Copyright
John Morley.

Critical miscellanies (Volume 3) online

. (page 20 of 25)
Online LibraryJohn MorleyCritical miscellanies (Volume 3) → online text (page 20 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Eldorados, " Unexampled Prosperities," which make
a great noise for themselves in the days now come,'
with much more to the same effect (xx. xiii.) Allow-
ance made for the dialect, we do not see how the
pith and root of the matter, the connection between
the transactions of the eighteenth century and the
industrial and colonial expansion that followed them,
could be more firmly or more accurately seized.

It would be unreasonable to expect these and
other writers to isolate the phenomena of national
expansion, as Mr. Seeley has been free to do, to the
exclusion of other groups of highly important facts
in the movements of the time. They were writing
history, not monograph. Nor is it certain that Mr.
Seeley has escaped the danger to which writers of
monographs are exposed. In isolating one set of
social facts, the student is naturally liable to make
too much of them, in proportion to other facts. Let
us agree, for argument's sake, that the expansion of
England is the most important of the threads that it
is the historian's business to disengage from the rest
of the great strand of our history in the eighteenth
century. That is no reason why we should ignore
the importance of the constitutional struggle between
George the Third and the Whigs, from his accession



300 THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND.

to the throne in 1760 down to the accession of the
younger Pitt to power in 1784. Mr. Seeley will not
allow his pupils to waste a glance upon 'the dull
brawls of the Wilkes period.' Yet the author of the
Thoughts on the Present Discontents thought it worth
while to devote all the force of his powerful genius
to the exploration of the causes of these dull brawls,
and perceived under their surface great issues at stake
for good government and popular freedom. Mr.
Seeley does justice to the importance of the secession
of the American colonies. He rightly calls it a
stupendous event, perhaps in itself greater than the
French Eevolution, which so soon followed it. He
only, however, discerns one side of its momentous
influence, the rise of a new state, and he has not a
word to say as to its momentous consequences to the
internal politics of the old state from which the
colonies had cut themselves off". Yet some of the
acutest and greatest Englishmen then living, from
Eichard Price up to Burke and Fox, believed that
it was our battle at home that our kinsfolk were
fighting across the Atlantic Ocean, and that the
defeat and subjection of the colonists would have
proved fatal in the end to the liberties of England
herself. Surely the preservation of parliamentary
freedom was as important as the curtailment of
British dominion, and only less important than the
rise of the new American state. Even for a mono-
graph, Mr. Seeley puts his theme in too exclusive
a frame ; and even from the point of his own pro-



THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND. 301

fession that he seeks to discover ' the laws by which
states rise, expand, and prosper or fall in this world,'
his survey is not sufficiently comprehensive, and his
setting is too straitened.

Another criticism may be made upon the author's
peculiar delimitation of his subject. We will accept
Mr. Seeley's definition of history as having to do with
the state, with the growth and the changes of a certain
corporate society, acting through certain functionaries
and certain assemblies. If the expansion of England
was important, not less important were other changes
vitally affecting the internal fortunes of the land that
was destined to undergo this process. Expansion
only acquired its significance in consequence of Avhat
happened in England itself. It is the growth of
population at home, as a result of our vast extension
of manufactures, that makes our colonies both possible
and important. There would be nothing capricious
or perverse in treating the expansion of England over
the seas as strictly secondary to the expansion of
England within her own shores, and to all the causes
of it in the material resources and the energy and
ingenuity of her sons at home. Supposing that a
historian were to choose to fix on the mechanical and
industrial development of England as the true point
of view, we are not sure that as good a case might
not be made out for the inventions of Arkwright,
Hargreaves, and Crompton as for the acquisition of
the colonies ; for Brindley and Watt as for Clive and
Hastings. Enormous territory is only one of the



302 THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND.

acquisitions or instruments of England, and wc knoAv
no reason why that particular element of growth
should be singled out as overtopping the other
elements that made it so important as it is. It is not
the mere multiplication of a race, nor its diffusion
over the habitable globe that sets its deepest mark on
the history of a state, but rather those changes in
idea, disposition, faculty, and, above all, in institution,
which settle what manner of race it shall be that does
in this way replenish the earth. From that point of
view, after all, as Tocqueville said, the greatest theatre
of human affairs is not at Sydney, it is not even at
Washington, it is still in our old world of Europe.

