Canada - The Tie That Binds
( Originally Published 1915 )
IT is easy to understand what binds the provinces into a confederation. They had to bind themselves into a unity with the British North America Act or see their national existence threatened by any band of settlers who might rush in and by a perfectly legitimate process of naturalization and voting set up self government. At the time of confederation such eminent Imperial statesmen as Gladstone and Labouchère seriously considered whether it would not be better to cut Canada adrift, if she wanted to be cut adrift. The difference between the Canadian provinces and the isolated Latin republics of South America illustrates best what the bond of confederation did for the Do-minion. The why and how of confederation is easy to understand, but what tie binds Canada to the Mother Country? That is a point almost impossible for an outsider to understand.
England contributes not a farthing to Canada. Canada contributes not a dime to England. Though a tariff against alien lands and trade concessions to her colonies would bring such prosperity to those colonies as Midas could not dream, England confers no trade favor to her colonial children. There have been times, indeed, when she discriminated against them by embargoes on cattle or boundary concessions to cement peace with foreign powers. Except for a slight trade concession of twenty to twenty five percent. on imports from England which, of course, helps the Canadian buyer as much as it helps the British seller Canada grants no favors to the Mother Country. In spite of those trade concessions to England, in 1918 for every dollar's worth Canada bought from England, she bought four dollars' worth from the United States.
Certainly, England sends Canada a Governor-General every four years ; but the Cabinet of England never appoints a Governor General to Canada till it has been unofficially ascertained from the Cabinet of the Dominion whether he will be persona grata. Canada gives the Governor-General fifty thousand dollars a year and some perquisites an emolument that can barely sustain the style of living expected and exacted from the appointee, who must maintain a small viceregal court. The Governor-General has the right of veto on all bills passed by the Canadian government ; and where an act might conflict with Imperial interests, he would doubtless exercise the right; but the veto power in the hands of the Imperial vicegerent is so rarely used as to be almost dead. Veto is avoided by the Governor-General working in close conference with the prevailing Cabinet, or party in power; and a party on the verge of enacting laws inimical to Imperial interests can be disciplined by dismissal from office, in which case the party must appeal to the country for reelection. That means time ; and time allows passion to simmer down; and an entire electorate is not likely to perpetrate a policy inimical to Imperial interests. In practice, that represents the whole, sole and entire power of England's representative in Canada a power less than the nod of a saloon keeper or ward boss in the civic politics of the United States. Officially, yes ; the signature of the Governor-General is put to commissions and appointments of first rank in the army and the Cabinet and the courts. In reality, it is a question if any Governor in Canada since confederation has as much as suggested the name of an applicant for office.
On the other hand, Canada's dependence on England is even more tenuous. Does a question come up as to the "twilight zone" of provincial and federal rights, it is settled by an appeal to the Privy Council. Suits from lower courts reversed by the Supreme Court of Canada can be appealed to England for decision; and in religious disputes as to schools as in the famous Manitoba School Case this right of appeal to Imperial decision has really been the door out of dilemma for both parties in Canada. It is a shifting of the burden of a decision that must certainly alienate one section of votes from the shoulders of the Canadian parties to an impartial Imperial tribunal.
If there be any other evidence of bonds in the tangible holding Canada to England and England to Canada I do not know it.
What, then, is the tie that binds colony to Mother Country? Tangible it is not; but real as life or death, who can doubt, when a self-governing colony voluntarily equips and despatches sixty thousand men —the choice sons of the land to be pounded into pulp in an Imperial war? 'Who can doubt the tie is real, when bishops' sons, bankers', lawyers', doctors', farmers', carpenters', teachers' and preachers' the young and picked heritors of the land clamor a hundred thousand strong to enlist in defense of England and to face howitzer, lyddite and shell? Why not rest secure under the Monroe Doctrine that forever forefends European conquest? It is something the outsider can not understand. President Taft could not understand it when his reciprocity pact was defeated in Canada partly because of his own ill-advised words about Canada drifting from United States interests.
