February 7, 1936 (18th Parliament, 1st Session)


Richard Bedford Bennett (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Conservative (1867-1942)

Right Hon. R. B. BENNETT (Leader of the Opposition):

Mr. Speaker, the observations made by the right hon. Prime Minister (Mr. Mackenzie King) represent the heartfelt expression of opinion of this house. He speaks not as the chief of a great party, but as the leader of the House of Commons, and lengthy observations on my part should therefore be unnecessary. But tradition necessitates my making at least a few observations on behalf of those who sit with me, and are affiliated with me politically, so that we may be associated with what has been said.
I do not suppose that in the history of our institutions as we have them there has ever been any such manifestation of popular emotion as that which followed the death of His Majesty King George V. In city, town and hamlet, and in remote sections of the prairie, men and1 women regarded the death of King George as a personal sorrow. So far as I have been able to read, never before has it been given to a sovereign to touch the hearts of the people as did King George Y. As one observer has said, it is difficult to express the reasons why, but on the other hand it is not- difficult to understand the causes.
The late king might well be said to have been the hereditary president of our empire. He was olosely in touch with his people. When he succeeded to the throne, having travelled over every part of his vast empire, having circumnavigated the globe before he was heir apparent to the throne and having served in the navy with great distinction, he was acquainted with every part of his vast dominions. When he ascended the throne, he asked the people to permit him to follow in his father's footsteps, and he referred to the great anxiety of King Edward VII to ameliorate the conditions of his people. At that time, when our late king had ascended the throne, the duties of the sovereign were defined as safeguarding the treasures of the past and preparing the path of the future. All the glories, all the achievements, all the security of law' and order, all the developments of ages-these treasures had to be safeguarded. But with changed conditions, with the growth of a new democracy, with the extension of the franchise, with the balance of power changed from what it had been, a new path had to be made; that pathway had to be prepared. Such was the obligation of the new sovereign.

Death oj King George V
I wonder if for a moment one could contemplate what has transpired since then? Shortly after his accession to the throne he had to deal with complex constitutional problems, the like of which no former sovereign had had to consider, although his father had dealt with them in part. Later, and only very shortly after his accession to the throne, the most desolating war of all the ages came upon us. In its aftermath we had a long, long struggle to get back to prosperity. We were faced with the necessity of a readjustment of our conditions, and painful effort to overcome the difficult situation that had been brought about. In all this the king was not only the head of the state but the inspired leader of his people, the wise and sagacious statesman, the man of broad vision who saw beyond the narrow confines of the day and who looked into the long to-morrows. In the industrial centres, in the great and teeming population he laid the foundation of affection and regard which made possible the development, the safeguarding, the securing upon a permanent basis of those institutions of ours as we have them to-day. What an achievement ! The safeguarding of the treasures of the past, proving that it was not inconsistent with the maintenance of the great dignity of kingship to maintain the closest touch with the people in the freest democracy of the world. Never have men's liberties been more amply secured, never has freedom been upon a broader base than in the United Kingdom during recent years. This achievement, while it has been in no small measure attributable to the prescience of wise statesmen, must always in the last analysis be attributed to the dispassionate attitude of the sovereign, far removed from political parties, free from the partisanship of contending chiefs of parties in the state, and concerned wholly with the happiness, welfare and well-being of his people.
He had his reward, for when King George passed beyond, never was a throne more firmly established or more securely supported by the people's will; it had survived the struggles of the war, the internecine strife of parties following upon that great conflict; it had survived the days when the struggle for prosperity was still in the minds of the people and had emerged stronger, more enduring, than ever in its w'hole history. And so as he passed to his reward our late king was sure that he had preserved the treasures of the past and was able to hand on to his successor a priceless legacy, a legacy which cannot be defined in words, a legacy which he himself enriched by his toil, by his vision, and by his appreciation of his responsibilities.
The pathway of the future must be prepared. The statute of Westminster has secured for the autonomous dominions overseas an equality of status with the motherland herself, an equality in every particular in matters affecting domestic and foreign policies, all owing allegiance to the same crown and associated together in the commonwealth of nations. So far as we in this parliament are concerned, we may indeed say that constitutionally the pathway of .the future has been prepared.
I should like particularly to associate myself with what was said by the right hon. the Prime Minister as to the terrible obligation and responsibility-and I use the word "terrible" advisedly-that rests upon the parliament of this senior dominion of that great overseas empire, a responsibility the contemplation of which is calculated almost to overwhelm one. Sometimes it well might be that a chance word, a wrong attitude of mind, a lack of appreciation and understanding, perhaps a desire to serve an immediate purpose, political or otherwise, might involve considerations of the greatest moment not to Canada alone but to every part of the British commonwealth of nations, and thus affect the welfare and peace and happiness of the whole world.
The predominant aim of the late king, as he himself has said, was to maintain constitutional government in all its strength and power. Many a time his advisers have not been slow to tell us that we have hada closer appreciation and understanding of advice given to our sovereign, and of action taken by him than we have ever had in any other age in our history. One cannot but realize that at times there have been acute differences of opinion between the sovereign and his advisers; but never was there a moment when the sovereign, having considered and discussed these matters with his ministers, did not follow' the constitutional course of giving effect to tho advice he had received. Frequently he wa.I able to modify the views that were expressed.Frequently he was able by discussion and
argument to convince those who were his advisers that other courses than those contemplated should be taken, but always in the end the action taken was the action of his ministers.
His influence we cannot to-day appraise. We should not attempt it; it will be for history to determine that. We are too near the picture. But this we do know, that those who had to deal with him in matters of state and those who from time to time had dis-
Death of King George V

