John Elliott Cairnes.

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Emeritus Professor of Political Economy in University College, London.

Bonbon :


[77/e Ki^ht of Translation and Reproduction is reserve




A FEW words of explanation and apology are needed
for the following Essays. With the exception of that
entitled " Fragments on Ireland," and the second of
the Essays on Irish University education, all have
been in print before. Some of them were suggested
by occurrences of the day, and, the occasion of their
publication being passed, there might seem to be
no reason for their reappearance now. In reply to
this objection, should it be urged, I can only express
my belief that, though the subject may in some
instances be occasional, the treatment will be found
not to be so. For example, the Essay on Army
Reform was suggested by the Franco-German war
of 1870-71, and the first few pages are devoted
to an examination of the state of our military
defences as they stood at that time ; but this is
merely an introduction to a general discussion of


the relative advantages and disadvantages of national
and standing armies a subject, the interest in which,
though it is not what it was two years ago, assuredly
has not died out, and may at any moment recover
its former intensity. Similarly, with regard to the
first Essay on Irish University education. Though
called forth by the educational crisis of 1865-6, the
principles discussed are applicable to the general
question of university reform, and have a direct
bearing on the present position of the Irish Univer-
sity question.

The " Fragments on Ireland " have not, except
in a few passages, appeared before in print, though
written so far back as 1866. They were intended
to form parts of a small volume on the industrial
condition of Ireland, of which the practical aim was
to lead up to a discussion of the Land question,
then pressing for solution. The work was inter-
rupted by ill-health, and meanwhile the Irish Land
question was taken up by the Liberal party in the
House of Commons, and received, by the passing of
the Irish Land Act of 1870, at least a provisional
settlement. The original purpose of the work was
thus in a great measure accomplished; but the
preliminary discussions comprised such subjects as
the crisis of 1847, considered in connection with its


historical causes ; the emigration, its character and
significance ; and an examination of the new forms
into which industrial life in Ireland was shaping
itself under the powerful influences developed by
recent events. These subjects appear to me to
possess an interest apart from the particular purpose
for which their examination had been undertaken :
indeed there are few questions which can arise in
the course of legislation for Ireland even if we
could consider the Irish Land problem as definitively
settled which do not require for their intelligent
discussion a constant reference to the crises through
which the country has recently passed, as well as a
correct apprehension of the nature and direction of
the economical forces now shaping its industrial
career. I have, therefore, thought it well, as a
contribution towards the elucidation of these subjects,
to include in the present volume such fragments of
the work commenced in 1866 as I found suitable
for this purpose.

I am here anxious to make my warm acknow-
ledgments to my friend Professor Nesbitt, for the
invaluable assistance he has given me in preparing
both this and the preceding volume for the press.
I have had the advantage, not only of his constant
and vigilant criticism of my arguments, but also

P. E. b


of his ungrudging services in correcting the proofs

I have also to thank the proprietors of the several
periodicals, in which the Essays now reprinted
originally appeared, for their courtesy in permitting
the republication.



March 1873.















NOTE 314


QUESTION 1873 323




I PROPOSE to invite your attention this evening to the
subject of colonization and colonies. I have selected
this subject because it seems to me to offer, at the
present time, some aspects of more than usual interest.
It is no exaggeration, I think, to say that this country
indeed that the world has arrived at a critical
epoch in colonial affairs. In the progress of colonizing
enterprise, we have reached, or almost reached, a
point at which further progress in the same pursuit
must become impossible, for the sufficient reason that
the field for its exercise will soon cease to exist.
The earth, indeed, is still very far from being full ;
but glance over the map of the world, and outside
tropical regions say where the country is to be found
which has not already been occupied and settled by
man in which, at least, the germ of political society
has not been planted. I think you will find that

* A Lecture delivered before the Dublin Young Men's Christian
Association, 26th October, 1864.

P. E. B


North-Western America is now about the only con-
siderable space of which this description can, with
approximate truth, be given, and already the work of
colonization is busy there : " A region," says Mr. Men-
vale, in the last edition of his important work, " of no
small interest to observers of our times, as affording
the last open field for European emigration. The
remainder of the extra-tropical world is now filled up
[occupied ?]. No other site is left for the foundation
of future empires. Its occupiers will be the latest ad-
venturers in that vast work of European colonization
which began scarcely four centuries ago. The duty left
for future time will be only to fill up the outlines
already traced in days of more romantic adventure."*
But again, from a political point of view also, we
have arrived at a critical stage in colonial history.
You are probably aware that within the present year
the British colony of Canada has taken a step which
is virtually an act of sovereignty. It has under-
taken, of its own motion, without consultation with
the mother country, to reform, in the most radical and
sweeping fashion, its political system, and, not content
with this, it makes overtures to all the other American
colonies to enter with it into a single grand federation
a federation the mere magnitude of which, should
the plan, as seems probable, take effect, must, one
would think, effectually unfit the new state for the
position of even nominal dependence.! Indeed, as

