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Title: The British Empire: Its Structure, Its Unity, Its Strength

Date of first publication: 1940

Author: Stephen Leacock (1869-1944)

Date first posted: Jan. 21, 2018

Date last updated: Jan. 21, 2018

Faded Page eBook #20180137

This ebook was produced by: Alex White & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net


Books by

Stephen Leacock




























Its Structure, Its Unity, Its Strength








Copyright, 1940,


All rights reserved—no part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.


Quinn & Boden Company, Inc.




I write this book in the hope that it may be of service in the present hour. It is a presentation of the British Empire, not for the pageant of its history but for its worth to the world. The Empire is united not by force but by goodwill. It means co-operation, not compulsion. In it we live as free men.

The link of our common history, the bond of our common language, the identity of our outlook hold us closely associated with the United States. With France, the long record of bygone wars that once divided us is now but a common glory. In the hour that is, we share that comradeship in arms which faces a common danger with a united endeavour. Through these associations we may see a vision of a world at peace.

In dealing with the mass of statistical material that goes with the making of such a volume as the present, it is unavoidable that errors and misprints will find their way in. For these I apologize beforehand. For instance, in Chapter III, I stated that the number of hogs in the world is 200,000,000. I now believe this wrong. There seem to be more than that. Reviewers whose one idea of reviewing is to mop up misprints will add more hogs.

My obligation to other authorities, in writing this volume, are too many and too various to permit of enumeration. But I may at least express my thanks to myself for the use of four pages out of a book I wrote on the Empire ten years ago. It was an admirable work but, I fear, only read by the proofreader and, even by him, very hurriedly. I express a similar obligation to myself for permission to reproduce in the last chapter the substance of three or four pages of a recent pamphlet.

Stephen Leacock.

McGill University

April, 1940






Reaction of America on Britain—Revival of Maritime Spirit—Cabot and the Western Ocean—Newfoundland and the Grand Banks—Pilgrims and Virginians—West India Plantations—Loss of the Atlantic Colonies—The New Empire; Australia; The Cape; India—The Great Peace and the Free Trade Era—Expansion of Europe; Partition of Africa—The Twentieth Century; Imperial Federation and Colonial Nationalism—The Great War of 1914—The British Commonwealth of Nations

The rise and development of the British Empire is one of the great features of the world’s history. Its vast extent, its accumulated wealth and latent resources, its close association in language and culture with the United States of America render it a chief factor in the situation of mankind today. In it and in its external associations lie the chief hopes for mankind tomorrow. As seen by many of us, it offers, especially in the light of these outside relations, a basis for an orderly and stable world of justice, peace and plenty.

Nor was this ever so true as now. In our present distressed outlook, all prospect of a world-wide federation is for the time lost. Such a bond of union would be a rope of sand. But there is real hope in the continued unity of the British Empire, associated with the United States and maintaining its alliance with France, already deeply based in common sacrifice and mutual trust. To this fellowship honest men may rally, and from it peace spread about the world. It would seem, therefore, a proper moment to attempt a survey and presentation of the British Empire, designed, in its degree, to present this prospect and to advance this hope.

The discovery of America woke the English people again to their old-time habit of the sea. This reaction of America upon England, as a consequence of their common history, has never been properly emphasized, never truly realized, as a factor in the rise of the British Empire. We always speak of America as the child of England, and of South Africa and Australia and New Zealand as later children of the mother country, without realizing that in a certain sense and to a certain degree modern Britain is the child of America, and at least is largely stamped with the lineaments of its overseas history.

The discovery of America remade English maritime life. Overseas adventure culled and winnowed the nation. English—we may here say British—character was refashioned in outlandish places and on the seven seas. If Clive made India, India first made Clive. Similarly the French in New France christianized the Indians, but the Indians also Indianized the French. Paris taught the world its manners, but Dr. Franklin retaught Paris simplicity. The fate of America was in part settled at Minden and Quiberon and Plassey, but the fate of England and France was in part settled on the Plains of Abraham. The Iroquois Five Nations helped to make the French Revolution, for they blocked the path of French occupancy of the best of America and thus helped to break the monarchy. In a still more subtle sense, unprovable but evident enough, British character responded more and more to the reaction of overseas adventure and overseas interest. The younger sons, with the quickened intelligence that goes with adversity, blew like thistledown over the open fields of opportunity. Navigation stimulated British science. Commerce made a new London, where even the simplest stay-at-home might see from his counting-house the forest of masts in the Thames, or wander, if he would, among the bales and boxes of the cargoes of aromatic spices of the East.

This reaction affected all aspects of national life. The Puritan brought to America his deadly seriousness and his long-winded piety, reimported back to England two centuries later in the chastened form of American humour. The quarrel over liberty and taxation began in America and spread to England, and culminated in the Reform Bill of 1832. A generation of English children stalked warily with Fenimore Cooper through the American forest, fearing to snap a twig. Another generation bedewed the pages of Uncle Tom’s Cabin with its tears. After Uncle Tom and the Civil War the Massachusetts public school, founded two and a half centuries before, came home to England in the Education Act of 1870. It had turned out that soldiers who can read and write are better equipped for war than illiterate peasants, and so England, with tardy footsteps, followed America. In our own immediate hour, the Hollywood film of the West, the sheriff’s posse, the Nevada saloon and the pursuit through the sage-brush are bread and meat to the youth of England, while their seniors learn from America to eat Thanksgiving turkey and to suffer oratory at lunch. . . . All this union and conjunction and reaction would be too obvious for narration if we had not spent about a century in emphasizing differences, imagining grievances, exaggerating our disputes, with a mimic fight of a Genuine Eagle and a Real Lion as a side show to our politics.

People sometimes talk in our own immediate days of the Americanization of England. But England began to be Americanized when John Cabot came back from the Newfoundland seas and the people ran shouting after him in the streets. Told in this way, the history of the British Empire is a story of action and reaction, of what the British Isles did for the world and of what the world did for the British Isles. Told the other way—as it often used to be—as a narrative of how we conquered this, and then conquered that, beat these people and then those, annexed this tribe and then that, with the milestones of succeeding war and peace set up as landmarks of territory, or piled up in heaps as the money-bags of gain—told that way, the chronicle of the Empire sounds but a mean story of success. Thus falsely told, it spread a taint over the word “imperialism”—all too familiar to those whose memory carries half a century back—which is not all obliterated yet. But the true record is better than the false, and with it stands or falls the parallel interpretation of the present Empire, not as force but as union. We can love our history all the better by realizing this complexity of its elements. To cling to the notion of an unchanging Englishman, straight off the shelf from beside Hengist and Horsa, or of a Scot, right out of Ireland or wherever he came from, is as limited as all unmitigated pride of ancestry always is. Admit that we were partly made over by the Iroquois, and it takes us further. Look at London as the child of Calcutta and at Liverpool as the end of the St. Lawrence, and your vision is focused to the truth.

We are saying then that the discovery of America woke the English people again to their old-time habit of the sea. It is proper to say here advisedly the “English,” not the “British.” The British people, in the older sense, meaning the people whom Caesar found in Britain, were not a seafaring people, or not since some lost antiquity of which we have no trace. Boats of skin they had, indeed, to paddle round in backwaters and marshes, but no ships. They fought the Romans with swords and spears and wheeled chariots with cutting blades, but there were no galleys to dispute the passage of the Channel.

But the “English”—the Angles, and their fellow peoples, Saxons and Jutes, the Danes, and Norsemen—these were different. All the world knows the story of their sea flight across the oceans. They passed the North Sea, they settled Iceland, they reached Greenland and, like a flock of birds, came and went awhile to “Vineland,” in North America. Norse ships went “round about” France and Spain and into the Mediterranean. They reached the White Sea and northern Asia.

But as the slow Saxon conquests, in a century and a half, drove the Britons westward, national life changed. The people settled on the land and in the openings of the inland forests. No point in England, it is true, is more than seventy miles from the sea. But there was little movement. Christianity built its parish churches. Generations lived within the sound of their own church bells and seldom saw the sea, some people perhaps never. Peace hushed adventure, and rude plenty bred quiescence. Maritime spirit declined. Our complacent histories tell how King Alfred revived shipping and built a navy, but omit to say that Alfred had to hire foreign pirates as rowers. Yet, in Alfred’s own time, Ohthere of Norway sailed his ships round the North Cape and reached the White Sea. Nor did the Norman Conquest alter this decline. The Conqueror, it is true, was compelled to organize the defence of the coast to prevent a counter invasion. Dover and Sandwich and Romney and Rye and Winchelsea were organized as the Cinque Ports, with privileges and with obligations of service. But their ships never went far; for a century, not beyond the Bay of Biscay or the entrance of the Baltic. They were for defence, and in maritime matters mere defence never carries far. An “English” fleet sailed with Richard Coeur de Lion to the Crusades. History makes much of this. The great scholar known as the learned Selden (1584-1654) says that it began the maritime supremacy of England. But the ships were mostly from the provinces of France, and both officers and men, according to the historian William Lindsay of Middlesex, incompetent and ill-disciplined. A great storm dispersed the fleet off the coast of Sicily; the crew were “sea-sick and frightened”; three ships foundered; the Vice Chancellor of England was washed ashore, drowned, with the Great Seal tied around his neck, a poor sailor but a faithful lawyer.

Even when the commerce of the Hanse Towns and the Mediterranean began to make London a great seaport, foreign ships carried most of the trade. We may quote it on the high authority of the late Dr. Cunningham, the economic historian, that by the end of the thirteen hundreds (Richard II) “English shipping was in a state of decay and the coasts exposed to attack.” “Rovers of the sea,” such as the English themselves had once been, pillaged the shores of England as late as in the reign of Henry VI. Sandwich and Southampton were burned and plans of defence made for London behind booms and chains. Agnes Paston of the famous Paston Letters, writing in 1450, speaks of people being kidnapped by pirates while walking on the seashore.

English sailors there always were, of course, notoriously fierce and desperate in fighting. Much is made in the history of literature of Chaucer’s Sailor, in the Canterbury Tales, who had “a dagger hanging on a lace about his neck,” who had “no keep of nice conscience” and whose custom it was to “send his enemies home by water”—that is, drown them out of hand. Chaucer assures us that he was “a good felawe,” but there seems reason to doubt it. At best he would belong nowadays on the other side of the North Sea.

But whatever claim the English may have had to be “good fellows” in sea-fight, a thing no one has ever denied, they had but little share in the progress of navigation which rendered possible the great maritime discoveries that opened a new world and rediscovered old ones. Here the honour belong to the rising science of Italy, to the Mediterranean, and to the Portuguese who followed the impetus given by their Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460). It thus remained for the Spaniards, under the Genoese Christopher Columbus, to discover America in 1492, and for the Portuguese, under Vasco da Gama, to double the Cape of Good Hope and to reach the Spice Islands in 1498. The English overseas dominion (it began as English, not British) did not begin till nearly a hundred years after Pope Alexander VI had divided the New World between Portugal and Spain. The Pope’s line of division, a north and south line to be drawn through the Atlantic west of the Azores, was presumed to leave all America to the west of it. Drawn too far west, it sliced off a section of South America (the “Brazils”), and hence to this day impairs that magnificent unity of Spanish-speaking America that otherwise reached from San Francisco to Tierra del Fuego.

The first English overseas dominion is represented by the taking possession of Newfoundland by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583. But long before that, the spell had been broken by the voyage of John Cabot in 1497 to the coast of what was to become later British North America (Capt Breton Island and Newfoundland). King Henry VII issued letters patent “To his well beloved John Cabot, citizen of Venice, to his sons Lewis, Sebastian and Santius” . . . “to discover and find. Countries and Regions . . . before this time unknown to all Christians.” It is interesting to note that the King sent out the Cabots on the same terms as those on which the Pickwick Club dispatched Mr. Pickwick several centuries later—namely, “upon their own proper costs and charges.” British exploration has been largely conducted on this basis ever since.

Cabot’s voyage made a great stir. On his home-coming to Bristol it was rumoured that he had “found the New Isle.” We learn from a contemporary witness, a Venetian writing from London, that “vast honour is paid to him [Cabot]; he dresses in silk and these English run after him like mad people, so that he can enlist as many of them as he pleases.” The writer tells us also that the King is much pleased, has promised Cabot ten ships, and “at his request has conceded him all the prisoners, except such as are confined for high treason, to man his fleet.” With this begins the long roll of the transported felons, the indentured servants, the condemned rebels, the offending Covenanters and the ticket-of-leave convicts whose sorrows are woven into the texture of our history—out of whose despair often came greatness.

There followed the second voyage, fruitless, in 1498, but John Cabot died without further achievement. The American discovery of 1497 proved a false dawn. Yet it left results. Sebastian Cabot, the son, was invited by Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey to prosecute further English discovery in North America. Cabot, as a Venetian, had a bad conscience about it and declined. Yet he came to England later and helped to found the Company of Merchant Adventurers of 1551 that marks a new epoch. Under this company Richard Chancellor reached the White Sea and opened trade with Russia. But the chief result of the voyages of Cabot and of Cortereal, the Portuguese who followed him in 1500, was the discovery of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland as a fishing ground. The fish in those days were inconceivably prolific. The ships, filled to the hatches, could often not carry home the catch. The voyage was tempestuous but at least there was always wind. With good fortune a ship could drive across in two weeks. English and French, Portuguese and Spanish flocked across each summer, leaving no more record than a flight of sea-birds. They landed to salt their fish; they made no settlement. English harbours turned to seaports. Even before Gilbert came, there were said to be 400 vessels in the fishing trade. In Charles the First’s time the Devon seaports alone sent 150 ships to the Banks every year. When Charles Kingsley’s three fishers went sailing out into the west, their ancestors had been doing so for three centuries.

With all this, the maritime spirit in England reawoke. The spirit of the sea sleeps but never dies. You may see this today in British children of western Canada. Two generations from the sight of the sea, brought back to it, they reach for it as by instinct, contriving rafts, plugging up old boats, fashioning docks and harbours from a cell-memory that lies generations back. So with the Elizabethan Age that recaptured its heritage. It was but natural that it should do so. The historian Trevelyan contrasts the square unbroken mass of northern France, which bred feudalism, with the narrow irregular outline and indented coast that marked England for seafaring. In witness of the epoch, take the thought and achievements of Richard Hakluyt (1552-1616), one of the founders of the Empire. A scholar and in holy orders, Hakluyt spent his life in dreams of the sea, in aspirations for England’s sake and in collecting the maps and manuscripts from which he compiled his Principal Voyages, Navigation, and Discoveries of the English Nation (1589).

Thus as the age progressed the British Isles shifted their orientation in the world. They were no longer the lost corner, the ultima Thule of Europe. They were changing to the great gateway to America and, by reason of it, presently, the centre of trade and money. The map seems to belie this. Great Britain seems set a long way off from the centre; but not so for the sailing voyages of the Western Ocean. The course lay round about to the north to get the winds. The parallel of sixty was the early path with long summer daylight, beside which the West Indian and southern courses, with belts of dead calm, “horse latitudes” and seas of floating weed, were better for the slave-trade than for the passage of free men. The British ports became the natural points of departure to which European commerce came overland and across the North Sea. Europe changed its front from the Mediterranean to its north-west side. The Mediterranean became the south, and remained, till the Suez Canal, a blind pocket, an eddy in the great winds that blew the British ships to the seven seas.

It is natural that the British overseas Empire begins with the generation that defeated the Armada. Newfoundland, where Sir Humphrey landed, on the site of the present St. John’s, in 1583, and took possession in the name of Queen Elizabeth, ranks as the oldest colony.

Gilbert made his claim and was lost at sea. Others followed. An attempt was even made by Lord Baltimore, with the permission of James I, to plant a settlement. But the French worried him out of it. After that the English government forbade all permanent settlement; the idea was to turn the country into a sort of summer fishing station for the good of the British commercial interest.

Settlements gradually followed, legal or illegal. But these were merely fishing stations. There were about 2,000 people living within the Island in the days of Oliver Cromwell, and about 10,000 at the American Revolution. There was no question, as yet, of overseas migration and no real need for it. England at the opening of the Tudor times was still an undeveloped country. There were wolves in the great forests of the centre. Vast marches extended in East Anglia, and, in the north and the south-west, wide and desolate moorland. Coal slumbered in its bed. The population was perhaps two and a half million. Nor for nearly 300 years after Gilbert was there any real basis for migration from over-population. Emigration, when it began, was not economic in its motive. It arose from persecution; it was a means of escape; its essence lay in its farewell. Or it was a movement of adventure, of sea-wandering, with the hope of gold and treasure; in such cases its essence lay in the glad return. The idea of a greater England overseas had to wait for the birth of a greater England at home.

To Newfoundland followed the plantation colonies of the West Indies. This vast and fertile tropical archipelago, the summits of the mountains of a submerged Central America, comprises 100,000 square miles, broken into some thirty considerable islands and innumerable small ones. It fell an easy prey to European conquest. Its native Caribs, feeble with the languor of their own environment, went down before the conquerors. Spain had the first choice, with Hispaniola, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Other nations followed. Islands were to be had for the asking. Great Britain claimed Barbados in 1605 and began settling it and other small islands in 1625. Jamaica was a prize of Cromwell’s war with Spain (1655) and the Bahamas a possession by actual settlement (1665). These were all plantations in the literal sense, native ground for the sugar, the spices, the coffee and tobacco, the oranges, limes and lemons that elevated them to a value rivalling the greater archipelago of the East. Their climate doomed them to the driven labour of an enslaved race. The sugar, rum and slave-trade lured even the Puritans to sin, and tempted the ambition of Europe into war.

Time has had its revenge. In the end the African race has overwhelmed in its increasing numbers its one-time masters. Cuba and Puerto Rico, with a large Spanish influx, stayed relatively white—75 per cent. Haiti is nine tenths negro and one tenth part-negro. Martinique is 99 per cent black, Barbados over 85 per cent, Jamaica 98 per cent. The Carib Indians, except a handful in St. Vincent and Dominica, are all gone.

The Bermudas, 10 degrees north of the tropics, are in a different category. The Europeans learned of them from shipwreck on their sunken rocks. Sir George Somers (1609) turned shipwreck into settlement. No longer plantations, they play a new role in the Atlantic aviation, the tourism and war strategy of a changing world.

Similar in motive to the plantations was the great establishment in India that began with the East India Company of 1600. It reached to undreamed heights of splendour, profit, audacity and rapacity in the days of Clive and Warren Hastings. But its history lies apart from the development of the British peoples, except as in the annals of commerce and the panorama of war.

The first real “home” was made and lost in America. All the world has read the story of the Puritans of the Mayflower and of the Massachusetts Bay Company of 1629. They left England with a noble motive and a good cause, not with “Farewell, Babylon,” but with “Good-bye, England.” Such sorrow as there was at their going seems to have been one-sided. But the defects of their peculiar character were redeemed by the heroism of their endurance. They carried with them, somehow, more than any other group of outgoing emigrants, the seed of a future civilization—the seed of American education in the people’s school, a thing unknown in England; the seed of American efficiency in their native ingenuity and smartness; and, in their regulation of other people’s morals, the spirit of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Separately came the Virginians (1607), a people of a different kind, soon to develop great plantations, chronically half bankrupt and worked with troops of slaves hardly worth having, till the cotton gin and the English factory riveted their chains on their necks. The Virginians and such, till the Stamp Act of 1765, were further, in points of real contact, from Massachusetts than from England. Other colonies followed. Every reader of history knows of the establishment of the “towns” of Connecticut, the foundation of Rhode Island as a place where nobody need agree with anybody; the chartering of Pennsylvania (1681) as the home of brotherly love; the conquest of New York and the absorption of the Dutch; the broad ground plan of the Carolinas and, last in the list, the opening (1730) of a free-for-all refuge for the distressed, named Georgia after George II.

Here begins in true reality the story and the problem of the overseas British Empire. British the provinces were, as no overseas colony ever again except Australia and New Zealand. The emigration was practically all from the British Isles. The exceptions were so few as to leave little trace after the passage of a generation. The migration came in waves, proportionately of great size, at the foundation of each colony. But after the first 100,000 of immigrants and their offspring, the succeeding addition was mainly by the natural increase of population under circumstances favourable as nowhere else. Especially did migration dwindle to a flow of small dimensions in the first half of the eighteenth century. England could at that time utilize its own people. Foreigners were virtually shut out, and, in any case, did not want to come. The cosmopolitan movement of population, irrespective of flag, allegiance and language, was still a hundred years away. From the time when Wolfe overcame Montcalm in 1759, the British had North America to themselves. The Indians, in point of numbers, never mattered. No one ever counted them, but scholars’ estimates assign perhaps one Indian to every six square miles, not more. The Eskimos were a legend. The French-Canadians (60,000) were agricultural prisoners of war in the St. Lawrence Valley. Spanish claims mattered about as much as the Papal Bull of 1493 which defined them. Black slaves were property. There were in America, before the Revolution, 3,000,000 British people with the best continent in the world all their own; ruled, in a nominal way, by an affectionate and kindly King, no stupider than they themselves were, deeply attached to their kindred people in the British Isles, the place which even Washington called “home.”

What a chance! If not for humanity at large, at least for all those who still spoke the common speech and shared the common history of England.

The inhabitants of the United States who are descended from Germans, Russians or Czechoslovaks, naturally cannot see that the American Revolution was a great tragedy. For them it was not. Without it they would probably not be there. No doubt most Americans think of the Revolution as a noble chapter in history, a great forward movement in the world’s progress. Who can blame them if they do? Such great figures as those of Washington and Jefferson, the splendid courage of the farmers and “minute men” of Bunker Hill, and the opening sentences of the Declaration of Independence (no one ever reads the rest) have thrown a halo around the separation of England and America.

The soil is, for many, too sacred to be treated as controversial ground. Yet nearly all agree that there was in colonial America, till the very heat of the quarrel, no thought of independence. The code of colonial regulation was in reality of no great burden and of no little benefit. The Navigation Acts were as natural as leading-strings. Incidentally they opened to the Colonies the West Indian trade. Prohibition of colonial manufacture made no great difference to farmers and planters; later on, manufacture was to bring the tariff and separate North from South. Nor did the British government see more clearly than the colonists. They were appalled at the growth of the national debt, a new thing since the Stuart times, mistaken for national indebtedness, in reality evidence of the rising finance of London. The Stuarts had banked in their pocket, like the Sultan of Turkey, borrowed at exorbitant rates and paid or not as might be.

The debt under King George III, when Canada was ceded (1763), stood at £132,000,000. The anxious generation little dreamed that their grandchildren would carry the debt easily enough at £800,000,000 and their descendants a century later at £8,000,000,000. Their ignorance mistook rising wealth for impending bankruptcy. They were bound that the Americans should pay their share. The attempt to collect it, with Stamp Taxes (1765) and by customs at colonial ports, led to controversy, to anger, riot, petition under arms, rebellion and finally independence. The old colonial system ended with the separation of 1783.

Having lost one colonial empire, Great Britain set to work in its own haphazard way to make another. The Crown kept French Canada, though at first with doubts and afterthoughts that had the happy result of leaving language and law and the church undisturbed. Only the criminal law, a British specialty, was introduced. The pattern of the settlement is still to be seen stamped on the present isolationist allegiance of Quebec.

But the notable feature was the settlement of Upper Canada, the unused wilderness, the garden of Canada, blocked hitherto by the warlike Iroquois on its flank. Hither came the United Empire Loyalists in a migration that is one of the great pages of our Empire history. Of these Loyalists some were people who refused to live in the American Republic; others didn’t dare to. But our painstaking historians have long since sifted out the sturdy patriots as the large majority. The British government found everything—transport, money, land, implements, seed. British people don’t do things by halves. In all, about 40,000 Loyalists came to British North America, some to Nova Scotia, of which the western part, thus settled, became New Brunswick (1784); others passed on by sea, and up the St. Lawrence to winter at Sorel and thence next spring to settle above French Canada on the St. Lawrence and on Lake Ontario. Others again painfully made their way through the forest country of New York State. For all it was a pilgrimage as to a promised land. The first Loyalists were joined by a steady influx of other settlers from the States, not so much “loyal” as knowing a good thing when they saw it. After the Great War ended with Waterloo, a continuous migration of half-pay offices and former soldiers moved into Upper Canada. There was land and to spare for all.

Then came Australia. Its existence as a legend goes back to ancient times. The Dutch had touched its shores early in the seventeenth century. English sailors had seen it from Dampier’s ship in 1688. But no one claimed it. No one wanted it. The world of the seventeenth century was still inconceivably vast, and few foresaw how rapidly it would shrink to the little globe on which we live. British ownership begins with Captain James Cook’s voyage to the South Seas of 1768-70, undertaken to allow a group of Royal Society astronomers to view the transit of Venus. Cook circumnavigated New Zealand and sailed along the south-east coast of Australia. From a fancied resemblance to a more familiar shore, he named it New South Wales. Cook claimed the land, found a wonderful bay where “great quantity of plants” grew, and named it Botany Bay. The report made by Captain Cook and his companions was favourable, even enthusiastic. The government determined to take up the claim. It seemed necessary. The American colonies had served, among other purposes, as a place for the transportation of criminals. After independence began, the United States had no need, has never since had any need, to import foreign criminals. The colonization began, as all the world knows, with the expedition of 1787-88 in which Captain Arthur Phillip and a fleet of eleven vessels landed at Botany Bay 717 “criminals,” both men and women, convicted of all sorts of offences, great and small, real and imaginary. Within a short time the discovery of the marvellous grazing land behind the barrier of inaccessible mountains that shut in the convict settlement changed the whole character of the colony. Within a generation, a quarter of a million sheep were grazing on the Bathurst plains. A few free settlers had come in within three or four years of Phillip’s landing. But for three decades the colony was mainly made up of “emancipated” convicts. Even in 1821 the “emancipists” and their families numbered over 13,000 as against 2,500 free settlers. But the migration after the Napoleonic wars soon washed out the convict stain.

