British Confederation

DURING the last twelve or fifteen years, more than one organization or league has been formed, with the ostensible object of binding more closely together, both politically and commercially, the scattered units which constitute the British Empire. Most of them have either disappeared entirely, or ceased to exercise any influence they ever possessed ; the one active body remaining, the British Empire League, working on general, not special lines, and committing itself to no hard - and - fast policy until it has become a thoroughly practical one. It has, consequently, been able to do good work in educating public opinion, and bringing more into prominence the many points of common interest of the English-speaking people ; not only of those owning allegiance to the British crown, but of many subject to other governments. Its principal hindrance has been a suspicion (rather an unjust one) that it has been used for the promotion of the political interests of one party in the state. For a time, at least, members of the other held aloof on that account, and even yet the membership is disproportionate. Up to the present, however, it has exhibited a splendid selfrestraint in the matter of the South African War, and has not publicly committed itself to anything likely to alienate those who, while disapproving of the war and of the policy that led up to it, are, nevertheless, — perhaps one ought to say, therefore, — ardent patriots, desirous of promoting good will among all citizens of the empire.

If the council of the League persists in refusing its sanction and patronage to any of the vague and crudely conceived ideas of imperial federation which are again floating in the air, as in all probability it will, we may expect the recrudescence of some of the defunct organizations, because, undoubtedly, the temper of the English people just now is to talk, if not to think, big, and there is something attractive in a conclave that issues its edicts to every quarter of the globe.

The quiet, steady movement which culminated in the splendid monument of an Australian Commonwealth is seized upon as an argument in favor of the wider scheme, whereas, if studied in all its aspects and intricacies, it affords convincing evidence of the unwisdom, if not the utter impracticability, of a world-wide empire or commonwealth, which is to retain in its component parts the freedom and independence so characteristic today of the dominions lately proud to own the gentle sway of Queen Victoria.

What has been the cause of Australian federation ? We have in the Southern Sea a vast continent of some three millions of square miles ; that is, more than three fourths the size of Europe, inclusive of Russia. Though its area is seventy-five per cent that of Europe, its population is only one per cent, and this has spread itself out, not from one, but from several centres, hundreds of miles apart. Each, as it was established, required a settled form of government, with a policy suited to the needs of the people and the times. Natural and climatic conditions, such as want of rivers and irrigation generally, and sparse rainfall, forbade the spread of population toward the heart of the continent; and the tendency was, consequently, to stretch out arms toward their neighbors on either side, with whom they eventually came into contact. Had the people been of different races, as in the countries of Europe, the boundary lines would have become sharp and definite ; but since they were of the same lineage and the same tongue, such lines could only be purely artificial. So the five colonies, or states, came to be constituted, nobody knows exactly how, though everybody became aware of their active separate existence. Differences of interest there were bound to be, just as these exist between the component parts of even the smallest states. But in the case of Australia they are wonderfully few. The one great industry of the continent is pastoral and agricultural; the only other worth mentioning is mining, which is dependent on nature’s bounty, and cannot be created or stimulated by man’s agency. Similarity of occupation, therefore, is added to common race, language, and sentiment, and the obvious query is, not why the people should be united in a political and economic federation, but why they should be distributed into five different states.

Yet the difficulties of union appeared insurmountable, and for ten years, at least, the almost continuous efforts of the ablest men in the colonies resulted in no discovery of any common foundation to build upon. As far as the continent itself and the small adjacent island of Tasmania are concerned, these labors have, most happily, at last proved fruitful, well illustrating the old adage that perseverance commands success. But the perseverance must be directed aright and toward a practicable object, and it was evident that in this case both conditions were fulfilled. The attempt to include New Zealand, with interests identical in almost every respect to those of Australia, but situated at a distance some twelve hundred miles from the continent, has, for the time being, completely broken down, and the two islands forming the colony are to continue a separate entity.

