Слике страница
PDF
ePub

people being willing, might claim and exercise very extensive powers with a view to the protection and development of the Imperial interests, even in times of peace. This is a delicate point. Where is the line to be drawn as between Imperial and Canadian affairs? In the making of treaties, in the control of fleets and armies, in the fulfilment of international obligations, our Governments have not full powers. We are not a nation. The phrase lends itself to declamatory eloquence, but it is not true. A wise Governor-General, with wise counsellors, keeps these considerations in the background. To deny them, however, to assert the contrary, is not statesmanship. From the popular standpoint, therefore, surely the functions of our Governors, acting as Imperial officers, are to conciliate, to smooth over difficulties, to reconcile any supposed conflict of interest or opinion, and if any should arise -which Heaven forfend-to act merely as the representative of the Crown, as the official intermediary between the Imperial authorities and the Canadian Executive, allowing them to carry on the controversy and not by any act or word of his to intensify the strain or ⚫ add to the confusion.

full freedom of action is not vested in the Canadian people." Here is a recognition of the supremacy of the Crown, ample for all purposes. As the command of the naval and land forces, both the Imperial forces and local militia, is vested in the Queen, the Governor-General represents her in this respect. The administration of the militia, however, is carried on through a responsible Minister and not by the Governor himself. The Imperial officer, who commands the militia, is subordinate to the civil power. In time of war, however, when Canada might be the theatre of hosilities provision exists for the control of all the forces being vested in the Governor. There is not much room for serious controversy in this situation. The limitations of Canadian authority in treaty-making hardly affect the Governor-General or his functions. To meet the Canadian feeling in this respect it is now customary to appoint Canadians on international commissions relating to the affairs of this country. In these and all other matters the tendency is to enlarge the colonial power, which is both a sagacious and a practicable policy, since the strength of the Empire consists not in the strain which the connection between its various parts will stand, but in the good-will and cordiality evoked by generous and friendly treatment.

Yet, when all is said and done, the Governor-General is undoubtedly an Imperial officer, and while it is his constitutional duty to give his confidence to his Canadia advisers, there must be occasions when he is responsible primarily to those who appointed him. As the guardian of the Imperial interests he may receive confidential despatches which he cannot, without express permission from the Secretary for the Colonies, show even to his Prime Minister. The answers would naturally be kept from his Cabinet. Mr. Blake, when Minister of Justice in 1876, secured the modification of the terms of the Governor-General's commission, enjoining that all his acts should be upon the advice of Ministers, "except in the rare instances in which, owing to the existence of substantial Imperial as distinguished from Canadian interests, it is considered that

Lord Dufferin, who exercised by common consent the most important functions that can fall to the lot of a Governor-General, discharged his duties, not so as to magnify his office but to strengthen the Imperial tie. He drew, for the benefit of those who are easily soothed, a modest and comical picture of his functions. He compared a constitutional Governor to "the humble functionary we see superintending the working of some complicated mass of steam-driven machinery, who simply walks about with a little tin vessel of oil in his hand, and who pours in a drop here and a drop there as occasion or the creaking of a joint may require." This seeming humility was a pleasing sacrifice to the gullibility

of the general public. All the proceedings and the speeches of this very brilliant man show the possibilities of the office when it is filled by a master of diplomacy. It is improbable that the Canadian electorate of to-day is any more competent to decide constitutional niceties than in 1876, since the advent of manhood franchise has merely added to the sum of our stupidity and a Canadian Governor-General may easily draw to himself a considerable share of influence if he appeals over the heads

ROBERT BARR AND LITERATURE IN CANADA.

By Walter James Brown.

MR.

R. ROBERT BARR'S articles on Literature in Canada, as they appeared in the November and December issues of the CANADIAN MAGAZINE, have called forth considerable adverse criticism. These articles are admittedly subject to revision and correction. One discovers in them a tendency to carelessness, said to be the habit of men who contribute "stories" on innumerable subjects to the daily papers. No doubt Mr. Barr would have made a deeper, wider and more lasting impression if he had been more careful in his statements; but we cannot afford to lose sight of the main purpose of his effort, together with all the truth stated and implied, simply because his illustrations are inaccurate and one or two of his comparisons are overdrawn. These defects, so apparent to his critics, have been artfully used to turn aside our attention from the statement of actual conditions. Although this statement is not perfectly clear, yet it was written for the purpose of making us think. If it does this the effort was not in vain.

of the politicans to the people at large.

The newspaper press, which is superseding all other authorities, ecclesiastical, judicial and political by slow degrees, has not yet fixed the exact status of a Governor-General. So much depends upon whether the editor's party is in or out of office that we may have to wait long before it is finally determined for us by the press whether our Governors are menaces to public liberty, or merely amiable figures clothed in gorgeous uniforms.

