- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 11 Sep 1933, p. 196-205
- MacMillan, The Right Honourable Lord, Speaker
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- A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club.
The commerce of ideas. The need for an ethical revival. Re-establishing intercommunication among the nations of the earth. Some thoughts on values and happiness. The speaker's recent venture of visiting every province in Canada, and capital of every province and other cities as well. Bringing into contrast the very diversified conditions of the different parts of Canada. Forming a composite picture of the economic scene. Two topics in connection with the commerce of ideas. First, embarking upon a great scheme of imperial education at the University of London. Establishing a series of institutes for the promotion of higher learning for the world. The Institute of Historical Research, the Courtauld Institute of Art, the Institute of Languages, the Institute of Public Health, the Institute of Education. Second, the human factor in industry. The National Institute of Industrial Psychology, of which the speaker is President. Aims of the Institute. Studying practical problems, with examples. Interest for Canada in the work of this Institute.
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- 11 Sep 1933
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- AN ADDRESS BY THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LORD MACMILLAN
September 11, 1933
At a special joint meeting of the Empire Club and the Canadian Club, the guest speaker was the Rt. Hon,. Lord MacMillan. Lard MacMillan was introduced by the President of the Canadian Club, Mr. Harry Sifton.
THE RT. HON. LORD MACMILLAN: I read, some time ago, in one of those books about law, prepared for the use of the layman, this sentence: "Judges are human beings." I was much relieved, as myself the holder of judicial office, with this remark. When the author went on to say that judges are not only human beings, but persons of superior intelligence and ability, my opinion of that author leaped with bounds of approval. But, Surely, Gentlemen, one will pardon me, I could be neither more nor less than human not to be appreciative of the delightful reception you have been kind enough to give me and my colleagues here today.
You have been good enough, Mr. President, to refer to some of the darker pages of my past life. (Laughter.) It is unusual in a merely friendly gathering, to rehearse such topics. But as you have kindly referred, also, and quite too extravagantly, to my merits, I can only recall that delightful story of the gentleman who went up to a negro an said, "Can you lend me ten dollars?" The negro beamed on him and said, "I ain't got ten dollars but thanks for the compliment all the same." I feel that I "ain't" got all the qualifications you were so good as to appropriate to me, but thanks for the compliment, all the same! (Laughter.)
Now, of course, I see expectant faces around me, all waiting for me to make an important pronouncement on Canadian banking. I can assure you that you will all be disappointed. I am too discreet for that! I know that indiscretions are far more attractive than discreet observations, but in this matter, I am afraid you must await our published report.
So, being a discreet person, I wondered what topic I might address you upon. I am going, if I may, to select a subject to which I attach enormous importance. It really is complementary to the subject of the Royal Commission over which T have the honour to preside. We have been considering throughout the length and breadth of Canada in every province we have visited" difficult, intricate and interesting questions of finance and commerce. These, no doubt, especially in the difficult times through which we are living, are matters of prime concern. But, I am sure I have your assent to this: that they do not represent the whole of life, however important a part of life they may be. And for a few moments, I would ask you, today, to turn your minds to a different branch of commerce and that is the commerce of ideas.
I attach even more importance to that form of commerce than I do to material commerce. I believe, profoundly, that the best of all possible preparations,, even for a business bargain, is that those who are about to bargain should understand each other, should sympathize with each other, should have a common background of intellectual and spiritual interest and to my mind, one of the most important things in these days is to have, not merely an economic, not merely a financial revival, Gentlemen, but what I can only call an ethical revival. I am convinced that you require, even more, a Royal Commission on such topics than you do on banking and commerce. But, fortunately, we don't require a Royal Commission for these things. These matters can be dealt with much more happily and less formally by other avenues of approach and it appears to me that one of the most useful things we could do is to see that, in matters of the mind and the spirit, we re-establish intercommunication among the nations of the earth, perhaps, most of all, among our own people in the Empire and revive a new and different spirit than in the merely trafficking-I was going to say "huckstering"-spirit which, to a large extent has dominated our interest.
Gentlemen, one great advantage of the commerce of ideas is that there is no question of free trade or protection there. There is free trade in the commerce of the mind and the spirit throughout the world. There is no question of quotas, none of the cumbersome mechanism of adjustment of quantities or qualities as between nations and between people. There are no frontiers to the intellectual ideas; no embarrassment to the free passage of the things of the mind and, therefore, in that branch of commerce, one escapes from the region of bargaining and all are eager and willing to share the common heritage of the mind. To that I attach, in these times, immense importance. I sometimes think that our sense of values has got a little upset. We are inclined to attach far too much importance to merely material things. At the end of the day, surely we will all agree that the thing difficult to achieve is happiness. Happiness consists really in the exercise of your gifts and capacities in the sphere in which they are best capable of manifesting themselves. Interest and happiness in life are the things we all really care for. Everything else is only a means to that end and I think that we have rather gone astray in our valuations and have been inclined in these times to attach too much importance to the merely material things and to disregard, to some extent, those other things which, without money and without price are, after all, the most precious of all possessions.
