The Relations of Canada and the United States
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 13 Feb 1908, p. 157-168
Parkin, George R., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
The fundamental question of the future of Canada resting in her connection with the Empire. Second to that, Canada must consider her relationship with the United States. The potential future for the U.S. The depth of the speaker's feelings with regard to the matter of getting a practical, statesmanlike view of Canada's relations to that great country to the south. Remarkable changes that the U.S. is undergoing at the present time. The immense object-lesson for humanity that these two free countries continue to experiment independently on the conduct of free institutions. A comparison of the position of the two countries, drawing some inferences. Advantages possessed by Canada. The Imperial connection. Trade advantages. Constitutions advantages. A plea to the speaker's fellow-Canadians not to get too local in our politics. What will make the American Union look at us with admiration. Our history as an asset; our start in loyalty; our traditions—French, English, Empire Loyalist. An urging by the speaker to "Clean out your politics, lift the spirit of commercial honour, get your boys to play fair, and I have no question about Canada."
Date of Original
13 Feb 1908
Language of Item
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Full Text
Address by MR. GEORGE R. PARKIN, C.M.G., LL.D., before the Empire Club of Canada, on February 13th, 1908.

Mr. President and Gentlemen,--

I need not say that I feel it a very great pleasure and also a great honour to find that, when I return to my native country from doing work which has drawn me outside of Canada, I always receive, in any town where I am known, a cordial welcome, and particularly in this City of Toronto, where I spent many years in earnest work of an educational kind, but also where I tried in every way that I fairly could, to mingle with the general feelings and conditions of the city. And I therefore feel a special pleasure in finding so large a number of you business men willing to come here and listen to me when I return. Although I am living in England, I may say with perfect sincerity that a very large part of my heart is always in this country. I am constantly thinking about it, reading about it, writing about it, and where opportunity offers, speaking about it in the motherland. And I am sometimes almost inclined to feel that in the present relation of things, in the state of flux in British feeling, one can do almost as much good to Canada in the centre of the Empire as he could out where there are plenty of you who understand and know things as they are.

Of course my own particular work gives me a special interest. At Oxford I have twenty-four selected young Canadians in the position to acquire there the very best that the Old World can give at the greatest centre of British learning; they are also in close touch with that wider European experience which is useful for people of this continent. I therefore feel that, while I am in England I am closely in touch with Canada, and I hope, as the years go on, to make myself more familiar with everything Canadian, to have more time to give to it, and as far as my influence goes, to try to make Canada better understood in the Motherland. Speaking to the Empire Club, I want to say in the first place, that no thought of mine that I have ever expressed in this city, or used in any part of the Empire, with regard to the future of our national development has changed in any fundamental respect. I believe today as firmly as twenty-five or thirty years ago, that the greatest possible destiny that England's greatest colony can have is that we shall remain a united people firmly corrected with the great empire stock from which we sprung. That fundamental principle rests on conditions that cannot change; but the conditions on which that great idea is going to be worked out change from time to time, and there is not a year comes, there is not a growth goes on, but what I find myself compelled to review the arguments that I have used before, to reconsider the positions which I have stated to you; new thoughts and ideas come in connection with every point. Therefore, it is for that reason that I have selected my subject today-" The relation of Canada and the United States on this Continent."

As I said before, the fundamental question, to my mind, of the future of Canada, rests in her connection with the Empire. But second to that there is no question that Canada must consider more profoundly than the fact that they are lying right beside one of the greatest nations of modern times, and one which has in it the capacity for developing into probably the vastest single nation, outside of our own Empire, that the world has ever known-bordering for 3,000 miles on this great state; and I cannot give you any idea of the depth of feeling which I have with regard to the matter of getting a practical, statesmanlike view of our relations to that great country. It is undergoing at the present time a change of the most remarkable kind. Since 1776, or perhaps I ought to say since 1783, when the great emigration of the United Empire Loyalists came down to this country, the general attitude of Canada to the United States has been one of resistance, a resistance to what appeared to many to be a kind of irresistible attraction. That attitude is entirely changed; we stand today in a different position. It is now understood that this continent is divided into two parts; that onehalf belongs to Canada and the other half to the United States; that while they have got an advantage in population, and a growth of about 50 or 6o years, we have the great undeveloped resources; that we have the enormous future; that we have possibilities just as great as they have; and that both Americans and Canadians are fully agreed that we are to work out our destiny on parallel, and not on converging lines. What is it that one of the clearest thinkers of America said the other dayPresident Elliot of Harvard: " I assure you, gentlemen, that it is much to be wished, much to be prayed for, that Canada and the United States remain two absolutely independent powers on this continent."

