« PreviousContinue »
provided that he is able to regard it as an instalment, a first step, though perhaps but a short one, on the road to his goal.
What is the goal? What is it that we, who call ourselves Imperialists, really have in our minds when we talk of "the consolidation of the Empire," of "Imperial unity," and so forth? It is, I take it, nothing less than tela: that the several States of the Empire, however independent in their local affairs, however dissimilar in some of their institutions, should yet constitute, for certain purposes, one body politic; that, in their relations to the rest of the world, they should appear, and be, a single Power, speaking with one voice, acting and ranking as one great unit in the society of States.
I know that there are some, even among those fervently desiring the maximum of common action, who think that this ideal is no longer attainable. The great self-governing Colonies, they say, are already separate nations. The most we can hope for is that they and the Mother Country should remain permanently allied nations. With all due respect, I differ from this view.
The idea of alliance is not adequate. It is not really at all appropriate to the circumstances of the case. An alliance is the voluntary combination of wholly distinct and separate States, of communities which, but for such voluntary agreement, would be mutually foreign to one another. That certainly is not the relation of the several States of the Empire to one another to-day, nor need it ever become their relation, however great their individual growth and development. For, in the first place, they are all subject to one Sovereign. That no doubt is not in itself conclusive. Over and over again in history, wholly separate States—Austria and Spain under Charles V., Great Britain and Hanover
from 1714 to 1837, &c. &c—have owed allegiance to the same Sovereign. But what at once differentiates the relation of the States of the Empire to one another from that of even the most closely allied independent State* is the fact that every man of European race who is born under the British flag is entitled ipso facto to full citizen rights in every State of the Empire. This is wholly inconsistent with political separateness, and it is an element of the case which is of vast importance.
True it is, and we ought to rejoice at the fact, that the great Colonies have attained, or are fast attaining, the proportions and dignity of nations, and that they have, as nations, a growing sense of individuality, a character, a pride, and a tradition of their own. But nationhood does not necessarily involve a wholly separate and selfcontained existence. There may he, there are, cases in which several nations form a single State, or a Stategroup, possessing political unity. To take only one instance which is quite close to hand, the Scotch are surely entitled to be regarded as a nation. Yet they are politically merged with the English, and merged to a degree which no one contemplates in the case of the Canadians or Australians. And if distinct nations can and do constantly form a single body politic, is there any case in which such union is more easy, more natural, and more likely to prove enduring than where the united peoples, however various their growth, have still for the most part sprung from a common stock, and possess for the most part a common language and a vast common stock of moral, political, and social ideas?
It is indeed difficult to classify what, for want of a better term, we call the British Empire. It fits into no recognized category, and cannot be accurately described by means of our existing political vocabulary. We are face to face with a new situation, with a relationship of communities which has no precedent in history. To make it a success we require novel institutions. Even to give an adequate account of it we almost require a novel terminology. Whoever attempts to describe it is perforce driven to the use of analogy and metaphor. The phrase "a family of States." though lacking in precision, is perhaps best calculated to convey a conception corresponding to the facts. it is a family of separate households, but with interests inextricably intermingled, and its salvation lies in a family partnership somewhat similar to one of those business partnerships of related "houses," situated in different countries, which play so great a part in the world of finance. They each look after their own interests, and in a sense are independent of one another, yet their intimate relationship and constant co-operation, the very practical "preference" which they give to one another, constitute a combination of enormous power. A common origin is at the root of it, the immense mutual advantages which it offers are the cement which keeps it together.
But, metaphor apart, is there anything impracticable in a twofold citizenship and a twofold patriotism? Every German is familiar with the idea of a "narrower" and a "wider" Fatherland. He is a patriotic Prussian, Saxon, Bavarian, but he is a patriotic German to boot. i can see no greater difficulty for any subject of the British Crown in feeling a similar double allegiance—allegiance to his own country and allegiance to the Empire as a whole. And the example of the Germans is in one respect particularly instructive. Time was when Germany was little more than a geographical expression, when it had even less political unity than the loosely
compacted British Empire has at the present time. 1t was the sentiment and the desire of unity which made the mighty political fabric which we see to-day. German patriotism created the German Empire, and a similar patriotism could surely consolidate our own.