Canada was not drifting from American interests. In trade and in transportation her interests are inter linking with the United States every day; but the point which President Taft failed to understand is: Canada is not drifting because she is sheet anchored and gripped to the Mother Country. We may like it or dislike it. We may dispute and argue round about. The fact remains, without any screaming or flag waving, or postprandial loyalty expansions of rotund oratory and a rotunder waist line Canada is sheet-anchored to England by an invisible, intangible, almost indescribable tie. That is one reason why she rejected reciprocity. That is why at a. colossal cost in land and subsidies and loans and guarantees of almost two billions, she has built up a transportation system east and west, instead of north and south. That is why for a century she has hewn her way through mountains of difficulty to a destiny of her own, when it would have been easier and more profitable to have cast in her lot with the United States.
What is the tie that binds? Is it the hope of an Imperial Federation, which shall bind the whole British Empire into such a world federation as now holds the provinces of the Dominion? Twenty years ago, if you had asked that, the answer might have been "Yes." Canada was in the dark financially and did not see her way out. If only the Chamberlain scheme of a tariff against the world, free trade within the empire, could have evolved into practical politics, Canada for purely practical reasons would have welcomed Imperial Federation. It would have given her exports a wonderful outlet. But today Imperial Federation is a deader issue in Canada than reciprocity with the United States. No more books are written about it. No one speaks of it. No one wants it. Na one has time for it. The changed attitude of mind is well illustrated by an incident on Parliament Hill, Ottawa, one day.
A Cabinet Minister was walking along the terrace above the river talking to a prominent public man of England.
"How about Imperial Federation?" asked the Englishman. "Do you want it?"
The Canadian statesman did not answer at once. He pointed across the Ottawa, where the blue shimmering Laurentians seem to recede and melt into a domain of infinitude. "Why should we want Imperial Federation?" he answered. "We have an empire the size of Europe, whose problems we must work out. Why should Canadians go to Westminster to legislate on a deceased wife's sister's bills and Welsh disestablishment and silly socialistic panaceas for the unfit to plunder the fit?"
It will be noticed that his answer had none of that fiunkeyism to which Goldwin Smith used to ascribe much of Canadian pro-loyalty. Rather was there a grave recognition of the colossal burden of helping a nation the area of Europe to work out her destiny in wisdom and in integrity and in the certainty that is built up only from rock bottom basis of fact.
Has flunkeyism any part in the proloyalty of Canada? Goldwin Smith thought it had, and we all know Canadians whose swelling lip-loyalty is a sort of Gargantuan thunder. It may be observed, parenthetically, those Canadians are not the personages who receive recognition from England.
"Sorry, Your Royal Highness, sorry ; but Canada is becoming horribly contaminated by Americanizing influences," apologized a pro-loyalist of the lip-flunkey variety to the Duke of Connaught shortly after that scion of royalty came to Canada as Governor.
The Duke of Connaught turned and looked the fussy lip-loyalist over. "What's good enough for Americans is good enough for me," he said.
An instance of the absence of flunkeyism from the Dominion's loyalty to the Mother Country occurred during the visit of the present King as Prince of Wales to the Canadian Northwest a few years ago. The royal train had arrived at some little western place, where a contingent of the Mounted Police was to act as escort for the Prince's entourage. The train had barely pulled in when a fussy little long coat tailed secretary flew john-Gilpin fashion across the station platform to a khaki trooper of the Mounted Police.
"His Royal Highness has arrived ! His Royal Highness has arrived," gasped the little secretary, almost apoplectic with self-importance. "Come and help to get the baggage off—"
"You go to ," answered the khaki-uniformed trooper, aiming a tobacco wad that flew past the little secretary's ear. "Get the baggage off yourself ! We're not here as porters. We're here to execute orders and we don't take'em from little damphool fussies like you."