The federation of Australia is fresh and to the point; the similar movement in Canada, which resulted in the constitution of the Dominion thirty years ago, possessed most, if not all, the same features, and one may almost be regarded as the complement of the other. Neither, as we shall see, provides any basis for the similar federation of territories separated by seas and oceans, and thousands of miles apart.

The consideration of the wider question must, to attain any measure of success, be pursued upon some system, and not loosely followed by generalities. The three main points of view appear to be the Constitutional, the Political, and the Commercial, and we will take these in what may perhaps be regarded as the order of their relative importance.

As every student of history is well aware, the British Constitution is unique. It exists in the imagination, and is nowhere to be found written on parchment, or engraved on tables of metal or stone, or in any other tangible form whatever. No act of Parliament could be passed to destroy this Constitution ; one may safely go further, and say that it is difficult to conceive of one that would amend it, because it is neither more nor less than the reflection of the laws and customs that happen to be in force and operative at any given moment. When a measure of reform or of reaction is proposed, which happens to be specially obnoxious to a section of the community, an endeavor is sometimes made to prejudice it by branding it as unconstitutional. There cannot be such a thing as an unconstitutional act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, because its very adoption at once makes it a part and parcel of the Constitution. The nearest approach there is to a written constitution is to be found in the Acts of Union that incorporate Scotland and Ireland as integral parts of the United Kingdom. The very existence of one of these is forgotten ; there is probably not one Englishman in a million, nor one Scotchman in a hundred thousand, who could give, offhand, in anything like detail, the conditions under which the northern half of Britain became merged in the southern. The other, unhappily, has never ceased to be a thorn in the flesh from the day it became law, and ought, if anything can, to afford a perpetual warning against the government of any part of the British Empire on conditions that may at some future time become obnoxious to a majority of its inhabitants. But even upon the Irish Act of Union different constructions are placed, to suit the exigencies of conflicting parties. When it is proposed to amend one portion of it by the creation of an Irish Parliament for the conduct of Irish local affairs, it is declared by opponents to be a gross breach of the Constitution. When these same opponents desire to amend it by reducing the representation guaranteed by it to the Irish people in the Imperial Parliament, this is declared to be legitimate. If one amendment is constitutional, all must be.

The constitutions of the self-governing colonies are faithful reflections of the original. It came as a surprise to many Englishmen who take deep interest in these questions, that there should be any necessity whatever for the Imperial Parliament to pass an Enabling Act to legalize the Australian Commonwealth. Whatever right of interference Parliament possesses to veto or modify colonial legislation has been so long in abeyance that to resuscitate it on any minor measure would provoke, certainly indignation, probably rebellion, though not, of course, of an armed character. Not very long ago the Natal government enacted a law prohibiting the immigration of Indian coolies, who are subjects of the British crown. If anything could be unconstitutional, surely it is the denial of domicile and protection to such a subject on British territory, wherever located. Yet the action taken by the Imperial Parliament was far removed from anything in the nature of coercion; did not, indeed, exceed an attempt at unofficial persuasion. The political upheaval that has since occurred in South Africa has relegated this matter to the background, but it did, and may again, raise one of the most knotty problems of recent times in the relationship between Great Britain and her colonies.

The Australian Federation Bill contained nothing positively inimical to the rights of British subjects in any part of the world. Whatever freedom is reserved for future dealing with the immigration of colored peoples is no more than would have been claimed by the individual colonies, and has already been exercised by Natal. The one point of serious conflict was the proposed change in the legal relationship by which the final appeal was to lie in an Australian, instead of, as hitherto, an English court of justice. On this point it is admissible that the Imperial Parliament had the right to assert its claims, though whether it was politic in doing so, in opposition to the expressed will of the majority of the Australian electorate, is a matter about which there is likely to continue to be much difference of opinion. On the other hand, the tariff policy embodied in the bill was allowed to pass unchallenged. When the Canadian legislature adopted its preferential tariff, a few years ago, it was not submitted for confirmation to the Imperial Parliament at all, though it was in distinct contravention of well-defined British treaties into which that Parliament had entered. Pressure, indeed, had to be applied to induce the temporary extension of the preference to one or two countries with which ugly disputes might have arisen pending the termination of the treaties. Yet the Federation Bill was submitted for confirmation intact, and the English House of Commons had as much right to amend the tariff clause as the one relating to the ultimate Court of Appeal. On what principle does Canada adopt a tariff which brings the mother country into sharp conflict with some of its neighbors, without question as to its absolute right in the matter, subject only to the consent of the crown, while Australia must first submit to the approval of the British Parliament one that, from an external point of view, promises to be noncontentious ?

