- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 28 Jan 1904, p. 51-60
- Grier, A. Monro, Speaker
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- The speaker, impressed with the changes which have taken place in Ontario since he first began to practise law in Toronto some 20 years ago. An increase in the feeling of friendship and oneness between Canada and the British Isles. Ontario's growing knowledge of Western Canada. An increase in Great Britain's knowledge of Ontario and Canada generally. The great progress which Canada has made in the estimation of Great Britain and to what that has been due. Qualities of a good citizen of the Empire, each with discussion and illustrative examples: Breadth of Mind; Courage and Confidence; Reverence and Knowledge; Pride of Race.
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- 28 Jan 1904
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- THE QUALITIES WHICH GO TO MAKE A GOOD CITIZEN OF THE EMPIRE.
Address delivered by Mr. A. Monro Grier, K.C., on January 28th, 1904, at the Weekly Luncheon of the Empire Club.
MR. PRESIDENT,--I must confess that, whilst I rise to speak with a full sense of the honour which you have conferred upon me in asking me to address you, I have a corresponding feeling of diffidence, which arises from a contemplation upon my part of my incapacity to deal with such a subject as that in hand; especially in the short time at my command, namely, thirty minutes. I cannot help thinking of the remark made by the late Mr. Florence, the actor, in "The Mighty Dollar." Producing a large roll of manuscript he accosts a friend of his with the remark, " Have you three hours to spare, because if so, I should like to read to you a speech which I am going to make."
In this quandary, I was greatly comforted when I remembered a story which your worthy Vice-President, the Rev. Dr. Clark, told me of late. There was a certain clerical dignitary who had an exceptional capacity for distinguishing, and thus of getting out of, difficulties in which others tried to involve him. His opening word was distinguo." Upon a certain occasion his ecclesiastical superior confronted him with this poser:-"If one were to eat soup, would one be breaking one's fast?" To this the dignitary replied, "Distinguo. If one should eat soup, as generally made, one would break one's fast; but, if one should eat your Lordship's soup, one would no: break one's fast, for verily there is no particular wherein it differeth from water." I was comforted by the reflection, that do my very best, in my address to you, I should certainly not succeed in giving you anything which would tax in the very slightest degree your mental digestion.
In starting to speak to you upon my subject. I am impressed with the change which has taken place in Ontario since I first began to practise law in Toronto, some twenty years ago. At that time it would have seemed impossible that today I should be addressing an audience composed of the Empire Club upon the subject of the qualities which constitute a good citizen of the British Empire. Twenty years ago there was not the same intimate feeling of friendship and oneness between Canada and the British Isles. This arose from the ignorance which then existed upon each side of the ocean with reference to the country at the other side. Since then, knowledge has grown, and with the increase of knowledge has come a like increase of the sense of oneness. I desire, however, with reference to the ignorance of England as to Ontario and the other settled parts of Canada, to point out that these settled parts were just as ignorant in their turn of the mighty lands in the West. This ignorance produced perhaps a certain sense of irritation, in each case, upon the part of the unknown, and therefore unappreciated land; but you must bear in mind that, whilst the new country was fully alive to its own potentialities, the older country could only form its opinion upon what had been actually accomplished by the newer country. In the last twenty years, Ontario's knowledge of the West has grown. So, in the last twenty years Great Britain's knowledge of Ontario and Canada generally has- grown. Let me point out to you that the great progress which Canada has made in the estimation of Great Britain has been largely, if not primarily, due to the immense strides of that portion of Canada which twenty- years ago was not thoroughly appreciated by Ontario itself. May we not carry the analogy a step further, and reflect with satisfaction and pride that, as Canada generally has grown in national stature and in the estimation of the older part of the Empire, by reason of the newer part of Canada, namely, the West, so the Empire itself has grown in prestige amongst the nations of the world by reason of the newer part of the Empire, namely, Canada.
