Scientific Imperialism
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 8 Sep 1920, p. 290-303
Powell, Ellis T., Speaker
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The term "Scientific Imperialism" and whether or not that is an inconsistent term. Having done with Imperialism in the old significance of the word. What the speaker means by Scientific Imperialism: the domination of the natural forces of this earth into subjection to the mind of man, and consequently into the furtherance of his highest destiny. The boundless opportunities for the development of mankind on the intellectual and spiritual sides; just now beginning to visualize them along the intellectual horizon. One or two directions in which the speaker thinks the intellect of man is destined to evolve, with specific instances. The gulf which lies between man as the citizen of Canada today and man as a citizen of Canada in 100 or 200 years' time immeasurably wide. The speaker only just briefly today indicating to us as part of the tenets of the higher Imperialism, some pathways which we and our progeny will tread towards that noble destiny. Canada's patriotic loyalty to the Empire. The British Empire as much more than a partnership. The development of a real imperial soul, a great imperial personality.
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8 Sep 1920
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Full Text
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
Wednesday, September 8th, 1920

PRESIDENT HEWITT, in introducing the speaker, said, Today is the only day on which we could get our distinguished guest, who is passing through the city. This is also Kiwanis Club day, and the Club President, Mr. Colebrook, very graciously gave up the claim of his Club to these quarters today so that the Empire Club might hold a special meeting to hear our distinguished guest. (Applause) I want, on your behalf, to extend our thanks to the Kiwanis Club for its great courtesy and kindness to us, and hope that some day we may have the opportunity to reciprocate in kind. (Hear, hear)

We are glad, as members of the Empire Club, to have with us as one of our guests, Lieut. Col. George T. Denison. (Loud applause) When Imperialism was not quite so popular or even so well understood as it is today, Col. Denison was in the front ranks of the men who knew and appreciated what Imperialism meant-(hear. hear)-and he has been fighting and struggling in favour of Imperialism for a great many years. Col. Denison has recently celebrated his 81st birthday, and he has been the recipient of many congratulations from men who are older and men who are younger, but I know that this Empire Club would never forgive me if I should neglect this opportunity of congratulating Col. Denison on your behalf, and expressing the hope that, bright and all as his career has been, the days left to him shall be still brighter, and that the prospect shall be sufficient to satisfy his every hope and anticipation. (Hear, hear, and applause) Col. Denison, I know that you will appreciate that these are no idle words, but that they come from the hearts of men who have known you for a: great many years and have appreciated the splendid service you have rendered both the state and to the community. (Applause)

Dr. Powell, our distinguished guest of today, has developed a point of view of Empire which will come to us today, I believe, as more or less of a revelation. A keen student of men, one who has written and thought deeply upon the subject of the British Empire and is acquainted with the historical facts, will bring to us today, I am sure, a message that will increase our knowledge and widen our views as to possible ways by which we may aid in maintaining and developing to its fullness this great British Empire.

Our guest of today was told by me a moment ago that we are an ambitious crowd; that we realize that we cannot do the whole work of the Empire, but we all have a feeling that somewhere and somehow we can give help as units fitting into and doing a part of that work; that we want a part, that it will be an intelligent part, that our connection will be based upon knowledge, and that we shall go forward with confidence that we are on the right road, so that every peg that we put in will be well placed, and will stick, and will have its place for all time to come. I have very much pleasure in introducing Dr. Powell of London, England, who will address us on the subject of "Scientific Imperialism." (Applause)


Mr. Chairman and Fellow Citizens o f the Noblest o f the World Empires, It might seem at first sight that there is something wholly inconsistent in such a title as "Scientific Imperialism." It might be said that Imperialism is a matter of sentiment, and that sentiment and science will not mix any more than oil and water. But I shall hope to show you, before T have done, that in the higher realms of scientific insight, at the present time, there is to be found a vast amount of suggestion for the loftier Imperialism which is looming all around us on the intellectual horizon.

Of course it is said that Imperialism in the old sense is dead, and of course that is true. Of an Imperialism in the sense of arbitrary and capricious domination over the bodies and souls of men, we know nothing in these days. We are quit forever of the arbitrary dominations of an Augustus, of a Diocletian, of a Tiberius, the puerilities of a Claudius, the savageries of a Nero, and all those things that went to make up Imperialism in this Roman sense. That is to say, we have done with Imperialism in the old significance of the word, which still survives in cognate terms in our language-like imperious and imperative which still carry something of the old sense about them. And yet there is a significance of the word Imperialism which does connote the absolute, arbitrary dominance on one hand and absolute, utter, abject subjection on the other. And when I have expressed what that Imperialism is, I think you will agree with me that it is a most desirable form of a noble creed, although at first hearing the suggestion of arbitrary dominance on one hand and abject subjection on the other may awaken your repugnance and revulsion as citizens of a great free commonwealth.

