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SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE COLONIAL CONFERENCE.
The close approach of what we are political problem which confronts not still unfortunately compelled to call only the United Kingdom, but all the the "Colonial" Conference is occupy. members of the Imperial family. ing the thoughts and pens of political That is one of the reasons which make writers of every shade of opinion. it so essential that the Conference And certainly the subject is suffi- should on this occasion, before it ciently important and many-sided to breaks up, create some permanent maafford inaterial for them all. In these chinery for carrying on its work in notes I shall make no attempt to cover the long intervals between its brief the whole ground, or to deal with the and widely separated sessions. more picturesque and personal aspects I have spoken of organic unity as of the Conference. I approach the the object to be arrived at. Let me subject frankly from the standpoint of define that object more precisely-inan Imperialist whose interest is cen- deed, with the utmost precision of tred in the question how far, if at all, which the circumstances permit. the Conference is going to promote the Some Imperialists, even of the most organic unity of the self-governing thoroughgoing type, are, on grounds of States of the Empire. And in that policy, averse to giving too definite connection-and this, rather than a shape to their aspirations. They guesses or prophecies, is my principal adopt deliberately a certain diplomatic object-I may attempt briefly to re- nebulousness. Personally I question state the position which we Imperial the wisdom of this policy. No doubt ists of the new school hold to-day, and it is impossible at this stage to frame to clear away some of the misunder- a cut-and-dried scheme of Imperial standings which exist with regard to union. But it is one thing to have an it.
open mind about methods, quite anThere can be no doubt that the Con- other to be, or to appear, vaglie and ference will be the occasion of a very hesitating about the end we wish to remarkable display, of friendly feel attain. In order to convince, to win ing. As far as mere hospitality goes, adherents, to create such a body of nothing will be left undone to make public opinion as can alone give the the gathering a complete success. In necessary impetus to any great enterdeed, the very warmth of the recep- prise of constructive statesmanship, tion which will be accorded to its we must be clear, and must be seen to members, the number of "functions" be clear, with regard to our ultimate they will have to attend, of patriotic object. That is quite consistent with speeches they will have to listen and flexibility-and flexibility in this sense respond to, may materially enhance is essential-in the choice of means; the difficulties, in any case great, with a readiness to take what we can which stand in the way of their ar- get at any given moment, although it riving at any positive results in the se- may fall far short of what we think rious business before them. One of desirable or even ultimately necessary. the chief of these difficulties is the I fancy that the most fervent Imperialwant of time. Three weeks in every ist will be well satisfied if he gets even four years is not nearly time enough a small instalment of what he desires to devote to the solution of the gra vest from the present Conference, always provided that he is able to regard it from 1714 to 1837, &c. &c.-have owed as an instalment, a first step, though allegiance to the same Sovereign. perhaps but a short one, on the road But what at once differentiates the reto his goal.
lation of the States of the Empire to What is the goal? What is it that one another from that of even the we who call ourselves Imperialists, most closely allied independent States really have in our minds when we talk is the fact that every man of Euroof the consolidation of the Empire," pean race who is born under the Britof “Imperial unity," and so forth? It ish flag is entitled ipso facto to full is. I take it, nothing less than this: citizen rights in every State of the that the several States of the Empire, Empire. This is wholly inconsistent however inderendent in their local af- with political separateness, and it is fairs however dissimilar in some of an element of the case which is of their institutions, should get consti- vast importance. tute, for certain purposes, one body True it is, and we ought to rejoice at politic; that, in their relations to the the fact, that the great Colonies have rest of the world, they should appear attained, or are fast attaining, the proand be, a single Power, speaking with portions and dignity of nations, and one voice, acting and ranking as one that they have, as nations, a growing great unit in the society of States. sense of individuality, a character, a
I know that there are some, even pride, and a tradition of their own. among those fervently desiring the But nationhood does not necessarily maximum of common action, who involve a wholly separate and selfthink that this ideal is no longer at contained existence. There may be, tainable. The great self-governing there are, cases in which several naColonies. they say, are already sepa- tions form a single State, or a Staterate nations. The most we can hope group, possessing political unity. To for is that they and the Mother Coun take only one instance which is quite try should reinain permanently allied close to hand, the Scotch are surely ennations. With all due respect, I differ titled to be regarded as a nation. Yet from this view.
