« PreviousContinue »
would ever reach that country, and they were very sure that they could never return. How different is the case with Canada. People may venture from the British Isles cherishing a secret hope that they can return afterwards, if they please, to their native land; but the pioneers of Australia had to leave their native land, facing a dark, forbidding, anxious future, and with the sad feeling of the exile who sees his native shores for the last time.
In 1855 one of those noble conceptions of British statesmanship which ought to make the British Empire immortal, was the gift of self-government to the people of Australia, and with it the gift of that magnificent continent to few thousand Australian colonists. The Australians seemed to some to be severing their connection with Great Britain as each official tie disappeared, but the miraculous happened. As each chain dropped off, as each tie disappeared, the warmth of loyalty and affection marvellously increased. I can remember, when a boy in Australia, that there were quite a number of people who believed their connection with England was a source of danger, and who cherished republican ideas; but as the years went on a truer conception of the benefits of British connection penetrated the minds of the people. I think I may say in all truth now that vast as that continent is, scattered as the Australians are upon its face, there is only one feeling, only one sentiment, a sentiment of gratitude for the majestic power which has watched over the growth of Australia, a strong sense that that little bit of bunting which has come down through the centuries, enables us, young as our people are, rich and vast as our country is, enables us all to sleep peacefully at night knowing that the Union Jack flutters on all the oceans of the world and makes our present and, I believe, our future, safe.
Ten years ago the British fleets asserted an unchallengeable supremacy upon the oceans of the world. At that time I was one of the public men of Australia. Questions of defence never crossed my mind very seriously in those days because I knew the pre-eminence, the overwhelming supremacy of the British Aleets, not upon one We go
ocean,-because their supremacy does not rest in the North Sea or the South Sea or the eastern seas or the western seas,—but their task is to guard Britain's integrity and commerce on all the oceans of the globe.
Ten years have seen a marvellous change. Navies of great strength and efficiency, tested by the highest standards, are rising upon the face of the waters. There is a great people, sixty millions and more, one of the finest peoples the earth has to-day-I allude to the German people, a people for whom I have the most unbounded admiration. We are kith and kin with them. back to a common stock and, when I see them developing the glorious attributes of our common origin, I have no feeling of envy, I have no desire to see unfriendly or disastrous things happen to them. Don't let us talk of the Germans as if those sixty millions of people were all inspired with a hatred of our Empire, or a desire to destroy it. In that country, as in every other country, there is a peace party, and there is a war party, and I honestly hope and believe that the peace-loving millions of Germany exceed in number, if not in official rank, the war-loving people of Germany.
But we must never forget the three great ideals which every high-spirited race possesses. First, the ideal of preserving against all comers our racial integrity; next, that of defending our territorial boundaries against all invasions; and next, and not least, the task of developing in an ever-increasing measure national health, wealth, strength, and greatness.
Now, these are the ideals before us, and looking in no unfriendly spirit at the other races which inhabit the earth in common with us, I think I can say that these ideals appeal, if anything, more strongly to the British race than to any other race looking up into the face of the sun.
