Canada and the United States
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 25 Oct 1919, p. 360-368
Van Dyke, Dr. Henry, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Ladies Day
The proposed centenary of the hundred years of peace between the United States and the British Empire. A reading of some of the speaker's verse about war. The fighting that continues in Europe and Asia today. Doing our best to keep peace. Dealing with those who break the peace. What we can find to cheer us in the presence of apparently threatening clouds on the horizon. The promise which is contained in the proposed League of Nations. Comments with regard to forces not between nations but within nations. Conflicts of interests, conflicts of what is called class-consciousness. Hysteria as the danger of the day. The need to keep three things: our tempers, our memories, a recollection of recent history. Forgiving only on the condition of repentance. Standing for the right against the wrong.
Date of Original
25 Oct 1919
Language of Item
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Full Text
Before the Empire Club o f Canada, Toronto,
October 25, 1919.

MR. ARTHUR HEWITT, Vice-President, extended hearty welcome to the ladies present. (Applause.) He thought great credit should be given to the Empire Club for selecting the occasions when ladies were guests. In anticipation of some of the good things which would follow, he read some of Dr. Van Dyke's lines, as follows


Let me but do my work from day to day, In field or forest, at the desk or loom, In roaring market-place or tranquil room; Let me but find it in my heart to say, When vagrant wishes beckon me astray, "This is my work; my blessing, not my doom; "Of all who live, I am the one by whom "This work can best be done in the right way."

Then shall I see it not too great, nor small, To suit my spirit and to prove my powers; Then shall I cheerful greet the laboring hours, And cheerful turn, when the long shadows fall At eventide, to play and love and rest, Because I know for me my work is best.


During the War Dr. Van Dyke was the Ambassador of the United States to the Netherlands, and in this position he came in intimate contact with the attitude of Germany to Belgium, France and neutral countries. He is well known as a great admirer of Canada, and has a strong position in the literary world as a writer of Canadian stories and other high class literature.


(Applause.) Dr. Van Dyke comes to us at the most opportune moment. During the past five years we have been passing through a troubled and turbulent sea. We have been hoping to come back again to some peaceful "Little Rivers." We trust his coming will be a source of strength and courage. We are quite sure that the atmosphere created by Dr. Van Dyke will be not only helpful to us, but that those helpful influences will be radiated far beyond the confines of this room. On behalf of the Empire Club we bid him welcome, and wish to express our gratitude for his visit at this time.

DR. VAN DYKE was received with loud applause, the audience rising. He said: It is a great pleasure to me to be at this meeting of the far-famed Empire Club, one of the very rare occasions when the ladies are present. (Laughter.) I take that, not necessarily for publication, but as an evidence of good faith, (Laughter.) and I hope that the ladies will not be discommoded or inconvenienced by the rule which forbids smoking at this club. (Laughter. )

I have been in Canada every year for the past forty years, (Applause.) with the exception of the few when I was on the other side of the water, but always as a fisherman and a hunter, and that is why, to my regret and my shame, this is the first time I have ever been in Toronto. I am glad to be here now and see your fine, prosperous, vigorous, vital young city, built on the old foundation. (Applause.) It is a particular satisfaction to a man from the States to come to Canada now, because we have more memories in common than we had five years ago, (Hear, hear.) and having seen with my own eyes what your boys and our boys have done, I come to you to lay beside the maple leaf the laurel wreath of honor and renown for the soldiers of Canada. (Applause.)