That the secession of the American colonies was a
stupendous crisis, Mr. Seeley recognises, but his dislike
of the idea that their example may be followed by
other colonies seems to show that he does not agree
with many of us as to the real significance of that
great event. He admits, no doubt, that the American
Union exerts a strong influence upon us by 'the
strange career it runs and the novel experiments it
tries.' These novel experiments in government,
institutions, and social development, are the most
valuable results, as many think, of the American
state, and they are the results of its independence.
Yet independence is what Mr. Seeley dreads for our
present colonies, both for their own sake and ours.
If any one thinks that America would be very much
what she now is, if she had lost her battle a hundred
years ago and had continued to be still attached to



THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND. 303

the English crown, though by a very slender link, he
must be very blind to what has gone on in Australia.^
The history of emigration in Canada, of transportation
in New South Wales, and of the disastrous denationali-
sation of the land in Victoria, are useful illustrations of
the difference between the experiments of a centralised
compared with a decentralised system of government.
Neither Australia nor Canada approached the United
States in vigour, originality, and spirit, until, like the
United States, they were left free to work out their
own problems in their own way. It is not the re-
publican form of government that has made all the
difference, though that has had many most consider-
able effects. Independence not only put Americans
on their mettle, but it left them with fresh views,
with a temper of unbounded adaptability, with an
infinite readiness to try experiments, and free room
to indulge it as largely as ever they pleased. As Mr.
Seeley says, the American Union ' is beyond question
the state in which free will is most active and alive
in every individual.' He says this, and a few pages
further on he agrees that ' there has never been in
any community so much happiness, or happiness of a
kind so httle demoralising, as in the United States.'
But he proceeds to deny, not only that the causes of
this happiness are political, but that it is in any great

^ The story has been recently told over again in a little
volume by Mr. C. J. Rowe, entitled Bonds of Disunion, or
English Misrule in the Colonies (Longmans, 1883). The title
is somewhat whimsical, but the book is a very forcible and
suggestive contribution to the discussion raised by Mr. Seeley.



304 THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND.

degree the consequence of secession. He seems to
assume tliat if we accept the first proposition, the
second follows. That is not the case. Secession was a
political event, but it was secession that left unchecked
scope and, more than that, gave a stimulus and an
impulse such as nothing else could have given, to the
active play and operation of all the non-political forces
which Mr. Seeley describes, and which exist in much
the same degree in the colonies that still remain to
us. It is the value that we set on alacrity and fresh-
ness of mind that makes us distrust any project that
interferes with the unfettered play and continual
liveliness of what Mr. Seeley calls free will in these
new communities, and makes us extremely suspicious
of that ' clear and reasoned system,' whatever it may
be, to which Mr. Seeley implores us all to turn our
attention.

IL

"We shall now proceed to inquire practically, in a
little detail, and in plain English, what 'clear and
reasoned system ' is possible. It is not profitable to
tell us that the greatest of all the immense difficulties
in the way of a solution of the problem of the union
of Greater Britain into a Federation is a difficulty
that we make ourselves : ' is the false preconception
which we bring to the question, that the problem is
insoluble, that no such thing ever was done or ever
will be done.' On the contrary, those who are incur-
ably sceptical of federation, owe their scepticism not



THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND. 305

to a preconception at all, but to a reasoned examina-
tion of actual schemes that have been proposed, and
of actual obstacles that irresistible circumstances
interpose. It is when we consider the real life, the
material pursuits, the solid interests, the separate
frontiers and frontier-policies of the colonies, that we
perceive how deeply the notions of Mr. Seeley are
tainted with vagueness and dreaminess.