But the subjection which I want to see is the subjection of all the developed and undeveloped powers of the earth to the mind of man. I want to see what you in Canada are consciously or unconsciously engaged in bringing about, namely, the yoking of all the developed and undeveloped forces of nature to the triumphant chariot wheels of man; and as I have gone from East to West of this country I have seen everywhere the beginnings of that policy, laid on the surest foundation. I believe this very city is linked by the tireless Titans of Niagara Falls with every point across the continent. I have found the same utilization of natural forces, and it follows that at every point mankind is being relieved from the provision of the things which those forces, working under natural laws, are providing for him, and consequently that the more he can discover natural laws, and the more thoroughly he can lay all those mighty forces under contribution, the more free will he be to devote himself to his own spiritual, moral, social, and intellectual concerns, in freedom from daily anxieties for the provision of his daily bread. (Hear, hear, and applause)

Now, that is briefly what I mean by a Scientific Imperialism, the domination of the natural forces of this earth-.and God alone knows how powerful they are, how tremendous they are-into subjection to the mind of man, and consequently into the furtherance of his highest destiny.

You may say to me: "But are you suggesting that man should become a drone, that we should carry this dominance, this new Imperialism, up to a point where a man will be able to sit still, fold his arms, and have everything done for him-everything physical and material -done for him by the natural forces?" Well, I should be quite prepared to contemplate that consummation, with the provision which I am about to mention; and that consummation will surely come. I believe there is no point in Canada at the present time where you have developed to anything like -its full potentiality, the power with which you are already acquainted; but beyond the running of the stream, beyond the rising and fall of the tide, beyond the power which lies pregnant in the revolutions of the earth, there are the new forces, such as the atomic forces and such as the force that lies wrapt up in radium-with which, up till now, we are almost entirely unacquainted, and yet the greatest authority on radium has told us deliberately that when we have mastered the secrets of radium there will be no need any more for mankind working for a living, for that one source of power alone will do all the physical and material work of the world, and leave us entirely to develop the spiritual, intellectual, and moral sides of our natures.

Now, to steer towards such a consummation as that, to bring all those forces within the grip of humanity and to turn them into the provision of our physical and material needs, the while that we advance along the more lofty plane-is not that a very high Imperialism indeed? And is there a single canon of human progress or human freedom which is violated in the carrying out of that programme? I say, No. I say that the carrying out of that programme advances human freedom, advances human progress along lines and paths and planes which have hitherto remained almost wholly undiscovered, or at all events only dimly imagined. In fact, the whole programme of the higher Imperialism which I have ventured thus briefly to outline is surely the realization of that programme outlined in one brief characterization years ago by the founder of Christianity in words that up to now have been almost entirely misunderstood, or at all events imperfectly understood-"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." In other words, man is not to be chained down in future to the carking care and the eternal toil of providing for his material and physical needs, but they are to be provided for him by the Titanic forces of nature, the while that he feeds upon the words which come from .the mouth of God, or in other words, endeavours to acertain more accurately what are the laws laid down by the Eternal for his governance in this world, and bringing himself into nearer and nearer consistence with those laws .to elevate and advance his whole moral and intellectual and spiritual destiny. Once again, is that an Imperialistic programme which can be said at one single point to violate any of the canons of human freedom, human progress, or human advance? I think not.

Now, possibly you may challenge me on the point whether that kind of thing would be wholly desirable, even if it could be brought about. You may say, "If we set man free in that way to study his spiritual and intellectual destiny, is there ample opportunity for the development of that programme? Is there a field for the exercise of such time and opportunity as would be conferred upon mankind by their being freed from material and physical anxieties?" Well, now, I think if you will look at your own intellects-proud as we are of what man is-and Shakespeare was quite right when he said, "What a piece of work is man !"-I think you will see that the opportunities for the development of mankind on the intellectual and spiritual sides are almost boundless, and we are just now beginning to visualize them along the intellectual horizon.

