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dear to the Imperialist or Bombastic school, would be
to bring about that disintegration of the Empire which
the same school regard as the crown of national

It would be a happy day for the Peace Society
that should give the colonies a veto on imperial war.
It is true that during the Indian Mutiny New South
Wales offered to send away the battery for which it
paid, but when the despatch actually took place it


was furious. Australia has militiamen, but who
supposes that they can be spared in any numbers
worth considering for long campaigns, and this further
loss and dislocation added to those which have been
enumerated by Mr. Forbes 1 Supposing, for the sake
of argument, that Australia were represented in the
body that decided on war, though we may notice that
war is often entered upon even in our own virtuous
daj'S without preliminary consent from Parliament,
nobody believes that the presence of Australian re-
presentatives in the imperial assembly that voted the
funds would reconcile their constituents at the other
side of the globe to paying money for a war, say, for
the defence of Afghanistan against Russia, or for the
defence of Belgian neutrality. The Australian, having
as much as he can do to carry on from hand to
mouth, would speedily repent himself of that close
and filial union with the mother country, Avhich he is
now supposed so ardently to desire, when he found his
personal resources crippled for the sake of European
guarantees or Indian frontiers. We had a rather
interesting test only the other day of the cheerful
open- handedness that English statesmen expect to
find in colonial contributions for imperial purposes.
We sent an expedition to Egypt, having among its
objects the security of the Suez Canal. The Canal
is part of the highway to India, so (shabbily enough,
as some think) we compelled India to pay a quota
towards the cost of the expedition. But to nobody
is the Canal more useful than to our countrymen in


Australia. It has extended the market for their
exports and given fresh scope for their trade. Yet
from them nobody dreams of asking a farthing. Nor
do the pictures draAvn by Mr. Forbes and others
encourage the hope that any Ministry in any one of
tlie seven Australian Governments is likely to pro-
pose self-denying ordinances that take the shape of
taxes for imperial objects. 'He is a hard -headed
man, the Australian,' says Mr. Forbes, 'and has a
keen regard for his own interest, with which in the
details of his business life, his unquestionable attach-
ment to his not over-afFectionate mother, is not per-
mitted materially to interfere. Where his pocket is
concerned he displays for her no special favouritism.
For her, in no commercial sense, is there any "most
favoured nation " clause in his code. He taxes alike
imports from Britain and from Batavia, His wool
goes to England because London is the wool market
of the world, not because England is England. He
transacts his import commerce mainly with England
because it is there where the proceeds of the sale of
his wool provide him with financial facilities. But
he has no sentimental predilection for the London


Proposals of a more original kind than those of
Sir Henry Parkes have been made by the Earl of
Dunraven, though they are hardly more successful
in standing cross-examination. Lord Dunraven has


seen a great deal of the world, and has both courage
and freshness of mind. He scolds Liberals for attach-
ing too little importance to colonies, and not perceiving
that our national existence is bound up with our
existence as an empire. We are dependent in an
increasing degree on foreign countries for our supply
of food, and tlierefore we might starve in time of war
unless we had an efficient fleet; but fleets, to be
efficient, must be able to keep the sea for any length
of time, and they can only do this by means of the
accommodation afforded by our various dependencies
and colonies dotted over the siu-face of the globe.
This is a very good argument so far as it goes, but
of course it would be met, say in South Africa, by
keeping Table Mount and Simon's Bay, and letting
the rest go. It might, too, as we all know, be met
in another way, namely, by the enforcement at sea
of the principles of warfare on land, and the abandon-
ment of the right of seizure of the property of private
individuals on the ocean.

Besides that, says Lord Dunraven, the colonies
are by far our best customers, and our only chance
of increasing or maintaining our trade lies in 'the
development of the colonies.' What development
means he does not very clearly explain. Subsidised
emigration and all such devices he dismisses as futile.
Some means should be devised, he says, whereby the
independent colonies should have a voice in the
management of matters affecting the empire : what
those means might exactly be he does not even hint.


