- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 5 Oct 1933, p. 251-264
- Bouchard, Georges, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Our economic evils having to be cured by a better mutual understanding. A presentation of the agricultural question from the point of view not of a class, but of the nation. The necessity of maintaining a prosperous agriculture in order to have a prosperous country. The farmer's realizations. Work as the greatest cure for our maladies and miseries. Making way for the return to the soil of head, heart and hand. Expansion of farming in a time of agricultural overproduction and how that may seem very paradoxical. Objections to expansion. The industrialization of agriculture. The small farm as the most stable element of the nation in this time of depression. Some words from an International Survey of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in "World Agriculture." Farmers in different sections of the world harassed by fear of bankruptcy. The drawbacks of rural existence diminishing every day. Stability as the main economic attraction of agriculture. Soil as the source of wealth, not banks. The peasant farmer secure from unemployment during times of depression. Our century far from favourable to the development of a small farm and how that is so. The imperative need that we remove intellectual reasons which have caused the exodus from the furrows before we may hope to succeed in settling more people on the land. Avoiding the catastrophe of turning to the land with a purely urban mind. Causes that have been ascribed to the present financial depression. The speaker's belief that the disease is more deeply seated in the lost sight of less tangible values. How the world, our continent more particularly, has been affected by the general disaffection for the land. Why so many farmers are today in the intricate mesh of financial institutions, not especially adapted to their requirements in a new civilization based on mass production and mass consumption. Trying to awaken more interest in the fundamentals of the farming life. Some words from the speaker and from President Roosevelt on happiness. The need to be concerned about the upkeep of rural ideals. Unemployment as the natural by-product of big industry and the problem of the day and of the days to come unless we find a diversion toward the land. Making easier access for our farm boys. The need for a broad scope to any land settlement scheme to take care of not only the actual unemployed, but also those of the near future. The speaker pinning his faith on a revival of interest in farming. A specific outline of a land settlement scheme. The ideal to be aimed at a beginning of the economic invasion of urban industries with an idea of the fundamentals of country life.
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- 5 Oct 1933
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- Full Text
- A HABITANT LOOKS OVER CANADA
AN ADDRESS BY GEORGES BOUCHARD, M.P.
October 5, 1933
MAJOR JAMES BAXTER, the President introduced the speaker.
MR. GEORGES BOUCHARD: Mr. Chairman, my Colleagues, Guests and Members of the Empire Club: To any student of Canadian records there is no city with a name more justified by fact than Toronto, a meeting place. I have had the privilege of being here for meetings of different kinds, mostly national. But until the invitation of your genial President was received, I never thought the honour of addressing a gathering like this, composed of citizens standing in the forefront of public opinion was to be bestowed on a man direct from the furrows, on a son of the soil from the old sister Province of Quebec. In support of your President's decision, I might say, however, that my presence here might be explained on the one hand by the broadmindedness of this audience" not unmixed, surely, with curiosity; and on the other hard, by the adventurous spirit inherited from my forebears who opened up, centuries ago, the first path to civilization in this place where your city stands so proudly today. (Applause).
Perhaps you will agree with me also when I state that the economic depression has had the result of creating a greater intellectual fervour and natural desire for new ideas and a greater disposition for an exchange of views. It is clear to you, as it is to me, that on the imports of industrial and commercial forces, the world which is a world in compartment, has become more mechanical than thoughtful. An attempt has been made to build up sky-high a big industrial tower of Babel which has brought about the confusion of languages. The industrialists, the businessmen, the bankers, who are the domineering', forces, run the race, hearing but faintly the murmuring sounds rising over the field from the workshop and the farm, or from the university and the pulpit. For a habitant standing out as a traditional, not to say fossilated, type, for a man from the soil representing a province with the lowest percentage of motor cars and the highest percentage of spinning wheels, the chances to be heard would be considered very limited.
I do not fail to recognize that your most distinguished Club is a reaction against the individualistic tendency of this century. It is extended in its views as in its name. It is a reaction, also, against the overwhelming power j of an over-mechanized and over-industrialized world lending a half opened ear to the voice coming up from the glebe.
You all realize, no doubt, that in our dramatically minded world, the social question is a very immense question and our economic evils have to be cured by a better mutual understanding. It is even the duty of any public spirited man to offer his contribution toward the betterment of our conditions when the ship of state is struggling against a heavy sea; it is not only for the crew but also for the passengers to lend a helping hand.
