« AnteriorContinuar »
is already managing to diminish the incubus of talk, although a number of bores and busybodies do still waste its time, and do mischievously darken counsel by words without knowledge, putting questions and asking for papers about colonies, &c.; and probably the presence of men who knew what was being talked about would prevent such waste of time and such mischief, and contribute usefully to the occasional worthy discussions of colonial matters. It has also been argued that the accommodation which the House of Commons affords is notoriously too small when all the members are present, and that there would be no room for an additional host of colonial members. Well, the House is seldom full, and colonial members would probably trouble themselves to attend only when colonial matters came on, which, I imagine, is just the time when the House is apt to empty itself. It is said to do so when Indian affairs are discussed. And if the colonies were properly represented in all respects, as will be seen later on, there would be fewer colonial debates.
All these difficulties, however, have some real as well as apparent force, and require to be fairly met and overcome. When Mr. Chamberlain says that colonies had better be represented for the present by delegates given a seat in the House of Lords, he fairly obviates one of the objections. There is plenty of room and leisure in the House of Lords, and a word spoken there is pretty effective, and instantly known, if necessary, to all England and the world. Also Ministers can there, in a measure, be made responsible in discussion. This would not be perfect representation, but it would be bome representation, whereas now there is none at all. It would afford a fulcrum on which to work for any further measures which experience would show to be desirable.
Besides representation in any body which can criticise the actions of Ministers, the colonies should be represented also in some sort of council which should advise in private. This is a great need, the supplying which might prevent the necessity for such criticism. The suggestion made by the late Earl Grey many years ago to the effect that elected delegates from the different colonies should be given seats, ex officio, in the Privy Council, and be called into that Council from time to time to advise on colonial or even on Imperial subjects in which colonies are interested, appears a practical one. The sphere of the Privy Council's duties might be somewhat enlarged, and the Sovereign might sometimes obtain in it the advice of statesmen otherwise than as mere party politicians; and great Imperial and colonial questions would thus be taken, as the Americans say, 'out of politics,' to their unspeakable advantage.
Just as the great Colonial Conferences shadow forth and hare demonstrated the need of permanent home representation in Parliament, so the gratifying appointments lately made of colonial Premiers
as Privy Councillors foreshadow the real employment of colonial statesmen in that capacity and their being actually called to attend the deliberations of the Council. At present the distinction conferred is only a barren one, with the right to wear on state occasions dark blue uniform with gold braid and a cocked hat and feathers. But merely to put colonial statesmen into livery will not long satisfy colonial feeling, and anything like a sham distinction will eventually be resented.
And now arises the question : How can Parliamentary representation be brought about, and how should colonial delegates be elected ? Like nearly all colonial questions, this can be left to the colonies themselves, and all difficulty thus be obviated; they should be as free to accredit and recall delegates as Foreign Powers are to send and recall ambassadors. To put the thing clearly: let a motion be simply introduced into the House of Lords somewhat in these terms: To accord seats and a deliberative voice, subject to the regulations of the House, to such delegates from any colonies as may, for the time being, be accredited for the purpose by authority of the legislatures of such colonies.' There would thus be no going behind the authority of any colonial Parliament or of the Ministry which enjoyed its confidence at the time, and which such delegates would represent. They might be Agents-General or not.
It has often been said that these proposals must come from the colonies themselves, lest England offend their susceptibilities. But who has ever heard of feelings being wounded by the receipt of a warm unconditional invitation which leaves the recipient perfectly free to accept it or not as he pleases ? On the other hand, to invite people by saying, “If all of you together knock hard enough and long enough at my door I shall, after peering out for some time, perhaps consider means to let you in somewhere or other,' would be the way not to do it.
But, it has been argued, the press and the platform now virtually govern the world, and with the electric telegraph at work the colonies will do very well without representation. I say, let any who think so try to persuade any English constituencies to forego their electoral privileges and trust to the press and the platform to represent them, and a telegraph as a means through which they could be governed, and hear what they say! The press and the platform mean strife, and might, without representation, spell ruin, especially in countries separated in their institutions, or physically by the wide sea.
But some say Why not let well alone? See the splendid reciprocal good-feeling between the colonies and the mother country as shown during this very year of our Queen's Diamond Jubilee!' But was not much of this good-feeling caused by the degree of representation actually enjoyed by the colonies at the festivity ? It was all, in fact, one great home representation. The colonial
27 28 2*
Premiers were actually in council with Her Majesty's Government, and effectively too. The fact, indeed, brought about a change of policy and the abrogation of treaties with Foreign Powers who had till then had the ear of the mother country, while her children were left out in the cold. And what could have been greater than the loyalty and devotion-even unto death upon the battlefield-of the American colonies shortly before the War of Independence? That was just the ‘nick of time when they should have had the privileges of grown-up children granted to them, which far-seeing statesmen had claimed for them, and the refusal of which brought about the breach with their home. Then, again, after excitement comes reaction, after exceptional exertion comes relapse, and this may occur on both sides, especially if the promises such exertions betoken prove hollow and fail of their fulfilment. We have been accorded just a taste of what real Constitutional representation would mean to us. Mr. Chamberlain has suggested a definite measure: the representation at once of the colonies in at least one of the Houses of that Parliament which controls their interests and their destinies in peace and
Our Premiers have been granted the name of Privy Councillors, but none of the high duties connected with the title, and they may never be called into the Council itself. The doors have just been held invitingly open ; let them now be slammed upon the guests again, and feelings must correspondingly undergo a change. When meddlers and muddlers again begin to prate in Parliament about things of which they can know nothing, while colonists who do know, and have as much right to be there as they, and to speak, are shut out, then these things will be felt much more keenly than they ever were before.