Thus, by one of the marvels of British good fortune, was secured, unopposed and unquestioned, the control of a continent.

The outcome of the same wars brought with the settlement of 1815 a great accretion of territory to the British Crown. The Cape of Good Hope (276,995 square miles) and Ceylon (25,481 square miles) taken from the Dutch during their eclipse as the Batavian Republic, and, with these, Trinidad and Malta, British Guiana, the Seychelles and Mauritius.

By the time of the close of the Napoleonic wars the British may be said to have definitely annexed the high seas as their peculiar province. The process had begun long before. It is true that the French built better ships than the English did, down to the French Revolution itself, and the Americans, half a century after they ceased to be British, outbuilt Britain in ship-building as having first modelled the clipper ship. But navigation and the exploration of the oceans had become preeminently British as they had once been Portuguese. The quaint London corporation of Trinity House, concerned with setting out buoys and beacons and caring for shipping, dates back to Henry VIII (1514). Its executive of Elder Brethren (naval and merchant service combined) became after 1604 an adjunct to the administration of the Admiralty. The English improved nautical instruments. Halley, the astronomer, invented a quadrant (1730) that turned the “back staff” of John Davis (Elizabethan) and the astrolabe of Chaucer into museum pieces.

Greatest of all was the problem of longitude, the finding of east and west distances. Latitude settles itself; a child can read it off the pole-star. The earth spins on a north and south axis, and every place reveals its own latitude by the height of the polar stars (north or south) above the horizon. For distance in the direction of the spin itself (east and west), the thing is different. Every place spins through every longitude. Greenwich is only called the start by convention. Longitude was first reckoned as from “the westernmost part of Africa,” then from Teneriffe (Dampier’s voyage, 1699), but after about 1779, always, for the British, from Greenwich. But without instruments it could only be found by dead reckoning. In the larger Spanish days Philip III had offered a prize of 6,000 ducats for a “discovery of longitude.” No one got it. In Queen Anne’s time (1713) a parliamentary committee took up the question. Sir Isaac Newton, as a member, gave as the solution the use of a clock set to Greenwich time and compared with a noon observation. The only trouble was to make the clock. Pendulum clocks wobble at sea; clocks with spring balances are too sensitive to heat and cold. The Admiralty offered a prize of £20,000—overbidding Philip by seven to one. The reward went begging for over forty years. It was won at last (1764) by an English carpenter, John Harrison, who contrived a chronometer clock with compensation for heat or cold. It was tried out officially on a voyage to Jamaica, Harrison being taken along. The crucial test came off Porto Santo in Madeira. The ship had run out of beer, land still out of sight. The captain’s dead reckoning put the course one way, the new chronometer put it the other. They trusted the chronometer. They got the beer. Harrison got the reward—£10,000 down, and the remainder about ten years later (1773).

From those days on, the Admiralty work of survey, of hydrographic charts, of exploration and investigation has never ceased. Under these auspices Darwin made his famous voyage in the Beagle (1831) and Huxley in the Rattlesnake (1846). The intervals between wars saw polar expeditions seeking the North-west Passage. Such work was supplemented by that of American sailors, the great oceanographer Maury and, in the historical sense, by the master hand of Admiral Mahan.

With the transition from sail to steam, the British tenure of the high seas was assured all the more. For steam itself was, in its early days, another apanage of Great Britain as a part of the industrial revolution. From now on, indeed, the Americans shared and more than shared in each mechanical advance, for in a land short of labour a premium was set on machinery. Robert Fulton was a chief inventor of the steamboat; and later on, the submarine, like the aeroplane, first appeared in America. The Americans, however, were too busy with steam on land to do much with steamships at sea. But with steam appeared the Scottish engineer as a partner in British sea-supremacy. McAndrew’s Hymn, though no one heard it plainly till Rudyard Kipling, was already humming in the engine room half a century before.

The great outgoing emigration of the British and the Irish peoples belongs in this period, the Great Peace (1815-1854). This is no longer a mere emigration of adventure, an ecstasy of religion in the wilderness, a transport of criminals, an exile of political refugees. This is the outgoing of people from a crowded mother country to seek new homes, as like as might be to the homes they left behind. And the numbers of them were such as never were known before. In colonial America, it is very seldom that more than 3,000 immigrants arrived in a year. But in the first five years after Waterloo 98,000 British people went overseas as emigrants. Twenty years later (1835-39) the numbers had risen to 287,000; and fifteen years later still (1850-54), these emigrants numbered 1,639,000. At first more came to British North America than to the United States—in the twenty years 1815-1834, 403,000 as against 269,000. To Australia there set in a rising tide of free immigrants that began with about 500 in 1825 and reached 15,000 in 1840. Trouble, rebellion, and then more trouble, in Canada, as contrasted with the rising glory of the American Republic, presently shifted the balance. In the years 1850 to 1854, of the 1,639,000 British emigrants, 1,158,000 went to the United States and only 186,000 to British North America. The Irish were a case apart. They alone were exiles—of misgovernment, of pestilence and famine. They came with mingled hope and sorrow, and many with a hatred in their hearts that coloured the world’s history till yesterday, if not today. But for a time British emigration to British America went strong. These were the days not of individual homesteaders but of the collective immigration of the Canada Company (1825) and on the foundation of woodland towns—our Guelph and Galt and Peterborough—at a stroke, days of success and of golden opportunity that passed. Yet it may come again, patterned on something the same model, when comes the great outward British migration that must follow the conclusion of what will be called peace in Europe.

It was during this period that was tested and proved the peculiar capacity of British people for overseas “settlement.” It is not well in history to overemphasize psychological causes. But undoubtedly this national characteristic reacted powerfully on the course of events. The English people are by character a people suited for overseas settlement. Other nations either cling too much to home or too readily leave it. Others again seem in their migration to have no middle term between conquerors and coolies. Others become absorbed and disappear. The English, an “indigestible” people, talking no other language but their own, never do that. The French as settlers have never hit the same happy mean as the English. The French in the Sahara, or in a South Sea island, must needs create a little “Avenue de Paris,” if only of three coco-nut trees—with a boulevard somewhere to lounge upon—with a Café de la Paix, if only of bamboo, with fermented coco-nut as apéritif. Or else they must go the other way, go native—turn more Indian than the Indians, wear a scalp lock, live with Algonquins in a wigwam and teach ferocity to their instructors. For proof see the journals of Radisson or La Hontan, or any real authority.

German settlers in America lay like an inert mass, waiting, with beer and music, for someone to turn them into something else. They might have coagulated into Nazis, as nature breeds horse-flies. Luckily they didn’t know it. They turned instead into solid American Republicans and Canadian Liberals, deeply respected and still smoking and arguing. This vanishing picture, smeared with the brutality of two wars, is one of the tragedies of our time. “German” now means something else, and beer-garden means Munich.

The Dutch were “settlers,” like the English, only more so. Their ideal was isolation, as in South Africa—to have one’s neighbour’s smoke just in sight over the hill, but not to see him. Some of us can understand it still. The Dutch started from Manhattan on this plan, moving up the Hudson. They might have strung out all across the American prairies. But the accident of war (1664) put an end to it. South Africa repeated history. In any case there were not enough of them; the land of tulips and canals could hold them all. So the Dutch Empire of Dutchmen has become just a dream of what might have been, like the Swiss Navy, with the reality of counting-houses in Java and profits in Amsterdam.

The Scots one separates here from the English. At times they settled in blocks alone, like the Glengarry people on the St. Lawrence, and the mournful Highlanders of the ’45 wailing on the bagpipes their ocean way to the Southern States. “Lochaber no more” was a sad tune as compared with the “Cheer, boys! Cheer!” of the outgoing English emigrant, hauling up the anchor to the song, leaving home and glad to get out of it. When he got well away, he boasted of it. The Scots also settled themselves in Dunedin and Southern New Zealand, looking for something as bleak as the Highlands—or call it as “stern and wild,” their own name for it.

But the Scots, like their own whisky, were better half-and-half. In this way they penetrated French Montreal and coloured the Hudson Bay Territory and Prince Edward Island. Their trace lies round the world in curling clubs and golf links and in their conception of a drink. But the Scots seldom settle alone. It scarcely pays.

The Irish too, like the Scots needed a larger mixture. Nor had they wanted to leave Ireland, soft and green in the rain. They came as children of adversity, and hence their coming carried with it an account to settle and an ancient grudge elsewhere. But even this had a way of washing out. It is hard to make trouble among decent neighbours; it’s no use being “against the government” when half of all the other people are; and hard to live on history and cry over a shamrock for ever. So the Irishman was odd man out, till he thought of the police force. If this is exaggerated, it is easily re-compressed to truth.

But the English were always the ideal settlers. They could go away and stay there, call England “home,” boast of it, curse at it, and still love it and fight for it. The Englishman carried away with him enough of his home but not too much. He had his tin bath, and his briar pipe and cricket in a bag to teach to the natives. He had his own clothes till an English tailor followed him. But beyond that he accepted the ways of the country. He drank whatever they had till a brewer came out from Burton-on-Trent. He never knew whether he was going “home” or not, and in the end he didn’t. People went “home” from India, not from the Colonies. His children and grandchildren shaded off, less and less distinctive but with the tie unbroken. Thus could the overseas Englishman ride it out on a long hawser, generations through.

This adaptation, this capacity to settle, they had it all of them—Pilgrims, planters and gentleman ranchers, younger sons and half-pay officers, Empire Loyalists, fur-traders and factors—as had also their wives and the flock of little children who came with them, whose only enduring memory of England was to be that of leaving it.

Nor is it only such emigrant songs as “Lochaber no more” and “Cheer, boys! Cheer!” mentioned above, that reflect the reaction of overseas migration upon British life. Our literature for two hundred years is stamped with it. It helped to form the boys’ stories of adventure, read by boys of all ages, and remaking the character of the nation. Westward Ho! and Treasure Island are only two among hundreds. Above all, the mingled hope and sorrow of migration from a mother land finds its echo in our poetry. One thinks of Galt’s lines:

From the lone shieling on the misty Islands

Mountains divide us and the waste of seas,

But still the blood is true, the heart is Highland,

And in our dreams we see the Hebrides.

With such enchanted words our vision carries across the Atlantic and sees the misty Scottish coast from the shores of a newer Scotland. Or take the tragedy that lies in Lady Dufferin’s lines:

They say there’s bread and work for all,

And the sun shines always there,

But I’ll not forget old Ireland,

Were it fifty times as fair.

Here is all the tragedy of bereavement and exile, that even fears forgetfulness.

Or take the poignant pathos of Kipling’s throbbing banjo, recalling, to the broken gentleman-ranker in the Egyptian desert, “town” and “all that ever went with evening dress.” Who that reads such pages of our literature can think of our Empire as a mere fruit of conquest, and not realize the enduring bond of kinship and common sacrifice that has bequeathed to us our inheritance and our opportunity?

Meantime the British Empire had to learn to shape its government to meet the altered needs of the epoch. Obviously a change was needed from the old colonial system.

During the brief peace from 1783 to 1793 the new British Empire had been governed much as the lost Empire had been. The British government maintained garrisons and supplied naval defence; it owned and granted the colonial lands; it regulated shipping with navigation laws. But it gave to the white colonies, old ones and new, elected assemblies such as the American provinces had had. Nova Scotia had enjoyed this privilege, admitted as a sort of common law right of British settlers, ever since 1758. Its offshoot, New Brunswick, received it at birth in 1784. In Quebec, while still called “Quebec,” as under the Quebec Act of 1774, and still French, it was held to be not expedient to call assemblies. But with the Loyalists came the division into an Upper and Lower Canada (1791), with an elected assembly in each. The system was later extended to Australasia—New South Wales in 1842, and to Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand shortly after. Already there was a sort of shadow outline of the Empire to be. India, purely a mercantile possession under the Company’s charter till 1773, received then a government with a certain measure of imperial participation and control.

The period of the Great War of 1793-1815 saw colonial administration carried on as military exigency might best allow. After 1815 ensued the period of peace, industrial expansion and the rising liberalism that presently brought free trade. But the colonial system only partly reflected the individual rights that were becoming common gospel. The popular assemblies, especially in the Canadas, proved a half loaf of freedom—better than no bread, but far from satisfying. Executive control was still in the hands of the Crown and its appointees—a favoured class, a family compact, it was claimed. The situation was complicated by the fact that French Canada showed no sign of becoming British. With ill management and inattention, trouble was bound to come. It came in the form of the Canadian rebellion of 1837, a damp squib in the military sense, but ominous with meaning.

The government, anxious after the event, sent out Lord Durham, to report on what happened. Durham, a typical British Liberal of the period, autocratic in his love of liberty, was as ready with a panacea as a patent medicine pedlar. His report (1839), masterly in analysis but feeble in inference, recommended the union of the two Canadas under responsible self-government—an executive cabinet answerable to the legislature. This was to cure all colonial troubles by giving freedom to the Colonies and by so mixing up the French with the English as to remove “their vain hope of nationality.”

The system went into effect, temporarily under Sir Charles Bagot (1841), and in solid earnest under Lord Elgin in 1849. From Canada it was extended to Australasia, to the Cape and to Natal, and half a century later to the Transvaal, as the Orange River Colony (1907), to dry the tears of war.

Undoubtedly the system worked. The only difficulty was in knowing what it was working for; was it the beginning of a real Empire, or only the beginning of the end? To the sorrowing Tories, it meant the disruption and dissolution of the Empire, as, typically, to the old Duke of Wellington, for whom and his like it was part of that sunset of coming disaster which surrounds old men before they die. “Thunderstruck” was the word used of him. But the thunder never came.

For the colonial reformers such as Robert Baldwin, Prime Minister of Canada (1842 and 1848), British in spirit, responsible government had in it all the colours of the morning. This, and this alone, could hold the Empire together. But to the out-and-out Cobdenites the colours of this bright morning shone to herald the day of separation—the happy disruption of bonds that had lost their meaning, a separation that meant a fusion in the wider union of a world of brotherhood. To the shrewd eye of Disraeli, looking back after years of experience, the system, as applied, was crude and immature, failing to make provision for an inevitable future. Colonies with a mere handful of settlers, still needing garrisons for their protection, had no right to the absolute control of whole continents of land, no right to stifle trade with tariffs, to forbid migration except on their own terms and refuse participation in maritime defence. “Millstones round our necks,” said Disraeli, in a phrase that has hung as a millstone on his memory.

Such was in general the imperial outlook in the days of the great Victorian peace, of the era associated with the optimism of free trade and the gospel of Cobdenism. Much of it was too good to be true. But at least it was free from the aggression of the epoch that was to follow. The Empire seemed large enough; there was no need of addition. Britain let go the Sandwich Islands, once under a sort of control of the navy. The Argentine might have been successfully claimed in the settlement of 1815, on the strength of whatever claim comes from landing and making war on a foreign coast. It also was let go. But any gratitude felt by the Argentine Republic is lost in the fact that Britain kept the Falkland Islands, 250 miles off the coast, taken over from Spain in 1771. The Republic lodged a national protest in 1833, still outstanding. But times have changed. Cobden could see in the Falklands only a wind-swept sheep-run; Britain, today, a key to naval victory.

The system of Cobdenism ran its course. There was free government and free trade (1846) and free navigation (1849), as there was free competition and freedom of labour at home. It swept as clean as a new broom; only later appeared the gathering heaps of dirt swept into corners—the cry of the children in the factories, the Song of the Shirt, the festering slums, the submerged tenth, and the trampling down of the weak that goes with the survival of the fittest. But the world still lived on hope; these were but the clouds of the morning, left over from the dark of the passing night. Then hope itself clouded and failed. The brotherhood of man went down in a devastation of wars that racked the Old World and the New, from Sebastopol to Delhi, from Gettsyburg to Sedan. And when the war era paused, at the opening of the 70’s, after the Prussian conquests and the creation of Germany in arms, it was realized that Cobdenism was bankrupt. World peace had failed. The Crystal Palace was just a glitter. Universal free trade vanished with it. Labour wanted decent wages, not merely the right to ask for them; bread, not a stone. With that came the realization that for the new age of machinery and power the world’s resources were limited; that machine industry must have raw materials; and that it was the “white man’s burden” to open up the coloured continents, brown, yellow and black. In this struggle only strong nations—Empires—could live; a Russia that could reach the Pacific, a German Empire built on “blood and iron,” an Austria-Hungary, re-cast from a hundred histories, a France that could renew its vigour in Asia and Africa; a Britain that must “carry on.” The whole world was all too small. If Africa was a dark continent, light it up with European civilization! If China was asleep, wake it up with opium. If the Japanese wanted to learn to fight, send them officers to show them how. Only on the coasts of America fell the long shadow of James Monroe. The disasters of our present age obscure with a smoke-screen the mingled colours of the landscape that was—the mingled greed and idealism, exploitation and uplifting, curse and blessing that represented the gift of European religion, European science, machinery and machine-guns to the peoples sitting in darkness; the actors in the drama shade all the way from apostles to oppressors, from Livingston’s hymns to the “red rubber” on the Congo.

In this new expansion of Europe, from about 1880 to 1900, Great Britain got its full share—such vast additions as Nigeria, East Africa, Rhodesia. The opening of the Suez Canal shouldered Britain up against Egypt. To control Egypt it had to take the Sudan. To connect with the Sudan, it needed equatorial Africa, till the “inexorable chain of logic” led to the Cape-to-Cairo idea. But the additions were matched by French expansion that finally included more than 4,000,000 square miles of African territory, by claims on Africa staked out by Germany with the consent of the European powers, and the blank cheque on the Congo basin that presently shadowed the name of Belgium.

The new era of rival European power over Africa and across Asia altered the political outlook of the Empire. There was no room for dissolution now. Hence the government of the Empire, as between the Indian Mutiny and the South African War, was reorganized. The essential goal became that of permanent union; its means of achievement to be found in the principle of federal government, as added to that of responsible freedom already accepted. Here was to be achieved that union of authority, liberty (imperium et libertas) sought since the days of Rome. The principle of federation attained in the nineteenth century an imposing prestige. It had with it the conspicuous example of the United States, the tradition of Switzerland and a certain endorsation of Greek history, dear to scholars. The weakness of federal government lies in its hopeless incompatibility with economic unity, the disruption of jurisdiction which it makes for labour, capital, transportation and social service. But time and industrial growth had yet to reveal all this. Federation was “the thing.” Political scientists, Henry Sidgwick and presently James Bryce, expounded its academic merits. Tennyson, in poetic vision (which shuts one eye), could see already the “parliament of man” and “federation of the world.”

First came Canada. The broken units of British North America were gathered into a Dominion of Canada (1867). Those who wouldn’t come in were dragged in. Newfoundland, half in, slipped out. British Columbia was coaxed in with a railway; Prince Edward Island by buying its railway from it. The new system creaked in its joints but it held together. The Red River Settlement of the West undertook to protest under arms at Fort Garry, mixed up its protest with stark murder, and faded away at the sight of General Wolseley and the redcoats. Nova Scotia accepted better terms, and sobbed its protest half asleep. “The whistle of the locomotive,” to quote Joe Howe’s prophetic phrase, “was heard in the passes of the Rocky Mountains” in 1886. The Dominion of Canada became a fact and soon a glorious reality. The old fear of piecemeal conquest by “the States” faded from a spectre to a bogy, and from a bogy to a scarecrow. Federation in Canada encouraged an unsuccessful movement at federation in South Africa (1878). For Australia, federation as yet was only talk, the obvious advantages of federalism being crossed by internal disputes. The continent seemed safe in its isolation.

But a larger idea arose as the federation of the whole Empire, with a central parliament at London, and representation of all—or at least all of the free. This started the Imperial Federation movement and the League (1884) whose offshoots ran over the Empire like the Vine of Sibmah. The League set up its branches and held its meetings, singing “God save the Queen” in colonial towns, out on the prairies and on the veldt and under the eucalyptus tree. Then suddenly it smashed. It appeared that imperial federation meant taxes. Things were back again to the days of George Washington. Britain again was alarmed over expenditure on defence. The income-tax, traditionally regarded as a temporary war measure, had come back in 1842 and stayed ever since. By the end of the century it had passed sixpence in the pound. This seemed to spell ruin, albeit to a generation whose children have lived to see it at seven shillings and sixpence. But history repeated itself. It was George III’s national debt all over again. So it seemed only reasonable that the colonies, when joined in a federated Empire, should pay taxes for imperial (naval) defence. This broke the League. It dissolved like Canadian ice and blew away like Australian sand. The attitude of the colonies, not altogether unfair, was that they paid their share by opening new territory.

The federal movement, of necessity, left out India. The termination of the East India Company (1858), after the Mutiny, placed the government entirely under British imperial control, with a Council in London. Democracy and self-government only made feeble beginnings, in municipal life, before 1900. The India of the Native States was protected by Britain as a paramount power, not governed in its daily life. There was not, and never has been, any nucleus as between the aspirations and outlook of the peoples of India and those of the Dominions.

Still less could federation include the black subjects of the Queen now multiplying in Africa. These must remain as sleeping partners in the Empire, dreaming of their future heritage, and blessed at least with decent government and fair play. But the federal movement and the new tendency toward a united and permanent Empire at least expressed itself in the great London pageants of the Golden Jubilee of 1887 and the Diamond Jubilee of ten years later. From these grew the Colonial Conferences, that presently—1902, 1907 and on—systematized themselves into the Imperial Conference which for a time almost looked like an authoritative organ of government.

The federal sentiment also ultimately carried Australia into a federation. The rivalry of free trade and protection (New South Wales and Victoria) was a standing difficulty. The sheer distance of Western Australia, a four days’ voyage by sea, with no alternative but a trackless desert, seemed to defy federation. The colony would be like a satellite on a stick, as used in a geography classroom. But what peace cannot accomplish, the mere threat of war compels. The safety of Australian isolation disappeared with the expansion of Japan. Federated as a Commonwealth in 1901 (Imperial Statute of 1900), Australia lined up beside Canada. Western Australia, cast for the role of Rhode Island and of Nova Scotia, as the unwilling partner, hesitated but was squeezed in just in time to be an original State. New Zealand thought twice and stayed where nature put it.

The first stage of the era of expansion witnessed at the close of the century the tragedy of the South African War. The circumstances of the present hour have reopened again the wounds of that historic land of sorrow. There is all the less need here to dogmatize upon the right and wrong of half a century ago. South Africa (the Cape) came into British possession as a prize of war (1795), its Dutch occupants having become, by a shake of the kaleidoscope of history, allies of France, as under the Batavian Republic. At the settlement (in 1815), the Cape was retained as a British Colony. Its value had been realized as a half-way stop on the sailing voyage to India. A few settlers came. A second Colony, Natal, was presently founded by British settlers (1824). But their separation from one another was in keeping with the vast distances of South Africa, a feature seldom realized. Cape Town to Durban by sea is over 800 miles. There was thus no friction. Nor was there tyranny at the Cape. But the Dutch farmers were restive under alien rule. Free slave-holders are apt to resent control. They resented it still more when Britain bought out their slaves (1834). Many claimed they were cheated on the bargain. There followed the Great Trek, one of the heroic episodes of the nineteenth century. A large section of the Boers, with their ox-wagons, families and furniture, cattle and Kaffirs, moved out into the wilderness, far, far away—beyond the Vaal River. Two generations later it was to turn out that far, far away, in a changed world, meant close at hand. But for the time the isolation of the veldt closed over them. There was no thought of calling them back. It was the period of laissez-faire. The Empire was large enough. The Dutch who remained British subjects settled down in peace in the unending summer of the sea winds of Cape Town and the vineyards of Stellenbosch. British settlers came, and to Natal—never many. South Africa settled into a long sleep, with now and then the brief awakening of a Kaffir war. The Dutch villages of the Cape seemed to take on, under their elm trees, an immemorial antiquity. Animosities died low, life moved at the pace of an ox-cart and politics dozed on the stoep. Such little back eddies of peace and quiet, such Stellenbosches and Acadias, does the irony of history form at times in the turgid current of its course—only to obliterate them later.

The passing of the sailing-ship and the opening of the steam route by the Suez Canal removed the first reason for the British occupation of South Africa. But it remained. Responsible government gave freedom and British rule guaranteed peace. Without it, South Africa could have been overwhelmed in a night by the vast shadow of the black race. There were those who said, who still say, that it some day must be. Ex Africa semper quid novi. The expansion epoch of the later century brought an ill-starred movement (1878) to reannex the Transvaal Boers. Their government was rickety, jeopardized with native quarrels, almost bankrupt. The case of federated Canada seemed to point the way. Complacent ignorance vanished when the annexed Boers revolted and defeated the British in the heroic victory of Majuba Hill (1881). Great Britain, meaning, at the moment, Mr. Gladstone, gave back the Transvaal without first wiping out Majuba in blood—a triumph of magnanimity or of a disaster due to idiocy, as one will, according as one reads British politics and judges British imperialism. The ashes of controversy in South Africa still fan easily to a flame. Britain kept over the Transvaal the shadowy claim of a paramount power. (Convention of London, 1884.) No one knew what it meant. No one cared. Side by side with the Transvaal, its sister Dutch republic, the Orange Free State, lived undisturbed, uncoveted.