1. These thoughts naturally bring before us the first quality which I wish to insist upon, namely, Breadth of Mind. We are all willing to enlarge in the abstract upon the merits and the virtue of breadth of mind, but when it comes to an application of the quality in any concrete instance, we are apt to come short. Let 'us then try to cultivate this quality so that our view may be, not parochial, not provincial, not even federal merely, but a view coterminus with the vast British Empire.
2. I must pass on to my second point, Courage and Confidence. I am amazed, if not amused, at times, at the way in which it is insisted that the difficulties in the way of bringing the different parts of the Empire closer together, are insuperable. Difficulties in themselves are incitements to the man of courage. Contemplate for a moment the attitude of the daring player on the football field; the circumstance that the opposing side is of greater bulk than his own side acts as a spur to the man of pluck. He laughs at difficulties, which merely act as a tonic to him. But we have more than these general reflections to spur us on and to encourage us. In the Empire, what remains to be accomplished is as nothing compared with what has been done. Many of us in this room can remember the time when it was seriously discussed as to whether or not the " Colonies," so called, were a desirable possession, and if it would not be well to let the components parts of the Empire break apart, and become again so many separate units. Today, any such suggestion as that Great Britain and the other portions of the Empire are not enhanced in prestige and value by the cohesion of the several parts would be laughed at. Indeed, the men of the very school which used to suggest that the Colonies were only a burden, have not the temerity to advocate such views. To bring about the general view that the Empire ought to be more closely welded, was, I admit, a great accomplishment, and one made in the face of vast difficulties; but the view once formed, the way in which this should be done is a comparatively simply thing. If we are united in our view as to what is desirable, we shall find a way to accomplish that end, if the previous history of the British Empire in its deeds done is to count for anything.
In war as well as in peace, the outlying portions of the Empire have made their voice heard and have established their position. If you ask me, " Where, in war?" I have only to name Paardeberg, to remind you that the Empire can accomplish more and stand higher amongst the nations of the world in things military, because of the loyal co-operation of Canada. If you ask me, "Where, in peace?" I need only remind you of the change of attitude of one of the most potent and aggressive of the European countries by reason of certain tariff regulations framed by the Parliament in Ottawa.
The rolls of history show how difficulties have been overcome, one by one, in the making of the British Empire. The disunited fragments of England itself became, from warring and separate principalities, a united whole. Later, England and Scotland became one. Later, again, England and Scotland and Ireland. Since, then, provinces of out-lying parts of the Empire have been formed into strong united federations, and these out-lying parts, so made one within their own several borders, have been welded with England and Scotland and Ireland to form that splendid fabric, the British Empire. The spirit which actuates and dominates us today is no new spirit, but is the same as that which animated the men of England hundreds of years ago. Our feeling of loyalty to the Crown is as great as it then was, or greater. Today, more than at any time, heretofore perhaps, we say with a feeling of regard not only for the office itself, but for the personal occupant of the throne, God Save the King! If I turn to the language put by the immortal Shakespeare in the mouth of King Henry V., I find that, if I change the name of the sovereign mentioned, the words can be used with the same truth and have the same inspiring effect as when they were uttered:
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start. The game's afoot. Follow your sprit, and upon this charge Cry, "God for Edward, England and Saint George."
3. I now come to my third point, namely, Reverence and Knowledge. I couple these two qualities together, because, whilst knowledge is admitted by all to be a necessary acquirement, I am of those who believe that knowledge, unless linked with the quality of reverence, is not of any great value. I may be old-fashioned in this, but I venture to insist upon it. No country, in my estimation, has arrived at the extreme of greatness, unless the quality of reverence is upheld within its borders. I yield to none in admiration of the great qualities which are to be found amongst the people of the great country to the South, but, so far as I have been able to observe, some of its best men, whilst deploring the fact, state that the quality of reverence is not as generally cultivated as it should be. I say, then, acquire knowledge, lay hold of it wherever it is to be found; but see to it that you lay hold of reverence also. This conjunction of qualities is beautifully insisted upon by Tennyson where he says
Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell,
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before.
