Democracy vs. Ochlocracy
June 16, 1943 — Joint Session of the Canadian Parliament, Ottawa, Canada
MR. SPEAKER, Mr. Prime Minister, Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Commons:
I deem it a privilege and pleasure to be here in your midst today, for I have been long looking forward to visiting you and your country. I am conscious of the honor of addressing your Parliament because your national assembly, as an institution, dates back in unbroken lineage to that ancient and worthy institution, the Anglo-Saxon witenagemot (the national council). It is an institution which has proven its mettle in weather fair or foul. Parliamentary government to you and to me means that it is built on the basic laws of the land and the common consent of the people carrying out a policy within the mandate given by the people. Based on this authority of ancient usage and the legislative enactment of the supreme authority in the state, we have custom which connotes “unwritten law,” and law which is “written enactment.” I think it was well put when a great Roman writer of the first century B. C. said: “A people is not an assemblage of men brought together in any fashion but an assemblage of multitude associated by consent to law and community of interest.”
We would all agree that a truly parliamentary form of government is the near-perfect system of government human reason could ever evolve. And we say that parliamentary government is run by the “rule of law.” In other words, it has its foundation on immemorial custom and right reason. No single individual, no group, no class is above law. Parliament has final competence in expressing law and men can only be punished by breach of law. In this way every individual citizen is within the framework of the law and is thereby protected.
But these ideals ana principles were not immediately practiced upon their formation; rather they came into being through the passage of time. If we remember, men wereindeed fearless men who did not hesitate to speak out their convictions through the centuries. In the sixteenth century Sir John Elliott, in his celebrated impeachment attacking the favorite minion of Charles I, compared Buckingham to Sejanus. To us, whether Charles I was implied to be a Tiberius or not matters little. What stays our attention is the implicit demand that a minister should possess the confidence of Parliament.
Whatever we may think of Milton’s unprincipled opportunism in vacillating between Cromwell and Charles II, we must recognize that Milton did contribute to the fight for the principle of freedom of speech as seen in his “Aeropagitica.” Much later the “Quarterly Review,” the “Westminster Review” and the “Edinburgh Review,” as opponents of freedom of speech, grew and flourished and became journals of excellence. They achieved their great purpose inasmuch as they brought public questions before a wide audience. The public became conscious of affairs outside the compressed bounds of their personal lives and voluntarily absorbed their accepted discipline as a great power in the world. Men like Wilberforce and Buxton took their stand and worked against slavery and advocated the freedom of man.
Others like George Grote and John Stuart Mill worked for the freedom of institution. These are merely a few names amongst the many social and political reformers of your great mother country. I need not, however, tell you that it was due to centuries of incessant struggle by your people against the strongly entrenched absolute powers of unreason that your present parliamentary system of government came into being.
It may be interesting to contrast the system of parliamentary government with Axis tyranny which once threatened to engulf the civilized world, and to examine the Fascist philosophy and see wherein it differs fundamentally from yours.
Germany during the Weimar Republic had all the outward “appearance” of a democracy, but it degenerated and became extinct after an existence of less than two decades. In its place grew up a demoniac Mephistopheles nurturing persecution and miasmic hate. That such a retrogression could take place shows that the majority of the German people were not aware of the true essence of a constitutional form of government and that the integrants of making it a lasting and true democracy were wanting. Some people conjure that democracy implies that individuals may be allowed to engage in activity even when it is directed against the interest of the state. Others regard democracy to be “a charming form of government full of variety and disorder.” By permitting activities subversive to democratic ideals that nation denies to itself the right of self-defense, while those who think that chaos lends charm to democracy deny to democracy the right of self-preservation.
Never for a moment should we confuse democracy with ochlocracy. Democracy is disciplined self-rule. Democracy may be likened to beautiful architecture, for every part of the tracery and sculpture, supreme in its individuality, claims a permanent place on its own merit and then surrenders it to the entire composition, thereby enriching the whole and relieving it from the tameness of mere qualitative perfection. Ochlocracy, on the other hand, is but the inchoate roccoco of mob rule bred on febrile emotions and unrestraint.
