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PREFATORY ESSAY

xi

least pleasing, incidents of the period under consideration. Be the rights or wrongs of the war between Great Britain and the Transvaal what they may, it is idle to imagine that the well-nigh universal condemnation passed upon the former abroad was due to any genuine sympathy for the Boers ContlnentaJ or to any other sentiment than jealousy. The head and front of British offending lies in the /eafoasy of fact of the extraordinary success and unparalleled prosperity of the British people, and the ng an ‘ same is to a great extent true of the Continental jealousy towards the United States of America. It is difficult for Britons who have not lived in foreign lands to appreciate the irritation caused by the mere existence of their empire. That the small islands forming the United Kingdom should be the centre of a world-wide dominion, that the British flag should float in every quarter of the globe, that the English language should be spoken, as the master tongue, in so many parts of the world, that the trade of the universe should be mainly in British hands, and that the wealth of Great Britain should so greatly surpass that of other nations, seems to the non-British mind a violation of the laws of nature, an outrage upon the principles of eternal right. The explanation that this success and prosperity are due to certain superior qualities of the British race is one which foreigners can hardly be expected to accept. A more simple and a far more pleasing explanation is afforded by the theory that British greatness is due either to sheer accident, or to a mixture in the British character of extreme selfishness and almost sublime duplicity. The world, for the most part, is convinced that Great Britain’s proud position is a bubble, needing only to be pricked to disappear into thin air. The unexpected reverses of her troops at the outset of the war with the Transvaal seemed to foretell the probability of her collapse, and on that account the Boers commanded general sympathy. Of course there were exceptions. A few countries, and a minority of thinking men in every country, declined to admit that the Boers must be right because they were opposed to Great Britain. But if the questions at issue between the British Government and the Boer Bepublics could have been submitted to an international Court of Arbitration, or to a plebiscite of all Continental countries, no matter what might have been the intrinsic strength of the British case, the passing of an award in favour of the Boers would probably have been a foregone conclusion. If our explanation of the causes which practically ranged the nations of the European mainland on the side of the Boers, as the enemies of the British Empire, be admitted, it follows that whenever Great Britain is placed in a position of difficulty, she may count upon the sympathies of the vast majority of her neighbours being enlisted on the side adverse to British interests. The recognition of this plain truth, unwelcome as it may be, has strengthened the growth of the Imperialist movement, which, in England at any rate, has been the most remarkable feature of the fourth quarter of the 19th century. There is no need to have reached an advanced age in order to ^ a remember the time when the formation of a Federated British Empire was regarded as an idle " dream of Utopia. Till the days of the fourth Lord Carnarvon, no statesman had ever come forward as the champion of Imperial Federation; and even the Minister under whose auspices the Dominion of Canada became an accomplished fact was looked upon by his contemporaries as an amateur politician. The idea that the union of the scattered colonies of Great Britain beyond the seas could ever come within the domain of practical politics had hitherto met with no support from the leading statesmen of the Victorian era, whether Liberal or Conservative. Federation never formed part of the programme of either party—of the Liberals even less, if possible, than of the Conservatives. Why this should have been the case is obvious enough. In former days the first practical step towards the creation of an Imperial Federation was deemed to be the establishment of a Customs Union, under which all parts of the British dominions, wherever situated, or whatever might be the nationality of their inhabitants, should not only enjoy free trade with one another, but should be advantaged, as against foreign nations, by being subject to lower duties than those imposed on foreign traders. To take such a step, to however small an extent, was deemed an infraction of Free Trade principles; and up to a very recent period the theory that Free Trade was a system advantageous everywhere, at all times, and in all circumstances, was a cardinal tenet not only of the Manchester school, but of the whole Liberal party. Amongst the causes to which the progress of the Federation movement is due, the decline of popular faith in the universal application of Free Trade principles cannot fairly be overlooked. The chief cause, however, is beyond