No doubt we all need to cultivate that patriotism. But in embryo the feeling of the wider citizenship is already there. Only we must not expect it to take, in the case of the younger nations, the form of prerogative attachment to the Mother Country. How often have i heard Colonists use expressions such as this: "We don't understand what you mean when you talk of our being loyal to England or to Great Britain. We think of our own country first. But we are loyal to the King and to the Empire:' There is the whole thing in a nutshell. They have got the idea of the wider patriotism, but it is imperial not British patriotism. Time was when the great majority of Colonists still thought and spoke of the Mother Country as "home." Now in the vast majority of cases the land in which they live is "home," whether that land be theirs by adoption, or, as is the case with an ever-increasing proportion of their number, by birth. Those of them who are of British race may still have a sentimental affection for the old country as the land of their fathers. But they no longer think of themselves as belonging to it; they own no allegiance to it, they do not feel themselves to be citizens of it . When they call themselves British citizens, they are thinking of that greater political unit of which the old country and their own country are both alike parts. They are "loyal to the Empire," to the "wider fatherland" which embraces the United Kingdom but is not identical with it or subordinate to it. They cherish the conception of a union in which all the younger members of the family may feel that they have an honorable and, proportionately to their size, an equal place. For co-ordination. not subordination, is the very essence of the idea. i do not say that the feeling which i have- attempted to describe is general among the Colonial peoples, or that even where it exists, and exists in vigor, it is always thus clearly formulated. But i do say that it is already potent in many quarters. And i believe that it is latent almost everywhere, and that it only needs to be appealed to in the right way to become one of the great political forces of the world.
it would be interesting, if space permitted, to pursue the matter a little further, and to consider how the circumstances of our time all make in favor of this idea. just as they make against the old conception of the Colonies as so many satellites circling round Great Britain. As the new countries grow, the sense of Blial dependence on the Mother Country necessarily dwindles. The ties do not necessarily grow weaker. My whole contention is that they should grow stronger. But they necessarily change their character. On the other hand, the new countries, as they grow and push out into the world, are brought into closer contact with one another. Here are imperial bonds of a new kind. For to the growth of the wider patriotism fraternal relations between the Colonies inter se are of vital importance.
And just one more point. The growth of the Colonies from small and isolated communities into considerable States, with manifold external relations, brings them into contact, not only with kindred and friendly peoples, but with foreign and potentially hostile ones. That fact cannot but tend to make them take wider views, and, looking out upon a future in
which, unsupported, they might not be too secure, to realize the value of belonging to so great a family.
The growth of the 1mperial idea as i have attempted to define it—the idea, of a greater fatherland, a wider citizenship, and a new patriotism—is the hopeful side of the picture. But it would be dishonest to ignore the darker side, the fact that so far it is an idea merely, and that next to no progress has been made in the creation of the institutions which are necessary to its realization in the world of fact. Our traditional policy with regard to the Colonies was the outcome of a time when the idea of a permanent union between them and the Mother Country on a basis of equality had not yet occurred to more than one or two exceptional minds. The dominant conception then was that of gradually parting from them, parting as friends. Under the influence of that conception we adopted a policy which on its negative side was wise and salutary. We gave them, as fast as they were able and willing to stand on their own feet, complete control of their own affairs. By so doing we not only avoided friction which might have led to an open rupture, but encouraged their individual growth. But this policy, negatively wise, had no positive, no constructive, side. True to its root-idea of gradual and peaceful separation, it did nothing to promote common interests between us and them, to lay the foundation of common institutions, or to provide for common action in external affairs.
And so we have arrived at the present lop-sided state of things, which no thinking man, unless he still cherishes the idea of separation, can regard with anything but profound uneasiness. The new idea of partnership, of equal union, finds itself confronted with a system which makes and was intended to make for separation, and the outcome is the most uncertain thing in the world. The one fact which is perfectly clear is that the new idea cannot be realized with the old machinery. Either we must devise some practical form of union, or separation will in fact ensue, however little we may desire it.
But it is far more difficult to lay the foundations of any common system to-day than it would have been in the 'forties and 'fifties. It was possible in starting any Colony on its independent career and giving it the complete management of its local affairs, to provide for some co-operation in matters of common interest A gennine Imperial Court of Appeal, an Imperial Trade Council with Colonial members upon it, regular representation of the Colonies, at home by political and not merely commercial agents, a certain preference to ships bearing the British flag in all British ports and waters, a light Import duty on all foreign goods entering British territory, to form the nucleus of a common fund for common purposes—these things would have appeared, as indeed they are, so natural, that they could easily have been established at the outset And a real Imperial system, once initiated, would have grown with the growth of the new countries, as part of their fundamental institutions, without in the slightest degree affecting their local freedom or hampering their development.
