- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 11 Feb 1926, p. 41-52
- Nunn-May, R.; McDonald, T.P.; Molson, A.H.; Reed, Paul, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Mr. A.H. Molson, New college, Oxford, President of the Oxford Union, the Oxford Carleton Club and Conservative Association:
Finding the British language, British ideals and British institutions far away from England. The question of the foreign relations of the Empire. Pointing out the tendencies of the past, particularly during the last six years since the War. The question of the future organization so far as the foreign policy of the Empire is concerned, is going to be left entirely in the hands of the Dominions. The principle laid down at the 1918 Imperial Conference. The British Empire Delegation at the Peace Conference in Paris, and how Dominion representatives participated. The Locarno agreement as a turning point in the history of the foreign relation of the British Empire, and how that is so. The difficulty for the Mother Country to reconcile her obligations to Europe and her obligations to the Empire. The speaker not sure that the British Dominions are under any obligations as far as the Locarno treaty is understood. The British Dominions not to be bound unless consented a radical departure from precedent, and how that is so. Possible concern in Canada for disputes which may break out between France and Germany. Implications of the Locarno agreement; an imagined scenario. The difference between the position of Canada in the eyes of her friends and the position of Canada in the eyes of the League of nations as the single clear instance which shows the great change which has recently come over the constitution of the British Empire. Why all foreign relations are carried on through the British Foreign Office which has proven quite a satisfactory instrument for the Dominion. Different representatives of the different members of the British Commonwealth of Nations in the Assembly of the League, with a policy not necessarily common to each other. The British Constitution as it relates to the Dominions absurd, ridiculous, but continuing to work.
Something of the future prosperity and unity of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Doing "everything within our power to create among the younger generation knowledge and understanding of history and geography of the Empire as a whole, so that on that basis of information and knowledge the young citizens may retain the same feeling of sentimental attachment which is so evident to us in every part of Canada through which we pass." The benefits of the system of Rhodes Scholarships to Canada, the other Dominions, and to the Mother Country. A valuable extension of the scheme to send young men and women from the Old Country to Universities in the Dominions. The benefits of travel to the universities of the Continent before settling down to his life's career. Strengthening the bonds of Empire by the real understanding and knowledge of the problems, the people, the geography, and the conditions of development of each constituent.
A great impression of Canada's natural resources. Canada not yet begun to develop. The very best type of immigrant. The need for a policy of training men for agriculture work, and for trained men from the farms in other countries.
The experiment that is the British Empire. Dealing with our problems b y thinking hard on them, and realizing that our difficulties offer new problems that must be solved by new methods. Talk about the decadence of Britain, or England. Unemployment figures. Working out problems in the sincerest possible way, and finding that we can make the British Empire work not only to our advantage but to that of humanity as a whole.
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- 11 Feb 1926
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- Full Text
CERTAIN PHASES OF THE EMPIRE
ADDRESS BY THE IMPERIAL DEBATERS, REPRESENTING FOUR GREAT BRITISH UNIVERSITIES-MESSRS. R. NUNN-MAY, T. P. McDONALD, A. H. MOLSON AND PAUL REED.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto
Thursday, February 11, 1926.
VICE-PRESIDENT COL. ALEX. FRASER introduced the Speakers;
MR. A. H. MOLSON, New College, Oxford, President of the Oxford Union, the Oxford Carleton Club and Conservative Association, said:-I have frequently gone out of England just a very few hours' journey to France or Italy, and I found myself abroad. I have now come some 4,500 miles out to Canada, and I find myself still at home. It really is one of the strangest and most inspiring things an Englishman can experience that although he can travel just a little way abroad and find people with a different outlook, different institutions, different ideals and ideas, he can go out into some of the great countries of the world, far more extensive than the whole of Europe, and find that there the British language, British ideals and British institutions have taken strong root and are building up the great civilization of the future.
