- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 7 Feb 1907, p. 198-205
- Gordon, Very Rev. Dr. D.M., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The idea of Imperial Federation. The vision of a more closely united British Empire. A growing sentiment in favour of such a union. Imperialism as a closer union of British communities throughout the world, "based upon freedom and justice, seeking to develop their capacities in wise self-government and in mutually helpful intercourse, as a great brotherhood cherishing the same national ideals and promoting the peace and progress of the world." The need for these great communities (Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia) to get to know each other, that their present mutual ignorance should give place to mutual acquaintance. Mistaken ideas about Englishmen by Canadians and ignorance about Canadians by Englishmen. Our lack of knowledge about other countries of the British Empire, their lack of knowledge of us. How to meet the need for better knowledge of each other. The system of Empire cables and what the speaker calls the bureau of information: a description. An examination of the cable system in some depth. The need for completion of the system. The "All-Red Line" proposed by Sir Sandford Fleming. The increase of intercourse and commerce that would result from the provision of cheap telegraphic communication. The use of the completed system for the conveyance of information. Bringing us more in touch with our brothers. The question of how best to gather up the news that should be distributed by means of the cables throughout various communities. Two suggested methods. The lack of politics in such an Empire Cable scheme.
- Date of Original
- 7 Feb 1907
- Language of Item
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- Full Text
- AN IMPERIAL, INTELLIGENCE UNION.
Address by the Very Rev. Dr. D. M. Gordon, Principal of Queen's University, Kingston, before the Empire Club of Canada, on February 7th, 1907.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,--
The subject of my remarks has been provided for me, as I am asked to speak upon "An Imperial Intelligence Union"; and I may add that the substance of my remarks, and my information upon the subject, has been largely provided for me in a Sessional paper, presented last year to Parliament at Ottawa, entitled, "The Establishment of an Imperial Intelligence Service, and a System of Empire Cables." This paper is one of a number of documents recently published, all bearing upon the same purpose of making the different portions of the British Empire more fully acquainted with one another. The special means here advocated for the diffusion of this knowledge is a system of telegraph cables girdling the globe, linking the various parts of the Empire; touching only on British territory, controlled by the state, and affording facilities for extending information throughout the various portions of the Empire.
We have become familiar of late years with the idea of Imperial Federation, although no practical plan for working out that idea has yet been evolved. The vision of a more closely united British Empire that floated before the minds of some far-seeing statesmen of the past has become the hope and expectation of an increasing number, and the growing sentiment in its favour seems to assure us that in some way the vision will be realized. I take it that those of us who call ourselves Imperialists do not consider that Imperialism stands for greed of possession or for growth of dominion. We do not regard it as in any sense akin to militarism. It is the closer union of British communities throughout the world, based upon freedom and justice, seeking to develop their capacities in wise self-government and in mutually helpful intercourse, as a great brotherhood cherishing the same national ideals and promoting the peace and progress of the world. Our vision for the Empire is not a dream of expansion through the absorption of feebler races, but rather a vision of closer union, of fuller development, of the wiser, purer, juster government of all the communities that float the British flag, so that these by their united influence may, in friendship with other nations, help to lift up the races that are strangers to progress and to extend the sway of truth and righteousness for the welfare of mankind.
But these great British communities, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and in a measure others also, are self-governing. This implies that in them, as in the mother country, all great questions of constitution and government must be considered not merely by the political leaders, but by the great mass of the people, and that any great movement must approve itself to the general intelligence before it can be wrought into permanent form. Now, in order that this may be accomplished, it is necessary that these great communities should know each other, that their present mutual ignorance should give place to mutual acquaintance, for only on that basis can mutual confidence and a closer and abiding union be secured. On the very threshold of any discussion about the closer union of the self-governing states of the Empire we meet the fact that the peoples of these states know very little about each other, and that they must become intimate with each other's political and commercial conditions, must see how far they are sharing the same national life and ideals, if they are to move forward with one united purpose to a common destiny.
Ignorant as the average Canadian is of England, still more ignorant is the average Englishman regarding Canada. Probably we could all give illustrations of this from our own experience, when we have had to correct our own mistaken ideas and, if possible, the more widely mistaken ideas of our friends in England. This mutual ignorance is still greater between the outside portions of the Empire, because these keep up more intercourse with the mother country than with each other. Unless we have correspondents or business interests in Australia we have probably forgotten the Australian geography that we learned at school, so that if our brother Britons beneath the Southern Cross are as ignorant of us as we are of them they have much to learn.
