The change of government in Great Britain in 1905 must have brought to Sir Wilfrid a profound sense of relief; it was no longer necessary to rest upon his armor night and day. Not that the Imperialist drive ceased but it no longer found its starting point and rallying place in the Colonial office. The centralists operated from without, looking about for someone to put forward their ideas, as in 1911 when they took possession of Sir Joseph Ward, New Zealand’s vain and ambitious Prime Minister, and induced him to introduce their half-baked schemes into the Conference. He and they were suppressed by universal consent, Sir Wilfrid simply lending a hand. Sir Wilfrid’s refusal at this conference to join Australia and other Dominions in a demand that they be consulted by the British government in matters of foreign policy seemed to many out of harmony with the Imperial policies which he had been pursuing. Mr. Asquith at this conference declared that Great Britain could not share foreign policy with the Dominions; and Sir Wilfrid declared that Canada did not want to share this responsibility with the British government. Seemingly Sir Wilfrid thus accepted, despite his repeated claim that Canada was a nation, a subordinate relation to Great Britain in the field of foreign relations which is the real test of nationhood. In fact, however, this was the crowning manifestation of his wariness and far-sightedness. He realized in 1911 what is only now beginning to be understood by public men who succeeded to his high office, that a method of consultation obviously defective and carrying with it in reality no suspensory or veto power, involves by indirection the adoption of that very centralizing system which it had been his purpose to block. If, Sir Wilfrid said, Dominions gave advice they must be prepared to back it with all their strength; yet “we have taken the position in Canada that we do not think we are bound to take part in every war.” He saw in 1911 as clearly as Lloyd George did in 1921 (as witness the latter’s statement to the House of Commons in that year on the Irish treaty) that the policy of consultation gave the Dominions a shadowy and unreal power; but imposed upon them a responsibility, serious and inescapable. He thus felt himself obliged to discourage the procedure suggested by Premier Fisher of Australia, even though, to the superficial observer, this involved him in the contradiction of, at the same time, exalting and depreciating the status of his country.
LAURIER’S VIEW OF CANADA’S FUTURE
What conception was there in Laurier’s mind as to the right future for Canada? He revealed it pretty clearly on several occasions; notably in 1908 in a tercentenary address at Quebec in the presence of the present King, when he said: “We are reaching the day when our parliament will claim co-equal rights with the British parliament and when the only ties binding us together will be a common flag and