Non-Fictional Prose

by Charles G.D. Roberts

Edited by D.M.R. Bentley and Laurel Boone




During the last few days the name of King's has been much in men's mouths.  Many eyes have been upon her, watching with sympathy and real sorrow, I believe, to see her speedy dissolution.  But let me assure you of this—the matter is by no means decided as yet.  I must ask you not to be misled by any mere expression of opinion, quite without practical authority, and appearing to have a much greater authority than it does really possess.  There yet remains in King's college a remnant which does not hold it honorable to flee to the skirts of a generous sister college—altogether worthy and altogether loved though that sister college be—for protection from the first little danger.  There is yet a remnant in King's college which does not think it manly to foist upon other and generous shoulders its own legitimate responsibilities.  There yet remains in King's college a remnant that has not condescended to misrepresentation, or approved of the washing of soiled linen in public.  This remnant is not necessarily small because it does not happen to be noisy.  And I ask you to believe that it may yet accomplish, if earnest effort can accomplish it, something that will be to the honor of old King's and for the good of the highest kind of education.

There is one respect in which the situation of the Canadian university is unique.  This is in regard to the peculiar responsibility under which we rest in the matter of instruction in comparative history and comparative politics.  This is a real, a vital, an immediate question for our colleges to consider.  It is a responsibility not to be shirked.  We, now, at this day, are present at the beginnings of a national existence.  All about us, for the last few years, mighty forces have been at work.  Have our universities been guiding these forces as it is their prerogative, their duty, to guide them?  Surely, the university is the heart, from which should throb the currents of the intellectual forces of the nation.  Canadians are a people that will have ideas.  Canadians are a people that will have ideas.  It is for the universities to see that their ideas are right ones.  Canadians are a people that will argue.  It is for the universities to see that they argue not from false premises, from false principles.  Shall not the university then see to it, and at once, that the young men of Canada know something of the facts and the philosophy of history, and of the foundations of economic science?  See this, our country, standing, uncertain, but eager with the restlessness of the race, waiting for the change!  But what change?  Ah, this it will be for those young men whom we are training now to decide.  And whose the responsibility, then, if through ignorance they decide not aright?  We are a self-governing people.  The universities must see to it that we know how to govern ourselves.  The change may come not today, nor yet tomorrow, neither, perhaps, within the next ten years.  But a change will come.  Then, when the issue is thrust upon us, finally, if the Canadian university has been alive to its duty, may we feel confident that this dear Canada of ours will not be astonished or cast down.


"A Six Minutes' Talk," Progress 1.12 (Saint John, N.B.), 21 July 1888, 4-5 [back]