The Right Hon. Vincent Massey, C.H., Addresses RMC Saint-Jean in 1952

“To learn to know and understand each other…” RH Vincent Massey at the Opening of RMC Saint-Jean

Taken from “Speaking of Canada: A selection of speeches, made while in office, of the Right Hon. Vincent Massey, C.H., Governor-General of Canada, 1952-1959,” by Vincent Massey. 

We would like to acknowledge with thanks – 3572 MGen (ret) Frank Norman who provided the text and suggestion for the article which 25366 NCdt Mike Shewfelt transcribed and posted in e-Veritas.

Je n’ai pas à insister sur le rôle que le Collège militaire royal de St-Jean est appelé à jouer dans notre défense nationale. Absorbés comme nous le sommes aujourd’hui par un besoin d’armes innombrables, aussi déroutantes dans leur complexité qu’accablantes dans leur coût, nous n’osons oublier que même au sein d’une armée moderne l’élément humain demeure toujours le point central et dominant. L’art de la guerre ne sera jamais vraiment mécanisé tant qu’il restera aux mains des hommes.

Le facteur humain des services armés requiert toutefois plus qu’une nourriture saine un bon lodgement ou des soins medicaux suffisants, quelque essentielles qui puissant être toutes ces conditions. On doit aussi trouver dans l’armée cet accord du raisonnement et du sentiment, ce mélange d’intelligence et de volonté, d’élévation d’esprit et de ferveur spirituelle qui s’imposent dans toute entreprise malaisée et ardue. Nous en sommes venus à ranger tout cela sous le titre de morale militaire. Chacun des hommes contribute une part personnelle plus ou moins forte à cet état d’esprit, suivant ses dispositions et sa compétence. C’est aux officiers cependant qu’incombe la responsabiité première de maintenir le moral des troupes. Là réside donc votre tâche non moins que votre privilège. Le rôle, le but du Collège militaire royal de St-Jean, sera de vous préparer à ce devoir noble mais peu facile.

L’ouverture d’un établissement comme celui-ci au Canada français arrive fort à propos. Dans notre pays la tradition militaire aura été avant tout française. La Nouvelle-France était une colonie missionnaire. Les relations commerciales avvec les Indiens, quelle que fut leur importance, ne devaient pas faire oublier l’oueuvre christianisante et civilisante de la France. Les premières troupes au Canada ne se composaient point de conquérants sans merci venus pour exploiter et opprimer les indigenes. L’amitié des peu-plades indiennes, en effet, avait déjà été acquise par des moyens pacifiques. A une époque où la mère patrie, la France, s’avérait la plus grande puissance militaire d’Europe, de belles figures françaises telles que Frontenac, d’Iberville et Montcalm réussirent à obtenir le respect et l’admiration de tous, y compris du vieil ennemi, l’Anglais.

Cette fière tradition ne s’est jamais éteinte. Plusieurs d’entre nous se souviennent du regain qu’elle a connu pendant la première guerre mondiale, alors que naissait cette unité célèbre, le Royal Vingt-Deuxième, régiment canadien don’t nous avons tous raison d’être fiers et qui fut caserné autrefois à l’endroit même ou nous nous travons aujourd’hui. Vous le savez tous, ce régiment comprend maintenant trois bataillons don’t l’un a vu le feu en Corée. Un autre est présentement engagé sur ce front éloigné. J’admire fort la valeur, les succès récents du Vingt-Deuxieme, mais ce qui m’impressionne surtout c’est la qualité particulière, la tenue de ce célèbre régiment. Ses membres s’enorgueillissent avec raison de la tradition militaire inhérent à l’histoire de la région qui lui a donné naissance. Ceux qui, comme moi, ont eu le privilège de relations plus ou moins étroites avec ce régiment affirmeront sans contredit qu’il symbolise non pas une innovation mais un renouveau, purement canadien, des traditions léguées par les grand colonisateurs militaires du passé.

I must also remind you of one more matter doubtless familiar to most of you. You all no doubt admire the historic buildings of the College, placed as they are on this beautiful site on one of the great rivers of Canada. The site of this College is doubly appropriate. St. Jean gained its significance as an outpost of Montreal, which itself was once an outpost of Canada. Montreal, we are told, was founded by the gallant soldier, Maisonneuve, not as a result of calculated military strategy but in obedience to the visions of those who saw it as a defence of Christian civilization in a wild and pagan country. Maisonneuve’s first responsibility was to defend the hospitals and schools of a Christian civilization. This noble tradition was never quite effaced by the crowding commercial interests of later years.

St. Jean itself comes into the picture a century later as a fur-trading post, not as a fort. It achieved particular prominence on the occasion of another great crisis in the history of our country. Destroyed at the close of the Seven Years War (by order of Vaudreuil), it was rebuilt during the American Revolutionary War when Carleton erected “two redoubts a hundred feet square and two hundred yards apart connected by a strong palisade.” This was the time when the Quebec Act had clearly expressed that the British colonial policy, far from being narrowly English, was broad enough to find room for the culture and for the religion of “that sweet enemy France.” It was then that Canadians, French in speech and in tradition as they were, decided that the British Empire could offer them the kind of freedom which they sought. It was through St. Jean that American invaders made their entry into the country in the critical year of 1775. They crossed the scarcely defended frontier but found little welcome from the inhabitants. It was by way of St. Jean that many of them retreated during the following year, leaving behind them a territory and a people content to remain British because they were free not to be English.

And now today in this historic area, on this ancient site, men of our three services and of our two cultures come together for a common task. For this task you receive here is not just training, but education. This education is intended to fit you once more to defend our western Christian civilization whose roots, French and English, go far deeper than the bitter but passing struggles of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. They go back to the time when Western Europe was building up its common life on the foundation of liberty and of law. It is the quality of that life which requires that you come here for education as much as for training. The defence of our way of life is more than a technique. It is a calling. One cannot defend unfamiliar ground. You come here to know what you have to defend as well as how to defend it. Undoubtedly you learn here military science along with the new techniques, the new methods and devices that scientific advances have made possible, but you are also directed to the understanding of values which are permanent. They are not old because they are always renewing themselves. And in learning how to understand and to defend these values you receive here certain virtues which may be somewhat neglected elsewhere; the classic virtues of duty, discipline, and of good manners.

May I say one thing more. I have to offer you a very special and personal piece of advice. You are here together – French- and English-speaking Canadians, with every obligation and every opportunity to learn to know and understand each other’s language, culture, and character. Do not neglect this precious opportunity, which comes to you just at the age when you are in a position to profit from it to the full. Your minds are open and your judgment is generous. Learn to speak and think and feel together. Do not forget what is your own, but develop the understanding and sympathy that come from speaking another’s language, not only with the tongue, but with the mind and with the heart.

You have a great and noble tradition behind you and a great and worthy task before you. May you be inspired by both to go forward to your work with energy and enthusiasm. Remember always that you are to defend not only the soil of your country but the life of your civilization, and remember that your civilization has this great quality: it can be defended only by those who understand it with their minds and who adorn it with their conduct.

Layout by 25366 Mike Shewfelt

 

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