The recent Boer war taught us something of South Africa, but that is a very expensive method of instruction. As for the Crown Colonies, we may occasionally get some knowledge of them by accident as we have lately had our attention turned to Jamaica through the Kingston earthquake and the Swettenham controversy; but probably none of us would undertake even to enumerate and to locate all the British crown colonies, not to speak of discussing the life and habits of their people. India stands by itself in its relation to the Empire, but I fear that for most of us it is like the Central Africa of oar school days, to be labelled "Unexplored Territory." If, therefore, we are to think of any closer relations with our fellow-Britons throughout the world, we and they must become more intimately acquainted.
It is not enough for this purpose, to rely on the present methods of conveying information. Letter postage has, thanks to the efforts of Sir William Mulock and others, been so far reduced that we can very easily correspond with our friends at the Antipodes, but not many Canadians have correspondents across the seas from whose letters they can gather anything about the movements that affect a people's life. Newspaper postage, although low enough from Canada to England, has hitherto been so high from England to Canada as to prevent any wide circulation among us of British periodicals, and even to affect seriously our knowledge of British markets and manufactures. Our Canadian papers give us little more than fragments of news from England, and what little they do give is for the most part furnished us through foreign channels, and prepared at first for a foreign market. As for Australia or South African newspapers, we know practically nothing of them. Clearly then, we require a greatly increased supply of information throughout the Empire, regarding all that vitally concerns the separate British communities, and especially regarding all that is of general and Imperial interest. How is this need to be met? The proposal submitted in the Sessional paper, to which I have referred, is that there should be a system of state-owned telegraph cables that would connect the main portions of tile Empire with each other and with the mother country, and that there should be soiree organization that would gather up and, by means of this cable system, transmit throughout the Empire reports of the daily life and important interests of all the communities thus connected, reports of such character and value, yet provided at so low a cost, that it would be well worth while for all the newspapers to give them to their readers.
We have thus the two considerations brought before us,--the system of Empire cables and what I may call the bureau of information.
As to the system of cables; starting from England and going westward it might be divided into four sections, which, taken together, would encircle the globe, and would land only on British territory. The first from London to Vancouver, embracing a cable across the Atlantic and land lines across Canada; the second, a cable across the Pacific from Canada to New Zealand and Australia, with land lines across Australia to the Indian Ocean; the third, a cable from Australia across the Indian Ocean to South Africa, with a branch line from Cocos Island to India; the fourth, a cable from South Africa by way of Ascension Island to the West Indies, and thence to England, with a branch line from the West Indies to Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. This is the " All-Red Line," proposed by Sir Sandford Fleming, who has done more than any other to urge upon the governments and peoples of the British self-governing communities the importance and practicability of such a cable system. It would be essential in this system, you observe, that it should be state-owned and controlled by a Board on which all the Governments interested would be fairly represented.
Let us look at these four sections. The first division, from England to Vancouver, is already supplied with cable accommodation, but for the scheme proposed it would be necessary either to procure one of the existing Atlantic cables or to lay another, and also to nationalize the line across Canada. This, work of nationalizing a telegraph system is approved by the success that has attended the nationalization of the telegraph system of the British Isles, where it has been made part of the postal service and the rates have been greatly reduced. Similar results might reasonably be expected from Government control of the line from England to the Pacific. The second section, from Canada to New Zealand and Australia, has been already provided. It became an accomplished fact, in 1902, by the united action of the Home Government and of the Governments of Canada, New Zealand, and the Provinces that form the Australian Commonwealth. It is at present controlled by the Pacific Cable Board, with headquarters in London, the Board consisting of representatives of the several Governments that contributed to lay the Cable. There remain the other two sections yet to be provided, the one from Australia to South Africa, with a branch line to India; the other from South Africa by way of the West Indies to England with a branch line to Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. If these were completed there would be a system of cables providing electric communication between the self-governing British states. The estimated cost would be moderate for an enterprise so rich in possibilities, as it is reckoned on expert authority that the remaining parts of the proposed system could be provided for £5,000,000 stg., or, say, $25,000,000.
If such a system were completed it might serve largely to increase the inter-British commerce throughout the world, and, being state-owned, its object would be not to earn large dividends so much as to serve the general interests of the countries connected by it. I am speaking to gentlemen who are familiar with commercial questions. I think I need hardly enlarge upon the fact that the provision of cheap telegraphic communication would tend greatly to increase intercourse and commerce. Already the telegraphic communication between Canada and Australia, which formerly went by way of England eastward, has, by means of the Pacific Cable, been reduced from nine shillings to three shillings a word, and it is claimed by Sir Sandford Fleming that if the system were completed the cost of communication between any two of the countries thus connected might reasonably be fixed at a uniform rate of six pence per word.