Then came the Devil with diamonds in Griqualand and round Kimberley, in places as who should say “no man’s land” in South Africa. Arbitration showed they belonged to Great Britain. Right. And with that the Devil waved away the mists from the rolling upland and showed a great reef of over fifty miles of gold ore and asked whose was that? And with that came the Rand Mines, and the city of Johannesburg and a babel of all the world. The Dutch republic, with its little capital of Pretoria, fast asleep round its ox-cart market square, looked as ill suited to the change as the Old Testament wrapped around the West Side of Chicago. Anger, greed, controversy and patriotism struggled together. Yet the British never hated the Boers nor the Boers the British. They got on well together, always have, all those who know South Africa will agree. They have never known the mutual exclusion which keeps the French and English as far apart, in Montreal, as the two shipwrecked gentlemen of Gilbert’s ballad—never introduced.

But the situation forced quarrels. Should the newcomers, the Uitlanders vote? Did they really want to be citizens, or just want money? Was it fair for a handful of Dutch farmers to tax dynamite, sweep off profits, sell railways? Yet was this influx really British expansion overseas, or was this just the clamour of the stock exchange for Kaffir stock? But even if it was for the moment capitalism, did it not show far away the green hills of a future union under the Empire? People must judge for themselves. Few witnesses speak alike.

Mimic revolt seethed in the Rand Club of Johannesburg over Scotch and seltzer. Rifles came in piano cases. Was this a storm in a tea-cup, or was this the ground swell of a great tempest? A brave man called Dr. Jameson undertook to bet that it was in a tea-cup. He betted wrong. His raid into the Transvaal (New Year’s, 1895-96) and his capture set all the world in tumult. Angry winds blew from every cave. The German Emperor, in a famous telegram of congratulation to old Paul Kruger, President at Pretoria, opened the Great War eighteen years before it started. The raid was followed by a feverish four years of conference and armaments. Whose was the fault? Did the British declare the war inevitable and then start it? Or did the Boers refuse every last and reasonable overture, and mean to drive the British into the sea, clearing out the Cape and all? At least the struggle of the Boers under arms, against overwhelming odds, for three years, is unsurpassed in the world’s record of patriotic heroism. The tragedy of it is, as seen by many of us, that all that was ever gained by the war would have come naturally enough anyway, with patience and a lapse of time. People cannot, not even Dutch farmers, live forever on memories of Great Treks and kraals and assegais. Life must go on, and would have, and Dutch and British union under the Empire would have come as easy and welcome destiny. It came another way. The forced treaty of Vereeniging (1902) gave generous terms to the conquered—magnanimous and almost divine as compared with what we see at this hour of the mercy meted out by conquerors. Four years later the triumph of common sense and magnanimity in granting self-government to the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony went far to healing wounds that nature was trying to close. The Union of South Africa (1909), brought about by conferences in which shared the leaders of both sides so recently under arms, seemed to crown the work. It would have done so, but for the war of 1914 that seemed to many of the Dutch a release from a forced oath and an opportunity for freedom. The suppression of the rebellion, Dutch by Dutch, left but little animosity. After which, South Africa its clouds drifting away waited for what should come next, and now the next has come.

Thus stands the Empire aligned, dressing its ranks, as the onslaught of war comes upon it. Behind it, since Gilbert first claimed Newfoundland, are three and a half centuries of the expansion of the British people overseas, of decent government and fair play, of faults redeemed and bygone angers mellowed into friendship. From the myriad graves that mark where courage lies, on land or under sea, or mark at least the spot where a life of honest effort ended in rest, its spirit speaks. It is a great heritage.

If there is guidance to the world, and not mere devil’s chance, the ordeal of war will show what it has been worth.

Some Books for Reference

Trevelyan, G. M. History of England (1926).

Morison, S. E. Oxford History of the United States. 2 vols. 1927.

Lecky, W. H. England in the Eighteenth Century.

Egerton, H. E. British Colonial Policy. 8th ed. 1928.

Seeley, J. R. The Expansion of England (1883).

Dilke, Sir C. Greater Britain (1890).

Hall, W. P. Empire to Commonwealth. 1928.

King-Hall, S. Our Own Times (1913-1934).

Robinson, H. The Development of the British Empire. 1922.



Extent of the Empire—A Quarter of the Globe—Its Share of Each Continent—Doubtful Areas: the Mandates, the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, etc.—Comparison of Areas—A Century of Expansion—Points of Strategy and Ports of Call—Zones of Climate—Extent of White Population—Emptiness of the Empire

Unroll the map of the world, in the familiar form called Mercator’s projection which rolls out like wallpaper, and you see the British Empire, done in pink, stretched out all over it. Colossal it is, especially Canada, with nothing to humble it except Siberia twice as large. It touches the North Pole as part of Canada and the South Pole as part of Victoria Land. East and west it never stops, with territories in both hemispheres and in each continent, and with islands in each of the seven oceans. Where it stops, it begins again; as Mercator draws it, you can start it anywhere, like a movie film.

The sun, as the poets put it, never sets on the British Empire. The time line of the meridian of 180 degrees, from Greenwich, half-way round the world, east or west as you like, cuts just past the upturned heel of New Zealand. When it is six o’clock by the sun on Monday morning in Auckland, it is still only half-past four o’clock in the morning at Sydney, Australia. In Ceylon it is not yet Monday but only eleven o’clock on Sunday night; in London it is six o’clock on Sunday evening; in Montreal still Sunday afternoon, one o’clock; in Vancouver, and on Pitcairn Island away to the south of it in the Pacific Ocean, the time is ten o’clock on Sunday morning. From there further across the Pacific beside the Friendly Islands, it is six o’clock on Sunday morning, with Monday morning just a few miles further on. A naval battle begun off the east coast of New Zealand could start on a Monday and end on the Sunday before. No, the sun never sets on the British Empire. It tries to, but it can’t.

Mercator, when he made the map, certainly flattered the British Empire. This, however, was the least of his intentions, since the Empire in his day did not exist, or only in the germ. He lived in the time of the Tudors, in what was then the Spanish Netherlands, and his name was Gerhard Kremer, or as we might say, Gerry the Shop-keeper. But when he became a celebrated geographer he latinized his name to “Mercator” to give it style. At this period scientific map-making was just beginning. The old rough and ready methods of counting in a “thousand paces,” and “two nights’ sleep” and a “ten days’ sail,” were giving way to the exact methods of the new mathematics, as needed for the new travel and exploration. Mercator made for the Emperor Charles V wonderfully accurate maps of part of Central Europe. But his world-map was made for sailors. In a sense it is as crazy as anything in Alice in Wonderland, since the only correct line on it is the Equator. All the north and south meridians go straight up at equal distances apart, which makes everything too wide in proportion and getting worse all the time. Mercator makes Canada about 6,000 miles wide at the base, instead of 3,000; everything in the British Isles is about as “broad as it is long,” though it is all too small to notice on a world scale. This is kept up until Mercator’s world reaches a North Pole about 25,000 miles wide, where everything ends with a full stop like the edge of a cliff. But east and west you can roll it round forever.

Yet, crazy as it appears, Mercator’s is the best “map” of the entire world that we can make. The earth is a globe. You can’t see it all at once. There is no bird’s-eye view of it, because the bird can’t see it all. If you draw two separate hemispheres, as we often do, that is two maps, not one, and in any case each is foreshortened till the side parts vanish to nothing. In fact every map is a compromise. You can’t draw a bulged surface on a flat paper.

Mercator made his world-map (1569) for sailors; and for the sailors of his day, steering by compass but without chronometers, it was just the thing. Put a compass on Mercator’s map, and north is north, which is not so on any other map above an insignificant scale. Later it turned out that Mercator’s world-map suited all kinds of purposes for rough and ready illustration of trade routes, islands, winds, currents and the maritime divisions of the nations. In practice the North and South Poles didn’t matter, whether big or little, nor, till yesterday, did northern Canada and Siberia. Life in the Spice Islands days clung to the Equator, and there Mercator was as right as rain.

But even without Mercator’s exaggeration, the area of the British Empire is imposing enough. The land surface of the globe is estimated at 55,214,000 square miles, and of this an area of about 13,353,000 square miles, nearly 25 per cent, is under the British Crown. This is a space of about the same size as the continent of Africa, is about as large again as the whole stretch of Russia with Siberia, and four times as large as the land area of the United States. The area of the Empire cannot, however, be given in exact figures, and indeed not within a million square miles. It is difficult to say where the British Empire ends, and whether certain areas are to be included in it or not.

The Irish Free State, now officially Eire, is certainly one of the Dominions associated in the Commonwealth of Nations of the Statute of Westminster; but in Eire the British flag does not fly; the national language is Irish, with English officially a substitute in the legislature and in the courts; and the King is only King of Eire outside of it, not in it. The rest of the Empire accepts this as a way the Irish have of being British without admitting it. Peculiar also are the mandated territories carried over from the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, under the guardianship of the League of Nations, and by it assigned to various powers. Dominion over these, in the theory of the matter, is revocable by the League. Some of the mandates were entrusted to Great Britain itself, such as Tanganyika, once German East Africa, a territory of 365,000 square miles and, in Africa also, the British section (13,000 square miles) of Togoland and (34,000 square miles) of the Cameroons. In Asia there is the mandate of Palestine (10,000 square miles) which originally covered also Transjordan, now an independent government under an Amir, but not a sovereign state. Such odd cases defy all classification. In the Pacific Ocean Britain itself has a mandate over the once German island of Nauru, a strategic point situated about 2,500 miles north of New Zealand and only 26 miles south of the Equator. The other mandates in the Pacific are entrusted not to Great Britain but to its Dominions. Papua, formerly Kaiser Wilhelm’s Land, along with a group of adjacent islands, is under Australia. This is the south-eastern part, approximately one third, of the great island of New Guinea, which is half as large again as France. A part of the Samoan group of islands, 1,200 square miles with 57,000 inhabitants, are assigned to New Zealand, a source of pride rather than profit. The Union of South Africa has a mandate over South-West Africa (once German South-West), an area of 317,725 square miles. The military and naval power of the Empire everywhere extends over the mandates, and there is no very evident intention of giving away any worth keeping. To our disillusioned eyes islands and mandates are indistinguishable from gun-platforms and air-bases. It would be better to nail the flag to the mast or to the coco-nut tree. A certain aspect of humbug on our part has often infuriated other nations in the past. Plain speech wears better.

The theorist with the magnifying glass may find still more perplexing the case of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. This has an area of 950,000 square miles, a quarter of the size of Europe. Its territory covers the region on the Upper Nile from Egypt to Uganda, 1,200 miles, north and south, and reaches from the Red Sea and Abyssinia on the east to French Africa on the west, a distance of 1,000 miles. Here fly the combined flags of Egypt and England, to indicate joint sovereignty. In practice England pays all the costs. Egypt is a sleeping partner, a role easy in the land of the pyramids.

To this list of anomalies may be added the two Native States of Nepal and Bhutan, the mountain fortresses that guard north-eastern India. In recognition of their imperial solidarity in the Great War, they were officially declared in 1923 absolutely independent, that is, outside of the Empire. The list of curiosities ends with the Antarctic continent, on which the Empire has whatever sovereignty springs from its explorations and discoveries. The whole area of Antarctica is known to be over 5,000,000 square miles. But it is all under permanent snow except in a few little patches, in all about a hundred square miles, where the ice melts enough to show the rock. There are no trees in Antarctica, but even here, as the age of wood passes to the age of metal, the world may yet quarrel over sovereignty.

But leaving out every one of these dubious cases, from Ireland to the South Pole, the Empire still occupies an area of eleven and three quarter million square miles. In following the distribution of this area among its component parts, it will be noted that the Empire has less territory, and a less proportion of territory, in its own continent of Europe than in any other part of the world. In Europe, apart from the British Isles themselves, there are only the 2 square miles of Gibraltar and the 122 square miles of Malta. Cyprus, strategically a part of Europe, is geographically in Asia. Contrast with this the 3,847,597 square miles of British North America and the British West Indies, the 3,818,000 square miles under the British flag in Africa, and the 2,126,000 square miles under British rule in Asia. Australia, one hundred per cent British, holds the continental record.

For the recurrent comparisons of area needed in a volume like the present, it is well to carry in one’s mind certain yard-sticks of reference. This is the more needed since we habitually see many countries expanded on a large-scale map, and others contracted on a small. It may be noted that the area of the British Isles is about the same as that of New Zealand, that England itself contains about 50,000 square miles, which makes it about twice the size of Nova Scotia. This area of 50,000 miles is, in a rough and ready sense, familiar to most of us on the map of America as the size of typical Eastern and Middle States such as Florida, 54,000; Virginia, 40,000; New York, 47,000. It may be compared with a conspicuous unit above it, that of a quarter of a million square miles, Texas, 262,000; Alberta, 256,000; Saskatchewan, 251,000; France, 213,000; and the German Empire of the Kaiser, 208,000. Above these one may note, as a gradation, India with 1,800,000 square miles, about the same size as French West Africa and just above Chinese Mongolia, 1,150,000; and the Argentine Republic, 1,150,000. A very notable group of roughly similar areas is found around the unit of 3,000,000 square miles. Here belongs the United States, 3,026,000 (the land area without the Great Lakes); Canada, 3,689,000; Brazil, 3,275,000; Australia, 2,974,000; and the Continent of Europe, 3,879,000. For the lack of such a scale of comparison, the ideas of many people are hopelessly confused as to size and distance.

There are many countries, only seen on small-scale maps, whose dimensions become permanently blighted in our thought. The Philippine Islands laid across the map of Europe would have one end at Stockholm in Sweden and the other end in Sicily. The Canadian Province of Quebec is large enough to hold all France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Holland and still have room for the British Isles. On the other hand it would never do to form our conception of the Empire on the mere size of vast areas as yet mostly empty and of little immediate significance. Spacious territory may look very imposing, but without water, fertility or mineral resources, the possession of it is not worth, for peaceful uses, one paradise island in the South Seas. Compare the Sahara Desert, which represents under various flags three and a half million square miles of dry sand; or the frozen north of Canada, an area to be computed as a million square miles.

From this we can understand why, in past history, and not so very recently, inordinate value, as we see it now, was attached to very minor areas, and little value at all to huge areas now beyond price. The West India Islands, even in the eighteenth century, seemed the world’s prize. Golden cargoes of sugar made musk-rat and beaver skins look poor stuff. Cuba was the Pearl of the Antilles. Guadeloupe was discussed as a possible equivalent to trade back for the “few acres of snow” called Canada. Santo Domingo meant more to Napoleon as First Consul than the huge quarter continent of Louisiana sold to the States. The Spice Islands, meaning the Moluccas from Sumatra to New Guinea, still carry in their picturesque name the aroma of a forgotten dream of wealth, wafted from an unknown world.

On the other hand, our new world of large-scale industry and the science that feeds it is beginning to re-adjust these values. Dikes cut into the Sahara can flood an inland sea, drift rain clouds over Timbuctoo and restore the vast garden that once was, but which now is sand and bones. The Arabs have a saying, “Men once could walk from Mecca to Morocco in the shade.” Perhaps they will again. When we have time off from war, we can set ourselves to alter climate itself—not only flood the Sahara but block the Straits of Belle Isle to turn aside the Polar current; make the James Bay rivers run south to feed the insufficient waters of the St. Lawrence, and irrigate all Nevada and Mongolia as easily as we now “air-condition” a New York hotel. These are the dreams of refashioning our world for the welfare of mankind that will one day come to us in the sleep of peace. Even in their dimmest vision they help to exalt the majesty and the responsibility of our Empire.

Meantime already, in a world that cries out for metals and forswears wood, these unoccupied areas take on a new importance. Less than a hundred years ago Sir Archibald Allison could write that seven eighths of British North America was destined to frigid cold and eternal silence. The hum of the aeroplane has broken it. The barren lands of Canada, the broken slate and treeless rivers, stony and swift and chill as death, the “lands forlorn” that Douglas and the Tyrrells and Warburton Pike saw—these look, to the aeronaut and to prospector, grim but good, a treasure in an iron case.

The present population of the entire globe has been estimated for the opening 1940’s at 2,139,000,000 people. Of these, as already said, about one quarter, or 525,000,000, are within the Commonwealth of Nations associated as the British Empire. This fact becomes all the more striking when we contrast the world population of today with that of a hundred years ago. It is not possible to do this with accuracy, since the practice of taking a national census was late in coming to the modern world. The Christian churches opposed it, remembering that the Israelites were punished for it. Parsimonious people connected it with taxation and military service, retaining a dim recollection of the Conqueror’s Doomsday Book. As late as 1753, in the House of Commons of George II, there were fears expressed that any count of the people might be punished by “some great misfortune or epidemical distemper.” Before condemning the House of Commons as antiquated, we should recall that natives of British Central Africa still retain the same religious objection to counting themselves. Certain smaller states of Europe took censuses of their people in the middle eighteenth century. The French kept a census of French Canada from its beginning, as a child’s age is affectionately tabulated from its cradle. But there was not any enumeration of English-speaking peoples until the United States census of 1790. The idea took over a hundred years to work its way across Europe. Turkey, the last country to give in, took its first census in 1927.

These circumstances made it impossible to have anything like a “world census” till well within the present century. But various estimates have been put together for the modern world population, which gather increasing reliability as their dates descend. The French historian Jules Michelet estimated world population as 1,009,000,000 in the year 1845. At that date the British Empire had much of its magnificent outline of size as far as the “colonies” are concerned—British North America, complete, and Australia and New Zealand as they are, as also the British West Indies, though of declining importance. But British South Africa consisted only of the settlements of the Cape and Natal. Of the present tropical Empire in Africa, there was nothing but the remains of slave factory days, at Gambia and on the Gold Coast, and the pious establishment of Sierra Leone, a home for runaway slaves, otherwise known as the “white man’s” grave! The India of a hundred years ago, although much of it was controlled by the East India Company (1600-1658), was not under British imperial government till after the Mutiny. Its people were not subjects of the Crown. In all, although the area of the British Empire under the Crown a hundred years ago covered 8,000,000 square miles, its population was probably under 30,000,000, or one thirtieth of the world’s people, instead of one quarter.

Thus the increase of British “dominion over palm and pine” has been one of the outstanding features of world history during the past hundred years. But Rudyard Kipling warned us long ago, in his matchless “Recessional” of 1897, against vain jubilation over this expansion. The antidote to it is found in the statistics which represent what the Empire is not, and how much of its destiny is still in the making. The great bulk of the population of the British Empire is not white, and not Christian; the major part of its people, nearly 3 out of 5, are packed tight in a tropical Asiatic area where the white race, as a race, cannot live; most British subjects cannot speak English, and those who speak it as their mother tongue might be computed as only about 13 per cent of the total.

That is to say, of the whole 525,000,000 Empire inhabitants, no less than 364,300,000 live in India, Burma and the adjacent possessions. The number of Christians in the Empire is only 80,000,000. Of the British subjects in the continent of Africa only about three per cent are white, in Asia only a fraction of one per cent. The parts of the Empire, of which next to the British Isles we are all most proud, the overseas Dominions, are still relatively empty, with great wind-swept spaces of waving woods and watered plains and rolling hills, unused and fertile, the gardens of the wilderness—a mockery to the world’s poverty, a responsibility that we carry, a trust that we must fulfil or abandon. These are the aspects that gives us pause, before vain boasting of our Empire.

Seen more in detail, the distribution of the imperial population, in accordance with estimates made for the opening decade of the 1940’s, is as follows: Of the total white population of 72,850,000 people, 49,000,000 live in the British Isles, chiefly in England (41,000,000). The Dominion of Canada has a population estimated at 11,367,000, entirely white except for the politically negligible elements of 123,000 Indians, 6,000 Eskimos and 19,000 Negroes. Newfoundland has 294,000 inhabitants. The population of Australia, practically all white except for 55,000 aborigines, is estimated at 6,893,000. The Union of South Africa, with a total estimated population of 9,590,000, has 2,004,000 white people. The other parts of Africa commonly thought of as “white man’s country” show as follows: Rhodesia (Northern and Southern), 68,800 whites and 2,683,000 natives. Kenya and Uganda have 21,000 whites, 76,900 Asiatics from India, and 6,946,000 natives in their population.

Outside of these areas the great African and Asiatic possessions and dependencies are entirely native in population, except for the coming and going of military and administrative units, the personnel of missions, scientists, tourists and commercial transients.

But the expansion of the British Empire carries further than is represented even by the preponderance of its continental territory and population. Where the British Empire ends on land it begins on the ocean. All around the globe run the midway points of strategy that connect and safe-guard the commerce and the carrying trade of the British peoples. Some of them are products of history. Others represent the immediate needs of the present, and others the prevision of the future. In Europe are Gibraltar, Malta and, strategically, Cyprus. Of these Gibraltar is but a rock and a causeway, but it commands the Straits and carries the prestige of two centuries of possession and the memory of the great siege (1779-1783). Malta has only about half the area of greater Montreal, but it commands the midway narrows of the Mediterranean, being 180 miles from Africa and 58 miles from Sicily. Cyprus, in the elbow of Asia Minor, is a considerable place (3,500 square miles) half as big again as the Canadian Province of Prince Edward Island, and famous for its archaeology and its olives. But apart from strategy the British Empire could do nicely without either of these. Heligoland, all too familiar now in North Sea warfare, 28 miles from the German mainland, was a British outpost of the Napoleonic wars, retained till 1890, when it was traded to Germany for the control of Zanzibar. The Ionian Islands in the Adriatic Sea were a similar legacy of war, retained under British protection, with the happy title of the “United States of the Ionian Islands,” from 1815 to 1864. The Spitzbergen Islands, an archipelago of the polar sea, 370 miles north of Norway, were once, in part at least, a whaling outpost of Great Britain. But the claim to sovereignty died out with the last whale and before the first coal and the first aeroplane. Norway, by consent, took full possession in 1925.

In the North Atlantic Ocean are the Bermudas, 580 miles from Cape Hatteras in the United States and due south from Nova Scotia, a midway place of refuge, of call and strategy, British since the shipwreck of Sir George Somers in 1609. In the South Atlantic, the islands of Ascension and St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha recall the days of the sailing-ship and its path through the trade winds, sighting South America to reach the Cape. St. Helena recalls much else in history and, as a cable station, connects today with Cape Town and St. Vincent and belongs on the new map of communication and strategy. On the other side of the South Atlantic are the Falkland Islands, 250 miles east of Argentina and still claimed by that republic under the name of Islas Malvinas. The Islands are a wireless station and have as dependencies of their government the whaling settlement of South Georgia (latitude 55 degrees south) and other Atlantic islands. The strategic importance of the Falklands was written into the record of the Great War, and rewritten into the second.

Across the Pacific Ocean the “outposts of the Empire” can be counted all the way from the historic Pitcairn Island of the mutineers of the Bounty (longitude 130 degrees, 8 minutes west)—now reviving its bygone romance in moving pictures—to the coast of Australia some 3,000 miles away. Especially important are the Fiji Island group, on the mid-ocean longitude of 180 degrees, a wireless station and a chief point of the All-Red cable route Canada-Australia-New Zealand. But the great “cross-roads of the Pacific” are the Hawaiian Islands, now a Territory of the United States, situated 2,100 miles from San Francisco; 4,835, from Manila; from Auckland, 3,830; from Vancouver, 2,495; and from Japan (Yokohama), 3,380; and 4,710 miles from Panama. Discovered by Captain Cook in 1778, they were, as the Sandwich Islands, for a considerable part of the nineteenth century regarded as under British naval control. They still belong, with Minorca, Argentina and the Ionian Islands, among the sentimental “lost possessions” of England.

Where Asia is reached, Hong Kong, an island base off the coast of China, and the base on the Island of Singapore (26 miles by 14) in the Malayan Straits-Settlements, are among the most important points in the vexed world of today. In the Indian Ocean the Andaman Islands set in the great Bay of Bengal are wireless stations for Burma and Madras. More important strategically are the Cocos (or Keeling) Islands, a cable station and midway point on the Australian steamer route, between Colombo, in Ceylon, and Freemantle, the port of Western Australia. They are not the Cocos Island celebrated for the lost treasures of Peru, still undiscovered after much digging. This lies off the Pacific coast of Central America and belongs to Costa Rica. But the Cocos (Keeling) Islands have at least the celebrity that goes with the sinking of the Emden (1914). Across the Indian Ocean are the Island of Sokotra (1,400 square miles), guarding the Gulf of Aden, and Perim Island, a mere horseshoe of volcanic rock, three miles long, but a coal and cable station and set in the narrow Strait of Bab-El-Mandeb which connects the Red Sea with the oriental world. Ninety-six miles east of Perim is the strategic post of Aden, situated on the mainland of Arabia but an island to all intents and purposes on the map of the Empire. As a fortified coaling station on the Suez-Orient route, it is of vast importance, as behind it lies only the desolation of the Arabian Desert. The author in whose recent book Labrador appears as the “land that God forgot,” could never have seen Aden. Further south in the Indian Ocean are the Seychelles (latitude 5 degrees south), Mauritius, east of Madagascar; and further south still, further south than Africa itself, set in the “roaring forties” half-way from continent to continent, are such lost islands as Amsterdam and St. Paul.