Five years ago, in the summer of 1914, when I first arrived at my post in Europe, or at least began to get hold of the duties there, I found that one of the duties not 'strictly connected with Holland, connected geographically with Belgium, was to render what assistance I. could, and make what promises I dared, in the way of speaking in connection with the proposed centenary of the hundred years of peace between the United States and the British Empire: That peace, as you know, was signed in the Belgian city of Ghent, and on both sides of the ocean, and on both sides of the, Great Lakes, and away off in the far islands of the Australasian ocean, people of kindred blood were thinking together what a glorious thing it is that these two great countries, the United States and the British Empire, should have dwelt together, not in dull unanimity of opinion on all subjects, (Laughter.) but in real, true, practical peace, fellowship and concord. (Applause.) The very thought of that long borderland stretching from the mouth of the St. Lawrence out to Vancouver-which I do not desire to see blotted out by any annexation project, (Applause.) for I tell you, my friends, it is good to have a good neighbor, and it is not necessary that all neighbors should always marry, (Laughter.) that long borderland along which I myself have tramped, fished, and shot--without a fort and without an army of defence on either side--the thought of that magnificent inland sea without a battle-fleet or a war-vessel except such as may be necessary to keep order as police, is one of the most inspiring thoughts in our modern life. God grant that that line may endure, and endure as it is, unguarded save by mutual 'good will. (Applause.) All those preparations for celebrating that great victory of Anglo-Saxon ideals; the victory of the "men who speak the tongue that Shakespeare spake, the faith and morals hold that Milton held"-all preparations for celebrating that great event were swept away by the pistol-shot in Sarajevo and the crime at Liege. (Applause.) The trumpet of battle sounded forth, and the Lord of Hosts called upon his loyal legions to answer His summons, and to defend the eternal right and justice. I felt that call in my bones as I stood over there on the border of Belgium and knew the crisis which was brought home to Great Britain, and saw the danger and her way to meet it. I was then nominally neutral, and I was under responsibilities, and not intending to evade their binding and restraining force, but I wrote these lines, which were published over the name of "American Citizen"

Will you go to war for a scrap of paper?

A mocking question. Britain's answer came Swift as the light and searching as the flame "Yes, for a scrap of paper we will fight Till our last breath, and God defend the right!" A scrap of paper where a name is set When strong as duty's bond and honor's debt, A scrap of paper may be Holy Writ With God's own sacred word to hallow it. A scrap of paper holds the pledge of life That binds together every man and wife. Our name upon that sacred paper stands Pledged to defend the little neighbor lands. Yes, for a scrap of paper we will fight Till, our last breath, and God defend the right!

(Loud applause.) Well, He did defend the right, you see; and better even than the celebration of the hundred years of peace would have been in that fall of 1914 was the quick response of sympathy, in those who knew, to the spirit and action of Great Britain; and thank God, I had grace given to me to know that it was inevitable that we should stand in this great war against war, in this great fight for peace. Of course you saw it in Canada quicker than we did in the United States. Why, you would be ashamed of yourselves if you had not seen it quicker. You have a homogeneous population; you are closer to the facts; you have a tie that binds you to the Throne and the Crown, and you knew that that was in peril, and you saw it quickly, and that splendid mass of Canadian young men flung themselves into the conflict. When I was in London, in hospital, in the winter of 1917, I used to love to see those great big broad-shouldered chaps rolling along the street. You could always spot them; you could always know them; you could always tell them-but you couldn't tell them much. (Laughter.) I remember I was just staggering along, my head bound up in a bandage, and leaning on the arm of my boy who was taking care of me, and we passed five or six of those fellows, and one of the bunch said to the other, "Say, Bill, there's where little Georgie lives," and no one would ever take that as a mark of disrespect; it was a mark of affection. Look what those men did to prove their loyalty and their courage and their daring and their skill and efficiency as fighters at Ypres and at Vimy Ridge; and wherever they came they were known and feared by the people who had good reason to be afraid of them. Well, in that body of troops you sent over, I hear-though, of course I am not authorized to know anything about it officially-that there were a good many boys who had been born in the United States, (Laughter.) In fact I know some of them personally, and not only in that Canadian army, but also in the British army. They were friends of mine, students of mine, boys that I had taught, and who, thank God, were true to the teaching, (Applause.) and in the French army there were a lot of them. And so it was that side by side these sons of Britain and America celebrated the hundred years of peace in fighting together against war, (Applause.) and they did it nobly and magnificently. Then on that day in April when I crawled out from my sick bed and succeeded in getting into St. Paul's and saw the Stars and Stripes and the standard of Britain's Empire hanging side by side in that great apse, and with it the songs of both countries sung together by that mighty audience, and felt the thrill of joy that went through all hearts, then I knew that, without planning it, by the providence of God, Great Britain and the United States had celebrated their hundred years of friendship and fellowship in the right way. (Applause.)

