- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 17 Mar 1949, p. 268-281
- James, Dr. F. Cyril, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The period of British history of St. Patrick. A vivid depiction of what Patrick's environment would have been like. Remembering men who were not defeatists. How far we have fallen from the bright hopes of a generation ago. The moving screen that is the Iron Curtain. Changing Soviet tactics. The post-war phase of Soviet tactics, beginning with Stalin's public speech in January, 1946. The official Russian policy. Verbatim quotes from Mr. Harry Pollitt, Chairman of Executive Committee of the Communist Party in England regarding 9 directives of policy. Russia not yet prepared for war, but the need to defend our liberties. The willingness to take the offensive. The futility of sending economic subsistence without providing defence. Defending the outposts, and more. The need to ask people to take a stand: "Will you fight for Russia, or for Canada?" The strength of democracy in ourselves. The need for a democratic antidote to the Cominform. Undertaking, as individuals, to do our share in the work of government, locally, provincially and nationally. Undertaking to work with all that we have in us for the welfare of the world. Trying to think for ourselves, honesty and courageously, seeking always to find solutions to the many problems that confront the world. Democracy as the opportunity to accept responsibility. Taking the offensive on all fronts, and maintaining it. A last look at St. Patrick.
- Date of Original
- 17 Mar 1949
- Language of Item
- Copyright Statement
- 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.
- Empire Club of CanadaEmail
Agency street/mail address
Fairmont Royal York Hotel
100 Front Street West, Floor H
Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3
- Full Text
- WE TAKE OUR STAND
AN ADDRESS BY DR. F. CYRIL JAMES, B.Com., M.A., Ph.D., LL.D., D.C.L.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Thos. H. Howse
Thursday, March 17th, 1949
HONOURED GUESTS AND GENTLEMEN
This is the third occasion that The Empire Club has been honoured in having Dr. F. Cyril James, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University as its guest and speaker.
When Dr. James addressed us in February, 1941, he chose as his subject "Inflation and War Finance" which was a frank discussion of the dangers of monetary inflation in time of war.
In February, 1948, his subject was "Money Makes the Mare to Go." That was a strong plea for reconstruction of world affairs within the framework of an efficient international monetary system and was in a sense a sequel to his first address.
Today Dr. James has chosen as the title for his address, "We Take Our Stand." I can think of many things which this might embrace, but having no prior knowledge of the theme of Dr. James' address, I am only prepared to prophesy one thing and that is that we are about to listen to an outstanding address.
Dr. James has had a unique and remarkable career. Born in England, he graduated from London University. Came to America and studied the economic structure of the United States at the University of Pennsylvania and in the fall of 1939, was appointed Principal of McGill University. In that position his exceptional ability as an educator has brought him great prestige and distinction.
It now gives me very great pleasure to introduce Dr. F. Cyril James, B.Com., M.A., Ph.D., LL.D., D.C.L.
It may be rash, if rumour is credible, to speak about St. Patrick in Toronto. It has sometimes been suggested that this city is peopled by Orangemen, to whom all saints are anathema, but I would suggest to you that St. Patrick provides us, across many centuries, with a most appropriate exemplar for these days in which we are living. The man is worthy of our memory.
It was in the West of Britain, somewhere between the Clyde and the Bristol Channel, that Patrick first saw the light of day in 387 A.D. Memory does not easily depict that period for us. It is later than the period covered by our high school Latin and long before the remembered 1066 of William the Conqueror. Yet it was an interesting period. Britain had been a Roman province for more than two hundred years; it was the western outpost of that great world civilization which has transmitted to us much of our concept of law and no small part of our ideals of personal liberty and responsibility.
Stephen Vincent Benet's The Last o f the Legions might help us to visualize the environment of St. Patrick. His home town lay not far behind the Roman Wall: It was near the frontier, where civilization faced the pagan barbarity of the Picts and Scots. Men should have realized daily in such a place that life, liberty and the Christian faith were precious. They could be preserved as long as men had strength and courage enough to defend the Wall. No longer. Patrick's father was a decurion, a municipal councillor; his mother had come from the Roman province of Gaul. They knew the value of their heritage, and we can be sure that young Patrick was trained in a household that worshipped God as sincerely as it appreciated the fact that it was a part of that great and uniform civilization, policed by the Roman legions, and subject to the Roman law which stretched from the outposts of Dumbarton and Chester, across Rome and the Mediterranean, to distant Egypt and Arabia. The dark pattern of barbarian life beyond the Wall was but a shadow to make familiar light more brilliant by its contrast.