Tlie mother country tincl tlio colonics might be drawn
closer together by the abandonment of free trade and
the formation of an imperial Zollverein or Greater
British Customs Union. In this way capital would
move more freely within the empire from one portion
to another — as if capital Avhich has gone from Great
Britain to the Australian group of colonics to sucli
a tunc that the public indebtedness there is three
times the amount per head in the mother country
(to say nothing of the vast sums embarked in private
enterprise, bringing up the aggregate debt to a million
and a quarter), did not move quite freely enough as
it is. Supply would at last have an opportunity of
accommodating itself to demand without let or
hindrance over a large portion of the earth's surface
— as if more were necessary for this than the simple
reduction of their tariflis, which is within the power
of the protectionist colonies without federation, con-
federation, or any other device whatever. As it is,
by the Avay, the colonies take nearly four times as
much per head per annum of our manufactures as is
taken by the United States (32s. against 8s. 4d.)

It is not necessary for me here, even if there were
space, to state the arguments against the possibility
of a perfect Customs Union embracing the whole
British Empire. They have been recently set forth
by the masterly hand of Sir Thomas Farrer (Fair
Trade v. Free Trade, published by the Cobden Club,
pp. 38 -CO). The objections to such a solution rest
on the fact that it involves the same fiscal system


in countries differing widely as the poles in climate,
in government, in habits, and in political opinions.
' It would prevent any change in taxation in one of
the countries constituting the British Empire, unless
the same change Avere made in all.' To require
Canada and Australia to adopt our system of external
taxation, to model their own internal taxation accord-
ingly, and to continue to insist on that requirement,
whatever their own change either of opinion or
condition might be, would be simply destructive of
local self-government. 'Free Trade is of extreme
importance, but Freedom is more important still.'


Among the devices for bringing the mother country
and the great colonies into closer contact, we do not
at present hear much of the old plan for giving seats
to colonial representatives in the British Parliament.
It was discussed in old days by men of great authority.
Burke had no faith in it, while Adam Smith argued
in its favour. Twenty years before the beginning of
the final struggle the plan was rejected by Franklin.
In 1831 Joseph Hume proposed that India should
have four members, the Crown colonies eight, the
West Indies three, and the Channel Islands one.
Mr. Seeley's book may for a little time revive vague
notions of the same specific. Sir Edward Creasy,
also by the way a professor of history, openly advo-
cated it, but with the truly remarkable reservation


that ' the colonies should bo admitted to shares in
the Imperial Parliament on the understanding that
they contributed nothing at all to the imperial revenue
by taxation.'^ That is, they are to vote our money,
but we are not to vote theirs. As Cobden saw, this
is a flaw that is fatal to the scheme. ' What is the
reason,' ho asked, ' that no statesman has ever dreamt
of proposing that the colonies should sit with the
mother country in a common legislature 1 It was
not because of the space between them, for nowadays
travelling was almost as quick as thought; but because
the colonies, not paying imperial taxation, and not
being liable for our debt, could not be allowed with
safety to us, or with propriety to themselves, to
legislate on matters of taxation in which they were
not themselves concerned.' He also dwelt on the mis-
chief inseparable from the presence of a sectional and
isolated interest in Parliament (Speeches, i. 568, 5G9).
Lord Grey points out another difficulty. The colonial
members, he says, would necessarily enroll themselves
in the ranks of one or other of our parliamentary
parties. ' If they adhered to the Opposition, it
would be impossible for them to hold confidential
intercourse with the Government; and if they sup-
ported the Ministers of the day, the defeat of the
administration would render their relations with a
new one still more difficult ' (Nineteenth Century, June
1879). In short, since the concession of independent
legislatures to all the most important colonies, the

^ Constitutions of the Britannic Empire (1872), p. 43.


idea of summoning representatives to the Imperial
Parliament is, indeed, as one high colonial authority
has declared it to be, a romantic dream. If the
legislature of Victoria is left to settle the local affairs
of Victoria, the legislature of the United Kingdom
must be left to settle our local affairs. Therefore
the colonial members could only be invited to take
a part on certain occasions in reference to certain
imperial matters. But this would mean that we
should no longer have one Parliament but two, or,
in other words, we should have a British Parliament
and a Federal Council.

