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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 54/November 1898/The Evolution of Colonies: Political Evolution V


THE law that the evolution of a colony repeats the evolution of the parent state would here be logically applied to the history of the relations between colonies and the mother country. These would be shown to have followed a similar course, though with new developments, to those of the mother country with her suzerain; and they would be carried further back and deeper down to those universal animal processes of lactation and rearing which they continue and which explain them. The gradual settlement of a new country would next be exhibited as a repetition (with necessary modifications) of the settlement of the mother country, because guided by the same general laws—that it dispossesses an earlier race, which had followed quadrupeds and birds, which had followed trees, shrubs, and grasses, which again had sown themselves along geographical lines. Chapters on both topics are unavoidably omitted. The law has now to be applied to the political, industrial, and social evolution of colonies. In so wide a subject only aperçus are possible. There are traces in several colonies of a state anterior to the establishment of a settled government. According to the unloving Hobbes, such a state is necessarily one of war, and it is sometimes that; according to the humane Rousseau, it is one of peace, and, to the credit of human nature, it is oftener that. There were English settlers in Pennsylvania before the Swedes arrived. The first immigrants to Plymouth found predecessors on the coast who owed no allegiance. Seventy years after the foundation of North Carolina the inhabitants still led the lives of freemen in the woods. Prior to 1702 New Jersey was considered one of those provinces "where no regular government had been established." The Tasmanian farmers who colonized Victoria lived for some time without any form of government, and lived peacefully. Pastoralists were found on the Canterbury plains before the advent of the Pilgrims, and were content. When the Pilgrims got into collision with the central government, they said bitterly that they would do better with none. Where it is otherwise the circumstances are exceptional. Gold and silver fields everywhere are at first, and often to the last, scenes of wild disorder, where a man's safety depends on his ability to defend himself. Escaped Australian convicts, runaway sailors, adventurers, and natives made up a community which turned the natural paradise of the Bay of Islands into an earthly hell. Parts of Texas in very recent days were the seat of anarchy. Government soon arrives on the spot in the shape of the Texas Rangers, the Draconian gold-fields mounted police, or a royal governor. Or an organized body of immigrants absorbs previous settlers and evolves from within itself all the agencies of government. On one or other of these two types all colonial societies have been built up. The patriarchal theory of Filmer is realized in those colonies—the great majority—where the government is clothed with power delegated by the sovereign of the mother country. The socialist theory of Locke is embodied in the New England colonies; in the Carolina "Association" of 1719; in the resolutions of the Liberal Association of Canada in 1841, which issued in the compact between the crown and the Canadian people; in the New Zealand whalers in 1840, governed by their own laws; in the New Zealand Company's settlements (with a social contract previously drawn up by the passengers, as by those of the Mayflower); and in the colonies of Otago and Canterbury, and New Australia in Paraguay. Two intermediate groups have a transitional existence. Many colonies have been founded by commercial companies whose collective history might be written in two lines—inception of vast enterprises, partial commercial success, great collateral benefits, ruinous loss of capital, surrender of charter to the crown. A set of colonies peculiar to the United States were established by one or more proprietaries, from whose voluntary concessions the form of government was derived, but most of these merged, after a series of conflicts, in the popular group. They were respectively bastard royal and bastard charter colonies.