I sometimes fear that many of us do not properly understand and appreciate the constitution under which we live. I would recommend those who wish to acquire this appreciation to study the pages of. our good friend Blackstone upon this subject. We should all understand that any authority 'which is over us is there by our will, and that in fact we ourselves are a part of that authority. It is this which makes us content, and more than content, with our form of government, the realization that all authority exists by the swill of the people of the country. As we realize that authority exists by reason of our own will, we shall respect authority. He who shows most respect for law and order will most respect himself. The converse proposition is unquestionably true, that he who most respects himself will most respect law and order.
Do not be disturbed by the sneers and alleged witticisms of the self-labelled "cynic." I admire, as much as anyone does, the merit of playful satire and witty cynicisms applied to the smaller things of life; but I implore of you that, in the larger matters, the things which are of prime importance, you see to it that you follow in the footsteps of those who are characterized by a sweet serious sanity, rather than in the steps of the cynic. The cynic is an enthusiast gone sour. Wine turned to vinegar. Experts tell us that in the making of a salad one should be miserly with the vinegar-and prodigal with the oil. In like manner, let me ask you to see to it that in your constitution you take care to see that there is but little, if any, of the vinegar of cynicism, and that, on the other hand, there is,, in abundance, the sweet oil of charity. Let me diverge for a moment, to plead for better treatment of our public men by the Press and generally. The Press is frequently condemned on account of the bitterness of its party references, but I would have you bear in mind that the Press is generally the mirror of the manners of the times, and that, if a more charitable and tolerant view obtained amongst the people, the Press would not feel itself obliged to indulge in such virulent attacks. Except where principles are involved, when we cannot make honest attacks too earnestly, we should show tolerance towards each other. We should exhibit more the spirit which we find amongst public men in England, where, so great is the toleration shown, that public men do not accuse each other of breaking every commandment of the decalogue, even if their quarrel is upon a matter of such vital interest to the welfare of the Empire as the price per volume of a schoolbook, worth, say, fifteen cents! Those of you who have been in England and have seen Westminster Abbey, will readily understand the suggestion which I have now to make. If you find yourself impressed with the idea that all the wisdom of the world. is centred under your hat, or under the hats of your particular part of the Empire, I suggest that you take a journey to old London Town, and, arrived there, seek out Westminster Abbey. When you have read some of the records to be found upon the storied walls, your eyes will be attracted to the splendid pillars, and up them to the tracery of the vaulted roof. This will roll away before the eyes of your spirit, and beyond you will see the sky, leading you to remember that " God's in His Heaven." Filled with a sense of reverence and awe, and stumbling out into God's sunlight, you will find yourself, with bowed head, murmuring, "Lest we forget, lest we forget!"
My next point is one which is antithetical to the one with which I have just dealt, or perhaps I should say apparently antithetical, namely, Pride of Race. I have often thought that one of the best methods whereby one can keep within proper bounds the egoism which to a certain degree is necessary in order to progress in life, is to find outside of one's own skin something which is admirable, to let one's mind rest upon. I suggest that nothing is more likely to conduce to humility of the individual than a contemplation of the glories of the race at large. The more that we realize the prowess of the race, the more shall we be concerned at the small accomplishments which individually we have achieved. It does not matter in which direction our eyes turn, we find that the scroll of history holds up to our admiration those of the British race. If we consider the records of the British Navy, we are amazed at the deeds done, and in view of the stupendous odds against us at times, and the dreadful blows with which we whacked the other side, we are inevitably lead to think that a power not less than divine was behind our men. I remind you of two men, Cochrane and Nelson, not to mention the vast number of other men who added to Britain's glory at sea. Not long ago, I noticed an analogy drawn between a certain naval engagement and that of Trafalgar. I am bound to say that I have seen analogies which struck me as being more perfect. But, if you are concerned, or if you are amused, at this extreme of boasting on the part of others, take heart of grace in the thought that, when the men of other nations desire to be counted great as naval men, they take as the criteria of excellence the standards established by our own men.