It is a strange and impressive panorama, this world-map of the island possessions of Britain. It has in it all the romance of our history, all the pride of our achievement and that remaining legacy of the adventure and the magic of the sea that comes down to us from the days of sailing-ships and desert islands. We connect it with the earliest recollections of our lives, with the narration of brave deeds, with our first pride in the past and our first inspiration towards patriotism. I have laid great stress upon such a panorama in these pages because I think that this maritime aspect of the British Empire, set in the seven seas, has had an extraordinary influence on the minds of all British people in British dominions everywhere. We have known it all our lives—the great wall map of the Empire with Mercator’s vast exaggeration—have remembered it from the picture books of the nursery, the “geographies” of the schoolroom, the pages of the story-tellers, and the lantern slides of the lecturer. We carry visions of far-away oceans and harbours, the ice-breakers of Quebec, the tropical beauty of Auckland and the Gold Coast, not as capitalists but as dreamers. Take this away and something has gone from us. Neither you nor I can haul down the flag from Pitcairn Island nor lose our treasured vision of the unseen uplands that we possess in Central Africa. These are such stuff as dreams are made of. But of the nebula of dreams come great realities. We must keep ours. There is an imperialism of greed and conquest, exploiting for money’s sake the weaker peoples of the world. Plain sense has long since learned to hate it. But there is also the humbler imperialism—the “Empire mindedness” of decent people with nothing to gain by it in money. They could not put it into words. It is an inspiration, not a formula. Participation in wide empire, in distant possessions which they never see, is an unconscious part of the lives of millions of people too humbly placed for accusation as capitalists. It is to be deplored that of late years an attempt is made by the writing of Annuals and Almanacs to restrict the term “British Empire,” and to cut it loose from the great Dominions. They tell us that we ought to call the total of our united sovereignties the British Commonwealth, and that the British “Empire” must consist of merely the United Kingdom and those outlying territories—colonies and protectorates and islands—which it controls. The emphasis is to fall again on servitude, not on union. “Empire” is to lose the nobler meaning it was just acquiring and sink back to the level of the conqueror. We cannot have it that way. In Canada, for example, we insist on owning part of St. Helena and refuse to let go our grip on Togoland and Guiana. We don’t pay for them. But what is that among generous people? Send us an account, or just charge it. I can well conceive that such a distinction between “Empire” parts of the Commonwealth, and parts not sharing the Empire, would be the first steps towards dissolution. In the long run, ideas govern.

All that has gone above has concerned the distribution of the population of the Empire as among continents and political units. Far more important is its distribution as among the zones of climate into which the earth is divided. The simplest and most familiar way of thus dividing the globe is to distinguish the Tropical Zone around the Equator, the Temperate Zones, North and South, intermediate between the Tropics and the two Polar Zones, the Arctic and Antarctic. These divisions rest on astronomical lines, resulting from the nature of the earth’s course around the sun and the tilt of its axis. This is the kind of thing which everybody professes to understand, having once nearly grasped it in school and lost it again. There is no harm in repeating the information here. The earth moves round the sun in one year; as it moves, the axis on which it spins is not set upright on its path but tilted out of it by 23½ degrees and pointed always towards the North Pole, or so close to it that only astronomers care for the difference. As the North Pole is ever so far away, there is nothing of the effect that we think of in a drawing as “perspective.” The axis is always at 23½ degrees to the plane of the earth’s course. This means that at one time of the year, our northern summer, the polar regions are tilted towards the sun and get more sunlight than darkness in each twenty-four hour turn of the earth. Where the tilt reaches its most direct point, June 21st, the flood of sunshine will extend over the tilted earth for 23½ degrees, even on the side further from the sun. There will be sunlight all day and all night, even for people as far away from the pole as on the Great Bear Lake in Canada, the north shore of Iceland, and on the shores of the White Sea in Russia. The same effect in reverse will plunge the Antarctic region into twenty-four sunless hours. But the battle between light and darkness is fortunately uneven. Daylight has “twilight” thrown in as a bonus—the light from just under the horizon of a sun about to rise or a sun that has just set. There’s also to be considered the light of the stars in a clear sky, the Aurora Borealis and the reflection of both from the snow. Polar darkness is not as black as it is painted.

The surface of the globe is thus divided into zones, corresponding to the distribution of light and darkness. Round the equatorial regions runs the belt of the Tropical Zone, 47 degrees, or 3,243 miles, across, reaching, on the map of America, from the Bahamas to Rio de Janeiro, and in the Old World from the middle of the Sahara to the top of Rhodesia, or from Calcutta nearly to Brisbane. At every place in the tropics the sun at noon on some one day of the year (for places on the Equator, two days in the year) is directly overhead, and never less at noon than at an altitude of 66½ degrees above the horizon. Conversely in the Arctic Zone, north of the Great Bear Lake and north of Scapa Flow, the tourists’ marvel of “the midnight sun” (in appearance quite like any other sun) dwindles day by day towards twenty-four hours of night. In between the Tropical and Polar Zones, the North and South Temperate Zones encircle the globe in belts 47 degrees (3,243 miles) from north to south.

Now in a rough and ready way, very rough and very ready, the zones of latitude correspond with climate and govern the conditions of the habitability of the earth. Mankind was presumably evolved in a fairly warm climate and has groped his way northward in the dark. The easy luxuriance of the tropics bred, in the long course of countless generations, races of men habituated to torrid heat and saturated air, and coloured by the overhead sun. Crowding and conquest moved others northward. The rigor of the cold and the stimulus of effort bred the “white races,” whose superiority no one must doubt. The Aurora Borealis and the starlight—or something else—bleached them out white, to remake them as the northern race. After a period, again of uncounted centuries, the white races have come back to the tropics as conquerors.

Now in a broad and general way these white races cannot live in the tropics, not as a race. They can live, individually, and go home to die; but that is different—a poor life at the best, and no real basis for national life. This is of course only a general statement. In certain portions of the earth the distribution of winds and rain and sea currents, an insular situation and, above all, a high altitude may offset a tropical situation. Consider the case of Ecuador, situated, just as it ought to be, on the Equator, or that of Peru and the uplands of Mexico.

In the British Empire there is no doubt that the vast area of India, which along with Burma and the Malay States covers, in all, 2,025,642 square miles, is no fit habitation for white people. Here live 362,000,000 tropical coloured subjects of the King. British Tropic Africa between Egypt and the Transvaal includes 2,335,500 square miles. At the present time the white population only numbers 114,000 in a total of 49,315,000 inhabitants. Great areas, such as Nigeria and other West African and equatorial possessions, along with most of East Africa and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan must be counted out of the white Empire. The Kenya-Uganda upland, with a high altitude and cool open country, may prove white. It is too early to judge—the Rhodesias have already a white population of 69,000, but carry a native working—and non-working—class of 2,680,000. The West Indies (whites about 125,000; coloured 2,183,000) are not a habitation where the white races can flourish, still less the Central and South American mainland possessions. British Guiana, almost on the Equator, with an area of 89,480 square miles, has some 15,000 whites, with 337,000 natives; British Honduras has an area of only 8,598 square miles, with a white population of 1 in 25.

Now no one can believe that the future of the British Empire rests on its possession and development of its tropical dependencies. The course of civilization moves northward. Everything turns on the development of the Temperate Zones. And the Temperate Zones themselves move northward as the progress of invention makes work possible, and life comfortable, where once was death. Nor are the Temperate Zones in reality limited to the rigid boundary marked by the parallels of the Arctic Circle. As with the tropical regions, there is more than mere latitude to take into account. The prevailing ocean currents temper the climate of the western faces of the continents of the Northern Hemisphere. The effect of the Gulf Stream reaches even to Spitzbergen (between 74 and 81 degrees north latitude). Hence the lines that mark the levels of summer and winter cold and the lines of rainfall and moisture show a very different climate picture from the astronomical zones. And here the British Empire in the Northern Hemisphere is fortunate indeed. It largely escapes the great area of desert that encircles the earth and waits in vain for the rainfall that the set of the ocean winds denies to it. The belt of desert runs typically where the Temperate and Tropical Zones meet. In Asia the folds of the mountain ranges throw it higher up; the Desert of Gobi in Northern China occupies 300,000 square miles. The same belt appears in British India as the Thar Desert. A huge part of inland Arabia, one third, is blotted out with the desolation of Roba El Khali—the “empty place.” A belt of desolation crosses Africa from the Red Sea almost to the shores of the Atlantic (latitude 22 degrees north) broken only by the little strip of the green valley of the Nile to show what might be. In America the desert reappears in the south-west of the United States where the “desert on the march” now meets irrigation on the run.

In the Northern Hemisphere this relative absence of desert in the British Empire is added to the happy effect on the climate of winds and ocean currents. The great current moving eastward across the northern Pacific, the Kuro Shiwo Drift, makes British Columbia fertile and temperate up to 60 degrees north latitude, and the warmth and moisture carried east over the Rockies by the Chinook winds render the whole Mackenzie River Valley habitable and productive to the Arctic Circle.

In the Southern Hemisphere the British Empire is not so fortunate. The desert is there reproduced “between wind and water” as the dead heart of Australia and the Kalahari Desert of Bechuanaland. We may take it that the Temperate Zones of the Empire, in the true sense of suitability for the life and progress of the white races, must leave out the whole of India, Burma and the Malayan possessions; must leave out, but with a lingering backward look, the part of Australia north of the Tropic of Capricorn, and, with it, till science advances further, the dead heart of the Australian Continent. We may disqualify as too hot all Africa north of the Rhodesias, with a suspended judgment over Kenya-Uganda; and we may leave out as too cold all of Canada north of the parallel of 60 degrees which marks the northern boundary of the western provinces, except a sort of river corridor from the Great Bear Lake down the Mackenzie to the Arctic. In a sense we must leave out, in the east half of Canada, the most northerly part of Quebec Province and of Labrador, this last at present an appendage of Newfoundland. These regions are not truly habitable, but if people presently insist on living there, it’s hard to deny their presence. With metals enough, pulpwood enough and water-power enough, people will live in the dark with 50 below zero outside. We can abolish cold. Heat we can temper a little, indoors, but not abolish. There is no way to “air-condition” Trinidad and British Guiana. The white Empire knows nothing of Central America, nor of the South American mainland.

In detail, then, this is what we see of Greater Britain for British people to occupy. In Canada there is an area of about 2,500,000 square miles of land fit for occupation, with a present population of just over 11,000,000. Newfoundland, without Labrador, has 42,000 square miles and 288,000 people. For the Union of South Africa and the Rhodesias we may assign an area of 900,000 square miles, with a European population of 2,000,000. Temperate Australia, capable of white settlement, as far as climate goes, and capable of irrigation where now desert, is very difficult to estimate, but a reasonable conjecture may put it at 2,000,000 square miles. It now contains less than 7,000,000 white people, along with some 50,000 aborigines who live mostly in the “never never” country and count for nothing in political destiny. New Zealand, the most typically temperate and the most typically British of all the overseas territory, has an area of 103,000 square miles, all of it fit for occupation, as far as that can be said of any country. The population of 1,601,000 inhabitants contains only 86,000 native Maoris. They add a touch of colour and of history but are not a factor in development at large.

In such a picture the thing that “leaps to the eye” is the relative emptiness of the British Empire—some 22,000,000 people thinly spread over an area of nearly 6,000,000 square miles. This means less than 4 people to a square mile. Here are races the same or close in blood. Here is one common language, even if varied with smaller patches of bilingualism—the abiding French of French Canada, the wilful Gaelic resurrected in Ireland, and the uncertain Dutch of South Africa. Here is a common history, part of it of “battles long ago” that leave nothing but a twin glory as of the Plains of Abraham, part of it of conflicts still smouldering out as volcanic ashes slowly turn to rock. Majuba and the Tugela will some day sound to South African ears as Louisburg and Quebec do to us in Canada. This is the real Empire, so relatively empty in the midst of its vast resources that economically it is just beginning.

The statistics quoted above show, indeed, that in this outer Empire there live less than some 4 people to a square mile. The statistics as usual falsify the case. The Empire is even emptier than that. In modern machine civilization, population, even in new countries, crowds into industrial centres. Semi-agricultural occupations move into the city. The pig lives on the land but dies in the city, as a dressed hog. The farm raises food, but the city cans, preserves, distributes, advertises and sells it. Modern transport rushes commuters in and out of city suburbs in a daily tide, ebbing in the evening. Modern sky-scrapers swallow them by day. Hence agricultural Argentina, with only 12,761,000 inhabitants in all, crowds 3,500,000 into Buenos Aires and its suburbs. Uruguay, a cattle republic, of 2,087,000, has three quarters of a million people in Montevideo. Reckoning similarly, if we cut out the great city centres of the Dominions—Sydney with 1,267,000 inhabitants, Melbourne with 1,018,000, Greater Montreal with 1,000,000 inhabitants—and if we add to these three cities the population (3,640,000) living in the fourteen overseas British cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants each, we get a grand total of the dwellers in the greater cities of nearly 7,000,000. There are therefore outside of these cities only 2½ people to the square mile.


Connect with the realization of this emptiness the consideration of the enormous natural resources contained in the Empire. Remember further that the advance of mankind is now towards such temperate regions. The days of ivory and pepper and spices, of Nubian slaves and Indian muslins, have given place to the days of iron and steel and nickel, of grain and coal and oil and the hydraulic power of rivers fed from the northern snow. Of the primary world products, rubber alone—a newcomer—lingers in the tropical forest. But its days there are numbered. Shifting already from the forest to the plantation, sooner or later the advance of chemistry will send it the way of the guano bird and the silk-worm. Nature is too slow for northern energy.

This leads, then, to the discussion of the wealth and the resources of the British Empire.

Some Books for Reference

Oxford Survey of the British Empire. 6 vols. 1925.

Lucas, Sir C. P. Partition and Colonisation of Africa. 1922.

MacInnes, C. M. The British Commonwealth and Its Unsolved Problems. 1925.

Cromer (Earl). Modern Egypt. 1916.

King-Hall, S. Western Civilization and the Far East. 1924.

Zimmeon, A. The Third British Empire. 1926.


What is Wealth?—Prices in Money Do Not Measure Wealth—Physical Goods, Land and Natural Resources—The Trade of Past Epochs—Spices, Sugar, Ivory, Slaves—Trade of Today: Oil, Wheat, Rubber, Asbestos, Manganese—The World’s Supply of Food—Wheat and the Wheat Problem—Coal, Minerals and Metals—Eldorado and Aladdin’s Cave—Water-Power—Vast Possibilities of Expansion

“Wealth” means various things. St. Paul voiced the cheerful sentiment that each man ought to seek every other man’s wealth. It sounds good business; but he only meant “well-being.” The rubric of the Church of England speaks of the “days of our wealth,” as contrasted with the “hour of our tribulation”—this last term meaning the threshing out of grain with a flail. Our words often carry thus a forgotten depth of significance, lost in their superficial use by long generations. Few have fared worse than “wealth,” a moral term shifted to material things and thence to mere calculation in figures. The beginning of economic wisdom is found in restoring the idea of wealth to an earlier meaning, not moral but at least material. No true idea of economic wealth can be got from figures of money. Computations of bank credits, foreign investment, shares, debentures and government bonds, returns of income and public revenue—these things are not the substance of wealth but the shadow of it. They are certificates of a claim to wealth, or a contract about wealth or its disposal. They are like the flickering shadows on a fire-lit wall, as easily distorted as the moving shapes of Plato’s famous cave.

The realization of these truths is the first thing needed for clear economic vision, and in this respect most people are still blind or see only through a banker’s spectacles. In the great stock exchange crash of 1929 it was said that $100,000,000 of wealth disappeared in an hour. At least the banker thought it did. The farmer never saw it go. To take a very simple example—a farm is wealth. If the owner gives a mortgage on it, the wealth is still there, undiminished. The mortgage is just a statement about it. Or take a large example; if the United Kingdom has a national debt of £10,000,000,000 and the debt is all “held,” as it is called, by people in and of the United Kingdom, then, the nation as a total is no richer and no poorer thereby. One man’s debt is another man’s asset. The “debt,” reduced to a proposition in words, means that a certain number of the people (ever so many thousands of them) have received promises from all the people collectively, including themselves, to give them some day £10,000,000,000 worth of work and services and goods, and meantime to give the advances on it called interest. If the debt were cancelled, the people with no government bonds would gain, the people with them would lose. Broadly speaking, the poor are better off by paying less taxes and the rich worse off by getting no interest. The result as bookkeeping would cancel out. This is what happened when “inflation” exploded the old debts of Germany and Czarist Russia into nebulous gas. The wealth of the nation physically was undisturbed. Morally, the shock to confidence might knock off the edge of national willingness to work; just as a successful theft undermines both the character of the burglar and the confidence of a householder. Although it leaves the two together just as rich as before, the danger is that the householder may turn thief.

It is well to emphasize this distinction of physical values from money values and indeed to harp on it. The tune needs harping. Much of British and even of American policy has turned for its full interpretation on this simple point. When England in bygone decades “invested” huge sums in South America, to build railways, street-railways, electric plants and frozen-meat appurtenances, the “wealth” created was in Argentina and Uruguay, not in England. Of the 26,000 miles of railway in Argentina, 16,800 are owned by British investors; and in Uruguay 1,500 out of 1,700 miles. South America has the wealth, England only the promise of disposable wealth, still to come. If English “money,” meaning in reality English labour, services and foods, drilled oil wells and laid oil pipes in Mexico, it is Mexico that has the wealth. What England gets remains to be seen. If the United States—that is, certain of its citizens—have put “money” into Canada (estimated now at a total of about $4,000,000,000), the physical results accrue to Canada, not to the United States. In all such cases what the investor has is a promise. The Mexicans had the oil and the English had a promise to get some of it. When we say: “How rich is England! Nearly four billion pounds sterling of foreign investment!” the man from Mars, looking down on us, is unable to see it. He says how rich are the Argentines and the Mexicans, and how rich the Canadians are going to be!

In times not very long ago, this distinction made little difference. Foreign investments looked as good as property held at home, perhaps even better. They were backed up with vastly superior physical power. If interest failed, custom-duties could be collected by force, or goods seized, out of foreign ports. Universal gold money converted all things to a common currency. Bondholders leaned back against their government. Adventurous investors, were protected in their property, physically and morally, by an advance guard of “civilized” power in the dark places of the earth. When Europe opened up East Africa, the first vessel on Lake Tanganyika was a missionary launch fittingly named from the New Testament. But the second was a gunboat.

Those days are past. At present the uncertainties of war and peace, rebellion and revolution, the opportunities for repudiation, the lack of a universal mechanism of payment make the situation of a bondholding creditor of a foreign government or enterprise far other than what it was. Even on the moral side the issue is not absolutely clear, except to those for whom property is property, and a contract a contract, and with that an end of it. This view, clear as day to Lord Chancellor Eldon a hundred years ago, is dissolving now. Promises over-great, made under duress, altered by circumstance, broken away from equity, will never hold when physical force is lacking. The bearing of this on the development of Empire resources with Empire investment is obvious.

Estimates of total national wealth, as presented in statistical year books and books of reference, are always computed and stated in terms of money values. Of necessity the very magnitude of the calculation leaves room for error great in proportion. Such estimates are worked out in various ways. Income-tax returns can be turned back into figures of capital; the returns of inheritance taxes can show us how much wealth dead hands relinquish every year, and the certainty of death allows us from this to calculate a total; or plain questions can be asked in census returns and the answers rectified by a coefficient of crookedness. On such bases are framed the estimate that the total wealth of the United States is over $350,000,000,000 or that of Canada about $25,000,000,000. But observe how limited all such estimates are in their significance. Look out over a thousand square miles of unclaimed prairie, verdant and fertile, and you see, with such vision, not a pennyworth of money wealth. Look through a bank window in any market town and you see a ledgerful. The Canadian Territory of the Yukon covers over 200,000 square miles. Its “wealth,” when last heard from in our statistics, was put at $18,000,000—equal only to that of an average town of 7,000 people. Yet here is a territory spacious as a kingdom, with mountain ranges, waterways, woods and sunken valleys that hide uncalculated quantities of coal and copper, and the prospect of rich alluvial gold.

Such wealth indeed as money counts only comes into being where poverty begins. Only the touch of scarcity can create it. In a world of plenty it would vanish. Such is the unsolved riddle of our economic world, reflected wherever money tries to measure human welfare.

To get a true idea of the imposing wealth of the Empire we must think in terms not of money values, but of physical things—the brick and stone of cities long completed, of towns and cities building still, the farms and fields and homesteads, the machinery of the factories, the paved highways and travelled roads, the 140,000 miles of British-Empire railways—all these the product of long generations of industry, not yet ended. With this goes the huge annual production that underlies the commerce and the business of a quarter of the people of the globe; and, most imposing and inspiring of all, the vast undeveloped latent assets of forest and land, minerals and power, still to come to use. Thus in the wealth of the Empire we combine the heritage of the past, the day’s work of the present and the promise of the future.

But when we turn from money to the material things that are, that form the “wealth” of the world’s commerce today, it is strange how they contrast with the wealth of the earlier days of European expansion overseas. We recall from our earliest reading how Columbus poured the wealth of the New World into the lap of Spain; how the “flood of gold” came from Peru; how Asia sent out the priceless cargoes of spices of the Spice Islands, the sandalwoods of India, and the perfumes of Araby. The commerce of this earlier world turned upon gold and silver, diamonds, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, rare and fragrant woods and the capture and transport of slaves from the Guinea Coast.

All this picturesque and miscellaneous freight would be of little importance in the world of today. All the gold that ever came from Peru in one year of this historic flood could be added to the bank clearings of a single day in a modern city without any noticeable effect. Silver is a drug on the market, no longer real money but used only for the make-believe coins of small change, and sinking to the status of a “commodity,” like potatoes in a bag. A nation deprived of silver would hardly notice the difference. Diamonds are now so perilously easy to find that unless the output is restricted they will fall in value to the level of the coloured glass which mocks by its perfect similarity both the diamond and the human folly which prizes it.

Where now are the spices—the pepper, the cloves, the cinnamon—that gave the name of Spice Islands to the Archipelago of the East Indies? For the world of these earlier days, which had no ice in summer and knew nothing of the preservation of food in sealed tins, spices had to be used in inordinate quantities with food, to keep it from putrefaction and to give it a taste that would vanquish and overcome all others. A vestige of these earlier times is seen in our surviving taste for half rotten game and wholly rotten cheese. Small in bulk as compared with value, spices became the most lucrative articles of the world’s commerce. Chief of all was pepper. This is made from the berries of a climbing plant unknown to Europe but native to the jungles of Malabar and the East Indies. From time immemorial it came to Europe as a part of the blind trade that arose in the unknown East, and was passed on by the Arabs. Their own desert country gained thereby a false reputation as “Arabia felix” from which came the perfumes of Araby. When Alaric the Goth sacked Rome in 408 A.D., he exacted 3,000 pounds of pepper as a chief part of the ransom. This bid fair to break the city. Today it would be worth about $750. Hence pepper became a chief magnet along the new routes of discovery. The Portuguese, after the voyage of Vasco da Gama, made vast sums—what they thought vast—out of the pepper of the Spice Islands and later of West Africa. In England pepper was so valuable in the days of the Stuarts that Charles I was able to collect a tax of 5 shillings a pound on it. Allspice, cloves, nutmeg? What are these treasures now? Sunk from the palace to the kitchen—something the cook has in a pot, for which no charge is made at purchased meals.

As time went on, newer articles of trade from the East and from the tropics rivalled and surpassed the supremacy of spices. Coffee-houses belong to the spacious days of Louis Quatorze and Charles II. Tea-tables appear in force with Queen Anne, and in the eighteenth century sugar from the Sugar Islands of the West Indies filled a larger horizon than the products of the Spice Islands of the East.

But in our day the world’s production and trade has shifted to other commodities, unknown to earlier times or known only as curiosities. World wealth and world rivalry centre around such things as coal, rubber, petroleum, asbestos, manganese, pulp and paper, nickel, the cargoes of frozen meat crossing ten thousand miles of ocean and the mechanized grain farmed and gathered and carried by the power of machinery. Man’s earliest trade has dismissed his service.

For nearly all these leading commodities and their lesser fellows, the situation of the British Empire is singularly fortunate. But before attempting to set down here the estimates of the quantities of the great staple commodities produced in the British Empire, as compared with their total production in the whole world, it is necessary to remember that the pretentious figures called “world statistics” rest on a very uncertain basis. A hundred years ago, except in broad guesses at population and in a few limited trades, it was not possible to make calculations for all the world. Modern census and tax returns make them possible, and journalism makes them fashionable. The very attempt to compile them shows how the confines, in which our total humanity lives, have shrunken from the unknown and illimitable world of yesterday. Yet such estimates of world production must be taken with a grain of salt, and many of them with a pound of it. For Great Britain, the limited size of the country and the concentration of its commerce render it possible to compile very accurate statistics. Both the United States and Canada have used the decennial census as a basis of enumerated returns, carried forward year by year by vital statistics, customs entries and tax returns. Indeed in North America the “progress” idea keeps us counting and re-counting our numbers and our possessions with a watchful eye, anxious not to miss a single bushel of wheat or a single hog from the barn-yard. A man with one hen, I speak here of what I know, is glad to have her “enumerated” by the census taker. The other British white Dominions show the same pride in increase. Older countries feel it less. Hence the statistics of the older continents, beginning with clarity and certainty in France, grow dim as they move east, till they vanish in a mist in Russia, in a fog in Siberia, and midnight in devastated China. Indeed nothing of much certainty can be said of the economy of China since 1935, and even before that much is guess-work. Moreover, economic world statistics are never truly annual—never all for the same year. The United States Census is taken in decade years (since 1790). Those of British countries are taken in “the year one,” as 1941. Tabulation goes on for years, and in the less strenuous countries statistics tend to fall asleep, the old ones seeming good enough.