And, so, it may seem strange, Gentlemen, that as a Chairman of a Banking Commission, engaged in considering problems of finance, I should venture here, in this great gathering of business men of Toronto, to turn aside for a moment to a topic such as that and I do so, if I may say so with a certain measure of relief, for it is not good for any man to be entirely preoccupied with the things of this world. It isn't good for a Minister; it isn't even good for a man of business. My experience has beet, that the bigger a man, is,, the simpler he generally is in his outlook on life and as one goes on and meets people with a large view of life, the more generosity you find in their outlook, and the less tendency to boggle over financial questions, while these questions take their proper place and perspective in life among persons able to place them in their proper position.
That may seem very queer talk on the part of the Chairman of a Banking Commission. While I think that the simpler things of life are frequently over-looked by all of us, don't think that I don't attach the utmost importance to the mission entrusted to us.
We have had an amazing experience. I venture to say that I have seen more of Canada than many of you in this room. To have visited every province in Canada, the capital of every province and other cities as well and to have spent fourteen nights on the train and to have had other experiences of a somewhat disturbing character is no meat achievement, but, believe me, it has been amazingly educative, for me at least, and amazingly instructive. We have been able to make a survey of the whole Canadian position and then, to speak of your trains, it has been an advantage because it has brought into contrast the very diversified conditions of the different parts of Canada. We have been able to form a composite picture of the economic scene.
Now, we come to Toronto, the last city of our pilgrimage until we come to Ottawa, bringing our sheaves. I am riot sure whether I ought to repeat the text by saying "rejoicing"-at any rate, we are "bringing the sheaves". And the next process after the sheaves are gathered is the separating of the wheat from the chaff-a metaphor understood by Mr. Brownlee, who is from the West. I won't say how much is wheat and how much is chaff. I won't speak of the value of the wheat. We have a very large measure of valuable grain, I am sure, and we shall now sit down to study.
May I be allowed to turn to two topics in connection with the commerce of ideas. One, I think, is really of great interest to you all or ought to be, and what I want to say is this,, that in London, England, we are, at the present moment, embarking upon a great scheme of imperial education. The University of London has at last emerged from its original condition of being that most objectionable of all things, a merely examining body. It bas a new constitution and has proceeded to embark upon a great career which involved the erection in the very heart of London of a series of institutions destined, I think, to become the very clearing house of the things of the mind and intellect in the Empire. We have acquired there a free hold, ten and a half acres in the very heart of London. Anyone familiar with real estate questions, knows what ten and a half acres in the centre of London means. It is in close proximity to the British Museum, probably the greatest storehouse of the material of learning in the British Empire. It is close to various other great institutes of learning. University College is, I am sure, represented in this gathering by several graduates. King's College is close at hand. The London College of Economics is not far off. In short, the great edifice is to be constructed in the heart of London and will find itself in the very centre of what one may call the intellectual sphere or region of the metropolis. We intend to establish a series of institutes for the promotion of higher learning, not merely for London, not merely for the Empire, but for the world. The Institute of Historical Research, already in being, is an institute where any man may come--from Canada or Australia--who is anxious to pursue his study in regard to the early colonial history of Canada or Australia, will at once have his studies directed and every possible assistance' given to the exploring of the record office and other archives of our country which we share in common. If he is interested in art, the Cortauld Institute of Art will placed at his disposal where he cane converse with the best artists of today and have every opportunity of pursuing his studies. If he is interested in oriental languages, the new Institute of Languages will enable him to acquire a knowledge of Singhalese or Bantu or any of the other languages. He can go to the Institute of Public Health and there study, with the stimulus of colleagues interested in the chemical study, all the problems of modern health. If he is interested in education, there is a .new Institute of Education which is a rallying force for the whole Empire where men may meet from time to time, rub ideas together, and obtain all the stimulus that that means.
I have only given in a sentence, some conception of the great clearing house we propose to establish in London. It may take a generation to do it, but it is the conviction of every one of us that, just as the Bank of England has been regarded as the great centre of finance of the Anglo-Saxon world, so London shall rise as a city famed for its learning, as have the other great capitals of the world-something that shall make London as great in matters of scholarship of the mind and spirit, as she has been great in matters of finance and government.
That is a great conception, Gentlemen, and it is a conception that should interest and I think, will certainly interest everyone in this room. It is to complete the equipment of the British Empire, to complete the equipment to which all of us can resort for the pursuit of those things represented by the commerce of ideas.
That is one topic on which I meant to say a word today.
