Montreal Daily Star, 17 November 1900, page 5

Canada’s Loyalty to Britain: A Careful Study in Causes by the Duke of Argyll

Why does it grow stronger rather than weaker as the years go by?

9th Duke of Argyll, photo from Wikipedia.

The Empire is no longer a geographical expression. It lives and moves and has being. Men doubter, and now they doubt no longer. For the first time in all history, a parent [illegible] has seen her sons, who successful builders of new states, throw themselves of their own free will into her quarrel, making it their own. They have watched how in one of the colonies, foreign influence has been working against the welfare of a community like their own. They have deliberately judged from their own experience it is not good for that colony or for themselves as constituent parts of the Empire, that the great experiment of nation-building should be marred or destroyed in South Africa. They have known among themselves how false is the theory or sentiment that racial differences should be crystallized into effective national governments. Free institutions are the solvents of racial eccentricities of seclusion, of partial privileges and unwholesome ambitions. They have proved, by union among themselves, that new nations can only grow where tolerance and a power of adoption and the reception of new ideas co-exist. They have in some instances gone through trials of great severity before they learned this truth. The blessings they have derived from their knowledge they have determined shall be gained in South Africa. Even if their ministers had for a long while held back, doubtful as many cautious statesmen are of entering upon a great experiment before knowing the mind of their constituents, they could not hesitate except for a moment. They will of the peoples was instantly declared with a determination which no popular government could have resisted, even if they had been as they were not, desirous to do so. From New Zealand, from Australia, from Canada, came the message, uttered as with one voice, “in the danger menaced Great Britain’s Empire through the peril affecting a great colony, we are with the Motherland, and with the loyalists in that colony. We will aid in removing the evil. We will [illegible] the action of the parent state, we are at her side and our blood shall seal with hers the young liberties of the country we hope to see with ourselves; a free dominion under our Queen.” Never was there conflict more grand in its immediate result. What ever the future may give, however blighted may the hopes of this hour, the grandeur of the desire to spread constitutional liberty as forth shown by our colonies, can never be darkened. The fairest hopes of nations as of men may miscarry, but it will ever be an encouragement to trust in the world’s progress that loyalty to freedom, and advancement has been the Empire’s watchword in the closing year of this century. “Loyalty to Freedom”—yes. That is the loyalty of Canada. She is the oldest of those peoples who have wrought for order and liberty among themselves, and have won by their own work what they have sought. It is because the British Government have left them free to build their new nation that they have fought for another kindred nation’s birth. This loyalty is allegiance to no government that does not stand as the champion of what they know to be liberty. They have not looked in vain to their old “home” for such championship. They have carried to their new lands the forms of procedure and legislation of law which they had at “home.” They are no fugitives from any rule: they are the apostles of the authority they knew and loved. This can be said of no other emigrants of any land or time. Others have fled from laws they found distasteful or oppressive, and have therefore not carried with them as household gods the institutions they were glad or content to leave behind them. It has been otherwise with us. New York and New Scotland and New South Wales did not want to have a renovated set of institutions, but desired the old to flourish in the new soils christened by the ancient names. Constitutional liberty was to flourish on lands where a wide area could be attained for desires common to those who stayed and those who went. The faults of the eighteenth century were as dead as Julius Caesar. The colonies had become strong enough to prove that they required no leading strings. They were strong enough to know they could give good value for the naval and military aid this grand old country had been ever ready to accord to them. They saw that she would be hard put to it should the jealousy of foreign powers tempt them to assist an attempt to bring under a strange flag a great part of a sister colony’s territory. They disliked the conceit and racial inclusiveness which made the secessionists of Dutch descent attempt to set up a separate nationality, holding British law and institutions as not good enough for them. They saw that a separate small nationality halfway between the Zambesi and the Cape blocking progress, was a thing that might enlist the sympathy of gallant individuals, but could not warp the judgment of statesmen in its favour. Such a state would always be trying to make itself important as it profession of independence prompted it to be and would inevitably mar the welfare of the larger area which should be under one government, working for the welfare of the whole. The new wine was bursting the old Dutch bottle. If the old bottle had the Old Testament in its favour, as its president declared, the New Testament had better texts for the hospitality and generous spirit of the new wine. The great colonists liked the demands for equal rights put forward for the Outlanders. They disliked the avoidance by the Boers. They disliked yet more the Boer declaration of war against the British to foster obsolete privilege. They said “this is a war that concerns all who practice freedom in government. We fight with England.” And then came the spectacle which stands alone as a world wonder. Volunteers begged to be enrolled, not in scores, but by thousands. Men occupying peaceful and profitable places in civil life, but enrolled in the Canadian and other militia, offered their services to sail 7000 or 10 000 miles to fight on the veldt for the Queen’s authority in Africa. Only a small representation from each enrolled regiment was taken, though in very many cases throughout the Canadian provinces, whole companies, and more on each battalion desired to go. A fine body of infantry selected from every province, three excellent batteries of artillery, and a force of cavalry unique not only for the efficiency of its men, but also because its equipment was the gift of a patriotic Canadian. Lord Strathcona, was the continent sent by the British North American Dominion. Had more been wanted, more would have gone. And when they arrived at the Cape, eager to take part in the warfare at the front, they were necessarily for a time obliged to guard communications and undergo the drudgery inseparable from all good work, but doubly hard to bear when comrades are reaping the harvest of battle and glory at the front. But the opportunity came before long to show of what metal they were made, and at Paardeberg led to the surrender of Cronje’s force, was led by the gallant son of the speaker of the Canadian House of Commons, Captain Pelletier. A worthy descendant of an ancient French stock, the bravest among the brave, he and his comrades were ready to lay down their lives for the former government which they knew at home as the outcome of freedom known of old to Norman and British ancestors, and enjoyed by their race in the England they colonized, as well in England’s Canadian colony. Colonel Otter, a most experienced and gallant officer, commanded the Dominion infantry. Colonel Drury, and old friend of mine of a New Brunswick English descent, was chief of the artillery, one of the batteries of which arm took part in Mahon’s wonderful march to the relief of Mafeking. At the Colonial Exhibition, I remember an old lady saying “How proud the Queen must be to think that all these countries belong to her.” The old lady was right in thinking that the Queen personally holds the hearts and allegiance of all. But she was mistaken if she thought that her British Governors could claim ownership. No, the great colonies have received and do receive Britain’s full support. They in turn are ready to give their aid. But it is on no basis of legal allegiance, because such cannot exist between grown-up son and parent. It is in free alliance, based on common advantage, the more to be fostered and cherished on account of love and historic sentiment, and common use of institutions, that the connection exists. The colonies belong to Great Britain only as Great Britain belongs to the colonies. It is the interest of the parent state to have these strong young men guard her doors and give no harbour to her enemies. It is the young states’ interest to keep their shores inviolate by the aid of the British navy, and their treasuries supplied by the confidence of British capitalists. Canada has more people than England in the days of Elizabeth. She has more than had the United States when they declared independence. More tonnage passes the Canadian main canal at the east of Lake Superior than passes the Suez Canal. Australia is following fast in Canada’s wake in population and prosperity. These are not states from whom allegiance can be exacted, or loyalty demanded save as loyalty comes from pride in common ancestry, in heart-hatred of the baser forms of government, in love of the glorious traditions of our history, in resolve to keep united whose union means freedom and progress, and a common effort toward one splendid ambition, namely one liberty, one grand civilization, one flag, one empire, that shall keep for its members the laws they themselves are ready to maintain by preference in peace, and in necessity by war.


[John Campbell, 9th Duke of Argyll, also known as the Marquess of Lorne, and former Governor General to Canada 1878-1883]