* " Colonization and the Colonies." By Herman Merivale, A.M.,
Professor of Political Economy. New Edition, 1861, p. 116.

f " British North America will become the fourth maritime power in
the world. England, France, and the United States will alone have a
marine superior to ours. Isolated from one another, we could claim


regards this point, the promoters of the scheme
though they have quite recently somewhat changed
their language * have made no secret of their aspi-
rations. " Whether the day for its accomplishment
has yet arrived," said Mr. Brown, the minister who
originated and has taken the most prominent part
in bringing forward this grand scheme " whether
the day for its accomplishment has yet arrived is
a fit subject of inquiry ; but, assuredly, no Canadian
has a claim to the name of statesman who has not
looked forward to the day when all the British
portion of this continent shall be gathered into one.
. . . We must look forward to the day when the whole
of British America shall stand together, and, in close
alliance and heartiest sympathy with Great Britain,
be prepared to assume the full duties and respon-
sibilities of a great and powerful nation." Such
are the plans now formally promulgated, and such is
the language now publicly uttered by the leading men
of Canada. The tone adopted towards Great Britain
is indeed respectful, and even cordial. There is no
formal defiance of her authority : there is only the
quiet assumption that she will, as a matter of course,
acquiesce in the nullity of her own supremacy. And
Great Britain does acquiesce. From no British
statesman of the least mark, from no political party
here of the slightest weight, has any sign proceeded

only a very low place among nations ; but bring us together, and there
is no country, save England, to which we owe birth save the United
States, whose power is derived from the same parent source as our
own save France, from whom many of those here present have sprung,
can take rank before us." COLONEL GREY at the Montreal dinner.
* See post, pp. 49, 50.

B 2


of opposition, or even of protest, against the impend-
ing revolution.

It seems, then, that, both as regards the external
conditions of colonization and the political principles
on which colonies are ruled, we have reached a critical
stage in colonial history; and it has therefore occurred
to me that a brief retrospect of the past course of
colonial enterprise and government might, at the
present time, possess some interest for this Society.
Such a retrospect can, of course, only be if for no
other reason, because of the limitations in point of
time which an address of this kind imposes of the
most imperfect and summary kind : still I venture
to hope it may not prove altogether uninstructive.
When a great and pregnant change is approaching,
there is an advantage in reverting our gaze from the
present and future to the past, and in tracing the
causes, many of them perhaps scarcely perceived at
the time, which have at a distance prepared and led
up to the catastrophe. The crisis, thus regarded,
shapes itself before our mental eye in its true pro-
portions. We can appreciate its meaning and drift,
and are enabled to estimate at something like their
real value the importance of the issues it involves.

And here, to mark in some degree the limits within
which I propose to confine myself in this address,
it may be wejl if I state at the outset the sense in
which I use the word " colony." I take the definition
given by Sir G. C. Lewis : " A colony properly
denotes a body of persons belonging to one country
and political community, who, having abandoned that
country and community, form a new and separate


society, independent or dependent, in some district
which is wholly or nearly uninhabited, or from which
they expel the ancient inhabitants."*

You will observe that, according to this definition,


wholesale migrations of entire peoples such as took
place on a great scale on the breaking up of the
Roman Empire do not constitute colonization ; for
here it is not a body of people belonging to a political
community who abandon their original country, it is
the community itself. Again, the definition excludes
from the category of colonies such dependencies as
British India, where the bulk of the inhabitants have
never migrated from any given political community,
but are a composite body, made up partly of the
aboriginal people, and partly of immigrants who have
reached the country at various times and from various
quarters, the English forming quite an inconsiderable
fraction of the whole. For the same reason, all mere
military stations, such as Malta and Gibraltar, must
be excluded from the category of colonies proper. On
the other hand, the definition does not exclude cases
which some people might regard as inconsistent with
the idea of a colony. The body of persons who
migrate and form the new society may be either
"independent or dependent." In modern times,
indeed, the idea of political dependency has come to
be very generally associated with the conception of
a colony ; but it is no necessary part of that concep-
tion ; nor was the word so understood in ancient
times. All the more celebrated colonies, for example,

