Page images
PDF
EPUB

not take Canada in thirty days he should be cashiered; he had no knowledge of, or much regard for, international law; and it is fairly clear that at one time he had in mind the possibility of an armed conquest of Canada. But, whether by reason of his quarrel with Sumner or for some other reason, his mind was taken off Canada and reverted to his old obsession of expansion southward, Cuba, Mexico. Canada escaped her "inevitable destiny” once more.

I have now shown how Canada is British.

The unexplained, and apparently unexplainable neglect by the English navigators to take advantage of the easy St. Lawrence route to the interior of the Continent, the greed and selfishness of a Stuart King, the bed-chamber influence of a Lady Masham, the effeminacy and want of capacity of a royal favourite's brother, the skill and valour of a Wolfe, the centuryold enmity of French and English colonist, the energy and valour of Sir Guy Carleton, the contemptible meanness and dishonesty of some of the States of the American Union, the ubiquity and bravery of Sir Isaac Brock, the ambition for Southern conquest (or acquisition, rather) of an American President, the loyalty of Canadians from the first, and the sound common-sense regard for liberty and constitutional government shown by Imperial statesmen,-all had their part in keeping Canada within the Empire.

That is the "How?”—the “Why ?” goes deeper and is of the present and not the past. We are British because we have as a birthright, a share in the Union Jack, a share in the long story of valour and self-sacrifice of those who have lived under its folds, in the glory of many centuries of history.

We are convinced that there is no secular institution which can compare as an instrument of good to mankind with the British Empire: and we are determined not to give up our share in it. Nowhere is there such liberty as the British subject enjoys—not bound by the dead hand of a dead and gone generation, he makes his government as he wishes it to be, “Girt by friend or foe, he says the thing he will." Thought is free, speech is free, worship of God is free.

And with freedom comes opportunity. In every knapsack there is the Marshal's baton, the career is open to the talent-a man is what he makes hiniself-the barber's apprentice may become the Chief-justice of England, the farmer's son or the stone-mason, the Prime Minister of Canada.

We are a free nation in a free Empire—and what can heart wish more? What more can the most ardent patriot demand?

OUR IMPERIAL RELATIONS

An Address by MR. N. W. ROWELL, K.C., M.P.P., Leader of the Opposition in the Ontario Legislature, before the Empire Club of Canada, on October 31, 1912.

Mr. President and Gentlemen,

Our view as to what our Imperial relations should be will depend largely on our conception of Empire, and of the ideal towards which we should work. There are, however, some facts and some principles upon which, I feel sure, we can all agree:

(1) Canada and the other self-governing Dominions are no longer colonies dependent upon Great Britain, but are, as Sir Frederick Pollock, one of the most distinguished of British jurists has said, “Separate kingdoms having the same King as the parent group, but choosing to abrogate that part of their full autonomy which relates to foreign affairs.

The States of the Empire stand on an equal footing, except that the Government of one of them represents all the rest in the community of nations, and is gracefully permitted in consequence to undertake to pay for maritime defence ;"

(2) The King and not the Imperial Parliament is the real and vital bond of union between the Dominions and the Mother Country, and the present Imperial Parliament, except in foreign affairs, peace and war, and other questions of like character, no longer professes to speak or legislate for the self-governing Dominions, whose national status is now frankly recognized;

(3) If some new body is to be constituted which, together with the Crown, shall constitute a unifying force in the management of the affairs of the Empire, it must be a body not which suits Canada or Great Britain alone, but which meets the needs of all the selfgoverning portions of the Empire, and is acceptable to all self-governing peoples of the Empire. No one would for a moment suggest that any new organization should

[ 49 ]

be, or could be, imposed upon any of the self-governing Dominions. Any such new body or organization must be constituted by these Dominions themselves, acting with the Mother Country;

(4) Such a body must recognize the full equality of the five free nations which go to make up the Empire, and that the principle governing their action must be cooperation and not the centralization of power in the hands of one;

(5) Such a body must be truly representative and truly responsible to the peoples or_governments of all the self-governing portions of the Empire;

(6) To endeavour to force the creation of a new organization which would limit or curtail the rights of self-government of the free nations of the Empire would imperil rather than promote unity, but as we work together, profiting by the experience of the past and seeking to meet the needs of the present, we shall work out for the whole Empire the organization best suited to the Empire's needs. The British constitution has been of slow growth. It is the product of the needs and of the experience of generations. The genius of the British people is equal to the task of meeting the needs of the future, and of the new conditions which may confront us as a people.

Four suggestions have been made in recent years as to the form an Imperial organization should take: (1) Imperial Federation ; (2) Imperial Council of Defence; (3) Committee of Imperial Defence; (4) Imperial Conference.

(1) Imperial Federation

The first sought to solve the problem by giving Canada and the other Dominions representation in the present British Parliament. This would mean centralizing the power in the hands of Great Britain. It is inconsistent with our national status and self-governing powers, and it is no longer advocated by any responsible leader of public opinion in any part of the Empire.

(2) Imperial Council of Defence At the Imperial Conference of 1911, Sir Joseph Ward, Prime Minister of New Zealand, proposed the creation of an Imperial Council of Defence in which all the selfgoverning portions of the Empire should be represented in proportion to population, and that this Council should deal with all matters of defence and foreign policy. Sir Joseph Ward contended for a unified system of defence for the whole Empire, and for the right of the Dominions to share in the control and direction of foreign policy through the new Council or Parliament of Defence, in which all the Dominions should be represented. The resolution was unanimously opposed by the other members of the Conference, either because of its impracticability or because it was inopportune. Mr. Asquith, President of the Conference, in expressing the view of the Government of Great Britain stated that the proposal was one to which he could not possibly assent:

It would impair, if not altogether destroy, the authority of the Government of the United Kingdom in such grave matters as the conduct of foreign policy, the conclusion of treaties, the declaration of the maintenance of peace or the declaration of war and, indeed, all those relations with foreign powers, necessarily of the most delicate character, which are now in the hands of the Imperial Government, subject to its responsibility to the Imperial Parliament. That authority cannot be shared, and the coexistence side by side with the Cabinet of the United Kingdom of this proposed body—it does not matter by what name you call it for the moment-clothed with the functions and the jurisdiction which Sir Joseph Ward proposed to invest it with, would, in our judgment, be absolutely fatal to our present system of responsible government

We cannot, with the traditions and the history of the British Empire behind us, either from the point of view of the United Kingdom or from the point of view of our self-governing Dominions, assent for a monient to proposals which are so fatal to the very

« PreviousContinue »