Friday, July 04, 2008

Lord Tweedsmuir On the Potential that Was

... But if Canada has the vigour of youth, she has also the balance and the just perspective of maturity. She is an integrated nation, united long ago by her own act, and with her unity riveted and compacted by partnership in the enterprises of peace and the sacrifices of war. And from Britain and France she draws the same tradition--that great Mediterranean tradition of Greece and Rome, which I believe to be the basis of civilisation. She is no rootless people, deriving a fickle inspiration from transient fashions, but a nation broad-based upon the central culture of mankind. She has her own proud heritage and she is loyal to it, for the first of virtues in a people or an individual is loyalty to what they know and love. That I hope and believe is the prime quality of our Empire and of all its constituent parts.

Canada has completed her pioneering stage, her romantic adolescence. Yes, but she has still pioneering before her as difficult as any in the past, and adventures not less fateful. The world to-day is one vast laboratory of new experiments. Every problem is changing and requires a fresh analysis. The quality of a nation will be tested by its power of facing novel situations with clear eyes and steady nerves. The peril--and, make no mistake, there is a very real peril--the peril for the world lies in a light-headedness which is content to be flippant and cynical and destructive, and a timidity which makes men forget their manhood and rush in panic to any shelter.

The courage to construct, the insistence that every man shall be able to stand on his own feet and be the master of his soul--these things mean the defence of true democracy. For it is democracy, the very essence of our political faith, that is at issue. The modern State is such a complex affair that there are many people who have come to believe that it cannot be administered on the old line of personal freedom. They say that freedom is inconsistent with efficiency. We have seen proud nations lose heart and surrender themselves to a dictator. It is for us to show a better way, to prove to the world that civilisation has twin foundations, and that, if one of them is law, the other is liberty.

I have said that the task before Canada to-day is more fateful and more vital than that struggle by which she first came into being. Then she was fighting for her bare existence. Now she is assisting to preserve our hard-won civilisation. She has to win back prosperity for herself, and in so doing she has to help to stabilise the world. For I firmly believe that the task of restoring a slightly lunatic world to sanity, of safeguarding the bulwarks of liberty and civilisation, must fall mainly upon the British peoples. It is a task which might well fire any patriotic spirit--to be a trustee and defender of profound truths which the foolish have forgotten.

In this task she is not alone, but moving and working within the great framework of the Empire. That Empire to-day, as we all know, is an executive partnership which involves the pooling of interests and ideas and the linking together of energies. Its prestige has never been higher. The words which Burke used 150 years ago are even truer to-day: "We are set on a conspicuous stage and all the world marks our demeanour." First of all we present an example of disciplined freedom, ordered liberty. In the second place we present an example of nations holding fast to their old traditions, but facing the future with clear and candid eyes--at once rational revolutionaries and rational conservatives. And lastly we are living proof that peoples can dwell together in unity and peace, for have we not made in the Empire a league of nations of our own, and insured that over a great part of the earth's surface there can never be war? ...

Lord Tweedsmuir, "Ave" Canadian Occasions