* " Essay on the Government of Dependencies." Ey G. C. Lewis, Esq.,
1841, p 170-


of the Greeks and Phoenicians, the two greatest
colonizing nations of antiquity, were, in a political
sense, absolutely independent of the mother state.
In short, if you desire to form a true idea of a colony,
you have only to follow the fortunes of a swarm of
bees. The swarm leaves its parent hive the original
community ; it coheres in a distinct society ; it settles
in a new locality, either previously unoccupied, or
from which it has expelled the former inhabitants :
what may be the nature of its further connection with
the mother hive it is not necessary to consider : what-
ever this be, the swarm is not the less a true image
of a colony proper. Such were the colonies founded
by the Greeks and Phoenicians in ancient times on
the islands and along the shores of the Mediterranean
and Euxine Seas ; such, in modern times, were those
founded by Spain, France, and England in the New
World ; and such are those which we are even now
building up in Australia and New Zealand.

Having thus determined the proper sense of the
word " colony," we now proceed with our review,
taking as its starting-point what may be regarded as
the opening of modern colonization, the discovery of
America. That supreme event had no sooner hap-
pened than the leading nations of Europe Spain,
Portugal, France, England, the Dutch Republic
hastened to the scene of action, eager to assert, each
for itself, a right to a place in the greatest field ever
thrown open to human energy and ambition. The
numerous enterprises which followed are among the
most striking and picturesque episodes in history,
and are, doubtless, familiar to most of those whom I


address, associated as they are with the well-known
names of Cortes, Pizarro, Cabot, Drake, Raleigh,
Gilbert, and in later times, with those of the Pilgrim
Fathers, William Penn, and others. The movement,
begun in the sixteenth century and continued till the
present time, has now, as I have just remarked, all
but completed its work of scattering the seeds of
political society over the habitable globe.

The career of modern colonization has thus ex-
tended over nearly four centuries. We shall find it
convenient to divide this term into three periods
the first extending from the conquest of the New
World down to the American War of Independence ;
the second, from the date of that event to the year
1830; and the third, from the year 1830 to the
present time.

Contemplating the first of these periods that
which extends from the conquest of the New World
down to the American War of Independence we
are struck with the predominance of the purely com-
mercial, or perhaps it would be more correct to say,
the purely monetary spirit of its colonization ; a
feature which distinguishes it alike from the present
age, and from the age of Grecian and Roman coloni-
zation which had preceded it. The spirit of that
epoch is, I say, distinct from that of the present age ;
for, although, doubtless, commerce has not been absent
from the aims of colonizing adventurers in recent
times, and although, in the event, colonial enterprise
has powerfully promoted commercial expansion, still
if we look to the motives of the actual emigrants
still more, if we look to the legislation of Parliament


we shall find that commerce has -occupied, in con-
nection with recent schemes of colonization, quite a
secondary place. The true character of that move-
ment, as I shall hereafter show, has been industrial
and social its chief aim being to provide an outlet
for the surplus population and capital of the old
country a motive which, by a singular coincidence,
it shares with the earliest historical colonization that
of Phoenicia and Greece. As for the colonization of
Rome, it was, as is well known, essentially military
and imperial ; the colonies of Rome having little of
the character of industrial and trading settlements,
and being, in truth, mainly garrisons planted in the
countries which she had conquered.

What, then, distinguishes the colonization of the
first period of modern colonial history, is the intensely
commercial, or, rather, as I have phrased it, monetary
spirit in which it was conceived.* The impulse under
which the discovery of the New World took place may
typify for us the motives under the influence of which
its subsequent colonization, for at all events two cen-
turies, was carried on. That impulse had its source
in an intense thirst for the precious metals ; for, as you
will remember, the voyage of Columbus was under-
taken in the hope of finding a passage by a western
route to the East Indies then supposed to be of all
the world the region richest in gold and silver. The
desire for metallic wealth, strong at all times, seems at

* It ought to be observed that there are to this statement some notable
exceptions, more particularly in English colonization. With New Eng-
landers, for example, it was always a boast that " they were originally
a plantation religious, not a plantation of trade."


this particular epoch to have been exceptionally power-
ful. Not only did it inspire the adventure which
resulted in the great discovery ; it was among the
principal causes which hurried across the Atlantic the
eager emigrant crowd who peopled the western world
when it was found. And when at length settlements
were established, and the business of colonial legisla-
tion began, we find the same passion governing with
no less powerful sway the councils of statesmen and

The passion for the precious metals was thus, at
this period of the world, for whatever reason, driven
to excess ; and, as sometimes happens, the prevail-
ing crave was exalted into a dogma. It was pro-
claimed on high authority, that all wealth, properly
so called, consisted in gold and silver. The doctrine
found a favourable audience ; it was accepted ; and for
some two centuries held its ground held its ground,
not as the tenet of a sect, or as the belief of a par-
ticular people, but as a truth, adopted in good faith,
and systematically acted on by all the leading nations
of Europe.