By trying to cure all our troubles with government, taxes and grants we are playing with a yoyo which has sucked its thread and yields it out again. "Adversity" may well prove to be the discoverer of the means to escape from itself," as Dr. Butler said. Without any claim to a panoramic mind or a philosopher's tongue, or a cure-all quack remedy, and without any pretence to the discovery of an ideal government or monetary system, I wish only to cast a few reflections as inspired by a habitant looking over his country. Without aiming at immunity from rural inclinations, I will endeavour to present the agricultural question not from the point of view of a class, but from the point of view of the nation. Being all of one mind as to the necessity of maintaining a prosperous agriculture in order to have a prosperous country, it will easily be realized that what I am claiming for agriculture is not for a mere class advantage but for the good of the whole country, the times seem more appropriate for voicing agricultural thought; crisis puts the thought in purer light than ever.
While admitting that our mechanical age will be one of more leisure, the farmer understands that no power on earth can change the supreme law of labour and that work is the greatest cure for our maladies and miseries. Thinking as he follows the plough on an autumn day, the farmer envisages the oneness of a realm whose brain centers too much in the great cities. The farmer realizes how true were the words recently uttered by Sir John Russell as he visited our country, and our province, particularly: "Your farmers have givens to the world an example of fecundity and permanency, using the common sense that has been developed in them by contact with the land and by the spectacle of growth around them. The farmer acknowledges the fact that with its ever increasing efficiency machinery will be unable to take account of an ever increasing number of wage earners and that the attention of the people has to be turned more and more toward the land, the eternal and safe refuge. But to succeed on the land, we must proceed, not only with a rigorous hand, but with the rural-minded head and a loving heart".
In other words, we must make way for the return to the soil of head, heart and hand. Those are the three points which T will venture to propound before an audience with a different structure of mind and attuned to another attitude of life. While, myself, a partisan of a society more rurally shaped, I trust there will be no real opposition between our views.
Expansion of farming in a time of agricultural over-production may seem very paradoxical. The one objection that naturally obsesses the industrially minded
when he hears about the expansion of farming land is that it is useless to invite more agricultural production in a country of already glutted markets. This objection, we must admit, is quite in keeping with the general trend of our industrial age for in our feverish search for production we have lost sight of one fundamental fact: that production is a means to an end, the end being the happiness of mankind. Our agriculture has become so industrialized that unless a man can show a fair net profit in dollars and cents at the end of the fiscal year, he is liable; to be rated as an indifferent farmer, if not an actual failure. His mind and his heart must be devoted to the god of material gain, alone. If the things of the spirit cannot follow in this mad rush for money, though the Bible says, "Man does not live by bread alone", perhaps it would be more appropriate to speak of the extension of the farming population, rather than of the expansion of farm land.
The small farm which is close to a self-supporting basis is the most stable element of the nation in this time of depression. The traditional habitant who followed the line of greatest safety, who was afraid of debt and lived within his income, is maintaining a serene countenance while the depression is upon us. He is remorseless in looking over the past and fearless in looking into the future. Perhaps he does not enjoy a standard of living based on the requirements of a city dweller but he does enjoy a peaceful existence and he is not deprived of any of the necessities of life and he has a clear vision of the days to come.
In "World Agriculture," an International Survey of the Royal Institute of International Affairs,, I read as follows: "The small peasant farmer is nearer than the large farmer to a subsistence basis and if he is not burdened with debt he can weather a period of low prices to some extent by increasing his reliance upon his own farm for his needs."
While so many farmers in different sections of the world are harrassed by fear of bankruptcy or of seeing their farms falling into the hands of the banks and while so many Russian peasants are uprooted from their farms, and farmers are seriously underpaid on big farms, it is with no little comfort that we look at the farm, not only as an industry but as a way of living.
In "World Agriculture," from which I quoted a minute ago, I also read: "In the economies of the modern world there are, roughly, two ideals for the working life: one the desire for high incomes; the other a desire for stability and security. The agriculturists throughout the world tend to seek security rather than riches."
The drawbacks of rural existence diminish every day. The advantages remain but the main economic attraction of agriculture has been, the sense of stability. And I am prepared to accept Henry Ford's judgment on this matter when he states that the use of land is the best form of employment insurance. It ensures against unemployment and that includes protection.