From the origin of a colony is deducible its whole political and social structure. Colonies of royal foundation, by a kind of moral pangenesis, tend to reproduce all parts of the mother country that are suitable to the new environment—its inequalities of rank, governors who are the image of the sovereign, an executive, legislative, and judicature that are the delegation of his authority. But these institutions must grow; they can not be made. The attempt to create an aristocracy in Carolina, and the proposal to manufacture one in New South Wales, necessarily failed. Yet in both countries one grew or is growing up. In the South there was an untitled aristocracy, with the aristocratic temper, exclusive institutions, and four distinct classes (the descendants of the lords of the manor, villeins or tenants, bond-servants, and slaves, who had a brief existence in Virginia, Carolina, and Maryland)—planters, overseers, mean whites, and negro slaves; the fall of Richmond saw the happy ending of all that. In the British colonies, as in England, there is an increasing passion for titles, and of about sixty grades in the Byzantine hierarchy of the English monarchy at least eleven have been transplanted to colonial soil. But it is on one condition, abroad as at home— that honor shall be divorced from power. In England the nobliity is being edged out of office, and on Lord Salisbury's grave might be written, "The last of the nobles"—the last who governed his country. In her colonies one premier after another resolutely refuses the forbidden dignity that would banish him from the ministerial Eden. The same point has been reached in the United States from the opposite side. Most of the charter and some of the proprietary colonies developed into republican societies, with political equality as their badge, a popular legislature, an elected judiciary, and a half-elected executive. Side by side with this democracy of power there has grown up in the great cities—Philadelphia, Boston, New York—an aristocracy of blood, culture, or dollars. This aristocracy of fashion—as in France and England, so in the United States and (on a small scale) in Australia—consoles itself for lifelong exclusion from public affairs by addicting itself to literature, art, philanthropy, and such like. But these are only its recreations. Its chief use is to exist, to exhibit the civilization of a people at its flower, to give' pleasure to others and to itself. The proportion of this element to the rest of the population will measure the age of the community.

The core of the executive is the governor. The governor of the monarchical colonies is the deputy of the sovereign, and the story of his authority is the story in brief of the royal prerogative. The governors of the Spanish colonies arrogated and abused a power far more despotic than a Spanish king's. The French Governor of Illinois ruled with absolute sway. The first Governor of New South Wales exercised unparalleled powers. He could inflict five hundred lashes and impose a five-hundred-pound fine; could sentence to death, execute, or pardon. He regulated trade. He fixed prices, wages, and customs duties. All the labor in the colony was at his disposal. He could bestow grants of land. He appointed to all offices of honor or emolument. The administration of justice was exclusively in his hands. The colonists were his subjects. He was practically irresponsible. Thus an Anglo-Saxon community can take on the characters of an Oriental satrapy. It can also become a military despotism. For some years after the departure of one governor and the deposition of another the government of the colony was in the hands, or under the feet, of the officers of the New South Wales Corps, who ruled it as the Sultan rules Turkey. The stage of pure absolutism, which is necessitated in a colony, as in the mother country, by the existence of a small band of immigrants in the midst of a hostile indigenous population, or of a small number of free settlers among a convict populace, is succeeded by that of limited absolutism. The authority of the governor is checked by the appointment of a council. Most of the early North American crown colonies were at this stage. It answers to England under the later Tudors, and, as there, left ample scope for oppression. Occasionally it blossomed or withered into prodigies of tyranny on a small scale, as in the too celebrated Andros. Sir James Craig, so lately as the beginning of the nineteenth century, treated his Canadian Parliament as superciliously as a Stuart. In New Zealand there were continual complaints that a certain governor had more absolute power than a sovereign. In South Australia and South Africa the same governor ruled like an emperor, his council not thwarting but aggrandizing his authority. This second pre-constitutional stage is often unduly prolonged in colonies, as it commonly is in the mother country, on the pretext of an enemy on the frontier or of troubles with the natives, but really because of the forceful character of a governor who is unwilling to lay down the dignity he may not have been overwilling to take up. Its persistence in the North American colonies can only be explained on Haeckel's principle that the development of ancestral species is followed in the development of the embryo. Despotism in the Old World was the parent of despotism in the New. There is no other reason why colonies ripe for self-government, like Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia, should have been oppressed by such men as Andros, Cornbury, and Harvey. The stage is ended by the granting of a constitution or by a successful rebellion. The governor's personal force will then be the measure of his power. The sagacious and resolute Lord Elgin asserted that he had twice the authority in constitutional Canada that he had enjoyed in Jamaica. Such a governor is the colonial analogue of Queen Victoria, who, in consequence of her association with the Prince Consort, the length of her reign, and her strong character, has prolonged monarchical influence. But the day of such sovereigns is passing; the day of such governors is past. The office is by no means shorn of its prerogatives. The governor, like the sovereign, selects his prime minister, and the act may have serious consequences; the appeal of the minister for election as leader by his party shows the blending of the popular with the monarchical strain, but it is little more than formal. As George III in 1783, and William IV in 1834, arbitrarily dismissed the Whigs, a Governor of Newfoundland in 1861 dismissed his ministry; in 1858 the Governor of New South Wales had resolved to dismiss his; and it is not many months since Mr. Rhodes was cashiered. Like the sovereign, the governor sometimes refuses to grant a dissolution. Like the Governor General of Canada last year, or the Governor of New Zealand a few years ago, he may refuse to appoint senators—successfully in the one case or only to be bowled over by the Colonial Office in the other. Beyond these real but rarely exercised prerogatives he has little else to do than sign his ministers' documents. He ought to interfere in certain cabinet crises, but dares not. His power, like that of the sovereign, is reduced to a shadow. The premier of the colony is now its working king.

