« ForrigeFortsett »
Government of Canada at their invitation, and at which the Imperial Government was represented by the Earl of Jersey. At this conference a resolution was carried in favour of mutual preferential trade.
Immediately after assuming the office of Prime Minister, in 1896, I delivered an address before the Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce at Montreal in favour of preferential trade, and made that policy a principal feature of my appeal to the country. The Toronto Globe, the organ of the Liberal party, came out in strong opposition to the preferential trade policy, but it aroused great enthusiasm in Ontario, and the leader of the Opposition—now Sir Wilfrid Laurier-finding the
heather on fire,” declared to the electors at London, Ontario, that he was as strongly in favour of that policy as myself, and pledged himself to do all in his power to carry it out; so it ceased to be an issue.
After my defeat in 1896, Sir Wilfrid and his majority, who had for eighteen years bitterly opposed our protective policy—knowing that they could not retain power if they did anything to weaken the protection of Canadian industriesenacted a clause giving reduction to any country whose tariff was as favourable to Canada as that of Canada to them. They maintained that such a reduction would only apply to Great Britain, but they found, as I told them in Parliament, that, owing to the Belgian and German treaties, England could not enjoy the proposed reduction while several other countries could.
When the Conference of 1897 took place Mr.
Chamberlain said that if the Premiers of all the colonies joined in asking the denunciation of those treaties it would be done. They passed a unanimous resolution, and the treaties in question were denounced. Canada then enacted a reduction in favour of Great Britain eo nomine. Subsequently, when Sir Michael Hicks-Beach re-enacted the Registration Duties, Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Hon. Mr. Fielding informed the Imperial Government that if these and any similar duties were remitted to Canada they would increase the preference, and if this were not done they would consider themselves at liberty to withdraw the preference already given. Unfortunately, the Hon. Mr. Ritchie, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, abolished these duties, although they had given the Treasury over £2,500,000 without increasing the price of bread.
On May 16, 1903, Mr. Chamberlain made a speech strongly favouring preferential treatment of the colonies, and a year later that distinguished and patriotic statesman resigned his high office and consecrated his unrivalled talents to the promotion of Tariff Reform and the consolidation of the Empire by preferential trade.
IN 1891 I published in The Nineteenth Century an article entitled, entitled, “Federating
“Federating the Empire: A Colonial Plan," and in the same review in the following year an article on How to Federate the Empire," and I feel I cannot do better than reprint these papers here, which I am enabled to do by courtesy of the Editor and publishers of The Nineteenth Century and After :
FEDERATING THE EMPIRE: A COLONIAL PLAN*
The great change which has taken place in the public mind in recent years upon the importance to the Empire of maintaining the Colonial connection found expression at a meeting held at the Westminster Palace Hotel in July, 1884, under the guidance of the Rt. Hon. W. E. Forster, who occupied the chair. At that meeting—which was attended by a large number of Members of Parliament of both parties, and representatives of the colonies—it was moved by the Rt. Hon. W. H. Smith : That, in order to secure the permanent unity of the Empire, some form of federation is essential.” That resolution was seconded by the Earl of Rosebery, and passed unanimously. In November of the same year the Imperial Federa* The Nineteenth Century, October, 1891.
tion League was formed to carry out the objects of that resolution; and the subject has received considerable attention since, both here and in the colonies. At the annual dinner of the Imperial Federation League two years ago, I ventured to suggest that it would be difficult to maintain public interest in the question much longer, unless some steps were taken to arrive at a practical scheme by which the objects aimed at might be attained, and proposed that a conference should be called by Her Majesty's Government of delegates from the colonies to discuss the matter with them. I added : “I will throw out one more suggestion, though perhaps I shall be in advance of public opinion in this respect. I believe that if such a Convention were summoned, and this question were taken up as a practical question, and examined with a view to the adoption of such measures as would give vitality to the principle of Imperial Federation, a solution would be found in bringing to bear that most potent of all influences, the principle of selfinterest; and that it would be seen to be perfectly practicable to adopt a fiscal policy in regard to this country and the colonies, by which each part of the Empire would materially strengthen the other, renewed vitality be given to the powerful link of affection that now binds us together, and a new tie developed by which the colonies would vastly increase the power and influence of Great Britain, and Great Britain, on the other hand, become of far greater importance to her colonies.” My proposal was adopted by the council of the league, and the President approached the Prime Minister upon the subject. Lord Salisbury saw difficulties in
the way, and, before any further progress was made, an important circumstance arose bearing very strongly upon this question of Imperial Federation, and that was, the determination on the part of the Australasian provinces to take up promptly the federation of those great colonies. Lord Rosebery, with the assent of the council of the league, then made an announcement at the Mansion House that the league proposed to defer pressing the question of a conference pending the local federation discussions. The determination subsequently arrived at to again revive the proposal for a conference was the result of a discussion which took place when I was absent in Canada.
The Prime Minister of this country has been again approached, and I cannot hesitate to say that the result of the two deputations—one of the Imperial Federation League, and the other of the United Empire Trade League—has, in my opinion, given a most important impetus to the cause of Imperial Federation. The suggestion of the Prime Minister to the deputation of the Imperial Federation League, that a scheme should be formulated, appeared to me to involve the duty of endeavouring to meet that proposal. We had to deal with the fact that the Imperial Government, when approached with reference to this measure, called distinctly upon the league to direct their attention to the formulation of some practical proposition by which the objects of the league might be reached. His Lordship said: “I think that we are almost come to the time when schemes should be proposed, and that without them we shall not get very far. You have stated a problem to us to-night