Another consideration of the highest moment ought
not to be overlooked. In view of our increasing popu-
lation, social complexities, and industrial and com-
mercial engagements of all kinds, time is of vital
importance for the purposes of domestic legislation
and internal improvements. Is the time and brain-
power of our legislators, and of those of our colonies
too, to be diverted perpetually from their own special
concerns and the improvement of their own people,
to the more showy but less fruitful task of keeping
together and managing an artificial Empire 1


Eight or nine years ago Mr. Forster delivered an
important address at Edinburgh on our Colonial
Empire. It was a weighty attempt to give the same
impulse to people's minds from the political point of

VOL. in. y


view as Mr. Seclcy tries to give from the historical.
Mr. Forstcr did not think that 'the admission of
colonial representatives into our Parliament could be
a permanent form of association,' though he added
that it might possibly be useful in the temporary
transition from the dependent to the associated rela-
tion. In what way it would be useful he did not
more particularly explain. The ultimate solution he
finds in some kind of federation. The general con-
ditions of union, in order that our empire should
continue, he defines as threefold. 'The different
self-governing communities must agree in maintaining
allegiance to one monarch — in maintaining a common
nationality, so that each subject may find that he has
the political rights and privileges of other subjects
wheresoever he may go in the realm ;^ and, lastly,
must agree not only in maintaining a mutual alliance
in all relations with foreign powers, but in apportion-
ing among themselves the obligations imposed by
such alliance."^ It is, as everybody knows, at the
last of the three points that the pinch is found. The
threatened conflict between the Imperial and the
Irish parliaments on the Eegency in 1788, 1789 warns
us that difficulties might arise on the first head, and it
may be well to remember under the second head that
the son of a marriage between a man and his sister-

^ The refusal to allow the informers in the Phoenix Park
trials to land in Australia is worth remembering under this

^ Our Colonial Empire. By the Right Hon. W. E. Forster,
M.P. Edmonston and Douglas. 1875,


iu-lawlias not at present the same civil right in different
parts of the realm. But let this pass. The true ques-
tion turns upon the apportionment of the obligations
incurred by states entering a federal union on equal
terms. What is to be the machinery of this future
association 1 Mr. Forster, like Mr. Seeley, and perhaps
with equally good right, leaves time to find the
answer, contenting himself with the homely assurance
that 'when the time comes it will be found that
where there's a will there's a Avay.' Our position is
that the will depends upon the way, and that the
more any possible way of federation is considered,
the less likely is there to be the will.

It is not in the mere machinery of federation that
insui'mountable difficulties arise, but in satisfying
ourselves that the national sentiment would supply
steam enough to work the machinery. Of course we
should at once be brought face to face with that
which is, in Mr. Forster's judgment, one of the
strongest arguments against giving responsible govern-
ment to Ireland, the necessity for a written constitu-
tion. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
were engaged only the other day in hearing a dispute
on appeal (Hodge v. the Queen), turning on the
respective powers of the legislature of Ontario and
the Parliament of the Dominion, The instrument to
be interpreted was the British North America Act, but
who will draft us a bill that shall settle the respective
powers of the Dominion legislature, the British legis-
lature, and the Universal Greater British legislature 1


It would be interesting to learn what place in the
Croat Staatcnbund or Bundes-staat would be given to
possessions of the class of the West Indies, Mauritius,
the West Coast, and such propugnacula of the Empire
as Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, or Hong-Kong. What
have we to offer Australia in return for joining us in
a share of such obligations as all these entail ? Are
her taxpayers anxious to contribute to their cost?
Have her politicians either leisure or special compet-
ency for aiding in their administration? India, we
must assume, would come within the province and
jurisdiction of the Federation. It would hardly be
either an advantage or a pleasure to the people of a
young country, with all their busy tasks hot on their
hands, to be interrupted by the duty of helping by
men or cash to put down an Indian Mutiny, and even
in quiet times to see their politicians attending to
India instead of minding their own very sufficiently
exacting business.

