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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 57/August 1900/Colonies and the Mother Country III

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 57‎ | August 1900


THE relations between a great state and its subject peoples will vary according to the status of these, as the relations between father and son differ according as the latter is self-supporting or still under tutelage. Roman provinces under the empire were classed as imperial when they were directly controlled by the Emperor, or senatorial when they were governed by the Senate and possessed a simulacrum of self-government. The dual status in this mother country of nearly the whole world foreshadows all subsequent relationships between a mother country and its dependencies. Spain and Portugal governed their colonies imperially, appointing all officers, immediately or through their representative mediately enacting all laws, and leaving almost as little freedom to their own countrymen as to the down-trodden indigenes. More humanely, indeed, but in spite of conceded French citizenship and theoretical equality, the French have ruled their scattered dependencies with as little of the reality of public life. The Dutch colonies are similarly controlled. The British Empire presents a variegated picture where every color is blended and every form of policy known among men is displayed. From it alone an Aristotle might delineate the metaphysics of government or a Spencer construct its physics. In Egypt and Crete, with practical possession, imperial England is vassal to the Sultan, and she now holds the conquered Soudan jointly with Egypt, but acknowledges no suzerainty. She is herself suzerain of the two South African Boer republics and regent of Zanzibar. In her magnificent dependency of India, 692 sovereignties and chiefships form a 'protected' girdle around her own possessions, or interlace or approach them. Between these beneficent despotisms and the free states of Australia, South Africa or North America there seems to be every possible variety of mingled absolutism and self-government. Certain territories are governed by chartered companies; one (Rhodesia) by a chartered company under the control of the Crown. Three native territories are governed by officers under the High Commissioner of South Africa; four others by the officers of Cape Colony. The status of Crown colonies administered more or less directly by the Imperial Government is almost as various. One colony may be dependent on another, as Natal was for years on Cape Colony. Others exhibit in an ascending scale the acquisition of the attributes of self-government. The governor rules at first alone despotically, then with an executive council, next with a nominated legislative council, further with the latter partly elected, and finally with it wholly elective. At these successive stages the colony is in a decreasing degree under the control of the Imperial Government, and a scale might be drawn showing groups of colonies indefinitely arrested at one or another of them. Only colonies destined for complete freedom victoriously pass through them all and emerge into full political manhood.

The duration of their infancy and youth is determined by internal and external circumstances: (1) When a colony is systematically founded and quickly peopled it may rapidly traverse the period of dependence, and (like New Zealand or South Australia) be granted responsible government in about fifteen years. (2) Convict colonies, like Tasmania and New South Wales, may have fifty or sixty years of pupilage. (3) A colony of retarded growth, like West Australia, may be nearly as long a minor. (4) Colonies that have long to struggle with an overwhelming mass of indigenes, like Cape Colony, may take half a century to ripen, and even then, like Natal, may retain traces of the earlier state. (5) When the mother country is herself despotically governed, as England was under the Stuarts, the Commonwealth and the early Hanoverians, colonies that possess every attribute qualifying them for freedom, like many of the North American colonies, may be forcibly retained in partial dependence. (6) The New England colonies, free from the start, were connected with Britain by a shadowy tie of nominal allegiance, tightened at times into real subjection. Lastly, a colony may revert, like Jamaica, after years of Parliamentary institutions, to the dependent position of a Crown colony.

So various and so intricate, so weak here, so strong there, and withal so marvelously compacted, is the network of relations forming the anatomy of the wonderful new type of social organism constituted by a mother country, its free and its subject colonies, its protected states and its dependencies.

The brain sometimes inhibits natural movements and enforces injurious actions, as a morbid conscience often prescribes irksome duties and forbids innocent pleasures. Fathers have misdirected the career of their sons, and the unwisdom of mothers (Lady Ashton, in 'The Bride of Lammermoor,' is a tragic, but far from a rare example) has destroyed the happiness of their daughters. So governments inevitably hinder and blunder, worry colonies by vexatious interferences or goad them into insurrection. For more than thirty years Bishop Fonseca, the president of the Council of the Indies, lay like an incubus on the Spanish colonies in South America. His main object seemed to be to throw impediments in the way of the great discoverers and rulers—Columbus and Cortez. When Cortez planned the conquest of Mexico he experienced protracted opposition from Fonseca, who "discouraged recruits, stopped supplies and sequestered the property" Cortez sent to Spain. The conqueror bitterly complained that he "had found it harder to contend against his own countrymen than against the Aztecs." The story of Spain's South American colonies is one of injustice, oppression and downright robbery. The natives naturally suffered most. They were condemned to forced labor in the mines under circumstances of extreme barbarity, in order that large sums of money might be sent annually to Spain. This insatiable demand neutralized all the efforts of the best-intentioned viceroys and rendered all attempts at good government nugatory. The Indians had further to submit to grinding oppression by the local officials and to the exactions and tyranny of the priests. The Spanish colonists had their own grievances. Articles of commerce were excluded, or had their prices heightened by the monopoly of the Cadiz merchants. They were oppressed by the military despotism of the government. The political development of the colonies was made impossible by the continued use of them for the purposes of the mother country. What Spain was for three centuries, that was she till the other day in her few remaining colonies. Lord Brassey writes of Cuba: "The casual visitor can not fail to be impressed with the evidences of inefficient administration. The fiscal policy is intensely exclusive. The taxation is heavy, and the government absolutely despotic. The police maintain a system of intolerable espionage. Every salaried servant of the local government is a Spaniard, who regards Cuba as a vassal state, over which Spain has unlimited rights, without reciprocal duties or obligations. The system has already severed all her noble settlements in South America from the mother country. In time it must involve the loss of Cuba."