I regard this as a very great privilege, to address the Empire Club. I could quite easily talk about those things which are very easy to talk about-our common race, our common law, our common language and our common traditions; but I wish, if I may, to refer to a subject which I think is of far greater importance and of far greater difficulty; that is the question of the foreign relations of the Empire.
It is no good to adopt the policy of supposing that if we do not take thought on those things all will go well.
The development of the British Empire has resulted in the appearance of a problem which no country in the world has ever had to face before, and which sooner or later the British Empire will be face to face with; and the easy optimism which puts off facing difficulties until they appear may cost us dear in the future if we do not now, when it is not indeed a burning question, try to realize along what lines development is taking place, and seeing to what it leads.
I do not propose making any suggestions. I am not going to suggest any particular scheme of organization for the Empire. I am only going to try and point out what the tendencies in the past have been, and particularly during the last six years since the War.
I think I may say that, so far as the Mother Country is concerned, the whole question of the future organization so far as the foreign policy of the Empire is concerned, is going to be left entirely in the hands of the Dominions. I saw the other day that an official of the Colonial Office had declared that if the Dominions were of the opinion that it would be in their interests for the constitution of the Empire to be modified as to international laws so that the Mother Country could go to war while they remained neutral, that the Mother Country would have no objection. I think that was a very wise thing for that official of the Colonial Office to say.
Originally the Dominions had no desire to take part, in consultation with foreign countries, with regard to the making of treaties. As far back as the eighties, Sir Charles Tupper, that great statesman that Canada contributed to the last century, was the plenipotentiary of the British Empire for concluding a treaty with the United States of America. Now, that was a treaty which only concerned Canada, which was proposed to be concluded with the United States for the benefit of Canada; but because the British Empire was one political whole the entire British Empire was to be bound by that treaty.
In 1918, at the Imperial Conference, the principle was laid down and agreed to by the representatives of each one of the separate countries which go to make up the British Commonwealth of Nations, that in future any individual member of that Commonwealth might conclude a treaty provided that treaty concerned that one dominion alone, and that treaty should not be binding upon the rest of the Empire. For purely sentimental reasons I imagine that one would slightly regret that such a step had to be made, but after all you cannot keep the Empire going on sentiment, and I think that owing to the great development that has taken place it was necessary that that step forward should be made, and all one has to do is to face quite frankly the results which may follow from that, and then try to work out the result. Unfortunately, the effect, while taking advantage of any benefits that that system may be expected to confer, will be felt on the Empire as a whole and not merely on one Dominion that may have concluded that treaty.
At the Peace Conference in Paris there was a British Empire Delegation, and there was some difficulty about how it could be arranged that every one of the dominions should be represented upon that Empire Delegation. As you all know, a compromise was reached upon the panel system, that is, that a representative of each Dominion was present always as an observer, but they took it in turns to be an official delegate of the British Empire, and only the representatives of the Mother Country were permanent representatives. Now, we in England all very much regret that at the treaty of Lausanne that precedent was not followed. I think undoubtedly that was a mistake. There were reasons for the mistake; there was hurry, there was difficulty in obtaining representatives from the dominions, there was need for facing the task at that time in Lausanne of carrying through the agreement as soon as possible; there were many exceptional circumstances, yet the precedent then established was greatly to be regretted.
Speaking for myself, I think that is a comparative trifle compared with the step that has been taken by the Mother Country at Locarno. In my opinion, Locarno is, or may be, a turning point in the history of the foreign relation of the British Empire. Great Britain is at the same time a European power, and an imperial power, and it is very difficult indeed for the Mother Country to realize exactly how to reconcile her obligations to Europe and her obligations to the Empire. I think one may say that at Locarno Great Britain did serve the highest interests of Europe, and did a great deal to make possible the pacification of Europe, to do away with the hatred and the suspicion which are the aftermath of the War; and I think that Europe is under very great obligations to us.
I am not so sure that the British Dominions are under any obligations to us. It is the first time in history that the Mother Country has adopted a foreign policy which it is very probable most of the Dominions will be unable to follow. At that time there was merely consultation, so far as one can find out; merely consultation by cable with the Dominion Governments and with the High Commissioners in London; and that treaty which is of the very greatest importance for Europe was arrived at, and contains this clause, that the British Dominions should not be bound unless they consented.
