William Irvine.

The farmers in politics online

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A new-born weakling, starts up strong not weak
Not by foiled daring, fond attempts back driven;
Fine faults of growth, brave sins which saint when

To stand full-statured in magnificence.

In the unity we see the connection between the
new-born weakling and the full-statured magni-
ficence. Meanwhile our partial vision, with
our loyalties to the little that we do see, are
"brave sins," "fine faults of growth."

When society is seen as a living organism
developing in harmony with the laws of life, and
not as something which politicians have put to-
gether, as it were, with hammer and nails, we



shall cease to think of destruction, and use time
and effort for the purpose of cultivation; we
shall see that society, like the individual, is part
of all it has met with part of all it has experi-
enced; imbedded in its being is all of the past,
and that past, combined with the present, de-
termines its future.

The indestructibility of anything that exists
is an acknowledged fact of physical science.
What passes for destruction with the superficial
witness, however, is but the changing of form, or
the passing from one state of existence to an-
other. I maintain that this principle of in-
destructibility is no less true when applied to
thought, or to the institutions of society, than it
is in physics, and that, if this truth were fully
realized, governments would no longer attempt
by suppression and persecution to destroy new
thoughts and new systems; neither would radi-
cals act as though old systems should be attacked
and destroyed in order to make way for new.
Nature is working in the thought and action de-
partments of human life as accurately and as
firmly as she works in the physical universe.
Destruction is not one of nature's methods.
She has provided against the possibility of
destroying. The old system will change its



form under the proper natural conditions with-
out the aid of iconoclasm.

It is, perhaps, discouraging that human his-
tory has failed to teach this lesson more widely,
especially as it is written on every page. In all
ages futility has marked the course of those who
have attempted to extirpate ideas by force. It
always was so, and always will be. But not yet
is this sufficiently realized. The government of
Canada, particularly during the great war,
brought into use the outworn, senseless methods
of suppression, notwithstanding the fact that his-
tory fails to give us one instance in which the
effort to club ideas has been successful. Clubs,
it is true, may kill the individual with the idea,
but nothing spreads ideas so far, or so quickly,
as the blood of the oppressed. Constituted
authorities, fearing that something held by them
to be of value will be destroyed, make the fatal
mistake of molesting those advocating that
which they fear. This applies chiefly to mat-
ters of religion and political economy. But no
one is afraid that the explorer will upset gravity
when he starts on an expedition; nor does any-
one fear that the physical laws of the universe
will be violated when the scientist enters his
laboratory. Why, then, should politicians fear



the opinion of sociologists, or even the ruddiest
utterances of the rosiest "reds"? The laws of
society are just as well protected by nature as
any other laws in existence. If we go back in
history a little, we will find Bruno burned to
death by authorities because he tried to estab-
lish the idea that the world we inhabit was
shaped like a ball. But the burning of Bruno
did not make the world flat. In spite of fire
here or hereafter it obstinately remained
round. Being round, sooner or later it was
seen to be round; until in the end, what Bruno
once saw, all see, and his persecution is con-
demned as the stupid thing it was. So it is with
all things. Love was not lost to the world when
the world's greatest Lover was crucified ; neither
will the ideas for which I am contending in this
book perish with the disappearance of a few of
those who hold them.

Our governments are taking the club method
to-day. Bolshevism, the O.B.U., strikes, agita-
tors, publications, all must be suppressed by
fines, threats, imprisonments, and deportations.
Now, I am neither defending nor condemning
Bolshevism, nor the O.B.U., nor strikes. All I
want to say is that repressive methods will not
prevail against these things if the laws of society



justify them. If the laws of society do not call
for the uprisings and revolutions which the gov-
ernments dread, neither agitators nor revolution-
ists can bring them about. The iron laws of
society are stronger than the temporary laws of

Faith in truth is what the world requires. No
one needs to fear except, perhaps, those who live
by privileges which truth does not sanction. A
nation with faith in truth will never have politi-
cal prisoners, nor obscurantism, nor suppression
of speech. It will know that truth cannot be