As the governor's authority wanes, his dignity waxes. After 1632 a viceroy of high rank was sent to New Spain. In 1867 Disraeli, half genius and half charlatan, commenced a policy of ostentation by announcing that only those would in future be appointed colonial governors who had been "born in the purple," or were peers, and notwithstanding two or three Liberal reactions the policy has been confirmed, in regard to all the more important colonies, by the demands of the colonists. On arriving in his dominions the new ruler has a royal reception. He becomes the head of the ceremonial system in the colony, and if he ceases to govern he reigns (according to Bagehot's theory of the monarchy) by impressing the popular imagination. And as loyalty to the Queen is passing into loyalty to the imperial tradition, so is loyalty to her representative being transmuted into the pride of imperial connection.

The governor completes the parallel with sovereignty by undergoing all its vicissitudes. As monarchs have abdicated, been imprisoned, banished, restored, tried, and beheaded, colonial governors have resigned, been imprisoned, expelled, recalled, restored, impeached, dismissed, and hanged, and in both sets of cases for similar reasons. They have resigned because of ill usage at the hands of their ministers, because things were done in their absence of which they disapproved, or because they were entrapped into approving of their ministers' wrongdoing. La Bourdonnais was sent to the Bastille, Andros was imprisoned for tyranny in Massachusetts, and in North Carolina it was the "common practice" to resist and imprison their governors. Depositions were frequent in the North American colonies. An oppressive Governor of Virginia was banished to England, but sent back; a Governor of New South Wales was deposed for rectitude by a military mutiny and shipped to Tasmania; a Governor of New Zealand was placed on board a ship for England because he had excited the ill will of a powerful company, and had indiscreetly realized the dream of free traders by making the colony a free port. As Pericles dreaded being ostracized, early Governors of New South Wales feared being placed under arrest. Recall is the sentence that governors of British colonies had most to shun in the days when they were still irresponsible. The first four Governors of Australia, and possibly the sixth, were lied out of office. One was recalled because of the financial embarrassments of his colony and his own devotion to science; another, on the better grounds of tyranny and red tape. A Governor of the Cape of Good Hope was recalled because he was unpopular. Another governor of that colony was recalled for incorrigible insubordination, and again, when he had been pardoned and sent to a more distant colony, for hopeless incompatibility. How so serious a step may be contrived by a mere clerk in the Colonial Office may be read in the autobiography of Sir Henry Taylor, who procured the recall of an obnoxious governor by submitting to a compliant Secretary of State a dispatch recalling him. An outbreak of public indignation, like that against Governor Eyre, may be needed to bring about the same result. Dupleix and Frontenac fell before the machinations of their enemies, and the former was allowed to die in misery. Hastings was impeached. Articles equivalent to impeachment were drawn up against a Governor of New South Wales, who, like Clive, suffered the indignity of having his administration scrutinized by a committee of the House of Commons. Lastly, as a single English king was brought to the block, so has a single governor, and he the creature of an insurrection, expiated his rebellion on the scaffold.

