Open main menu

The Empire Club of Canada and its Ideal of Imperialism


Opening address by the Rev. Professor William Clark, D.D., D.C.L., LL.D., delivered at the Weekly Luncheon of the Club, on December 3rd, 1903.

MR. PRESIDENT,--Before beginning the very few words which I wish to address to this meeting today, I think I cannot do otherwise than congratulate you as our President on the splendid turnout of members, and I think it is the happiest augury for the success and future influence of the Club that we could wish for. When I saw it announced in the newspapers that a club was to be formed with the principles which you have adopted, I at once wrote and asked that I might be placed as a candidate for membership. You were good enough, not only to admit me to the Club, but to make me Vice-President, and you have given me the additional privilege of addressing the Club today.

I can quite understand that to many persons the formation of a club of this kind will seem a very little thing. A number of gentlemen come together for lunch and to listen to one of their members, or some distinguished guest, address them, and this does not seem a very important matter. I am not of that opinion. I have not the least doubt that this Club will become of great influence and power in this Dominion, because it is founded upon a distinct and well understood and realized principle, namely, that the highest interests of the Dominion of Canada are identical with the interests of the British Empire. It is sometimes said, in reply to those who are exalting Canada and speaking of Canada First, that they are forgetting the Empire. We know better than that.

Certainly there are some, but they are very few indeed, among us who can look forward with equanimity to separation from the Mother Country. This is supposed to mean either Independence or else absorption by our neighbours in the United States. But I think, Sir, there is only one alternative, not two. I think most reflecting persons are convinced that an attempt at separation would probably come to an end in a very speedy absorption. I do not seek to belittle the great Republic alongside of us. We are proud of them as our own children. All their great institutions have been borrowed from our own. All their history is a continuance of our history, and we regard those who belong to that country as our friends. I, for one, certainly have no fault to find with them. I have received honours in the United States, more than I have been entitled to, so that it would be most ungrateful for me to say anything unkind about them. But that is all very well. You may be on very good terms with your neighbours without having them live in your house or you living in theirs; and just as I esteem one of my neighbours, so in the same way I esteem and respect the United States without desiring to be one of them.

I do not know, indeed, what we could gain by Annexation. Were we to break our own history in two we should not find ourselves at home and, with regard to the privileges connected with the United States, I do not imagine there are any of them which we do not possess ourselves. We have the most perfect liberty. Supposing we have Independence, what liberty could we have greater than that now possessed? What could we gain? We certainly should not increase our dignity, nor should we rise to a more dignified position among the countries of the world than we now occupy as a part of a great Empire. And, Sir, when we think of the countries from which we came, the two blessed ones, and think of the sacred soil on which our forefathers toiled and laboured and fought, and achieved such results as have never been seen in any other lands, I think we should think once, twice and thrice before we break asunder the bonds by which we are united.

It is, Sir, a great race from which we came, or rather two great races, for I must protest that the way men speak of us as Anglo-Saxons is very imperfect and inadequate. We are not Anglo-Saxon simply, but Anglo-Celtic in origin. When you think that we have in our people the great and generous Englishman, the energetic Scotchman and the genial Irishman united as one, I think we should be proud to have such an origin to look back upon and I, for one, would be greatly grieved to think that we should cut ourselves off from such an ancestry. I think, Sir, it is very difficult for us to say which of these great peoples has the chief claim upon our homage. Each one will probably think of his own nationality; but one must always remember the Irishman who, when asked what he would have been had he not been an Irishman, replied that he would have been ashamed of himself.

However, Canadians do not enter upon these subjects in any spirit of rivalry, nor in any spirit of antagonism. We are simply based upon our own foundation, and will carry on our work; but as I said before, when we look back upon our nationality, we are not going to cut ourselves off from the great country of our origin. No, Sir. There is no history in the world upon which the eye of man can rest with the same satisfaction as upon the history of the three Kingdoms in the past.

I dare say a critical eye may detect errors in us. A French writer has put it excellently when he said that we have all the defects of our qualities. I dare say we have defects. I dare say the Englishman may occasionally become a little bumptious, the Scotchman conceited and the Irishman a trifle vain; these are the defects of their qualities. But, Sir, I say come back and think of the history of England, for example. See what a splendid civilization it has developed. See what opportunities it has secured to us; see what excellent government we have enjoyed. But it is sufficient to mention these things without dwelling upon them. Remember, there is no land on earth that has such liberty as Great Britain and her dependencies. Why, poor Max O'Rell, who died the other day, proclaimed in London and in Paris and in New York that no country was really like England for liberty. Well, Sir, I am perfectly certain that you have shown your respect for yourself and respect for your country, and have done well for the British Empire, by the formation of this Empire Club, and I am greatly mistaken if this action will not help to solidify and strengthen the sentiment of loyal adhesion to the Empire, which I think it our duty to secure by any means within our power.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).