Quick Quote: Sir Robert Laird Borden – Hope for Liberty and Democracy

Sir Robert Laird Borden


Canberra’s Lifeline Bookfair gave me a chance to score some extremely sweet copies of the International University Society’s Reading Course books.  They are volumes of short speeches, essays, and books by a range of authors (by ‘range’, I appear to mean ‘wealthy white males’) on politics, philosophy, and economics.  From the biographical details, I’ve been trying to work out when my copies were published.  No easy feat.  They were published during the lifetimes of Winston Churchill and John Maynard Keynes, but after the death of Neville Chamberlain.  This suggests somewhere between 1940 and 1946.  The puzzle is that they are introduced by somebody called ‘Lord Bryce’, and the only person I’ve found by that name died a few decades earlier.

What is exciting is that these books have a very clear bias in favour of both the Conservatives and the Liberals, so we get an insight into the Conservatism that was dominant prior to the Goldwater-Rockefeller split.

Here’s Sir Robert Laird Borden (a Conservative Party politician) prior to becoming Prime Minister of Canada:

[I]t is not in the true interest of the people to overlook the deficiencies of popular government, whether in our country or your own.

Mr Bryce, in a series of thoughtful and instructive lectures at Yale, has told us that these deficiencies are due to three great causes, indolence, self-interest, and party spirit.  Perhaps I am expressing the same idea in other words, but to me it seems that the cause lies in the lack of moral earnestness, in the absence of a sense of individual responsibility, and in a certain spirit of soulless commercialism, which has attended modern industrial development, especially upon this continent, and which pardons everything to success.  Let us beware lest the spirit of the market-place dominate too greatly our ideals.  Let us never forget that the life-blood of the commonwealth is to be found, not in its abounding prosperity, but in its moral earnestness, its ethical standards of private and public life, and its spirit of intelligent and unselfish patriotism.  By these it shall be judged and upon these it must rely in the ultimate test.  The true ideals of democracy are impossible of attainment unless the individual citizen realizes and accepts his duty to the State.  Individual responsibility for the good government of the commonwealth ought to be learned at every mother’s knee, taught daily in the schools, preached continually from the pulpit and proclaimed everywhere by the press.



Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based blogger and policy wonk who writes about conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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