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THE KINGDOM PAPERS NO. 1.
(In order to draw attention to the purpose for which quotations are employed,
SOME OME differences of opinion are radical, fundamental and irremovable. Argument upon them is useless, and controversy harmful. Many other differences are mere misunderstandings. They are not real, but only seeming differences; and all that is needed for agreement is patience, intelligence, and clear statement-principally the last of these. In which of these classes of cases is the subject of Canadian Nationalism? Is disagreement as to it fundamental and irremovable; or is difference of opinion due to misunderstanding and confusion of thought?
I am a Canadian nationalist.
I may be doing you injustice, but I shall assume that a majority of you are not-that you would call yourselves imperialists. And the question that I wish to discuss is, whether there is any substantial difference between us? Or, perhaps, the better question would be: Is there any reason why an imperialist should not be a Canadian nationalist? I am firmly persuaded that there is no such reason. And I feel certain that, if I can but clearly state the case, you will all agree with me. I do not mean that I shall be able to persuade any imperialist to abandon his desire for imperial federation or any other form of imperial political union; but I do believe that I can offer good reasons why such desire should not, meanwhile, be permitted to obstruct Canada's upward progress to nationalism. At all events, I shall urge nothing dogmatically. All that I ask is careful consideration of what I shall submit to you.
(a) The substance of this paper was delivered as a lecture in February, 1911, before the Canadian Clubs at London, Brantford, Hamilton and Kingston; the Women's Club at Kingston; and the Political Economy class at Queen's College.
And first let me point out that we are all learning to speak— and to speak with pride-of Canada as a "nation." We do not like the word "colony." It connotes subordination, and subjection, and humiliation. We do not like that. We feel that we are big enough to manage our own affairs. Moreover we do manage them, without interference from anybody. "Canada is no longer a colony. Canada is a nation"; that language is, I say, becoming not only common but acceptable. And I submit to you that every man is a Canadian nationalist who asserts, with pride, that Canada is, or ought to be, a nation.
Now, probably, there is not a man in this room who would send Canada back to her colonial days; who would tolerate the exercise of controlling authority by our Governors-General; who would receive with submission, or accept without resentment, any appearance of dictation from the Colonial Office. Every one of you is in favor of Canadian self-government. Everyone is in favor of Canada being a nation. Well, that is what I call Canadian nationalism. At the close of an address which I had the honor of delivering before the Canadian Club in Halifax, an ardent imperialist, in moving a vote of thanks, dissented vigorously from the idea of Canadian independence, but added that he was entirely in favor of self-government. "If," he said, "there is any minutest particular in which our powers of self-government are not complete, let us insist upon having it." In reply, I pointed out that the speaker and I were in absolute accord. He advocated complete self-government; and that, of course, is independence. The two words "self-government” and "independence" mean precisely the same thing.
The Halifax gentleman and I cordially agreed that in all matters-in every matter, great or small, the Canadian people shall govern the Canadian people-our parliaments, elected by our electors, and not the British parliament elected by other electors, shall make our laws and regulate our actions. Would it not be, in the last degree, absurd that Canadian affairs should be included in the medley of House-of-Lords, Home-Rule, Dis-establishment, Licensing, Education, Land-taxation questions that at the present time are being submitted to the British and Irish electors? I need not dwell upon the point. I feel sure that, as to it, there is not a dissentient in the audience.
But there are three qualifications which must, for the present at least, accompany what I have been saying:-(1) As a matter of theory and dry constitutional law, we cannot say that we possess complete powers of self-government. Nominally, the British Parliament has authority not only to override all our laws, but, if it so
wish, to cancel our constitution and abolish all our parliaments. Such authority is, however, purely nominal. It is of the same character as the King's theoretic right to veto bills passed by the British parliament a right that practically does not exist. (2) Our constitution being a British statute, we cannot amend it. Amendments are made, however, from time to time, at our request and according to our desires. Practically we have control. (3) Our jurisdiction is limited to the extent of our territory. That is, of course, very largely true of all other nations, but there are some technical points of difference between us and the United Kingdom in this respect. Such points, are, however, outside the scope of ordinary legislation. Really, and indubitably, Canada's power of self-government is complete and indisputable. No one imagines that, constitutionally, she can, in any way, be interfered with.