But, while increasing commercial services would be rendered by cheap telegraphic communication, such a system of state-owned cables could be used with the greatest benefit for the transmission of general intelligence of such a character as might be best worth distributing throughout the countries thus connected. There would be several hours out of every twenty-four when the cables would be unused, as is the case at present through the greater portion of the day with the Pacific Cable, and yet members of the staff must be always on hand for any messages that may be offered. At such times there might, with little or no additional cost, be transmitted fairly extensive Press messages that could be furnished to the newspapers of the different countries as general news of the Empire. These regular budgets might thus become part of the daily reading of the great mass of the people throughout the British world, familiarizing all with the life and opinions, the interests and experiences, the commercial, social, and political movements of these several connected communities.
In view of such possible use of the completed system, we naturally ask if it would not be possible to utilize in this way the part of the system already completed between Canada and Australia. Might not Press messages be exchanged at very low rates between these two countries with the present facilities, and might not the cable, which has in fair and proportionate part been paid for by these two countries, be used for bringing us more closely into touch with our Australian brother Britons? Judging from the Sessional paper, which is the main source of my information, it seems that the Eastern Extension Cable Company, which has from the first been bitterly opposed to the Pacific Cable, has influence enough in England and in Australia to impair the usefulness of that cable, and to hinder the progress of the system here proposed. The object of this Company is to secure the highest dividends through privileges granted them long before the Pacific Cable was laid. They are unwilling to make way for a system of state-owned cables because such a system would mean cheap communication and reduced dividends, the good of the Empire, no doubt, but not the preservation of their own monopoly. Opposition of this kind can yield only to the larger interests of Imperial breadth and bearing, but the Home Government and the Australian Government, which were originally concerned in granting the monopoly, seem to be still influenced by the Eastern Extension Co., and to lag behind the Governments of Canada and New Zealand. This is one of the subjects that might fitly attract the attention of the approaching Colonial Conference.
Supposing, however, that the projected system of Empire cables were completed, and that the rates were placed at the lowest possible figures, with the prospect of increasing commerce between these countries, there remains the question how best to gather up the news that should be distributed by means of the cables throughout these various communities. Two methods have been suggested. It might be done by a Bureau of Information, consisting of persons appointed by the Government in each country for this purpose. Or it might be done under an organization similar to that of the Associated Press. Possibly there might be some combination of these two methods, but it would not seem to be a very difficult problem for the Board that would have control of the cable system to devise some plan by which suitable correspondents might be secured in each of the countries concerned. If the Cable facilities were once provided under state ownership and control, it should be possible to select material for Press reports in such a way as to promote throughout the various British states an intelligent acquaintance that would soon ripen into intimacy.
With such mutual acquaintance these British communities, aiming at the solution of similar problems and the attainment of similar national ideals, would be knit in closer mutual confidence, and in more vital relations as parts of one organic whole. It is interesting to notice that this proposed system of Empire cables, and of an Imperial Intelligence service, has received the emphatic endorsation of many of the Chambers of Commerce throughout the Empire; notably of the Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the Empire, which met in Montreal in 1903. This endorsation is all the more significant when it is remembered that the movement for nationalizing the telegraph system of the British Isles was commenced and completed by the Chamber of Commerce of the United Kingdom. The proposal has been very cordially approved by a large number of representative Canadians, whose views have been presented in the Sessional paper already referred to. Scarcely any subject of public interest, indeed, could be mentioned, that would call forth such unanimity of sentiment as that which has been expressed in connection with this proposal.
It should be noted, Mr. Chairman, that this Empire Cable scheme is in no wise a party question. No political party holds a monopoly of loyalty to the Empire, and this project is one on which men of all political parties may unite. The natural outcome of it would be to aid in making each of the self-governing British states more familiar with what is best in all the others, in acquainting them with each other's commercial, political and social conditions, in leading them to promote the same ideals of liberty, righteousness and progress. Looking at the mother-land and at these growing communities of Greater Britain, each "daughter in her mother's house, and mistress in her own," there seems to be no movement within practicable reach that would more surely tend to bind these in the same national life than some such scheme as an Imperial Intelligence Union.