The Federal Council would be, we may suppose,
deliberative and executive, but we have not been told
whence its executive would be taken. If from its
own members, then London (if that is to be the seat
of the Federal Government) would see not only two
legislatures, but two cabinets, because it would cer-
tainly happen that the Federal Council would con-
stantly give its confidence to men sent to it from the
colonies, and not having seats in the British Parlia-
ment. In that case the mother of parliaments would
sink into the condition of a state legislature, though


the contributions of Great Britain would certainly be
many times larger than those of all the colonies put
together. If, on the contrary view, Great Britain
were to take the lead in the Council, to shape its
policy, and to furnish its ministers, can anybody
doubt that the same resentment and sense of griev-
ance which was in old times directed against the
centi'alisation of the Colonial Office, would instantly
revive against the centralisation of the new Council 1
Nobody has explained what is to be the sanction
of any decree, levy, or ordinance of the Federal
Council ; in other words, how it would deal with any
member of the Confederacy who should refuse to
provide money or perform any other act prescribed
by the common authority of the Bund. If anybody
supposes that England, for instance, would send a
fleet to Canada to collect ship-money in the name
of the Federal Council, it would be just as easy to
imagine her sending a fleet in her own name. Nothing
can be more absurd than any supposition of that
kind, except the counter-supposition that no confeder-
ated state would ever fail to fall cheerfully in with
the requirements of the rest of them. Mr. Forster
has an earnest faith that the union would work well,
but that does not prevent him from inserting a possible
proviso or understanding that 'any member of the
Federation, either the mother country or any of its
children, should have an acknowledged right to with-
draw from the mutual alliance on giving reasonable
notice.' No doubt such a proviso would be essential;


but if a similar one had been accepted in America
after the election of President Lincoln, the American
Union would have lasted exactly eighty years, and
no more. The catastrophe was prevented by the
very effective sanction which the Federalists proved
themselves to possess in reserve.

What is the common bond that is to bring the
various colonies into a federal union? It is certain
that it will have to be a bond of political and national
interest, and not of sentiment merely, though the
sentiment may serve by way of decoration. We all
know how extremely difficult it was to bring the
provinces of Canada to form themselves into the
Dominion. It is within immediate memory that in
South Africa, in spite of the most diligent efforts of
ministers and of parliament, the interests of the Cape,
of Natal, of Griqualand, and the two Dutch republics
were found to be so disparate that the scheme of con-
federation fell hopelessly to pieces. In Australia the
recent conference at Sydney is supposed to have given
a little impulse towards confederation, but the best
informed persons on the spot have no belief that any-
thing practical can come of it for a very long time
to come, if ever, — so divergent are both the various
interests and men's views of their interests. Three
years ago a conference of all the Australian colonies
was held to consider the adoption of a common fiscal
policy. The delegates of New South Wales, South
Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, and Western
Australia voted in favour of a resolution which recom-


mended the appointment of a joint commission to
construct a common tariff, but Victoria voted in a
minority of one, and the project was therefore aban-
doned. If there is this difficulty in bringing the
colonies of a given region into union, we may guess
how enormous would be the difficulty of framing a
scheme of union that should interest and attract
regions penitus toto divisos orbe.