These government returns are supplemented by those of unofficial sources such as Lloyd’s and by the compilations and digests made up by leading banks. The League of Nations has done wonderful work in gathering world statistics through its Economic Intelligence Service. The unhappy League proved a poor general manager but a first-rate clerk. It may be added that of course the only statistics possible now are those for the years just preceding the present Nazi war. The year now opening overwhelms all economic life with darkness. Statistics are “blacked out.”

Take first in the category of wealth the food, the bread and meat supply with which all economic life begins. Here belong, as great commodities of world consumption, the grain crops of wheat and rye, barley, oats, and the grain known as maize in England, mealies in South Africa and corn in America. These and the beverages fermented and distilled from them are chiefly for the white races, although India and China both consume large quantities of wheat. Typical Asiatic foods are rice, millet and ground-nuts. On this grain and root crop of the world and on its pasture-grass is fed also the vast flock of domestic animals that supply our milk and meat. Nature hands over as its bonus the world’s supply of fish, needing nothing but the catching.

The annual grain output of all the world (wheat, rye, barley, oats and corn) is computed as between sixteen and seventeen thousand million bushels. Of this the world’s wheat represents 5,600 million bushels, and the wheat of the British Empire 1,016 million bushels. These estimates are based on an average of years just preceding the present war. Rye shows a world total of 1,700 bushels, but rye is chiefly grown, for bread, in Eastern Europe. Russia raises half the crop. In the United States it reappears (in rye whisky and otherwise) but only to the extent of 52 million bushels. The Empire, using white bread and Scotch whisky, has little need for rye, outside of Walkerville, Ontario. It raises only one per cent of the world’s rye. Next to wheat the world’s largest crop is that of maize (corn). Of this the Empire raises only 200 million bushels out of nearly 4,000 million. But this is a matter of preference, without strategic importance. The case is similar with oats, food shared with the horse, and barley shared with the beer drinker. There is no imperial anxiety about either. Of the typical Asiatic food crops, the world output is set at 135 million tons, British India raising 41 per cent of it. Similarly India raises over one fifth of the millet crop and one third of the ground-nuts that form a staple oriental food.

Turn now from the field to the barn-yard, from the bread box to the meat larder, where the Asiatic must largely stand aside. The stock of domesticated animals in all the world has been estimated as including 620,000,000 cattle with 70,000,000 buffaloes, these last in India and the East. Our American buffalo, except a few thousand in sanctuaries or reservations, have vanished. With the cattle are 670,000,000 sheep, of which over 100,000,000 belong in Australia alone. The Empire will never want for wool. The horse, man’s friend in life, counts his declining numbers at 80,000,000; even at that, 22,000,000 of the “horse” are mules and asses. But the horse, except in emergency, serves but little as human food, and all for work. Very different is the hog, who never works a day, man’s friend in death, estimated with his fellows as over 200,000,000. About a third of all the world’s pigs lived (and died) in China before the great devastation. All estimates for that country are based on the year 1935. The United States, with 45,000,000, is a good second. The fowls of the world, reckoned at 1,540,000,000, lay the 70,000,000,000 eggs needed for food for a year, and supply food as well. They are supplemented by 100,000,000 ducks, 65,000,000 geese and 18,000,000 turkeys. The United States here leads the world with nearly 400,000,000 fowls.

Next in order can be quoted sugar, made from sugar-cane, in the tropics, to the extent of 17,500,000 tons a year, and from beets in the Temperate Zones, 10,300,000 tons. The world uses each year some 840,000 tons of tea and 2,500,000 tons of coffee, either the adjunct of 725,000 tons of cocoa. The British Empire, as will be seen in detail later, is long on tea but short on coffee. These are tropical products for which the northern zones have vainly sought a substitute. The “Jersey” tea which patriotism vainly tried to swallow during the American Revolution is still bitter in the mouth of history, and bran coffee is at best a stomach-ache. The North takes revenge with the potato that shows a world crop of 250,000,000 tons, of which Ireland (Eire) leads the world in consuming potatoes per capita—man against man. The supply of sea fish is mostly from the temperate and northern oceans and runs to over 13,000,000 tons, Japan and its adjunct Korea supplying over 5,000,000. The 13,000,000 tons of apples, a northern fruit, outweighs all the oranges, bananas, lemons, limes and grape-fruit of the South put together. Tobacco, not food, but better, weighs in at 3,000,000 tons, with British India (540,000 tons) the chief Empire contributor, Canada, with 49,000 tons, being second.

For beverages, the British Empire has little to say for the 4,000,000,000 imperial gallons of wine, almost half of it from France and Italy, that the world drinks in a year; but the 1,000,000,000 imperial gallons of British and colonial beer can bid it an easy good-bye. Add our uncounted million gallons of Scotch whisky and a touch of Canadian rye, and life without wine is tolerable.

In this gigantic bill of fare of all the world, certain things appear at once in regard to the situation of the British Empire. The first is the obvious sufficiency and over-sufficiency of our food reserves and potential supply. Moreover, great as they are, they can be immensely increased before nature’s limit would impose a barrier. Both arable and pasture land are only partly in use. We can break up more land at any time when we are prepared to use it. We can increase crops by more intensive cultivation or further labour-saving machinery. There is no physical difficulty. The barriers are not those of nature. They lie in that paradox of wealth and want which compels mankind to starve in the midst of potential plenty. The least touch of abundance is reflected in a fall of price that puts the break on production, sends Brazilian coffee up in smoke and floats melons down the Potomac. A doubled crop in the British Empire would be destroyed or burned where it stood with people none the less hungry looking on.

This paradox, so I think, outside the realms of passion and religious quarrels, is the source of all human woes and international conflict.

Now among the Empire food products there are some that possess a sort of strategic economic importance. They enter in a special degree into the competition of world trade, affecting thus international exchanges and currencies and the cycle of good and bad times. The greatest of these is wheat. For the white races, bread is the staff of life, made from wheat and, to a lesser degree, in Eastern Europe, from rye. The staff on which the Asiatic leans, and which breaks even under his lesser weight, is rice. But the use of wheat is spreading, like the plant itself, all round the world. Wheat grows in both the hemispheres and in all the continents. It ripens to its best and hardest in the long sunlight of the northern day, an initial advantage accruing to Western Canada, where wheat pushes north even to the Arctic Circle. But the plant can grow also on the Equator, at a sufficient altitude, as is seen in the mountain regions of Africa. Wheat is raised in Abyssinia, 10,000 feet above the sea. On the other hand in countries of temperate climate, as in Great Britain, wheat grows at sea level.

Leaving out of count the uncertain elements of Chinese and Russian wheat, the world’s crop, averaged over ten years before 1938, was about 3,800,000,000 bushels. The year 1938 showed a record high figure of 4,328,000,000 bushels. Of this the United States produced, in millions of bushels, 940; India 402; Argentina 285; Germany 214; Rumania 181; and Australia 130 million bushels.

But this schedule of national production is a very different thing from the comparative export. The United States normally consumes more than 80 per cent of its wheat. In the year 1937-38 the export was only 5,000,000 bushels. In spite of the enormous volume of the crop, the export trade in wheat is a small matter in the industrial life of the nation. But to Canada the export is vital. We could no more eat all our own wheat than the Swiss can consume all their own scenery. In broad figures, over an average of five years, we consume 106,000,000 bushels a year and export from 90,000,000 to 250,000,000. Argentina similarly exports more than half of its average crop of 230,000,000 bushels. The Australian crop, although it varies greatly with seasonal conditions, carries also an export surplus that may run close to 100,000,000 bushels. These export crops come to the European market not at one annual time but practically all year round. Argentina wheat ripens in our winter, and of the Australian export a large part undergoes the delay involved by being brought under sail. The “sailing race,” once a year, of the few ships left of the type to carry wheat, recalls wistful memories of the days of the tea-races of the clipper ships and the disputed honours of the Ariel and the Taiping in 1866.

Even the export wheat of Canada is distributed practically throughout the year. A first part of it moves immediately after harvest by the St. Lawrence route to Great Britain. But at least a quarter of the export, all that comes from British Columbia and Alberta, now moves via the Pacific and the Panama Canal, arriving later, having had, so to speak, free storage for six weeks. Other wheat, a small portion, goes from the Hudson Bay port of Churchill. All through the winter wheat still goes out, from the lake-head elevators by rail to Halifax and St. John.

The point to be brought out is the peculiar nature of the world wheat market and the peculiar difficulty that would accompany any attempt at world regulation. Compare with the export countries those like Great Britain, which must import or perish, and those like France, which aims at self-sufficiency, eating its bread behind its garden wall.

For centuries Britain not only raised its own wheat but sold it abroad. Corn laws were meant to work both ways, keeping wheat at home or sending it abroad. The industrial revolution altered all this. The population of England increased from 6,500,000 in 1750 to 18,000,000 a century later. Yet England still raised about 100,000,000 bushels of wheat a year at the time when free trade let in cheap foreign wheat. The opening of the western prairies of North America and the mechanization of agriculture, where flat, empty land permitted operations impossible among English lanes and hedges, cut this wheat crop in half at the very time when the demand was doubling. Cobdenism, then called political economy, saw no harm in this. The prairie farmer was to feed England and England to supply his clothes. The logic of it seemed as clear as sunshine. The smokescreens of two world wars have since hidden all this horizon. It is being rediscovered now in Great Britain that agriculture still has never lost the place it first had in the Garden of Eden.

But contrast the case of France. Here is a country typically raising its own food and eating it. Its annual wheat crop of 335,100,000 bushels is practically all for home use. Hard northern wheat is grudgingly imported for the baker’s sake, or as one half of a trade bargain, but mainly France eats its own bread. This is a matter of national economy—or rather, in its essence, it is a matter of national history. When the French Revolution broke up the estates of France into thousands of small holdings, it made the mould in which the life of the nation has been cast. The peasant proprietors are the basis of the life thus moulded, their little crooked holdings, covering nearly all rural France. Their machineless agriculture, their tireless hand labour, could not stand against the competition of machine farming in America. But the dust storm of depression that devastates a Western farm leaves the French peasant snug behind his hedges. To keep him there, a high custom-duty must enable him to sell his home wheat to his fellow Frenchman at anything up to double the foreign price. Yet this immobile French supply, ready to export a surplus, or forced to import a shortage, is another factor in world wheat situation and strategy.

In this strategic arena the British Empire is happily situated. Its wheat supply is so wide-spread, and so distributed throughout this year, that famine, except locally in India, or by war-emergency in England, is far away. There is no wolf at the door. Moreover, in point of quality the wheat of Northern Canada leads the world. Long sunlight and winter cold, with plants as with men, will have their way. More than this, the wheat output of the Empire can be easily expanded if demand increases. In Canada only some 58,000,000 acres of arable land (90,000 square miles) are under cultivation, out of a total potential area of at least 550,000 square miles of what is officially classed as agricultural land. For wheat itself, science and experiment can carry the plant further north than its present limits. Intensive cultivation could in many places double its return. In the earlier days of the American and Canadian West it paid better to scratch than to dig. The best wheat land in the world gave the smallest crop. In Manitoba in the eighties many settlers raised only 10 bushels to an acre. A Scottish farmer of the Midlothians thought nothing of 40 bushels and supposed the Manitoban an ignoramus. But when the Scot migrated to Manitoba he saw light and scratched. Even now the prairie provinces of Canada in poor years average less than 10 bushels of wheat per acre. The Australian crop is also capable of great increase, but its augmentation lies rather in the hands of God than of man. With lots of rain, Australia can raise 200,000,000 bushels of wheat a year. A dry year will bring this a long way down, as in 1938, to 130,000,000.

There is a further peculiarity in regard to the world production of wheat. All commodities, especially those raised by the bounty of nature and not by the calculation of the factory, run the danger of “over-production.” In our world of economic paradox, “plenty” spells ruin. We must have just too little of everything or the machine goes out of gear. The extra bushel of wheat, the one hog too many, the superfluous egg uneaten—these break the price of all the rest. The remedy for this is not here under discussion—only the fact. To try to keep up the price by restricting output is of no avail. For after “less,” to keep the same effect, we must produce “still less,” and continue the process with less and less again, till production vanishes. Starvation is a poor remedy for hunger.

But while all commodities, both of the factory and the field, are liable to this periodic glut of over-production, wheat is conspicuous in being not only liable to it but sure of it. Every wheat-producing country must reckon on the fact that once in every so many years the price of wheat will collapse, owing to a superabundant world crop. Here no international agreement can prevail. The price of rubber for all the world may be adjusted by a few “rubber men” around a table. For years the diamond men have “got together.” The “nickel interests” and the “asbestos interests” can pool their production, and even “iron and steel men” form a sort of united front. But the wheat men are spread—all over the world—and reach back to Adam. “The men with the hoe” cannot get together; they must hoe apart. No international combination could successfully regulate the annual planting of wheat. All such allocation would play into the hands of the weakest and the crookedest. And the chief hand of all, in agriculture, holding the trump cards of sun and rain, is the hand of God.

The only national and Empire policy here to pursue is to go on growing wheat, the best in the world with the best methods, and to carry the dead-weight of the lean years by spreading the burden from the individual farmer to the nation at large. In good times the farmer, typically an easy mark, pays it all indirectly back in buying gramophones and motor-cars and investigating one pea under three thimbles at a Fall Fair. This advocacy of open international competition is a “survival doctrine,” a type that belongs in general to the outgoing age. But for the time it represents the best that we can do.

In one obvious way, however, we can at least mitigate it. The storage of Empire wheat in years of plenty, against the years of scarcity, and still more against the emergency of war and the isolation of Britain—this seems, now in war-time, as clear as sunshine, as obvious as day. Yet through twenty years of peace it was advocated in vain—a voice calling from Saskatchewan. There is no difficulty about it. Wheat in a dry cold atmosphere is almost imperishable. It loses about one per cent in its first year by evaporation, after that less and less, till there it lies in its pyramid beside its companion, the mummy of Amenhotep or Rameses, for whose nourishment it was set in his little plate four thousand years ago. The piling up of ten years’ supply in Britain would carry off the wheat surplus for years and years. Nor would any pay be needed; an elevator receipt is even now as good as gold.

Turning from food to drink—the comfortable and highly strategic position of the Empire in regard to Scotch whisky and Canadian rye has already been noted. In regard to the beverages which cheer but do not intoxicate, the Empire is long on tea, is short on coffee but stodged with cocoa. Tea is the British drink par excellence. The average Britisher, at home in his own islands, consumes annually about ten pounds of tea against the three quarters of a pound needed for an American. But the Britisher does all year with three quarters of a pound of coffee and an American needs eleven.

The English took naturally to tea. We do not wonder at it when we think of the poor slops in the way of small beer, and such, which they drank at breakfast, or instead of breakfast, in Elizabethan days. Tea first appeared with James I. People paid fifty dollars (£10) a pound for it. Even at the Restoration it still sold at 15 to 50 shillings a pound. But it made its way on its merits. The first recorded tea advertisement reads, “That excellent and by all physicians approved China drink called by the Chineans Tcha, by other nations Tay alias Tee, is sold at the Sultanesses Head, a Coffee House in Sweetings Rents, by the Royal Exchange.” Pepys in his Diary for 1666 (Sept. 21) writes, “I did send for a cup of tea, a China drink of which I had never drunk before.” The British conquest of India and the cession of Ceylon (1815) proved the bases of the tea supply—cause and effect intermingled. The Empire production before the present war represented some 300,000 tons, or over one third of the world’s total of 850,000 tons.

Coffee, and with it the coffee interest, lies mainly outside the Empire. Coffee has no “strategic” meaning to tea drinkers. The plant came from Abyssinia to Arabia and spread through the tropical world. Coffee came to England with the “coffee-houses” of the Restoration; it brought with it sociability, discussion, and such by-products as Lloyd’s, the insurance company, which began as a coffee-house, and the London Clearing House, originally a sociable meeting of bank messengers. But tea, the home brew, beat it out in British favour. Of the world’s annual 2,500,000 tons of coffee, the greater part comes from South America (Brazil alone, 1,500,000 tons). British India produces about 17,000 tons, and British Africa about twice as much. This, with a small supply from the West Indies (Jamaica), brings the Empire product of coffee up to some five per cent of the world’s total. On the other hand, for cocoa, the British Empire (Nigeria and the Gold Coast) has about one half of the world’s supply.

The sugar problem once vexed the world. It gave to the West Indian plantations their dominant importance in the eyes of the rival European nations of the old colonial days. But the world of sugar, rum and slaves has passed away, with oblivion to veil its horrors. Napoleon’s initiation of beet sugar shifted world values. At present the annual cane crop is 17,000,000 tons, of which 3,500,000 is from British India. But the beet sugar crop is over 10,000,000 tons and can be indefinitely increased in any temperate country with arable soil.

Another vanishing king is King Cotton, once so called as holding the balanced destinies of Great Britain and America. But cotton is largely grown, not only in the United States, but in Egypt, British India, Brazil and China. The United States grows one half of the world’s cotton; the Empire, chiefly in India, about one eighth. The years 1936-39 were marked by successive record crops with a huge carry-over each year. In the United States, by 1938, production had to be restricted. More ominous is the fact that cotton, like silk, is now being replaced by synthetic (factory-made) fibre. Nature is too slow. Cotton is going the way of the silk-worm, the whale and the rubber tree. Some day the waving fields and the lowing kine will be all replaced by chemical factories. Meantime there is room in India and East Africa for all the cotton that we care to plant.

From food we turn to fuel. And here the Empire resources in coal are so stupendous as to need little comment beyond a murmur of satisfaction. The Victorian world, before hydro-electric power and petroleum, was afraid coal might “run out.” Its use was so new, so rapidly developed, so essential to British industry that such a prospect meant disaster. Coal is indeed modern in its use. Mediterranean civilization was too warm to need it. Britain lived on its forests. In America, the hard anthracitic coal, the best in the world, lay unused; “stone coal” the settlers called it—too hard to burn. Even in Queen Anne’s time (1700) only 2,500,000 tons were mined in England. This changed with the new industry that smelted iron ore with coal. There were warnings of apprehension from economists. There always are; apprehension is their business. In 1865 Stanley Jevons of Manchester, in his Coal Question, discussed possible exhaustion. New coal beds and new sources of power put the question to sleep. Yet consumption went on at such a pace in the present century that the coal question woke from its sleep, just after the Great War. At that time the world’s annual production of coal for all purposes averaged about 1,200,000,000 tons. The United States mined each year some 500,000,000 and the United Kingdom over 200,000,000. A Royal Commission on Coal Supplies, in 1926, “looked forward to a time not far distant” when there would be “a period of stationary output” and then “a gradual decline.” But this apprehended “exhaustion” of coal has gone the way of all such fears—like the exhaustion-limit of wheat in North-West Canada as reported to the government in the middle nineties; like the exhaustion of oil, already overdue in 1940, and of rubber and of much else. Such exhaustion is a sort of phantom that retreats as we approach it. In the case of coal, the supply will probably long outlive our use of it. According to a report of the Imperial Institute, which represents the last word on minerals, the deposits in Canada alone “next to those of the United States and China, are the largest in the world and amount to nearly 500,000,000,000 tons.” The British Isles, it is estimated, contain 160,000,000,000 tons. Even apart from the British and Canadian coal, the Empire has large deposits in all the Australian States, except through the middle of the continent. The brown coal beds of Victoria alone are estimated to contain 10,000,000,000 tons. The only weak spot in the coal structure of the Empire is that in British North America the coal lies all to the east and to the west, with the centre (as yet) ill supplied and heavily importing hard coal from the United States.

But in any case old King Coal no longer sits on his Victorian throne. Science will soon teach us to burn coal on the spot, underground or at the pit-head, and transmit it as electric power; to squeeze it out into petroleum; or to do without it altogether. Wind and tide and rushing water contain illimitable power. We need not weep for coal. It connects with a period of human history, heavy and grimy with dust, and weary with infinite lifting. Man in thus mastering nature was still nature’s underground slave. Beside it are the newer sources of power, rapid as explosion, clean and exhilarating as a waterfall. The motor-car hums gently with regulated explosions. One night watchman tends vast, noiseless dynamos. The machine does it alone. Man is discharged. His problem now is not that of work, but how not to work and yet divide fairly the superabundant production of a mechanized world. The coal question is vanishing with its coal dust.

The winds as yet we cannot harness; the tide still challenges us, unused; the utilization of the greatest force of the universe, the disintegrating atom, is still a dream. Yet, if we could disintegrate the atom fast enough, the energy of one tea-spoonful of disintegrating mud, so says a modern scientist, would carry a steamship across the Atlantic.

But the water-power of lakes and rivers falling to the sea and lifted back as clouds—this is already ours. And here the British Empire, as outside of the British Isles, comes fully into its own. Estimates of the potential water-power of all the globe are of necessity only more or less scientific guesses. There are vast rivers such as the Amazon and its branches, the Congo River system, the rivers of the far north in Canada, yet untouched and scarcely known. The energy now in use in 1940 amounts to about 65,000,000 horse-power. Of this 17,700,000 is in the United States and 8,199,000 in Canada. The only other part of the Empire with a notable development of hydro-electric power, relative to size and population, is New Zealand, with an installation of over 200,000 horse-power, complete or nearing completion. The estimates of available horse-power not yet utilized run to about ten times the present development for the world at large. Even in Canada, which has been foremost in the field, the eight million developed horse-power is only about one fifth of the total. The possibility of better methods of transmission and a still larger mechanism of generation carry far beyond present vision, just as potential power—water, wind, current and radiation—out-distances all possible estimates of future machine use. In this mechanical and physical world, man, its master, limps miserably in the rear, trying to adjust himself to his heritage and his creation.

The world’s oldest mechanical industry is that of iron. Mythology has it that Tubal Cain, or Hephaestus, or somebody straight out of Hades and accustomed to fire, first taught man to melt and fashion iron. There are Egyptian iron blades 5,000 years old. The industry, from simple beginnings with wood fires and leather bellows and Catalan forges, has grown and multiplied to the vast lurid majesty that lights at night the valleys of the Alleghany and the Ohio. All the world has iron ore, of a sort, and all the world can make steel, of a kind. Iron ore is one of the few world supplies that can truly be called inexhaustible. There are vast deposits all over the globe, including many, like those of inland Brazil, as yet untouched and beyond all present reach. Geologists tell us that the workable ore beds of the globe comprise 30,000,000,000 long tons. With a present annual utilization averaging, before the present war, less than 200,000,000 tons, we are all right for nearly two centuries. After that we can look around.

For the first hundred years of the modern iron and steel industry, Great Britain led the world. This was a leading feature of the British industrial supremacy, a product of circumstance, good fortune, and bold initiative, impossible in the nature of things to maintain at its highest lead. In Queen Anne’s reign England produced only a few thousand tons of pig iron in each year. The new process of using coal to melt the ore created the modern industry. In 1740 there were produced in Great Britain 18,000 tons of pig iron. In 1820 the whole world output was only a million tons; in 1850 about four and three quarter million; of this Great Britain produced 2,250,000 tons and the United States 630,000. For a generation Britain was steel maker to the world at large. The American industry, more favoured by nature, overhauled the British in great strides. By 1890 the United States produced 9,000,000 tons of pig iron and Great Britain less than 8,000,000. France and Germany followed rapidly. In the industrial world between wars (1918-1939) the British Empire, while amply able to supply all its own demands and with abundant national resources in reserve, counted for but a minor part of the world’s iron and steel production. Three countries—the United States and France with either Sweden or the Soviet Union as a third—contributed each year two thirds of the total of the world’s iron ore. The United Kingdom in a typical year, as apart from the great slump of 1932, produced only about 6 or 7 per cent, and the whole British Empire less than 20 per cent of the world’s ore. In the production of steel the latest year reported showed a world total of about 120,000,000 tons, of which the Empire produced only one ninth.

But these figures of gross production must be interpreted in the side light of the relative self-sufficiency of the industry. Iron ores are of various compositions, and must, especially in our newer world of machinery of infinite complexity, be mixed with other ores to form alloys for special purposes. Most important of these is manganese, indispensable to the making of steel. This twin sister of iron, scarcely known by name to the everyday world of ordinary people, undistinguished from iron ore till the end of the eighteenth century, has now become vital to our means of life and to our mechanism of death. Unknown though it was, it is widely distributed over the globe and out beyond it, recognizable in the atmosphere of the sun, in sea-water and in mineral drinks. Engineers tell us, technically, that manganese is “the only agent which can be economically employed as a deoxidizer and desulphurizer in blast furnace operations.” In other words, we can’t make proper steel without it. The only great power which has a self-sufficient supply of manganese, for its full industry, is Russia. But the Empire contains large resources in India, the Gold Coast and South-West Africa. In a pre-war year of a world production of over 6,000,000 tons, India had about 1,000,000, South-West Africa over 600,000 and the Gold Coast over 600,000. The weak side in the Empire situation in regard to iron and steel is the long water-haul of material needed to integrate the industry at its centres. This applies however to the strategy of war rather than to the commerce of peace. For our proper occasions a thousand miles of water means less than fifty miles of land.