So long as, under the conditions that I have described, they can work out two independent experiments in the conduct of free institutions, it is an immense objectlesson for humanity that these two free countries continue to experiment independently on the conduct of free institutions. Now I have had occasion within the last few years to travel a great deal in the United States, and I can assure you that I believe that this has become the prevailing opinion among all thoughtful Americans. There is another ill-regulated mass behind them which we have to consider, but I believe that that is the thought of the leading Americans. The other day I had the advantage of a long conversation with a man whom everyone respects-Ex-President Cleveland. We talked for some time, and he inquired with great care about Canada. I told him of our expansion and our hopes, and what w e believed to be the superior conditions under which we were entering on the rise of national life. He turned around to a friend and said, " What makes me like and respect those Canadians-there are all kinds of talk about trade and commerce, but mention annexation to them and they put their fists right up and say, 'We are going to work out our destiny under our own King and our own institutions.' " That was the view of one of the most distinguished ex-Presidents of the United States, and it wins the admiration of all honest men and all clear thinkers when we stand on our own feet and decide to work out our own destiny.

What I want to do today is to compare with you for a few minutes the position of the two countries on this continent, and to draw from that some inferences. First, let me say that without hesitation I claim that we have the most prodigious advantages on this northern side of the line; advantages of various kinds. And first and foremost among these I am inclined to place the thing of which some Canadians have been ashamed, but in which I glory; and that is that we are the " Lady of the Snows " and that we have a 30 to 4o below zero climate. hell my English friends that I consider it the greatest asset that Canada has today. I will tell you why. Look what it sets us free from! What is the incubus that rests upon the United States today, and for which the most thinking men have found it impossible to find a solution? It is this great colour problem. We never can have a problem of that kind in this country; it is impossible. And I do not believe that Canadians will ever consent under the conditions of their growth to have anything to do with the solution of that problem. What was the number of people that flowed into the United States last year from the Valley of the Mediterranean, from nations very poorly trained to political wisdom? 1,200,000 people passed through Ellis Island, N. Y., alone last year; and the average rate for some years has been closely upon 1,000,000. We are free from that great problem and the difficulties which it involves.

What is more, I have read with some interest of the suffering that is going on here in Toronto among a certain limited class. What do I tell my friends in England about that? I tell them that Nature is doing her great work of selection here. I tell them that you never can have in this climate the submerged tenth which afflicts a city like London, where people sleep outside along the embankments. Nature takes them firmly in her hand and says, If you do not have foresight and prudence, and get fuel and food and a roof over your head, you are going to die in that climate. And Nature is going to train the Canadians to foresight and prudence, and saving, and to those economies and that spirit which has always marked the people of the North, and given them the strength and advantage over the people of the South; and while this is a matter of temporary suffering, and there will always be suffering as long as you have two or three thousand people pouring into your city from countries where they have been accustomed to receive charity, still nature is doing the separating work, and the people who are unfit for this country are being separated, not by some stern artificial law, but by the law of Nature, which makes its citizens a strong and vigorous people. That is one of the immense advantages which we have over the people to the south of us. In the future that means everything for us. It means that we are going to have a people more carefully selected, more fit for the struggle of life, breeding a better race than those who take people from all kinds and conditions and permit a submerged tenth.

