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A COLONY being a community, to ask whether it is right for the State to found and govern colonies, is practically to ask whether it is right for one community to found and govern other communities. And this question not being one in which the relationships of a society to its own authorities are alone involved, but being one into which there enter the interests of men external to such society, is in some measure removed out of the class of questions hitherto considered. Nevertheless, our directing principle affords satisfactory guidance in this case as well as in others.
That a Government cannot undertake to administer the affairs of a colony, and to support for it a judicial staff, a constabulary, a garrison, and so forth, without trespassing against the parent society, scarcely needs pointing out. Any expenditure for these purposes, be it like our own some three and a half millions sterling a year, or but a few thousands, involves a breach of State-duty. The taking from men property beyond what is needful for the better securing of their rights, we have seen to be an infringement of their rights. Colonial expenditure cannot be met without property being so taken. Colonial expenditure is therefore unjustifiable.
An objector might indeed allege that, by maintaining in a settlement a subordinate legislature, the parent legislature does but discharge towards the settlers its original office of protector; and that the settlers have a claim to protection at its hands. But the duty of a society towards itself, that is,
of a Government towards its subjects, will not permit the assumption of such a responsibility. For, as it is the function of a Government to administer the law of equal freedom, it cannot, without reversing its function, tax one portion of its subjects at a higher rate than is needful to protect them, that it may give protection to another portion below prime cost; and to guard those who emigrate, at the expense of those who remain, is to do this.
In one way, however, legislative union between a parent State and its colonies may be maintained without breach of the law; namely, by making tliem integral parts of one empire, severally represented in a united assembly commissioned to govern the whole. But, theoretically just as such an arrangement may be, it is too palpably impolitic for serious consideration. To propose that, while the English joined in legislating for the people of Australia, of the Cape, of New Zealand, of Canada, of Jamaica, and of the rest, these should in turn legislate for the English and for each other, is much like proposing that the butcher should superintend the classification of the draper's goods, the draper draw up a tariff of prices for the grocer, and the grocer instruct the baker in making bread.
It was exceedingly cool of Pope Alexander VI. to parcel out the unknown countries of the Earth between the Spaniards and Portuguese, granting to Spain all discovered and undiscovered heathen lands lying West of a certain meridian drawn through the Atlantic, and to Portugal those lying East of it. Queen Elizabeth, too, was somewhat cool when she empowered Sir Humphrey Gilbert “to discover and take possession of remote and heathen countries," and “to exercise rights, royalties, and jurisdiction, in such countries and seas adjoining.” Nor did Charles II. show less coolness, when he gave to Winthrop, Mason, and others, power to “kill, slay, and destroy, by all fitting ways, enterprises, and means whatsoever, all and every such person or persons as shall at any time hereafter attempt or enterprise the destruction, invasion, detriment, or annoyance of the inhabitants,” of the proposed plantation of Connecticut. Indeed, all colonizing expeditions down to those of our own day, with its American annexations, its French occupations of Algiers and Tahiti, and its British conquests of Scinde and of the Punjaub, have borne a repulsive likeness to the doings of buccaneers. As usual, however, these unscrupulous acts have brought deserved retribution. Insatiate greediness has generated very erroneous beliefs, and betrayed nations into most disastrous deeds. “Men are rich in proportion to their acres," argued politicians. “An increase of estate is
. manifestly equivalent to an increase of wealth. What, then, can be clearer than that the acquirement of new territory must be a national advantage?” So, misled by the analogy, and spurred or by acquisitiveness, we have continued to seize province after province, in utter disregard of the losses entailed by them. In fact, it has been inconceivable that they do entail losses; and though doubt is beginning to dawn upon the public mind, the instinctive desire to keep hold is too strong to permit a change of policy. Our predicament is like that of the monkey in the fable, who, putting his hand into a jar of fruit, grasps so large a quantity that he cannot get his hand out again, and is obliged to drag the jar about with him, never thinking to let go what he has seized. When we shall attain to something more than the ape's wisdom remains to be seen.