Yet that trooper was of the company that made the Strathcona Horse famous in South Africa famous for such daring abandon in their charges that the men could hardly be held within bounds of official orders. He is of the very class of men who have forsaken gainful occupations in the West to clamor a hundred-thousand strong for the privilege of fighting to the last ditch for the empire under the rain of death from German fire.
"How can Canadians be loyal to a system of government that acknowledges some fat king sitting on a throne chair like a mummy as ruler?" demanded an American woman of a Canadian man.
"Well," answered the Canadian, "I don't know that any 'fat king' was ever quite so fat as a gentleman named Mammon who plays a pretty big part in the government of all republics." He drew a five-dollar bill from his pocket. "As a piece of paper that is utterly worthless," he explained. "It isn't even good wrapping paper. It's a promise to pay to deliver the goods, that gives it value. It's what the system of government stands for that rouses support not this, that, or the other man"
"But what does it stand for?" interrupted the American; and the Canadian couldn't answer. It roused and held his loyalty as if of family ties. Yet he could not define it.
He might have explained that Canada has had a system of justice since 1837 never truckled to nor trafficked in, but he knew in his heart that the loyalty was to a something deeper than that. He knew that many republics Switzerland, for instance have as impartial a system of justice. He might have descanted on the British North America Act being to Canada what the Constitution is to the United States, only more elastic, more susceptible to growth and changing conditions ; but he knew that the Constitution was what it was owing to this other principle of which law and justice were but the visible formula. He might easily have dilated on excellent features of the Canadian parliamentary system different from the United States or Germany. For instance, no party can hold office one day after it lacks the support of a majority vote. It must resign reins to the other party, or go to the country for re-election. Or he might have pointed to the very excellent feature of Cabinet Ministers sitting in the House and being directly responsible to Commons and Senate for the management of their departments to the expenditure of a farthing. A Cabinet member who may be quizzed to-day, tomorrow, every day in the week except Sun-day, on the management of affairs under him can never take refuge in ambiguous silence or behind the skirts of his chief, as secretaries delinquent have frequently taken refuge behind the spotless reputation of a too-confiding President. But the Canadian explained none of these things. He knew that these things were only the outward and visible formula of the principle to which he was loyal.
A few years ago the mistake would have been impossible ; for there was, up to 1900, practically no movement of settlers from the British Isles to Canada; but today with an enormous in-rush of British colonists to the Dominion, a superficial observer might ascribe the loyalty to the ties of blood to the fact that between 1900 and 1911, 685,067 British colonists flocked to Canada. Not counting colossal investments of British capital, there are today easily a million Britishers living on and drawing their sustenance from the soil of Canada. And yet, however unpalatable and ungracious the fact may be to Englishmen, the ties of blood have little to do with the bond that holds Canada to England. This statement will arouse protest from a certain section of Canadians ; but those same Canadians know there are hundreds yes, thousands of mercantile houses in the Dominion where employers practically put up the sign "No Englishman need apply."
"I've come to the point," said a wholesale hardware man of a Canadian city, "where I won't employ a man if he has a cockney accent. I've tried it hundreds of times, and it has always ended the same way. I have to break a cockney's neck before I can convince him that I know the way I want things done, and they have to be done that way. He is so sure I am 'ownley a demmed ke-lo-neal' that he is lecturing me on how I should do things before he is in my establishment ten minutes. I don't know what it is. It may be that coming suddenly to a land where all men are treated on an equality and not kicked and expected to doff caps in thanks for the insolence, they can't stand the free rein and not go locoed. All I know is-where I'll employ an Irishman, or a Scotchman, or a Yorkshire man, on the jump, I will not employ a cockney. I don't want to commit murder."