The farmers on the land are what I mean by fundamentals. The land supports life; industry helps the men to make the land support him. When it ceases to do that and supplants the land and the land is forgotten and man turns to the machine for sustenance, we find out we do not live off the work of our hands but off the fruit of the soil. The soil is the source of wealth not the banks.
I beg your pardon for referring again to "World Agriculture" to read this: "The reason for land hunger is to be found not in the actual money return derived from agriculture but in the element of security achieved in the possession of land and the end of the presence of the regimentation, inevitable in industry, and in such circumstances derived from seeing the living results of labour in plants, trees and animal life."
In times of general depression the peasant farmer is secure from unemployment and almost always from actual want. That he works longer hours and often harder than the factory hand is part of the price he pays for security and for independence. In these times of financial stress" of bankruptcy and failure, of hunger, and moreover, of helplessness, I look almost amorously to a little house on the little time honoured farm where the owner shares the burden of taxation and of charity and is a burden to none. They are "the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its savour wherewith shall it be salted?"
It must be well understood, while I am propounding the advantages of small farms, I have no intention whatsoever of speaking disparagingly of the highly specialized and progressive big farm and while I may have my eye on the big farm" but would like to farm on a small one.
Our century is far from favourable to the development of a small farm. We are in an age of over-industrialization when world progress has come to mean material advancement alone; industrial revolution, magnificent engineering has completely triumphed. The blessed word, "nationalization," uttered like an incantation by the high priests of economics, has overshadowed the little farm and hastened the uprooting of the soil with the result that a number of young folk today appear in the bread lines.
Unless we change our ideas and also our ideals, unless we come to a better practice of life, unless we envisage the farm as a mode of living, it is useless to endeavour to operate the "back to the land movement". It is imperative that we remove intellectual reasons which have caused the exodus from the furrows, before we may hope to succeed in settling more people on the land. The "back to the land movement" without that precaution is the application of the two pounds of cure with a neglect of the one ounce of prevention.
Sir Samuel Hall, in a remarkable speech delivered in Regina before the Convention of the Canadian Technical Agriculturists, ventured the assertion that the trend of the medical Doctors today is to look less upon the disease itself and more on the general constitution of the patient. It is rather disappointing that our statesmen are not looking with the more long-sightedness on the general constitution of the social structure and less on the disease itself, actual unemployment. I am much more concerned about tomorrow's jobless, if by education and legislation we do not succeed in creating a condition which will induce more young men to take to farming, with their rural mind not distorted by the urban standard of living. We should bend our efforts toward maintaining two distinct civilizations, the urban and the rural, with distinct ideals. This would give an equal pride to both their adherents.
Let us avoid the catastrophe of turning to the land with a purely urban mind. Are we not like notes of music, one for another, though dissimilar? If we dismiss from our mind the belief that the fact of living in a city confers a degree of superiority on a man or a woman, it will be the first step toward the settlement of more young farmers on the land. It will strengthen our social structure and mean the re-establishment of a better equilibrium of population.
My second point which is briefer, is that the love of farming is perhaps more subtle and this audience would be but little satisfied with the usual vagaries of a sentimental heart.
To the present financial depression, many causes have been ascribed, such as overproduction, under consumption, monetary systems" and so on, which are all but the different features of one cause, an economic cause. To my mind, the disease is more deeply seated. In the feverish industrial movement, in the all-embracing race for material gain and the over enthusiasm for urban industrial life, the world has lost sight of other values, not less tangible and not measurable in dollars and cents, such as the love of nature, the symbol and real joy of country life.
This world, our continent, more particularly, has been affected by the general disaffection for the land. We were not satisfied with the establishment of an industrial financial system, but the leaders of the nation, more and more imbued with the industrial mentality, endeavoured to apply to farming the principles which have made industry prosperous. Efficiency was the dominating factor and to the industrial methods gained entrance in the country side as applied to the wheat field. This industrial spirit was for a, time very successful and the old time farmer, the world looked upon with a certain commiseration. A new civilization, based on mass production, mass' consumption, not to say mass thinking, was the governing factor. The mechanical world was killing individuality and the love of handicraft, for creative work and spiritual things were looked upon as things of the past, To buy and to sell was more and more the usual course for the farmer as for the city dwellers. Thrift and economy were gradually disappearing and the city's financial institutions were on the countryside the governing agencies. That explains how so many farmers are today in the intricate mesh of financial institutions, not especially adapted to their requirements.