In referring to deeds of the Army, I speak with great diffidence because there are so many here who are better advised than I am in this particular. I need not mention the names of the men who have made themselves famous in history as leaders of the British troops, but there is one point which I wish to emphasize, and it is that many of the great leaders have distinguished themselves not only in their military capacity, but also in a civil capacity, when the duty has devolved upon them of administering the affairs of the people whom they have conquered. In this connection, I emphasize that we of this Club are not contending for " Empire" generally, but for the British Empire.. Funny little readers of history, with their heads crammed full of information, which puts my ignorance to shame, fail altogether when they come to apply the facts. which they have stored within their minds. They are led away by mere sound and similarity of words. In this way, it comes to pass that, hearing the expression, British Empire," they airily say, "Empire? Oh, dear me! there were other empires, and they have all passed away, therefore this empire will pass away." It does not matter what you call the British Empire; it stands by reason of its inherent virtue and strength, and not by reason of any name which you attach to it. The British Empire would stand even if you called it a " Board of Control " or a " Municipal Council." The fact that other aggregations of countries or of peoples have been called Empires does not of necessity mean that those empires were in the least like our own. In their case the conquered people had a position of relative inferiority. The strength of the British Empire lies in the fact that all parts of it are free and that the conquered people in their respective turns come to understand and to love the Empire of which they form a part.
Turning our eyes upon the Parliamentary men, we are overwhelmed at the thought of the long record of those who, as the needs of the country have demanded, have devoted their lives to the good of the country, without consideration of personal advancement, and to the sacrifice of individual interests. In thinking of this subject, we are reminded again of the splendid continuity shown in the English history. It is remarkable that a nation can point to a Cecil directing the affairs of an Elizabeth, and, later on, a descendant, another Cecil, directing the affairs of a Victoria.
I consider one more avenue of accomplishment, namely, that of the literary field. In this direction the British can point to achievements far beyond those of any other race in my humble view. I admit that in some particular department of learning or of writing some other nation may be pre-eminent, but it appears to me to be self-evident that, taking the range of literature at large, history, science, medicine, the law, sociology, fiction and poetry, the British must be universally acknowledged to be in the fore-front of all nations. Devour some of the good things which are to be had. Seize upon them, make them a part of yourselves. Dwell with delight upon some of the splendours and some of the beauties which are displayed. The trouble is, not that there is not enough, but that there is far too much, to read; and we suffer a constant danger of being overwhelmed by the tide of current literature. The only safe way, as it seems to me, is to entrench ourselves, shut ourselves up with the books of known worth, keep back the on-rushing tide which threatens to overwhelm, and then make some, if only a few, of the books which are worth while, a part of our very being.
Sir, I must be coming to an end, though, of course, I have only touched upon a few of the qualities which occur to one as being of importance to the constitution of a good citizen. After all, one cannot set forth any better rule of conduct than that contained within these lines-
I made them lay their hands in mine and swear
To reverence the King, as if he were
Their conscience, and their conscience as their King.
If we are inspired by such thoughts as are contained in that oath, we shall prove ourselves worthy citizens. I feel, that if Macaulay had lived until today, he would have recast his picture of the New Zealander standing on London Bridge. I suggest that he might have seen the National Gallery (an inadequate building for the space on which it stands) removed to make way for a splendid structure, in which is being held the Parliament of the Empire. Outside, in the square containing the monument erected to the great sea-captain, Nelson, radium lights up the scene. Inside, in the room devoted to the long distance telephone to Canada, a member for Ontario is telephoning to his constituency, and the New Zealander, instead of standing on London Bridge, cultivating at once cynicism and rheumatism, is telephoning, in the room devoted to his country, a message to his constituency, that a Right Honourable Joseph of his day and generation has just brought in a bill which is calculated to still further aid the strength and stability of the British Empire and, consequently, to do good to humanity at large.