Canada, England and the United States

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Canada, England and the United States  (1899) 
by Wilfrid Laurier
October 9 1899

Mr. Toastmaster, Mr. President, and Gentlemen,--I very fully and very cordially appreciate the very kind feelings which have just now been uttered by the toastmaster in terms so eloquent, and which you gentlemen have accepted and received in so sympathetic a manner. Let me say at once, in the name of my fellow-Canadians who are here with me and also, I may say, in the name of the Canadian people, that these feelings we shall at all times reciprocate; reciprocate, not only in words evanescent, but in actual living deeds.

Because I must say that I feel that, though the relations between Canada and the United States are good, though they are brotherly, though they are satisfactory, in my judgment they are not as good, as brotherly, as satisfactory as they ought to be. We are of the same stock. We spring from the same races on one side of the line as on the other. We speak the same language. We have the same literature, and for more than a thousand years we have had a common history.

Let me recall to you the lines which, in the darkest days of the Civil War, the Puritan poet of America issued to England:--

"Oh, Englishmen! Oh, Englishmen! In hope and creed,
In blood and tongue, are brothers, We all are heirs of Runnymede."

Brothers we are, in the language of your own poet. May I not say that while our relations are not always as brotherly as they should have been, may I not ask, Mr. President, on the part of Canada and on the part of the United States, if we are sometimes too prone to stand by the full conceptions of our rights, and exact all our rights to the last pound of flesh? May I not ask if there have not been too often between us petty quarrels, which happily do not wound the heart of the nation?

There was a civil war in the last century. There was a civil war between England, then, and her colonies. The union which then existed between England and her colonies was severed. If it was severed, American citizens, as you know it was, through no fault of your fathers, the fault was altogether the fault of the British Government of that day. If the British Government of that day had treated the American colonies as the British Government for the last twenty or fifty years has treated its colonies; if Great Britain had given you then the same degree of liberty which it gives to Canada, my country; if it had given you, as it has given us, legislative independence absolute,--the result would have been different; the course of victory, the course of history, would have been very different.

But what has been done cannot be undone. You cannot expect that the union which was then severed shall ever be restored; but can we not expect--can we not hope that the banners of England and the banners of the United States shall never, never again meet in conflict, except those conflicts provided by the arts of peace, such as we see to-day in the harbor of New York in the contest between the Shamrock and the Columbia for the supremacy of naval architecture and naval prowess? Can we not hope that if ever the banners of England and the banners of the United States are again to meet on the battlefield, they shall meet entwined together in the defense of some holy cause, in the defense of holy justice, for the defense of the oppressed, for the enfranchisement of the downtrodden, and for the advancement of liberty, progress, and civilization?