And that business man voiced the sentiment of multitudes from farm, factory and shop. I'll not forget, myself, the semi comic episode of rescuing an English woman from destitution and having her correct my Canadian expressions five minutes after I had given her a roof. She had referred to her experience as "jolly rotten"; and I had remarked that strangers sometimes had hard luck because "we Canadians couldn't place them," when I was roundly called to order by a tongue that never in its life audibly articulated an "h."
Before digging down to the subterranean springs of Canadian loyalty, we must take emphatic cognizance of several facts. Canada, while not a republic, is one of the most democratic nations in the world. Practically every man of political, financial or industrial prominence in Canada today came up by the shirt sleeve route in one generation. If there is an exception to this statement and I know every part of Canada almost as well as I know my own home I do not know it. Sifton, Van Horne, MacKenzie, Mann, Laurier, Borden, Foster, the late Sir John Macdonald all came up from penniless boyhood through their own efforts to what Canadians rate as success. I said "what Canadians rate as success." I did not say to affluence, for Canadians do not rate affluence by itself as success. Laurier, Foster, Sir John Macdonald each began as a poor man. Sifton began life as a penniless lawyer. Van Horne got his foot on the first rung of the ladder hustling cars for troops in the Civil War. MacKenzie of Canada Northern fame began with a trowel; Dan Mann with an ax in the lumber woods at a period when wages were a dollar and twenty-five cents a day ; Laurier with a lawyer's parchment and not a thing else in the world. Foster, the wizard of finance, taught his first finance in a schoolroom. And so one might go on down the list of Canada's great. Unless I am gravely mistaken the richest industrial leader of Ontario began life in a little bake shop, where his wife cooked and he sold the wares ; and the richest man in the Canadian West began with a pick in a mine. I doubt if there is a single instance in Canada of a public man whose family's security from want traces back prior to 1867.
But the richest are not rated the most successful in Canada. There is an untold and untenable tragedy here. There is many a city in Canada which has a Mr. Rich-Man's-Folly in the shape of a palatial house or castellated residence which failed to force open the portals of respect and recognition for himself. Folly Castle has been occupied in an isolation that was al-most quarantine. Why? Because its foundations were laid in some financial mud, which Canada never forgets and never forgives. Instances could be multi-plied of brilliant politicians retired to private life, of moneyed men who spent fortunes to buy a knighthood, a baronetcy, an earldom and died disappointed be-cause in early life they had used fiduciary funds or trafficked in politics. It may impart a seeming snobbery to Canadian life, an almost crude insolence; but it keeps a title from becoming the insignia of an en-vied dollar bill. It keeps men from buying what their conduct failed to win. It does more than anything else to keep down that envy of true success which is the curse of many lands. Canadian papers rarely trouble to chronicle whether a rich man wears the hair shirt of a troubled conscience, or the paper vest of a tight purse. They are not interested in him simply because he is rich. If he loots a franchise and unloads rotten stocks on widows and orphans and teachers and preachers, they call him a thief and send him to jail a convict. Three decades ago the premier's own nephew misused public funds. It could have been hushed by the drop of a hat or the wave of a hand. The party in power was absolutely dominant. The culprit was arrested at nine in the morning and sentenced to seven years in the penitentiary by six that day ; and he served the term, too, without any political wash to clear him. Instances are not Iacking of titled adventurers ostracized in Winnipeg and Montreal going to Newport and capturing the richest heiresses of the land. These instances are not mentioned in invidious self righteousness. They are mentioned purely to illustrate the underlying, unspoken difference in essential values.
Set down, then, two or three premises! Canada is under a monarchy, but in practice is a democratic country. Canada is absolutely impartial in her justice to rich and poor. Have we dug down to the fountain spring of Canadian loyalty? Not at all. These are not springs. They are national states of mind. These characteristics are psychology. What is the rock bottom spring? One sometimes finds the presence of a hidden spring by signs green grass among parched; the twist of a peach or hazel twig in answer to the presence of water ; the direction of the brook below. What are the signs of Canada's springs? Signs, remember; not proofs. Of proofs, there is no need.