The election of governors recalls the election of Frankish kings, but really repeats that of the governors of commercial companies; how powerful such elected functionaries may become is shown by the chairman of an English railway company and the American boss. Leaders like Smith or Winthrop, Cargill of Otago, or Godley of Canterbury, who give to young colonies cohesion and the power to survive, or carry them through perils, are their rulers by indefeasible sovereignty; in form they may, as in Massachusetts, be only the presidents of the company out of which the colony has sprung. Reelected for twenty years, like Winthrop, or thirteen, like Endicott, they may confer on the office a duration equal to that of inheritance, and may show an independence greater than a hereditary or an appointed officer can safely assume. Creators of colonies, like Baltimore, Penn, and Oglethorpe, repeat a type that must be rare in history, if indeed they do not originate the noblest of all types of ruler, and are kings by a diviner right than that of any known sovereign.

The governor being the brain (or the active portion of the brain) of the body politic, the administration is his limbs, and expands from him with such improvements as new circumstances permit and such modifications as they require, in the same manner as it had done from the sovereign in the mother country. Not that each colony passes through all the stages through which the latter pass; that depends on the date at which the colony was given off. Massachusetts and Virginia alone of the North American colonies, New South Wales and Tasmania alone of the Australasian, described most of them; in the younger colonies the earlier ones were dropped. Thus (to mention a single point) the office of Colonial Secretary (who was originally the governor's secretary, as the Secretary for Ireland, till the other day, was only the Lord Lieutenant's secretary) differentiates into several ministries, as the department of Secretary of State had differentiated in England. An anomaly is worth noting. In the United States, where the whole people is the fountain of power, the ministers are the servants of the President, appointed and dismissed by him. In England, while they are still in theory her Majesty's ministers, and the Prime Minister is nominally selected by the sovereign, by a remarkable transformation they have become the servants of the legislature—that is, of the people. The two countries have exchanged institutions, as Hamlet and Laertes exchanged rapiers. The explanation is historical. The United States parted from the development of Britain at a time when the executive was, far more than now, independent of the legislature and dependent on the sovereign. The framers of the Constitution of the United States, looking at the British Constitution from without, and ignoring the subtle checks and balances that gave the lie to Montesquieu's too rigid trichotomy, petrified a still developing system, and dug a gulf between the executive and the legislature. But in England, with the growing weakness of the crown and the growing strength of the legislature, the ministers have gone over to the popular side. The younger British colonies were founded at a time when this development was already far advanced, and they have repeated the evolution. A curious consequence ensues. While in a monarchical country and its colonies a manifestation of public opinion can in a week bring the most powerful ministry to its knees, the President and ministers of a popularly governed country pursue their irresponsible course in apparent indifference to either pulpit or press.

A similar cleavage divides the legislative structure. The governor of crown colonies, like the sovereign, is at first the sole, and through his ministers to the last the chief, legislator; the legislature is created by concessions wrung from him, and its history is the record of successive limitations of his authority. In charter colonies the legislature is the creation of the people, and the laws are made by its deputies. A single tolerably perfect example of each type is chosen. The early history of New South Wales is one of the best preserved specimens in the museum of political paleontology. During its earliest years the governor was as absolute as the first Norman sovereigns. William Rufus might ask: "You Taillebois, what have you to propose in this arduous matter? . . . Potdevin, what is your opinion of the measure?" And Philip, hunter or king, might as unceremoniously solicit the advice of the chaplain or the commander of the forces, but they were under no obligation to take it; and the earliest laws, like the capitularies of Charlemagne, were public orders or proclamations. Under the sixth governor, when civilian officials had arrived, his authority received its first limitation: a small council was instituted, consisting of the chief justice, the attorney general, and the archdeacon of Sydney. A few years later the council was enlarged by the inclusion of new officials, and an equal number of unofficial citizens, who were, however, nominated by the crown. So far, we are still in the twelfth English century. In 1828 began fourteen years of agitation for an elective council, and with 1842 we arrive at the colonial Magna Charta. The concession had hardly been made when, with the influx of fresh settlers, another agitation for all the rights of self-government was begun. It was complicated with the convict question, as the politics of the United States was long complicated with the slavery question, but was not settled with, though it may have been accelerated by, the settlement of that in 1848. Eight years later full self-government was granted, largely through the agency of one man. As a Wentworth had aided in subverting the liberties of Englishmen, a second Wentworth redeemed the honor of his name by proving the Shaftesbury of a second revolution, and procuring freedom for their Australian descendants. Subsequent developments repeat the English reforms of 1832, 1867, and 1881. Thus the colony described in less than a century the evolution which it had taken the mother country fourteen hundred years to accomplish. Younger colonies, omitting the earlier stages, ran the same distance in far shorter periods.