Present-day Germany has become an immane dictatorship because its precludes the right of the governed to forensic dialectics. The Fascists believe that a preponderance of force constitutes all legal requirements and justification of a government. They have dragoned and deluded the people into a belief of superstition in the infallibility of their leadership. They have refused the people the right to challenge the fallibility of men holding power in the government. We of the United Nations, on the other hand, accept the challenge of query permitting divergent views the right of discussion so that all ideas in the deepest recesses and nethermost corners of the human mind are re-examined and weighed, for we think that this is “a method which produces a better average of humanity than the most scientific of despotism.”
Beside the excellent pattern of parliamentary government which Canada represents, I am impressed that here in your country one finds the greatest example of two steadfast peoples, the French and the British who in the history of their development of the country were not unmarred by wars and who have now come to live side by side as one people in concord and harmony. In achievement the descendants of the French settlers, as well as those of Anglo-Saxon origin, have contributed in full measure to the progress and prosperity of Canada. This record is, indeed, noteworthy.
When a part of your vast country was colonized in its early days, the French colonial authorities of lower Canada instituted in every parish a militia captain chosen from among the “habitants.” True enough, this nominee was appointed by the governor. But the commissions were given or withheld according to whether people approved or rejected the nominee at the regular Sunday assembly. That was an outstanding example of public representation, a practice to follow the will and wishes of the people. The natural good manners, social ease, and never-failing liveliness characterizing the French people made them eminently suitablefor the adventurous life of early colonizers. One never fails to be reminded in one’s travels in the United States that such names as Detroit, St. Louis, Vincennes and Louisiana all bear impress of the adventurous spirit of the French Canadians. The coureurs de bois (woodsmen), with their fortitude and understanding of the Red Indians, instilled into the new continent a priceless heritage—the opportunity of liberty. The French peasants who came to Canada with their frugal traits worked up to become landowners. Here it was not uncommon for the lord of a manor, his lady and his children to toil together in the fields. They developed respect for labor and, unlike some countries of the time, they did not look upon manual work as degrading but rather as the natural expression in which every man must participate, and recognize that every laborer is worthy of his hire. Such was the leveling influence of frontier life.
The Gallic Church also played a large part in the development of your country. Some of the most colorful and glorious chapters of Christian missions began in North America. The Jesuit priests were explorers, cartographers and teachers. It was Pere Marquette who, with Louis Joliet explored the Mississippi. It was the Catholic fathers who produced the first maps of Lake Superior in 1671 and the northern parts of Michigan and Lake Huron. It was the Jesuits who first preached Christianity among the Hurons and aspired to convert and civilize the whole continent of red Indians.
I recall also the intendant, Jean Talon, who was blessed with vision and foresight. Not content that a few people should profit by the land of milk and honey, he advocated the idea that Canada should be opened up to take the pressure off the increased population in Europe, the great majority of whom were then living in squalor and poverty, further accentuated by heavy taxation raised to finance the private wars of kings and princes motivated by selfish ambition of aggrandizement.
Canada, and the world as well, owe a debt of lasting gratitude to men like Poulett Thomson, the first Baron Sydenham, for his wise statesmanship in adopting moral suasion rather than brute force in carrying out his policy during his tenure of office as Governor. Later Lord Elgin, while representing the Crown in Canada, accepted the Liberal party in the formation of the Canadian Cabinet, thereby recognizing responsible representative government. Since then your country has made steady and logical progress in unity of government, and your people have evolved cohesion of purpose and action so that today you are an effective member of the United Nations in the fight against aggression.
In my address to the Congress of your great neighbor, the United States, I mentioned that in the common interest of the United Nations, Japan must not be permitted to have undisputed possession of the territories she has seized in China and elsewhere, for with the help of time, she is accumulating added resources to continue the Axis war of aggression. The material she has commandeered during the last twelve months reaches staggering figures. From occupied territories within the Great Wall of China, on the average, every month 3,200,000 tons of raw materials were shipped to Japan, while 2,800,000 tons were shipped from the occupied territories in Manchuria to Japan. In addition, each month, she transported from territories inside the Great Wall, 2,300,000 tons of material for the heavy industries she is building in Manchuria and other parts of Asia. In short, within the last year Japan has seized and carried away, in round numbers, 100,000,000 tons of raw material for the use of her armed forces. This figure does not Include the foodstuffs her army in China’s occupied areas consumed. The importance of driving Japan from China can be further seen when we consider that from Malaya, Japan,the last year, has shipped only approximately 6,000,000 tons, the ratio of about one to sixteen as compared with what she appropriated from China. She is continually consolidating her position as a vicious world threat and increasing her exploitation of China’s resources aimed at the United Nations.