I have been travelling a good deal through the States and have been very much struck by the extraordinary growth of respect, and almost, I might say, of envy, for the people on the north side of the line, for the immense resources, the opportunities they have, and for a great many other reasons. First is the Imperial connection. I often think that my fellow-Canadians do not know what that means. I know of no people in the whole course of human history that have ever had their limbs so absolutely free to develop their own resources. Take the United States. When I was in Washington the other day, there was a statement -baldly made that the United States was now spending one million dollars a day on military and naval expenditure. And you can easily see that it is true. Tally about the military expenditure of Germany and France-it is an absolute fact that the United States are spending one million dollars a day; made up of $150,000,000 or thereabouts a year! on pensions; about $100,000,000 for the development of their navy in the new programme; and something like one hundred million more for the support of the army which they have had to enlarge to such an extent. What is our position? When they have spent their million dollars a day they have nothing like the range of the world that we have. Does their flag give them access to commerce in every corner of the world; to feel the absolute protection that a trader or a merchant in Canada has when he goes to South Africa or India or China? Not at all. They have nothing of the kind--a comparatively limited range compared with what we Canadians enjoy. I think, myself, I have never hesitated to say (I would be ashamed if I had not the courage to say) that the day is rapidly coming when not the necessities, but the selfrespect of Canadians, will compel them to bear a larger share of the Empire's expense. I have no sympathy with the politicians that try to wriggle out of the manifest destiny of any great, young, growing country. You can feel the consciousness of a national life coming in Canada. I believe in it. If I were in Canada I would preach Canadianism to its tit, most bounds, because T know that the more we become conscious of a national feeling, the deeper will sink into us a sense of national responsibility, a feeling of the responsibilities which are involved in taking the place of a nation.

What does that mean? Did you ever notice what happens when there is a riot in China or in any other country, and British subjects are attacked? A British man-of-war is there immediately, and the discussion goes on under a British man-of-war's guns. Now, we had a riot the other day in Vancouver, and it was an attack on the allies of this country, and on a people who; have a very powerful navy. Suppose we had not been connected with the British Empire; don't you think a Japanese warship would have been there within a few days, and that the discussion about that riot would have gone on under Japanese guns? Of course it would. They have the same spirit as we have, and the people who talk so glibly about militarism would soon find out what it was to carry on a discussion with Japan unless they had back of them .the prestige of our mighty flag and the power of our mighty nation. Therefore, I put down the Imperial connection as one of the supreme advantages which Canada possesses in taking control of one-half of this continent and working out its development.

There is the question of trade advantage. Of course, that is a thing that is in a state of flux, but we are perfectly sure that the tide is changing in England; and, while the process of events may not go on as rapidly as we wish, perhaps it is wiser that it should not go with too great a rush. ' Every change of feeling in England will mean less trade for the United States and other foreign states, and more for the great colonies that belong to the Empire, and we cannot turn too much wisdom in the direction of making the most out of inter-imperial trade with every part of the Empire. Then we have, as I mentioned, the advantage of those larger untouched resources in the vast prairies, in the thousand miles of Rocky Mountains yet unexplored, but yielding the most wonderful riches, and in a vast country to the north of us which in its forests, its electrical energy which fills every waterfall, and in a thousand ways, is going to give us an industrial position in the world absolutely unequalled-when we have learned the trick of harnessing the power and drawing out its resources.

I want to come to another advantage, and that is the constitutional advantage. Our friends in the United States are now face to face with the Presidential election, and every business man in that country will tell you that this is an off-year for business. There is no certainty about it. What is it makes it such? They put up every four years to open competition the glory and the brilliancy and the splendour of the chief place in the Republic, and it becomes a fruitful subject of competition, and you know at different times in American history the car of state has wobbled under the pressure. We are free from that under our constitutional system. The people find other ways of expressing their national will, and we find in Canada that to be free from that is a very great advantage. I believe that our British system gives greater opportunity to real greatness than the United States does. I once said to President Roosevelt

"There is a great deal of criticism of the English House of Lords. Let us think a moment. What is your system? You draw a man up to the very head of your system; you get your biggest man and put him at your head, use him for four or eight years, and throw him aside like a squeezed orange--no more use for him. In England the moment we get our eyes on a man of supreme ability, whether he be a manufacturer, a soldier, a lawyer like Lord Alverstone, or a man of science, we put him in the House of Lords." You laugh at Lord Alverstone's name, and I am going to face that question. I have read as carefully as I could read the other day the best statement that I could get on that question, and I am not sure that you did not get as fair a decision as could properly be given. I do not believe in yielding to popular clamour. If Lord Alverstone has had an injustice done to him, it is the business of the Canadian people to say that it was an injustice.