The moral of Mr. Seeley's book is in substance
this, that if we allow ' ourselves to be moved sensibly
nearer in our thoughts and feelings to the colonies,
and accustom ourselves to think of emigrants as not
in any way lost to England by settling in the colonies,
the result might be, first, that emigration on a vast
scale might become our remedy for pauperism ; and,
secondly, that some organisation might gradually be
arrived at which might make the whole force of the
empire available in time of war' (p. 298). Regarded
as a contribution, then, to that practical statesmanship
which is the other side of historical study, Mr. Seeley's
book contains two suggestions : emigration on a vast
scale and a changed organisation. On the first not
many words will be necessary. They come to this,
that unless the emigration on a vast scale is voluntary,
all experience shows that it will fail inevitably,
absolutely, and disastrously : and next, that if it is
voluntary, it will never on a vast scale, though it may
in rare individual instances, set in a given direction
by mere movement of our thoughts and feelings
about the flag or the empire. It is not sentiment but

VOL. in. X



30G TIIK EXPANSION OF ENGLAND.

material advantages that settle the currents of emigra-
tion. Within a certain number of years 4,500,000 of
British emigrants have gone to the United States, and
only 2,500,000 to the whole of the British possessions.
Last year 179,000 went to the United States, and
only 43,000 to Canada. The chairman of the Hudson's
Bay Company the other day plainly admitted to his
shareholders that ' as long as the United States pos-
sessed a prairie country and Canada did not, the
former undoubtedly offered greater advantages for
the poorer class of emigrants.' He would not force
emigrants to go to any particular country, ' but every-
thing else being equal, he would exercise what moral
influence he could to induce emigrants to go to our
own possessions' (Report in Times, November 23,
1883). The first step, therefore, is to secure that
everything else shall be equal. When soil, climate,
facility of acquisition, proximity to English ports, are
all equalised, it will be quite time enough to hope for
a change in the currents of emigration, and when
that time comes the change will be wrought not by
emotions of patriotic sentiment, but by calculations
of prudence. No true patriot can honestly wish that
it should be otherwise, for patriotism is regard for
the wellbeing of the people of a country as well as
affection for its flag.

Let us now turn to the more important question
of some organisation by which the whole force of the
empire might be made available in time of war. Our
contention is not that the whole force could not, might



THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND. 307

not, or ought not to be made available. So far as
these issues go, the answer would depend upon the
nature and the stress of the contingencies which made
resort to the whole force of the empire necessary or
desirable. All that we argue for is that the result
will never be reached by a standing and permanent
organisation. Mr. Seeley does not himself attempt
to work out any clear and reasoned system, nor was
it his business to do so. Still it is our business to do
what we can to take the measure of the idea which
his attractive style and literary authority have again
thrown into circulation in enthusiastic and unreflect-
ing minds. Many other writers have tried to put
this idea into real shape, and when we come to ask
from them for further and better particulars the diffi-
culties that come into view are insuperable.

We shall examine some of these projects, and we
may as well begin with the most recent. Sir Henry
Parkes, in an article just published, after the usual
protestations of the sense of slight in the breasts of
our kinsfolk, of the vehement desire for a closer union
with the mother country, and in favour of a more
definite incorporation of Australia in the realm, pro-
ceeds to set forth what we suppose to be the best
practical contributions that he can think of towards
promoting the given end. The ' changes in the im-
perial connection' which the ex-premier for New South
Wales suggests are these : — 1. The Australian group
of colonies should be confederated, and designated in
future the British States of Australia, or the British-



308 THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND.

Australian State. 2, A represcntativo council of
Australia should sit in Loudon to transact all the
business between the Federation and the Imperial
Government. 3. In treaties with foreign nations
Australia must be consulted, so far as Australian
interests may be afiected, through her representative
council. Sir Henry Parkes, we may remark, gives
no instance of a treaty Avith a foreign nation in which
Australian interests have been injured or overlooked.
4. Englishmen in Australia must be on an equal foot-
ing with Englishmen within the United Kingdom as
recipients of marks of the royal favour; especially
they should be made peers. 5. The functions of
governor should be limited as much as possible to
those which are discharged by the Sovereign in the
present working of the Constitution, and to State
ceremonies. These are the suggestions which Sir
Henry Parkes throws out ' without reserve or hesita-
tion,' as pointing to the direction in which 'well-
considered changes ' should take place. The familiar
plan for solving the problem by the representation of
the colonies in the Imperial Parliament he peremptorily
repudiates. ' That,' he says, ' would be abortive from
the first, and end in creating new jealousies and dis-
contents.' What it all comes to, then, is that the
sentiment of union between Englishmen here and
Englishmen at the Antipodes is to be strengthened,
first, by making more Knights of St. Michael and St.
George; second, by a liberal creation of Victorian,
Tasmanian, and New South Welsh peerages; third,



THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND. 309

by reducing the officer who represents the political
link between us to a position of mere decorative
nullity; and fourth, by bringing half a dozen or a
score or fifty honest gentlemen many thousands of
miles away from their own affairs, in order to tran-
sact business which is despatched without complaint
or hindrance in a tolerably short interview once a
week, or once a mojith, or once a quarter, between
the Secretary of State and the Agent -General. If
that is all, we can only say that seldom has so puny
a mouse come forth from so imposing a mountain.

' The English people,' says Sir Henry Parkes, ' in
Europe, in America, in Africa, in Asia, in Australasia,
are surely destined for a mission beyond the work
which has consumed the energies of nations through-
out the buried centuries. If they hold together in
the generations before us in one world -embracing
empire, maintaining and propagating the principles
of justice, freedom and peace, what blessings might
arise from their united power to beautify and invig-
orate the world.' This is the eloquent expression of
a lofty and generous aspiration which every good
Englishman shares, and to which he will in his heart
fervently respond. But the Australian statesman
cannot seriously think that the maintenance and pro-
pagation of justice, freedom and peace, the beautifying
and invigorating of the world, or any of the other
blessings of united power, depend on the four or five
devices, all of them trivial, and some of them con-
temptible, which figure in his project. Of all ways



310 THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND.

of gratifying a democratic commnnity that wo have
ever heard of, the institution of hereditary rank seems
the most singular, — supported, as we presume that
rank would be, by primogeniture and landed settle-
ments. As for the consultative council, which is an
old suggestion of Lord Grey's, what is the answer to
the following dilemma ? If the Crown is to act on
the advice of the agents then the imperial politics of
any one colony must either be regulated by a vote of
the majority of the members of the council — however
unpalatable the decision arrived at may be to the
colony affected — or else the Crown will be enabled to
exercise its own discretion, and so to arrogate to
itself the right to direct colonial policy (Rowe's
Bonds of Disunion, 356). The simpleton in the jest-
books is made to talk of a bridge dividing the two
banks of a stream. Sir Henry Parkes's plan of union
would soon prove a dividing bridge in good earnest.

Sir Henry Parkes does not try to conceal from us,
he rather presses upon us by way of warning, that
separation from England is an event which, 'what-
ever surface-loyalists may say to the contrary, is
imquestionably not out of the range of possibilities
mthin the next generation.' 'There are persons in
Australia, and in most of the Australian legislatures,
who avowedly or tacitly favour the idea of separation.'
' In regard to the large mass of the English people in
Australia,' he adds on another page, 'there can be
no doubt of their genuine loyalty to the present state,
and their affectionate admiration for the present illus-



THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND. 311

trions occupant of the Throne. But this loyalty is
nourished at a great distance, and by tens of thousands
daily increasing, who have never known any land but
the one dear land where they dwell. It is the growth
of a semi-tropical soil, alike tender and luxuriant, and
a slight thing may bruise, even snap asunder, its young
tendrils.'

'The successful in adventure and enterprise,' he
says with just prescience, 'will want other rewards
than the mere accumulation of wealth,' and other
rewards, may we add, than knighthoods and sham
peerages. 'The awakening ambitions of the gifted
and heroic will need fitting spheres for their honour-
able gratification,' and such spheres, we may be very
sure, Avill not be found in a third-rate little consultative
council, planted in a back-room in Westminster, wait-
ing for the commands of the Secretary of State. In
short, a suspicion dawns upon one's mind that this
sense of coldness, this vague craving for closer bonds,
this crying for a union, on the part of some colonists,
is, in truth, a sign of restless malaise, which means, if
it were probed to the bottom, not a desire for union
at all, but a sense of fitness for independence.