But Patrick was born in a time of the breaking of nations. Far off in the Balkans, the Emperor Theodosius was fighting the usurper Maximus. The heart of the Empire was torn by civil war and weakened by the spirit of secession. Distant provinces like Britain were being drained of their manpower by the wars, and when they looked to Rome for strength and leadership none was forthcoming.
Civilization was crumbling in the face of barbarism; the process was slow and continuous. The lamps grew dimmer year by year but there was no sudden catastrophe in which the light went out.
Three generations before Patrick was born the people of the towns began to "take to the woods" in order to avoid taxation and that personal responsibility for government which had been the tradition of Rome. When his father was a young man, in 360 A.D., the barbarians had swept across the Wall, and the cities of Britain were scarcely able to defend themselves during the weeks that elapsed before Rome could send from Gaul (itself made up of trained barbarian mercenaries) a mobile force to drive the invader back. The historian of that episode remarks that "the settled legions were no longer well disciplined, nor were they trustworthy"--an ominous portent of coming doom!
I wonder how much young Patrick thought about these things. It would be fascinating for us of this generation to have a first-hand record of the disintegrating society of municipal buildings falling into disuse and disrepair, of municipal government become an empty farce because men were too lazy to govern themselves. But there was scant time for the lad to philosophise. He was not much more than fifteen when Irish raiders from across the narrow seas swooped down on the British coast to plunder a town that was too wealthy to be safe, yet too indolent to realize its danger. He was taken captive to Ireland, and as a slave assigned to the task of tending the domestic animals of his barbarian captor.
Few great men have had a less promising apprenticeship; but during those six years he dreamed dreams as he walked the lonely hills, and saw the waters that stretched endlessly eastward toward the land of his birth. "The spirit of the Lord was warm in me", he wrote in the Confession penned in after life. There are in our literature many stories of the exile who dreamed of home. You do not need me to describe his thoughts, if you will use your imagination; and that imagination will also paint for you the joy of St. Patrick and of his family when, after six years, he was able to escape from bondage and rejoin them.
His father and mother were still alive. Perhaps the quality of Roman civilization had weakened a little year by year during his absence, but the joy of homecoming was so great that he could easily be excused if he had no taste for detailed sociological or political observations. This was the city life of which he had dreamed. His parents were alive and well. He had come home again!
I suppose that many a British lad, in those troubled years of the fifth century, suffered a similar fate. Raids were frequent, because the defences were poor. Some of the captives, no doubt, died in exile; Patrick was lucky to get home again.
But today we do not recall his luck: we think about his courage and determination. There would be no festival today, fifteen centuries after his lifetime, if he had been content to grow old in his family villa, telling his cronies beside the winter fire about his early experiences and complaining of the sad decline in the quality of the municipal services.
Patrick was not, however, content to slide back into comfort and leave the battle to the other man. He was not even of that band, immortalized in the tragic memory of General Maginot, who think it adequate to stand comfortably on the defensive when society is threatened, Perhaps it was even then too late to defend the Wall. The barbarians had already broken through in the east and swept down to York. But even if military action was no longer practical, Patrick could remember that the ideals and traditions of Rome in the hearts of its citizens had once been more powerful than its legions. Arnold Toynbee has emphasized the fact that a civilization spreads more by the force of its ideas than by the strength of its weapons. It was still possible to take the offensive in that last and hardest of all campaigns-the effort to convert the enemy to an understanding of the great traditions of Roman civilization.
Do you think that idea fantastic? Friends and family tried hard to dissuade young Patrick from his foolish idea of going back to Ireland to convert the heathen. Why run into danger when he was safe? But Patrick knew that safety was not to be found in isolation. "I could not act contrary to my view . . . I yield to none." Here I must take my stand; I can do none other
It was in 432 A.D. that St. Patrick returned to Ireland, this time by his own free will, and there he worked steadily until his death in 461 A.D. I shall not recount that mission. But it is worth remembering that St. Patrick accomplished more than he could have dreamed possible when he set out. He not only converted many Irishmen to Christianity and a knowledge of western civilization he founded the great Celtic Church that, four centuries later, was able to send missionaries to those peoples of England and Europe who had lost all contact with the ancient civilization and fallen under the heel of pagan barbarism. His attack was, in the long run, the most magnificent defence.
