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Title: Empire Partnership
Author: Dafoe, John Wesley
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                         _*By*_* JOHN W. DAFOE*

                           An Address to the
                   Imperial Press Conference, Ottawa
                            August 6th, 1920

[Illustration: Headpiece decoration]

                          *EMPIRE PARTNERSHIP*

On the afternoon of the second day of the conference a discussion on
Empire partnership was opened by Mr. J. W. Dafoe.

Mr. Dafoe: In opening this discussion I do not propose a resolution
because I do not claim to speak for anyone but myself, and those who
agree with me (laughter). Those of us who were privileged to be members
of the first Imperial Press Conference will remember that a somewhat
similar subject occupied a great deal of our time.  In fact, it occupied
two thirds of our time.  It is a significant fact, showing the change
that has taken place, that today we are discussing empire partnership
while eleven years ago the discussion turned upon empire defence. There
was a note of warning and apprehension running through all the
discussion at the first conference.  There was one word mentioned over
and over again—the word Armageddon.  In Lord Rosebery’s famous speech,
to which so many allusions have been made the word occurred, and Stanley
Reed of India, in arguing for unity of naval control, said that the
Armageddon of the world might be fought at Cape Horn.  He was not so far
astray, seeing what took place at the battle fought later near the
Falkland Islands. Mr. Balfour was still more accurate as a prophet when
he said that the naval Armageddon would be fought in the waters of the
British Islands. (hear, hear.) But among the prophetic speeches made at
that conference that of Lord Roberts’ took first place.  I made a
reference to this the other day.  Since then I have looked up Lord
Roberts’ words. He followed Mr. Haldane, as he was then, who said that
the plans which were in process of completion would guarantee the empire
a strong defence in twenty years.  Lord Roberts said that he thought
twenty months would be more in order, and he used this language: "A shot
fired in the Balkan peninsula might produce an explosion which would
change the fortunes of every remotest colony of our empire."  That was
the most remarkable example of prophecy that the conference could have
produced (hear, hear). Many other speakers at the first conference felt
in view of the imminence of the danger and its gravity that the time had
arrived for formal engagements with regard to measures of defence and
the creation of machinery to bring that defence into action, and more
than one resolution of this character was submitted to the conference.
They were not, however, forced to a vote because there were others who
held contrary views, who believed that the policy was not in harmony
with the evolutionary trend of events in the British empire and that the
methods proposed were not of a practicable character.  That view simply
reflected similar differences of opinion throughout the empire.  In all
the dominions there were two well defined groups in reference to the
question of imperial organization.  One was the school of Burke, who
placed very little reliance on forms and a great deal of reliance on
spiritual ties and the bonds of blood.  The other might be called the
school of Hamilton who held that sentiment was very well but not very
practical unless set forth categorically as obligations, with some
agency available for their immediate application.  So there was no
decision reached by the first conference.  The discussion between these
two views went on in this particular dominion with a great deal of
acrimony, and the most desperate parliamentary struggle that this
building (the Canadian House of Commons) ever saw was waged over that
principle.  This went on until the voices of the disputants were drowned
by the drum beats calling the armies to the field.

The war settled one thing at the very outset.  The Germans knew all
about the British empire.  They were a practical people, a hard-headed
people who believed nothing that they could not measure and handle, and
they regarded the British empire as a political anachronism, a hoary
imposture. Here was a supposed empire yet there was no Emperor barking
at the colonies and no colonies goose-stepping in awe before the
All-Highest (applause).  It was quite obvious to them that at the
slightest touch of the mailed fist, the whole empire would dissolve. So
they applied the mailed fist.  We are here from all parts of the empire,
and we all tell the same story of what happened on August 4th, 1914
(applause). We saw all these invisible and intangible ties become bonds
of steel and adamant, that held us one and indivisible through the
unimaginable strain of the great war. There was never any flinching
throughout the great struggle.  The war is over not quite two years; and
already the lessons of Gallipoli and Flanders are growing dim to some.
Because the bonds that bind can no longer be visualized as marching
armies there are those who are actually worrying lest the peoples of the
empire may drift apart.

As the war proceeded statesmen of the empire met from time to time and
made what were regarded as decisions of great moment, affecting the
imperial policy and the future of the British Commonwealth. But what
they did was to meet and take cognizance of decisions that had already
been made by events.  In this class we might put the resolution of the
imperial war cabinet in April, 1917, which will always be regarded as a
great landmark in the constitutional development of the British empire.
The meaning of the resolution is perfectly plain. But if there was any
doubt about it, General Smuts who, I imagine, was the joint drafter of
the resolution, though it was moved at the conference by Sir Robert
Borden, made its meaning clear; yet it was accepted with complete
unanimity.  In the following year there were two very remarkable
applications of the doctrine laid down in that resolution. One was the
virtual creation—it is a matter of record—in the summer of 1918 of an
imperial council of safety and defence, which was made up of the
premiers of the British nations and of no one else.  The other was the
conference between the overseas members of the imperial cabinet and the
admiralty, followed by the declaration of naval policy by the dominions,
which was an amplification and expression of the general imperial policy
which had been decided the previous year.