Another line of consideration brings us still more
directly to the same probability of a speedy deadlock.
In Mr. Forster's ideal federation there must, he says,
be one principle of action throughout the empire con-
cerning the treatment of uncivilised or haK civilised
races. With the motive of this humane reservation
all good Englishmen, wherever they live, will ardently
sympathise. But how would a Federal Union have
any more power than Lord Kimberley had to prevent
a Cape parliament, for instance, from passing a Vagrant
Act? That Act contained, as Lord Kimberley con-
fessed, some startling clauses, and its object was in
fact to place blacks under the necessity of working
for whites at low wages. He was obliged to say that
he had no power to alter it, and we may be quite sure
that if the Executive of the Greater British Union had
been in existence, and had tried to alter the Act, that
would have been the signal for South Africa to walk
out of the union. We may look at such contingencies
in another way. Great Britain, according to a state-
ment made by Mr. Gladstone in the last session of
parliament, has spent more than twelve millions ster-


liug on frouticr wars in South Africa during the eighty
years that we have been unfortunate enough to have
that territory on our hands. The conduct of the
colonists to tlic natives has been the main cause of
these wars, and yet it is stated that they themselves
have never contributed more than £10,000 a year
towards military expenditure on their account. Is it
possible to suppose that the Canadian lumberman and
the Australian sheep-farmer will cheerfully become con-
tributors to a Greater British fund for keeping Basutos,
Pondos, Zulus quiet to please the honourable gentle-
men from South Africa, especially as two-thirds of
the constituents of these honourable gentlemen would
be not Englishmen but Dutchmen^ Yet if the stoppage
of supplies of this kind would be one of the first results
of the transformation of the mother country into the
stepmother Union, what motive would South Africa
have for entering if? On the other hand, is there
any reason to suppose that South Africa would con-
tribute towards the maintenance of cruisers to keep
French convicts and others out of the Pacific, or
towards expeditions to enable the Queensland planters
to get cheap labour, or to prevent Australian adven-
turers from land-grabbing in New Guinea 1 If it be
said that the moral weight of a great union of ex-
panded Englishmen would procure a cessation of the
harsh or aggressive policy that leads to these costly
little wars, one can only reply that this will be a very
odd result of giving a decisive voice in imperial affairs
to those portions of our people who, from their posi-


tion and their interests, have been least open to
philanthropic susceptibilities. It is perfectly plain
that the chief source of the embarassments of the
mother country in dealing with colonies endowed
Avith responsible government would simply be repro-
duced if a Federal Council were sitting in Downing
Street in the place of the Secretary of State.

The objections arising from the absence of common
interest and common knowledge may be illustrated in
the case of the disputed rights of fishery ofi" Newfound-
land. It has been suggested by Lord Grey that in
such a matter it would be of great advantage to have
in the standing committee of colonial privy councillors
which he proposes a body which would both give it
information as to the wishes and opinions of the
colonies, and assist in conveying to the colonies
authentic explanation of the reasons for the measures
adopted. That the agents from Newfoundland could
give the Government information is certain, but what
light could the agents from New Zealand throw on
the fishery question? Then apply the case to the
proposal of a Federation. As the question raises
discussions with the United States and with France,
it is an imperial matter, and would be referred to the
Federal Council. That body, in spite of its miscel-
laneous composition, would be no better informed of
the merits of the case than the present cabinet, nor
do we know why it should be more likely to come to
a wise decision. However that might be, we cannot
easily believe that the merchant of Cape Town or the


sugar-planter in Queensland, or the coffee-grower in
Fiji, would willingly pay twopence or fourpence of
income tax for a war with France, however authentic
might be the explanations given to him of the reasons
why the fishermen of Nova Scotia had destroyed the
huts and the drying stages of French rivals on a dis-
puted foreshore. We fail to see why the fact of the
authentic explanation being conveyed by his own
particular delegate should be much more soothing to
him than if they were conveyed by the Secretary of
State, for, after all, as Mr. Seeley will assure him,
Lord Derby and Sir Michael Hicks-Beach are brothers
and fellow-countrymen. No, we may depend upon
it that it would be a mandat impSratif on every federal
delegate not to vote a penny for any war, or prepara-

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Online LibraryJohn MorleyCritical miscellanies (Volume 3) → online text (page 21 of 25)