We live in a moment of this world's history when it is good to remember men who were not defeatists. The pillars of our civilization have not yet cracked as badly as those which upheld Roman society in St. Patrick's day; but if we are honest with ourselves we realize that they are less solid than they were a generation ago. A man need not be old to remember the time when there was a free democratic parliament in Prague, and the name of Masaryk was a beacon to our thoughts. It is not long since Hungarians danced joyously to the strains of a Tzigane orchestra whose music contrasts sadly with that last prayer of Cardinal Mindszenty--surely one of the strangest pleas that any judge in a criminal court ever heard from the lips of a prisoner: "God give peace in these days, not for the future, or the distant future, but in these days." There are men living, and not yet old, who can remember when a Duma was sitting in St. Petersburg and Russia was on the way toward constitutional monarchy.
These are the milestones of memory. In remembering them we realize how far we have fallen from the bright hopes that were ours a generation ago. The "Iron Curtain" is not, like the ill-fated Maginot line, the fixed outer defence of a frightened people with no taste for the fighting that might be necessary to defend their possessions and ideals. The "Iron Curtain" is a moving screen, like those fantasies of the Arabian Nights: it advances steadily, and the advance guard of the Kremlin moves ahead of it.
Soviet tactics have changed many times since 1917. A strong dictatorship does not need to be consistent; it does not need to explain to its people the frequent reversals of its stated foreign policy, because those people are not allowed to know anything of foreign policy, and a close censorship keeps them ignorant of what is going on in other parts of the world. Soviet politicians can therefore resort to wheedling persuasion when they think it may be more effective than force to attain their long-range strategic aims. But those strategic aims have been consistent.
The post-war phase of Soviet tactics began with Stalin's public speech in January, 1946, when he announced to the world that there could be neither peace nor prosperity in a world that was half-capitalist and half-communist. We should understand that, and agree with it, remembering that Abraham Lincoln said it clearly three generations ago. The directors of Russian policy might have abandoned the old idea of spontaneous world revolution but they were still pressing forward relentlessly on the basis of their new slogan: "Socialism country by country." The Cominform was created as an international organization to replace that Comintern which had been ostentatiously destroyed when Russia needed western aid to strengthen its defences against Germany. Communism is once again on the march-and you can remember that it has achieved no small success in central Europe and in Asia during the past three years.
This is still the official Russian policy. Mr. Harry Pollitt, Chairman of Executive Committee of the Communist Party in England, and memorable for his vacillations whenever Moscow calls the tune, has recently issued to his followers a directive that is enlightening; and I should like you to ponder carefully the significance of the following orders, which I quote verbatim
1. End the present war policy of the Anglo-American Bloc and the Western Bloc; strengthen the struggle for peace.
2. Reduction of armaments and armed forces; prohibition of the atom bomb.
3. Friendship with Soviet Union and People's Democracies; independence for all colonial peoples.
4. Close trading relations with the Soviet Union.,- People's Democracies and liberated peoples; end one-sided economic dependence on the United States.
5. Bring the nationalized industries under effective democratic control; extend trade union and co-operative participation in economic control.
6. Raise wages and social standards, including oldage pensions and social benefits.
7. Cut prices and limit profits; shift the burden of taxation to the rich.
8. Extend the social services, health and education provision; speed up the housing programme, build 400,000 houses a year.
9. Full democratic rights for the working class and the banning of fascism."
Can you conceive of anything more specious--and more dangerous--at this time? Let us quarrel with our friends, and weaken our own country by internal squabbles about new luxuries which it cannot afford! In every other nation-in France, in Italy, and in the United States, communist leaders are trying hard to breed friction among the nations and discontent among the people at home.
This policy continues, but Russia seems officially to be talking less belligerently than she did a year ago. Why? The available evidence suggests one simple reason: the Kremlin has received a shock as a result of the response of the western nations to its talk of war. The Marshall Plan has done much to strengthen the weaker democratic peoples. The airlift at Berlin has demonstrated not only the airpower of the west but the fact that western peoples are willing to resist Russian aggression. The North Atlantic Pact and the Western European Defence Force which is being organized under General Montgomery have indicated that western democracies will stand together in the day of Armagedden and not repeat the tragic mistake of allowing small countries to be over-run, one at a time.
Russia has not modified her strategic ambitions. But Russia is not yet ready for war. The men of the Kremlin would like to lull us to sleep with fair words, so that they may once again steal the initiative. If we respond to such blandishments, we do so at our peril. Eternal and continuing vigilance is the price of liberty; and if we are to defend those traditions of civilization which are common to all western democracies, we must work as hard and fight as single-mindedly as the Russians.