they are politically merged with the The idea of alliance is not adequate. English, and merged to a degree which It is not really at all appropriate to the no one contemplates in the case of the circumstances of the case. An al- Canadians or Australians. And if dis
wholly distinct and separate States, of form a single body politic, is there any communities which, but for such vol. case in which such union is more easy, untary agreement, would be mutually more natural, and more likely to prove foreign to one another. That cer- enduring than where the united peotainly is not the relation of the several ples, however various their growth, States of the Empire to one another have still for the most part sprung to-day, nor need it ever become their from a common stock, and possess for relation, however great their individ- the most part a common language and ual growth and development. For, a vast common stock of moral, politiin the first place, they are all subject cal, and social ideas? to one Sovereign. That no doubt is I t is indeed difficult to classify what, not in itself conclusive. Over and for want of a better term, we call the over again in history, wholly separate British Empire. It fits into no recogStates-Austria and Spain under nized category, and cannot be accu. Charles V., Great Britain and Hanover rately described by means of our ex
isting political vocabulary. We are compacted British Empire has at the face to face with a new situation, with present time. It was the sentiment a relationship of communities which and the desire of unity which made has no precedent in history. To make the mighty political fabric which we it a success we require novel institu- see to-day. German patriotism cre. tions. Even to give an adequate ac- ated the German Empire, and a simicount of it we almost require a novellar patriotism could surely consolidate terminology. Whoever attempts to our own. describe it is perforce driven to the No doubt we all need to cultivate use of analogy and metaphor. The that patriotism. But in embryo the phrase "a family of States," though feeling of the wider citizenship is allacking in precision, is perhaps best ready there. Only we must not expect calculated to convey a conception cor- it to take, in the case of the younger responding to the facts. It is a family nations, the form of prerogative atof separate households, but with in tachment to the Mother Country. terests inextricably intermingled, and How often have I heard Colonists use its salvation lies in a family partner- expressions such as this: "We don't ship somewhat similar to one of those understand what you mean when you business partnerships of related talk of our being loyal to England or "houses," situated in different coun- to Great Britain. We think of our tries, which play so great a part in own country first. But we are loyal the world of finance. They each look to the King and to the Empire." There after their own interests, and in a is the whole thing in a nutshell. They sense are independent of one another, have got the idea of the wider patriotyet their intimate relationship and ism, but it is Imperial not British paconstant co-operation, the very practi. triotism. Time was when the great cal “preference" which they give to majority of Colonists still thought and one another, constitute a combination spoke of the Mother Country as of enormous power. A common origin "home." Now in the vast majority of is at the root of it, the immense mutual cases the land in which they live is advantages which it offers are the ce. “home," whether that land be theirs ment which keeps it together.
by adoption, or, as is the case with an But, metaphor apart, is there any- ever-increasing proportion of their thing impracticable in a twofold citi- number, by birth. Those of them who zenship and a twofold patriotism? are of British race may still have a Every German is familiar with the sentimental affection for the old counidea of a “narrower' and a "wider" try as the land of their fathers. But Fatherland. He is a patriotic Prus- they no longer think of themselves as sian, Saxon, Bavarian, but he is a pa- belonging to it; they own no allegiance triotic German to boot. I can see no to it, they do not feel themselves to greater difficulty for any subject of be citizens of it. When they call the British Crown in feeling a similar themselves British citizens, they are double allegiance-allegiance to his thinking of that greater political unit own country and allegiance to the Em- of which the old country and their pire as a whole. And the example of own country are both alike parts. the Germans is in one respect particu- They are "loyal to the Empire," to the larly instructive. Time was when “wider fatherland" which embraces Germany was little more than a geo the United Kingdom but is not identigraphical expression, when it had even cal with it or subordinate to it. They less political unity than the loosely cberish the conception of a union in which all the younger members of the which, unsupported, they might not be family may feel that they have an too secure, to realize the value of behonorable and, proportionately to their longing to so great a family. size, an equal place. For co-ordina. The growth of the Imperial idea as tion, not subordination, is the very es. I have attempted to define it-the idea sence of the idea. I do not say that of a greater fatherland, a wider citithe feeling which I have attempted to zenship, and a new patriotism-is the describe is general among the Colonial hopeful side of the picture. But it peoples, or that even where it exists would be dishonest to ignore the darker and exists in vigor, it is always thus side, the fact that so far it is an idea clearly formulated. But I do say that merely, and that next to no progress it is already potent in many quarters. has been made in the creation of the And I believe that it is latent almost institutions which are necessary to its everywhere, and that it only needs to realization in the world of fact. Our be appealed to in the right way to be traditional policy with regard to the come one of the great political forces Colonies was the outcome of a time of the world.
