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History of Inverness County, Nova Scotia
Appendix 3


THE NEW WORLD: LECTURE AT INVERNESS IN 1920 BY J. L. MACDOUGALL.

We hear on all sides, we hear from press and platform, that we are all engaged now in the rearing or reconstruction of a New World. There may be a sense in which the claim would seem allowable. We have so mutilated, burdened and deformed, the weary old world; we have ascertained at such fearful cost the defective nature and wide extent of the previous order of things, that it is only natural we should now be moved to erect a new structure. But we must have a care, however, that nothing that is good in the old shall be discarded.

What exactly do you mean when you say that we are building up a New World? Wherein does the change consist? Where should the change commence? To give a very blunt answer to the last question, I say to you that the change must commence within ourselves within our own hearts. It is man, not the inanimate world, that needs the great repairing. I am not going to elaborate this phase of the subject this evening for three reasons: firstly, that branch of the case alone would make a lecture twice as large as Webster's dictionary: secondly, I am not precisely the proper authority to deal with it: thirdly, this feature of the question would be so tremendously serious and complicated that it should be approached with studied gravity, and I did not come here among my friends with a funeral face on me. "Avaunt tonight my heart is light!"

Orators and wiseacres, who no doubt are well meaning in their utterances, ring the changes on the stupendous fact that "the world has had a new birth of Freedom." Perhaps. But if the wild orgies, the chaos, confusion and vicious ongoings, which we have been witnessing' since the war ceased can be called Freedom, then Freedom must have a monstrous sting in its tail. It is true that Kings, Emperors, thrones, dynasties, despots and dictators, have fallen thick and fast, and fallen I should hope, never to rise again: but what of the substitutes? The mad performances of Lenine and Trotsky in Russia are infinitely worse than the worst crimes of all the Tzars that ever lived. In the progressive atrocities and brutality of the present Russian regime the poor people can see nothing ahead save "in the lowest deep a lower deep still threatening to devour them." O Freedom! what crimes are committed in thy name!

It cannot be denied that one of the high ideals for which we went to war was to secure the natural, proper, well-ordered Liberty of democracy in all countries. For this ideal we made incalculable sacrifices. For this ideal we became promoters and participants in a shocking deluge of death and destruction. The ideal was worthy of it all. The mistake we made was in not giving the necessary interpretation of that ideal before we went to fight for it. We omitted to define Liberty, and to insist on the acceptance of our definitions by all and sundry.

What does liberty mean? Is it a carte blanche for all men and women to do just as they please? No: that would be license in its ugliest and most dangerous form. What then does Liberty signify? One of the greatest and most famous of the ancient philosophers says that "Liberty is the slave of law." This philosopher was a pagan, and concerned himself only with natural things, such as social and political life. Within those realms (and probably without) I think his definition was perfect. "Liberty is the slave of law." The man who recognizes law and obeys it merits at once the full protection of that law and can do anything and everything which that law permits. The law gives him liberty, as Truth makes us free.

Have we achieved the real liberty for which we had gone to war? Not much. One of the first and fundamental steps in the vast process of Reconstruction is to impress on restless democracy the actual meaning of true liberty. "Liberty is the slave of law." Attest it, Ye toiling millions of England, America, Canada and all other free nations!

Some men may think that nothing they do or say can be wrong because they are acting according to their conscience. Conscience is, indeed, one of the most beautiful gifts of God to man. It is the Divine spark that dwells continually in the bosom of every human being from the cradle to the grave. It is our best guide through the dark desert of this life. Shakespeare says that "conscience makes cowards of us all." The great Cardinal Newman said that "conscience is a King in its imperiousness, a Prophet in its predictions, and a Priest in its benedictions and anathemas." On all questions of right or wrong we must take counsel with our own conscience. At the same time, it is important to remember that the operations of our conscience must be facilitated by enlightenment and education. And all the lights we are able to get in this world are but "broken light." Consequently, when we rely on our conscience we must not forget that others, also, have a conscience, possibly better than ours. In this enormous work of world Renovation it is of first importance that we should all learn to respect the conscience of one another.