Upon analysis, the articles seem to suggest that there were four main ideas in the author's mind. (1) Educated Canadians lack independence of thought, and Canada underestimates

the value of things Canadian, particularly Canadian specialized ability. (2) The Canadian people are not great lovers of good literature if we judge by the quality and number of books they buy. (3) In view of the fact that young Canadian authors who are winning distinction have been forced to leave their native land to secure support, Canada does not exert itself to encourage the development of its literature. And (4) the Canadian public school systems are subject to radical improvement, especially in the matter of training our boys and girls to think and act with independence and to justly appreciate their native land. Mr. Barr's position may not be one with which we all agree, yet we ought to inquire most carefully into our conditions, and, if possible, ascertain their true status, and then, knowing the facts, look for avenues through which improvement may be expected.

The thoughtful observer, be he native or foreign born, often wonders why Canada with its wealth of natural resources, its excellent form of government, and its splendid people, has been so long in asserting itself. The country is far too contented with its snail pace, instead of marking each passing year with progress and achievement. As one stretches his

eye along the imaginary line which international law has designated the boundary between Canada and the United States, it is with difficulty that he understands why on one side of this line business should be active, great cities should spring up, and gigantic enterprises should be in successful operation; on the other, a land as rich or richer, a people as intelligent and free, and opportunities as numerous, that business is tardy, the great cities are as yet dozing towns and sleeping villages, and mammoth undertakings when suggested are not even considered. He notes with Mr. Barr, that, "Canada from its position on the map, its hardy climate, its grand natural scenery, its dramatic and historic associations should be the Scotland of America"; but it is not, and he wonders why. It seems that our ancestors who built New France upon America's shores, established for us an unfortunate precedent. They transplanted the traditions of their fathers into a new soil and endeavoured to duplicate Old World conditions. The Scotch, Irish, English and German Canadians followed the example set. In nearly all cases the Old World customs were allowed to become the rule of faith and action. Even now in many sections of our country, the language, customs and religion of the settlers' ancestors are regarded of more significance than improvement in agriculture, mining, commerce and education. As a people we have not been progressive. Our greatest need is to assert ourselves, to grasp our opportunities quickly and zealously, and become expert in solving every-day problems. Canada is perhaps the richest land in natural resources in all the world, yet its meagre population is scattered and comparatively poor; its form of government is the most flexible, most just and most zealous in its guardianship of the individual rights and liberties of man, yet the people have not multiplied, the world's oppressed have not heeded our solicitation, and the immigrant ships laden with the millions of

Europe's restless and energetic surplus have not been sighted off our shores.

The intense conservatism which was the chief corner-stone in building New France, which proved a remunerative principle in the policy of the Hudson's Bay Company, which expressed itself in the Family Compact, and still asserted its power in the federation of the provinces, has not only permeated our industry and stayed the woodman's axe, the miner's drill and the farmer's plough, but it has filled the halls and libraries of our great seats of learning, and still insists that the Canadian youth shall spend the most impressionable years of his life turning the musty pages of antiquity.

In literature their ideas have a similar trend. A work is valued largely because of its age. If we were to listen to some of these patriarchs we would conclude that Milton was the last of the world's mighty intellects, and we ought to be sorry for him because he was born so late. One cannot help wondering where these men conceived the idea that literature is something which must be dead. The student of the philosophy of literature has a different conception. To him the literary work of each century indicates the intellectual progress and the rise in the scale of civilization made during the period. He understands very clearly that the literature of one age is not the literature of another, that the work of Homer is not to be measured by the same standard as the work of Shakespeare, that the literature of yesterday is not the literature of to-day. Students of the scriptures long ago discovered that there is order and progress written upon every page of the entire sixty-six volumes which we call the Bible. They discovered a harmony which indicated many writers but one Author, and a plan which revealed that the children of Abraham-of all peoples no doubt the most difficult to teachwere taught after many generations "to fear God and keep His commandments." When the proper time came

the Gentile nations were admitted to the school. This process of instruc. tion is still going on. Psychologists have discovered that each individual man repeats in himself the struggles of the race; if he overcomes, the world is made better and civilization is advanced by virtue of his influence in behalf of right. In literature the same law holds. Homer lived and wrote to the race in its infancy. The child's life is the continual expression of the imagination, fairy tales are his chief delight. He peoples the houses, streets, fields, valleys and woodlands. with the creations of his fancy. He interprets all natural phenomena in terms of persons and things. Just in such a manner Homer sang his song of the imagination, and the heroes of his ideal became the real heroes of the Greeks, and inspired that primitive people to make mighty strides toward civilization. Virgil copied Homer. He sang to the Romans, who caught the spirit of his theme and rose in majestic splendour to a high altitude of civil and military power. Then came the fall of the ancient empires, and the gradual assertion of the awakening West. After the "dark ages" the nations began once more to strive toward higher ideals. England, for England, for example, passed through a series of evolutions, generation followed generation, through external and internal strife. As a nation her infancy was set hard with difficulties. Finally she emerged from the wars of childhood, and began to consider herself and the stuff of which she was made. A Shakespeare arose, and with a few strokes of his pen revealed, in panoramic view, to the people of his time, what a curious thing human nature is. He showed them the reasons for all the struggles which had dwarfed the conscience and sapped the nation of its vitality. In his Richard III. uncontrolled ambition knows not right or wrong, nor do the greatest barriers stay its greed. In Macbeth a guilty conscience does not cease to torture, its fires will not be quenched. In Hamlet, that "tragedy of thought" is