Do you remember that "Bloody Question" which was the challenge of man to man in England as the Armada drew near? The soldiers of Spain were on the sea, and the Inquisition was to be given an opportunity of curbing the Englishman's unpleasant habit of thinking for himself. Catholic and Protestant were at one another's throats in half the countries of Europe. But the English challenge was not "Are you Protestant or Catholic?" The "Bloody Question" was simple: "If the Armada comes, will you fight for England, or for Spain?"
Because Russia is not yet prepared, there is no Armada at our doors, but the reference to military defence is not inappropriate. There is already fighting at the out posts. Some of you may have read the story in TIME magazine of the little village of Naousa in the northern hills of Greece. You will remember how this little village, happy in the escape from starvation which the Marshall Plan had provided, was stormed by communist bandits, its mayor shot, and many of its young people taken into captivity in order to teach the village not to associate with the democratic powers. The story could be repeated a hundred times in regard to communities in that uncertain area of no man's land which stretches on the western side of the Iron Curtain, in Europe, and ahead of the communist armies in the east.
If we mean to defend our liberties, if we are willing to take the offensive, as we in this quiet sanctuary of North America insist that we are, it is important that we defend our outposts with all the forces at our command. We cannot afford to betray ourselves in the house of our friends; and men exposed to the immediate menace of communist forces in Europe or in Asia must be pardoned for their willingness to make terms with the enemy if we of the democracies do not convince them that all our material strength and manpower is available for their defence today and during all the days that follow. We cannot exhort with empty words and theories a man whose life and family is in immediate danger.
This we must do generously, and do at once. It is no good sending economic subsistence without providing defence. Each believer in democracy who is stood up against a wall, and shot, weakens our cause. We lose a valiant fighter, and create the feeling of weak uncertainty in many minds. Do you remember the words of that old, bereaved woman in Naousa when the representatives of the western powers arrived, on the day after the massacre? "You must put an end to this war, or else leave us to the Russians. Between you, we are being crucified."
Certainly we must defend the outposts. But we must do more than that. The collapse of the Roman civilization came from the weakness of those who should have defended it, not from the strength of the attackers. Rome had resisted the barbarian for hundreds of years, but in the words of St. Chrysotom (who saw the collapse), "Cities are not only taken when men demolish the walls, kill the men, enslave the women and burn the houses. Where there is indifference to all that is noble and a passion for ignoble ends; when men and women devote their time to dancing . . . games, gambling (and spectacles), that is the ignominious sack of a town." In the words of a stalwart contemporary, General Omar Bradley, we must be willing to "do the chores" in our own homes and our own communities if we really want to save democracy.
This, gentlemen, is a time when we must revive, as a daily challenge to ourselves and to others, the "Bloody Question". I am not suggesting a philosophical enquiry into liberalism, let alone an intensification of the current vague mania for "red-baiting", with its tendency to label every liberal thinker as a communist. We need men and women who ask questions honestly about the standard pattern of our habits. Those are the questions that inspire reform and progress. The Elizabethans did not waste time on detailed discussions of hagiology and doctrine. We must be equally blunt. Will you fight for Russia, or for Canada? Are you a member of the Communist Party, adhering to the cause of a foreign power, or do you support with your whole heart the democratic system? Choose your side. There can be no middle ground.
Before some of us in this room have grown old that question may be as literal as it was to the Elizabethans; but even at this moment the sincerity of our answer is vitally important to our future welfare. It imposes responsibilities. We must defend the distant outposts of democracy as doggedly as we would defend our own hearths. We must supply economic sustenance to our friends; and it is already time for us to consider what we are prepared to do in 1952, when the present magnificent programme of the Marshall Plan comes to an end. But we must do more than that. The strength of democracy is in ourselves, and somebody suggested the other day that each of us must now enlist in the W.A.C.W.--the Western Army of the Cold War. The advice is trenchant we need a democratic antidote to the Cominform. There cannot be conscription, because conscription in such a spiritual struggle is repugnant to the fundamental idea of democracy. Enlistment must be voluntary. But the decision to enlist follows directly from the answer that each individual makes to the question I have just posed, If western civilization is to survive during the generations that lie ahead, it is necessary that its defenders should enlist promptly, and serve with whole-hearted enthusiam.