Let me just give you one or two directions in which I think the intellect of man is destined to evolve. For instance, we have at present no adequate capacity for seeing all around a given topic. Any subject which is propounded for your consideration is contemplated by you from your own point of view. One man looks at it from the theological point of view, another from the medical, another from the physical, another from the business aspect, another considers its bearing on agriculture, and another its bearing on commerce; but there are none of us who yet possess the intellectuality capable of, so to speak, holding up a given topic and seeing -'the whole of it, seeing every facet of it at once. Now, that catholicity of view is beginning to be developed among mankind. But just think where the human race will stand, just think where your Canada will be, when every citizen has acquired a capacity which at present is only in its imperfect form!

Look at .another instance. There is not one of us, no matter how musical he may be-(and you are a musical people, and therefore this is a happy illustration)-there is not one of us, no matter how musical he may be, who can visualize the whole of a great musical triumph at once. -If I mention to you that matchless production of Beethoven's art, the Moonlight Serenade,-many of you are familiar with it, but you can only enjoy it by hearing it as a succession of notes; you cannot get more than just a strain or two into your head at once-but just imagine the human musical faculty developed up to a point where you would see the Moonlight Serenade, as one glorious beautiful whole, in one glimpse, in the same way as you can see a picture! Now, that is another point in which your Canadian progeny are going to develop an intellectual capacity which you and I possess only in embryonic form. ,

And once again to revert to my main topic, is it not a lofty and elevated Imperialism which can see that programme coming in the future-the harnessing of tireless Titans of nature to the car of human progress so that you and your progeny shall be free to follow out the programme and the policy that opens up as that does? (Applause)

And now, take a third illustration, even more daring than either of the other two, actually absolutely sound from the scientific point of view, as any scientist within the hearing of my voice knows perfectly well. You are sensible of a range of sensations which reach you by the vibrations of the ear and are known to you as sound. You are also sensible of immensely faster vibrations which reach you by means of movements in the ether and are known to you as sight and vision. Now, if either of those worlds, either sight or sound, were closed to you, you know perfectly well what an appalling deprivation it would be. You know that because you try to realize sometimes what must be the hopelessness of the blind man, and still more of the man who once saw but is now blind. But now mark me. Between the slow vibrations of the hearing and the immensely rapid vibrations which you know as sight, there lie millions of vibrations of which. at present we are totally unconscious. We have at present only in embryonic form the senses, the nerves, which are capable of interpreting those sensations; and if we had more leisure for intellectual and spiritual study we should undoubtedly develop those higher faculties, with the result of opening up worlds of sensation as brilliant and as beautiful as the worlds of sight and the worlds of sound.

None, Alexander sighed for new worlds to conquer. Well, we higher Imperialists sigh for new worlds to conquer, but they are not worlds that depend upon snatching territory from any man or from any race; they are not worlds that depend upon the curtailing of the liberty of any individual or any people; they are the worlds which at present lie outside the senses which we possess, but our science-imperialistic science-is destined ultimately to bring under its sway, and so to show a man a vista of his surroundings absolutely transcending in beauty anything of which he has hitherto been cognizant.

Once again; to enforce the lesson with which I began, is there in that programme of the higher Imperialism, in that endeavour to harness the faculties of nature to the chariot wheels of spiritual and intellectual progress, is there anything in that which violates one single canon of human progress and human freedom? On the other hand, are there not in those lofty aspirations the means and the inspiration of an advance which will almost dwarf into insignificance all that man has hitherto achieved?-and God knows the gulf which lies between man as the comrade of the cave lion and the cave bear and man as the citizen of the Dominion of Canada is wide enough. But the gulf which lies between man as the citizen of Canada today and man as a citizen of Canada in 100 or 200 years' time is immeasurably wider; and I am only just briefly indicating to you, as part of the tenets of the higher Imperialism, some pathways which you and' your progeny will tread towards that noble destiny. (Applause)

And now, in the few minutes that remain, I should like to develop another of the theories of the higher Imperialism, partly because I know it will interest you, but more especially because of the enthusiasm, the burning patriotic loyalty of this Dominion of Canada which I have seen at every point on our journey right across this continent and back again. I knew that Canada was fervently loyal; I had studied her on three previous visits to this noble Dominion; but I did not know fully until I travelled this journey and had an opportunity of addressing many Canadian audiences, to what heights that patriotic loyalty had raised itself. Therefore I want to submit to you a consideration which is already looming large on the horizon of the higher Imperialistic thought, and which I think you might probably like to digest fog- yourself.