Perfectly impartially, whether we like it or dislike it, without any argument for or against, let us set down Canadian likes and dislikes as to government. These are not my likes and dislikes. They are not your likes and dislikes. They are facts as to the Canadian people.
Canadians have no faith in a system of government, whether under a Turkish Khan or a Lloyd George Chancellor, which delegates the rule of a nation to butchers and bakers and candlestick-makers and "the dear people" fakers. They do not believe that a man who can not rule his own affairs well can rule the nation well. They regard government as a grave and sacred function, not as a grab bag for spoils. If a party makes good in power, they have no fear of leaving that party in power for term after term. The longer their premier is in office the more efficient they think he will become. They have no fear of the premier becoming a "fat" tyrannical king. Long as the party makes good, they consider it has a right to power; and that experience adds to competency. Instantly the party fails to make good, they throw it out independent of the length of its tenure of office.
Canadians do not believe that "I-am-as-good-as-you-are-and-a-little-better." They will accept the fact that "I-am-as-good-as-you-are" only when I prove it in brain, in brawn, in courtesy, in mental agility, in business acumen, in service in a word, in fact. They are comparatively untouched by the theoretical radicalism of the French Revolution, by the socialism of a Lloyd George, by the war of labor and capital. They are untouched by theory because they are so intent on fact. The "liberty, equality and fraternity" cry of the French Revolution they regard as so much hot air. Canadians since 1837 have had "liberty, equality, fraternity." Why rant about it? And when they didn't have it, they fought for it and went to the scaffold for it, and got it. The day's work that's all. Why posturize and theorize about platitudes? Canadians are not interested in the Lloyd George theory of the poor plundering the prosperous, because every man or woman who tries in Canada can succeed. He may hoe some long hard rows. Let him hoe ! It will harden flabby muscle and give backbone in place of jawbone ! Help the innocent children yes ! There is a child saving organization in every province. But if the adult will not try, let him die ! If he will not struggle to survive, let him die ! The sooner the better ! No theoretical parasites for Canada, nor parlor socialism! "Take off your coat! Roll up your shirt-sleeves ! Stop blathering ! Go to work!" says Canada.
"But I think—" protests the theorist.
"Thinks don't pass currency as coin. Go to work, and pass up facts," says Canada.
It may be objected that all this means the survival of the fit, the rule of the many by the few. That is exactly what it means. That is the fountain spring of Canada's national idea, whether we like it or hate it. That is the belief that binds Canada's loyalty to the monarchical idea though Canada would as soon call it the presidential idea as the monarchical idea.
She does not care what name you tag it by so long as she delegates to the selected and elected few the power to rule. She believes the selected few are better than the unwinnowed many as rulers. She would sooner have a mathematical school-teacher as finance minister than a saloon keeper or ward heeler. She believes that the rule of the select few is better than the rule of the thoughtless many. She delegates the right and power to rule to those few, lets them make the laws and bows to the laws as to the laws of God, as the best possible for the nation because they have been enacted by the best of her nation. If that best be bad, it is at least not so bad as the worst. She never says "Pah! What is law ! I made the law ! If it doesn't suit me, I'll break it. I am the law."
Canadians acknowledge they have delegated power to make law to men whom they believe superior to the general run. Therefore, they obey that law as above change by the individual. In other words, Canadians believe in the rule of the many delegated to the superior few. Those few do what they deem wise; not what the electorate tell them. They exceed instructions. They lead. They do not obey. But if they fail, they are thrown to the dogs without mercy, whether the tenure of office be complete or incomplete. It is the old Saxon idea of the Witenagemot the council of a few wise men ruling the clan.
There is the fountain spring of Canadian loyalty to the monarchical idea. It is not the fat king. It is not any king. It is what the insignificant personality called "king" stands for, like the five-dollar bill worth-less as wrapping paper but of value as a promise to deliver the goods.