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Lord Chancellor of England.


The following message, brought by Lord Haldane from His Majesty King George W., was received with enthusiastic applause by the visiting members of the American Bar Association:

“I have given my Lord Chancellor permission to cross the sea, so that he may address the meeting at Montreal. I have asked him to convey from me to that great gathering of the lawyers of the United States and of Canada my best wishes for its success. I entertain the hope that the deliberations of the distinguished men of both countries who are to assemble at Montreal may add yet further to the esteem and good. will which the people of the United States and of Canada and the United Kingdom have for each other.”

vol. XXXIII. C.L.T.-49


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Annual address by Rt. Hon. Richard Burdon Haldane, Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, at the meeting of the American Bar Association, at Montreal, Canada, September 1-3, 1913.

It is with genuine pleasure that I find myself among my fellow-lawyers of the New World. But my satisfaction is tempered by a sense of embarrassment. There is a multitude of topics on which it would be most natural that I should seek to touch. If, however, I am to use to any purpose the opportunity which you have accorded me, I must exclude all but one or two of them. For in an hour like this, as in most other times of endeavour, he who would accomplish anything must limit himself. What I have to say will therefore be confined to the suggestion of little more than a single thought, and to its development and illustration with materials that lie to hand. I wish to lay before you a result at which I have arrived after reflection, and to submit it for your consideration with such capacity as I possess.

For the occasion is as rare as it is important. Around me I see assembled some of the most distinguished figures in the public life of this Continent; men who throughout their careers have combined law with statesmanship, and who have exercised a potent influence in the fashioning of opinion and of policy. The law is indeed a calling notable for the individualities it has produced. Their production has counted for much in the past of the three nations that are represented at this meeting, and it means much for them to-day.

What one who finds himself face to face with this assemblage naturally thinks of is the future of these three nations;

a future that may depend largely on the influence of men
with opportunities such as are ours. The United States and
Canada and Great Britain together form a group which is
unique; unique because of its common inheritance in trad.
tions, in surroundings, and in ideals. And nowhere is the
character of this common inheritance more apparent than
in the region of jurisprudence. The lawyers of the three
countries think for the most part alike. At no period
has political divergence prevented this fact from being
strikingly apparent. Where the letter of their law is differ-
ent the spirit is yet the same, and it has been so always.
As I speak of the historical tradition of our great calling,
and of what appears likely to be its record in days to come,
it seems to me that we who are here gathered may well pro-
claim, in the words of the Spartans, “We are what you
were; we shall be what you are.”
It is this identity of spirit, largely due to a past which
the lawyers of the group have inherited jointly, that no;
only forms a bond of union, but furnishes them with an in-
fluence that can hardly be reproduced in other nations. I
take my stand on facts which are beyond controversy, and
seek to look ahead. I ask you to consider with me whether
we, who have in days gone by moulded their laws, are not
called on to try in days that lie in front to mould opinion
in yet another form, and so encourage the nations of this
group to develop and recognize a reliable character in the
obligations they assume towards each other. For it may be
that there are relations possible within such a group of
nations as is ours that are not possible for nations more
isolated from each other and lacking in our identity of
history and spirit. Canada and Great Britain on the one
hand and the United States on the other, with their common
language, their common interests, and their common ends.
form something resembling a single society. If there be
such a society it may develop within itself a foundation
for international faith of a kind that is new in the history
of the world. Without interfering with the freedom of
action of these great countries, or the independence of their
constitutions, it may be possible to establish a true unison
between sovereign states. This unison will doubtless, if it
ever comes into complete being, have its witnesses in
treaties and written agreements. But such documents can
never of themselves constitute it. Its substance, if it is to

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be realized, must be sought for deeper down in an intimate social life. I have never been without hope that the future development of the world may bring all the nations that compose it nearer together, so that they will progressively cease to desire to hold each other at arm’s length. But such an approximation can only come about very gradually, if I read the signs of the times aright. It seems to me to be far less likely of definite realization than in the case of a group united by ties such as those of which I have spoken.

Well, the growth of such a future is at least conceivable. The substance of some of the things I am going to say about its conception, and about the way by which that conception may become real, is as old as Plato. Yet the principles and facts to which I shall have to refer appear to me to be often overlooked by those to whom they might well appear obvious. Perhaps the reason is the deadening effect of that conventional atmosphere out of which few men in public life succeed in completely escaping. We can best assist in the freshening of that atmosphere by omitting no opportunity of trying to think rightly, and thereby to contribute to the fashioning of a more hopeful and resolute kind of public opinion. For, as someone has said, “L’opinion generale dirige l'autorite, quels qu’en soient les depositoires.”

The chance of laying before such an audience as this what was in my mind made the invitation which came from the Bar Association and from the heads of our great profession, both in Canada and in the United States, a highly attractive one. But before I could accept it I had to obtain the permission of my Sovereign; for, as you know, the Lord Chancellor is also Custos Sigilli, the Keeper of that Great Seal under which alone supreme executive acts of the British Crown can be done. It is an instrument he must neither quit without special authority, nor carry out of the realm. The head of a predecessor of mine, Cardinal Wolsey, was in peril because he was so daring as to take the Great Seal across the water to Calais, when he ought instead to have asked his Sovereign, to put it into commission.

Well, the Clavis Regni was on the present occasion put safely into commission before I left, and I am privileged to be here with a comfortable constitutional conscience. But the King has done more than graciously approve of my leaving British shores. I am the bearer to you of a message from him which I will now read:

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