illustrated the operations of a Divine Providence in human destiny. In King Lear man is seen in conflict with misfortune, and in Othello he is the victim of jealousy and treason. Each of Shakespeare's plays taught his age a specific lesson which has enabled the world since to judge more accurately and classify human nature more intelligently. England was centuries trying to overcome religious intolerance, and persecution followed upon persecution; but men found that force does not champion belief, and then "that mighty arc of song-the divine Milton," to whom "duty, 'stern daughter of the voice of God,' was ever paramount," lived and wrote to justify the ways of God to man, and to show how humanity may climb toward divinity. Wordsworth called the attention of his age to the resplendent beauty and charm of out-door life, and the riches of knowledge to be gained from nature as a teacher. Tennyson in his turn harmonized the work of his predecessors and then opened the secret chambers of the heart and laid bare the soul as it reveals itself in its struggles toward God.

Each period of the world's history, whether in England or elsewhere, has its distinct and characteristic literature. The literature of yesterday was abstract, to-day literature is concrete. We are not now so much concerned with the operations of the imagination in poetic fancy, or with the doctrinal theories of the theologians, or the hazy conceptions of the scientists as we are with the solution of the troublesome problems of our particular age. The study in which most men are now interested is the science of earning a living. The training which is most popular is that which assists men to strong and accurate thinking. The research which appeals to us is that made with a stern and practical purpose to give the worker justice. The religion men are longing for is the religion of Christ, not the theology of the schools, nor the classic fossilism of the churches, but the universal application of the law of love.

That which is literature to-day gathers the rays of light resulting from the experiences of the preceding centuries and focuses them upon the dark places of the earth, it concentrates the thought of the age upon the problems of how to reduce "man's inhumanity to man," which "makes countless thousands mourn," and throws a flood of sunshine upon the bitterness and toil which will reveal to us the final end and purpose of it all.

ed States name. It is a bitter pill, but we are forced to take it, that Canadian specialized ability in any line does not meet with general favour in Canada.

Canadians who think in the past and feel that their ideas must conform to those of another age cannot be independent in their thought, nor can they fully appreciate the literature of the present. It is high time that we as individuals and as a nation should break from our feet the fetters of the past. We should cease to bind our minds with the casings of antiquity, we should cut loose from prejudice, narrowness and provincialism, and become alive to the demands and opportunities of our country and our time.

As Canadians we should develop that kind of loyalty which will strengthen our valuation of all that may be found or produced in Canada, but we should at the same time avail ourselves of every opportunity and advantage offered by our proximity to the great and ambitious neighbouring republic. We should endeavour to keep more of our energetic young business and professional men within our borders, we should be kinder to our artists, musicians and authors and not compel them to seek elsewhere a home in order to make a living. We are even unkind to our own after we force them to abide under a different flag. A few weeks ago a high-class musical organization of Boston was offered at a very low price for one evening to at Toronto club. At a meeting of the club's executive committee the objection was raised that the organization was United States and the matter was then dropped. This is an example of extreme prejudice. The fact is, the leader of the musical organization and over half of the present members are Canadians, but they are under an Unit

Mr. Barr's second point as to the quality and number of books our people read may not deserve the same kind of treatment as his first. It will doubtless be ascertained, if the matter were thoroughly examined, that on the whole Canadians read as much as any other nation under similar conditions. Seventy or seventy-five per cent of the population of the Dominion is engaged in agricultural pursuits. As a class they are not great readers, although among them will be found some of our ablest thinkers, best read and most scholarly men. A few years ago a farmer of average ability, a gentleman who had travelled a good deal and was supposed to possess a few accomplishments, came to visit the writer's father. While passing through the sittingroom one day, his eyes rested upon a small book-shelf which was built into the wall, in which the members of the family kept a few reference books and usually the books being read at the time. He looked them over and then turned to a member of the family present, with an expression which indicated that he thought those were all the books in the house, and said, "What a lot of books you have!" When he was informed that there were libraries in other sections of the house, he was astonished. Another case may be cited which illustrates a different state of things. During the past summer the writer became acquainted with a young lady who proved to be one of the best patrons of the city's libraries. Every other day she brought home an armful of books and returned them as soon. It was difficult to understand how she read so many volumes in a few hours. One day the following dialogue occurred:

"You seem to be an avidious reader. How do you manage to read so many books in so short a time? I usually spend days over a book of ordinary size, while you seem to finish it in one hour."

« ПретходнаНастави »