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IMPERIAL CO-OPERATION IN DEFENCE
An Address by Mr. H. PAGE CROFT, M.P., Unionist Member for Christchurch, before the Empire Club of Canada, on September 12, 1912.
Mr. President and Gentlemen,
I need hardly say that it is a very great privilege for me to have the opportunity for the first time of addressing a representative audience in this great Dominion. If I had an hour, I should like to speak for three quarters of it upon my impressions formed in my very short experience since I arrived, I can only tell you, gentlemen, that it would be difficult for me to do justice to my feelings in that time, and I think you will realize, as I certainly do, that business is far too pressing to discuss such a question now. I want rather to say just a few words, not about your affairs or our affairs in Great Britain, but our affairs as a family of the British Empire. (Hear, hear)
First, may I say this, that I am proud to think that there are some thirty or forty colleagues of mine who have recently been visiting, in the short time that is permitted us, this great Dominion, and who are endeavouring to acquaint themselves with the problems which confront you. I can only say that I do hope that this means, that as communication becomes more easy we will get to know each other better, and perhaps the Canadian opinion of the Englishman will be no longer guided by the remittance man, and our opinion of the Canadian no longer guided by those who have perhaps in the past fled your country because you did not regard them as desirable citizens. (Laughter)
I think I can truthfully say that there is a very great awakening in the British Isles as to the true meaning of Empire. Recent events, the elections in this country, and your Premier's visit have, if I may say so, entirely altered the outlook of the average British citizen upon Canadian affairs. They have created an interest and affection, which I believe neither time nor stress will obliterate. World events are rapidly causing every thinking man in the British Empire to come to the conclusion that it is time that the British peoples come together, think together, act together, trade together and, if necessary, fight together for our own ends.
I think you will all agree with me that man-power is now the controlling factor in the world and is a thing which has to be considered, and with our emigration overtaking our birth rate, as it is in the Mother Country, we cannot hope to stand alone in the future, and neither can, I believe, the Dominion of Canada, or the Commonwealth of Australia, or the Union of South Africa stand alone against the union of nations which has taken place; but if the parts of the Empire, while retaining their complete freedom and autonomy, come together in Council, with good understanding, with a common control of matters regarding foreign affairs and defence and trade, then I believe that we can truly say that the British, standing together, can resist any economic or military pressure from any rivals, or any group of rivals, which they may meet in the days to come. The surest way to federation in my belief-and I make no bones about it, and I hope and pray for the day when federation may come,—is through partnership in trade. (Hear, hear) It seems to me the greatest binder will be community of interests and, once you have that, there will be a common desire for defence and, once you have that, it will be imperative that you shall have common control of that defence in which all parts join.
The Dominions have in the past realized this more keenly than we at home, and we can never forget, those of us who are fighting the Imperial battle at home, that it was the Dominion of Canada which first extended a trade preference to the other parts of the Empire. Neither are we likely to disregard the fact that that preference has meant that our trade with the Dominion of Canada has been multiplied by four since it was introduced. (Applause)
Other Dominions have followed,
and with the difficulties of time and space
we have found the enormous advantages of trade preference. To-day we are proud to think that Australia, with four and a half millions of people and thirteen thousand miles from the Mother Country, is buying more manufactured goods from us than the great German Empire with sixtyfive millions of people at our very gates.
But now we fully realize that it is our turn in the Mother Country to move in answer to this policy which has been adopted in the Dominion, nor will we fail. I believe the enthusiasm of the average elector in the British Isles for the policy of Imperial preference is in a very few years and, as I think, months, going to sweep all before it, and there will be a response from over' seas to you for what you have done in the past which I believe will delight all British citizens in whatever part of the Empire they may dwell; and let me say in this connection how pleased I am to see around this table those who have helped the Imperial mission in Great Britain. Here is Colonel Denison who has so frequently assisted us by encouraging visitors to come and talk here. Here is Mr. Cockshutt who put me into Parliament. Then I see in this room my old friend Mr. Wright who so successfully assisted us in Midlothian not so many years ago. I only hope it means that the bond of union between the Imperial men and the Empire Club will be sustained, and that we shall have further visits of the same most useful character.