For the acknowledgment has been made that colonists could and should be there when matters concerning them are under discussion, and the admission cannot be withdrawn; it must bear fruit. But perhaps one would do better to meet this cry of 'Let well alone' by turning one's back upon it for a time, to meet a very different cry-one which, sometimes muffled, is deep and struggling to be heard, and has to be reckoned with because it proceeds from natural sentiments which cannot be ignored with impunity. Dealing with this cry, I hope to expose the most fundamental want of the colonies, the one thing needful,' the lack of which representation alone will supply.
That cry is : 'To your tents, O Israel! What part or lot have we in England ? She is a foreign country to us; let us build up our own independent separate nationality!' It is a cry not confined to colonists of non-English origin ; and as long as colonists are excluded from the councils of the Empire, as long as they cannot say We are represented there; we have a share in those councils; they represent us,' so long will the separatist cry be heard in our midst. No rational ground exists for the exercise of power or
authority over intelligent freemen trained in self-government while they are denied representation in those councils which influence their affairs and destinies, and to which the supreme Government is responsible. Without such rational ground the full, true sentiment of loyalty and union cannot strike root and grow to maturity. Englishmen 'at home'must also please grasp the fact that our fond appellation of England as 'the mother country' is far from expressing the literal truth. Some colonies
Some colonies were occupied by other civilised nationalities before England acquired them. All colonies are the natural dumping-grounds of the surplus population of the whole civilised world. These and their descendants become by real preference good loyal citizens of the colonies which give them equal representation with themselves. But without the like rational grounds for the sentiment, by perfect representation in the home Parliament, they must naturally look upon England as a foreign country, exercising unjustifiable authority in regard to the colonies.
The Premier of the Dominion of Canada spoke lately of the deeply loyal feeling towards England entertained by his French fellow-citizens, and caused by gratitude to England for many and great benefits conferred upon them in the past. But that loyal feeling exists in spite of the lack of representation, and would be so much the stronger and more substantial if springing from the rational grounds of representation at home from its very root and origin.
England has conferred many benefits upon her colonies, including Constitutional government and a great expenditure in their defence by sea and land. But it has sometimes happened, and precisely through their not being represented in her councils, that she has had misunderstandings with them, and has blundered into steps that have alienated their sympathies and caused her benefits to be forgotten, so that now the desire is felt in several quarters rather to attenuate (or even to break) the ties that bind us to England than to draw them closer. The separatist party, who feel this desire, would seem to look only for an alliance of some sort, sufficient to ensure their protection against other Great Powers (without suggesting any quid pro quo for England), and they hold that representation would only afford more scope for mischievous interference (which it would really prevent).
Such views must be rationally met and combated, and not answered with indignation only. The fact is, that representation at home would not mean the abatement of a single atom of a colony's autonomy, its power to manage its own revenues and local affairs. It would ameliorate and temper the existing powers of the home Government where they touch our interests, directly or indirectlyas, for instance, by treaties with foreign Powers injurious to colonial trade. A mere alliance would in its very nature be temporary and flimsy, and could not possibly bring about that union, that organised
united action, which is the strength of empires, and which representation alone can permanently ensure. A mere treaty or alliance would not confer that confidence which would justify joint-defensive preparations for the strengthening of the Empire, and induce England or the sister colonies to exert themselves in the case of any one part of the Empire being exposed to danger. To the question: When and how to give representation to the colonies ? the answer is therefore simple : At once ! and in the only immediately practicable way, viz.-by the admission of delegates to the House of Lords and Privy Council.
In conclusion, to those who do not feel any strong desire for the greater unity of the Empire by representation, and in order to strengthen that desire in those who do feel it, I shall now mention some few of the material advantages of union, and afterwards some reasons of a more altruistic nature.
We colonists of the different parts of England's great Empire are communities possessing immense material wealth and rapidly amassing more. We thus offer a rich booty to the world. But as parts of a great Empire we form a great protective and mutual insurance association, and this although the colonies are not yet bound to the home country by representation on the board of directors, so to speak, and the protective organisation is therefore still defective and inadequate, considering the immense interests involved.
Still, the association is an immense economy, and promotes the comfort, wealth, and happiness of the hearths and homes of every one
It gives us great immunity from both foreign and civil wars, and secures for our Governments and ourselves a large amount of credit at low rates of interest. To us emphatically “The Empire is peace.'
It is just this very Constitutional form of government which the Empire carries everywhere with it, and the purity of its courts of law giving us freedom of individual action and protection of individual enterprise everywhere, which has enabled us to become so rich and powerful, and is attracting populations of men from all parts of the world to join us, glad to share our freedom, content to live under our institutions, and requiring no force and no grinding taxation to enable one portion of the population to be kept wasting their time unproductively in keeping the other portion down. In short, it is representation which has built up the British Empire so far, and it is more representation-home representation, which is evidently wanted to cement and complete the structure.
As for the more altruistic reasons for this strengthening of our unity with the Empire, they are not Imperialism nor imperiousness, nor a mere vain-glorious desire to form part of something big and strong, controlling a great part of the world for the benefit of one race or class. It is, on the contrary, the conviction that the system