cussions with him of problems affecting the welfare of one-quarter of the world's population were unanimous in the view that he was a constitutional sovereign. By his wide experience, by his great knowledge of men, through the life of his contact with successive ministries, he had been able to achieve so detached a position and so sound a judgment, such great wisdom and sagacity, that his influence was at times decisive in matters of the gravest importance to every part of the world. That I think was exemplified particularly in the formation of what was known as the national government. The historian of even to-day has told us how great that influence was; but that sound constitutional sovereign was never unmindful of the fact that, although one-quarter of the world's population owed allegiance to his throne, there was a wider world than that over which he reigned, and the constant endeavour of King George was to maintain good relations between Great Britain and indeed the British empire and every part of the world, so that the influence of this commonwealth of nations might always be an agency for peace and for the happiness of mankind. That in itself was a great ideal. The accomplishment of it obviously is impossible for human minds or human men, but the effort to achieve it was never lacking.
There was a side of the late king which we must not overlook, and that was his influence on the national character and life, not only through his constant appearances with the queen before the public, but in the observations which from time to time he was pleased to make, not only in the Christmas day broadcasts but also by their example. And what finer example for the poorest or the most humble in the country could there be than that of the family life of King George V? He was a respecter of all the conventions of life, a religious man in the truest and best sense, tolerant of all, knowing that his subjects belonged to many races and professed many faiths. He kept the Sabbath holy. He maintained that regard for conventions that has made, as we all know it to be true, the home and family the keynote of our greatness; for the greatness of this empire, so far as it is reflected from its centre or from its overseas dominions, lies in the fact that its foundations are set in the homes of the people. No work was done on Sunday, the day of rest. Never was he lacking in religious observance wherever he might be, whether it was in the private chapel in a great palace or in the little church in the parish of Sandringham ; whenever his health permitted he was there. The force of his example upon his

people and upon the world of good living, of high regard for home and family, I would place as the greatest possible influence that has been exercised by our late king upon the world at large.
There is one word I might say and perhaps I will be forgiven for saying it. The Prime Minister referred to a statement made by the Archbishop of Canterbury. I was privileged to represent this parliament last May, and during the course of conversation the late king used words almost similar to those used by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He said to me that he could not understand why there was manifested such evidences of affectionate regard on the part of the people. He added, "I am a very ordinary man, but I have done my best." Never shall I forget the way in which those words were spoken. Not, "I have done my duty," but "I have done my best." Could anything be finer? Could anything better than that be held up to the youth of this or any other country? Vicissitudes, sorrows, the death of mother, sister, son, illness nigh unto death-all these things had crowded into that busy life-but he had done his best. Perhaps that thought was in the minds of his people when they showed such affection, affection as has never been shown to a mortal king so far as we have record. It was not reverence, or respect, or admiration; it was real love and affection. It was the reward for virtue, courage, dignity, toil, self sacrifice; for, in the words of Kipling, never asking a man to do other than what he himself would do. Was prohibition to be enacted, was the use of spirits to be denied in the kingdom, the king would also follow that course. Were there restrictions upon food, the king must subject himself to them. No sacrifice did he shrink from that his subjects had to bear. With the life of toil and sacrifice he reached the reward that he spoke of in those beautiful words, not in his last Christmas message but in the Christmas message of 1934, when he said:
If I may be regarded as in some true sense the head of this great and widespread family, sharing its life and sustained by its affection, this will be a full reward for the long and sometimes anxious labours of my reign of well nigh five and twenty years.
Could) anything be finer than that? Five and twenty years of toil and then his reward is sharing the life and being sustained1 by the affection of his subjects. There we might leave it, but something else was said that no man can forget. It was a great author who once said that of the four sweetest words in our language, "home" and1 "mother" were two. Of the king's devotion to his mother everyone is aware, but who can forget the words that he