They are not only repeating, they are anticipating, the history of the parent state. Eemale suffrage has been conceded in two Australasian colonies, and it is inevitable in the rest. The domination of a socialist democracy is far advanced in the two former. The referendum, or direct appeal to the people on specific issues, is on the eve of general enactment. Ministries elected by the legislature are possibly in the near future. Thus legislative bodies which sprang from the crown are more democratic than those that sprang from the people. Withal, the former retain an anomalous vestige of their origin. While the business of legislation in Congress is necessarily conducted by members who have no official connection with the executive, as it was originally in the English Parliament, the British and colonial ministries claim an ever-increasing monopoly of legislation on all questions of any magnitude. It has long been recognized as impossible for a private member to carry through the House of Commons a measure of any consequence, and a colonial ministry arrests the progress of a successful bill by intimating that the subject of it can only be legislated upon by the Government.

The free involution of a legislature from below is naturally more rapid than its reluctant devolution from above. The swift development of the Massachusetts Company into the Massachusetts Legislature has been ably traced by Professor Fiske, who is a sociologist as well as a historian. The attempt to transact public business at a primary meeting of all the freemen in the colony, assembling four times a year, repeats the old Witenagemot, and failed for the same reason as that died out—because, from the expansion of the population, the assemblage was impracticable. It needed only four years for the freemen to acquire the right of sending deputies to the General Court, and only fifteen to bring about a permanent division into two Houses. Other early colonies passed through the same stages; colonies of later foundation took up the development at the bicameral stage. It is the history of a land and colonization company of those days, or of a railway company in ours. The directors become a Senate and the body of shareholders the popular House; the statutes of the company are its constitution and the by-laws its legislation. The origin of charter legislatures in a company explains a parallel anomaly to that in crown legislatures. While the representative Houses in British colonial legislatures have followed the House of Commons in gathering all power into their own hands, in states descended from the charter companies the House of Representatives has been losing, while the Senate has gained authority. In both cases the apparent anomaly is the outcrop of a deeper law. The ministry in the one case and the senate in the other are each the embodiment of that continuous social germ-plasm to which the popular will of the hour stands in the same relation as the individual life does to the physiological germ-plasm; and, as the latter is the true substance of the body, the social germ-plasm is the substance of society, incarnating its permanent interests, and therefore justly overriding the cries, the whims, the passions of the hour.