In other words, the farmers have enslaved themselves in a new civilization which is not absolutely fit for them and many of them who were so proud of escaping from the so-called slavery of an old fashioned rural life with no little savoury of peasantry, are today the slaves of loan companies, without knowing what the future may have in store for them.
Let us now try to awaken more interest in the fundamentals of the farming life. The desire for money which, in the language of St. Paul "is the root of all evil", is not the first thing in the life of a farmer who has the courage to live simply and within his income with sensibility. Without denying the farmer the possibility of acquiring as much money as possible through all the scientific developments now at his disposal, I still consider, old fashioned as T may seem, that the trend of modern life has been adverse to other factors which are making farm life worth living. The industrial civilization has partly destroyed the antique joy derived from the accomplishment of work. How many tasks formerly accomplished while singing, are done grudgingly today
The search for city pleasure has destroyed the old gayety which dominated the furrows and the family workshop. This general dissatisfaction seems to have invaded the fields. The great wealth of love and human brotherhood seems to be less common in a century where the measure of services in dollars and cents is the prevailing 'custom.
It was with an ill contained delight that I read recently that my political leader feels there has been a tendency to stress the economic question too much and thereby to ignore the moral issues confronting the world and that subtle thing called "human nature". I do not recall who it was that said that the heart measured more than the brain the grandeur of the people.
In this morning's paper I read that spiritual values count, in the long run, more than material values, in the estimation of President Roosevelt.
Being associated frequently with all those who are promoting the best methods of cultivation, I am pleased to witness the great emphasis placed by our Department of Agriculture on the increase of production, but, had the same emphasis been given to the improvement of farm homes, to the beautification of rural life and to the development of the rustic arts, farming would be considered a pleasant mode of living as well as a sound business. (Applause.)
A more appropriate or less urban education would instill in the minds of our children a better appreciation and love for the beautiful and cultural aspects of the farm life. Am I wrong in saying that for three centuries on this continent the unemployment problem has beet solved by farm women who learned the practice of handicraft, not only for the employment of the enforced leisure of long winters but as a source of enlightenment, joy and economy? When the promoters of these arts are fostering nowadays only the material gain that is in them, they just display their lack of appreciation of the essentials of rural life.
"Happiness", said President Roosevelt in his message to the people, "lies not in the mere possession of money.' It lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative' work".
A truer appreciation of farm life in the family circle, in the rural school, in the press, in the assembly of the nations, would certainly mark the dawn of a better day.
Professor J. C. Ransom is right when he states that the amenities of life are sacrificed whenever a generation commits itself to industrialism.
I do not quarrel with those who look to their farm for pleasures different from ours as long as they will obtain them. If what Professor Scudder said is true, that the fully developed rural mind is more original, more versatile, more accurate, more philosophical, more practical, more persevering, then let us keep our rural civilization perfect and pure in its very essence.
I am profoundly convinced that it is incumbent, not only upon the nation but upon its different social activities, to be concerned about the upkeeping of rural ideals so as to develop more pride, to create an attraction for the rising generation, an attraction toward farm life and to help maintain the better balance of population. Good results are confidently hoped for along these lines because the time is very propitious and people are anxious once more to speed the plough.
In concluding on this point, may I again remind this audience, wherever the farm life problem is discussed, no one is entitled to apply urban conditions to farm conditions. They vary considerably. The major satisfaction of farm life is derived from various sources,, not so closely related to money as in urban centres. One must measure up the pride in gardening, in raising pure bred stock and high yielding grain, healthy conditions, pleasure in work, strong faith in the future, enjoyment of social life, freedom of initiative, and how many other factors must be accounted for in the appreciation of the country side. Let us hope that our noble rural traditions, hand in hand with the modern developments will help to fascinate the whole of our young people, so to induce them to turn to farming with a just appreciation of the advantages of country life.
Unemployment, the natural by-product of big industry, is the problem of the day and of the days to come, unless we find a diversion toward the land, I do not see (how the unemployed can get jobs again. If full production is resumed, the progress of efficiency and of labour saving devices seems to keep pace with any additional output of industry and more and more people are lured by the big centres. If no change in our view has taken place, old fashioned as I may seem--I have no complaint to offer for the ever increasing producing power of our machines because it opens an era of more leisure which is likely to become the dawn of an era of more artistic work, of more creative work, a reaction against a deplorable standardization of things and also of minds--I feel that in this rapidly changing world a new philosophy of life becomes imperative.
