- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 14 Jan 1915, p. 26-34
- Doherty, Hon. Charles J., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- All those meanings that the war has in common with other wars. The meaning of the war that is found in the revelation that we have had of the reality of something that is the most important of all things to this Empire that we love: our pride in acknowledging ourselves the subject of His Majesty the King. Learning that the very diversities that seem to separate us have really served to make us more united in defence of those institutions which in their operation have proved adaptable to such diverse peoples and conditions, and have fostered the untrammeled development under one crown of free and self-governing nations differing in so many respects. The first great meaning of the war then that it has revealed and put beyond doubt the fundamental oneness of our scattered and diverse people. The time before the war. The second thing that the war has revealed to us Canadians: the imperative necessity of means being found whereby the United Kingdom shall share with the younger nations of the Empire the control of and the responsibility for those things that make for peace and war. This war as the Empire's war, not England's. The clear fact that we are at grips with an enemy who has set out to impose his views, his Kultur, because he has or believes he has the power to do so. Reasons why the civilised nations should take up the gauntlet Germany has thrown down. The respect of the right of the weaker as the bounden duty of the stronger.
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- 14 Jan 1915
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- Full Text
- SOME THINGS THE WAR MEANS
AN ADDRESS BY HON. CHARLES J. DOHERTY,K.C., LL.D., D.C.L., M.P.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,January 14, 1915
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,-I am sure that the very fewest words of thanks will be accepted by you, Mr. Chairman, as expressing my high appreciation of the all too flattering observations with which you have introduced me. For them I thank you. I thank you also, and the members of the Empire Club, for the honour that they have done me in asking me to address them. You have spoken of the Club as being honoured by my presence here; I have no doubt the observation was kindly meant, but I have equally no doubt that you all realise how in the plain and simple and unvarnished truth the honour under the circumstances is all mine.
And now for the subject I have to talk to you about. You know that subject, and therefore you know that I bring you nothing new. Great indeed would be the perspicacity, and however great the perspicacity, greater still would be the presumption of one who would claim to reveal to the members of the Empire Club meanings in this war hitherto undiscovered. That black cloud of horror that so fills and darkens our atmosphere, that the timorous almost doubt whether the sun of Christian civilisation is still shining behind it, has been peered into by those among us who are endowed in the highest degree with a penetrating mental vision; they have told us whence it comes, what it portends, what it means. Even those of us, however, who can make no pretension to any such exceptional endowment, so filled have our minds been with it, so full our hearts with loving anxiety for those over whom, in common with ourselves, it lowers, that by very dint of anxious study we have not been able to miss all of its meanings. It is of some of those among the most obvious, and at the same time meanings that the war has more particularly for us, that I wish to talk to you today. I am not quite clear that it is correct to describe them as meanings; perhaps you will think that in what I am going to say I am rather speaking to you of things that the war reveals to us, of things that the war tells us. However, I trust you will not be captious and quarrel with me if what I say does not respond absolutely accurately to the title that has been announced as attached to the observations I am going to make. You are not going to learn anything from what I am going to say, but after all it may do us no harm to chat a little about things we know. I might, perhaps, speaking for myself, correct that and say things I think I know.
The first meaning that this war has for us is a something that it is perhaps especially inaccurate to describe as a meaning. It is perhaps especially a something that the war has told us, that the war has manifested to us and revealed to us. I need not say that I do not purpose to stop even for a moment to refer to what this war means in carnage, in destruction, in suffering, in sorrow harder to bear than pain, in loss of life, and in those losses of things beside which the loss of life is a trifle. Nor shall I pause to speak of those more cheering and more elevating meanings of the war-bravery, sacrifice, endurance, the ready and persevering response to the call of duty, the heroism that sends men to death without a murmur, and the greater heroism that leads women to give up their loved ones to death. All those meanings this war has, but all those it has in common with all other wars; perhaps in this instance in a greater degree, therefore involving greater horror and greater inspiration. All these things, too, it means to all the world, and as I said, it is of some things that the war means to us that I wish to chat with you today. The first of these things, as I said a few moments ago, is one that is perhaps peculiarly inaccurately described as a meaning of the war, and still it is a something that the war has brought out, brought home to all of us in a manner that it never was brought home before. It is found in the revelation that, thanks to this war, we have had of the reality of something that is the most important of all things to this Empire that we love. I have spoken of this war as a cloud. As that cloud hovered over our sky there flashed through it an illuminating ray in whose light we saw as we never saw before, we realised as we never began to realise before, how absolutely one we all are-we who as Canadians, or Englishmen, or Scotchmen, or Irishmen, or South Africans, or Newfoundlanders, or Australians, or East Indians, are proud to acknowledge ourselves the subjects of His Majesty the King. While that flash brought out in dazzling clearness that oneness of heart and mind, it did not blind us to the existence of the diversities between the peoples who together go to make up that vast phalanx of the subjects of the King. While that flash brought out so absolutely beyond a doubt our oneness of mind and heart in the face of the great fundamental issue of the struggle, it did not do otherwise than make clear those diversities that exist between us. It revealed to the world, particularly to the enemy that had hugged to his heart the delusion that those diversities divided us, and dispelled forever for us even the shadow of doubt that notwithstanding