Wealth was thus held to consist in the precious
metals; and wealth was power. It followed that the
great object of statesmanship should be to increase in
the statesman's country the stock of gold and silver.
Colonial policy was moulded under the influence of
this view. Colonies were valued, not for their social
advantages, as opening a new career to a super-
abundant population at home indeed superabundance
of population was, according to the notions of that
time, a good to be coveted, not an evil to be avoided,


not for the economic gain of supplying our wants
at cheapened cost, not even for the imperial reason, as
extending the range of national power, but simply
and solely as they could be made the means of in-
creasing the nation's supply of gold and silver.*

Let me here endeavour to convey, in as few words
as I can, a general idea of the nature of the expedients
by which it was attempted to give effect to this view.
They would naturally vary according to circumstances.
Where the colonies were themselves productive of the
precious metals, the legislator would go direct to his
object ; on the one hand encouraging mining pursuits,
on the other excluding foreign nations wholly from the
colonial trade. In this way, while he developed the
" wealth " of the colonies to the utmost, he, at the
same time, secured to the mother country its entire
appropriation. Where this was not the case where
the colonies did not yield gold or silver a more
circuitous course would be necessary. Foreign trade
would not here be proscribed (for it was only through
foreign trade that colonies, which did not themselves
contain the precious metals, could perform the function
required of them) : it would be " regulated "-export-
ation would be encouraged, importation controlled, so
as on the whole to make debtors of foreign nations,
and leave a " balance " of gold and silver, which might
be directed to the home country.

But it will be well to observe somewhat more in

* " The maintenance of the monopoly has hitherto been the principal,
or, more properly, the sole end and purpose of the dominion which
Great Britain assumes over her colonies." Wealth of Nations, p. 277
(M'Culloch's Edition).


detail the actual working of the system. And to this
end we may take the cases of Spain and England.
For the purpose of reaping the promise of the accepted
creed, the position of Spain was the most favourable
which i! is possible to conceive. The portion of the
New World which fell to her lot was rich in the
precious metals beyond former experience. It was
also an advantage of her position, regarded from the
same point of view, that her government was despotic,
as thus no constitutional obstacle could stand in the
way of her statesmen to hinder them from giving the
fullest effect to their policy. They availed themselves
of this liberty to the utmost. All intercourse of
foreigners with the colonial subjects of Spain was
interdicted under capital penalties.* The intercolonial
trade was placed under the severest restrictions. Not
only was the industry of the colonies excluded from
many branches of manufacture carried on in the mother
country, but even the culture of the vine and the olive
was prohibited under severe penalties ; and in this way
capital and industry were, from lack of other channels,
forced into mining pursuits. Lastly, by a regulation,
which, for its mischievous absurdity, has, I think,
scarcely a parallel even in the history of commercial
legislation, the whole colonial trade, the better to bring
it under the eye of the Spanish Government, was
required to pass through a single port in Old Spain.
And what was the result of this throughgoing appli-
cation of the principles of the commercial system to

* Subsequently commuted to imprisonment for life. " They even
shunned the inspection of strangers," says Robertson, " and endeavoured
to keep them from their coasts."


conditions so singularly favourable for the experiment ?
It is written in the early arrest of all healthy progress
in the Spanish colonies, and in the rapid decline, so
long as the system was persisted in, of the trade and
power of Spain. " Sixty years after the discovery of
the New World," says Robertson, " the number of
Spaniards in all its provinces is computed not to have
exceeded fifteen thousand." More than two hundred
years afterwards that is to say, about the middle of
the eighteenth century, "when," according to the same
authority, " the exclusive trade to America from Seville
was at its height," the freight of the two united
squadrons of "galleons" and " flotas," as they were
called the sole medium by which the legal traffic of
Spain with her colonies could be carried on the
freight, I say, of these united squadrons did not
exceed 27,500 tons less than a twentieth part of
what England now sends to the single port of Mel-
bourne scarcely more than the burden of a single
vessel, the Great Eastern, now in the mercantile
marine of England.

This was the extent of the legal trade of Spain
with her colonies when the old colonial policy had
reached its height : it by no means, however, repre-
sented the whole of her colonial trade. By much the
most important portion was carried on by the smuggler.
" The contraband trade of the Spanish colonies,"
says Mr. Merivale, " became in the early part of the
last century [some fifty years previous to the culmi-
nating period of the exclusive system just referred to]
the most regular and organized system of that kind

Online LibraryJohn Elliott CairnesPolitical essays → online text (page 1 of 27)