There are great and growing difficulties in the
matter of foreign and inter-colonial relations. But
these will not be solved by a council which may be
at variance with the government and majority in the
colony. They are much better solved, as they arise,
by a conference with the Agent for the Colonies, or,
as has been done in the case of Canada, by allowing



312 THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND.

the government of the colony to take a part in the
negotiations, and to settle its own terms. Fisheries,
copyright, and even customs' duties, are instances in
point. This is a process which will have to be carried
further. Each large colony will have relations to
foreign countries more and more distant from those
of the mother country, and must be allowed to deal
with those relations itself. How this is to be done
will be a problem in each case. It will furnish a new
chapter of international law. But it is a chapter of
law which will grow pro re natd. Its growth will not
be helped or forwarded by any a priori system. Any
such system would be attended with all the evils of
defective foresight, and would both fetter and irritate.

III.

To test the strain that Australian attachment to
the imperial connection would bear, we have a right
to imagine the contingency of Great Britain being
involved in a war with a foreign Power of the first
class. Leaving Sir Henry Parkes, we find another
authority to enlighten us upon the consequences in
such a case. Mr. Archibald Forbes is a keen observer,
not addicted to abstract speculation, but with a military
eye for facts and forces as they actually are, without
reference to sentiments or ideals to which anybody
else may wish to adjust them. Mr. Forbes has traced
out some of the effects upon Australian interests of
an armed conflict between the mother country and a



THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND. 313

powerful adversary. Upon the Australian colonies,
he says emphatically, such a conflict would certainly
bring wide-ranging and terrible mischiefs. We had
a glimpse of what would happen at once, in the
organised haste with which Russia prepared to send
to sea swift cruisers equipped in America, when trouble
with Ensfland seemed imminent in 1878. We have a
vast fleet, no doubt, but not vast enough both to
picquet our own coast-line with war-ships against
raids on unprotected coast-towns, and besides that to
cover the great outlying flanks of the Empire. These
hostile cruisers would haunt Australasian waters (coal-
ing in the neutral ports about the Eastern Archipelago),
and there would be scares, risks, uncertainties, that
would derange trade, chill enterprise, and frighten
banks. Another consideration, not mentioned by Mr.
Foi'bes, may be added. We now do the carrying trade
of Australasia to the great benefit of English ship-
owners (See Economist, August 27, 1881). If the
English flag were in danger from foreign cruisers,
Australia would cease to employ our ships, and might
possibly find immunity in separation and in establish-
ing a neutral flag of her own.

Other definite evils would follow war. The Aus-
tralasian colonist lives from hand to mouth, carries
on his trade with borrowed money, and pays his way
by the prompt disposal of his produce. Hence it is
that the smallest frown of tight money sends a swift
shock, vibrating and thrilling, all through the Aus-
tralasian communities. War would at once hamper



314 THE EXPANSION OF ENGLAND.

their transactions. It would bring enhanced freights
and liigher rates of insurance to cover war risks.
This direct dislocation of commerce would bo attended
in time by defaidt of payment of interest on the
colonial debt, public, semi-public, and private. As
the vast mass of this debt is held in England, the
default of the Englishmen in Australia would injure
and irritate Englishmen at home, and the result would
be severe tension. The colonial debtor would be all
the more offended, from his consciousness that ' the
pinch which had made him a defaulter would have a
purely gratuitous character so far as he was concerned.'

'I, at least,' says Mr. Forbes, in concluding his
little forecast, 'have the implicit conviction that if
P^ngland should ever be engaged in a severe struggle
with a Power of strength and means, in what con-
dition soever that struggle might leave her, one of its
outcomes would be to detach from her the Australian
colonies' {Nineteenth Century , for October 1883). In
other words, one of the most certain results of pursu-
ing the spirited foreign policy in Europe, which is so


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 24 25

Online LibraryJohn MorleyCritical miscellanies (Volume 3) → online text (page 20 of 25)