- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Mar 1920, p. 146-157
- Clark, Michael, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Recalling the great men that begat us; recalling the little Islands from which we sprung; taking mental note of how these little Islands are linking up with the enormous Countries beyond the sea which constitute the outlying portions of the British Empire. Those who came away from the Island which constitute the heart of the Empire having gone into Nation-building all over the world; many returning recently to join the Mother in the greatest military task that ever fell to a Nation. The conditions in which Great Britain and Ireland managed to keep her people before the war. The test of material prosperity in comparison to previous times; some figures of population and savings. Exports and imports now and then. The fibre of the people of the two little Islands. In war or peace, the signs of British decadence not very tangible. Napoleon's dearest wish and the Kaiser's highest ambition to invade Britain; their fates. The last battle that was fought on English ground at Sedgemoor in the year 1685. The cause of the figure that these little Islands have cut in the world; the explanation of the work they have accomplished. The character of the British people. A religious basis of true character, sincere and honest in speech, rather a bluff outspoken man in the average Englishman. The English as politicians all the time with a passion for order and good government. The law of England. The inevitability that these people would become the greatest Colonizers of all time. Some remarkable things that the speaker believes will be written down in history in the first 18 months that have elapsed since the armistice: the swiftness and despatch with which the Old Country has put her industries on their former standing; the efforts made in the Old Land to relieve destitution and suffering among the women and children of our recent foes. No fear about the permanence of the Empire.
- Date of Original
- 18 Mar 1920
- 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
- THE BRITISH EMPIRE, ITS GROWTH AND POWER
AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BY MICHAEL CLARK, M.P.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
Thursdav, Match 18, 1920
VICE-PRESIDENT GILVERSON in introducing the speaker said, Gentlemen, I congratulate you, as I pride myself, on belonging to a Club of such sound and loyal principles -is are reflected in the Motto of this Club, "Canada and a United Empire." The potency of those principles, it is very gratifying for us to feel, is evidenced by the appeal they make to the choicest and best of this and other lands who grace our table from week to week; and this alone explains our good fortune in having with us today Dr. Michael Clark, M.P. for Red Deer, Alberta. (Applause) Our distinguished guest's speeches are read by the Public with the same eagerness with which he is heard and listened to by his confreres in Parliament, and I therefore feel that we know him so well that he comes to us, less as a stranger to be introduced than, as an old friend to be welcomed. I have now great pleasure in calling upon him to address you upon the subject, "The British Empire, its Growth and Power."
DR. MICHAEL CLARK, M.P.
Mr. Chairman and 'Gentlemen,-My first duty is one that is not at all perfunctory, I can assure you; believe me I am very sincere when I thank those present for the invitation to be with you today, and for the distinguished and numerous audience which has done me the honour of coming to hear what I have to say.
Two days ago in the House of Commons, select members from the two front benches spent the afternoon in trying to find out whether Canada was a Nation or not(laughter)and when she became a Nation, and who was the first to say that she had become a Nation. Personally, I was reminded, greatly to my mental and spiritual benefit, of the story of the intelligent American to whom the inquiry was addressed, "What do you think of the British Empire?" and the answer, "It is the biggest thing out of doors." (Laughter) I have always been glad when I found myself on any portion of the biggest thing out of doors. (Applause)
It behooves us from time to time to recall the great men that begat us, to recall the little Islands from which we sprung, and take mental note of how these little Islands are linking up with the enormous Countries beyond the sea which constitute the outlying portions of the British Empire-at least that is how we used to talk about them in the Old Land. It had grown almost into a fashion, before the war in some quarters, to talk about the decadence of Britain, or rather, I think they used to say the decadence of England-people who talked in that way, (laughter) and I had always a shrewd suspicion that the people who did the talking with that qualification of the Island Heart of the Empire were from the two branches that are not English. (Laughter) While I do not know that there has been such a disposition, since the war, to talk of any decadence there at all, (applause) the talk was not new in the world in the few years that preceded the war. In the early Fifties, when Great Britain and Ireland were sending a thousand people away from their shores daily, people wondered how long the Islands would stand the drain of their blood, and the stress and strain. We found out the other day that those who came away from the Islands which constitute the heart of the Empire had gone into Nation-building all over the world, and some of the young brood were back recently to join the Mother in the greatest military task that ever fell to a Nation upon the face of the earth. (Applause) At the time to which I have referred, there were considerably less than thirty million people in the two Islands. Today, they are reaching out towards fifty millions, (applause) so there has not been much decadence there yet, anyhow. (Laughter)
In what condition did Great Britain and Ireland manage to keep her people before the war? Take a test, which I am afraid comes too readily to the people of this continent, the test of material prosperity. What was the condition of the prosperity of the Islands as compared with previous times in her history? In Macaulay's Third Chapter, he mentions the fact that in the time of Charles II there were 250 paupers to the thousand of population-a pretty large proportion. That was written as you know in the first half of the 19th Century, and, when that third Chapter was penned, the paupers had fallen from 250 per thousand to somewhere between 80 and 100. In 1870 they had fallen to 40 per thousand, and in 1907 they had fallen to 25-not a bad record. That is, the population increased by millions; the paupers, per thousand, decreased by hundreds.