If it were the case that the genesis and growth of the myriad buds formed round a prolific hydroid were accelerated by magnetic shoots (so to speak) from the parent zoöphyte, and 'persons' were thus differentiated, we should have a true analogue to a kind of action exercised by the mother country on its colonies. For it long supplies them with the greater part of their brain power, governing force, culture, science and experience of all sorts, and when these have done their work a new political, intellectual and moral center is created, which is henceforth self-subsistent; the colony has received a soul, a mind, a heart. First, the governor is usually sent out by the metropolis. Of six hundred and seventy-two rulers of South America, from its conquest to its independence, only eighteen were Americans. In French and Dutch colonies there are possibly no exceptions. Many of the charter and proprietary colonies of North America elected their own governors, and the insurrectionary governor of a Crown colony, New York, was popularly elected. The lieutenant-governors of the provinces of the Canadian Dominion are locally appointed. With these and one or two other exceptions, the governor may be considered as symbolizing (in so far as he has the capacity) the entire civilization of the mother country. He brings much or little to the colony he comes to govern. Sometimes, as in the case of Sir George Gray, he brings intellectual superiority, and he may thus stimulate its literary development, but that is rare. He oftener imparts an aroma of gentility that is much appreciated by a certain class. He may be of practical utility by applying the experience of a military engineer, as did Sir William Jervois. He may have had large colonial experience, like Sir Hercules Robinson, and use that to solve the intricate political problems of his colony. If he is a collector, like Sir George Gray, he may enrich it by bequests of libraries and museums. If he possesses literary gifts and has passed through an eventful time, he may enrich colonial history by dictating his biography, like one colonial governor, or writing his reminiscences, like so many. And lastly, after returning to the mother-land, he may continue to watch over the interests of the colony or colonies he ruled; he may become president or member of the Council of the Indies, like three viceroys of Peru, or Parliamentary under-secretary for the colonies, like Sir James Fergusson, or even his former colony's agent-general, like Sir W. Robinson. In Crown colonies the chief legal and administrative officials are imperial appointees, and are only superseded by local ministers when the colony is granted responsible government. In a unique case, that of Queensland, after a constitution had been conceded, the first governor took out with him the first premier; and he too was afterwards able to safeguard its interests as permanent under-secretary in London. The Greek metropolis sometimes sent priests to its colonies, and bishops are long appointed by the mother church. During the three centuries of Peruvian dependence fully one in seven bishops—one hundred and five against seven hundred and six—were native Americans. Canada seems to have at length arrived at complete independence and appoints Canadians. In Australasia and South Africa the metropolitans and most of the suffragans are still nominated in England; a dean may be transferred from one colony to another as a bishop; or a small and poor diocese may elect one of its incumbents. Local jealousies and possibly the absence of a commanding spirit combine with the desire to have the best the home church can afford to give or the colonial church procure to dictate the extraneous selection. The stream of ecclesiastical culture flows likewise through the immigration or importation of ministers of all denominations. It means, among Catholics as among Protestants, the periodical addition to the spiritual wealth of the colonies of an amount of talent and high character which they would have been slow to acquire by natural growth. University or collegiate professors are for quite as long appointed by a committee of selection in the mother country. Such men—some of them brilliant, laborious. enthusiastic—are a real acquisition to communities immersed in material pursuits and cut off from the movement of science in Europe, and their position is deservedly high and well remunerated. Doctors, lawyers, artists, teachers, experts in many departments, place the colonies in the same position relatively to less-favored communities, as the sons of a squire relatively to the sons of an artisan. In this respect, as in most others, a colony follows the example of the mother country. The introduction of literature, the sciences and the arts into the mother-land was to a large extent at all stages in its history the work of aliens. It is so still; the names of Bunsen, Rosen, Max Müller, Goldstücker, Aufrecht, and a score of others, are proofs that men as well as things that are 'made in Germany' are still imported into England. To descend to the mechanical arts, "the ranks of skilled workmen in America were and are renewed from the more fertile soil of Europe"; even the workmen in the Portland stone-quarries are imported from England. The second mode in which foreign culture was introduced into the mother-land in common with all others—visits made abroad for discipleship or instruction—has all along been, and is now increasingly, maintained. Colonial students go to Europe to be trained in medicine and law. Experts go to become acquainted with advances in science and medicine, or with recent improvements in mechanical processes. The wealthier colonists who spend occasional seasons in Europe bring back new (or antiquated) social or political notions, and Americans who thus try to import into the United States an aristocratic style of living have to be ridiculed out of it. The third method by which an infusion of foreign civilization may pass into another community is by books, works of plastic art, music, tools, implements and instruments, and into this vast inheritance of the mother country the daughter colonies have entered. They participate in the advances made by other countries as well. The Canadian colonies owe only less to the United States than to England, and American railway cars, agricultural implements and household utensils are in use in Australasia. In New Zealand a French Masonic lodge has struck root.