May I speak frankly as one member of a family, as I think that members of a family should always speak, to another. We in Great Britain at the present moment are doing our best for, and many of us have absolutely staked our political reputation on this policy of Empire union and Empire consolidation; but we want your moral support and, if you believe that that policy is a good policy, it is your affair just as much as ours, and we do ask you Canadians to speak out plainly and without reserve upon this all-important question. I think the time has gone by when we should treat one another rather like French dancing masters bowing across the Atlantic, and yet hesitating to say what is for the good of all. I think the time has come when straight talking will clear the air, and we shall know better where we stand. Now, we have recently seen, as a result, as I said, of the reciprocity elections and Mr. Borden's visit, a greater confidence on the part of the Mother Country in all things Canadian, and with the assistance of your most able Canadian Finance Minister in London-of course I refer to Mr. Lloyd George,-(Laughter)—we have seen an enormous increase of investment in this country, and a desire among all our fellow-countrymen at home to have some stake in this country. We have also seen the enormous increase of emigration to your shores because of the opinion of those who have come here that they find the best traditions under which they have been reared and, at the same time, an opportunity of rebirth in this land among the honest and the strong. (Applause)
I am not a shy person, and I am going to practise what I preached just now. I am going to ask you, you who have so much influence in the affairs of this great Dominion, to re-affirm your trade policy and to tell us definitely that you maintain that policy, that you still believe in the policy of granting preference for preference; and it is my honest opinion that the more expression you give to those ideas the more amply are you going to be repaid by having the best that the Mother Country can give in order to help you to raise your country to the glorious destiny which awaits you. (Applause)
But if this great emigration is going to keep on at the present rate from the Mother Country, if the rate for the last three months is continued, it will have overtaken the birth rate, and I would ask you what of the women who are left behind ?' We are suffering in the United Kingdom from an excess of women. (Laughter) I did not say excessive women, because I always refer to militant people with a great deal of respect, but the fact remains that we have one million four hundred thousand more women in the Mother Country than we have men. You are suffering from a contrary complaint. I have read, as carefully as I can, Canadian history, and it seems to me that Canada never lacks courage in big questions. If it is not very impertinent for a young and inexperienced person from over seas to make a suggestion, I would urge that you use your influence to persuade your statesmen to endeavour to grapple with the question of organized female emigration to this country. I offer this suggestion most seriously, because I believe it is a great problem. I believe it would pay the Dominion of Canada, and I believe it would pay the Empire as a whole, if necessary, to pay the fares for picked and selected women, and to take them out to your more distant cities where there is such an excess of the inferior sex. (Laughter) This is a big question, but it seems to me as an outside observer with the very little knowledge I have, that if you are going to keep your trees you must plant, if you are going to keep your fish in your rivers and lakes you must preserve, and if your race is going to prosper you must see to it that you encourage to your shores women of the best kind who will be a credit to your country, and who will, after all, do something towards helping out the problems of the future. I cannot help thinking that the problem is one which should exercise the mind of everybody, and I believe the more the question is gone into the more you will realize that possibly I was not so impertinent as I seemed when I made the suggestion at this gathering to-day.
I said just now that trade co-operation, I believed, was the best road to ultimate federation, and that common defence resulted from co-operation in trade. This brings me to the naval question. We cannot hide facts, and no one can deny that for the first time in modern history the fleet of the British Empire is seriously challenged and that, at the present rate of building by a certain rival power, our certain victory in the near future will become a doubtful success. Now, we are not on our knees to the people of Canada, and we do not in any way beg you to help us, but we state the truth when we tell you that the burden which we are bearing is falling very heavily upon all classes of people in the Old Country; but if you feel in the Dominion of Canada