A mere clerk, unknown outside his office, though well known in literature, could recall a governor; another, whose very name was unknown till he died, recommended (that is, commanded on pain of dismissal) a recent Governor of New Zealand to give away to his ministers on a crucial exercise of the prerogative.
Nor is it in matters of routine alone that the permanent officers shape the course of colonial administration. A strong-minded minister with a policy of his own, like Lord Grey or Lord Carnarvon, will force his subordinates to carry it out, hut even here a still stronger-minded Under-Secretary will often have his way. In 1848 Lord Grey, then Secretary for the Colonies, summoned the aged and moribund Committee (of the privy council) on Trade and Plantations to advise with him on the policy to be adopted towards the Australian colonies. The report was drafted by Sir James Stephen and we have no difficulty in discovering in its far-sighted proposals and masculine style the mind as well as the hand of the author of the essay on 'Hildebrand.' It is often said that a state department is inevitably wedded to routine. In the report just mentioned the striking feature is the outline of a system of Australian federation that is only now on the point of being realized. So far was the pedantic Colonial Office then, as it has often been before and since, ahead of its subject colonies.
The other colonizing countries have followed the same line of development. Beginning as direct delegations of the sovereign power to a branch, first constituent and then separated, of the sovereign's council, the department of colonies has been in course of time made an independent ministry directly answerable to parliament. In bureaucratic France the colonies since 1854 have been associated with the navy. On the first of January, 1899, the empire on which the sun never set, having lost the last of the dependencies that were once its glory, abolished its colonial office. The sun had set on Spain to rise no more.