The responsibilities of those who enlist in the W.A.C.W. are simple, but they are not easy. The strength of our democratic civilization lies in men's hearts, not in their weapons. The spirit of freedom that nerves the arm and evokes outstanding courage is more important than the atom bomb. It is the profound sense of our liberties--and of our responsibilities--that makes us free men and strengthens the society of which we are a part. Every man and woman who enlists in the W.A.C.W. must augment that strength:
In the first place, we must undertake, as individuals, to do our share in the work of government, locally, provincially and nationally. That certainly involves honest, consistent and conscientious voting at the polls, but it involves more than that. It involves a willingness to do the chores, to accept office and responsibility, whether inadequately paid or totally unpaid, and it implies that we shall not slothfully leave the work of government to other people and salve our conscience by dismissing them as "politicians", and assumed to be less capable, made of grosser clay, than ourselves.
In the second place, we must undertake to work with all that we have in us for the welfare of the world, and not lazily to think that the world owes us a living because we are fortunate enough to have our domicile in such a wealthy country as Canada. Politics and economics are not separate. Food, clothing, shelter, are the essentials of life; and any careful observer knows that the supply of these fundamental goods in many parts of the world is inadequate to maintain a decent standard of living. If we want men to have the leisure to think, and to cultivate the beauties of life, we must help them to attain a standard of living that does not require them to use all of their slight energies to scratch their daily food from the ground. It is no good telling a starving Chinese coolie about the glories of personal liberty. If we would encourage men and women in the poorer countries of the world to believe that the democratic peoples are eager to provide for all mankind a high standard of living, we must conscientiously work with all our might in order to help supply the deficiencies of less well situated people. This is no time for a holiday-not even a "memorial" one of the kind inspired by Mr. John L. Lewis; and our enemies in the Kremlin understand fully the fact that hard work and abstinence from consumption will go far to determine the success in the coming fight. They would not argue long with trade union leaders, even if any could be resurrected from Siberia or their untimely graves. There was never so much work to do; and no individual with the vision to understand democracy and the courage to advance its cause, can face his conscience with a valid excuse for loafing. '
In the third place, we must try to think for ourselves, honestly and courageously-seeking always to find solutions to the many problems that confront the world. It would be well, as I have suggested on earlier occasions, if more of us understood the Russian language and the Russian way of life-so that we might appraise more accurately the policies of our adversary. It would be well if we also spent more time and energy studying the details of our own Canadian scene, with a view to building upon our traditions a steadily improving democracy. We must never cease from striving.
Simple things, these, but fundamental to the welfare, and indeed to the continued existence, of our civilization. Democracy is the opportunity to accept responsibility. It can be kept alive only by our individual efforts, and we should, at our peril, abandon our individual responsibility in order to leave its defence solely to the armed forces, or even to the members of Parliament.
Whether a fighting war will come, and when it might come, I do not pretend to know. But the evidence clearly indicates that it will come swiftly and suddenly if we allow ourselves to fall, once again, into that state of mutual suspicion and irresponsibility which characterized the western world during the 'thirties. Our own complacency at this moment is more dangerous than the vociferous arguments of Communists within our doors. They are not numerous. They can be rendered innocuous if we have the courage to face this problem squarely. But I do not think that repressive tactics alone will solve our problem. We must, by our enthusiasm for human liberties and the principles of democracy, develop a new purpose, and give new meaning to life, in the democratic countries. We must persuade the stranger beyond our gates by demonstrating continually that we live up to the principles that we preach, and that the friendship of democratic countries is something to be richly prized for more than economic reasons. We must stand fast, in the confidence that our traditions are good and that our spirit of freedom must surge onward to advance the welfare of all mankind, We must take the offensive on all fronts, and maintain it.
May I return to St. Patrick for a moment? You will remember the story of his arrival at Tara on the afternoon of the great midwinter festival of the Druids. The sun was sinking, men feared in their ignorance that it might be dying, never to return. The fires on every hearth were extinguished. At black midnight, a great pyre would be lit so that its sympathetic magic might bring new life to the sun, and agricultural prosperity for another year.
All of Tara was in darkness that evening-except one house, where St. Patrick and his few followers sat around their little fire. It was that fire which attracted the attention of the King, and caused him to send for St. Patrick, to explain the reasons for his disobedience. It was that fire, and a courageous man, that rekindled the light of Christian civilization in the western islands. It is an outward fire, and an inward courage, which we need today, not only to win the cold war but to make possible the continued march of human progress. We must take the offensive.