Every reformer should abolish the term "de-
struction" from his vocabulary. Not only has
it no place in scientific thinking, but it makes
people afraid. People are not attracted by a
program of destruction, and yet people must be
attracted and won if substantial reforms are to
be attained. Somehow, the advocates of reform
in the last generation or two have put a great
deal more emphasis upon the necessity of get-
ting rid of the old than they have put on the
desirability of the new. Naturally, the result is
that people are fearful when they should be con-
fident, and those opposed to reforms exploit this
fear as a means of retarding progress.



The challenge which comes to every leader in
new thoughts and new methods comes from
truth itself. Truth knows nothing of destruc-
tion, and says to those entrusted with her cause,
"If you are a destroyer, you do not know me."
The attractiveness of any movement is of greater
importance than the defects in that which it is
intended to supersede, and should not be defaced
by misrepresentation. Every person espousing
a cause must feel and accept some responsibility
for the proper interpretation of that cause. To
spread abroad misrepresentation is to create dis-
trust, and those guilty of so doing are hinderers,
not helpers, and when distrust has, in this or any
other way, been created; then it is that truth
has been wounded in the house of her friends,
and needs to be saved from them.

Organizations or movements are seldom in
danger of being permanently defeated by outside
opposition. It is true that external opposition
retards progress, but it will never be successful
in forcing ultimate defeat on any movement that
is founded on necessity. The opinion is trite
which holds that the greatest enemies and the
most dangerous to any cause are those within.
Those within are the greatest enemies because
the movement is judged by their mistakes, and



because when they act unwisely, they do so with
the genuine enthusiasm of sincerity.

Movements are often misrepresented by oppo-
nents, but no cause for this should be given by
responsible advocates. The proper introduc-
tion to every gospel is, "We come that ye might
have life, and that ye might have it more abund-
antly," and "We come, not to destroy, but to ful-
fil." What chance has anyone, or what chance
should anyone have, who comes to destroy?
They who come to destroy come to do the im-
possible. They are defeated before they begin.
Even when they appeared confidently, with a
message of good-will on their lips, and in their
hearts, great teachers have been crucified, and,
sad to think, must still appear, and still be dealt
with in the same treacherous way that their pre-
decessors were.

Great achievements have been accepted, in the
past, because of their attractiveness. People
select, naturally, that which serves their highest
purpose best, and in this respect political or in-
dustrial systems are no different. If shown to
be serviceable, people will desire them.

Whoever would achieve in social reformation
would do well to take a hint from politicians and
those who have been successful in commercial



enterprises. If politicians sought votes for
what they intended to do, they would receive
none. They obtain votes because they promise
good things. The lesson is that people are look-
ing for good things. This fact is commercial-
ized and degraded by politicians, and often
ignored by reformers. Commercial enterprise
is successful, because it promises service to peo-
ple. As soon as confidence is established, suc-
cess is secure.

When the first railroad was built, the promo-
ters did not send speakers throughout the coun-
try asking people to break up all wagons and
carts, and shoot the horses; or advocating the
destruction of highways and footpaths because
a new method of transportation had been de-
vised. No! The railroad was built, and people
stopped transportation by means of wagons, and
shipped their freight by rail because to ship by
rail was advantageous. Nor yet when tele-
graphy was discovered, did the promoters ad-
vocate the destruction of the postal system ; they
strung a wire along poles, and, of its own value,
their achievement superseded the postal system
in business enterprise.

Reformers, to be successful, must be able to
give the positive presentation of their case. In-



stead of saying: "Upset the government,"
"Down with capital," "To hell with the Sys-
tem," etc., they must say: "We come to fulfil the
highest functions of these." Capital must be
used to greater advantage for the common good ;
it must be made to serve. Capitalists will not
be destroyed ; they will be called to the higher
service of managing capital for national well-
being; and governments will be fulfilled in be-
ing made to represent the people truly, and to
manage with honesty and efficiency the public
business. The philosophy of the new social
order is positive, constructive, and fulfilling. It
brings the more abundant life as well to those
who have as to those who have not. Truth de-
mands that we redeem our social aspirations
from disgruntled negations to a positive gospel
of hope, capable of inspiring confidence.