The same dichotomy is visible in the colonial judicature. The paterfamilias, the village elder, the tribal chief, the king, possess and personally exercise an undelegated jurisdiction. Fully twenty years ago a sociological worker surprised a historian of some pretensions, who was conversant with the mere events of his special period, by informing him that the practice of English kings to preside in their own courts of justice came as far down as that very period—the reign of James I. This prerogative was transmitted with the other attributes of royalty to the governors of crown colonies, who "generally acted as judges, sitting in the highest court." A New Jersey Cincinnatus revived primitive simplicities by hearing causes seated on a tree stump in his fields. The successive delegations of this power repeat the necessary concessions that created the English judiciary. Side by side with the royal prerogative grew up a popular jurisdiction which developed into the jury; and it would be worth while to compare the acquisition of this constitutional right (for example, in Connecticut and New South Wales) with its history in England. Out of this element, and also as a corollary from the election of a governor who was chief judge, came the practice of electing judges in the North American colonies. It was by no means confined to the charter colonies. Nowhere was the determination toward an elective judiciary more noticeable than in Pennsylvania, whose proprietary was its feudal sovereign. It may be historically explained from the corrupt and servile judicature of the age when these colonies were founded. The attachment to the old system in contemporary British colonies may also be explained from the very different point in the history of the mother country when they were given off, when the talent, the purity, and independence of the bench had become the pride of Englishmen, and the judges were Baconian in everything but the taking of bribes. The English and (naturally in a far less degree) the colonial courts still show traces of their royal origin in the antiquated wig and gown, the arrogance of the judges, their haughty point of honor—"contempt of court," and their aristocratic bias. These are counterbalanced by the increasing strength of the popular element. A hopeful bill was a few years ago introduced into a colonial legislature restraining judges from commenting on evidence. A mere act of Parliament would have as much effect on lawyers' loquacity as Mrs. Partington's mop had on the Atlantic. It is, nevertheless, in the direction of restricting the powers of the judges that the more radical colonies are moving. In one southern community certain causes may be tried by a judge with a jury of four, who will probably rise into assessors, and in another that important step is possibly on the point of being taken. The courageous Premier of South Australia, who lately defied the entire English medical profession, has now taken in hand his own not less formidable guild. He proposes that "in proceedings under certain acts the bench is to consist of a judge of the Supreme Court with two lay assessors, one appointed by each party to the suit"; and counselors are peremptorily excluded from such proceedings. In certain other cases litigants may submit statements of their differences to judges who will adjudicate without the intervention of counsel. Thus the same middle point may be reached from opposite termini. A series of levelings down may bring judicatures of royal origin to the same stage as popular jurisdictions have reached by a gradual leveling up. The courts will then unite the majesty of the law, whose "voice is the harmony of the world," with an impartiality and inexpensiveness that will insure to every citizen the enjoyment of the most elementary of all rights—the right to justice.

Side by side with the process of differentiation within colonies rose up an integration of colonies with one another, which also repeats the history of the mother country. The same principles of authority and consent, again in unequal proportions, are blended here. It was by conquest that the seven old English kingdoms were welded into a united England, Strathclyde incorporated, Ireland annexed. By force disguised as bribery, aided by the patriotic or interested efforts of a few nobles and placemen and in opposition to the will of the inhabitants, Scotland and Ireland were joined to England. Some four or five groups of British colonies have reduplicated, or are now reduplicating, a parallel development. In North America it was preceded and accompanied by altercations among the different colonies. Boundary disputes repeat old English intertribal struggles. Tariff wars are now waged, and commercial reciprocity treaties contracted, between contemporary colonies. New Haven and Connecticut, which consisted of towns federated by consent, were united by force. Voluntary alliances against the Indians or to conquer Canada, or involuntary unions under despotic rulers, associated larger or smaller North American groups from Maine to Maryland. The loose confederation of 1781 was too voluntary to last. The final federation that superseded it had a large element of latent force mixed with consent. It was hardly less a conquest of the North by the South than that of the Heptarchy by Wessex. The Constitution is a monument of Southern ascendency. So it was that, for seventy years off and on, the United States was governed by a Southern oligarchy, whether under the hegemony of Virginia or of South Carolina. The dominion of Canada means (even under a French premier) the dominion of Ontario, with Quebec bribed, and Newfoundland not bribed enough, to enter. In 1876 the ten New Zealand provinces were amalgamated under a central Government which for many years remained that of the earlier-settled North Island. A federation of the Australian colonies planned seven years ago under the auspices of protectionist Victoria, is likely to succeed under the leadership of free-trading New South Wales. Mr. Rhodes is advising the federation of the British colonies of South Africa; forty years ago a federation of all the South African states was designed by Sir George Grey, then high commissioner, but with little patriotism and still less wisdom, for at that time it necessarily implied the dominance of the Dutch element. In 1846 that far-seeing statesman had projected a union of the South Sea Islands with New Zealand. Only four years ago the same aged prophet of federation, with an eloquence inspired by the theme, outlined to a Liberal audience a scheme for federating the English-speaking peoples. These are dreams; but the dreams of to-day are the realities of to-morrow, and every step taken toward the realization of them is itself a gain.