The moment that we get hold of a supreme man of any kind we put him in the House of Lords, and then his wisdom and advice for all the rest of his life are saved for the guidance of the British people. Is not that system to be thought something about-a system that has its own merits and advantages? I do not hesitate to say that if you could create in the United States a system which in Elizabeth's reign produced a Burleigh and a lineal descendant like Lord Salisbury in Victoria's reign, there is a good deal to be said for it. T wish the Astors and the Vanderbilts could turn out, generation after generation, something that would do as much good as the Cecils did.

Another constitutional point. I want to put this closely to Canadians. In this particular they are beginning to lead the Americans. I said once to President Cleveland: " There is one thing that worries me in Oxford. You send us over about 70 of the keenest young Americans (and Cecil Rhodes wanted to put his eye upon the men who are going to govern affairs in the world), yet the moment that I mention going into public life to one of these scholars he takes no interest in it. He sees no direct way in which he can get into public life." Mr. Cleveland said: " They are pretty nearly right; partly on account of the local nature of our vote. A man has to be born in the locality of his election, and it is one of the greatest hindrances, and shuts out some of the ablest men we have. On this account our public life is lowered." In Canada we have the British system. If a man is defeated in one constituency he goes to another. He is not lost to public life. But if a man is defeated in his own constituency in the United States he is lost to public life forever.

Of all things, fellow-Canadians, I ask you, do not get too local in your politics. The other day a man of exceptional ability, trained for a particular post, was recommended to a position in Ottawa, and I was told that reference was made to the local member in a remote part of Canada to find out what his father's politics were before he should be appointed. If you do that in Canada you are hopelessly lost in regard to your Civil Service and many other things. Do not be too local; do not put in a man because he is going to fill every petty, wretched little office with his friends. Have a spirit above public office. Look on a man who goes into public life as a man making a sacrifice for the people. What I would like to say to you is: Don't let your public life get in the condition that the Americans find themselves, of not seeing a clear path open for useful ambition. As to the Rhodes' scholars, those young men of yours are sitting right down beside young Englishmen, and if one of those Englishmen is making a brilliant course at Oxford, he says, "I am going into Parliament." A Premier of England today, a leader of a party, would not be considered as doing his duty if he did not keep a close eye on Oxford and on Cambridge to find specially able men that he can draw into his party and give the political training to that is necessary to success. Mr. Root has said that " the curse of our American public life is that the average American thinks that the average man is good enough for any; post at all." If you take him out of a grocery store, on a lawyer's office, or out of some other profession, he is equally good to become a statesman. But you really, want men trained for it, and you ought to pick the' brightest intellects and give them the training that will' make them statesmen, instead of having little, pottering politicians that are made by a village drinkshop process.

I am glad that I have this particular body of people to say one thing more to--that to have the great influence that you can have in this country and on this continent you should revive the ancient spirit. The ancient world--the Greek or Roman world--was a fighting world; everybody had to fight his way. A man had to risk his life at any time at all, and so they fitted their philosophy to that. The mother at home, when she sent her boy out into the field, pointed to his shield, and said: " Come back with it when the battle is done, or on it from the field." We are not living in a fighting world, but in an industrial world, and are we going to have less of a sense of honour, less of a sense of a man going home with his shield, nay, if necessary, on his commercial shield rather than without it? If we do not feel that, we are unworthy of living in a country like this. We must create a spirit of financial and commercial honour which will be equal to the old Spartan military spirit. That is what will make Canada a great nation, more than railroads, or wheat, or anything else can do. That is what will make the American Union look at us with admiration, as a people that are wisely and truly governed, and by a high and noble spirit. The most remarkable thing, I suppose, that has ever happened in the history of the commercial world is what has happened to the United States within the last two months.