"Truth," if it be "lifted up," will draw all
people unto it. The world will follow when
we can show a better way. It is the privilege
and duty of organized farmers to show the bet-
ter way in politics and industry. They do not
come to destroy political parties. All parties
are alike to them. The farmers come to do
more honestly, more democratically, and more
efficiently, that which the old parties have been



trying to do. In their economic oppression and
political wandering, the farmers have discov-
ered the new law and the new hope. They do
not seek to destroy, but to fulfil, governments;
they do not want to compete with the exploiters
for the lion's share of the plunder, but seek true
co-operation in all things for the highest com-
mon good.

With such an outlook, the method of cam-
paigning should be to educate and guide.
There are too many people with good intentions
who try to take the world by the throat. The
farmers aim to take the world by the hand, and
in the spirit of co-operation go forward into the
new day together.


The foregoing survey of what may
The New ^ e ca u ec [ t h e ma i n factors of civiliza-

Leaders .

tion reveals that there is at present a
great ferment and agitation in all departments
of society. The unrest, which may be taken as
symptomatic of the approaching era, is not con-
fined to one phase of national life; it is all-per-
vasive and universal. All institutions are in
the ever-moving current of progress, and there
is nothing to be feared unless there is tampering



with natural laws. The only danger comes
from those who would seek by artificial means to
ictard progress. As well might one try to stop
the river with a dam. All that happens in such
a case is that the force is stored up until it equals
the resistance of the barrier, and then the water
rushes wildly over, carrying all before it in hope-
less confusion. The effect of every restriction
of, or repressive act against, social unrest, on the
part of public officials, is exactly similar. Sane
direction, not autocratic repression, is what is
needed to-day more than anything else.

The world outlook is social. Individualism
is passing out, co-operation is coming in, and
everything must be adjusted to the change.

New times demand new measures and new men;
The world advances, and in time outgrows
The laws that in our fathers' day were best;
And doubtless, after us, some purer scheme
Will be shaped out by wiser men than we,
Made wiser by the steady growth of truth.

"New men" as well as "new measures" are
needed. Those who were the most efficient in
individualism will be, for that very reason, the
most inefficient under co-operation. Most of
our leaders in industry, religion, education, and
government, are not qualified for leadership in
a new social order. No matter how well inten-



tioned they may be, their whole training is
against them. They belong to yesterday. It
will be seen that most leaders to-day are follow-
ers, and not only followers, but they are as a rule
"following afar off," much too far off as a mat-
ter of fact to allow us to entertain much hope of
them. They hanker after the past, do not see
the new dawn, and lack the courage to take the
initiative. Objectionable as it may be to some,
the new leaders are coming from the ranks of
those who have been up till now the "despised
and rejected of men." The agrarian and urban
industrial organizations are the Nazareth from
which are coming the prophets of a new day.

A time like this demands

Strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and willing hands.

In response to the yearning expressed in these
lines, honest toilers from the factory, with a de-
votion to justice, with a reverence for everything
human, and with an indomitable courage to act,
are assuming the responsibilities that have been
considered, heretofore, the special prerogatives
of the aristocracy; and the farmer, like Cincin-
natus of old, is leaving his plow for the legisla-
tive halls. These are the "new men." To those
who doubt the reality of the new Nazareth, I
say, "Come and see."



