- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 9 Feb 1910, p. 132-139
- Cockshut, W.F., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The matter of Empire Unity. The speaker's representation of Toronto and Ontario at the Congress of the Chambers of Commerce of the Empire in Sydney, Australia. Ways in which this gathering was unique. The three most important questions that the speaker believes the Congress dealt with out of the fifty that were on the paper: Imperial Preference or Preferential Trade; Defence, particularly with regard to the Navy; Empire Organization. Being inspired by the spirit of Empire unity. What the Empire means to the speaker. A discussion and consideration of these three issues (trade, defence, and Imperial organization) at one and the same time. The necessity of trade co-operation in order that the body politic may be strengthened. Trade co-operation which means the passage of more mails, more cables, more inter-travel and closer touch between the various peoples that compose the Empire than we have at present. A unanimous voice found at the Congress with regard to naval defence particularly; that every part of the Empire should bear its fair share in defending the various parts of the Empire. The response that might find in Canada. One fleet for the Empire, and that invincible as the duty of both the mother and the daughter states. Canada's contribution. A resolution passed at the Congress in favour of an Imperial Council; that we should have one voice while speaking with outside nations or with the enemy in the gate. Concluding with a few verses that the speaker used in Melbourne in replying to the toast of "Our Guests" from the poet Arnold.
- Date of Original
- 9 Feb 1910
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- THE COMMERCIAL CONGRESS OF THE EMPIRE AT SYDNEY.
An Address by MR. W. F. COCKSHUT, EX-M.P., of Brantford, before the Empire Club of Canada, on Feb. 9th, 1910.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
I deem it a high privilege to be here and to address you for a few moments on a subject that has been so dear to me, and is, I have no doubt, no less dear to you. I speak with regard to the matter of Empire Unity.
I have had the honuor in the interests of the City of Toronto, and the Province of Ontario, and, I may say, the Dominion of Canada, to represent this city at the Congress of the Chambers of Commerce of the Empire, the seventh that has been held, in Sydney, Australia. This gathering was unique in one respect, that it was the first great Imperial gathering held in the Antipodes, which marks it as something of very special interest to our brethren who dwell under the Southern Cross. I may say that though the attendance was not all that it had been in the past in point of numbers, yet in point of Empire spirit, desire for Empire unity, there has never been a gathering out of the seven Congresses, and I think I have had the honour of being appointed to six of them,) that more than equalled the one from which I have just returned.
My time is very brief today and you will pardon me if I immediately address myself to the three most important questions that I believe that Congress dealt with out of the fifty that were on the paper. There were three outstanding subjects before the Congress that made a deep impression upon me and, I believe, upon all those who took part in that gathering. They were these, Imperial Preference or Preferential Trade, as it is called throughout the Empire, the matter of Defence, particularly with regard to the Navy, and third, "Empire Organization." These three, Mr. President, I conceive to be the greatest matters that can be considered by such gentlemen as you are. I gather that every one of you is inspired by the spirit of Empire unity. The more I have studied it the more it has grown upon me, and now for nearly twenty-five years, I may say it has been a kind of ruling spirit in my mind to work for--and I was going to say also, if necessary, to die for; because I conceive of no sacrifice that we, as citizens of the greatest Empire the world has ever seen, can be called upon to make that we should not be ready to make, rather than that this vast territory that has come down to us from our forefathers should be handed down to our posterity any weaker or any more curtailed in any respect than we received it from the hands of those who went before.
For these reasons I believe that these questions should be treated at one and the same time; that is, trade, defence, and Imperial organization. "Trade," you may say, "why that has nothing to do with sentiment. Cannot we be loyal without it?" Why true, we may be, but I am pointing out to you today that without co-operation in trade we are losing every day and every year a vast amount of the resources of this Empire to foreign countries that should be retained in our hands and for our own benefit and for those who follow us. By Great Britain and her Colonies continually sending a vast amount of their trade to our neighbours to the south, or to the rival nation of Germany in Europe, we are deflecting that much capital and muscle and sinew from the Empire to develop outside countries, and it must always be a material sacrifice to ourselves. I, therefore, take it as an axiom against which there can be no satisfactory argument raised, that trade co-operation within the Empire is one of the first duties of Empire men to solve today. It will strengthen sentiment--it cannot weaken it. We have been in the position, in the time past, of giving our loyalty to the Mother-Country and our trade to the people south of the Line. That is not as it should be. We should send the larger portion of our trade to our brethren over the sea and to our brethren in Australia. Let me tell you, seventy-five one-hundredths of one percent is all that we are sending Australia today, or three-quarters of one percent of her imports, and we take about one-fifth of one percent of her exports.