Take another figure. In 1870, the Savings Bank deposits in the Old Country amounted to 33 shillings per head of the population; in 1907, the Savings Bank deposits had gone up from 33 to 95 shillings per head of the population.
Britain exports, of course, manufactured goods; she imports her food. In 1800 her exports were 40 millions of Pounds worth; in 1842, after the advent of Railways, they had gone up to 50 million Pounds worth; in 1878 they had gone up to 218 millions, and in 1910 they had gone to 344 millions-which at that time constituted the record for all Nations and all time. It was beaten by the United States in the War, but that was the record in 1910 for all Nations and all time. (Applause)
I think I have probably told a Toronto audience before that those two little Islands had the enormous cheek to build and own more than half the shipping of the entire world before the war-another evidence surely of great material prosperity. But people said, "It is true the Islands have progressed materially, but what about the fibre of her people, will they stand the test of war?" Well, the test' came along. The events are too recent for me to need to say a single world about what the Old Country did in the war, and what the Empire did in the war. You know the facts. Perhaps the most significant claim that has been made as to her greatness was made by Lord Grey when going across the Atlantic. In a little speech he made recently, he said, if it had not been for the Merchant Marine of .the Old Country, the United States would not have, been able to take her part in the war at all. (Applause)
You know that after nearly four years of war; after England-after Britain and Ireland rather-one stumbles against the feelings of Irishmen and Scotchmen--after she had established a ferry, boat service to France and transportation to other portions of her own Empire, after she had put millions of men in .the Field and hundreds of thousands on the water, after all that, she had to send her ships to transport the major portion of the American troops. (Applause) Perhaps you would allow me to quote from one of Emerson's Essays, a striking passage from Roger Bacon. Roger Bacon was born in the year 1214. It was a far cry from 1214 to 1914700 years-yet Bacon said, "Machines can be constructed to drive ships more rapidly than a whole galley of rowers could- do; nor would they need anything but a pilot to steer them. Carriages might also be constructed to move with an incredible speed without the aid of any animal; finally, it would not be impossible to make machines which, by means of a suit of wings, should fly in the air in the manner of birds." A very remarkable prophesy, and it needed this war for the children of the far-flung Empire to fulfill the prophecy by taking the leading role in all three departments of human activity. (Applause).
In war or peace, the signs of British decadence are not very tangible. (Applause) Napoleon's dearest wish was to invade Britain, and his dearest wish was later the Kaiser's highest ambition. One ended as a prisoner in St. Helena, and the other is couped up in the little country of Holland. Neither of them managed to carry out their ambition; for we learned in our school days that the last battle which was fought on English ground was at Sedgemoor in the year 1685. Yes, they wanted to invade Britain and reduce the British Empire, and put the human race in slavery.
"But the ships that should have conquered us,
They rusted on the shore
The men that would have mastered us,
They marched and drummed no more;
For England is England,
And a mighty brood she bore."