This is just one of the many anomalies of the British Constitution, which knows no law. It is invertebrate, and in that lie both its strength and its safety. The animal world is divided into two classes, both of which fulfill their functions in their respective spheres. For countries that have grown up under fixed and written constitutions, a wide latitude might prove dangerous, just as an invertebrate lion would become the easy prey of its weakest enemy. The reverse is equally true, and an attempt to detach one section of the British Constitution, and establish it on the principle of the Medes and Persians, would result in the speedy downfall of the entire fabric. Yet imperial federation would necessitate something of the kind ; there must be some bone introduced that will be rigid. In the Irish Act of Union there is already an instance of it, and one of the sort is sufficient.

Exactly how and when the difficulty would arise nobody could foresee, as it would happen at a time and in a way least anticipated. It is, for instance, scarcely possible to imagine an act passed by the Dominion Parliament that would be prejudicial to the people of Australia. Yet an occasion might arise on which the vital interests of Canada depended on such a measure, and, under existing conditions, Australia could claim no right to interfere. But were Canada and Australia in a common federation with Great Britain, and possibly other remote parts of the empire, the settlement of such a dispute must rest with the federal assembly in whatever way it is constituted. It is not difficult to conceive that, under such circumstances, Canada or Australia, whichever happened to feel aggrieved by the decision, might break away, not only from each other, but from the empire. Now, the British government can mediate, and even if it fails in its endeavors, at least earns the gratitude of both parties, instead of the resentment of one, as would be the case were the decision enforced upon some settled principle of a federal constitution.

It may be urged that a similar objection holds good in such a federation of states as the Dominion of Canada or the Commonwealth of Australia. Their close contact and mutual dependence upon one another would, however, justify the use of force and the assertion of the wishes of the majority, while similar pressure would be intolerable in the case of disputants thousands of miles apart. The proposed amendment of the Australian Bill, despite the protests of the colonial delegates, afforded an illustration, though a very mild one, of the deadlocks and conflicts that are possible, were similar machinery set in motion very often.

From the constitutional point of view, therefore, there is nothing but danger in a tightening of the bonds that hold the empire together, and which have hitherto left room for that expansion of liberty and free institutions which is the basis of its strength.

The political aspect covers a wider range, and account must be taken not only of the effects of a general federation on the internal arrangements of the different states included, but of its influence internationally, while large financial issues are involved other than those having direct bearing on commerce and industry. Political parties are essential to the well-being of every self-governing community, and the more evenly they are balanced, the less risk is there of any section being subjected to injustice. In Great Britain, and in all the self-governing colonies, these parties are well defined ; and though within the ranks of some of them there may at times exist wide differences of opinion on current questions, this rarely prevents their acting together at critical junctures, and presenting a solid front to their opponents. It is never wise, either in war or politics, to plan a campaign on the theory of a split in the enemy’s ranks, as the scent of battle possesses a miraculously healing power.