There is in Australia a people actuated by the same impulses as we are, as Imperial in spirit as we are, under greater difficulties of time and distance, at the same time actuated by that strong British sentiment that I believe is the swaying power in all great dependencies of the Mother-Country today. I think there is nothing that we can hold out, independence or any other destiny, that can be held up to Canada that will equal what we can attain if we remain a part of the good old Motherland. Therefore, I say, it is unnecessary for me to dwell for more than this moment upon the necessity of trade cooperation in order that the body politic may be strengthened, because trade co-operation means the passage of more mails, more cables, more inter-travel and closer touch between the various peoples that compose the Empire, than we have at present. It is too rare for us now to see one of our brethren from Australia. Last spring, the Board of Trade of Toronto and the Manufacturers' Association entertained a few delegates, as they passed through Toronto to the Press Conference, but these are rare occasions. I say they might be multiplied and increased to the benefit of Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, as well as the Mother-Country, and inter-trade would do all of this.
Before I pass from trade, I should tell you by what majority that principle of which I have spoken was carried in that Congress. We had on the floor of the House at the time the Preference vote was taken, eighty-one Chambers represented, some up to five delegates apiece. When the vote was called for by Chambers, the vote stood this way; 61 for, 7 against, and r3 neutral, the greatest triumph that the Preference policy has ever yet had in any of these gatherings. In Montreal in 1903, it was carried by a majority for the first time; all the other Congresses had turned it down hard. It was carried in 1906 in London by an increased majority. The Englishmen voted for it. We polled a majority of 7 of the British Chambers, so that more than half of Great Britain voted with us on that occasion, and now in Australia we carried it by almost a unanimous vote and voice, because there was only one large city that went against it, and I think you pretty nearly all guess where that one vote came from. Not from Toronto by a long way, but from that old Manchester school. Manchester was the only great city that polled against us on that occasion; the other six were exceedingly small places, some of which had never been represented before at any of the Congresses. Empire Trade, therefore, made a distinct advance.
On Naval defence particularly, the Congress found almost an unanimous voice, and the voice of the Congress as I interpreted it was, that every part of the Empire should bear its fair share in defending the various parts of the Empire. I think that will find a response in Canada. I had the good fortune to have the City of Toronto send a message to that effect, and it was incorporated with the London resolution and was carried almost unanimously. We are in the midst of a discussion in the House at Ottawa on this question. I conceive it is one of the most important questions that has come before us in our life-time, and perhaps, the destinies of Canada and of the Empire may be hidden in those Resolutions that are at present up in the House of Commons more than in anything that has been passed upon in recent years. I think the question we should ask ourselves is "What does it mean? Where are we going?" That is the way it occurs to me.
We have been accustomed within the last twenty-five years, and I believe it is on the fly-leaf of all our school books, to repeat the line from the great English Poet Tennyson, "One flag, one fleet, one throne." There is no allusion there, gentlemen, to many fleets, and any one I think, who gives that question serious consideration will say that economically as well as strategically, there can be no argument advanced in favour of a number of fleets, leaving the main fleet weaker than it should be to cope with the strongest enemy. I took that ground at the Congress. Toronto gave me no instructions, but I went on record there, practically in line with our present Leader of the Opposition at Ottawa, that we should present immediately ships and, if necessary, men and money, so that the crisis which I conceive is very near at hand, should be met by us as Canadian citizens and as citizens of the Empire. I took that ground.
I may have been wrong, but I appeal to you, gentlemen, I did it honestly and if you do not agree with me I am sorry, but I did it believing it to be my duty to place myself on record on behalf of Toronto, a city that I conceive to be one of the most Imperialistic in the whole Empire. So I believed it my duty to say that I thought that one fleet for the Empire, and that invincible, was the duty of both the mother and the daughter states. If that is followed out, regardless of what may be going on upon the continent of Europe. I believe that British supremacy will be maintained; but if we persist in the course of establishing small and comparatively weak units of the fleet in various corners of the earth and have not sufficient strength to meet the enemy in the gate where they see fit to strike, I believe that the destinies of the Empire are in a very dangerous condition to say the least, and I would not like to be responsible for prophesying what would be the result if the British fleet met defeat in the North Sea. A serious consideration, gentlemen, and for that reason, if for no other, I believe that an organization such as this, this Empire Club, should be established in all the principal towns and cities in Canada, in Australia, in New Zealand, and throughout the Empire. There is nothing so much needed in our public life at the present moment as men of Empire instincts and Empire thought; there is nothing that will so repay endeavour, as history writes the page. as the man who sets out with the idea, and has it firmly implanted in his heart, that the British Empire is here to stay and to stay for all time, but that it can only be so maintained by the honesty and loyalty and the intelligence and courage of its citizens in every capacity of life.