It is characteristic of the world of today to put an extraordinary premium on super-excellence. The last little increment of higher talent, or greater utility, obtains a disproportionate reward. A film actor just a little better than the next gets a hundred times as much. A metal compound with just a touch of extra hardness, or lightness, outranks its fellows. Just as one touch of nature makes a whole world kin, one touch of vanadium makes cutting steel; one filament of tungsten, burning without extinction, gives light to the indoor world. Hence the world nowadays lives, and dies, by its conjunction with a lot of queer metals of which the ancient world knew nothing, or knew only as curiosities. Vanadium, as a chemical element, was discovered in 1801. But its adaptability to harden steel was only found in 1896. Even then it was too rare to use, till the deposits discovered in Peru (1905) brought it to the world’s industry. Peru is still the chief source of supply, but for most of these auxiliary metals of the steel industry the British Empire is singularly well placed. Conspicuous is the case of nickel, of which Canada produces, in the district of Northern Ontario, about 90 per cent of the world’s supply.

In point of history and prestige, gold ranks as the noblest of the metals. Every language carries the stamp of such phrases as “a heart of gold,” “as good as gold,” the “golden mean” and the “golden age.” Even the Gates of Heaven are gold. Of late years dismal economists have tried to sneer gold out of existence as money—antiquated as a stage-coach, far inferior to an index number and a managed currency. For a little while, gold money trembled for its existence, and, apart from money and prestige, the metal is of little worth. But the first danger of war, and now war itself, have restored gold to its throne. You can’t buy foreign munitions with an index number. This is all to the good fortune of the Empire, the world’s greatest gold producer by a lead that leaves the others nowhere. The marvellous sunken mountain of gold that forms the Witwatersrand of South Africa is matched, and presently will be surpassed, by the Aladdin’s Cave of mineral wealth (gold, copper, nickel) of the land of desolation that fringes the sunken coast of the James and Hudson Bays.

The world’s production of gold now runs to an annual total of about 36,000,000 fine ounces. The method of calculation, familiar for three generations, reckoned each ounce as $20.67. The United States has since redefined its dollar (1939) to mean 15-5/21 grains instead of 23.22. But this dollar is not coined, and the metal is sold in terms of the paper money of each country, at present $35.00 in the United States and $37.50 in Canada. But following the count in weight the present output is divided—South Africa, 12,000,000 fine ounces; Canada, 5,000,000; and Soviet Russia (believe it or not) anything from 5,000,000 to 8,000,000.

Beside these greater metals are: copper, of which the chief Empire supply is in Canada, potentially vast and even now about one tenth of the world’s production; tin, of which one third of the annual supply comes from British Malaya; and lead, where again Canada supplies one tenth. Silver is of little strategic consequence. The output of Canada (22,700,000 fine ounces in 1937) with that of Australasia (14,100,000 ounces) is one tenth of the total world production. The metal aluminum is of great and growing importance by reason of its uncanny lightness and tensile strength. It is an element, but never found by itself in nature. For aeroplane construction and for transmission lines, it is of unequalled utility. Its production is increasing by leaps and bounds, from 70,000 tons in 1913 to over 600,000 in 1938. The Empire, in the British Isles themselves, produced in 1938 nearly 25,000 tons; and in Canada is also ample potential supply.

Most strange of all metal deposits in the world is radium, filled with future meaning for the world’s curse or blessing. Here is, as it were, a left-over piece of creation, still disintegrating and discharging itself in atomic volleys when the other metals “ceased fire” and sank dead millenniums ago. All the world knows of the beneficent power of this atomic discharge against disease. No one can tell yet what its incalculable meaning may be as a source of power if its outgoing energy of explosion can be speeded up. Theoretically a spoonful of it would blow up a battleship. But it refuses to hurry; it takes its time; a million years is nothing to it. As yet its energy is held back from the devil’s innings of war. Till a few years ago, such radium as the world had recovered came from the Belgian Congo, with a minute output from what was Czechoslovakia. But radium has been obtained (1933) in the rocks of the Great Bear Lake in the far West of Canada, on the Arctic Circle. Nature had guarded it with Arctic cold and barren rocks and fierce river gorges that denied ascent. The aeroplane flutters down as gently as a bird, and a new chapter is added to the unveiling of that grim and desolate region. The Canadian output of 30 grams a year lowered the world price to $40,000 a gram, and now to a bargain price of $20,000. Even at this same bargain scale of value by weight, a bag of potatoes would be worth rather more than three quarters of a billion dollars.

Among the conspicuous world products outside of the field of metals is asbestos, of which the chief supplies are in Canada, Rhodesia and Siberia. The Canadian field alone, about 60 per cent of the total, can easily suffice for Empire needs. For rubber, one of the greatest strategic products, the chief British source of supply is in Malaya. For the production of paper from wood-pulp the British Empire has the long lead of the forests of Canada and Newfoundland. The industry is eating itself off the earth. Something will have to happen, unless we substitute hearing for reading, and the “morning paper” and the “advertisement” go the way of all grass. Books alone, apart from newspapers, would never overstrain the forest that first (from its beech trees) gave them its name. The world’s consumption of paper is reported as about 30,000,000 tons. This obviously can’t go on. But instead of something happening, something may “turn up,” and at least we, in the Empire, can keep our newspaper longest.

For petroleum the outlook is poor. Of the vast annual production that flows as a river of oil—272,000,000 metric tons—the British Empire contributes little more than a rivulet, 5,900,000; from Burma, 1,000,000; from Trinidad, 2,500,000. The oil from Iran and Iraq is under British financial control, but not political sovereignty; and the supply is beset and bounded by all the rivalries of a world at war. Oil, indeed, is the chief shortage of the British world, and may be thus indicated last in our cornucopia of plenty, as a wholesome reminder, like a death’s-head at a feast.

Such is in outline the aspect of the vast material resources, active and latent, of the British Empire. To set these assets down in terms of money would merely be to substitute the shadow for the substance. And in any case, as said at the outset, money is but a poor measure of the value of physical things. Money value does not emerge until scarcity brings a purchaser, and until transport makes purchase possible. For uncounted centuries the flowers blossom over a thousand miles of prairie—flowers, field and all as worthless as the breeze that fans them. But all real calculations of national wealth must set these unredeemed assets, at least for such an Empire as ours, in the very foreground.

Yet there is one portion of British wealth which of necessity must be reckoned by its money value for lack of any other means of computation. By this is meant the enormous total of “foreign investment” which forms one of the mainstays of immediate imperial strength. It was commonly reckoned before the Great War of 1914 that British overseas investment represented £4,000,000,000—to use the customary measure of the pound sterling, without multiplication into dollars. It is estimated for the eve of the present war at about £3,692,000,000. Any such comparison must of course take further account of the shift in general world prices during the period. With higher prices the investment means less in goods, its only ultimate meaning. World prices, computed with 1913 as the base of 100, rose to nearly three to one at the peak of 1920 and stood in 1938 at about 107. But even as thus reduced, the total of British outside investment is formidable, and, until now, unequalled. This vast overseas proprietorship came as a historical consequence and legacy of the British industrial advance of the nineteenth century. In the factory industries, in the railroad and ship-building of the age of steam, Great Britain, and here especially England, was for a long time the first in the field and the rest nowhere. England made the world’s cotton goods, built the world’s iron ships, rolled the rails for the railways and sent overseas its contractors with their trained “navigators,” or navvies, to do the work unlearned as yet by foreign hands. Free trade brought cheap food and high profits, and the profits went pouring overseas again for further investment. The United States in its industrial infancy fed on British capital. Money from England took up State loans—some still unpaid—financed banks, railroads, canals and steamboats that carried the new tide of migration from the old States to the Mississippi between 1830 and 1850. As early as 1836, $90,000,000 had gone into railways and canals, the bulk of it English money.

The speculation was good and bad. Some of the money went into Pennsylvania bonds, or into imaginary real estate in the marshes of the Mississippi. We are told that a part of the glorious profits of Pickwick sank thus in the Mississippi mud, to come up as dragon’s teeth in the satire of Martin Chuzzlewit’s New Eden. But in the main the profits were vast. Interest on State bonds was 5 and 6 per cent; for companies and banks, it ran to 10. Investors could afford to lose part for the sake of the rest. Even when the flood tide of imported money had been largely replaced by native streams, the United States, at the opening of the present century, could absorb about 20 per cent of outgoing British capital.

British money built the railways and supplied the industrial equipment of Argentina and Uruguay. When the electrical age began in 1880, British capital went overseas, as apparatus, machinery and technical services, to light the streets and generate the power of half a dozen South American capitals, as well as those of its colonies. It built the railroads of India, dug the mines of South Africa and, in the form of vast shipping companies, carried the ocean commerce—quite literally, at the opening of this century—of half the world. . . .

This overseas investment of British capital takes various forms, some of which can be accurately traced and calculated while others can only be computed as estimates and inferences, shading off into experienced guess-work. The latest (December, 1939) of the masterly series of tabulations made annually by Sir Robert Kindersley, showed the grand total of British overseas investment as standing at £3,692,000,000. A certain part of this, accurately traceable, is represented by investment in the bonds of Dominion, Colonial and foreign governments and municipalities. The grand total of all this stands at £1,398,000,000, the greater part being invested inside the Empire (over £1,000,000,000). The money invested in such public loans in foreign countries, and expressed in millions of pounds sterling, shows European countries owing 107—the Argentine, 35; Brazil, 72; Chile, 19; China, 25; and Japan, 42. It must be remembered that some of these holdings are not really British, but merely negotiated through London to the credit of outside holders. Of the interest on foreign government bonds 42 per cent is paid away to foreign municipal interest. Even in the case of Dominion and Colonial governments 12 per cent of the interest goes out of England. Australia, where the railways were built as state enterprises on borrowed capital, has absorbed more in government loans from London than any other imperial partner (£430 million outstanding); India with Ceylon is next with 245; New Zealand shows 122; then Canada and Newfoundland, 116; and South Africa, with Rhodesia, 109.

Another vast block of overseas investment (a total of £1,210,000,000) is represented in the capital of British companies operating abroad, the original method of investment par excellence in new and undeveloped places. Such companies are under purely British control with headquarters in London. Money was thus invested to build railways, to establish banks and general industrial concerns, for tea and coffee planting, later on for electrical and power industries and for mines, oil, rubber and the things of today. Most of the money (70 per cent) is invested in stocks (share capital, as named in England) and the rest in bonds and debentures (loan capital). Putting the two together, railway investment is the largest item—over £80,000,000 in India; about £30,000,000 in the Dominions and Colonies; in the United States, only £1,600,000; foreign railways throughout the world, almost £400,000,000. These investments, in British Companies, must not be confused with the money placed in American, Canadian, and other outside railway companies as mentioned below. From these British Company securities, at the height of the post-war good times (1929), British investors received £67,700,000 in dividends and £18,000,000 in bond interest (£86,000,000 in all). The slump of the thirties cut the total in half, but it now is back to £69,000,000.

The Empire in Africa

A third large class of investment obviously less controllable by Britain is found in the money placed by British residents in companies registered abroad. These represent, in shares and bonds together, a total of £685,000,000. Among the big items are the Dominion and Colonial railway companies, £210,000,000, including the British investment in the Canadian Pacific Railway company; United States railways, £47,600,000; foreign banks, £38,200,000; commercial and industrial companies, £100,000,000; and mines—South Africa, Canada, etc.—£83,200,000.

To this long and imposing category Sir Robert Kindersley’s estimate adds a parting gift of another £400,000,000 to stand for various private and miscellaneous investments not in market form—such as private estates, and private money used abroad in a variety of ways not traceable as share or loan capital.

Common sense demands certain qualifications to the exuberance of the above account. Much of the overseas capital, especially in war-time, is unrealizable in any immediate form of purchasing power. It is “frozen” by the exchange control of our own and foreign governments. Much of it is, in the simple sense of the word, “lost”—the loans to Brazil, on which interest has stopped; the £40,000,000 that went into the clogged pipes of Mexican oil companies, and much else. Nor indeed can any overseas investment, dependent on the will of a foreign government, be altogether safe. The days when a paramount power could compel small debtor nations to live up to a contract, no matter what they thought of it; the days when the company shareholder was protected in darkest Africa by a missionary and a gunboat; the Cobdenite days when all men were to be brothers and all doors open to the commerce of a cosmopolitan world—that world has vanished. The lurid panorama of recent object lessons from Shanghai to Warsaw, from Prague to Helsingfors, has dissipated it into thin mist. One dollar under the flag is safer, and in the long run, better, than two outside of it.

Fortunately the turn of things has for some time been shifting British investment from outlandish adventure to Empire development. In 1880 it was calculated that only 20 per cent of annual new British overseas investment remained British. At the present time 60 per cent remains under the flag. British capital in Canada alone now stands at $2,884,000,000—with an infinity of room to expand.

For it is this possibility of further expansion that gives its real meaning to the wealth of the Empire, monetary and physical. This is no dead civilization of an Egypt, dying beneath the dusty pyramids for which it gave its life. For us the Empire is still all space, and light and air. Its wealth is opportunity—beyond the count of any counting-house.

Some Books for Reference

Statistical Abstract of the United Kingdom.

Statistical Abstract of the United States.

League of Nations Statistical Annual.

Canada Year Book (Annual).

Cunningham, J. C. The Products of the Empire (1921).

—— Strategy of Raw Materials.

Jenks, L. H. Migration of British Capital to 1875 (1927).

Copland, D. B., and Weller. The Australian Economy (1933).


The Ordered Series of Empire Governments—The Outside Fringe of Mandates and Protected States—The Protectorates; Indirect Rule over Natives under Their Own Law—Crown Colonies—Government by Officials Only—Councils with Nominated Members—Colonies with Elected Assemblies—Representative Government—Semi-Responsible Government—The Government of the Empire of India—India and Dominion Status

If you had asked a Canadian just before the outbreak of the present war, “Does Canada have to go to war if Great Britain does?” he would have answered, “Of course not.” Then if you had asked him, “And will Canada go to war if Great Britain does?” he would say, without hesitation, “Oh, yes.” Then if you had gone on to ask, “Why?” he would have reflected a little and said, “Oh, because we’d have to.”

With which you would get a first introduction into what may be called the paradox of British government, its perpetual contrast between things in the abstract and things as they are. It is filled with legal fictions as transparent as John Doe, such as that the King becomes a Presbyterian as soon as he enters Scotland but loses it again on the way back; or such as that every British subject in England is a member of the Church. It lays down rights that are not used. For nearly five hundred years the Members of Parliament had the right to two shillings a day from their constituents when they went up to Westminster. It ceased to be “the thing” to ask for it, somewhere in the fourteen hundreds, but the right went on till 1910, when pay began again. Similarly anybody accused of murder in the England of the Middle Ages had the right, if a gentleman, to trial by wager of battle. If he was a lord, he could, if busy, send one of his men. This right got forgotten till a certain accused murderer asked for it, and got it, in 1818. British government also assigns penalties that get forgotten. Nobody nowadays is punished for not going to church on Sunday, except soldiers and sailors, but supposedly anybody can be fined a shilling a Sunday for it. Compare also the long list of offices which have lost all their duties and retain nothing but the pay—those of the First Lord of the Treasury and the Lord Privy Seal; or have lost both the duties and the pay, as have the offices of the Steward of the Chiltern Hundreds and the Escheator of Munster. Put beside these the quaint offices that recall earlier dignity—the Norroy King at Arms, the Pursuivant Unicorn, the Red Dragon and the Black Rod—but sound like a winning hand at poker; or such mysterious functions as those of the Keeper of the Swans and the Clerk of the Checque; or the various posts of honour that recall bygone history—the Warden of the Cinque Ports, the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard, the Lord of the Stanneries. But most of all consider the complicated and important functions—no mere forms these—which rest simply on an understanding that such and such a thing is the proper thing to do. There is no legal obligation on a British ministry to resign if unsupported, none whatever for selecting ministers from a particular party, or for ministers to be members of Houses of Parliament—in short the whole of the cabinet government is just a way of doing things.

This dependence on habit, or custom, runs all down the history and all across the practice of British government, from the Saxon Heptarchy to the present Commonwealth of Nations. The world has always been very old. There has always been a good old way of doing things; and this, by their temperament, the British people prefer. A new law is made by calling it an old law, as was done in the Magna Charta of 1215—and already an old trick at that.

Nor is this system mere antiquity. It follows us down. We no sooner set up an organization by law than it gathers round it in the current of history a set of customs, a way of doing things, as watercress gathers in a running stream. Every parish council has its own “ideas”; every cricket club its own way of running its affairs, and even every family its own system of how to keep Christmas and what to give to father.

The French love regulation and a code. They like to know where they are beforehand. The British prefer to wait till after; there’s time enough then, and, in any case, everything depends. Hence British government, especially in the parent Isles, has accumulated around it a cloud of anomalies, inconsistencies, and obsolescences like its own insular fog. Through these the Briton finds his way by the guidance of common sense. All attempt at straightening it out only makes it the more illogical. The Magna Charta, as indicated above, is largely fiction, and the Great Statute of Westminster of 1931, the last settlement, is in its way the most complete mess of the lot. After that no one can tell what the Empire essentially is. It passes into that class of things indicated by English words and phrases which all understand but none define; such as “gentleman,” of which no gentleman would care to indicate the meaning; such as what is and what is not “cricket”; and, above all, what is “the thing.” This last becomes after all the test and criterion of British government; thus, could a Dominion under the Statute of Westminster secede out of the Empire? It could, but it wouldn’t be the thing, and therefore no Dominion would do it.

Nor has mankind yet found a more real basis of free government after three thousand years of search.

Yet, admittedly, for foreigners, the understanding of our government is difficult. Talleyrand said of the British constitution, “Elle n’existe pas.” Mr. Gladstone didn’t go so far as that, but he said that it relied more than any other on the good sense and understanding of those called upon to administer it. He meant that the constitution was whatever he thought it was, like the McGregor at the head of the table. George III said that we ought to venerate the constitution even when we couldn’t understand it—a gratifying doctrine for ourselves but of no great help to foreigners.

Now there was in the Greek mythology a hero called Theseus, who managed to find his way in and out of the Labyrinth of Crete. He was, as we would say in America, “out after Minotaur,” and the trick he used was a thread. He stuck to that.

The thread to the labyrinth of British government is found in the history and status of the monarchy. From that you can analyze all the rest. The first thing to notice is that all acts of government are supposed to be done by the King—not merely in his name, but actually by him. All Acts of Parliament, British and Dominion, except only Eire, contain an enacting clause stating that the King makes them. “Be it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty,” so runs the Statute of Westminster. Orders in Council state that “His Majesty in Council does order and it is hereby ordered.” The King informs Parliament what he is doing with his army and is glad to tell them that his campaign against the Wazoo hillmen has restored peace to his Empire. He thanks his House of Commons for the money they have supplied—not the House of Lords; they haven’t given him any for five hundred years. In other words, all legislation and administration are done by the King. So also with appointment. If you are appointed, let us say, Chief Commissioner of the Chignecto Canal, it is done in a document which tells you that, whereas it has become apparent to His Majesty that it would be of use to his Empire to cut a canal, dike, ditch, trench or other excavation, to intersect the neck of land known (to the King) as the Isthmus of Chignecto between his Province of New Brunswick and his Province of Nova Scotia, he has therefore entrusted this task to his trusty and well-beloved—and so forth. The document sets you wondering how it came that the King had been thinking about the Chignecto Canal all these years, and selecting you as just the man for it—which is exactly the meaning and magic of British government. To make the case truly British, the sequel should be that the canal is never cut but that there continues to be a Commissioner of the Chignecto Canal, whose duties are purely social—along with the Garter King at Arms and the Pursuivant Unicorn and those other people.

Let it be added further that the King carries on all justice, punishing offences, from motor speeding to murder, and is head of the Church of England and head of the Church of Scotland.

This fantastic appearance has behind it a reality of great meaning and value. In it is all our history; without it there would be no Empire today. This vast fiction carries back to the time when the King really did control the whole government, let us say, the period of the Norman Conquest. As a matter of fact, that also is partly legal fiction. No King ever controlled everything, and the Norman Conquest could also be called the Saxon Absorption of the Normans. Most of our government is Saxon in origin. The Normans just sat on top of it, as children play, “I’m King of the castle.”

But let it go that the King controlled everything, or at least ordered everything. Yet he needed in those pious days a Keeper of his Conscience—a very delicate matter for men like William Rufus. So he had to have a Chancellor (even before William the Conqueror) to advise him on ghostly matters. This presently meant that the Chancellor took over all the ghostly matters himself. Also the King needed someone to look after his money. The children’s rhyme runs, “The King was in his counting-house, counting out his money.” But I doubt if any could, before Queen Elizabeth, or perhaps her father. They had no proper numerals for multiplication. So they had to count on squares like a chequer-board, the “counters” of the shops, and the King’s money was counted by the Barons of the Exchequer, sitting round a table all marked in squares. The record was kept on notched sticks called “tallies.” These accumulated for so many hundred years that when at last they decided to burn them, they burnt down the House of Commons with them (1836).

Thus beside the King grew up the Exchequer. The King also was supposed to judge all disputes, whether breaches of the peace or questions of bargains between man and man. For these there grew up the courts of the King’s Bench and of Common Pleas. Moreover, since all justice must be tempered with charity, defeated suitors could, in Heaven’s name, fall at the King’s feet in appeal. The King moved them from his feet to the Chancellor’s. That made a Court of Chancery.

Thus grew up a whole apparatus of government. The greatest part of all, which presently absorbed and swallowed (in legal power) all the others, was the Parliament. This just meant at first a conference, a talk. The Saxons had had it already, but they called it a think (Gemot). The Normans changed the idea to a talk, which is easier. There were “parliaments” of any special group, or order, of people—of Great Barons, or of merchants, or of clergy. Then in the vexed years after King John’s death, with rival factions calling “parliaments,” the idea came up of falling back on the old Saxon plan of having “select men” added to the Barons and Clergy, people chosen out of the Knights of the Shires and the Burgesses of the Boroughs. This system shows itself fully developed in the Model Parliament of Edward I in 1295. The “Commons” now appear—not meaning the common people, who never got in till yesterday, but the “Communities.”

After that date, gradually, this kind of parliament outranked all other assemblies. It at first included the abbots. The Reformation removed them; archbishops and bishops remained and are still there; lesser clergy once came by elections held by the bishops; they dropped out. The election writs for centuries still vainly called them to come. But the clergy wanted to sit alone; they still do, as the Convocation of the Church in the Provinces of Canterbury and York. They sat, for example, January, 1940, discussing the morality of war. But when they decide on anything new, such as a Revised Prayer Book, the Parliament alone can make it law. Probably half the members of the House of Commons claim that they don’t belong to the Church, but the law of the land soothingly tells them that they do. Hence prayers are made by people who never pray, and rituals by people who never go to the Church that uses them. Per contra, bishops vote on the tariff. These things never worry the British. They merely ask, “How does it work?”

Thus Parliament became supreme. It means in this sense not the two Houses, but the King, Lords, and Commons. But as a matter of fact the King’s share in legislation became by progressive custom less and less till it dwindled to nothing. At first the King consulted Parliament and made a law—as far as a new law ever was made, for they always called it an old one. The notion of making a law is modern; to early ages it would sound like making your grandfather. Presently Parliament asked for the law and the King made it. Then, to make sure they would get the law they wanted, they wrote the very text of it and put the “enacting clause” in front of it, and the King merely said yes or no. The very words he used became fixed in the customary “Le roi le veult” or the polite refusal that the King would think it over (Le roi s’avisera). But it became the custom, the gentleman’s understanding, that if the two Houses said yes, the King never said no. The last sovereign who proposed to think it over was Queen Anne. Hence parliamentary supremacy came to mean supremacy of the two Houses. This “omnipotence of Parliament,” arising in the fourteen hundreds, was later so absolutely accepted that Walter Bagehot said (see his English Constitution—1860) that Queen Victoria must sign her own death-warrant if sent to her by Parliament. It was Walter Bagehot who said this, not Queen Victoria. And the warrant was never sent. Academic fancies of what people have to do, and what nations are bound to do, were as free in Bagehot’s day as a poet’s reverie. We know better now.

So it came that the prerogative of the King, the original “all power,” was limited by the supremacy of Parliament. Infinite confusion exists about the extent of this “royal prerogative,” a mystery to casual students of history. In reality it is as simple as logic itself. The King has power to do anything and everything which Parliament has not forbidden him to do, taken on itself to do, or vested elsewhere. The King cannot of his own power levy taxes. Statutes such as the Petition of Right, 1628, forbid it. The King cannot regulate custom-duties, because Parliament took over that power when it made a customs act. The King cannot create new constituencies for Members of Parliament, as that power was taken over, 1832. Nor can the King alter any of the arrangements made by parliamentary statutes, such as railway acts, factory acts, local government acts and such. But he can alter anything which by these statutes themselves is left to be altered by an Order in Council. Yet, per contra, the King can dissolve the Parliament and never need call it again. True the money would run out for lack of the annual vote of supply, and the army would fall to pieces for lack of the repassing of the Mutiny Act which creates the authority of discipline. If an officer said, “Eyes right,” the private might answer, “Not just now, thanks. I’m looking at something interesting.” But the King could, on those terms, do without a parliament; he could also make all his friends Dukes, and his favorite comedian Archbishop of Canterbury. There is no end to what he could do, except that he wouldn’t do it, which puts one back again at the beginning of British government.

All the King’s public acts are done, however, through a minister. This itself is only an understanding, unless one can twist the legal maxim “The King can do no wrong” to mean that all he does must be someone else’s fault. The minister was “responsible,” in older days with his head, now only with his office. Charles I, after agonizing hesitation, signed the death-warrant of his minister Lord Strafford (1641). “By so terrible an example was that doctrine sanctioned which now needs for its assertion and effect nothing more than a ministerial defeat on a vote of confidence.” The comment is that of the Cambridge Modern History.