It has been very happily said that the Empire is a great partnership; but I want to submit to you that the Empire is very much more than a partnership. A partnership, as every lawyer knows, is only an aggregate of the components of the partnership. But the Empire is much more than that. The Empire is not only the aggregation of those complements, but it is an organic unity in precisely the same sense as every individual within the hearing of my voice is an organic unity and not merely a collocation of physical atoms. (Hear, hear) But directly you get to that point, and directly you posit the Empire as an organic unity, then, you cannot stop; you are thrown further forward into one of the noblest conceptions which the higher Imperialism has yet developed.

You are all familiar with the conception of the joint Stock Company; I need not elaborate that to an assemblage of business men. You all know that the company is an entity entirely distinct from the sum of its shareholders; that is to say, the company can appear in the Courts, it can enter into contracts, and it can do all kinds of things for which 'the shareholders in their personal capacity are not liable. The Company is a separate and distinct entity. All the original shareholders may die, and still the company survives; it still goes on doing business. Now, .the old legal theory was that the company was only a convenient fiction. The lawyers said, "There is not such a thing as the company really, but it is a convenient thing to imagine that the company does exist, so as to enable the company to enter into contracts and to be sued in the Courts, but the company itself has no real existence, it can only act through its agents." But the later and the more enlightened jurisprudence is beginning to urge that, as a matter of law, there is something in the background which is brought into existence by the incorporation of the company, and that the company has a real existence and is not merely a legal fiction. Now, I will not pause to elaborate that theory, because it would detain me too long. What I want to put to you is this, if that theory now accepted by the most accomplished jurisprudence, is correct; if the company is a reality in the background; then hone much more must there be some magnificent reality in the background of the organic unity which we know as the British Empire? (Loud applause) In other words, I want to say to you, with the deliberation and the emphasis of a scientist and a psychologist, that I am convinced that in the background of the organic unity known as the British Empire, and as the offspring and generation thereof, there is being developed a real imperial soul, a great imperial personality. I am not using that word in a metaphorical sense at all; I mean that there is in the background of this Empire a lafty, imperial personality, a real material soul, a kind of supereminent guardian angel which is being developed in the psychic realms, and which as a matter of fact has for its task and labour the guardianship of this Empire towards its destiny. (Applause)

Now, just apply that conception for one moment in a direction which I think will appeal to you all. What was it that took your sons across the ocean to die on the battlefield of Flanders and on the slopes of Gallipoli and elsewhere? What was it that united all our British Empire into a magnificent fighting force, indomitable and deathless, which it proved to be? I have heard it said that it was the instinct of self-protection. Well, it may have been, but that would not be adequate to explain the phenomenon. I have heard it said that it was simply the instinct of material gain. Well, to repeat that seriously would be to insult every citizen of the Empire. (Hear, hear) I have heard it said that it was devotion to the King; and so in a sense it was. but you will not get devotion in the highest sense to an office alone unless there be something behind that office which inspires and feeds that devotion-(hear, hear and applause); and I suggest to you that what is behind the King is the majestic reality of the Imperial Self-something that is greater than the King, something that is loftier than the King, something that the Kingly office only dimly foreshadows, but something which touched the souls of your sons and daughters, something which inspired them to the sacrifices they made, and something which is stirring the imperialistic spirit in the mind and brain of every man within the range of my voice. (Applause) That is what was behind the magnificent outpouring, the devotion which you witnessed during those years of war.

In the year before the war I was at Niagara Falls, anal I there met a venerable American ninety-two years of age with whom I had many illuminating, conversations. The last night we were together he said to me, speaking as a constitutional lawyer, "What would you say is the weak point of the American constitution?" I reflected a moment and then said, "I think it is the direct election of the President, which of course absolutely falsifies the advice of Washington and Hamilton, who did not want the direct democratic election of the President, but now you have got it through the electoral college." He replied, "No, it is not that; I will tell you what it is. It is the entire absence of a personal nucleus of political devotion. Our Presidents only cross the stage every four years, some of them every eight years, and then they vanish into private life, and the consequence is that there is nothing upon which the patriotic devotion of the citizen can fasten, year in and year out, and consequently we are liable to a parochialism of outlook; we have not got the vision that you British people have got who are tied together by patriotic devotion to a single personal head." And then he laid his hand on my arm and said, "Now, mark my word; I am going to say a very daring thing, which you may regard almost as the vision of an old man; but mark my word--I shall not: live to see it, but if you live to the average span of human life you will see the great American Commonwealth make an effort to come back under the British flag as a great Dominion of the British Crown.' (Loud applause?