Are we, today, doing our full duty toward the Empire? I was asked in Australia, "What are we doing in Canada as to Naval defence?" I must say that I had no answer to make. What answer could I make? Absolutely nothing has been done. New Zealand, immediately that she knew a crisis was on, said "One Dreadnought, and if necessary two." Australia immediately moved, and the Imperial spirit that was evinced at that Congress by the delegates from New Zealand and Australia, I tell you, put the spurs into us from Canada to hold up our end, because they were wide-awake to the issue and they feel that they are called upon to make the most strenuous efforts to assist the Mother-Country in every possible way. They are, perhaps, more unfortunately situated than we are; farther away from the strong arm of Great Britain; ten to fifteen thousand miles from Britain's main fleet, with a coast-line of ten or twelve thousand miles entirely unprotected, and with a hostile nation not very far away; you can see that there is more or less uneasiness there, and perhaps, rightly so; and they feel that they are called upon, they are doing their duty in that respect, and are going to present to the Empire what will be a material strength to its naval resources.
I do not say that we should not ultimately have what you might term a Canadian fleet, but I say our immediate duty is to meet the crisis by a contribution that shall be immediately available. After that, if it is thought best to establish a fleet unit here in co-operation with and under full guidance and governance of the Empire authorities, then I do not know but what we would be on right lines. But to be effective we have to be quick and have to do something that is going to be a help. Will a fleet, even if is a good one, that is completed in ten years' time fill the bill? I do not think so. For that reason, I say immediate contribution. We have no shipyards, we have no slips, we cannot build these ships in five years. The crisis may have come and gone by that time. Even if we had a fleet available, the battle might be fought and the victory won before our unit could be there. Strategically and economically one great and
invincible fleet for the Empire is the sound and the safe doctrine.
I pass to the third proposition; that is, Empire Organization. We passed a resolution at the Congress in favour of an Imperial Council, that is, gentlemen, so far as I conceive it to be, that we should have one voice while speaking with outside nations or with the enemy in the gate. W e cannot speak with many voices and be united. We might be saying different things at the same time. We cannot make our treaties with foreign nations without consulting the Mother-Country, and then, if we get into trouble, expect her to come to our relief. We should have one central power, an organization that would speak with the voice and authority of the Empire in all matters pertaining to foreign nations and to foreign relations, and in that respect I believe that these three things should be all dealt with at one time and together, and if that is done and these three propositions that I have dwelt upon are wisely arranged, are brought into being as they should, and are put in practice as they ought to be and as they can be, I can conceive of no nation that would be strong enough to stand up against the British Empire. Great Britain herself, it may be, is not as strong as she once was-relatively she certainly is not. Her strength lies now as much in her great Dominions beyond the seas as it does at home, because of the men on the soil here who have come to us and have rejuvenated the worn-out existence they went through in the Old Country, who have benefited by a fresh climate and a fresh soil and new conditions, and built up a physical manhood that perhaps had deteriorated from years and generations of dwelling in the crowded cities of Great Britain; because by continually giving new blood to her great Dominions beyond the sea, we can produce not only the necessaries for her support in a material sense, but the citizens that can come in and build up any fibre that may be wasted in the body political or the body commercial-build it up in brawn and sinew and muscle. If Great Britain relies on her over-sea possessions to do that for her and to cooperate with her, I can see no reason why the destinies of the British Empire should not continue, and that for ages and for generations yet unborn, we, should have a united British Empire--that we should be able to speak with any enemy in the gate. In conclusion let me just use a few verses that I used in Melbourne in replying to the toast of "Our Guests." I had the honour of responding on behalf of Canada. The poet, Arnold, must have had in view when he wrote them, something of the situation that we are in at the present time
Before man parted for this earthly strand,
While yet upon the verge of heaven he stood, God put a heap of letters in his hand
And bade him make of them what words he could.
And man has turned them many times; made Greece,
Rome, England, Prance; yes, nor in vain assayed Way after way, changes that never cease,
The letters have combined-something was made.
But, ah! an inextinguishable sense
Haunts him that he has not made what he should; That he has still, though old, to recommence,
Since he has not yet found the word God would.
And Empire after Empire, at their height
Of sway, have felt this boding sense come on; Have felt their huge frames not constructed right,
And drooped, and slowly died upon their throne.
One day, thou say'st, there will at last appear
The word, the order, which God meant should be, Ah! we shall know that well when it comes near;
The band will quit man's heart; he will breathe free.
The words that the poet had in his mind, gentlemen, to my thinking are these three: "United British Empire." Think of it, strive for it, live for it, and if necessary, die for it!