The Canadian National Character
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 11 Feb 1904, p. 68-73
Hutton, Professor Maurice, Speaker
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Looking at Plato's ideal state and the characteristics of his paragon. Suggesting that Canadians might fit this ideal character. Having in Canada all the ancient blends which we brought over from our forefathers. Providing Plato with what he wants in the shape of nation building, and how we may do so. The conditions and people that Canada has for providing such an ideal.
Date of Original
11 Feb 1904
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Full Text
Address delivered by Professor Maurice Hutton, M.A., LL.D., Principal of University College, Toronto, before the Empire Club, at its Luncheon, on February 11th, 1904.

MR. PRESIDENT,--in his picture of an ideal state, asks himself this question-How am I going to combine the manly qualities which build up an empire, enterprise and selfreliance and high spirit and aggression, with the other qualities more gentle but more efficient in maintaining an empire, perhaps, when built: considerateness, sweet reasonableness, good temper, mercy and thoughtfulness? And, after looking about him he fords a type of this paragon that he wants, this thing with all the virtues, in a very unexpected direction, just in the common or garden watch-dog, who is full of gentle virtue, of patience, justice, consideration, philosophy, towards his master; and full of virtuous " vice," of growls and snarling and aggression, and suspicion and combat towards all strangers and intruders.

Now, gentlemen, I propose to be guilty of an anachronistri this morning and to imagine that we are all of us present at that debate of Plato's, watching his perplexities, studying his dilemma, and we are going to suggest to him a rival competitor against that common or garden watch-dog-a rival competitor for the possession of these many-sided and somewhat apparently incompatible qualities. We are going to say to him, Plato, it is possible that in the Island of Atlantis you will find a people known as Canadians even better fitted than your watch-dog for realizing this ideal character. Philosophers have told us since your time, Plato, that all great civilizations are created by a blend-are created when one people of one type meets another people of quite a different type and by force of circumstances are compelled to blend with them and to add their joint civilizations together. Your own civilization of Greece, Plato, it is generally understood, was produced by a sturdy northern people coming down like a wolf upon the southern fold of a very ancient and rich civilization; and mingling with that southern ancient and rich civilization to produce the civilization of continental Greece; and then these people, driven out from the south, some of them, moved over to Asia Minor, and in their turn were blended with the Asiatic peoples, and these produced the many-sided, susceptible, sensitive, marvellous genius of the Ionian Greek.

Now, Plato, we have in Canada all the ancient blends which we brought over from our forefathers. The north of Ireland blend, for instance, where the Saxon met the Celt and produced a type stronger than either; and the Huguenot blend where some Celts met Saxons and Normans and other Celts and produced a type also stronger than either; and the English blend itself, Saxon and Danes and Normans and British. We have all these blends in Canada; and we have another which they have not in our Motherland-we are sharing our country with a people nearest of any people in the world to the genius of ancient Greece--with a people through whom logic and literature and art and science is apt to reach a greater height than anywhere else; we are blending with Frenchmen in Canada.

We of British stock ought to be able, Plato, to provide you with what you want in the shape of nation building--the aggressive spirit, the self-reliance, the enterprise, which makes one side; and we can trust these Frenchmen to provide us with the other side; to soothe us with their finer fancies, to touch us with their lighter thoughts, to soften us with their more feminine graces, and to inspire us with their much more subtle and delicate intelligence. And if, perchance, Plato, that is not sufficient to produce the right blend, we have yet other strings to our bow and other chances; for part of this country of ours was peopled by men of our own race who left a neighbouring country because a quarrel arose (as quarrels always arose m your Greece, you remember, between colonists and the mother country); in which these members of our race, having that other virtue of sweet reasonableness, that virtue of considerateness, that virtue. of an instinct for the past and a reverence for the past and a loyalty to the past, were unwilling to quarrel over what seemed to them, perhaps, a somewhat transient grievance, though ill-usage it was; were unwilling to quarrel with their own ancestors over what appeared to them trifles; and rather than be false to the past and turn their back upon their memories of kin and their association of the old time, they left their homes and came over here to Canada and hewed out for themselves a home in the bush.

They can hardly have been deficient, they who hewed out a home in the bush, in the manlier virtues-they can hardly have lacked those any more than they lacked sweet reasonableness and considerateness and forgiveness and a tendency to put up with ill-usage from those they loved. But if they did lack any of these manlier qualities, even so, Plato, there is no reason to think we in Canada need lack those qualities. Even if we cannot get them, as we should expect to, from those Empire Loyalists, and even if, in spite of the United Empire Loyalists, Canada might be, as a colony deficient-and colonies as you Greeks always thought are apt to be deficient in enterprise and apt to be deficient in self-reliance because they are dependents, and as long as they are dependents-if there is any fear of Canada lacking in self-reliance and enterprise, we have other causes which remove those fears; for to 'the south of us we have the same people from whom the United Empire Loyalists parted company-those people who would not put up with any imposition-and those people are all about us to the south, and influence us, and are bound to influence us; they Americanize us just as much as they antagonize us. They do both all the time.