Now, that is a very radical departure from precedent. It may be-I do not know-that one or two of the Dominions will agree to undertake the obligations, the very heavy obligations, which the Mother Country has undertaken at Locarno, but in the case of one Dominion, South Africa in particular, it seems to me very unlikely indeed that it will undertake those responsibilities; and I cannot find it in my heart to blame that Dominion. What Canada's policy will be I do not know, but I do fully understand the argument of people in the Dominions, many of them, who ask how are they concerned, in what way can they possible be concerned with some dispute which may break out between France and Germany. In the long run I think they will be concerned, for after all, the history of the last war shows that even the United States of America was concerned in the assassination which took place in the Balkans, and what materialized from that new country with which they had no relations except purely formal diplomatic relations; and sooner or later they were involved. On the other hand, Canada enjoys an advantage, as all the Dominions do, which the Mother Country does not possess, but which now the Mother Country very much envies, that is, of being a long distance from Europe and I am not at all sure that the Dominions would necessarily be wise-it is not for me to express an opinion upon this-at least it is conceivable that a Dominion might be wise in refusing to adhere to the Locarno agreement.
Consider for one moment what the result of that is going to be. The touchstone of all international relationships is war, and the Locarno agreement is based upon this principle-that whichever country within a certain area of Western Europe is an aggressor will find Great Britain opposed to her and supporting the country that has been attacked. That means to say that we are to envisage the possibility of going to war, and under the Locarno agreement the Dominions are not to be in it W mess they adhere to that agreement.
Imagine, for one moment, that France attacks Germany, or Germany attacks France. In that case Great Britain is under obligation of honour to go to war. . Now, as a point of international law is it conceivable that His Majesty the King, as King of England, can be at war, and as King of the British Dominions beyond the seas can be neutral? Consider all the results that follow from that. If a British man-of-war put into a Dominion port the Dominion would be under obligation to intern that man-of-war. The Dominion would be under obligation, in international law, to prevent its subjects from enlisting in the British Army. If Great Britain found it necessary, as she most certainly would, to exercise a blockade upon France or Germany, you would find that complicated international questions would arise as to what particular forms of merchandise might be exported by Canada or by Australia to the country with which Great Britain was at war. There are a great many difficult legal questions which probably would have to be settled by some international tribunal. I suppose it is just conceivable that one might go on saying that the British Empire still existed, but for myself I do not think that the British Empire would have any meaning in those circumstances. But after a11, you may say that to treat this question merely from the juristic point of view is to form an outlook which has nothing to do with actual political life, with events as they would turn out when that actual crisis arose. But I believe that the difficulties which arise, looking at it simply from the legal point of view, indicate a very profound difficulty which also arises when you look at it from the political point of view.
Consider for one moment. You have Great Britain, which as I have said is a European power, a manufacturing power, a small island with a large population dependant entirely for its support upon manufacturing and exchange. You have Canada, whose foreign policy must always be dominated by the need of friendly relations with the United States of America. You have Australia, whose foreign policy must always be dominated by fear of Asiatic immigration. You have South Africa, whose whole policy must always be dominated by the fear which arises from its peculiar position as a community of 1,500,000 white people in a great continent of 100,000,000 black people. You have New Zealand, which in one way is in a peculiar position because so far removed that it really has no foreign policy of its own at all. For that reason it is not a question of greater loyalty or sentiment, but just for political and geographical reasons New Zealand today is more prepared than any other dominion to follow wherever Great Britain may lead in the field of foreign policy.