Now the war is won; won on the battlefield too; but fighting still continues. There are a score, perhaps a hundred places in Europe and Asia, where there is actual fighting today. There is a good deal of intellectual fighting, hard feeling, animosity, still floating in the world today, and there are some to whom the future looks dubious and doubtful. Now, you Canadians are like the people of the United States, a peace-loving nation of fighting men and women. We want peace; we are going to do our best to have peace, and to keep peace too, but for those who insist on breaking the peace, we shall endeavor to learn how to deal with them in the same spirit in which we dealt with the Potsdam gang. (Applause and laughter.) Is that all right, Doctor? (Turning to Rev. Doctor Cody, amid laughter.) I may say that that expression has been passed as correct and proper by the highest theological authorities, (Laughter.) including Cardinal Mercier. (Laughter.)

Now, what can we find to cheer us in the presence of these apparently threatening clouds on the horizon ? What can we find to reassure us and to enable us to face the tasks and the difficulties which lie before us with that cheerful courage, with that dogged optimism, which I think is characteristic of the Anglo-Saxon race? Well, we can find a good many things. For peace between nations we can find the promise which is contained in the proposed League of Nations. That is a farther advance than has ever yet been made by the nations of the world in the direction of reducing war to a minimum and raising peace to a maximum. Now, please observe how careful I am in my statement about this thing-although I am a clergyman. I do not see that there is any prospect in it of absolutely abolishing war; because human nature being as it is, we cannot expect to do that unless, as Tennyson says, "A god shall mingle with the game." The Power* above us must help us, but we can reduce the occasions and the chances of war; we can make war more costly and more dangerous; and above all things we can manifest what is the real spirit and faith of the Anglo-Saxon peoples, that is, that war ought to become an anachronism, just as dueling has. Do you catch it? Just exactly as the duel has become an anachronism, and the person who in Great Britain or America or Canada fights a duel makes himself more or less ridiculous, doesn't he? (Hear, hear.) Well, now, we want that same process of thinking; we want that same method of acting to be applied in international affairs which has been applied by civilized society under the guidance of our ideals, to personal affairs; and for my part I cannot see any reason why it should not be done, and I firmly believe it is going to be tried. (Applause.)

Now, in regard to forces not between nations but within nations, here also the horizon is not altogether what you might call placid-looking, is it? A good many sharp conflicts apparently are coming to a head now, conflicts of interests, conflicts of what is called class-consciousness. Dearly beloved, did you ever see a class-consciousness ? Is there any class-consciousness which is not composed of the consciousnesses of the individuals which are in the class? Is there any morality for classes different from the morality which belongs to individuals? Go on with your duties, respect the rights and property of others, do your work honestly and faithfully, and uphold law and order. A class has no more right to set itself against these things than an individual has to set himself over against a class, which is simply composed of individuals, and you cannot get away from it; if you could you would reduce society to a mere dead mechanism, and for my part if I could not have Elijah's chariot to go up in I would like to go out west. (Laughter.) I do not want to live in a world like that; I want to live in a world where there are individual persons with hearts and minds and consciences, and a sense of honor, and a touch of good-will and brotherly kindness in them; I want to live among a people like that.