In cities where the wealth is absolutely rolling down the streets, where the prairies have been absolutely covered with products, where everything has seen the fullest swing of prosperity, you have had absolute panic and prostration. Every thinking man knows that it is from mutual mistrust of each other, a disbelief in the honesty of one's neighbour, a disbelief in the way the trusts and great corporations are conducted, a feeling that every man is trying to get everything he can out of his neighbour. You in Canada can change all that. I have been talking the last day or two with a clear-eyed Englishman. I sometimes hear criticisms made of Englishmen. I wish in a thousand factories you could have that clear, calm spirit of British honour which you can never have any doubt about, just as clear and transparent as it can possibly be; if you could place that in every factory, every place that you have around you, you would have no panics, no fear, no mutual distrust; Canada would stand as on a hill. Put that idea before you; hold it before you--a high commercial honour.

There is one other thing that is among our assets, and that is our history. The American people started in revolution; we started in loyalty. We lived on loyalty; we have been brought up to it. Our French people were loyal to their traditions, and fought to the bitter end. Our United Empire Loyalists were loyal to the Empire to which they belonged. We have stood here for 125 years, when, if we had lifted up our little finger we could have been connected with the United States. Our history is one of the great things. One of the noblest bits of work that is being done in Canada today is being done at Ottawa, and that is in the archives of this country. Dr. Doughty is bringing together a history; is putting together something there that is going to fill the whole Canadian people with pride and glory when they look back upon their- past. The traditions of this country-French, English, Empire Loyalist traditions from 1812 to the later times-are a glorious basis, and back of that are the great traditions of England by which our loyalty is sustained. No nation ever had such a past behind it and such an opportunity before it.

Clean out your politics, lift the spirit of commercial honour, get your boys to play fair, and I have no question about Canada. The other day, in Oxford, I was sitting among a dozen American scholars, and I said to them: "What has impressed you most in Oxford?" One of them said: " I can tell what has impressed me most; that is, to find myself among 3,500 men, not one of whom would not rather lose a game fairly than win it unfairly."

In moving a vote of thanks, Colonel G. T. Denison said: " I have very great pleasure in taking one or two minutes, on behalf of my fellow-members of the Club, to thank Dr. Parkin for one of the most eloquent, loyal, patriotic and Canadian speeches that I have listened to for many a day. I think every single point that he put was clear-cut and direct, and contained a good lesson for us all. There was not a single point that he brought forward that I, for one at any rate, would not heartily and strongly support--even in his remark about Lord Alverstone, upon which there might be some difference of opinion. I shall once more say that I believe Lord Alverstone made the very best decision for Canada that could possibly be obtained on the evidence in connection with the case; and I say that after having studied it with great care, after having studied the treaty and the maps, and I think the gentlemen of this Club will know that I, at any rate, would not be prejudiced in favour of any contentions of the United States!"

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The Relations of Canada and the United States

The fundamental question of the future of Canada resting in her connection with the Empire. Second to that, Canada must consider her relationship with the United States. The potential future for the U.S. The depth of the speaker's feelings with regard to the matter of getting a practical, statesmanlike view of Canada's relations to that great country to the south. Remarkable changes that the U.S. is undergoing at the present time. The immense object-lesson for humanity that these two free countries continue to experiment independently on the conduct of free institutions. A comparison of the position of the two countries, drawing some inferences. Advantages possessed by Canada. The Imperial connection. Trade advantages. Constitutions advantages. A plea to the speaker's fellow-Canadians not to get too local in our politics. What will make the American Union look at us with admiration. Our history as an asset; our start in loyalty; our traditions—French, English, Empire Loyalist. An urging by the speaker to "Clean out your politics, lift the spirit of commercial honour, get your boys to play fair, and I have no question about Canada."