Now, where you have six nations joined in a partnership, living in different parts of the world, in different circumstances, with different economic conditions and in different geographical situations, it is very nearly impossible that there could be a common foreign policy; and as things are today with international law-which, after all, is a very important question, as the British Empire is considered by the foreign countries of the world-you have the British Empire in the position of a boy of perhaps 18 who is still trying to wear the clothes that he wore when he was 8. The situation is apt to be grave, from the danger that the clothes will burst in certain parts-although, as long as he keeps quite still, and does not bend his knees or his elbows, it is quite possible that the old and threadbare material may remain unbroken; but in any moment when that movement takes place, when some crisis arises, it is very important that we should all have thought out these problems as they are before us and as they threaten at any moment to appear in all their nakedness, and that we should have our own ideas as to how we shall find a solution for those difficulties.
There is no single instance which shows more clearly the great change which has recently come over the constitution of this Empire than the difference between the position of Canada in the eyes of their friends and the position of Canada in the eyes of the league of Nations. Even today, as the situation is, all the foreign relations of the Dominion are conducted through the British Foreign Office, and I think that is really a perfectly reasonable and sensible arrangement. The Mother Country has to have a different method, and a consular service all through the world would be an incredible waste of money that would result from there being Canadian embassies and Australian embassies and New Zealand and South African embassies and others, in all the countries of the world. I think this is quite sufficient reason to explain why all foreign relations are carried on through the British Foreign Office, which, so far as I can learn, has proven quite a satisfactory instrument for the Dominion.
Of course the people actually control the policy which the cabinet ministers of the different Dominions work through the skilled instruments which the mother country has had to send out into those foreign countries, and they are quite useful instruments for doing also the work that they are asked to do by the various Dominion Governments. But as regards the League of Nations it is entirely otherwise. There the Dominions are nations in the full sense of the word, not only independent of the Mother Country, but it has frequently happened that their policy has been in opposition to that of the Mother Country. An occasion occurs to me when both Canada and South Africa voted against the policy of the Mother Country in the admission of Albania to the League of Nations. I think that in that case Canada and South Africa were right and the Mother Country was wrong, but that was a mere detail; the point is that as things are now in the Assembly of the League of Nations you have different representatives of the different members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and their policy today is by no means a common one.
So it is that I take advantage of the privilege you have accorded me of addressing the Empire Club to draw attention to these very great difficulties which do confront the British Empire at the present time, and to ask you to consider those difficulties not only from the political but also from the juristic point of view. I may say quite frankly that I do not see any solution of those difficulties unless it be found in that particular genius for compromise which has always distinguished the British race. The British Constitution, which grew up in the Mother Country and which has been worked out with so much success in the Dominions is a most illogical, a most absurd, a most ridiculous arrangement; but yet it continues to work, and so it may well be that this absurd, ridiculous and illogical Empire of ours may be here, doing good to the world at large and to its constituant members, long after all the logical federations and unions of the world have disappeared.
MR. McDONALD said: -I think it is a very great privilege for us, as we pass through the Dominion of Canada, to meet with the men who have in their hands the destinies of this great Dominion. As a humble and ignorant student from the Old Country I may be able to say something of importance for the future prosperity and unity of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
I think it is essential that we should not rely solely upon the continuing forces of our common heritage and tradition; that we should not take for granted that we shall always have the same strong uniting bonds which now exist between the Dominions and the Mother Country; but that we should do everything in our power to create among the younger generation knowledge and understanding of history and geography of the Empire as a whole, so that on that basis of information and knowledge the young citizens may retain the same feeling of sentimental attachment which is so evident to us in every part of Canada through which we pass. It is unfortunate that in our schools and universities there is no system of empire education, no definite and regular course of study on Imperial development and the present constitutional and political position of the British Commonwealth. I think the system of Rhodes Scholarships has been of greater value not only to Canada and other Dominions but to the Mother Country than almost any other specific gift or endowment which has been made. But these scholarships act only in one way, and there is no fund whereby young men and women from the Old Country can be sent to the Universities of the Dominions. That would be a very valuable extension of the scheme. Although I have not visited all the universities in Great Britain, I have seldom seen such complete equipment in chemical and physics laboratories and other university departments as I have seen during my, visits to Canadian universities.