My country, China, for six years has hung like a millstone around the neck of the Japanese military, and has succeeded in preventing Japan from utilizing several millions of her armed forces and workers in other parts of the world. With ill-equipped men we have fought with small arms, flesh and blood, and the will to battle. Until a few weeks ago, the Chinese army never had the sort of consistent air protection necessary for even small-scale offensives. The fact that our Army with the help of a few planes in the combined American and Chinese air forces was able to rout the enemy in the last up-river Yangtse invasion proved conclusively that comparatively much can be done with comparatively little. The danger to China and to the United Nations, however, is not past; the magnificent will to resist of the Chinese people and army, implemented only by inadequate fighting material, must not be strained beyond human endurance, for if Japan should succeed in subjugating China, the repercussions to the cause of the United Nations would be the greatest cataclysmic disaster civilization has yet to face.
Like that of China, the contribution which Canada has made to our common cause has not been of the spectacular. 1 am constrained to say that those of Great Britain and the United States, as well, have rarely been in that domain. Yet we must realize that it is not the occasional brilliant strokes which determine victory; it is the steadfast performance of preconceived plans in strategy backed by the willingness to contribute ungrudgingly to the common effort that will tip the scales. We should constantly bear in mind the fact that contributions to ultimate victory must not be evaluated by the ephemeral criterion of the spectacular. The accumulated heroism of your Commandos, the large amount of foodstuff and munition which your country has sent to England, the manner in which you have utilized your air bases for training of allied effort, and the fact that per capita Canada has produced more for the war effort than any other member of the United Nations are indicative of Canada’s will to fight to victory.
There are few new doctrines in the world. In fact, to my mind, we do not need any new doctrines, but we should sec to it that every worthy doctrine is fully developed and practiced. In the same way, we should not sit and hope for a fortuitous concourse of events to creating a better world after the war, but should have the moral courage to strike out and explore the possibilities of making a better world.
Caraffa (Pope Paul VI) was once told by Cardinal Pecheco of the corruption around him. Far from resorting to anger, he examined the situation and took steps to eliminate those who were responsible for the evils. He was not afraid to rise above the melee surrounding him; he fought against favoritism and won the battle of the will to righteousness.
There are some skeptics today who regard all post-war world collaboration with the eyes of cynics. Bacon, a nationalist of the exclusive school, lacked a sense of statesmanship, for he did not realize, as we do today, that rulers and statesmen owe allegiance to civilization and to humanity at large. Today his well known maxim: “The increase of any state must be from the foreigner, for whatever is somewhere gotten is somewhere lost,” sounds to those of us who have the slightest inkling of economics to be risible, although his logic to like minds may have seemed to be irrefutable. Compare him to Grotius, his great contemporary, and you will immediately understand what a part vision and imagination can play.
If we but possess the pertinacity to bring it into being, what was yesterday regarded as the impossible becomes today the reality. In the Middle Ages, I may point out, papal bulls of excommunication, bloody wars in determining the true Catholic faith, religious pogroms and inquisitions impoverished and tore Europe asunder. What could seem more inconclusive than a question which involved the arbitration of men’s souls? Who could have thought, nay, dared hope, that movements of reformation could finally materialize with the religious peace of Augsburg in 1555?
Again, the British North American act in 1867, providing for the federation of Canada, was thought by many at the time to be alienating Canada from the British Commonwealth. In reality it forged stronger bonds of affection and ties between Great Britain and your country.
The world today is once more at the crossroads. Let us realize that in planning for a post-war world the transient assets of a policeman in the Hobbesian sense given worldwide application will be far from adequate unless we actualize it with the fundamental and the positive.
Should not we of the United Nations also strive for foresight and exercise understanding so that the vanquished will be treated as neighbors and as fellow beings while punishment should be limited only to the perpetrators of this war?
Indeed, from Canada, through your welding successfully two peoples into one strong and harmonious nation, the world has much to learn in universal brotherhood. The touchstone of human greatness lies in cooperation and collaboration, the antitheses of domination and exploitation of one people by another.
Source: Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 546-549.