Now, what is the cause of the figure that these little Islands have cut in the world? What is the explanation of the work they have accomplished? I am fond of telling people, when I go to England-and telling Canadians sometimes also-that you could put the two little Islands twice into my own Province of Alberta, and have about thirty thousand square miles to spare. (Laughter) They have cut some figure in the world, after all, for their size; and it is surely worth our while in the united Empire to try and find out what is the secret of its tremendous power and wealth. (Hear, hear)
Well, will you pardon me for invading the realm of the preacher for a moment. (Laughter) I think the first secret of their greatness is that they are a people with a purpose, people who believe in their destiny, and if you come to think of it, that means that they are a religious people. I do not think I need offer any apology for saying that, in the Empire Club of Canada. (Applause) I do not mean that in any canting or conventional sense; they are religious in what is after all the essence of religion, they have a purpose; they believe in their own destiny; and all purpose argues a Purposer, and the people who have done this work in the world had their destiny linked to the great Purposer of all things, in their minds continuously. That is what I mean by saying that the Old Land is composed of people who in their conscience, in their heart and in their character and life, are a religious people. You remember the story of Queen Victoria-whether it is true or not, it is a very pretty story and I always like to think it is true-she was asked, so the story goes, what was the secret of England's greatness, and she said, "The Bible." Prof. Bryce, that distinguished man who is still in tolerable activity as he is running fast on to the 90th mile stone, once said that no man is educated who does not know the Bible. I am afraid that there will be a great many only partially educated people in Toronto. I give you, however, Lord Bryce's thought-he was a Professor before he was a Lord-for what it is worth, and if it stimulates you who have not educated yourselves along that line, you will be surprised what an entertaining book you have been missing, as well as a very useful one. (Applause)
A great thinker on this side says somewhere, "All the great ages of the world have been ages of belief." If we lose our beliefs, there will be no greatness about us or our age, according to Emerson's teaching. Well, what has sprung from this fundamental element in the character of those who, after all, preceded Canada, New Zealand and the other parts in the work of Empire Building? The result of what I have just said to you is seen in the characters of the people. They are a sincere people. You know the old saying, "An Englishman's word is his bond?" You know what the Englishman swears by? Nothing so common as I hear out here sometimes; he swears continually "on my honour." That is the most sacred thing he could pledge-"on my honour." Yes, a sincere people; sincere in speech, no triflers, these people. Their lives are filled with serious purposes, and the greatest of those purposes from the material point of view has been in the building of an Empire flung across the world. Carlyle, you will remember, in his "Heroes and Hero Worship," rings the changes upon one proposition-that while a man may be sincere without being great, a man cannot be great without being sincere. That was the belief of the great sage prose writer, Thomas Carlyle-a man cannot be great without being sincere; and if there is anything that is going to happen in the political world in the near future in this and other countries, I do hope that, in the British Empire at any rate and in Canada, because that is (Applause) The Common-law of the Old Land is quoted continuously in the Courts of the United States. (Hear, hear) Emerson is just a little testy in one sentence for so calm a philosopher as he was. In his reference to this, he says he wishes his people would not quote Common-law so much; but they cannot help themselves; he might just as well ask them not to quote the Sermon on the Mount. (Laughter and applause) Let me hasten to say that Emerson's "English Traits," in spite of that testy sentence, is the very acme of a fair and dispassionate piece of appreciative criticism. A Land of law, a Land of justice! There's no country in the world where a man gets a squarer deal than in the Old Country; but it is also a land of liberty, and there is no country in the world where a man has less consciousness of being ruled than in the Old Land-no country in the world. (Applause) Perhaps you will allow me to enforce that position by authorities more impartial than I might be considered on that subject-two Frenchmen and an Irishman. (Laughter) Philippe de Comines, the famous Historian said, "Among all the Sovereignties I know in the world, that in which the public good is best attended to, and the least violence exercised on the people is that of England." If course, he meant Great Britain and Ireland. (Laughter) Montesquieu, a Frenchman equally celebrated as Comines, said, "England is the freest country in the world. If a man had as many enemies as hairs on his head, no harm would happen to him." And it is the freest country in the world, if that-claim can be made for it, just because law is respected. You can have no real liberty without law. Law is the insurance of your liberties. (Applause) Curran, the Irishman, said, "Liberty is commensurate and inseparable from British soil. The law proclaims even to the stranger and sojourner the moment he sets his foot on British earth that the ground upon which he treads is holy and sacred to the genius of universal emancipation. (Applause)
Implicitly believing in their destiny, armed with the qualities I have merely enumerated, and having principles of Government, probably the best on the whole that history has revealed, it was inevitable that these people should become the greatest Colonizers of all time; and we are the result of those qualities, we, with the other outlying portions of the Empire, constitute the resuit of those qualities.
But mark; Britain has not extended her realm in the sense of domination. She has not appeared to rule at all. Her influence in the world has been extended to the far confines of the Globe, simply because she has not ruled in the sense of domination. She learned her lesson once, and she has practiced it ever since. She has ruled because She does not rule; she has ruled by the Law of Liberty; she has ruled the outlying portions by introducing certain principles and certain institutions and allowing her children to work these principles out and these institutions out in new fields on the earth's surface. Now, the Empire-to use a word which might better be replaced by "Commonwealth"-the Empire will endure just so long as through its wide domains these principles are maintained and these institutions are held sacred and glorified. (Applause) It is a bad time to prophesy just now. I said in the House of Commons the other day that no man would want to go into an election at the present time unless he was very fond of adventure. (Laughter) I daresay that Sir William Hearst will give a ready mental assent to that opinion. (Laughter) I have tried to show you that there was no ground for believing that there was decadence in the Old Lands before the war, and not any during the war; how have they done since?