Within the British Empire, however, these parties have hitherto always been local, and rarely, in any two of the component states, have the dividing issues been on the same lines. This is perhaps most forcibly illustrated by the relationship between Great Britain and the United States. Many Englishmen follow American politics with keen interest, but there is only one here and there who ever declares himself a Republican or a Democrat, except on some special issue. Similarly, Americans are interested in English politics, yet how many are avowed Liberals or Conservatives, unless they have been influenced by long residence or business connections ? It is the same with Great Britain and the colonies. Even in Canada, where the two parties are constructed on much the same basis as in England, the sympathies of Liberals and Conservatives are not always with the corresponding bodies on the other side of the Atlantic. This fact, more than any other, has been the cause of that even friendliness and absence of friction which have been so marked in the relationship during the last ten years.

The Australian delegates who went to London to represent their respective governments on the Commonwealth Bill were all, when at home, strong party men. No sooner had they landed in England than both the great political parties vied with each other in doing them honor and showing them every possible attention. There may have been just the shadow of a desire in each instance to convince the visitors that Codlin was the friend, and not Short; but in the action they took, neither in the slightest degree put any strain on its political principles and opinions. Yet while all this was going on, the Colonial Secretary was openly allying himself with one of the parties in Australia, and that one, moreover, which in a test vote, previously taken, had proved itself to be in a minority. He appealed to its representatives to cable him the opinions of public men, of influential representatives of the mercantile community, and of a section of the newspaper press ; and having obtained them, he did not scruple to use them as a set-off against the declared wishes of the responsible governments of the majority of the colonies. At any other time such a course would have roused the deepest resentment, and very likely ended in the wrecking of the great scheme of federation which has taken such long and patient labor to formulate. The common interest in the campaign in South Africa has momentarily taken some of the keenness off the edge of that independence which, under other circumstances, might have been, and in the future may be, asserted with the utmost vigor.

This is the risk — nay, the certainty — that attends imperial federation. The minority in one state, defeated at home, will appeal to the majority in another that sympathizes with it, and, unless the dispute happens to be of a purely local nature, will endeavor to have the decision upon it pronounced by the federal council. Party faction will become imperial rather than local, and those modifying influences of political life now to be found in the many diversities of the genius of the race will almost cease to exist.

Internationally, the prospect of complication is more serious still. A worldwide empire is a standing menace to the peace of the countries with which it is in contact. The intentions of its citizens may be never more pacific, when an ambitious statesman may plunge it into hostilities which they have no option but to carry on, and opportunities are multiplied with the extension of area. Nine tenths of the people who to-day declare the South African War to have been inevitable were two years ago equally emphatic in their belief that it was impossible, and both opinions are perfectly honest. A pin prick, if applied in the right quarter, will goad a nation to fury, while in the wrong one the blows of a sledge hammer will fall unnoticed. The real danger, then, lies in the dexterous use of the pin.

Hitherto, a foreign power entering into negotiation with Great Britain has known exactly with whom it has had to deal. None of the self-governing colonies are geographically so situated as to be much concerned with the complicated issues that trouble the nations of Europe, and they have been content either to look on, or to regard them with merely academic interest. But already a change in this respect has taken place. A very remarkable statement was made by Lord Rosebery in a recent speech, which attracted some comment at the time, but not nearly so much as it deserved.

Referring to the war, and to a conversation he had had regarding it with an important Australian statesman, he asked, “ Did your people go into the rights of the quarrel and examine them very carefully ? ” “ No,” he said, “ I cannot say they did. What they went for was the empire. They went for the support of the mother country in a moment of difficulty, when she was asserting the claim of her subjects to free and fair treatment in other countries ; and even had the scheme been less just, the enthusiasm in Australia and Canada was so great that the contingent would have been sent with equal zeal and equal fervor.”

The last sentence puts very clearly the real reason for the avowed animosity of the peoples rather than the governments of Europe, to Great Britain. It is not because of the suppression of two small republics, with which they have no sympathy, and whose fate would, under ordinary circumstances, be to them a matter of indifference ; but if the whole force of the British Empire is in future to be placed at the disposal of any portion of it that has a grievance against a neighbor, regardless of the exact measure of justice involved, the prospect is indeed gloomy. The possibility of this must be materially increased under a federation that brings representatives from all parts of the world into continual contact. Defense may be their avowed principle ; but the spirit of defiance is terribly contagious, and cannot at all times be insisted by even the strongest wills.