our differences of race, of origin or of blood; notwithstanding that our different countries are scattered and widely separated over the face of the globe; notwithstanding that all of us were strong peoples with strong and often differing beliefs, with strong and frequently opposed convictions, and strong and, in many cases, warring prejudices, if you will; notwithstanding that the interests of the different lands in which we have our homes were not always identical, we had a common bond, the strongest of all, in our fealty to institutions devised to give to all who come under their operation the widest possible measure of liberty-in our loyalty to the King who was the common sovereign of us all, whose crown was the link that united our countries into one whole under the sway of his sceptre, the symbol of those institutions. The enemy learned and we realised as we never had realised before, that these very diversities that, it seemed, have separated us, really serve to make us more united in defence of those institutions which in their operation have proved adaptable to such diverse peoples and conditions, and have fostered the untrammelled development under one crown of free and self-governing nations differing in so many respects. Differences of opinion there may have been as to the extent to which this or that class or race had to the full the enjoyment of the benefits of those institutions, but one mind alone could there be, one mind alone was there, that those institutions must be preserved for the benefit of all, and defended for the good of all against any attack that endangered them, come whence it might. Liberty is the seed; loyalty is the golden grain that repays a thousandfold the sower. Just in that measure in which the seed of liberty had been scattered with generous hand over the different lands that go to make up our great Empire, so in the day of need was abundant the harvest of loyalty that gladdened the heart of the reaper. And so the first great meaning of this war is that it has revealed and put beyond doubt the fundamental oneness of our scattered and diverse people. When the institutions under which they live, and the crown that symbolises those, are in peril, this first great lesson is that this war is, for all of us m all the lands the flag floats over our war.
Has it ever struck you that it is a long time since this terrible struggle began? Before the war is a very remote period indeed. When one looks back to things that used to be said and discussed in that period, it seems like looking back to a distant age. I remember, for instance, that people used to say-now I am not talking politics-that when England was at war, Canada was at war. Who says that now? Who thinks of this war as anything but our war? The Empire's war, the Empire which includes Canada just as absolutely as it includes England. His Majesty's war, His Majesty, of whom the Canadian is just as proudly a subject as is any inhabitant of the United Kingdom. We all know now-I think this war has taught us that-that we should have said, when His Majesty is at war, his subjects are at war, as we Canadians are certainly his subjects. It does me good now, as a Canadian, to remember that even in that remote time, though we spoke of any possible war as directly England's war, and only incidentally Canada's, at times, at all events, we showed that we knew better. It is good now, in the clear light that shines upon us, to remember that even before the lightning flash from the war cloud, the last proposal that the Canadian government put forward, looking to participation in defence, was not put forward as a contribution in aid of England but as a measure for the common defence of the Empire. In those days, too, people talked about what we owed to England, and treated participation in defence as a payment to England. today, in the light that the cloud brought with it, we know there is but one defence, our own as much as England's, that what we do, we do for the common defence, and if we pay a debt we pay one owing to Canada and to Canada's selfrespect and self- protection as one of the great aggregation of nations whereof the United Kingdom is the centre, but Canada an essential part.
The war has revealed a second thing to us Canadians. It has made clear to us what we saw, it is true, but perhaps a little dimly, before, something which is the corollary to the oneness of all the nations of the Empire in the face of danger from the outside world. It has put beyond the realm of debatable questions the imperative necessity of means being found whereby the United Kingdom shall share with the younger nations of the Empire the control of and the responsibility for those things that make for peace and war. This is the Empire's war, not England's, and yet it grows out of treaties made by the United King dour alone, out of relations that are today recognised by the outside world as being the foreign relations of the United Kingdom alone; that is, so far as she entered into those treaties, and in her direction of those relations, in so far as they led to this war, she was absolutely and entirely right, no one in this country questions. Not in Canada any more than in England are solemn contracts scraps of paper; not in Canada any more than in England is there any disposition to be guilty of a breach of faith, or to condone such breach on the part of others; not more in Canada than in England is it recognised that in the domain of international law the necessities, real or imaginary, of the great and powerful justify the violation of the rights of the small and weak. For these reasons, then, were this war not ours, were it England's war alone, I doubt not the people of Canada would stand by her in it. But it is nevertheless true that our recognition of this war as ours, our participation in it, spontaneous and voluntary as it is, determines absolutely once and for all that we have passed from the status of the protected colony to that of the participating nation. The protected colony was rightly voiceless; the participating nation cannot continue so. The hand that wields the sword of Empire justly holds the sceptre of Empire. While the Mother Country alone wielded the one, to her alone belonged the other. When, as today, the nations of the Empire join in wielding the sword, then must they jointly sway that sceptre. By what means this great change is to be brought about it is not now the time, nor is this the place, to discuss. It is a problem of great difficulty and great complexity, but in due time, when this gigantic struggle is over, the descendants of the men in whose hands the British constitution grew, broadening down from precedent to precedent, the sons of the fathers of our Canadian Confederation, of the creators of the Australian Commonwealth and the South African =Union, will find a way. Weighty and complex as the problem is, urgent as is its solution, it is after all a domestic question, and a wise and united family does not discuss domestic questions when the enemy is at the gate.