I think it would be a good thing if we returned to the educational ideal which found expression in the Middle Ages, when it was considered essential for a young man, before settling down to his life's career, to travel among the universities of the Continent. It was essential for young men who were to practice law at the Scottish bar to spend one year in study in the universities of the Low Country and Italy, Utrecht and Bologna. But I think it is a far better thing that I should be visiting the great Dominions, not only of Canada, but of New Zealand and Australia, and endeavouring to understand the point of view and the culture and system of the universities and of the people of the Dominion. When we return to the Old Country we shall be able to tell our friends all we have seen and heard and learned of the great Commonwealth of Nations, and thus I hope the bonds which have united us, and which have to a certain extent been dependent upon the continuing strength of our common heritage, will be strengthened again and again by the real understanding and knowledge of the problems, the people, the geography, and the conditions of development of each constituent.
MR. NUNN-MAY said: The Chairman tells me that the object of these meetings is to have educational addresses for business men of this city. There must have been a rumor proceeding us that we were very wise and able people, that we should have been called upon to give men of your age an intelligent and educational address, -but I feel like the spinster who was congratulated on her marriage engagement, her friends hoping it was true; to which she replied, " No, it is not true, but thank God for the rumour. "
One of the things that has impressed me greatly is the enormous and almost inconceivable natural resources you have here, both in your land and minerals. As a mineralogist I congratulate you upon the enormous wealth as being opened up in the north part of this Province and of the Province of Quebec. Your mining experts tell me that there is every promise that the veins of ore which have been discovered will' prove to be of great value and importance. Already I believe Canada is the second gold-producing country in the world, and I am sure it will not be very long before she is far and away beyond the first.
I do not believe that Canada has yet begun to develop. I have heard people asking why this country has not developed to the extent of the United States. One very obvious reason is that at the period when the United States was increasing in prosperity at an enormous speed, Canada was being crippled and hindered by expenditure of her manhood and wealth, in the years 1914 to 1918; but I believe that great expenditure has been repaid by the increase in the feelings of fellowship and sympathy between Canada and the home country. It is a remarkable fact that the war which was designed partly to break up the British Empire has resulted in binding together all the Dominions more closely to the Mother Country. Some people in Canada are crying out for more population as the great need. While there is a great truth in that, you must be content to develop slowly and carefully, because there are great difficulties in the matter of immigration. The very best type of immigrant is the one that cannot be spared from his own country. It cannot be expected that men brought up to factory life can walk into this country and make a success on the land. There should be a policy of training men for agriculture work, and trained men from the farms in other countries should be secured whenever possible. I shall carry back with me the most pleasant recollection of my visit to Canada.
MR. REED said: It is well that we should study this empire of ours, not merely for our own sakes, but because if we can make it a success we would render great service to the world. I think we must remember that we are engaging in an experiment, and that we have to feel our way, with no guide, and very little light from past experience. In dealing with our problems we should not look upon them as insoluble, but we should think hard on them, and should not be content to take anything for granted, but realize that our difficulties offer new problems that must be solved by new methods.
We hear a great deal of talk about the decadence of Britain perhaps I should say of England. Of course we are facing one of the most tremendous difficulties, but our decadence has not gone quite so far as would appear by the talk in some quarters. There is an enormous volume of unemployment, yet it has not been realized that at present there are more people at work in Great Britain that there were in 1914. That remarkable fact is due partly to the increase in our population and partly to the fact that there are many more women at work than there were before the War; but the fact remains that the working and producing population of Great Britain is greater than before the War. Sometimes the idea is expressed that the Old Country is do decadent and its future is so hopeless that the Dominions would be wise to cut the painter and seek other and more profitable allegiances but I do not believe there is any truth in that idea. I think we will work out our problems in the sincerest possible way, and will find that we can make the British Empire work not only to our advantage but to that of humanity as a whole. I take it that that is the aim of all of us.
Horn. VINCENT MASSEY conveyed to the speakers the hearty thanks of the Club for their addresses.