The United Farmers' movement in Canada
took its rise in the general environment of un-
rest I have described. The more immediate
economic environment leading to the organiza-
tion of the agrarian workers will be considered
in detail, later. But the atmosphere of pro-
gressive ideas into which the United Farmers
organization was born has had more than a pass-
ing significance in shaping the ideals and destiny
of the movement. Born in due time, nurtured
in unrest, and breathing as the very breath of
life the universal spirit of Justice, the United
Farmers of Canada are in a position to give that
service to the nation which at this time it sorely
needs. The farmers are in a position to do
great national service, not only because they
awoke to consciousness in the midst of a chang-
ing world, but also because their aims are syn-
thetic. Although fathered by oppression, the
farmers' movement has escaped that bitterness
of feeling against capital, and that extreme rash-
ness both of expression and action, so character-
istic of labor. The farmer, in reality, combines
in his own profession, the two antagonists. He
is both capitalist and laborer. He knows that
production is not furthered when war is going
on between the two. He sees, also the hopeless



deadlock between organized capital and organ-
ized labor in the world of industry and com-
merce, and is thus led to the discovery of co-
operation as the synthesis without which pro-
gress cannot be made. In this way the United
Farmers have become the apostles of co-opera-
tion ; they have captured the imagination of the
nation by combining true radicalism with scien-
tific moderation, and it is safe to say that they are
the most hopeful factor in Canadian national
life to-day. The opportunities of the farmers
are therefore great, their duty is great, their
responsibilities are great, and it is to be hoped
that their services to Canada also will be great.







Why the How did the farmers 7 organization
Farmers originate? Did it spring into being

Organized. or {& j t g row i

ous response to conditions? The answer to
these questions will furnish us with the key to
the proper interpretation of the movement. The
general environment of the movement has al-
ready been given. Its character has been -af-
fected by the atmosphere of unrest, and the
universal desire for social justice peculiar to the
period. We have now to examine the more im-
mediate economic environment in which the
United Farmers' organization took its rise. To
do this thoroughly would mean writing a com-
plete history of the movement, which cannot, of
course, in this place, even be attempted. I
would rather refer the reader to "Deep Fur-
rows" by Mr. Hopkins Moorhouse. In that
excellent work will be found the history of the
men and conditions that combined to make the
agrarian outlook what it is to-day. But it is



imperative that we review some of the economic
factors that have served to force the Canadian
farmers out of their individualism, and made
them join hands in the cause of their own self-

It may seem strange to some to mention land
monopoly as one of the injustices which, in-
directly, led to organized protest on the part of
the farmers, but nevertheless, the land question
is of fundamental importance. There is so
much land in Canada that, at this early stage of
our history, to speak of a land problem at all
will appear to be ridiculous. The patriotic
politician in his flight of eloquence concerning
the boundless and immeasurable resources of
this country, we have all heard. He never fails
to dilate on the millions of acres of virgin soil
more fertile than Eden of old, waiting to pour
its rich harvests into the bins of merry plough-
men. Alas! half truths are worse than lies.
True the land is here, true it is fertile, but it is
not waiting for the ploughmen, it is waiting for
the "price" ; and that price is fixed by the spec-
ulator; it is the chief barrier between the merry
ploughmen and those "rich harvests" of the poli-
ticians' dream. Certainly Canada has rich soil
and extensive natural resources, but these re-



sources do not belong to Canada; they are
owned by individuals, many of whom do not
even live in Canada. It is no secret that the
heritage of millions of Canadian children yet
unborn has been given away to individuals, rail-
roads, and land companies. Children read the
story of the Forty Thieves with excited interest;
but the story of Canadian resources in their rela-
tion to twenty-three money kings, which is equal-
ly exciting, has been tabooed. It should be
made the basis of Canadian history. If in our
Sunday schools it is considered wise and reli-
gious to teach the children how the land of
Canaan was divided among the Israelites, it
would surely not be out of place to let them
know how Canada has been divided among the

