take place all over Canada tomorrow if war were declared; I would like to see the crowds around the bulletin boards in every town and village throughout the Dominion watching for the result, and if the result were adverse, fancy the panic that would take place, and how would you as Britishers and Canadians feel if it were brought home to you that possibly by the exercise of good stout Canadian manhood you might have stayed such a tragic eventuality and assisted in keeping the grand old flag flying? (Applause.) I am not an alarmist, and I am not here to advance the political welfare of any party. But I am here as a Canadian anxious and ready and willing to speak to you on equal lines on a subject that from three thousand miles away I have tried to give careful and fair study to, and that is the way this emergency matter appears to me at the present time.
With regard to what was proposed by the Prime Minister of Canada a few months ago, I know perfectly well that there is great division of opinion all over the country, that is if I read the newspapers aright. There is a great deal of feeling and perhaps some bitterness, but do you not all agree with me that it is quite possible, since there is a fashion of armament in Europe, and since there has been no withdrawal on the part of the Admiralty from the stand taken by the First Lord some months ago, to have the entire Canadian people approach this situation in a calm and in an impartial manner? Let them study if they will, what has emanated from Whitehall, let them look over the memoranda that have been presented, and let them in all fairness as true Canadians ask themselves if this be not business of a serious import. Do you think that the Government in Downing Street was anxious at all to have to tell a story to Canada that she needed financial aid? You know perfectly well, you who know England better than I do, and Ireland and Scotland too, that you would never have had one single line from Whitehall unless it was felt at that centre of government that the hour had approached when you might conveniently stand behind our own responsibility. Think of it; even at the present moment if we have a Canadian in China or in Chile or in Siberia, and if he is in need of money, or in need of kindly sympathy, to what quarter does he go? To the British Embassy or the Consulate, as the case may be, where there is always a fraternal hand held out for him, and where he may always find material comfort, assistance and encouragement. You are not paying up a dollar for this business, you have never been asked to do so. The business man, the workingman, and the professional man in England, though, is digging down daily to keep the Foreign Office and all its sub offices well placed before the world, so that it might continue with that high standard before the world that it has always enjoyed. Do you value a right or a privilege of that kind as it deserves to be valued? This may be only a casual matter in the opinion of some because it does not come home to us in this wealthy and prosperous country. What we are concerned with from day to day is how much wealth the morrow may bring forth; we may go comfortably to our beds every night without the slightest fear that in the morning there may be some strenuous news of a declaration of war that would disturb our domestic or political ease at once. But go to England and Scotland and Wales, and study the conditions there where the workman, the store-keeper and the professional man, everybody, must be continually on the qui vine with respect to these things, and I assure you there is a different story to be told, and I can assure you of more than that, the failure of Canada a few months ago to give over the $35,000,000 to London for emergency assistance has created a most profound impression in the Old Country. It is not, mark you, of a sort that could give offense to anybody; it does not mean that England is not today as well prepared as ever to stand by Canada, but it does mean that you have disappointed very sorely millions and millions of your kinsmen across the ocean. (Hear, hear). It was never thought for one second by the people of the old Home Land that there would be the slightest difficulty with that vote of thirty-five millions. They had been reading newspaper after newspaper inspired from Canada which told of the wonderful and potential wealth of this section of Empire. One man, who is a large man in the way of business, was so kind as to show me different political pagers published in Canada-rabid Liberal and very keen Tory, or rabid Tory and very keen Liberal, as the case may be--"but," said he, "all of these people tell us of the wealth of the Dominion; here is the story of the marvellous Cobalt country; here is the story of the fisheries of the Atlantic; here is the story of the pulp wood of Quebec, and of the wheat fields of the Prairie Provinces, and the wealth of the far western section, British Columbia; not in millions sterling, but in hundreds of millions sterling, and consistently with this story which is preached from the house-tops in the Mother Country, we could not lend ourselves to believe that in what was an emergency you would hesitate, possibly for political purposes, to hand over a cheque for thirty-five millions to keep the old flag flying higher than ever before."
I have not tried in these words of mine to draw a picture of things as I have seen them and have studied them, at all extravagantly; I have simply tried to tell you the story, first of a permanent policy, and next of an emergent one, as it occurs to me, off-hand, assuming all the time--which we must do, because we are so sure of our ground-that the best way to reach the superlative degree of loyalty of this kind is to be true and loyal Britishers as well. As I read between the lines of one of your political leader's speeches-and here again possibly I may be on delicate ground--there is a hint of setting up Canada as a separate nation. Well, he would not be an ambitious man if he did not cherish possibly thoughts of that, kind, but my idea of making Canada a great national entity would be to make her still a bigger part of the British Empire. (Applause.) I am quite satisfied that just as quickly as Canada is in a position to make the offers, you will find ready responses from over the water that will bring you into very close contact with the foreign affairs and the various matters that burden the Empire; they are keen and anxious for partnership, for co-operation. Read any public man's speeches, and you will always find that underlying his every utterance there is this expression of opinion that the Mother Country is eager, and that she is concerned to have still closer contact in the political as well as in the commercial way with the Dominion of Canada. There is something to be done over yonder, but there is a great deal to be done in Canada as well. I can look upon a picture that the next fifty years will bring, if we all pull loyally and strongly together, which must place Canada in the front place in Empire history, where the great bulk of her powerful people will be resident, and where the nerve centre of her tremendous commercial and industrial life will be found. Could there be a nobler duty left to the hands of the loyal sons to undertake than the fruition of a programme of the kind that in two or three generations to come would not only make Canada within herself a strong and powerful nation among nations, but as well be the leading influence in the greatest Empire upon which the sun has ever shone? (Applause.)