No nation with any self-respect will frame its policy and conduct its affairs to please its neighbors rather than in its own interests. At the same time, there is rarely any need to be flagrantly offensive, and there is invariably a safe course to be found between the two extremes. Whether it lies, for Great Britain, in some scheme of federation with the outlying portions of the empire is a question that ought to be carefully considered before any action is taken.

The most difficult problem in the Australian scheme was the financial relationship between the various colonies. This concerned a general tariff much less than the equitable appropriation of the revenue to be derived from it, and the relative liability for the expenditure of the commonwealth ; and the result is that this remains the least satisfactory as well as the crudest feature of the measure. Yet the financial economy of the different states was almost identical. All have considerable debts, but invested in public works, almost entirely of a productive nature. Their sources of revenue are much the same : all derive a considerable portion from customs and excise duties ; most of them, in addition, from income and land taxes, as well as from probate duties. Expenditure is on the same objects, — interest on debt, and the maintenance of civil government. None have rendered themselves liable for extraordinary external outlays, such as are involved by an army and a navy. The solution was apparently simplicity itself.

The finance of an imperial federation would be as complicated as that of an Australian one is simple. The British Exchequer is usually referred to as imperial; and rightly so, because upon it rests the burden of whatever outlays within the empire are not purely local. The normal expenditure on the army and navy alone amounted, last year, to some £51,000,000; equivalent, that is, to £l 5s. per head of the population of the United Kingdom. This is exclusive of the sum paid by India as the contribution toward its own defense. Were the population of the self-governing colonies included, the expenditure would average 19s.; and if equally distributed, Canada would contribute, in round figures, £5,000,000, Australia £4,000,000, and South Africa £2,500,000. To adopt Canada as an instance in point, it would mean that the existing revenue would require to be nearly doubled. At present, taxation is confined to import and excise duties; the yield is rather less than $35,000,000, and the proportion between the two about three to one. These could not be approximately doubled without serious injury to the trade of the Dominion, and any considerable increase of revenue that was required would have to be from some form of direct taxation, to which the Canadian people have never been accustomed. Would they be willing to pay such a price for imperial federation ?

The answer for the present is, that the colonial contributions would be nothing like in proportion to that of the mother country. But each part of the empire would rightly expect to be upon an equality with every other in any federation that existed ; and this could hardly be the case unless each contributed its fair share to the common fund for defense. Degree of vulnerability, proximity to a possible future enemy, extent of coast line or of frontier to a neighboring power, are all factors in the equation, which make it a very mixed one. The glamour of the idea might for a year or two insure smooth and amicable working, but diversity of interests would in the long run assert themselves and create confusion, even if it did not result in the rebellion of those taxpayers who felt the benefits accruing to them inadequate to their outlay. The contributions already made by several of the colonies to imperial defense have either been accompanied or followed by demands for local service in excess of their monetary value.

The present age is far more concerned with industrial and commercial questions than with constitutional and political ones, and the hankering after federation is to a large extent born of a hope that it will be productive of material advantage. At one time, indeed, the agitation took the definite form of a demand for an Imperial Customs Union, which was to concede a fiscal privilege to all trade within the empire, either by a reduced tariff, where one already existed, or by the imposition of a duty on foreign as distinct from colonial produce, where both were free. The idea was popular throughout the colonies, but the unswerving adherence to free-trade principles in Great Britain proved too much for it. Still, an experiment in this direction was made by Canada, which adopted a preferential tariff, practically restricted to the produce and manufactures of Great Britain and one or two of the colonies, notably the West Indies. The advantage during the first year of operation was twelve and one half per cent, but for reasons previously alluded to, it had to be extended to one or two other countries. For nearly eleven months of the year ending 30th June, 1899, the concession was twentyfive per cent, and foreign participation disappeared. From the very first the United States was excluded. The result of the two years’ trading, as far as imports are concerned, is interesting, and the figures are as follows: —