Now I am perfectly aware that some of you, a very few of you, I should think, will not readily accept this conclusion. I must therefore, elaborate the idea and follow it into its details, before I can expect unanimous assent to it. For this purpose, let me divide the subject, and enquire more minutely into the nature of our present constitutional position.
In the first place, I suggest to you that we are fiscally independent. By that I mean that we make our own tariffs; that we frame them as we wish; that we tax British, and other goods as we please; and that neither the Colonial Office nor the British parliament has any right whatever to interfere. That, of course was not always the case. Until the middle of the last century our tariffs were made for us, and they were made not in our interest but in the interest of the United Kingdom, as is the Indian tariff to-day. Our trade was a British monopoly from which other nations were excluded. Our raw material went to but one market. Our purchases of manufactures were made in England, and not elsewhere, no matter what the difference in cost. No ships but British ships entered our ports.
The advent of free-trade in the United Kingdom ended the prohibitions, and we commenced (1859) the regulation of our own tariffs. Naturally enough, the British manufacturer did not like our methods, and the Colonial Office intervened and threatened to disallow our statute. The threat brought plucky reply from the Canadian Government:
"Self-government would be utterly annihilated if the views of the Imperial Government were to be preferred to those of the people of Canada. It is, therefore, the duty of the present government distinctly to affirm the right of the Canadian legislature to adjust the taxation of the people in the way they deem best, even if it should unfortunately happen to meet the disapproval
of the Imperial Ministry. Her Majesty cannot be advised to disallow such acts, unless her advisers are prepared to assume the administration of the affairs of the colony, irrespective of the views of its inhabitants." (Can. Sess. Papers,
1860, No. 38.)
Again in 1879, when Sir John A. Macdonald's "National Policy" was adopted, and additional duties were placed upon British manufactures, came suggestions of intervention. But these assumptions of right to interfere with the Canadian tariff have completely disappeared, and Canada is to-day, admittedly and undoubtedly, fiscally independent.
Canada is also legislatively independent. In former times her statutes were freely disallowed by the Colonial Office (a). Interference gradually became less frequent, but it was not until within the last twelve months that we succeeded in obtaining the removal of the embargo upon our legislation respecting copyright. That was the last subject with respect to which the British parliament retained control over us, and it was a control maintained for no better reason than British dread of offending the United States. That country refused us copyright of our writings in their territory, unless we set the type of our books in their printing offices. We wished to retaliate, and the Colonial Office would not permit us to do so. American books were fabricated entirely in the United States, and copyright in Canada was obtained, by sending two copies to Stationers' Hall in London. That was, and is, absurdly unfair. Canadian remonstrance (urged most strongly by Sir John Thompson in 1888) has at last been successful; and a bill is now being passed at Ottawa, with the assent of the British Government, assuming jurisdiction over the subject. That was the last of our very many struggles for legislative independence. We now have it in unquestioned plentitude. No one disputes it.
We have fiscal independence, and legislative independence; and we have also executive independence. Originally our Governors were executive agents of the Colonial Office. Now, our Governors stand in the same relation to Sir Wilfrid, as the King stands to Mr. Asquith. As late as 1875, our Governor-General asserted a right to exercise his discretion as to the disallowance of provincial legislation, and also as to the pardoning of prisoners. Still more recently, Lord Minto claimed certain personal authority in connection with
(a) Mr. Keith, (of the Colonial Office) in his book "Responsible Government in the Dominions," (p. 3) says:
"The control exercised over colonial enactments by Downing Street was minute and irritating its extent may be judged that in the years from 1836 to 1864, of which about twenty fall in the period of self-government, no fewer than 341 Bills were reserved under the Royal Instructions, in the North American Colonies alone, and forty-seven of these Bills, for one reason or another, never received the Royal Assent at all."