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-I may almost call it an enigma. If I remember the words, we are to invite the colonies to share in the responsibilities and privileges of the Empire in such a manner as not to disturb the Constitution of this country, or that which is enjoyed by the colonies. Well, I think that at all events the solution of this problem does not lie upon the face of it, and that it will require the labour of many able brains before a satisfactory solution is arrived at." In response to that invitation, at a meeting of the council of the Imperial Federation League, the following resolution, moved by myself, and seconded by Sir F. Young, was passed unanimously :
“ That a carefully selected committee be appointed to submit to the council definite proposals for the consideration of the organisations of the league throughout the Empire, by which the objects of Imperial Federation may be realised.”
I venture to think that the enigma suggested by the Premier is capable of solution, and that measures may be devised by which, without conflicting with the self-government enjoyed by the colonies, the great objects of Imperial Federation may be attained. As showing the very advanced position in which this movement, in my opinion, is placed by the statements of the Prime Minister, I may allude to what has taken place since the occasion to which I refer as having to some extent initiated this movement. It will be remembered that a former Premier of the Cape of Good Hope, Sir Gordon Sprigg, visited this country a few months ago, and delivered an address before the City of London branch of the Imperial Federation League, in which he adopted very much the same line of
policy suggested by me two years before, as to the practicability of drawing the bonds between the Mother Country and the colonies much more closely together, and rendering them much more enduring, by means of fiscal arrangements between Great Britain and the colonies. He said :
“Now what I should recommend, and what I should trust that the members of the Federation League will take up and press upon Her Majesty's Government, is, that an invitation should be addressed to the Governments of the various colonies and dependencies to send representatives to this country to consider in a conference the practicability of forming a commercial union between the different colonies and dependencies of the Empire.”
In its comments upon this speech the Times said :
“ There is still a considerable amount of fetishworship, but the ideas upon which any commercial union must rest will not in future incur the furious and unreasoning hostility that would have greeted them twenty years ago. It is getting to be understood that free trade is made for man, not man for free trade, and any changes that may be proposed will have a better chance of being discussed upon their own merits rather than in the light of highand-dry theory backed by outcries of the thin end of the wedge. The British Empire is so large and so completely self-supporting that it could very well afford, for the sake of serious political gain, to surround itself with a moderate fence."
The Government have recently been urged by a deputation from the United Empire Trade League to get rid of two treaties, those with Belgium and
Germany, which stand in the way of closer fiscal relations between the Mother Country and the colonies. This has also been pressed upon Her Majesty's Government by my colleagues from Australia and the Cape, and by myself. A very great advance has, I think, been made in that direction by the reply of the Prime Minister that the Government of this country will address itself to any possible means to remove the obstructions imposed by those two treaties upon the fiscal relations of the different parts of the Empire. His Lordship said :
With regard to those two unlucky treaties which were made by Lord Palmerston's Government some thirty years ago, when, I must say, the matters of our relations with the colonies could not have been fully considered, we have tried to find out from official records what the species of reasoning was which induced the statesmen of that day to sign such very unfortunate pledges.
I can give you with the greatest confidence, I think, the assurance that not only will not this Government, but any future Government, ever be disposed to enter into any such engagements again. . . The matter must be one which the Government will carefully watch, and I have no doubt that before a very long time has elapsed some means of mitigating this evil may be found.
There have been other indications of an improved sentiment with regard to the position of the colonies. I now refer to the peerages conferred upon Sir George Stephen and Lady Macdonald. I allude to those two facts as indicating a most important advance in regard to the position of the various
colonies throughout the Empire. The time has come when the Government of this country has declared in the most effective manner—and it is the first time it has ever gone to that extent-that service to the Crown performed in the colonies will be accepted and recognised in the same manner as if it had been performed in any part of Great Britain. Of course it is obvious that this can only be done when other things are equal, and that the occasions are probably few and far between when such a recognition can be given.
To come more directly to the subject under consideration, I believe all are agreed that the leading objects of the Imperial Federation League are to find means by which the colonies, the outlying portions of the Empire, may have a certain voice and weight and influence in reference to the foreign policy of this country, in which they are all deeply interested, and sometimes more deeply interested than the United Kingdom itself. In the next place, that measures may be taken by which all the power and weight and influence that these great British communities in Australasia, in South Africa, and in Canada possess shall be brought into operation for the strengthening and defence of the Empire. The discussion of these questions has led to a great deal of progress. We have got rid of a number of fallacies that obtained in the minds of a good many persons in relation to the means by which those objects are to be attained. Most people have come to the conclusion stated by Lord Rosebery at the Mansion House, that a Parliamentary Federation, if practicable, is so remote, that during the coming century it is not likely to
make any very great advance. We have also got rid of the fallacy that it was practicable to have a common tariff throughout the Empire. It is not, in my opinion, consistent with the Constitution either of England or of the autonomous colonies. The tariff of a country must rest of necessity mainly with the Government of the day, and involves such continual change and alteration as to make uniformity impracticable.
Now the matter resolves itself, in my judgment, into the important question whether, in view of the Constitution of Great Britain, and in view of the Constitutions of the great colonies, it is not possible and practicable to devise a means by which those colonies will have all the voice and all the influence to which they are entitled in reference to the foreign policy of this country. Many of my readers will remember that when the Marquis of Lorne returned from discharging the duties of Governor-General of Canada, which he performed in the most able and satisfactory manner, he delivered at the Royal Colonial Institute an address on Imperial Federation. I am inclined to believe that sufficient attention has not been given to the very practicable means he then suggested, by which the Governments of the colonies could have a voice in the foreign policy of the Empire. Having examined the subject in all its bearings, and having devoted a great deal of thought and consideration to it, I believe that the solution of what I am afraid Lord Salisbury considers an insoluble enigma will be found in that direction. I regard the time as near at hand when the great provinces of Australasia will be confederated under