Imports from 1897. 1898. Percentage increase over 1897. 1899. Percentage increase over 1898.
United Kingdom $29,401,000 $32,043,000 9 $36,931,000 15 1/4
United States 57,023,000 74,825,000 31 1/2 88,467,000 18
Other Countries 20,194,000 19,439,000 3 3/4 1 23,948,000 23 1/4
Total $106,618,000 $126,307,000 18 1/2 $149,346,000 18 3/4

Relatively, therefore, British trade increased least of any, and the preference has once more been raised from twentyfive to thirty-three and one third per cent, in the hope of stimulating it. The expectation that imports from the United States would be materially reduced was signally disappointed ; the gain was no less than fifty-five per cent during the two years. Not all the imports, of course, are affected by duty; but in dutiable goods alone, the British increase in the two years was thirty-six per cent, and the American forty-six per cent, — a proportion which, while showing better than the totals, is still far from satisfactory.

The principal American gain was, as might be expected, in iron and steel, the figures having considerably more than doubled in the two years : the value in 1897 having been $7,700,000, and in 1899, $16,760,000. The import of British iron and steel remained stationary at $2,700,000. In cotton goods, if in anything, the advantage ought to have told. The import of British manufactures did show the substantial gain from $2,685,000 to $3,862,000 ; but American goods showed a greater proportionate one, namely, from $1,120,000 to $1,680,000. In dutiable woolens, British goods have always enjoyed something approaching a monopoly, and the increase in the two years was from $5,550,000 to $7,605,000. But American goods also advanced in the interval from $218,000 to $433,000, German from $850,000 to $1,000,000, and French from $440,000 to $590,000. The generous treatment of the West Indies with respect to sugar ought at least to be reflected in the trade returns ; but whereas the 1897 import was valued at $423,000, that of 1899 was worth only $310,000. German beet was represented by $2,390,000 and $2,750,000 in the two respective years, and Belgian by $375,000 and $1,450,000. In this particular instance, however, the competition of the United States may have affected the result, as that country also accords a special tariff to cane sugar as against beet.

In one respect the preferential tariff has proved a success. It procured for the Canadian consumer a reduction of twenty-five per cent of the duty on most of the $27,500,000 worth of British merchandise imported in 1899 which was subject to it, and put between one and two million dollars in his pocket. That, however, was not the principal reason for its adoption, and from the point of view of the real motive it can hardly be pronounced a success. Certainly, the first experiment in stimulating trade within the British Empire, to the exclusion of foreign competitors, by means of special tariff laws, is not encouraging so far as it has gone, nor can it be contended that the trial has not been a fair one.

Though given unconditionally, and without the pretense of any demand for it on the part of Great Britain, many Canadians who supported it did so expressly with the hope that it would lead to some reciprocal concession in the British tariff. In that they have been disappointed, and some of them accordingly protested vigorously against the further concession from one fourth to one third, and made it a test question at the recent election, in which, however, they were signally defeated.

From figures that follow, it will be seen that Canada is most advantageously situated for an experiment of this kind. Excluding even the United States, her imports from foreign countries are in excess of her exports, and the risk of loss of trade in this direction was very small. But it is rumored that one of the first acts of the Australian Commonwealth Parliament will be to pass a somewhat similar measure, and how differently situated Australia is from Canada will be realized at a glance. The complete trade figures for Australia are available for the year ending 31st December, 1899, and for Canada for the year ending 30th June, 1899, and are as follows: —

Imports from Foreign Countries. Exports to Foreign Countries.
Canada 1 €4,400,000 €1,800,000
New South Wales €4,400,000 €9,150,000
Victoria 2,800,000 4,100,000
South Australia 800,000 1,450,000
West Australia 450,000 100,000
Queensland 700,000 550,000
Australia €9,150,000 €15,350,000
New Zealand €1,200,000 €800,000