And we have the same conditions to produce an American type which has produced it in them-a type of self-reliance and resourcefulness and energy. We have the same climate, only better, because more keen and trying and philosophers have told us, following, Plato, a hint from you and Aristotle, that while the earliest civilizations do not thrive in trying and keen climates, the greatest civilizations always thrive in those climates; because the climate itself acts as a tonic and stimulates and removes all slackness. We have the same conditions of climate to produce resourcefulness and energy which our American cousins have; the same conditions, only not the same bitter quarrel with our Mother Country, which started them from the first with a twist in their development, as rebels instead of simply and merely colonists; which hampered the great Washington throughout his career with the presence by his side of mischief-makers and demagogues; which has left its trail ever since upon their diplomacy--a trail of mischief-making and demagogucism--so that, though not four months have elapsed since we were all complaining of their conception of jurists of repute, even now we are not the last and latest sufferers by the sharp practice of their diplomacy.

But we have the same conditions which produce the best type of American without that bitter quarrel. We have the same identical simple life which makes of every man a jack of all trades. We have the same influx of the enterprising spirits of all lands, without so many immigrants from the southern and neglected peoples of Europe. We have the same and a great deal more than the same absence of wealth and luxury and case, which, while they breed the highest civilizations and the highest art, no doubt, and the most minute science, nevertheless deprive those who live under such conditions of a certain strenuousness and nervous energy. And we have exactly the same, or even more-we have the same inspiring pride and hope in those boundless acres and virgin resources which have filled that country with such boundless pride and hope. And we assume that all these conditions will produce the same results and will develop in Canada the same American type of energy, resourcefulness, self-confidence, self-reliance, courage, and the necessary amount of aggressiveness.

We turn to the United Empire Loyalists for the element of sweet reasonableness and loyalty to the past and considerateness to our own kin to avert those quarrels which were not averted in the case of our cousins to the south; and to remove that jealousy and quarrelsomeness of disposition which has ever marked American diplomacy and most of all marks it towards her own ancestors for some reason or other-perhaps, because she feels she has too often, through the influence of demagogues, taken advantage of the innocence of those ancestors. Whatever it be, she has shown a spirit of quarrelsomeness which should not be in any way a sign of Canadian diplomacy in relation to the Mother Country or any other country.

And then we trust to the French element; if we do our duty by it, if we really mingle with it-why should we not, for example, accept that ancient flag of theirs, the Lilies of France, which has now no other home throughout the world, and add it to our own Union Jack? We trust to the French element, if we honestly unite with it and make it one people with us-we trust to the French people to introduce all the logic and the science, and the art and the literature which always reach their height in Frenchmen or Greeks; to introduce also that historic consciousness, that memory of the past, that sense of touch with our own traditions and records which has always marked Frenchmen and Greeks; to save us from that forgetting of our own history and indifference to our own past which marks most men of the British race, always excepting the United Empire Loyalist.

We turn to the French element again and trust to that element to introduce the courtesy and the geniality, and the power of assimilating emigrants and alien people; the power of attracting foreigners which our race alone has never possessed, but which has made Germans in Alsace and Lorraine passionate Frenchmen; Frenchmen in spite of their language; Frenchmen in spite of their history; Frenchmen in spite of the ridicule which the French could not help pouring upon their dull Teutonic wits--which has made a passionate Frenchman out of a German of Alsace and Lorraine; passionate Frenchmen out of the Highlanders around Murray Bay; out of a Murray, a Fraser, and a Maclean, no longer conscious of their Scotch origin-we trust to the French to introduce and give us that element of attractiveness and power of assimilation which they have exercised all over the world. And we trust to them to give us that freedom from custom and convention, for want of which Romans and Britons have often been slaves to the habits of the past; to give us that originality and independence of mind and genius which remade Europe in the so-called Renaissance by means of Greek literature, through the rediscovery of Greek literature; and which re-made Europe 4 hundred years ago by means of the French Revolution.

And now, Plato, I feel as if I had exhausted you and exhausted also myself, and I will only ask you to think a moment and to answer one question: Do you not think, Plato, there is that in this Canada, with these blends of energy and vigour and aggressiveness, whether from England or the United States or from the North of Ireland; and with these other blends of loyalty to the past, considerateness for the past which comes with the traditions of the united empire; and with those blends of thought and philosophy, and science and art, and language and manners, and courtesy and politeness which come with the French-do you not think, in Canada, Plato, we have the chance of combining what you want to combine in your ideal state-the many-sided virtues of a perfect character? And do you not think, Plato, that it might possibly be found that this paragon is a Canadian? And is not thy servant Canada, Plato-it not thy servant Canada a dog, and, yea, much more than a dog that she also should be able to do this great thing?

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The Canadian National Character

Looking at Plato's ideal state and the characteristics of his paragon. Suggesting that Canadians might fit this ideal character. Having in Canada all the ancient blends which we brought over from our forefathers. Providing Plato with what he wants in the shape of nation building, and how we may do so. The conditions and people that Canada has for providing such an ideal.