Then came the Peace Conference, where the dominions asked for and
obtained representation. That carried in its train a large number of
consequences of the first order. So far as Canada was concerned—I do not
know whether the same practice was followed in other Dominions—our
representatives in Paris were appointed by the King as Canadian
plenipotentiaries on the authority of an order-in-council passed by the
Dominion Government.  Attendance at the conference implied the signing
of the peace treaty by representatives of the dominions.  This carried
with it the necessity of the Dominion parliamentary approval before
Canada was subject to it and it carried with it as well the necessity of
our entering into the League of Nations in full membership, with all
that that meant in modification and change in our international
relations (hear, hear).  I was in London, attached to the Canadian
delegation, when the momentous decision to ask for representation at the
conference was made, and I do not imagine that the future was altogether
foreseen as to the very great consequences that followed from that
decision. But the dominion premiers had no alternative. It was a case
where the decision had been made by events.  When the conference met in
Paris to make peace and to provide for a future world which would be
better than the one which had been broken to pieces by the war it was
out of the question that the great British Dominions should make a
fugitive and intermittent appearance in the conference chamber, to which
relatively insignificant nations belonged as of right (hear, hear). The
war had shown that we were nations not in name, but in fact, because no
country which was not a nation animated by a determination to maintain
its institutions intact could have achieved what we achieved in Canada,
and what Australia achieved and what New Zealand achieved (hear, hear).
Our entrance into the peace conference was not the result of the
deliberations of statesmen, but was the recognition of a state of
affairs which had been brought about by the great war.

As a result of these decisions and changes a general principle has
emerged which governs all imperial relations between the self-governing
British nations.  That is the principle that the British countries are
nations of equal status, joined in a partnership of consent (applause).
Equality does not permit of qualification.  You are equal or you are
not.  The next step which I presume will be taken by the constitutional
conference when it meets shortly will be to make that equality a matter
of formal affirmation.  I believe—and if I had time I think that I could
give very powerful reasons for that belief—that it is desirable that
that definition should be made with the least possible delay. I read a
speech recently by General Smuts, who, in difficult circumstances, is
fighting the battle for empire in the hottest corner of the British
empire at present, in which he said that the need for this formal change
was vital and pressing, and I imagine he knew what he was speaking
about.  I could, I think, demonstrate that we can not go forward with
any large schemes of co-operation until the present somewhat indefinite
status is cleared up and replaced by an understanding which will make
clear not only to ourselves but to the outside world that the British
empire is a partnership of nations of equal status united in a
partnership of consent (applause).

It might be said that these decisions which have been made meant the
victory of one school of imperial thought over the other, but as I have
tried to make clear I do not think that men consciously were responsible
for these decisions.  The complexity of circumstances, the exigencies of
the war, political expediency, what could be done, and what could not be
done, in a word, Destiny, simply vindicated the principles which had
been enunciated by Burke with matchless lucidity as those which for this
generation were the principles which should be applied. I know very well
that there are people who are disturbed in their minds about this. They
are people for whom I have the greatest admiration.  They are devoted to
British institutions; but they cannot get it out of their minds that if
we are free to separate we will separate, though no formula could keep
us together if we wanted to separate (hear, hear).  That is the kernel
at the heart of the whole question.  These people say, "If it is a
partnership by consent what will happen if that consent ceases..."  Of
course, if the consent ceases no constitution could keep us together.
They think that the condition of dependence, which is our condition,
should be continued; they are quite unable to realize that the true
alternative to this status is not independence but interdependence
(applause). I ask these people to look at some pages in our own history
to quiet these apprehensions. Canada solved the constitutional problems
and fought the battle of self-government for all the British dominions,
and the most significant period in imperial history is covered by the
ten years in Canada which began with Lord Durham’s report, and ended
with the instructions which were issued by the Colonial Office to Lord
Elgin when he came to Canada as governor-general. The constitutional
documents covering those ten years throw a strong and encouraging light
on this problem which we are now considering.