The figures for Australia must be taken together, as there is little or no direct communication between several of the colonies and foreign countries, while there is a large intercolonial trade, part of which probably finds its way abroad through Sydney and Melbourne. The value of the direct imports of these five colonies from the United Kingdom in 1899 was nearly £21,000,000, and the adoption of a preferential tariff for the purpose of diverting a portion of the £9,000,000 into the same channel would imperil the £15,350,000 of exports which Australia supplied to the countries from which she drew the £9,000,000. The risk is not a legitimate one, and, as far as Great Britain is concerned, there is no desire that it should be incurred.

There is no occasion to go into the figures bearing on the trade of the other possessions, some of which would be found to occupy the position of Canada, others that of Australia. No customs union would be possible or practicable that did not offer material scope for the development of trade between the Dominion and the Commonwealth on the one hand, and the United Kingdom on the other, and there is no evidence that this would follow. Nor is there much necessity to refer to the commerce of the United Kingdom itself. The business with the colonies is about one fourth only of the total, while of late years the purely foreign trade has been increasing at a more rapid rate than the colonial. British possessions have no cause for complaint in this respect, as, with one single exception, — namely, sugar, — their products have found a ready market in England whenever they could not dispose of them elsewhere to greater advantage, and they can increase their own purchases whenever and to whatever extent they choose.

The only feasible plan for commerce under imperial federation is absolute free trade within the empire, except on such commodities as alcoholic liquors and tobacco, selected for purely revenue purposes. Needless to say, to this, few if any of the colonies would consent, nor is there the slightest wish on the part of the mother country to coerce them into doing so. And quite apart from any policy of protection, the method of collecting the revenue chiefly by indirect taxation is, in many countries, at once more economical and more practicable than from direct sources ; so that a uniform fiscal system throughout the empire would entail inconvenience as well as loss to some portions of it.

So long as trade is conducted on legitimate lines, it is advisable that each part of the empire should be left to do the best it can for itself. Conditions which suit Canada may be detrimental to India; besides, the currents are so continually changing throughout the world that freedom of action is essential if they are to be taken at the flood. But in one respect there is an opportunity afforded for mutual combination and protection. Trade is not always legitimate, and an agreement might well be entered into, that whenever a foreign government seeks to injure an industry carried on in a country attached to the British crown, by means of bounties, or premiums, or some similar method involving the expenditure of public money, means will be taken to check the import, except under conditions that will render the competition equitable. The continental bounties on sugar are an instance in point, but there is no guarantee that the system will not be extended. The principal export of Australia, for instance, is wool. For several years there was a deficiency of this staple, and prices rose to a level satisfactory to producers in all parts of the world. But supply once more overtook the demand ; prices fell to an extent that produced a serious crisis. The Argentine Republic has been making great strides in its production of wool, and its fiscal system is an extravagant one. It is quite conceivable that the day may come, when, to insure markets for its flock masters, the government may decree an export bounty on wool. Is it likely that Australia will submit to be displaced on such terms in the English market ? The surest way to prevent anything of the sort is to establish the general principle that every part of the empire will, by fiscal legislation, repel any such attack on a section of it.

Painting the lily and gilding refined gold are occupations universally regarded as superfluous. Wherever absolute freedom to follow its own inclinations and work out its own destinies has been accorded to a British colony, it has grown strong and become prosperous. To meddle with so beneficent a system, to crib and confine it by written constitutions and acts of Parliament, is to invite disaster. As long as Englishmen love the political freedom they have won and so thoroughly enjoy, they will do well, in whatever part of the world they live and exercise their rights, to resist every attempt to restrain perfect liberty of action in all matters pertaining to government, and in their commercial relationships with the world at large.

J. W. Root.

  1. Decrease.
  2. Excluding United States.