In this frame has grown up the structure of government of the Empire, both in the British Isles and overseas. The United Kingdom itself (Great Britain and Northern Ireland) is under the sovereign control of Parliament. There are no such constitutional limitations as circumscribe American governments. In the country which its citizens like to think the freest country in the world, the individual has no rights, none that Parliament cannot destroy at will—except that it wouldn’t be “cricket” to do. This sovereignty of Parliament does not cover all the British Isles. Outside of the United Kingdom is Ireland (Eire), occupying, as will be discussed later, a position partly in and partly out of the Empire and defying all definition. The Channel Islands present another anomaly, but historic and sentimental only, not aggressive. The Islanders were subjects of the Duke of Normandy; from their point of view they conquered England. Till the Great War of 1914 the sovereignty of Parliament did not extend to them, nor did the income-tax reach their shores. Now, admittedly, Parliament is supreme, but local legislatures make laws. Control from Westminster is only executive. The Isle of Man was for centuries (till 1765) just a feudal holding under the Crown. Parliamentary sovereignty and taxation reach it now. But it has a quaint apparatus of government, a survival of ancient times, a “court of Tynwald,” divided into a Council and a House of Keys, and it writes its laws in Manx as well as English. “Deemsters” sit on its criminal bench. But inside this setting of a Druid world, the writ of habeas corpus and the income-tax run as merrily as on the mainland.

In all the vast overseas Empire the government rests on what has been established by the royal prerogative, or what has been set up by Acts of Parliament and Orders in Council and similar documents authorized by the Acts. The right to set up a government in any ceded, conquered or settled territory was an inherent right of the Crown, was accepted as part of the prerogative and definitely declared by the Colonial Laws Validity Act of 1865. But governments thus set up are supplemented by those created, or remodelled by Acts of Parliament such as the various statutes regulating the Government of India, or the fundamental statutes, almost similar to written constitutions, by which the Dominion of Canada (1867) the Commonwealth of Australia (1900) and the Union of South Africa (1909) were created.

The result of this is that the governments of the overseas Empire under the Crown have been set up in a variety of ways and in a great diversity of terms. Taken in alphabetical order, or even in geographical order, they seem to spell confusion itself, hardly any two alike—a mass of officials, councils and assemblies, with or without election, with or without local participation, with cabinet government, half cabinet government or no cabinet government. They run the gamut all the way from the South Atlantic island of Ascension, governed by the navy as a ship till 1922, to Eire which has a constitution of 1937 calling itself a “sovereign independent state,” and sits like a ground-hog in its burrow, its head half-way in half-way out.

But rearranged in their ascending order of relative local self-government, the British overseas possessions present a symmetrical series, in itself the fruit of long experience in the government of dependencies. For clearness’ sake we must first set aside, as out of count, the various Protected States which are connected with the Empire but not of it. Here belong the Malay States, as distinct from the Crown Colony of the Straits Settlements. Four of these are joined as a federated unit and five others are units in themselves. Britain has the right of suzerainty, meaning a paramount interest in foreign relations and the right of giving protection, the Governor of the Straits Settlements is ex-officio High Commissioner for all of them, and there is a British resident as an adviser to each of them. But the people are not subjects of the King. In the great East Indian Island of Borneo the parts called North Borneo and Brunei are Protected States. Sarawak in the same island is also a protected State, with the added ties of sentiment resulting from its having had British Rajahs (the Brooke family) since 1842. Britain has “protected” it since 1888, and British officers command its constabulary. Egypt is a Protected State in respect to British rights connected with the defence of the canal. The Sudan is classed as a Protected State, jointly controlled by Egypt and Britain. The joint control, as already said, is theory rather than fact. Britain and France have a joint control over the New Hebrides Islands. At the bottom of the list of the Protected States is the little group of islands in the Western Pacific, once called the Friendly, now the Tonga, Islands. This is one of the island paradises that gave to the South Seas the colour and the perfume of a land of dreams. Here it is neither too hot nor too cold, too wet nor too dry, and food hangs from the trees. For such a picture read of Anson’s famous voyage of 1740. The Tonga Islands, all bunched together, would only cover a space of 250 square miles. Yet they enjoy a sort of comic opera government with a Queen and a Parliament made up of seven Lords, seven Commoners, seven Ministers and a Speaker. The Tongas are a Sovereign State, protected by Great Britain. The natives, 32,000, are all Christians, indeed are six different kinds of Christians, but are not British subjects. The white residents, about 450, are subject to the Tonga courts except for grave offences, removed to the court of the High Commissioner for the Western Pacific. Tonga declared war against Germany in 1939.

The case of the mandated territories assigned by the shadowy authority of the League of Nations has already been discussed.

Of the units of government actually inside the Empire, some of those of lower order are officially called Crown Colonies, and some Protectorates. The division is not a logical one, as far as the form of administration goes, since a Protectorate may have just the same form of rule as a Crown Colony, and both Protectorates and Crown Colonies differ among themselves. But as far as the variation in official title corresponds to an actual difference, it means that the people in a Protectorate, although British subjects, do not come within the scope of a British law unless the law is explicitly made to apply to them. Otherwise they are still under native custom. The Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 terminated British slavery. After that Britons could sing about the flag that “never could float o’er a slave,” with all the zeal of new converts, whose flag had flown over more slaves on the high seas than those of any two nations combined. But even while they sang, though few of them knew it, there were slaves in Sierra Leone, where slavery, of a domestic type, was not extinguished by law till 1927. Similarly when the later partition of Africa extended British sovereignty over Nigeria, Uganda, Nyassaland, Somaliland and Bechuanaland, they were gathered in as Protectorates. This made it feasible to leave native customary rule as much undisturbed as possible, and even to shut one eye to the existence of things, like the feudal slavery of Nigeria, impossible to abolish all at once, yet repugnant to British moral sense. Experience showed that a native chief would trade his “sovereign rights” for gin and rifles, but not his right to have two wives, to be served by slaves, and to drink the gin and to shoot his subjects with the rifles. It has been part of the genius of British government to leave anything alone if you can’t alter it. All our critical historians, from Sir Henry Maine down, have shown us the contrast between the binding force of native custom, the bed-rock on which rests collective life itself, and the arbitrary movement of authority over its surface. A despot of an Indian state could execute a subject at will. What mattered the individual life? But he could not take from the stricken widows of his principality their immemorial right to be burned to death, nor the right of their neighbours and friends to burn them. It is narrated that when the Shah of Persia visited Queen Victoria’s England, in the eighties, he proposed to have two of his suite executed in order to see how the British method of hanging worked. The story may not be true, but the application is.

Now British government has had to grapple with the contrast as between primitive and civilized conceptions of law, morality and duty. Where the divergence was too violent to be let alone, suppression was effected even at a cost. The “thug,” the Indian form of murderer, whose sudden throttling of his victim (thuggee), an entire stranger, was intended as a protest against a sinful world, seemed to many pious natives a sort of implement of God, as many of the English once thought Bishop Bonner and Queen Mary. But the thug had to go. He was, in simple English metaphor, “a bit thick.” Suttee, also, the burning of widows, ultimately had to go. As long as the comfortable fiction could be maintained that the widows liked it, it managed to survive. But when it appeared that at least some of the widows shared the horror of the merrier widows of Europe, suttee could not be tolerated where British power could reach it. Such things as suttee, thuggee and infanticide are glaring cases, seen in a lurid light. But British rule has had to accept as best it could tribal marriage, polygamy, domestic slavery, and savage autocracy, tempering what it could not eradicate and waiting for the hand of time. The clock of human destiny cannot be put forward.

For the United States there has arisen in a lesser degree this same problem as to what the flag must cover or conceal. In the Philippines, when under American control, certain things were perforce let alone. On the other hand, when the United States went dry, the unhappy Puerto Ricans, Spanish and thirsty, had to go dry also. But, in the Empire, if Great Britain went dry, the Nigerians, being in a Protectorate, could stay wet. The real answer to such a problem, however, is that Great Britain will not go dry.

This peculiar distinction as between Protectorates and Crown Colonies does not correspond to the differences in form of administration. Nor does it imply, as we might suppose from the general English sense of the words, that a Colony is a British settlement and a Protectorate a territory conquered or a native area. This is simply not so. Gibraltar, a military post, is a Colony. So is Basutoland, a native imperial preserve surrounded by the Union of South Africa. Papua, annexed in 1887, was ranked as a Colony to emphasize the British claim to it, though it was as black as a hat with natives and native customs and barbarity, while its inland tribes had largely not heard of their good luck in becoming British.

A Crown Colony is legally defined as a Colony under the Colonial Office, just as an Archdeacon is one who performs Archidiaconal functions.

The order and class of overseas governments depends on the relative extent of imperial and local control. In the lowest stage are the governments made up solely of British officials sent from Britain; above this, a government with some of the officials appointed on the spot. Then comes a government with a Council, as well as executive officials, the Council being selected from officials or nominated from the residents. Above this class are the governments which add to the Councils bodies called Assemblies, some of whose members are elected and some appointed. Above these come the Colonies which have a popular Assembly all elected, but with a Legislative Council and an Executive Council, appointed. To these is often given the name, not official, of Representative Colonies. Their government is exactly of the type of those of Upper and Lower Canada before the rebellion of 1837. They need only a “responsible cabinet” to give them complete colonial freedom. Just above them is a midway class, Southern Rhodesia and Ceylon, with a cabinet government which is limited by various reservations of power to the imperial government. Malta had been advanced to this class in 1921, but when the clouds gathered over the Mediterranean its constitution was suspended (1930), then restored with modifications (1932). But it broke under the weight of the vexed question of Italian in the schools. Letters patent, authorized by the statutes, put Malta back (1939) to the status of a Crown Colony in which the appointed members of the Council can outvote the elected. Newfoundland, which had been a Dominion, at the request of its own government, was put back in 1933 to the status of a Crown Colony under an appointed Commission.

The simplest form of colonial government—what the professoriate would call the lowest—is seen in the purely strategic posts such as Aden and Gibraltar. Yet even here the government is not military, not part of the War Office administration, but is civil government under the Colonial Office. Indeed the British system knows nothing of military government, except in war, or in the martial law of emergency, or as a temporary administration of conquered or ceded territory (Canada 1759-1763). The Aden Colony, so designated in 1937, has a Governor (also Commander-in-Chief) with appointed British officials. But Gibraltar, though only 2 square miles in extent, has a civil population, outside of the Rock, of over 17,000 people. In this case the Governor (also Commander-in-Chief) adds three local appointees to the official members of his Executive Council (First Combatant Military Officer, Secretary, Attorney General, Treasurer). A still further supplement is seen in the government of the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean, a thousand miles off East Africa, a midway type between a tropical plantation and a point of strategy. The islands number 92; the largest is only 55 square miles. They are a part of the wreckage of the colonial empire of the French Monarchy. They lie among wide banks of submerged coral so that the total area is difficult to compute—probably only about 150 square miles. The islands were empty when the French came. The population has descended from mixed Creoles and immigrant blacks and Indians from Malabar, in all about 30,000. Their government reflects their peculiar status. The Governor has an Executive Council of officials, with an added local member, and also a Legislative Council—the embryonic form of a true legislature—in which half of the six members are unofficial appointees.

But where the area of the dependency is of considerable extent, with an almost entirely native population, the administration by appointed officials is supplemented by “indirect government,” so-called, the rule of native chiefs over their own people, with British control in the background. The Aden Colony has beside it the Aden Protectorate, 112,000 square miles of the Arabian Peninsula. Here native Sultans rule, under the authority of the Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Aden Colony.

Compare Basutoland, a native enclave of about 11,000 square miles, surrounded by the Union of South Africa. Such British government as reaches it is exercised by a Resident Commissioner with a few appointed officials. Its half million, or more, of natives live under their own chiefs and custom, with a grand gathering once a year of the Basutoland National Council. It has no authority, being what is called in America a powwow.

The next grade of colonies is that in which an elected assembly appears—elected either in part or as a total, either by a particular group, or by votes at large. Here is, for example, Hong Kong, the famous Chinese island (11 miles by about 3) at the mouth of the Canton River. To it is now attached a slice of the mainland. It is a great emporium of Eastern trade and is, or was, a point of commanding strategy. With it goes the history of the past (since 1841) and round it turns the immediate future. The form of its government reflects what was its commercial, not its military, aspect. The Governor’s Executive Council of official members has an added appointee, and the Legislative Council adds to the usual officials certain civil functionaries, as the Director of Public Works, the Harbour Master and the Director of Medical Services, with also the Commissioner of Police. Most notable is the addition of three Chinese (appointed by the Crown), three other councillors nominated from among the residents and two selected locally—one by the Chamber of Commerce and one by the Justices of the Peace of Hong Kong. We see here the beginning of the principle of elected representatives which from this stage up is gradually infiltrated into British colonial government, till it presently absorbs all other elements. These ascending stages are represented by the African colonies which contain a certain number of white people as permanent settlers and which are looked on as “white man’s territory,” and in especial by the West India Islands. These last are, indeed, overwhelmingly coloured in population, but the whites fall heir to a certain prestige of history; and, of the coloured people, large numbers are persons of education and culture. In Africa, Northern Rhodesia has only about 10,000 whites, among nearly 1,500,000 blacks. But it has both an Executive and a Legislative Council and the latter has seven members elected by the Europeans—just enough, it may be noted, to be comfortably outvoted by the ex-officio (5) and the nominated (4) members. British government seldom sins by going too fast and too far. Compare the French colony of Senegal in West Africa, which has about the same native population, and where voting and elections are the order of the day. The whole Colonial Council of 44 members is elected by native “citizens” (in St. Louis) or by their chiefs outside. A deputy is elected to the Chamber at Paris. The schools give the same instruction as the French primary schools, from the same books, the principle of equality thus allowing the Senegalese children to learn about “our ancestors the Gauls.” British and French colonial governments are differently based. The French aim at nominal equality, the British at nominal autocracy; but both confer the priceless right to be let alone as much as possible.

One may compare with Northern Rhodesia the partial use of the principle of election as appears in the governments of Ceylon, Kenya, etc., all of which are summarized in a table at the end of this volume. Most interesting are the West Indian colonies, where representative government reaches its highest point before expanding into responsible government. In Jamaica the Legislative Council has 5 ex-officio, 10 nominated and 14 elected members. The franchise, which extends to women, takes no account of colour. With Barbados the name “Legislative Council” disappears in favour of a House of Assembly, all elected annually. The suffrage is restricted, there being only about 6,500 voters among nearly 200,000 people. But the restriction is not that of colour. In the Bahamas the entire Assembly is elected and is on a wider suffrage. In these two colonies, as also in Bermuda, the members of the Executive Council become in practice something very much like a responsible cabinet. Members of the Assembly can be made members of the Executive Council, though not exclusively, and it is found as a matter of practice to be easier and simpler to govern with the consenting vote of the house than to try to govern without it. In other words they are as far forward, or as backward, as England was in the days of Queen Anne.

The top stage in this continuous advance is seen in the government which is enjoyed by Southern Rhodesia, and which was enjoyed, but not appreciated, by Malta. In this geographical section of Rhodesia (area 150,000 square miles; whites 55,000; natives 1,300,000) the government, as first established in 1923, is responsible government, much as it was in the chief colonies when instituted under Queen Victoria. The Legislative Assembly of 30 members is elected on a franchise covering all British subjects, but native councils are established for native reserves. There is no upper house, unless the Assembly wishes to create one, and the Governor’s Council, by understanding, must, and do, hold office on a cabinet tenure. Only the fact that the imperial government still reserves definite powers in regard to hills reserved for the Crown, native affairs, etc., stands between Southern Rhodesia and Dominion Status.

A backward glance over this vast panorama of British rule over colonies and protectorates extending round the tropical world shows a broad and varied picture of island and mainland, ports and river mouths, open coast and tangled interior, equatorial forest or waving savanna and parklike uplands. Through it all run peace and decency, free speech and fair play. The tumult of Europe, the carnage of the Orient, comes but as an echo to the peaceful uplands of Africa. It is an irony of history that what was to Europe the land of savagery and mystery, hideous with barbarous rites and human sacrifice, its very air laden with putrid fever and sudden death, now breathes the soft air of peace, while Europe struggles against the annihilation of civilization. British government has done this. Nor does it rest on force. The 5,000 white people of Nigeria are as nothing against its 20,000,000 natives. The armed forces of the Empire, apart from the naval protection of seaports, are too insignificant to hold it against the unnumbered millions of its inhabitants without the goodwill that everywhere joins British rule and native life. It is well to lay stress on this aspect of the British Empire. It is necessary to get rid of the taint of that anti-imperialism which was for so long the reverse side of British expansion and overlordship, and which followed like a dark cloud each “forward” movement and bred disunion within the Empire itself. It is getting to be little more than a memory now. The basic idea of British rule now has come to be co-operation, not conquest. But all of us of the outgoing generation can remember how bitter were the feelings of many people, fifty years ago, at what appeared to them the unwarranted aggression of British rule, its intrusion where it had no “right,” its seeming associations with capitalism and the exploitation of unoffending partners. It was as if the slave-trade had only died to raise upon its own soil a newer slavery. The slave who dreamed, beside the ungathered rice of Carolina, of his own African uplands, was replaced by the slaves fettered in Africa itself. To such a vision even the most blood-besotten of the Dervishes seemed a people struggling to be free, the Mashonas and Matabeles noble savages, better men than their conquerors. Such sentiments were especially prevalent among those who lived in the Dominions, the then self-governing colonies. They had no commercial interest in the new expansion of Europe, in the partition of Africa or in the proposed opening of China, as Europe’s oyster. Their own struggle towards free government lent a bias to their views. Theory coloured fact. In the days when it seemed that the manifest destiny of the Empire was peaceful dissolution, an undoubted factor of the situation was this supposed contrast between British rapacity and rugged colonial honesty. All that is gone, far away now. The last clouds of it are drifting away on the blast of war. It is only useful to recall it so that we may better understand the good fortune of our history. Bygone danger enhances present security. No one doubts now the significance of membership in the British Commonwealth.

This indicated frame of mind is above all necessary for the understanding of Britain in India. Here is a record not yet finished. Here is history in the climax of its making. If we have no faith here, then force is vain.

The government of India occupies in the British system an entirely unique position. The vast population of the great peninsula, its teeming population and the prestige of its long history place it out of other comparison among the possessions under the Crown. India was old when even the British Isles were young, crowded when North America was a wilderness, profound in its learning and philosophy centuries ago. It “heard the legions thunder past and turned to thought again.” From India, western civilization received much of its mathematics and its speculative thought. Yet in spite of such overpowering eminence in certain aspects, India occupies, in respect to its government, a constitutional position below that of the British Dominions. It is still in the last resort under the sovereign control of the United Kingdom. It is true that there is an understanding that India is to have the full and equal status of a Dominion—some day. The only question is, when is the day to come?

The pomp and majesty of government can easily be extended to India; the reality not so well. Since 1877 India is an Empire and the British Sovereign its Emperor. Delhi, the city of the Moguls, is again its capital. The great Dunbar held at Delhi in 1911, by George V, represented the first visit to India of a reigning British Sovereign. It antedated any similar honour to the Dominions by twenty-eight years. Indian princes carry resounding titles and glitter with stars. Yet for people of a certain temper of mind there is less freedom in all this than in membership of the Parish Council of Portsea—if there is one—or, shall we say, of the Town Council of Orillia, Ontario. That is as far as many people are able to see into the problem of government for India. Why not give them freedom? This simple conception of an easy and mechanical frictionless freedom, effected by a count of heads and a ballot box, came to us from the middle nineteenth century when it shed its light as a sort of hope of the world. Where it can be and has been realized, it is as good a general hope, in the secular sense, as the world has yet obtained.

But a moment’s reflection shows how much it takes for granted. It assumes that voting will be accompanied by general acceptance of what is voted, that acquiescence will preclude force, and that the will of the majority will be accepted, even if grudgingly, by the submissive minority. The problem is as old as Rousseau and as familiar as a municipal election. What are you to do with the minority? Call it part of general will, said Rousseau, and there won’t be any. Call them “passive citizens,” said the French Revolution, and let them obey. Let them wait for the next election and try to get even, said America. Yet even in such democracy itself, there has to be an understanding of fair play, the everlasting “way of doing things” which is the essence of British and American democratic government.

How much of this can apply to India? How much unity is there as a basis? What chance of orderly government by consent, if outside potential pressure were removed? Grant, if you like, that the outside power had as its origin no better claim than that of force, no higher motive than that of gain. At least that is three and a half centuries ago. This is another world, with behind it a long history of peace and war, effort and endeavour and sacrifice, whose pages cannot be cast aside as a mere record of aggression. It is necessary therefore to deal with the situation as it is and not cut away the foundation of it with one stroke of abstraction.

What is there to build upon? In the geographical sense India is a unit, to the extent that it is shut off by the great boundary of the Himalayas from the rest of Asia. This is one of the most stupendous natural frontiers of the world. It extends over 1,500 miles. The mountains are the highest in the world. Even the passable trade routes that find their way from the Punjab to Tibet are 18,000 feet above the sea. Such vast and gloomy gateways as the Khyber Pass and the Bolan Pass into Afghanistan only emphasize the majestic isolation of the great Indian Peninsula. But with this isolation unity ends. The peninsula divides into three great areas, the mountain slopes of the north, the river systems of the centre and the table land of the south. The range of climate is from mountain snow to torrid heat, from devastating rains to the aridity of the Great Indian Desert.

Except as through the European languages, India lacks even the unity of a name. Old Sanskrit had a vague general name, the land of the Bharata Mountain, as who should say, in Africa, the Mountains of the Moon. But that has nothing to do with modern speech in India. The word “India” itself came to Europe via the Persians and the Greeks, to whom it meant the “river country” (the Indus). Hindustan, the word long used on European maps, means only the country of the Hindus. Nor is there any findable unity of race. Successive waves of immigrants and conquerors have washed down from the northern passes. The Aryan Indians, related in race to the Europeans, are only one of the latest of such intrusions, followed by the Moslems. Unity of language is utterly lacking. India cannot talk to itself except in English. Good authorities list 222 vernacular languages in India. Languages arising from an Aryan source cover a large part of northern India and are spoken by about two thirds of the inhabitants of the whole peninsula. But this means no more unity than that as between English and German, or either of them and Spanish.

The division of races and tongues is enhanced by the divisions of religion. The Christians are only an exotic anomaly, 6,000,000 in a total sixty times as great, and themselves severed into rival denominations. Of the great religions of India the last official census (1931) indicates 239,000,000 Hindus, 77,000,000 Moslems, 12,000,000 Buddhists, after which follow minor divisions of Tribal Religions, Sikhs, Jains, Zoroastrians and smaller sects. Crosswise through the difference of religion runs “caste.” This means the recognition by great groups of people that they “belong together,” an “endogamous group,” the scientists call it, representing, even if dimly, a common descent and following the same rites and ceremonies, often with typical avocations. Caste is really in origin the grouping of people as cast about by the waves of conquest, like the lines on a sea beach that mark the receding tide. But though originating thus, it now represents a thing accepted by the people themselves. The castes of India are superimposed, or, rather, attain to various eminence in the social pyramid of sanctity and consideration. Conspicuous are the priestly caste of the Brahmans, running through a number of territorial groups. In addition are military castes, commercial castes, trading castes and castes of a particular occupation, groups dividing into groups—herds-men, buffalo-men, palanquin bearers and watchmen. To the untrained European eye it is a welter of meaningless social confusion, to the East as venerable as antiquity always is. “Even crime in India,” writes a modern authority, “tends to become hereditary and, as sanctioned by custom, almost respectable.” Where the better castes finish, the low castes begin. With these go social stigma. Here is a low caste Koli from whose hands one must not take water. Here are castes who are hereditary scavengers, and at the bottom of all, the outcastes, the untouchables, the depressed classes, the 60,000,000 souls beyond the pale of social consideration, let alone political rights.

All such civilization is to us in North America unknown and almost unintelligible. Apart from the social disabilities that rest on Negroes we have no caste that money cannot remove, that energy cannot surmount. Nor has British society known any such strata, or not since the days of the villains and serfs. Even the seventy-one degrees of excellence in the British official order of precedence that stand ahead of those merely “gentlemen,” offer no barrier that cannot be climbed, no inferiority to breed despair. A man raised to the peerage falls short in lineage of a man who has come down with it. But in prestige he may eclipse him. And at the base, in place of the untouchable idea, we find the plain notion that “a man’s a man for a’ that.” It is thus difficult for us to realize the intricacy and complexities of the vast fabric of government in India, native and British, and the extent to which it is embedded in the history of the past and interwoven with modes of thought and belief not shared by our western civilization. We cannot undertake to apply to it a few simple universal formulas on which western democracy professes to rest.

Over this field of Indian life, multifarious, divided and largely, to us, unintelligible, is spread a wide fabric of government that includes not only the British administration but that of the hundreds of Native States of India. Under these live nearly 70,000,000 of the people. They vary from the great State of Hyderabad with 82,700 square miles and 14,500,000 inhabitants to little principalities of only a few square miles. Till the new order set up in 1937, the Native States of India were outside of British rule but under British suzerainty or overlordship. They were understood to have no dealings with foreign powers, nor diplomatic relations with one another. Certain general public services of communication, and telegraphs, were carried on by the British government. A British resident was at each court. Inside these outer barriers the life of the individual was passed under the control of the despotic authority that native custom sanctioned but which could not itself alter the customary regulation of society.