The new colonial centers thus formed react on the father-land, as we may conceive the daughter buds to react on the parent hydroid. The discovery of the New World and the successive entrance of the five great maritime powers upon a long and fierce rivalry for its possession transformed the politics of Europe. Great wars were undertaken solely with this object. The political center of gravity was shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. New industrial interests were created. Insular and stagnant powers, isolated Continental powers, received a fresh lease of life, and, along with warlike Continental powers, were expanded to the measure of the globe. New sympathies were generated. Wider horizons were opened out. The heart and brain of all were in a manner enlarged. The policy of the mother country is even now being modified by its colonies. "The paramount object in legislating for colonies should be the welfare of the parent state," frankly avows the law officer of the Dutch East India Company at the Cape of Good Hope, in 1779. The Ashburton Treaty and the Oregon Agreement were entered into as if England and the United States were alone interested in their provisions. Treaties are now concluded in the interests of the colonies. Treaties are 'denounced' in order to allow them freedom to tax foreign commodities. They are represented by commissioners, on an equal footing with those of Britain, at conferences preparatory to the conclusion of treaties, and colonial conferences are summoned in order that the general views of the colonies may be ascertained.

There is a more direct reaction, resembling the adoption by an admiring father of the sentiments and opinions of a son who is rising in the world. The Greek cities that had planted colonies imitated the republican institutions of these and deposed their kings. "The American colonists," says Bancroft, "founded their institutions on popular freedom and 'set an example to the nations.' Already the. . . Anglo-Saxon emigrants were the hope of the world." The filial free colonies of Britain are exerting an influence on the domestic policy of the father-land. An aged colonial ruler used to console himself for exclusion from the English Parliament by cherishing the belief that ideas and measures of his had passed into the public life of England. Kuch of this is mere hallucination; some of it is reality. The testimony of a sagacious and experienced statesman on this subject is decisive:

"To the influence of the American Union must be added that of the British colonies. The success of popular self-government in these thriving communities is reacting on political opinion at home with a force that no statesman neglects, and that is every day increasing. There is even a danger that the influence may go too far. They are solving some of our problems, but not under our conditions, and not in presence of the same difficulties. Still, the effect of colonial prosperity—a prosperity alike of admirable achievement and boundless promise—is irresistible. It imparts a freedom, an elasticity, an expansiveness, to English political notions, and gives our people a confidence in free institutions and popular government, which they would never have drawn from the most eloquent assumptions of speculative system-mongers, nor from any other source whatever, save practical experience carefully observed and rationally interpreted."

The New Zealand system of local government is a model which Great Britain, at one time famous in that line, has not been ashamed to imitate; the English county councils have been molded on those of her colony. From the same colony the mother country borrowed her First Offenders' act. The restriction of electors to the exercise of a single vote—unimportant excepting in principle in populous England, but important in young countries where property is widely held—was perseveringly proposed, and at length carried, by the aristocratic leader of the democratic party in New Zealand, whence it is spreading to the adjacent colonies; it has been for some years adopted by the British Liberals as an article in their programme, and it is also a plank in the European socialist platform. The general adhesion to an eight hours' day in the Australasian colonies is having an effect in England and is probably the measure to which Mr. Morley refers as likely to be dangerous; his opposition to it cost him his seat at Newcastle. The adoption of female suffrage in two of these colonies and the certainty of its adoption in others are habitually cited by the advocates of the cause in England as an argument for its adoption in England. The nationalization of the land has been a popular notion in these same colonies ever since Henry George's famous book was published, and the large extent of private lands bought back by the governments of New Zealand and Queensland has strengthened the hands of the land-nationalizers in Europe. The advanced government socialism of most of these colonies, made inevitable by the lack of private capital, and its apparent success, furnish socialists of the German type with weapons and encourage them to prophesy 'the dawn of a revolutionary epoch.'

The spiritual reaction of the colonies on the mother-land is much less considerable, yet is not nil. One or two instances stand out prominently. Jonathan Edwards is one of the giants of British as well as of American theology, and his treatise on the freedom of the will has counted for as much as Butler's Analogy in the development of English theological thought. Sam Slick has been the father or foster-father of the portentous overgrowth of humor by which the United States balances the devouring activity of its public and the overstrain of its private life, but he has been practically inoperative on the very different quality of English humor. From South Africa have come influences of a sterner sort. "Who could have foreseen," asks Mr. Stead, "that the new, and in many respects the most distinctive, note of the literature of the last decade of the nineteenth century would be sounded by a little chit of a girl reared in the solemn stillness of the Karoo, in the solitude of the African bush? The Cape has indeed done yeoman's service to the English-speaking world. To that pivot of the empire we owe our most pronounced types of the imperial man and the emancipated woman"—Cecil Rhodes and Olive Schreiner.

  1. Morley, 'Studies in Literature,' pp. 126-7.