While the mere propensity to thieve, commonly known under some grandiloquent alias, has been the real prompter of colonizing invasions, from those of Cortez and Pizarro downwards, the ostensible purpose of them has been either the spread of religion or the extension of commerce. In modern days the latter excuse has been the favourite one. To obtain inore markets—this is what people have said aloud to each other, was the object aimed at. And, though second to the widening of empire, it has been to the compassing of this object that colonial legislation has been mainly directed. Let us consider the worth of such legislation.
Those holy men of whom the middle ages were so prolific, seem to have delighted in exhibiting their supernatural powers on the most trifling occasions. It was a common feat with them, when engaged in church-building, magically to lengthen a beam which the carpenter had made too short. Some were in the constant babit of calling down fire from heaven to light their candles. When at a loss where to deposit his habiliments, St. Goar, of Treves, would transform a sunbeam into a hat-peg. And it is related of St. Columbanus that he wrought a miracle to keep the grubs from his cabbages. Now, although these examples of the use of vast means for the accomplishment of insignificant ends, are not quite paralleled by the exertions of Governments to secure colonial trade, the absurdity attaching to both differs only in degree. An expenditure of power ridiculously disproportionate to the occasion is their common characteristic. In the one case, as in the other, an unnatural agency is employed to effect what a natural agency would effect as well. Trade is a simple enough thing that will grow up wherever there is room for it. But, according to statesmen, it must be created by a gigantic and costly machinery. That trade only is advantageous to a country which brings in return for what is directly and indirectly given, a greater worth of commodities than could otherwise be obtained. But statesmen recognize no such limit to its benefits. Every new outlet for English goods, kept open at no matter what cost, they think valuable. Here is some scrubby little island, or wild territory-unhealthy, or barren, or inclement, or uninhabited even-which by right of discovery, conquest, or diplomatic maneuvring, may be laid hands on. Possession is forthwith taken; a high-salaried governor is appointed; officials collect round him; then follow forts, garrisons, guardships. From these by-and-bye come quarrels with neighbouring peoples, incur
sions, war; and these again call for more defensive works, more force, more money. And to all protests against this reckless expenditure, the reply is—“Consider how it extends our commerce.” If you grumble at the sinking of £800,000 in fortifying Gibraltar and Malta, at the outlay of £130,000 a year for the defence of the Ionian Islands, at the maintenance of 1200 soldiers in such a good-for-nothing place as the Bermudas, at the garrisoning of St. Helena, Hong Kong, Ileligoland, and the rest, you are told that all this is needful for the protection of our commerce. If you object to the expenditure of £110,000 per annum on the Government of Ceylon, it is thought a sufficient answer that Ceylon buys manufactures from us to the gross value of £240,000 yearly. Any criticisms you may pass upon the policy of retaining Canada, at an annual cost of £800,000, are met by the fact that this amounts to only 30 per cent. upon the sum which the Canadians spend on our goods.* Should you, under the fear that the East India Company's debt may some day be saddled upon the people of England, lament the outlay of £17,000,000 over the Afghan war, the sinking of £1,000,000 a year in Scinde, and the swallowing up of untold treasure in the subjugation of the Punjaub, there still comes the everlasting excuse of more trade. A Bornean jungle, the deserts of Kaffraria, and the desolate hills of the Falkland Islands, are all occupied upon this plea. The most profuse expenditure is forgiven, if but followed by an insignificant demand for merchandise : even though such demand be but for the supply of a garrison's necessities-glass for barrack windows, starch for officer's shirts, and lump-sugar for the governor's table: all of which you shall find carefully included in Board of Trade Tables, and rejoiced over as constituting an increase in our exports !
But not only do we expend so much to gain so little, we
* For these and other such facts, see Sir W. Molesworth's speeches delivered during the sessions of 1848 and 1849.