Death oj King George V
used on his accession to the throne with respect to his wife? Not "Queen" as we use- the word, but this is what he said on that May day when he ascended the throne:
I am encouraged by the knowledge that I have in my dear wife one who "will be a constant helpmate in every endeavour for our people's good.
With all the pomp and1 pageantry surrounding the throne, the late king in ascending it spoke of his "dear wife." For twenty-five years she was his constant partner in joy and sorrow, she shared with him all the joys and all the woes of that great office. At the end, in the ancient hall at Westminster, I heard him utter these words:
I have been blessed in all my work in having beside me my dear wife, of whom you have spoken so kindly.
I happen to know that one of the things that gave His late Majesty the greatest pleasure was the thought that on the day on which that speech with amplifiers and broad-oasts was carried to every part of the kingdom, a workman, speaking to a fellow workman, said, "Why, Bill, he is just like you and me. Did you hear him? He spoke with feeling when he spoke of his wife; he felt just the way we do when we speak about ours." I happen to know that gave to His Majesty the greatest joy possible. One of his subjects, humbly illiterate if you will, living a life of relative poverty, recognized the choking accents of his sovereign as he spoke of his dear wife at the close of that memorable address. He said, "I have been blessed in all my work in having beside me my dear wife." What a tribute to home and mother!
Our hearts go out, not to the great queen who has ennobled her high position and filled it with dignity and honour to the pride of all subjects of the king, but -to the widowed mother, bereaved of husband, mourning his passing, who has now become the subject of her son. It is in that sense I join with the right hon. gentleman in his moving reference to Her Majesty. It is in that sense that we adopt this address of condolence to her in her great loss.
There remain but a few words to speak of the young man who has succeeded to the throne of his fathers as Edward VIII. He is no stranger to us. Frequently he has visited our country. His democratic attitude toward life, his wide knowledge of men, his clear conception of his obligations and responsibilities, his extraordinarily fine training in all the obligations of kingship enable him to come to the throne equipped as was his father or, as the Prime Minister has said, perhaps better
fitted by travel to discharge the great and onerous duties of his high office. We render him the homage of our grateful hearts. We offer him the tribute of our affection because when he came here in 1919 there was no human, however hardened, no citizen, however old, who could look upon that smile without emotion. It charmed, it fascinated, it commanded the respect and admiration of all.
With the lapse of time, with the growth of knowledge, and with wider understanding, greater wisdom and much greater sagacity, he succeeds to the throne of his fathers, equipped to oarry on the work so successfully initiated and carried on by George V. We are his subjects; but we wish him well, not because of his kingly office, not because we owe him allegiance, but because he embodies in his person those attributes which we would have possessed by the head of our state, the head of Canada, speaking, as he does, in the terms of the British North America Act and of the statute of Westminster, through His Excellency the Governor General, the personal representative of that king.
But there is another side; and depressed as we are, as we contemplate conditions in the world around us, worried as we all are with the thought of grim realities that cannot be cast away with a few words, or dealt with in rounded sentences-the vast, grim realities of world conditions as they are-we' thank God with grateful hearts that He has given us the great king whom we have had and who has passed to his reward, having had three score years and ten of active life, filled with anxiety and sacrificing toil for his people. We thank the Giver of all good and perfect gifts for that great life; we thank Him that His Majesty's Consort the Queen still lives, and that He has given us, in the person of our new king, one who will maintain the high traditions of a great office and will carry forward, as he himself has said, by every means within his power, the policies, the point of view and the ideals of his father who has passed to his great reward.
Here I close, hoping with all hon. members of this house, as all human beings must hope, for brighter and better days, hoping that an all-seeing Providence may direct men of wisdom so to advise their sovereign, that the dark possibilities to which the Prime Minister has alluded may never become actualities, but that with wisdom, fearing God and loving the king, we may serve our day and generation as our great departed king served his.
Death oj King George V

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