The excitement over Kipling’s visit was quite as intense in Victoria as it had been in Vancouver. The meeting of the Canadian Club was moved to the A.O.U.W. Hall in order to accommodate the largest attendance in the history of the club. The reception of the speech is described by the Victoria Daily Times:
The question being put, the vote was carried bv a unanimous aye which came with a snap as from one mouth. Then all rose and sang Rule Britannia amid much enthusiasm, and the adjournment followed.
After the adjournment the people filed round the hall and shook hands with the visitor who has done so much to foster the spirit of empire among all British subjects.
Kipling treated these episodes with some flippancy: “I discoursed fluently about Oriental labour at Vancouver and Victoria and at Winnipeg I have preached on the National Spirit like a blessed book” (Thomas Pinney (Ed.) Letters vol 3 p. 275). But there is no doubt that he was excited and elated by the experience.
MR. KIPLING, who was greeted with cheers, said: “I think I should be more than overwhelmed by the heartiness of the reception you have been good enough to accord me, if I did not know that in reality it has nothing to do with me.” (Cries of “no,” “no” and singing of “He’s a jolly good fellow.”)
“Well, we will put it this way. It is due to the fact that I have been fortunate enough to write about things in which we are both interested—you as natives of the Dominion and I as an observer. Whilst it is in the capacity of an observer that I have been making an itinerary through your little Dominion, I wanted to gather as much information as I could of your people and of vour institutions. But my observations have been somewhat diverted by the very great kindness that has met me wherever I went. It would be impossible for me to tell you what 1 have seen. 1 started with the kindest sentiments towards every province that I had occasion to pass through. Little by little as I saw one vast province after another my sentiments of kindness and affection were overlaid by private envy, and my envy reached its height when I arrived in the city of Victoria.
“I had hoped that I had made a mistake the last time I visited it, and that I over-rated its scenery and climate, but I find that I was an impartial observer at that time, and that the city is quite as beautiful now as I had believed it to be, and that man has in the meantime contributed greatly to its artistic possessions; that man has in the meantime made it more than I had imagined. I am sorry, because 1 thought it might [have] been like some photographs spoiled in the process of development. I feared that you might have forgotten what you owe to nature, and that you might have blotted out a scene or two to make a quarry or dammed up the Gorge to make a water mill. I am glad that you have managed to make a magnificent city, and at the same time to keep intact the magnificent treasure-house of your natural heauty.
“You cannot expect to show men such things as these without filling their minds with the baser passions and unkind comparisons. I am very sorry that you here know nothing about fever, drought, blight and other of those disadvantages contributed by nature in your daily life and in your politics. I am sorry that you have not had occasion to transport cattle from waterless and barren areas to new pastures, and that your habitations are not found in corrugated iron sheds, and that you do not have to pay six cents a bucket for muddy water. Can you wonder that 1 am jealous for the men I know who do not possess your special blessings? I say I am jealous for the men elsewhere. I am jealous not only for their material advancement, but for the honour and integrity of our empire to which these men would joyfully contribute if they only had the chance.
“There are in Great Britain thousands of boys growing to manhood and girls growing to womanhood who are only waiting the chance to come out and join you. They are not different from your own ancestors, they are not different from the people who crossed the mountains, plains and seas, who made the experiments and mistakes that are forgotten long ago. They are not different from the pioneers who have given of their best to build up the fabric of the Empire. They carry in their hearts the ingrained, one-hundred-year-old instinct of respect for the law as law, and that is the strongest bulwark behind which a young nation can grow.
“Much of the present stream of immigration that strikes the east side of the continent has come from countries where people have always regarded law as an oppressor, who have always looked up to government and authority with unreasoning terror. It is possible in years to come that they wall make good citizens, but, of course, they lack the initial qualities of our own stock in Great Britain, who do not suffer from the drawbacks of those races. It is not necessary to evolve an elaborate scheme of education to instruct the immigration from Great Britain how to talk the English language, or to teach his children the rudiments of citizenship. He knows that he may have [much] to learn and much to unlearn, but at least he will come about with the same powers and possibilities as yourselves. Following the same ideals even as your fathers did along the lines that you know well, he seeks only room to develop his powers and his capabilities, and this room I conceive is offered in your vast Dominion.
“It is possible that in your strength you may think, or you may be persuaded to think, that this is not an urgent question, hut the time is coming when you will have to choose between desired reinforcements of your own stock and blood and the undesired rush of races, to whom you are strangers, whose speech you do not understand, and from whose instincts and traditions you are separated by thousands of years. That is your choice. For myself I think the time for making that choice is on you now.”
—Victoria Daily Times, 9 October 1907.