But it is far more difficult to create such a system now, when both the Colonies and the Mother Country have got into the habit of acting without regard, or only with casual and inadequate regard, to one another, even in matters which obviously could be amen better regulated by common agreement. Yet, difficult as it is. the problem has to be faced. And the agenda of the approaching Conference afford unmistakable evidence that
there is, in more than one quarter at least, a strong desire to tackle it.
It is the Colonies in this instance, or at any rate some of them, who are making the running. And that is all to the good. It is far better that proposals for co-operation should come from them than from us. If Great Britain were the first to move, it would be Impossible to avoid the suspicion, amounting in some quarters almost to a mania, that we were seeking to interfere with Golonial self-government, to recover control for "Downing Street." True, no man in his senses dreams of such a thing. But though in this country we all know this, it is evident that In the Colonies, and especially perhaps in Canada, a good many people still do not know it. And if the Canadian Government still regard any proposals for organized and permanent consultation between the States of the Empire, like those contained in Mr. Lyttleton's despatch of April 20, 1905, as calculated to 'interfere with the workings of responsible government," it is better that Mr. Deakin and Sir Joseph Ward should convince them that this is not the case than that any Englishman should attempt so to convince them. We British Imperialists will be better employed if we concentrate our efforts upon removing the prejudices which still prevent many people in this country from responding to such overtures as the Colonies are prepared to make.
It is extremely unfortunate that the one form of Imperial partnership, the one new tie of a practical kind, which all the Colonies, Including Canada, are as yet unanimous hi desiring, should have met with no better reception in the Mother Country. The historian of the future will rub his eyes with wonder, as foreign observers already do, at the national infatuation which has led us to look askance and to boggle over one of the fittest opportunities ever offered to any nation of recovering what it had carelessly thrown away. "Preferential trade relations" with our own fellow kinsmen, a position of permanent advantage in some of the greatest and most promising markets in the world, is a boon which—apart entirely from its political consequences, great as they must be—would be worth securing even at a heavy price. And the price we should in fact have to pay is a bagatelle. it is difficult to regard with patience the disastrous accident of party warfare which has caused it to be so absurdly exaggerated. A sober examination of the question has been rendered for the moment impossible by the fact that it lent itself to a party cry. And those who. raised that cry are evidently still convinced that it is good business to keep it up. indeed, they now rely almost exclusively on the "dear food'' argument, the more far-seeing of them having evidently come to the conclusion that it is not prudent to commit yourself too deeply against any and every modification of our tariff system. "You cannot give preference to the Colonies without a tax on corn. What a way of promoting imperial unity—to make living dearer for the mass of the people!" That is practically their whole case. But it is not true, either that you cannot give any preference at all without a tax on corn, or that, with such a tax, the necessaries of life as a whole must be dearer. For, even granting that such a tax would come out of the pocket of the consumer (though that is far from certain) it is clearly possible to compensate him for a slight increase of cost on a single article by a corresponding: reduction in other duties.
No doubt the day . will come when "the mass of the people" will realize these facts. And no doubt also it is the duty of all who feel the vital importance of Preferential Trade to try
and make that day come quickly. They are bound to direct a steady stream of temperate economic argument against the misconceptions and exaggerations which stand in the way of the acceptance of so sound a principle, to pelt the "dear food" bogey, not with rhetoric or ridicule, but with facts and figures, till they destroy it. But it is wise to recognize that this process must take time—time which the Colonies will be well advised to give us—and not to forget that there are other very important subjects before the Conference besides Preferential Trade. 1t is not impossible that the British Government may after all adopt a less hostile attitude to the principle of Preference. But even it' it does not, there is no reason why the Conference should be barren of results in other directions, and certainly there is every reason why no imperialist should try to make it so. Yet there is a real danger that, if public interest is concentrated exclusively on the question of Preference, other matters, however important, will be but perfunctorily discussed.
Such a result would be deplorable in the extreme. On the agenda of the Conference are to be found, apart from the question of imperial trade, a number of problems the solution of which is essential to the building up of that new and larger political organization which we have seen to be our ultimate aim. Such are the creation of a genuine imperial Court of Appeal and the adoption of a single system of naturalization throughout the Empire. But more important than all the rest is the question of the future of the Conference itself. That body is, after all. next to the Crown, the greatest imperial asset we possess. it is our one really imperial institution, and it is to its continued existence and heightened efficiency that we must look for the gradual establishment of a real part