The other topic is, possibly, of more immediate practical interest to you, and that is to say just a word about the human factor in industry. I happen to be President of a body in England which rejoices in the name of "The National Institute of Industrial Psychology". As our neighbours over the border would say, "You spilled a mittful".
Despite the somewhat pontifical and portentous name of this society, it is one of the very greatest possible interest to all who are interested in practical industry. Just let me tell you what its aim is. Its aim is to study the human factor in industry as contrasted with the manufacturing interest. You will agree that the last half century has seen an enormous advance in the technological improvement throughout our country but less attention has been paid to the human factor in industry. The perfecting of the mechanical side of our factories and all our industries has been carried to a very great extent, but tar too little attention has been paid to the human factorthe study of the human being who, after all, must be in charge of the machine and must actually carry on the industry, and this association has,, for its purpose, the study of those problems. It does this in a very practical way and to illustrate, there is nothing better than giving an example
One of the big restaurant people in London, as you know, is Lamb's--a name pretty well known throughout the Empire. Lamb's found that they were having an extraordinary large breakage bill. Every month there was a huge bill for the breakage of cups and saucers served to the customers. They invited the assistance of practical men who formed part of the Association. We sent down two investigators who proceeded to study the conditions under which the girls carried the trays into the restaurant. They discovered a certain corner in one of the passages ands located most of the smashes there. It was suggested to the managership that they have the corner fixed. They replied that they had never noticed anything there, but the outside observer noticed at once the weak spot. And they observed a corner on the table-those corners just happened to make the difference between having a certain percentage of smashes and a lower percentage. So, by examining the conditions under which the girls worked and by suggesting little things that didn't occur to anyone--just the sort of things you don't notice--the breakage bill of that firm went down several hundred pounds in the course of the year. They actually were able to bring down their overhead by a substantial amount.
We were asked to look over the factory of a big firm of confectionery manufacturers. There was a great deal of discontent among their workers. The girls were not healthy or happy. Our investigators went to watch the conditions under which the girls filled the boxes of chocolates. The boxes were filled with different kinds. Our investigator said, "Don't you see the difficulty the girl has in getting the particular kind to put in the box? For the second row she has to stretch somewhere else and so on. For every chocolate placed in the box, a muscular action is involved and a certain amount of irritation results." An arrangement was made so that they could take each one in a rhythmical sort of fashion so that they could sit down half an hour and stand half an hour short, the whole psychology of the situation was studied with the most amazing results. The work done was nearly double and the irritation disappeared. The manufacturers came and reported that we had worked almost a miracle in their business.
These are the kind of illustrations that you must study not only the maintaining of the physical side of your business, but you must also study the human factor and this association is beginning to carry out a great work in that department, valuable not only in the element of increasing human happiness and comfort, but also, which appeal to you Scotch, very important in the profit and loss account. It is also being used in other regions. In His Majesty's Post Office, conditions under which the sorting of mail took place were studied. It is the making of the rough places smooth and getting rid of the irritations which we all know.
You might say, "Why can't people do these things for themselves?" They don't. It is perfectly certain that every person has a mirror at home that won't stand at all at the angle he wants it to when he is shaving, and for the last fifteen years he has been taking a hair brush or something behind it, just because he won't get a tradesman in to put it right. You go on suffering that daily irritation. There are many such things-a drawer won't open, a key won't quite fit-all these things you tolerate in your own premises. When someone comes along and points out how it may be fixed, you take notice.
This association is one which might interest many of you in Canada. Its purpose is to get rid of those waste motions and in that way increase the element of pleasure in work. The whole thing is to make work interesting and pleasant. If you once give the people interest, you solve the whole problem. The difficulty in so many of the technical processes is that we have lost interest. Men don't get interest and happiness out of work. This is one of the means of bringing that about-by preventing the sources of irritation.
I have taken a lot of time with these two topics. They are both related to each other, both related to different factors in our life, not merely the financial factor of which I say nothing, but the human factor and the realistic factor. You will forgive me if I confine myself to those topics today.
I know that the real difficulty with after dinner speakers is what is known in railway language as "terminal facilities". I noticed a moment ago an appreciative look on the faces of some of my audience because they saw the welcome signs of a, peroration approaching.
I just have to tell what I always tell--one Scotch story
A young lad in a Scotch village used to walk out with his sweetheart night after night but never came to the point of really asking her to marry. At last one evening under the influence of the summer twilight, he said to her, "Jeannie, will ye marry me?" She said, "Aye, Jock, I will". And then dead silence fell between them and they walked solemnly and sedately home. As they came to the door of the cottage, she looked up a little shyly and said "Ye have not owermuch to say to me, Jock". Jock answered, "I ha' said owermuch already". (Laughter and prolonged applause.)
The thanks of the Canadian Club and the Empire Club was extended to Lord MacMillan by Major Baxter, President of The Empire Club of Canada.