Peace is another ideal. What a sad prospect humanity would have if it were doomed to an everlasting race of military and naval preparation! I am not one of those who want to denaturalize human nature. I know that, as long as we possess the feelings, the ambitions of human nature, our combative instincts can
destroyed; but my hope is that at no distant time those invaluable motive powers which in the past history of mankind called for so much bloodshed, so much oppression, so great wrongs, will be gloriously diverted into channels unstained by human blood; in which our desire to excel, to gain supremacy, to occupy the van in the march of nations, will be sought, not by these modern methods of slaughter by machinery, but by the peaceful and noble emulations which belong to paths of industry, commerce, enterprise, and science. Why, gentlemen, the combative instincts of mankind even now seem to have no scope in these enormous developments. Battleship after battleship is added to do what? To aim at sham targets, to cripple the strength, the financial pros
rity of the peace-loving nations, but although we love peace, whilst the danger of war and conquest is still in the air, we must fight for peace, fight for our own peace, fight for the peace of the world, and show that the Flag which stands for peace and righteousness and human friendship all over the world is the flag of an Empire which is prepared, if some difficulty causes some great nation to cross our track, to emulate the deeds of our noble ancestors who gave us these glorious possessions. The glory of the conquests by which we annexed country after country, was one of brute force. For what does the Flag stand to-day in all these conquered territories, from the strongest down to the weakest race all over the British Empire? Does it not stand for justice, for the protection of life and liberty, for the protection of things dearer than life-the virtue of the homes of the British Empire? (Applause)
. In the farthest territory, in the darkest forest, an act of oppression may sometimes be committed by a representative of British power; but there is a "whispering gallery” in that glorious house at Westminster, there is a whispering gallery in which the faintest cry of the weakest can be heard, in which the whole life and conscience of the British nation can be successfully invoked in order to do justice against even the highest in the land. (Applause)
Now, this is the Empire to which we belong. If there is one worth fighting for, is it not this? I don't appeal to the people of Australia on sentimental grounds, nor do they act on these altogether. I justify our standing by the Empire as an act of the plainest self-interest and advantage. I know that here I am addressing men of position, men who may have risen from the masses, but are now perhaps becoming more and more identified with the wealthiest classes of the community; but I have in mind the masses of British Canada and the masses of French Canada, down to the poorest and humblest, and I say the masses of Canada and the masses of Australia cannot have a dearer, better interest than that of seeing the flag of our own race flying. If there are people in the world who should stand by the British flag, it is the people who belong to a different race, and who find beneath the British flag a sublime generosity which they never felt at home. I raise no point of delicacy in referring to this; I speak with no bated breath. If there is a man in the Empire who should stand by it, it is the French-Canadian and the Dutch-Boer of South Africa. What Empire ever allowed a nationality within its Imperial nationality to exist and flourish? No other Empire but that of Great Britain ? (Applause)
Now, we can all talk of the spread of education. There was a time when Englishmen could talk, while battles were being fought, and could gradually become licked into shape in the course of ten or twenty years by their enemies. That was an anxious time for Providence. Providence has had to take us in hand always, in our times of emergency, and save us from our own mistakes and our own quarrels. Now, the time has come to give Providence a rest. (Laughter) The time has come to divert the eye of faith, noble as it is, from the contemplation of the beauties of the heavens down to the solid earnestness of honest work. have done tha in Australia. Our first line of defence, there as here, and our last line of defence, too, is on the seas,—the seas that used to divide nations but now unite them as no railway system ever could. You can send goods from London to Sydney, twelve thousand miles, at half the rate that you would pay from London to Inverness by rail. When you get on the canals, don't you find it a little easier than when you are on the railway line? Well, in a night the basis of this Empire might be destroyed' never to be restored. One overwhelming disaster in one sharp engagement, twenty-four hours after war was declared, might destroy our magnificent naval power never to be restored again. If those fleets of England disappeared from the earth, do you think we would be allowed to build any more fleets afterwards ? It is now or never if we wish to guarantee the defence of our Empire. We hope the ships will never fire a shot in anger; we hope the ambition of foreign nations will never cause us to shed blood; and we know it is cheaper to make the flag supreme on the outskirts of the world than it is to build battleships when they are no longer of any use. There is one advantage about this mad race of armaments, and it is this, that the nations that are spending so much money in preparing for sham fights have nothing left for a real war.
I spoke of a mad race of armaments. May I suggest to you that that is not the way in which you can describe the preparations of the British Empire for defence. Just look for the moment at the position of those forty-five millions of men, women, and children in our ancestral home. If the command of the sea were taken from them, one hundred thousand of the veteran soldiers defending the British Isles, instead of being a source of strength, instead of insuring the integrity of the Empire, would add to the horrible anxieties of those who had to find food for the people of the United Kingdom. It is for the purpose of fighting for bread, fighting for a safe market to feed possible starving millions in a time of war, that these battleships are wanted.
And may I suggest that British commerce is a commerce which does not belong altogether to itself. How much does Canada, how much does Australia, owe to the markets of England and Scotland? Even that is not a question that I want to dilate on. I cannot tell you how much I admire the noble generosity of Canada in being the first to establish a splendid system of preference to the Mother Country. We have followed your example. You know I cannot help thinking that there