If there be one thing that is-more clearly than another written upon the face of this war, it is that we are at grips with an enemy who, whatever the motives that impel him, by whatever reason he may justify it to himself, has set out to impose his views, his Kultur as he delights to call it, because he has or believes he has the power to do so. To the issue so raised it would appear absolutely immaterial whether those views are right or not, whether that culture that he has be superior and as priceless a boon to the world as he affects to believe it, or on the other hand as barbarous as the rest of the world conceives it to be. The great fundamental question is whether one people, merely because it is powerful, has a right to impose its conception of civilisation upon all others or upon any other or others; whether the smaller nations are to be refused the right to enjoy in -their own way their modest place in the sun, and the less powerful peoples the right to live their lives and work out their destinies in conformity with their own conceptions and in accordance with their own traditions. That this German-made war presents that issue is in itself alone reason sufficient why the civilised nations should take up the gauntlet she has thrown down, why this war should be fought out to the only ending that any believer in the right of men and of nations to freedom and in that Divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we may, can contemplate as possible. This being so, may we not profitably ask what lesson does this meaning of the war carry with it? Perhaps in no other conflict has ruthless determination to make brute force prevail over and stamp out the right of the weaker been more clearly exemplified.
May not the world-wide horror which this undisguised determination has inspired serve a useful purpose? May it not perhaps impress upon us all in a striking and lasting way how important a duty is owing by strength to weakness? If we feel, as I believe we all feel, that, other questions aside, Germany's action towards Belgium would by itself alone call for the determined resistance of the world, is it not because the world has come to realise more than ever before that for peoples and for nations, as for individual men, strength is not the sole title to existence and to respect? Is it not because the belief has become more generally accepted that power alone does not give to the state that has it the right to impose its will, nor power combined with the belief in the superiority of its own civilisation upon other nations or other peoples, merely because they are, for lack of numbers or lack of resources, unable effectively to resist ? May, or rather does, not the acceptance of that belief suggest that just as between states the more powerful is guilty of wrong calling for general resistance when it seeks to force, to impose its views upon, and to dominate the weaker; so as between peoples of different races or belief living within the limits of the same state, there is upon the more numerous a duty not to seek by the power their numbers give to impose their views upon those who may be less numerous? Does not the action that has evoked such general condemnation, by mere force of contrast, call for a renewed expression of our admiration for the justice as well as the wisdom that led the statesmen of the United Kingdom in the building up of this great Empire in the larger and larger measure as the years went by, to recognise the right of all the people of our far-flung dominions overseas to follow within the law their own customs, to retain their own tenets, beliefs, and traditions? Should it not inspire us all, in the measure in which opportunity may come to us, to contribute to the maintenance of that policy that has done so much to bind together the different people, the heterogeneous populations of this mighty Empire, and is not that duty peculiarly to stand shoulder to shoulder in her defence that has made them all lovers and defenders, even to the death, of those institutions with which England has endowed that Empire and which she has made available to the peoples of the world who are wise enough to adopt them?
And so where I began I close. The first great meaning of this war to us is conveyed by its revelation of the spirit that has brought together as one the diverse peoples of the Empire. Deeds, not words, are the witnesses to that spirit that makes them one in heart and one in mind today. The war's last meaning and the lesson it carries with it point the way to the preservation of that spirit. The respect of the right of the weaker is the bounden duty of the stronger; that is as true within the states as between them. That great truth taken to heart and acted on will be the surest pledge of the continued oneness in heart and mind of this Canadian people, the stream of whose national life has been fed from so many different sources, and of that of all the races of this mighty Empire that, please God, by the united action of all her peoples shall triumph in the mighty struggle in which with her allies she is engaged for the defence of right against might.
Have I tired you with these, possibly not too clear, but I trust not absolutely meaningless, meanings of the war? If so, will you pardon my words? It appeared to me that there was in some of these things that the war tells us something that might help us all more fully to realise what is after all the direct, immediate and imperative message and lesson that the war has for us, that is, that now and here, by reason of all it means, because it is our war, the Empire's war, the war of freedom, the war of right against might, of the defence of the weak against the aggression of the strong, it behoves Canada, as, please God, she will, to do her part in it to the last man and the last dollar. It behoves us all to so bear ourselves that when the triumph has come, when the cloud has broken and scattered and the bright sun of peace shines once again on a world where the reign of right has been firmly established, those who shall survive, those who shall come after us, Canadians of that future bright and long day of peace, shall look back to us Canadians of this darker day of trial and say with pride, Our fathers bore themselves as men, our fathers of all the races who made the Canadian people, English, Irish, Scotch, and French, all of their sons equally did their duty, knew what the war meant, and we who enjoy all that their triumph has preserved for us thank God that they knew what the war meant, thank God for what the war and its result meant.
A vote of thanks to the speaker was moved by Sir William Meredith, and seconded by His Grace Archbishop McNeill.