Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER XIV

HOW TO FEDERATE THE EMPIRE : A REPLY TO

CRITICS

In the October number of this Review I ventured with much hesitation to give my views on the question of Imperial Federation. Mine was not a Colonial plan, nor did I speak for Canada. Imperial Federation, as I then showed, did not emanate from the colonies, but was originated by a number of the leading public men of both the political parties in this country in 1884. Having devoted thirtyseven years of my life to securing to the best of my ability the perpetuation for all time of British institutions in the northern half of North America, and believing as I did that the greatness of the British Empire depended upon the retention of her colonies, I responded to the suggestion of Lord Salisbury that a scheme should be propounded. I may be permitted to say in excuse for my temerity that I had the honour to be one of the authors, a quarter of a century ago, of the Federation of Canada, which has surpassed the most sanguine expectations of its founders.

I offered my suggestions with diffidence, and declared my readiness to abandon them if anything better could be devised. These proposals have been subjected to the most extended criticism here and in Canada and

* The Nineteenth Century, April, 1892.

Australia, but after the most careful examination of all the objections I cannot find that I have been favoured by my critics with any alternative plan.

It is satisfactory to me to know that a large portion of the criticism to which my former article was subjected was founded upon a misapprehension of what I had written. I proposed that when Australasia and South Africa were each united under a central government, as Canada now is, the representatives in London of each of these great outlying portions of the Empire, being members of their respective Governments, should ex officio be sworn of Her Majesty's Privy Council, and thus be placed in a position to be called into consultation with the Cabinet on all questions of foreign policy affecting the countries from which they came. This has been treated as a demand from Canada, and as a great concession for the Imperial Government to make, and Lord Brassey dismisses the proposition curtly in this Review of January last by saying: “ It does not seem feasible to give seats in the Cabinet to the Agents-General of the Colonies.” That is not what I proposed; but for the purpose of meeting the suggestion made by the advocates of Imperial Federation that some means of giving the colonies a voice in matters of foreign policy must be found, and of affording Her Majesty's Government the fullest information on questions vitally affecting the whole Empire, and of promoting the most perfect rapport with what a no distant day will be Greater Britain, I ventured to propound a means by which these objects could be obtained without in the least degree conflicting

with the Constitution of this country or of the colonies. This proposal was first suggested by that eminent veteran statesman, Earl Grey. It has been endorsed by the Marquis of Lorne after five years' experience as Governor-General of Canada. The Rt. Hon. W. E. Forster said in this Review of February, 1885 :

“Lord Grey has repeated in the Pall Mall Gazette the suggestion whch he made in this Review in 1879, viz. the appointment of the Agents of the colonies as Privy Councillors, and their constitution as a board of advice to assist the Cabinet, and especially the Colonial Secretary, in the management of Colonial affairs; and Lord Lorne has further defined this suggestion, and given excellent arguments in its support. It would be difficult to find any proposal supported by so great a weight of experience as this agreement between the veteran Minister, who has an unmatched experience of the Colonial Office, and the man who has just returned from successful government of our largest colony."

Lord Granville, when Secretary of State for the Colonies, at the dinner given to Mr. Murray Smith, the Agent-General of Victoria, said :

“Mr. Murray Smith, our honoured guest, will be at home next month. In addition to the great personal position which he held in the estimation of his fellow-colonists when he came out, his sojourn in this country must add to the weight of his opinions. He is the type of the class of men whom the great colonies have sent out as their representatives, and who have contributed to the formation of an institution of inestimable advantage to the relations of the home country and the great

dependencies of the Crown. They have brought us into nearer touch with one another. Many mistakes which have formerly arisen through misconception on either side, either as regards the feelings of the colonies, the Imperial necessities, or international obligations, would now be unjustifiable, and ought to be impossible.”

Lord Rosebery, in his speech on Colonial and Foreign Policy at Leeds in 1888, said :

A great change has come over the whole of our foreign policy during the last twenty years. I think you will see a greater change in the next twenty years.

Our foreign policy has become more of a Colonial policy, and is becoming every day more entwined with our Colonial interests. Formerly our foreign policy was mainly an Indian policy--it was mainly guided by considerations of what was best for our Indian Empire. That brought us into many complications which we might otherwise have avoided, but which we felt were rightly faced to save so splendid a possession ; but now, owing to causes which I will point out to you, Colonial influences must necessarily overshadow our foreign policy. In the first place, our Colonial communities are rising to a pitch of power which makes it natural for us to listen to them whenever they make representations on their own behalf; and they do make constant representations on their own behalf. In the next place, we find that the other Powers are beginning a career of Colonial aggrandisement. We formerly did not have in our foreign affairs to trouble ourselves much with Colonial questions because we had a monopoly of colonies. That

monopoly has ceased; but consider for a moment, as matters stand now, how largely our foreign policy is a Colonial policy. Why, our principal question of foreign policy at this moment may be said to be the fisheries dispute between Canada and the United States. It is difficult for some of us—it is difficult, at any rate, for myself—to consider the United States as a foreign power, but the United States in these Colonial questions has interests totally different from ours or those of Canada, and in dealing with Canadian questions it is clear that the voice of Canada must sound loud in the councils of the Foreign Office.

" You are a coterminous power with Germany in the Pacific. In questions relating to the Pacific, the voice of your Colonial community in Australia must be loudly heard ; the voice of Australia must be almost paramount in the councils of the Foreign Office with regard to these questions.

“You will have, as I think, to admit the colonies to a much larger share in your affairs than you do at present. You will have to give them a right to prompt the voice of England, when it speaks abroad, to a much greater extent than at present.'

Lord Derby and Lord Stanley, the present Governor-General of Canada, have borne testimony to the assistance the representatives of the self-governing colonies have been to the Government here in the administration of public affairs. Lord Thring, in his recent brochure on “ The Consolidation of the British Empire,” says on this point : “ The direct intervention of a colony may be secured by elevating the position of an AgentGeneral to one more akin to that of a Minister of

.

« ForrigeFortsett »