Well, it did sound like the vapouring of a visionary at that time, and I daresay there are many who think that it sounds like that now; and yet-and yet-as this Empire goes forward to its destiny, as its elements come into closer and closer cohesion; as you gradually assume-for mark me, you will assume,-and, I would not say this if I did not as scientist and psychologist most profoundly believe it-as you gradually assume the complete dominance of the North American Continent you will find that your southern neighbours will begin to ask themselves, "What is it that those British people have got that we have not got?" (Hear, hear and applause) And you will find that they will answer themselves in ancient and pregnant words-perhaps more true today than ever during the thousands of years that have elapsed since they were uttered "Where there is no vision the people perish." And you Canadians, looking out across your own vast Dominion, looking at what you have made of it within the last fifty years, and then remembering that even your own magnificent Empire is but an Empire within an Empire, and that the larger Empire of which you are a part, an indissoluble part, as it is set upon the very loftiest ideals of human liberties and progress, can you set bounds to what you can achieve so long as that lofty vision inspires you, and so long as in the background of your lives and in the background of the Empire itself there is that Imperial Personality, that Imperial Soul, pouring down its inspiration upon your sons and daughters, and going on to a fate more splendid than any which has hitherto gladdened the eyes of the sons of men? (Loud applause)

Perhaps you can understand now why, three or four years ago, I and a number of friends in Great Britain discovered the existence of a widespread republican plot and set ourselves to bring it to naught. We did bring it to naught, and I think you can understand, after what you have heard me say, what were the issues at stake and what would have happened if that plot had succeeded. The greatest organic unity of this or any other age would undoubtedly have fallen to pieces, and your destiny and our destiny would have been clouded for all time. But it was brought to an end, it was thwarted, and although I have been many times promised revenge by those whose designs I helped to bring to naught I am, as you see, still alive and in fair health, with every prospect of the revenge going unfulfilled. (Applause)

Finally-and 'these are my last words-I do not apologise for presenting to a meeting of business men, as a business man myself, some of the loftiest topics that can engage the attention of mankind, because I find that the business man, and especially the Canadian business man, is beginning to take a very lively and incisive interest in those loftier topics, and because I find he welcomes every attempt at their elucidation even if he does not wholly agree with what is put forward; and no doubt that is a consequence of the realization which is growing more and more upon the modern world, that the ancient faith was right and that there is before us all in another world a destiny of unparalleled beauty and splendour, and that consequently the more we can cultivate the ,things of the spirit while we are wrapt in flesh below, the more ready will we be for the higher and loftier life that awaits us beyond. Those perhaps are bold words to address to a gathering of business men, and yet I venture to hope that perhaps there is not one among you in whose mind they will not awaken a responsive echo (hear, hear); for bear in mind, as I said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every'word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." "The things which are seen are temporal; the things which are not seen are eternal"; and the higher Imperialism concerns itself both with the things of this world and with spiritual preparation for- the loftier destiny that is to come, (applause); because all that we see must perish. The hour may come when earth no more shall keep Tireless her longdrawn voyage through the deep; Nay, when all planets seeped and swept in one Fed from our kindly solitary sun; Nay, when all suns that shine, together hurled, Crash in one ultimate and lifeless world. Yet hold thou still, what world soe'er may roll Naught fear thee, with the Captain of thy soul; In all the eternal world, the cosmic stir, All the eternal is akin to her; She shall survive, and quick'n, and live at last When all, save souls, have perished in the blast.

(Loud applause, the audience rising and giving three cheers)

The President presented to Dr. Powell the hearty thanks of the Club for his unique and inspiring vision of Imperialism, for a noble forecast of Canada's future within the Empire, and for a stirring presentation of ideals of human liberty and progress.

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Scientific Imperialism

The term "Scientific Imperialism" and whether or not that is an inconsistent term. Having done with Imperialism in the old significance of the word. What the speaker means by Scientific Imperialism: the domination of the natural forces of this earth into subjection to the mind of man, and consequently into the furtherance of his highest destiny. The boundless opportunities for the development of mankind on the intellectual and spiritual sides; just now beginning to visualize them along the intellectual horizon. One or two directions in which the speaker thinks the intellect of man is destined to evolve, with specific instances. The gulf which lies between man as the citizen of Canada today and man as a citizen of Canada in 100 or 200 years' time immeasurably wide. The speaker only just briefly today indicating to us as part of the tenets of the higher Imperialism, some pathways which we and our progeny will tread towards that noble destiny. Canada's patriotic loyalty to the Empire. The British Empire as much more than a partnership. The development of a real imperial soul, a great imperial personality.