Now, the danger of the day is hysteria. It is not unnatural. Dear brethren, nothing happens to us that is unnatural; it is all natural, and if you like to try to understand and see the cause of things you can put your finger on them usually. We have had a terrible nervous strain, all of us. Even those who stayed at home had a nervous strain; and sometimes I think the strain imposed on the wives and sisters who stayed at home was the hardest of all. We have been through this grinding, straining thing, and we have come out with our nerves very taut, and sometimes rather a-jangle; otherwise I do not think the extreme statements which were made on both sides in the Washington conference would have been made. I think they were cases of over-strain of the nerves, that is what I think of those extreme statements. I am not going into that question, but I will say this-and it is a terrible thing to have formed a habit of preaching, because you never can break it-if we are going to pass through this trouble and anxiety and agitation and the somewhat conflicting times which lie before us, with safety, we have got to keep three things-first, we have got to keep our tempers. I will not enlarge upon that, and for a man of my disposition it is an awfully hard thing to do; but we have got to do it, and if we blow off our anger, and rail, let us try to blow it so far away that the sky will clear and we will be able to see face to face with our fellow-men afterwards. Second, we have got to keep our memories. We must not forget the lessons of war. We must not forget what has always followed, the attempt to establish communism in the world-ruin, disaster of the worst form, suffering specially for the poor people, and general hurly-burly and confusion. That is the history of the past without exception, and certainly, whatever line our modern education is going to take in the future it is not going to neglect history and humanistic studies-and I have seen some pretty good places for them lately. Third, we must not forget recent history. We must not forget what Germany did, (Hear, hear and applause.) and we must not forget what she came so perilously near doing. (Hear, hear.) What, you say, a Christian, yet we must not forgive and forget? Sir, in what part of the Bible does that text come-"forgive and forget?" It is not there. You cannot find it. It is not there at all. The Bible says forgive, yes, forgive on condition of repentance; but, as Cardinal Mercier says, the signs of repentance in Germany are not such that you would notice them-he does not use that language, but words to that effect. (Laughter.) No, we cannot forgive without repentance any more than God can forgive without repentance. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us"; but as His condition is repentance, so ours must be repentance; otherwise the moral foundations of the universe crumble, and we are left in a world where good and evil are on the same basis, and we must give the same kindness to a felon that we give to a saint. (Applause.) No; forgive when repentance comes; and to some it has come, I believe, already; not to those high up-they may have remorse, but they have not got repentance, and remorse is a very different thing from repentance. Repentance means a change of mind, a change of heart, and I do not see any sign of that in the neighborhood of Amerongen or on the island of Wieningen. There are people in Germany who are not only sincerely sorry, but who realize that the path was a wrong path, and who would like to take a better path. People at large are not allowed to know much about it; they don't even know that their army was licked. Forgive? Yes; but forget? No. Kipling's Recessional says, "Lest we forget." Men and women, there are things that by the price of our soul's life and freedom and salvation we must not forget. (Hear, hear.) There is honor and faith and love and friendship and loyalty. There is the brave and pledged resistance to tyranny and oppression. There is a standing for the right against the wrong which we must not forget; and we must not forget, and I hope to God we never may forget, that your boys and our boys fought and bled and died together in that cause, and that God gave them the victory. (Loud applause.)

THE CHAIRMAN: On your behalf I want to extend to our guest of the day our sincere gratitude for his address. We will go out of this place better than we would be if we had not heard what the Doctor has given us today. On behalf of the Club I extend to him our most grateful appreciation of his inspiring words. (Applause.)

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Canada and the United States

Ladies Day
The proposed centenary of the hundred years of peace between the United States and the British Empire. A reading of some of the speaker's verse about war. The fighting that continues in Europe and Asia today. Doing our best to keep peace. Dealing with those who break the peace. What we can find to cheer us in the presence of apparently threatening clouds on the horizon. The promise which is contained in the proposed League of Nations. Comments with regard to forces not between nations but within nations. Conflicts of interests, conflicts of what is called class-consciousness. Hysteria as the danger of the day. The need to keep three things: our tempers, our memories, a recollection of recent history. Forgiving only on the condition of repentance. Standing for the right against the wrong.