Another theme that seems to have a peculiar fascination for some people at this time is the subject of thrift. We are all agreed that thrift is a splendid social virtue which should be practised with care, at all times, by all classes. All the exhortations concerning its observance at this special juncture would appear to proceed from men who are themselves, the least likely to exercise it, men of ample means and leisure who are able to lecture their less fortunate countrymen from the comfortable elevation of fifty-dollar arm chairs. It requires not the art of the arm-chair lecture to compel ordinary people to be thrifty in such a state of things as we are now passing through. Thrift is already enforced on these common people by the much more persuasive voice of their grocers, butchers, middle men and tax-collectors. Why should the cry of thrift be rained down on these poor, struggling, people?

"To be sure you need all you have, but you can lop off some of your desires." Yes, we must cut off our feet when we want shoes. "But you could live more cheaply than you do now." When the Irish famine broke out, the head of the English peerage recommended the poor to rely on curry-powder as a nutritious and satisfying food: while the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society harangued the labourers on the sustaining properties of thrice boiled bones.

During the progress of the recent war an estimable lady representing the Red Cross approached a poor, hardworking peasant for a subscription. The man had not a single penny. Not wishing to be utterly defeated the good lady ventured to ask, "Haven't you got any old clothes?" "Have I any others"? he replies. "If you take my old clothes I must lie in bed till the war is over." I do not think we need worry about the discussion of thrift among the ordinary people. Stern and silent necessity will enjoin it.

But there is one thing from which we cannot escape, and that one thing is work, work, intelligent and continuous work, by every single soul that is able to do it. In no other way can the wastes of war be made good. We work not merely for ourselves and the Present, but, also, very largely for posterity and the Future. It is a work that will require mind and method, and all must work together. Of course we cannot all work in the one place and with the same tools. Inevitably we shall have to be told off into different avocations and localities, but we all must work as one, with common sympathies and purposes. None must live unto himself.

In the first place, we are all Canadians and must live and work Canadianly. We should be willing to give of our best to the land of our birth. In the second place we are all striving for the same thing: we pursue the same object, and that object is happiness. "The sad old earth," it is true, does not yield a superabundance of happiness, but every mother's son of us is eternally digging in to catch what we think there is of it. In the third place, we are children of common parents, scattered over the whole face of the earth. Together we constitute the great Brotherhood of Man. Nature herself requires that we should live and work like one large family, in a spirit of charity and fraternity, without selfishness, without hate, without envy or malice, and without unseemly divisions or disturbances. If you thus do, the success of your labors is assured, and your reward will be great and lasting. If on the other hand you proceed with bad motives and selfish purposes, with contentions and ill-feeling towards your neighbors, you are morally certain to find your compensation in failure and bitterness of spirit. "What we sow, that, also, we shall reap."

Side by side with this passage from Scripture I trust it is not irreverent, in illustration of the same point, to quote something that is not sacred writing but is nevertheless very interesting:

"An Eastern legend tells of a wonderful magic vase known as the vase of life which was ever full of a mysterious liquid. No one could tell what this liquid was. No chemist could analyse it or tell what entered into its composition. The marvellous thing about it was that whatever one dropped into it would overflow and run down the sides of the vase. That is, the original liquid would not run down but the thing which was dropped into it would overflow in kind and amount. The depositor would always get out of this magic vase exactly what he put into it.

Life is just such a magic vase. It will run over to you only that which you drop into it nothing more, nothing less, nothing different. If we drop in love, generosity, tolerance, magnamanity, kindness, helpfulness, unselfishness the life vase will run over to us the same thing in the same amount and quality. If, on the other hand, we put in hate, jealously, envy, cruelty, selfishness, grasping greed and malicious gossip about our neighbors it will run over with all these black devils to torment us and rob us of happiness and success."

In the performance of the heavy task which lies before us now, there is nothing more important than the preservation of perfect order. We must chain ourselves to our daily work, looking neither to the right nor the left. Where there is no order there never can be progress. The best way to maintain order is always to make sure that we are acting within our country's laws. The best laws and institutions the world ever saw exist in Canada, Great Britain and the United States. And our courts and judiciary are quite in keeping with, the exalted ideals of our laws. So far as the jurisdiction of our Courts extend, no grievance properly presented by good citizens shall go unredressed. Consequently there never is need in this country of any resort to force or violence. There are plenty laws, plenty courts, plenty judges, plenty honor and fair play, to see that no man who can show he is wronged shall be debarred from Justice. All we have to do is to fulfil the law, and we shall live in harmony, peace, progress and contentment.