The difficulty at that time was the difficulty arising from the
application of responsible government.  Lord Durham, who was the author
of the phrase "responsible government," recommended responsible
government, and the British Government conceded it in principle under
the Act of 1840.  But when it came to the practical application they
flinched at the issue, and they had strong support from a very
influential body of opinion in Canada, who represented the very best
classes of the people, but who happened to be quite wrong on this
particular question, though they were quite sure that they were right.
I think that it is the people who have all along been perhaps suspect in
their imperialism who have kept the British empire together.  The
objection of the British government to responsible government was put in
a form which could not be answered and never has been answered—How can a
British governor be responsible and obedient to a locally elected
legislature if its policy should differ from the policy of the imperial
government which he represents?  There was no answer logically and when
finally, after ten years of turmoil, the British government threw up its
hands and sent Lord Elgin out here with instructions, not as in the case
of his predecessors not to recognize responsible government, but to
accept it in its fullest terms, it was accepted in England as a matter
of course that it was the prelude to the early separation of Canada from

Sir Wilfred Laurier, in a speech on imperial questions, said that the
attitude of Canada towards England, say from 1850, for the next twenty
years, was the attitude of Ruth: "Entreat me not to leave thee."  Those
were the days when a Prime Minister of England in the House of
Commons—Lord John Russell—took great credit to himself because in making
the colonies—and he was referring specially to Canada—fit for
independence England would have the consolation of saying that she had
contributed to the happiness of the world. Lord Elgin, who was
Governor-General of Canada at the time, wrote a letter in which he made
some very satirical remarks about this statement saying, "Wherefore this
foreboding?  I should be led to imagine that the prospect of these
sucking democracies, after they had drained their old mother’s life
blood, leaving her in the lurch and setting up as rivals just at the
time when their increasing strength might render them a support instead
of a burden, is one of the most cheering which has of late presented
itself to the English imagination" (laughter).  Those were the days when
Disraeli wrote to the Foreign Secretary, "These wretched
colonies"—looking at Canada all the time—"will all be independent in a
few years and are a millstone round our necks" (laughter).  Those were
the days when the permanent head of the Colonial Office addressed a
letter to the Duke of Newcastle, who had just returned from a tour of
Canada as the confidential adviser of the Prince of Wales, who had come
to Canada and been received with marks of loyal regard. Sir Henry Taylor
writes to the Duke of Newcastle—"As to our American possessions I have
long held and often expressed the opinion that they are a sort of
_damnosa hereditas_; and when your Grace and the Prince of Wales were
employing yourselves so successfully in conciliating the colonists I
thought you were drawing closer ties which might better be slackened if
there were any chance of their slipping away altogether."  Sixty years
after that another Prince of Wales came to Canada; the ties had not
slackened much in the meantime, though we had had responsible government
all the time and self-government had been widening all these years

What are the considerations which make for the unity of the empire...
Every influence that operated in August, 1914, is in full vigor today.
All those spiritual ties, the common flag, the common language and
literature and laws Which we had in August, 1914, we have still.  This
is the morrow of the war.  We are all exhausted by the strain and labors
of the terrible sacrifice and there is a temptation to disparage what
the war meant to us, but no one who has any imagination or any knowledge
of human nature or has read history with discernment can question that
the result of such a war, fought for such a cause, won by the valor of
citizen soldiers must mean a permanent enrichment of all the basic
qualities of citizenship, and must permanently reinforce the foundations
upon which the commonwealth rests (applause).  Those memories of the war
are common to us all.  Therefore all we had before the war in the way of
sentiment and spiritual ties are enormously strengthened today.  We
have, therefore, the heritage of the past and the common sacrifice of
the present to unite us.  More than that we have the common aspirations
of the future (hear, hear).

I know that it is rather the custom to speak of the war now as simply a
great catastrophe and to say that the world is as it was before the war
only worse; but I believe that looking back through the perspective of
the years we shall see that the war was a great turning point in human
history; and does mean a definite break in the old order.  The
characteristic of the old order which I believe is passing away, though
it has not passed away and is dying hard, was the aggrandisement of
peoples, nations, in a military sense or in a commercial sense.  It was
the nation which was first and everything was for the glory of the
nation and those persons who were more intimately connected with its
government.  The new order is for the enlargement of individual life,
and the bettering of the life of the common people of whom Lincoln said
that the Lord must love them since He made so many of them; and this
common ideal by which the British dominions are animated will give us a
new bond of union which will reinforce those historic ties which have
proved their enduring worth.

In a future dedicated to such tasks can we not count upon the friendship
and co-operation of that great sister-nation kindred to ourselves, with
the same blood-strains, who are of us by virtue of their past and of
their common sacrifice in the defence of Anglo-Saxon civilization?  In
the ampler air of the new day the break in the historic continuity of
their association with the kindred English-speaking nations will appear
a very little thing; and the fact that they express their national views
and policies in different form of government, a matter of no consequence
at all.  May we not then hope that in the society of English-speaking
nations, in whose solidarity the hopes of the race and perhaps the
future of the world are bound up, an honored place may be found by the
side of the Motherland, now first among equals, for the great Republic
of the United States of America.

[Illustration: Flag]

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