It is not for the government only to introduce a change, but for all thinking men. It is a recorded fact that the countries with the largest urban population have the highest percentage of unemployment. It is also certain that the land has never refused bread and clothing to the faithful.
I am sure to be in accordance with the opinion of all present here when I state further that the greatest problem is to be with tomorrow's jobless if nothing is done to make rural life, not only more fruitful and more alluring, but also easier of access for our farm boys. A land settlement scheme must be broad enough in its scope to take care not only of the actual unemployed, but also of those of the near future. How can we remain motionless when our youth the cream of the population are calling for land? If we wait too lung we may perhaps gravel the roads for Communism.
I have certainly pinned my faith in a revival of interest in farming. To complain about excess of population, about an excess of farm produce in a country like ours with such great potentialities, would be to lay blame on the vision of our leading men and the courage of our working class.
I do not suggest that we recapture the past but that we retrieve the spirit which inspired our forefathers who were not working for a standard of living, sitting around table meetings, but for the mode of life best suited to their fancy and the necessity of their time.
Let it be said at once that any scheme for land settlement which smacks of patriotism and the absence of self reliance is bound to fail. It is not with grants or by gifts that the goal will be reached, but rather by helping settlers to help themselves on small farms. They must bring to prospective settlers the way to make their own living on a farm.
Will you allow me to be a little more specific in outlining a scheme which if properly followed out will at the same time satisfy the jobless looking for work or land and the farm boys desirous of establishing themselves?
I take for granted that a one hundred acre farm with appropriate buildings and half a score of acres opened up would constitute a fair instrument of living for a new settler, either from the city or the countryside. I take also for granted that the land is supplied free by the state. How could it be worked out economically?
I think it is for the jobless best suited for it, according to their different abilities, to clear up the few acres, to put up the buildings, and to open up the roads. If properly carried out, this scheme would yield fairly well started farms to the settlers for an average cost of $500. That amount covering all costs for buildings, wages and some money for expenditure, would be the mortgage value of the farm advanced against its owner. The country would bear the administration costs, the interest charges, for the first few years, with, perhaps, some occasional relief expenditure. With proper supervision these farms would develop gradually in increasing the investor's security.
I wish we could see capitalism a little more landed and a little more in keeping with country life. With that scheme, the state or any other organization would succeed in giving work to a great number of unemployed and in extending our farming population with very little capital expenditure but with large and sound investment.
The settlers, instead of being sparsely distributed as in too many cases, would live in rather a gregarious state with the comforts of good and helping neighbours, real community life existing from the start.
It might be wisely suggested that the prospective owners of these farms would bring in currency or personal belongings at least ten per cent of the value of the farm mortgage. When working on a reasonable salary for the building up of these farms, the city unemployed would be in a position to assert their suitability for farm work and to take advantage of farm life if they so desired. It would be;, at the same time, an outlet for our farm boys who in these times of financial stress are deprived of many other opportunities of satisfying their earnest desire of settling on the land.
What should I say in conclusion, after these more or less desultory remarks? You all realize, no doubt, that I am not here to antagonize the urban populace, but rather to invite co-operation in a national salvage work. It is useless repenting over the past but we must help to plan for the future. There is a redeeming feature in the present crisis. The attention of the public is set mom on the land and the idea that agriculture is Canada's fundamental industry and occupation is put in the limelight. The ideal to be aimed at is a beginning of the economic invasion of urban industries with an idea of the fundamentals of country life. Above all, it should be everybody's desire that agriculture which should be the key to the future relief of our over-urbanized population, becomes more prosperous and more properly understood, not only as an industry, but also as a mode of life.
In the diagnosis of the disease from which our noble patient, Canada, is suffering, let us get away from the injection method by the financial specialists. Let us give her more fresh air and apply to her constitution the healing virtue of agricultural pursuits.
I will say with Sir George Paish: "I have no doubt we are going into the greatest period of prosperity the world has ever seen if the necessary measures are taken." Through dark the time in, which we live, let us hope by uniting our efforts and centering our activities around the land with unfailing heads, hearts and hands, this Canada of ours will soon emerge victoriously from the waves of depression. Let us blend our determination with our idealism to create a still greater nation on this northern part of the American continent and within the British Empire. (Applause.)