Box 13-031 THE TATLER, THE MONTREAL HERALD (WRITTEN BY [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN)
Sep 13 1902
The Montreal Herald, Saturday, September 13, 1902
Sir Edmund Barton
The recent visit of the distinguished Premier of the new Australian Commonwealth was an event, which will not readily be forgotten in Montreal. As the most eminent figure in a country whose position and whose problems are more like our own than those of any other land, Sir Edmund Barton has a peculiar claim upon the interest of every Canadian, and I do not think that many of those who saw and heard him during his brief stay here are likely to feel disappointed in him. The three hundred gentlemen who had the privilege of being present at the banquet given in honor of the Australian will not easily lose the impression made by the commanding personality of the man who occupied the seat of the honor at the guest table.
The very poise of the well-knit, powerfully built frame was indicative of conscious strength and self-reliance. The square head rising straight from ears and neck, with its high forehead and stiff, close-curling gray hair, was held as if the owner felt the ground firmly beneath his feet. And there, with a pair of hard gray eyes, an aquiline nose, a long upper lip, which stiffened grimly when he smiled, and a determined-looking jaw, forming a picture, which will not easily fade from the memory of those who saw it.
J. Bull's Antipodeian Antitype
With his mental attitude taken into consideration, Sir Edmund Barton might be aptly termed an antipodeian antitype of John Bull. He has all of the Britisher's traditional disregard for the likes and dislikes of outsiders toward himself, and with it he combines a new-world disregard for traditional and conventional policies when unsupported by reason and experience. If there is such a thing as sentiment in his make-up, it is certainly not to be seen from the outside. An Imperialist he undoubtedly is, but one cannot help feeling that he is so rather as the result of a hard-headed conviction of the inherent superiority of the race to which he belongs, and of an inbred distrust of foreigners.
There is nothing either of the "Parliament of man, the federation of the world" idea as an ultimate ideal in Sir Edmund's Imperialism. It is openly and avowedly a marshalling of the family clans for war, commercial or otherwise and its object is to do to others what they will do to us if we don't do it first.
As a matter of fact the Australian Premier's mind does not seem to dwell much on weaving out ultimate ideals, but rather on doing the next thing. He is the statesman more than the prophet. He is distinctly optimistic. But one is impressed with the feeling that his optimism is inspired rather by a deep insight into the potentialities of the present than by a far outlook into the possibilities of the future.
A Grasp of Fundamentals
He is not a flowery speaker, but forceful in the extreme. He speaks like a man who is accustomed to being listened to, and who is conscious that he is making an impression. Every word is well chosen, and is delivered with a deliberation that is calculated to give it its full effect.
His address on Monday night was a masterly and statesmanlike summing up of the Imperial situation. The nebulous state of things obviously prevented him from going into particulars. But in treating the subject as he did it may truly be said that he dealt rather with fundamental principles than with vague generalities. This was particularly true of his statement of affirming by the colonial conference of the principle of trace preference. He said:
"The principle has been affirmed that we on our side, without naming any of the self-governing colonies, shall do our best to give such a substantial preference to the products of the United Kingdom as we reasonably may, trusting and believing that so far as she can, the Parliament of the United Kingdom will seize such opportunity as arises to give us something in return. And I want to say this, that neither I nor any other member of that conference has tried to lay down a hard and fast rule of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and which we have affirmed the principle of preferences, and while we all shall endeavor to carry out that principle according to the means, the fiscal system and the conditions of our countries, we shall do so of our own free will, in the full confidence that the generosity of the mother country which has never failed us yet, will not fail us in the future."
The Color of Our Literature
The speech, too, was bristling with suggestions. A vital point was touched upon when he voiced the opinion of the colonial conference to the effect that "where within the Empire there is a postal rate on newspapers and periodicals that is excessive, it should be removed, because it makes it much harder for people like ourselves, when they get their news and their arguments with a coloring which does not resemble that of the British flag." Any one who thinks of the matter for a moment must deplore the overwhelming proportion in which American current literature is circulated in this country. Not that we cannot gain much in knowledge from the perusal of American magazines. But when we are continually having our minds bombarded with articles enlarging upon the greatness and enterprises of the United States, and when their influence is by no means counteracted by the comparatively few and unattractive British magazines which find their way into Canada, it is impossible that our national sentiment should be deleteriously affected.
Shall We Do Less Than Our Equals?
One point in Sir John Forrest's speech is also especially worth noting. He has no hesitation in declaring emphatically that Canada and Australia, which for many a long day have relied for peace and security upon the strong arms of the mother country, should no longer be absolved from contributing, especially to naval protection. Now most Canadians are willing to admit that we need the naval and military protection, which Great Britain affords us. And consequently we are forced to admit that we ought to pay for it. But we excuse ourselves for postponing the meeting of our obligations on the ground that we are a young and growing country and need every dollar of our revenue for the development of our internal resources. What then, asks Sir John Forrest, would we do if we had not the British army and navy to fall back upon, if we were in the same position as other young countries--Argentine, for instance--and were obliged to keep up forces ourselves? The Argentine Republic pays five million dollars a year for its navy. Australia pays next to nothing and Canada nothing at all.