I think there are three things that are remarkable, that will be written down in history as remarkable, in the eighteen months that have elapsed since the armistice. The first of these is the swiftness and despatch with which the Old Country has put her industries on their former standing. (Hear, hear) Four days after the armistice, every British bottom was still engaged in some kind of war work. A month after the armistice every British bottom, that the submarines had left on the surface, was heading out across the four seas to carry England's productions. (Applause) I do not know whether you will consider the second point a great one, but I think it will be written down in history as much greater than her shipping. There has nothing more remarkable happened on the face of the earth than the efforts made in the Old Land to relieve destitution and suffering among the women and children of our recent foes. (Applause) There is no land today where Britain's name stands higher among the rank and file of the people than Austria. I am afraid this continent is too materialistic for you to give a proper amount of applause to what I have just said. I am very, very disappointed. I thought that you would have applauded that enthusiastically. After all, it is a wonderful achievement because it is the working out of the Sermon on the Mount in the life of a Nation. (Applause) Field Marshall Haig made a request a little while ago to the Churches of the Old Land to set apart a certain Sunday for making a collection on behalf of the starving women and children of Austria and there were few if any Churches in the Old Land that did not respond to his appeal. (Hear, hear and applause) So Toronto, the Good, has got to look to her laurels. I do not know that you have had so general a response on the part of the Churches even in Toronto; I am sure I can repeat what Sir Wilfrid Laurier was so fond of saying, that you are the most energetic people in the world in Canada, in Toronto, and the most enthusiastic meeting attenders--applauders--in the world. (Laughter)
There was a meeting in London the other night with two overflows, attended by 18,000 people, four-fifths of them women, to do, what do you think? To boost the League of Nations. The women of the Old Country are out to keep the peace on the earth, and after all, if women give themselves over to the sacred cause of those of the succeeding generation, there is no end to the good they may do in the world, and there is no end to the solidity of the foundation upon which the world's peace will be built. After all we men did not suffer over the deaths of our dear ones as the women did. The women suffered as only women can suffer. Some people fear their advent into politics, because they will be too manly.
Well, we can stand a little more of women in our politics in Canada without being ready for Kingdom Come. (Laughter) Personally I think that, if that be true, they will clarify and improve some of the worst elements in the mere men in Canada, and that they will improve our Canadian system. (Applause)
The names of Rome, Carthage, Greece, Babylon, all remind us the world is full of decayed civilizations, and history is full of the stories of Empires and their departed glories. Whether the British Empire joins that woeful list or not depends, let me repeat, upon the extent to which we in Canada and our brothers and cousins in the other portions of the Empire work out the ethical principles that I have claimed for the heart of the Empire today, and the extent to which we work out those institutions. A great responsibility rests upon your shoulders and upon mine; it is to see to it that we reproduce these various qualities in our own persons, in our own Countries. Then we need have no fear about the permanence of the Empire. She will endure if she deserves to endure; she will extend, and she will only secure that endurance, that stability which we all want her to have, by each Country in the Empire reproducing those qualities and building within its confines a land that may be described as the Old Land was described by the great Poet Laureate of the past generation, when he talked of,
"A land of settled government
A land of old and just renown
Where freedom broadens slowly down
From precedent to precedent."
VICE-PRESIDENT GILVERSON: Just a line that comes to ones mind after having listened to this thrilling address
"England, great and free,
Heart of the world,
I leap to thee."
We are happy in having with us today, Sir William Hearst who has consented to extend the thanks of this Club to our distinguished visitor.
SIR WILLIAM HEARST
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,-A very great honour indeed has been conferred upon me in asking me to move a vote of thanks to the distinguished speaker who has just addressed us. I am sure we have all been charmed by his eloquence, as we have all been instructed and educated by the information he has imparted to us in such a delightful and pleasant manner. In summing up the many qualifications and attributes of the men of the Old Land, I think there is just one thing he overlooked -the love of the spirit of adventure that has ever characterized the men of the Old Land. I am a Briton, Sir, I have something of the Briton's spirit of adventure; I have had my adventure, and I am a Briton still. (Laughter) I am sure we are always delighted to have Mr. Michael Clark with us. His well-known loyalty, his patriotism, his faith in the great British Empire, ever makes him a welcome guest in this loyal and British City of Toronto. If he required anything more to make him a welcome visitor here, the splendid service and the noble sacrifice of himself and family in the late war give him that claim upon us. He spoke of the talk before the war of the decadence of the British Empire. I do not think that we will ever again hear talk of that character either in the Old Land or in the new.
During all the trying years of the war through which we have passed, the British Empire was a great bulwark of liberty. I believe that, during the trying days of reconstruction through which the world is now passing, the record of Great Britain will be as glorious as it was during the trying days of war. (Applause) It took the war to prove not only to the world but to ourselves the force of the British Empire, and the great and important part the overseas Dominion played in making that force, which the British Empire was able to exercise in that war. It is a great privilege to me to have this opportunity of moving a vote of thanks to you, and to wish you God-Speed in your good work of preaching the gospel of a great British Empire, and the influence it may have in the years that are to come. (Loud applause)
The vote of thanks was carried with enthusiasm.