wben the idea of a permanent union It would be interesting, if space per- between them and the Mother Country mitted, to pursue the matter a little on a basis of equality had not yet ocfurther, and to consider how the cir- curred to more than one or two excumstances of our time all make in ceptional minds. The dominant confavor of this idea, just as they make ception then was that of gradually against the old conception of the Colo- parting from them, parting as friends. nies as so many satellites circling Under the influence of that conception round Great Britain. As the new we adopted a policy which on its negacountries grow, the sense of filial de- tive side was wise and salutary. We pendence on the Mother Country nec- gave them, as fast as they were able essarily dwindles. The ties do not and willing to stand on their own feet, necessarily grow weaker. My whole complete control of their own affairs. contention is that they should grow By so doing we not only avoided fricstronger. But they necessarily change tion which might have led to an open their character. On the other hand, rupture, but encouraged their individthe new countries, as they grow and ual growth. But this policy, negatively push out into the world, are brought wise, had no positive, no constructive, into closer contact with one another. side. True to its root-idea of gradual Here are Imperial bonds of a new and peaceful separation, it did nothkind. For to the growth of the wider ing to promote common interests be patriotism fraternal relations between tween us and them, to lay the foundathe Colonies inter se are of vital im- tion of common institutions, or to proportance.
vide for common action in external afAnd just one more point. The fairs. growth of the Colonies from small and And so we have arrived at the presisolated communities into considera- ent lop-sided state of things, which ble States, with manifold external re- no thinking man, unless he still cherlations, brings them into contact, not ishes the idea of separation, can regard only with kindred and friendly peo- with anything but profound uneasiples, but with foreign and potentially ness. The new idea of partnership, of hostile ones. That fact cannot but equal union, finds itself confronted tend to make them take wider views, with a system which makes and was and, looking out upon a future in intended to make for separation, and
new idea cany. Either noe union,
the outcome is the most uncertain there is, in more than one quarter at thing in the world. The one fact least, a strong desire to tackle it. which is perfectly clear is that the It is the Colonies in this instance, or new idea cannot be realized with the at any rate some of them, who are old machinery. Either we must de- making the running. And that is all vise some practical form of union, or to the good. It is far better that proseparation will in fact ensue, however posals for co-operation should come little we may desire it.
from them than from us. If Great But it is far more difficult to lay the Britain were the first to move, it foundations of any common system would be impossible to avoid the susto-day than it would have been in the picion, amounting in some quarters al'forties and 'fifties. It was possible most to a mania, that we were seeking in starting any Colony on its inde- to interfere with Colonial self-governpendent career and giving it the com- ment, to recover control for "Downing plete management of its local affairs, Street." True, no man in his senses to provide for some co-operation in dreams of such a thing. But though matters of common interest. A gen- in this country we all know this, it is uine Imperial Court of Appeal, an Im- evident that in the Colonies, and esperial Trade Council with Colonial pecially perhaps in Canada, a good members upon it, regular representa- many people still do not know it. And tion of the Colonies, at home by politi. if the Canadian Government still recal and not merely commercial agents, gard any proposals for organized and a certain preference to ships bearing permanent consultation between the the British flag in all British ports and States of the Empire, like those conwaters, a light import duty on all for- tained in Mr. Lyttleton's despatch of eign goods entering British territory, to April 20, 1905, as calculated to "interform the nucleus of a common fund for fere with the workings of responsi. common purposes-these things would ble government,” it is better that Mr. have appeared, as indeed they are, so Deakin and Sir Joseph Ward should natural, that they could easily have convince them that this is not the been established at the outset. And case than that any Englishman should a real Imperial system, once initiated, attempt so to convince them. We would have grown with the growth of British Imperialists will be better emthe new countries, as part of their ployed if we concentrate our efforts fundamental institutions, without in upon removing the prejudices which the slightest degree affecting their lo- still prevent many people in this councal freedom or hampering their de. try from responding to such overtures velopment,
as the Colonies are prepared to make. But it is far more difficult to create It is extremely unfortunate that the such a system now, when both the one form of Imperial partnership, the Colonies and the Mother Country have one new tie of a practical kind, which got into the habit of acting without all the Colonies, including Canada, are regard, or only with casual and inade- as yet unanimous in desiring, should quate regard, to one another, even in have met with no better reception in matters which obviously could be the Mother Country. The historian of much better regulated by common the future will rub his eyes with wonagreement. Yet, difficult as it is, the der, as foreign observers already do, problem has to be faced. And the at the national infatuation which has agenda of the approaching Conference led us to look askance and to boggle afford unmistakable evidence that over one of the fittest opportunities