Toward a Better World

By Jan Smuts Christiaan | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE COMMONWEALTH CONCEPTION

On May 15, 1917, members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords gave a banquet to Field Marshal Smuts. Lord French paid a glowing tribute to the guest of honour. Field Marshal Smuts on this occasion made a speech which was notable for its admirable exposition of the British Commonwealth conception. The constitutional changes Field Marshal Smuts visualised then were to form the basis of the Statute of Westminster fourteen years later.

I CANNOT express to you how deeply I appreciate the honour which you have done me. Ever since I came, two months ago, to this country, I have received nothing but the most perfect and charming kindness and hospitality everywhere, and this hospitality has culminated in the unique banquet at which we are present tonight. I appreciate it all the more because I know it is given at a time when the greatest struggle in the world's history is being decided, and when nobody feels inclined to indulge in festivities. From the Government of the country I have received many marks of confidence, which I have endeavoured to requite in the only way possible to me, by giving them my frank and honest views on every question. When I return home, as I hope shortly to do, I shall be able to tell the people of South Africa that I have been received here by you, not as a guest or as a welcome stranger, but

-17-

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