Many turbulent men in all the nations would appear to have lost their heads completely since the war ceased. What causeth this, think you? It may be that many of these excited irresponsibles had their nerves utterly unstrung by the horrors and magnitude of the terrible conflict. That does not account for it all. If we had means of knowing the previous conduct and character of these deluded disturbers, I should not be surprised to find that they were never good citizens in their own countries.

We know for a fact that there are among these demonstrators many of the paid and painted emissaries of Bolshevism. Well, Bolshevism is not English, it is not French, it is not Latin, it is not Gaelic, it is not even German, it is simply "Hades let loose." We know, also, that there are in that "uncou squad" large numbers of Radical, red-handed, Socialists, who, before the war, were merely a nuisance, but are now become a menace. Added to these two classes is a vile and vicious set of propagandists drawn, in all probability, very largely from the penitentiaries. These be the gentry who are now challenging the efficacy and stability of all constituted authority. Of course they will tell you they have a plan to make the world flow over with milk and honey. They can do all things, even the impossible.

You may have seen or heard the story of Tommy and the Yankee when they met somewhere in France. They were discussing the subject of fires.

"Say Tommie, said the Yankee, "I saw a most wonderful thing happen once in New York. One of the large buildings was on fire, and a girl in the upper part of it was in great danger. The firemen couldn't find ladders long enough to reach her, so what do you think one of our brainy fireman did? Waal, he played the hose till the water reached the window of the room in which the girl was, and she got out and slid down the water as if it were a pole. What about that?"

"H'm" replies Tommy, "that's nothing. A big building was on fire in London, and they hadn't ladders long enough to reach a woman in the top story. So the firemen stared, the policemen stared, in fact we all stared, and the girl got out and walked down the stares (stairs)."

Such will be the best achievements of our red revolutionists.

It took a thousand years for the best brains of mankind to bring our English speaking institutions to the splendid perfection to which they have attained. Shall we now allow those invaluable blessings to be injured or endangered by men whose particular mission is to vex humanity with a mania for the murder of civilization? Quod avertat Deus.

One word more and I have done. We are all fallen upon days of hardship. Our burdens are heavy, the outlook is gloomy, the problem of living appalls us. It is the aftermath of war, and its foul blight shall haunt us quite a while yet. The whole world shares the dark depression; no honest man or class can find exemption. Yet, there is neither room nor reason for despair. We have a vast country, extending from ocean to ocean, filled with the best natural resources on earth. If we toil and falter not, if we exercise patience and persevere in doing good, we shall still survive, live, grow and prosper. Sursum Corda. Go to your allotted work cheerfully. When your heart is sick and your head and hands are tired to death, draw your inspiration from the songs and laughter of your children. Hope on, hope ever; your best and brightest days are yet to come. Hold up your heads, maintain your natural gait and morale and with the brave spirit of your race you can say with the poet:

"In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud;
Beneath the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.

This attitude will save you, save Canada, and help to save our Empire and the world.

You will now permit me to close with a somewhat remarkable passage from one of the psalms of David not the David you mean but the David I mean, our own and only modern David. He was hieing him off to his home in the mountains to get a brief "respite and nepenthe" from the most distracting bunch of "blues" he ever carried. Just at the foot-hills near his home he came upon a little red school-house, where a group of sprightly children were singing to beat the band. He was touched; the music of innocence inspired him. That same evening he was called upon to address thousands of serious men on the gravest possible world-outlook, and the following is a specimen of what his soul gave forth:

"The honor of Britain is not dead. Her might is not broken. Her destiny is not fulfilled. Her ideals are not shattered by her enemies. She is more than alive. She is more potent now. She is greater than she ever was. Her dominions are wider, her influence is deeper, her purpose is more exalted than ever. Why should her children not sing?"


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