“I do not care for a thing because it is striking; but I care for a great thing if it is really great. Do not think me too daring if I suggest for a moment that Canada should aim to lead the nations instead of being led. I believe that she can do it, if she only has enough persistence. A people should plain for a thousand years and be willing to wait centuries. Still, merely to lead is very subordinate in my view: a nation should only exist, and will only exist permanently, if it has a reason of existence. France has hers in the needs of the inhabitants of a vast plain; local Britain in those of an island; with Israel it was religion; with Imperial Rome, organised civilization; Panhellenism had the mission of intellect; Canada too, to exist, must have a good reason why her people shall live and act together.”
“What then is our ‘reason of existence?’”
“It must be an aim, a work,” he said soberly.
The elder man was surprised. “My dear Haviland,” he exclaimed, “Are you sure you are practical?”
“I think I am practical, Mr. Chrysler,” Haviland replied firmly. “I have that objection so thoroughly in mind, that I would not expose my news to an ordinary man. It is because you are broad, liberal and willing to-examine matters in a large aspect, and that I think that in a large aspect I shall be justified, as at least not unreasonable, that I open my heart to you. Believe me, I am not unpractical, but only seeking a higher plane of practicality.”
“But how do you propose to get the people to follow this aim?”
“If they were shown a sensible reason why they ought to be a nation,” said he with calm distinctness,—“a reason more simple and great than any that could be advanced against it—it is all they would require. I propose a clear ideal for them—a vision of what Canada ought to be and do; towards which they can look, and feel that every move of progress adds a definite stage to a definite and really worthy edifice.”
“The-oretical” Chrysler murmured slowly, shaking his head.
“For a man, but not for a People!” the young Member cried.
Both were silent some moments. The elder looked up at last “What sort of Ideal would you offer them?”
“Simply Ideal Canada, and the vista of her proper national work, the highest she might be, and the best she might perform, situated as she is, all time being given and the utmost stretch of aims. As Plato’s mind’s eye saw his Republic, Bacon his New Atlantis, More his Utopia; so let us see before and above us the Ideal Canada, and boldly aim at the programme of doing something in the world.”
“Can you show me anything special that we can do in the world?” the old man asked. His caution was wavering a little. “It is not impossible I may be with you,” he added.
The Ontarian, in fact, did not object in a spirit of cavil. He did so apparently neither to doubt nor to believe, but simply to enquire, for in life he was a business man. His father had left him large lumber interests to preserve, and the responsibility had framed his prudence. He took the same kind of care in examining the joints of Haviland’s scheme as he would have exacted about the pegging or chains of a timber crib which was going to run a rapid.