In a country so rich in natural resources pov-
erty should be unknown. Canada has an area
of 1,401,316,413 acres. Of this 440,951,000
acres are arable, while only 36,000,000 acres are
under cultivation. There are 170,000,000 acres
of timber land, bearing approximately 700,000,-
000,000 feet. Our coal deposits are conserva-
tively estimated at 1,234,269,000,000 tons.
There are also rich deposits of iron, nickel, gold,
and other minerals. The water power of



Canada, which is another valuable asset, is cal-
culated to be 17,746,000 horse power. The soil
is as rich as any in the world, and produces
abundantly all kinds of grain, grasses, vege-
tables, and fruits. The abundance of Canada's
natural resources is beyond computation, and is
still practically untouched. The population is
small. If all the homes in Canada were placed
in such a way as to cover the whole area, allow-
ing the same area of land for each, they would
be so far apart as to be out of sight of each other.
Yet with one of the smallest populations in one
of the largest and richest countries in the world,
poverty abounds.

A life insurance company recently advertised
that "amongst every thousand men who reach
sixty-five there are four hundred dependents
upon private or public charity." In 1915 the
daily press of Winnipeg reported that there were
four thousand children, in that city alone, whose
parents were too poor to provide any Christmas
festivities. In 1901 there were in Canada 46,-
154 families living in single rooms and in 1910
the number of families living in single rooms
had increased to 80,702.

Poverty is not confined to the cities. Its
dreadful shadow is everywhere on the great



fertile Canadian plains. It is produced through
the monopoly of natural resources, and by the
exploitation of the agrarian toilers. A glance
at a few of the facts will suffice to demonstrate
the truth of the statement. In the three prairie
provinces there are 153,000,000 acres of tillable
land, of which 16,000,000 acres only are culti-
vated, while 100,000,000 acres are held by spe-
culators. Thousands of people, many of whom
are returned soldiers, desire to use this land and
production would be enormously increased if it
were available to these people for use. But the
prices charged by the speculators are prohibi-
tive, and, as a matter of unexaggerated fact, most
purchasers of land under the present unfavor-
able agricultural conditions simply bind them-
selves to slave their lives away for mortgage

One of the largest land holders in the prairie
provinces is the Canada Northwest Land Co.,
Ltd., whose board of directors is practically that
of the Canadian Pacific Railway Co. In addi-
tion to an interest in the Canadian Pacific Rail-
way townsites, this company owns 373,165 acres.
The Canadian Northern Prairie Lands Co.,
under Canadian Northern Railway direction,
holds 67,319 acres; the Hudson's Bay Co. has



4,058,050 acres; and the Canadian Northern
Railway Co. owns 6,511,394 acres. The Cana-
dian Pacific Railway Co. has been selling its
land for twenty years or more. By the sale of
21,000,000 acres the company realized over

Much of the land now under cultivation has
been purchased by farmers from these privileged
companies. This, together with the tariff, the
high freight rates, and the low price of wheat,
accounts for the fact that a large percentage of
the farmers are operating to-day under the
gentle care of mortgage companies. In Saskat-
chewan it is estimated that eighty per cent, of all
farm lands is mortgaged, and a similar condition
of things exists in the other Canadian provinces.

The homestead policy can scarcely be said to
have been devised either in the interests of agri-
culture, or of the homesteaders themselves. It
was devised in the interests of railroads and land
companies. Settlers were necessary to the coun-
try if the land values were to be improved, and
if the railroads were to be profitable, and hence
the free homesteads offered as alluring induce-
ment. But these homesteads were not of the
best lands; the best had already been picked;
neither were they close to the railway, for land



adjacent to the railroads had been disposed of
already; and so the homestead farmer suffered
from land monopoly from the very first. Forced
to go anywhere from five to forty miles from a
railroad, the pioneer lost by the increased cost of
the production of his marketable commodities.
He spent more time on the road, used more
horses, and wore out more wagons. But he had
also to build roads from his lonely homestead,
over, and through, miles of unused land, much
of which was untaxable. Schools, too, had to

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Online LibraryWilliam IrvineThe farmers in politics → online text (page 5 of 13)