When the government of India was taken over from the East India Company in 1858 it was organized on autocratic lines. There was a Council in London associated with the Secretary of State for India, and a Council in India associated with the Viceroy. The hierarchy of officials was appointed from above, both for the central government at Calcutta and in the various provinces. The Indian Civil Service was recruited from Great Britain. It was based on a system of competitive examination, the very glorification of school-learning as a test of capacity. It bore the stamp of Macaulay whose service on the Council for India in Calcutta (1834-1838) left it as a legacy. Somebody once called Macaulay a “book in breeches,” yet the system of books in breeches seemed to work well in India. There was no parallel to the system except in China, where it was carried still further. Prolonged examinations, held at Peking, in the Chinese classics, for students gathered from all over the Celestial Empire and isolated in little hutches for a month while they wrote their memory work, enabled the Chinese authorities to select officials, administrators, and even generals. It was as if one wrote out Homer to qualify as Mayor of Montreal. The Indian system never went as far as that, but it went a long way. The relation between brains and capacity has never been fully analysed, is perhaps not fully analysable till after the fact. Certainly men can have much brains and little capacity; but only a limited capacity without brains. The Indian Civil Service system took for granted the inherent general capacities of British youth, their sound physique and their mens sana in conpore sano. Applied in different circumstances to other races, it picks out another set, and the book in breeches comes into its own.

When the old Company was gone, British imperial rule in India, under the Crown, after the first angers of retaliation for Cawnpore, aimed at good government, justice and welfare. But for a generation after the Mutiny there could be no question of democracy. It would have seemed to invite insurrection. Yet the dominant liberalism of the hour must have its way. Self-government first found a faint expression in India under the Gladstone regime (1880-1885). Lord Ripon, as Viceroy, introduced a beginning, at least nominal, of local representation by municipal councils. But we can realize the temper and the difficulty of the times when we recall the burst of indignation that greeted the first proposal to allow native magistrates to try British offenders. The gulf here seems as wide as the Indian Ocean. Yet the Indian municipalities, at present just short of 800, serve the local needs of one tenth of British India, as apart from the States, and are supplemented by native representatives on rural district boards nearly everywhere. The rise of a new class, Hindus, speaking English and educated after the English fashion, seemed to involve the right to a larger democracy. The institution of the Indian National Congress in 1885 emphasized the claim. It represented in reality only a fraction of a part of the people of the peninsula. But if it was not the voice of India it was at any rate not the voice of England. On these terms it grew like a upas tree, till its shade covers all the ground.

For the half century since the Congress was founded the case for the “freedom of India,” for Indian democracy, has seemed overwhelming to people who know nothing about India and have never thought about it. Hence there has always been an impetus behind British rule urging it forward along this untried path. Each successive wave of liberalism in power at Westminster sends a backwash up the Indus and the Irrawaddy. Gladstone had Lord Ripon lay the basis of town councils. In the triumphant pre-war liberalism (1906-1914) Lord Morley (otherwise John Morley) joined forces with Lord Minto to institute representative government. Two native members (Hindu and Moslem) were appointed to the London Council. Elected members were added (India Councils Act, 1909) to the Indian Legislative Councils. It was at least “a gesture,” though the elected members were kept in a safe minority. Then came the Great War. India remained calm. There was no mutiny. The native princes flocked as brothers in arms. In all, the country sent over 200,000 of its own people to fight in Europe for the Emperor of India. This couldn’t be disregarded. That wouldn’t be cricket. India was invited to the Imperial Conference of 1917. A declaration was made in the House of Commons (August 20, 1917) that “the policy of his Majesty’s government is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration . . . with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India.” The Indian National Congress (December) “expressed its grateful satisfaction.” Things looked good.

But the path has proved an arduous one. The Government of India of 1919 set up a sort of compromise, a half-way house to rest in, called dy-archy. This created a legislature in which Indians could carry the lower house and the government could carry the upper. The same plan gave the provinces larger powers. But behind it all was parliamentary supremacy in London. In other words this was going back to Canada in the days of Papineau, when the Indians (the small section concerned) wanted Canada as brought up to the days of Laurier. In other words there is no way to give liberty and keep a string on it. In South Africa Great Britain took a chance (1907 and 1909). In India it refused to, and still does. It claims, and most people think, that the cases are different. Americans who recall the freedom of Cuba, with the tin can of the Platt Amendment tied to its tail, will sympathize and understand.

Troubled years followed. The Indian Congress boycotted the Constitution, or got elected so as to wreck it, a monkey-wrench in a cogwheel. The overseas British Dominions denied equality and still shut out all Indians. Mr. Gandhi rose, fasted, and preached non-co-operation. Repression answered protest. At Amritsar (1919) a British General had his troops fire on an unarmed crowd and killed 379 and wounded more than a thousand. A certain school of thought claims that this saved India. It does not seem like salvation as known in Judea. But for people far from both Amritsar and salvation, it is hard to judge.

In the years that followed, patience and moderation worked against the forces of coercion and revolt. A Statutory Commission under Sir John Simon visited British India (1928-1929). A second commission reported on the States and the needs of the Native States. The Indian Congress would have none of them. It formulated, under the caption of Swaraj (Self-Rule), its own programme: “India shall have the same constitutional status as the Dominion of Canada and the Commonwealth of Australia, etc. Report (1929).” This is such a simple and intelligible idea that if you say no to it, it is hard to make it sound like yes. But British patience, or British obduracy—call it either you like—is inexhaustible. It went right on. There were Round Table Conferences of British statesmen and Indian leaders. Mahatma Gandhi sat in London and shivered (1930). Then he went back to India and made more trouble. This time he started making salt—an operation illegal in India because of the salt tax. Then Mr. Gandhi went back to London for more Round Table, then India again and more salt for the Viceroy. If Mr. Gandhi had a sense of humour, his career would have been larger still.

Years of alternating deliberation and trouble, over which was falling the advancing shadow of war thrown by the sunset of European peace, ended in the adoption of the Government of India Act (1935) which came into effect, legally if not actually, in April, 1937.

The Act terminates the Council in London. It separates Burma from India. It creates an All-India Federation to which any Native States may adhere if they wish, without altering anything of their own purely internal regime. But unless one half join, the system waits. On the face of it the government looks like a Dominion. There is a Governor General, as in Canada. There is a House of Assembly with 250 representatives chosen by the Provincial Legislatives and 125 sent up from the States. There is an upper house called the Council of State. The Governor General has a Council of Ministers, responsible to the legislature. This means cabinet government, provided always that anybody can get and keep support in the House. Without this all the laws in the world cannot make cabinet government.

But here the resemblance with Canada or Australia ends. The Indian Governor General can also act “on his own” in consultations with the Secretary of State and internal security does not leave British hands. Behind it all, presumably, is the imperial parliamentary supremacy. Sheer lapse of time might remove the fact of it as it did in Canada, and leave the law a letter. But that is far away, too far for the turbulent hour of today. There is no time for time to lapse.


Meantime the question is whether the Constitution legally in force can actually operate. Up to the present time the new system fails to function. The Congress objects to the entry of the Native States while under autocratic rule. The Native Princes are not sure that they want to come in at all. The British government is quite resolved that it must reserve to itself the essential mechanism of external defence and internal order. If force is the last word, Britain must pronounce it. Seen from the outside it is hard to believe that an All India Congress and an All India Constitution can, politically, exist together. Either the Constitution must absorb the Congress, or the Congress must wreck the Constitution. There was an old-time American newspaper problem which asked what would happen if two snakes in a zoo each began to swallow the other, tail first. That seems to be happening in India.

While the new government was struggling into existence, the advancing shadow changed to night. With the war there comes to India, as elsewhere, the readjustment, the attempt to reconstruct our view of the world around us. It must be as clear in India as it is in London that the reign of the saints on earth is still a long way off, that the devil is not yet dead and that he has new agents abroad with whom the non-co-operation of Mr. Gandhi would be trampled out of life and the memory of one Amritsar lost in the reality of a hundred.

For many in the Native States the call of war inflames a martial loyalty. For many others in India the thought must come of what would happen if the British really left India—if they had “Swaraj,” a whole stomachful of it but without the solid bulwark of the British Raj and the order of the pax Britannica. Their world, like ours, is changed. Physical boundaries are no protection. What are Khyber Passes to aeroplanes that fly over them every day? The Hindus may profitably read over the story of the Roman legions leaving Britain. They may reflect that after all half a loaf is better than starvation, and that a loaf so nearly up to Dominions weight as the Government of India Act of 1935 might, in bitter retrospect, look like a lost banquet. If India has a mass intelligence, or if it has those sixth and seventh senses ascribed to its ascetics and mystics, it will move closer into the shelter.

Some Books for Reference

Lowell, Lawrence. Government of England. 2 vols. 1908.

Keith, A. B. The Governments of the British Empire. 1935.

Dicey, A. V. Law of the Constitution. 8th Ed. 1915.

Bagehot, W. The English Constitution. 1860.

Anson, Sir W. Law and Custom of the Constitution. 2 vols. 1907-9.

The British Empire. Royal Institute of International Affairs. 1937.


The Dominions the Highest Order in the Series—Their Status as Equal Members of the Commonwealth—The Statute of Westminster and the Riddle of the Sphinx—The Privy Council as a Lawyer’s Lullaby—The Separate Dominions: Canada—Origins of the Federation—Autonomy of the Provinces—Australia—Its Happy Unity—New Zealand as Newer Britain—Light and Shadow in South Africa—Ireland and Its Cup of Sorrows—Eire gone Gaelic

The highest order of British government, apart from that of the United Kingdom itself, is seen in the six Dominions, namely the Dominion of Canada, Newfoundland, the Union of South Africa, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand and Eire. Two of them carry the word “Dominion” in their official titles. All are legally called “Dominions” to indicate their equality of constitutional status under the Statute of Westminster of 1931. The status of Newfoundland, at its own request, was suspended by an imperial Act of Parliament of 1933, which has placed it under the government of a Royal Commission. Half bankrupt and economically hard pressed, it took financial shelter under the apron of the mother country with a status like that of a Crown Colony, with imperial loans to keep out the cold. It is understood that the abrogation of dominion government is only for the time being. But such times have a way of keeping on being. Its new position gives economic advantages for the investment of capital and the development of natural resources which other Dominions may well envy. There would be much to think about in this resumption of economic unity, this peculiar retrogression by which freedom seems to broaden down backward, except that there is, just now, so much to think about elsewhere. India, as already seen, in spite of its vast predominance in population and the prestige and pageant of its immemorial history, ranks constitutionally lower in its government than any of the Dominions.

The Dominions evolved naturally from the “responsible government” definitely recognized in Canada under Lord Elgin in 1849. But the process was spread over nearly a century (1849-1931). Even after 1849, the Crown, that is the British government, still sent out the Governor Generals and Governors, still maintained colonial garrisons and naval stations, still remained the fountain of mercy and the final court of justice, still managed all foreign affairs, diplomacy and treaties, and still held the arbitrament of peace and war. Bit by bit, these powers dropped away from disuse or were let go. When the responsible colonies (Canada and Victoria) first used their responsibility to make protective tariffs (1859-60), British merchants protested and British political economists laughed, but the imperial government let things alone. Tariffs broadened down to another precedent. Colonial garrisons were felt at home to be a grievance. The cost of the 40,000 troops maintained in the colonies in the eighteen forties seemed a part of that blue ruin which economic eyes could always see on the British horizon. The last Canadian garrison left Quebec in 1871, the others during the same period. There remained in Canada for a while a British Commander-in-Chief of the militia. He disappeared in the dust of a quarrel with the Minister of Militia under Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The British navy handed over Halifax and Esquimalt. Already the Minister of Justice had set up, as against the Governor General, as the fountain of justice. After 1878 Canada hanged its own criminals. Gradually the colonies, presently Dominions, acquired the power to make treaties. Thus Lord Elgin, in 1854, personally made the famous reciprocity treaty with the United States. But by 1907, treaties, such as that with France, were merely signed by the British Ambassador when his Canadian colleague showed him where to sign.

Yet even as late as 1909 the imperial statute that set up the Union of South Africa (South Africa Act, 1909) carried with it certain reservations of power. Here of course the circumstances were peculiar. The silver lining that began to light the South African cloud could not remove its darkness all of a moment. The war had ended only seven years before. The change from war to peace and goodwill had indeed been unparalleled success. There had been the restoration of homesteads devastated in the conflict; the resumption of responsible government in the Transvaal (1907) and in the Orange River Colony; the reconciliation of leaders, so recently enemies in arms, in the Conferences which made the Union; the natural kinship and understanding of British and Dutch people; and most of all the feeling on both sides and in all sections that South Africa is and must be a unit. Yet certain limitations were still placed on the autonomy of South Africa, restrictions for example in regard to the native races and certain rights of the provinces. Later on, under the cover of the Statute of Westminster, South Africa itself removed all limitations on its legislative sovereignty.

The Great War consolidated the autonomous status of all the Dominions. All had shared in it by free will. They had been parties to the negotiations at Versailles. They had been signatories of the treaty and members of the League of Nations. Australia, New Zealand and South Africa had accepted mandates under the League. Meantime the Colonial Conferences that began as pageants in 1887 and 1897 had developed into the Imperial Conference. At successive meetings it made resolutions about imperial organization. In 1926, under Lord Balfour’s guidance, it drew up a plan, further endorsed in 1930, submitted presently to the British governments concerned. The general acquiescence they expressed led the British (imperial) Parliament to adopt the Statute of Westminster of 1931.

The Statute of Westminster—December 11, 1931—legally indicated as chapter four of the statutes of the parliament of the twenty-second year of the reign of George V (22. Geo. 5.C.4), declares that the Crown is the symbol of the free association of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. It declares them to be united by a common allegiance to the Crown. Any change in regard to the succession to the throne must require the assent as well of the Parliaments of all the Dominions as of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. No law hereafter made by the Parliament of the United Kingdom shall extend to any Dominion except at its request and with its consent. It abolishes the Colonial Laws Validity Act of 1865. This statute, an old fairy out of a forgotten cupboard, had been passed as a protection to colonial freedom. It allowed colonies to make any law not repugnant to British laws. The lapse of time threw it into reverse gear, with the emphasis the other way. It seemed to permit British imperial legislation to abolish or supersede dominion legislation, as of course it once could. The repeal is a mere gesture of farewell. The Statute of Westminster exacts that the parliament of a dominion has full power to make laws with extra-territorial jurisdiction. This means that the Empire must take a chance on the conflict of laws as between its component members. Australia, New Zealand and Newfoundland in joining in the general request for an act had reserved the right of ratification by their own parliaments. They took their time about it but the ratifications were all in by 1938. Canada and South Africa, not having asked for ratification, took it as read. South Africa reinforced it with the Status of the Union Act, 1934, which declared that the limitations of the Union of South Africa Act had ceased to exist, the Parliament of the Union being “the sovereign legislative power in and over the Union.” The dead mule received its last kick.

Ireland, at that time the Irish Free State, tacitly accepted the act, took all it granted in the way of autonomy, and added to it by legislation, and then by a constitution of its own. From the point of view of Eire, the constitution approved by the Dail Eireann in 1937 blankets and supersedes the statute in authority. For the rest of the Empire the Statute of Westminster becomes the fundamental basis of its association.

Yet the Statute of Westminster is, after all, only the newest riddle of the Sphinx. The Americans, who share the British genius of government, had their own riddle of the Sphinx for seventy years, in the Constitution as adopted in 1789. As far as the right of secession was concerned, it remained, as Goldwin Smith once said, a “Delphic oracle.” The Americans finally killed “States’ rights” with the sword, and buried it under constitutional amendments. Time’s ivy has woven a garland of honour over the broken monuments where sleep States’ rights and secession, and American history has inscribed on them its noblest pages.

For us in the British Empire the future is veiled. We can only hope and believe. It might perhaps have been wiser if the Statute of Westminster had declared the British Empire indissoluble. The fact is that the organic union of its structure is strong. The King’s subjects, as from Great Britain to the Dominions and back again, are closely held together, not by compacts of government but by the affections and antecedents of uncounted millions. Separation by a mere majority vote could never tear away a dominion from the Empire. Perhaps it would have been better to say so. But perhaps not; sleeping dogs, even British bulldogs, are best left alone. Or would it have been better to have put into the statute an explicit declaration that any of the “autonomous commonwealths” could secede at will? Again perhaps not; the dog might wake up.

As it is, the Statute of Westminster leaves the Empire a sort of legal mystery. When outsiders speak of our Dominions as “sovereign states” some, at least, among us, resent it. When they depict us as subordinate to British rule, we all repudiate it. Nor is the anomaly of the act only in regard to the nature of the union. It provides that no change can be made in the monarchy without the assent of the parliaments of all the Dominions and of the United Kingdom. But what if some say “yes” and some “no”? The statute affirms a common allegiance but provides no common citizenship. It takes away the antecedent supremacy of the British Parliament, but it puts nothing in its place. It contains no provision for its own amendment. Worse still, it leaves at least one Dominion, Canada, without any future means of amending its constitution. Until now there remained the fiction, if not the fact, that the British Parliament could amend the British North America Act, which is to a large degree the constitution of Canada. In actual fact they could not have done so, of their own prompting. But on requests of both Houses of the Parliament of Canada they did so, to the extent that the original British North America Act expanded into a series, the British North America Acts from 1867 on. Even at that, they could only amend things as desired by the Houses, and not things, such as the much discussed abolition of the Canadian Senate, of which the Senate itself might not see the point. As it is, we have locked the door and thrown away the key. Nor does the Statute of Westminster make a decisive end of the appeals from the Dominion courts to the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. This situation is thus full of anomalies. The British cabinet manages the conduct of the war. It must. There is no way to manage it six times over. Yet the British cabinet is not responsible to the dominion electors. But British government has lived on anomalies so long it may well carry on with them for a while.

The British Dominions, apart from Eire, are all alike in their constitutional relation to Great Britain. But they differ greatly among themselves in their form of government and in their environment. Canada and Australia are federal governments. New Zealand, like the United Kingdom itself, is a unitary government, as was Newfoundland till 1933. Australia and New Zealand know nothing of the problem of dual races and dual languages. They are, to all intents and purposes, 100 per cent British both in origin and in culture. Their few aborigines count for nothing in their destiny, and their few foreigners don’t matter. But Canada is nearly 30 per cent French and South Africa nearly 60 per cent Dutch. Newfoundland, by history and position, shares a certain bilingualism. On the other hand, South Africa stands alone in having a huge majority population of natives, with a reserve continent of them in the background, as a central factor in its political life. But Canada stands alone in its proximity to the United States and the intimate social relation created thereby. Canada belongs in two systems at once. History, too, has set its stamp on each of the Dominions. For Newfoundland and Canada there is the long pageant of North American peace and war. The battle of the Plains of Abraham is part of the history of the world. South Africa also has had a chequered history, its glories and its disasters, with less time to forget it. But the Dominions of the Antipodes have nothing, on their own soil, but the happy annals of peace. The brief Maori wars left little but a picturesque memory and so rancour. The enemy, if cannibals, were at least gentlemen. Australian convict settlements, bush-rangers and “black-fellows” make a picturesque setting, but with nothing of the life and death element that went with the “drums along the Mohawk,” the wars with the Iroquois and the Great Trek among the savages.

This blended history and environment gives to each Dominion its distinctive individuality.

The federation of Provinces that makes the Dominion of Canada is one that nature framed. The three Maritime Provinces are geographical units each in itself. In climate and population and culture they are largely one, save only for the French corner of north-west New Brunswick. But they are cut off from the rest of the Dominion by what was, till yesterday, wilderness. Few people realize the historic isolation of the Maritimes from what they so long called Canada. Till the thin roundabout line of the Intercolonial Railway was opened in 1876, there was no way to Canada except by sea, and even that was missing when winter closed the St. Lawrence. “When the River freezes I am King,” Count Frontenac used to say. Louis XIV couldn’t reach him till spring. Winter access to Canada, when it became British, was through the States. We read of Governor Sir Charles Bagot, the first imported Governor after the Union of the Canadas, making his painful way through the snows of New York State. When Dr. Charles Tupper (presently Sir Charles) wanted to hasten from Nova Scotia to his daughter, who was caught up in the Red River Rebellion of 1869, he had to take a ship to New York and to make his way thence westward to the Mississippi by rail and to the Red River by stage. Even now, with a tourist interprovincial highway and a constant come-and-go of commercial and political people, there is no continuous, integrated connection between the English-speaking Maritimes and English-speaking “Canada.” The State of Maine thrusts in between. What is not American is French or wilderness.

Upper and Lower Canada (Ontario and Quebec) are physically distinct, with the Ottawa between, but race and language overlap and the two now reunite in the new mining country of the north. But they are still entirely cut off from Western Canada. There are railway lines, aeroplanes, but even now, no road. The West, nominally three Provinces, is all one from the hand of nature. There is no way on earth to tell when Manitoba turns into Saskatchewan, and Saskatchewan into Alberta. For that, one must consult the sky, since the boundaries are meridians of longitude. British Columbia, shut off by the huge barrier of the Rockies, is an empire in itself. It has 372,630 square miles, a climate as mild as that of France, a snowless winter in Victoria. It could support with ease 20,000,000 people. Much of it is a land of dreams, with inland valleys of fruit and sea-beaches murmuring to the Pacific sunset. Even with trans-Canada planes bringing Montreal and Vancouver within seventeen hours, British Columbia is a long, long way from the East. Yet the very magnificence of our Canadian distances represents our greatest hope.

The physical divisions of British North America made union long impossible. Each part of it seemed to connect with a similar belt of the United States. Everywhere a wilderness blocked communication. The federation that at last came in 1867 arose out of sheer necessity—the break-down of English and French joint government in the Canadas, and the danger that arose from the war overwhelming the United States. The British North America Act, made in Canada in 1865 for adoption in England (1867), reflected this situation. The Union was due to the fear of aggression. It took its peculiar form—intended as centralization—to avoid what seemed the unhappy example of the United States. Canadian righteousness had to be kept away from American sin—States’ rights. Oddly enough, the more we have tried to keep away from American sin in Canada, the closer we have drifted towards it. Confederation in Canada was an attempt to get as near to the unitary system of Great Britain, all-powerful in the centre at the last resort, as the circumstances of geography, race, language and religion would permit. The unification of economic life was taken for granted. The reason for the federal form of the compact was to safe-guard religion, language and education. Economic policy did not come in.

Observe what happened. Each country went the other way. America killed “States’ rights” with the sword. It buried it under constitutional amendments, and read its doom in sentences of the courts. It had to do this. Federal government is a wonderful instrument of political union, where an amalgamation is impossible. In war it has proved salvation for Ancient Greece as for the New England of 1642. As economic life grows and connects, federalism becomes difficult. When industrial mechanical civilization spreads in a broad, even flood over areas with little physical boundary, federal government breaks down. It is not possible to have forty-eight ways of regulating labour, forty-eight ways of social help and of “suffering the little children,” of executing crooks and regimenting capital. Nothing but the colossal indigenous strength of the American Republic enabled it to drag such a ball and chain. Conceive the immense burden of it and its intricacy as in the era of the trust problem. Or conceive the ridiculous trivialities arising from it. A case arising in San Francisco as to whether a barber could shave a customer on Sunday could, and did, involve a writ to the federal courts, the rights of forty-eight ways of shaving and the question whether the right to a clean shave on Sunday is one of those inalienable natural rights guaranteed by Amendments No. 1 to No. 10 and removable only by the Hand of God. Meanwhile, for perhaps two years, a thousand barbers paused, razor in hand.

From this burden the United States now shakes itself free. Presently the chain will just become merely an imitation, a pretence, like the gold chains of jewelry that once were fetters.

But while America was thus discarding American sin, Canada, after a first start away from it, came back closer and closer. It has reached now a point of States’ rights, renamed “provincial autonomy,” that Virginia might have envied.

The Act of 1867, as framed, seemed all for central power. Its chief section (91) seemed to give full economic control. The Dominion government could tax by “any mode or system,” not on the grudging terms allowed to Washington in 1789. It had control of “trade and commerce,” written like that, complete in its simplicity, not part of it, but all of it. It had “banking” in one word and “legal tender” in two. Every section of it is meant to recall and rectify some misfortune of the Republic. It had all the public land outside the existing Provinces—that meant, all the vast stretch of the North-West. It passed in silence over labour legislation and such. No one thought of that. But to a plain mind the power was there.

Thus started, the Dominion of Canada advanced for at least a generation further and further towards consolidation. It took the Hudson’s Bay Territory. It made out of it the “postage stamp province” of Manitoba (1870), and organized the Northwest Territories. British Columbia came in (1871) with the promise of a Pacific railroad, realized in 1886. Prince Edward Island joined in 1873. A national protective tariff (1879) sheltered home industry. Immigrants poured into the West. Canada appeared at the colonial pageant in London in 1897 as “the granary of the Empire, free homes for millions.”

The current turned. Unforeseen discoveries of mineral wealth, under provincial control, turned wilderness to Eldorado. The provinces fell heir to the great asset of water-power. Hydro-electric power became a huge provincial interest. Along with it came the new pulp and paper industry, another provincial concern unknown at Confederation. The rise of the motor-car poured a wealth of license taxes into the treasuries of the Provinces; the rise of public utility corporations a second stream. The government sale of liquor, especially after the stimulus of prohibition, proved an open sesame. At Confederation, provincial finance was so feeble it could not stand without federal subsidies. Seventy years later the annual revenue of such a Province of Ontario was seven times as large as that of the Dominion government at Confederation.

The whole impetus of development favoured provincial power. To help it along, the lawyers turned up the mysterious clause (under section 92) of the British North America Act, which gives the Provinces control over “property and civil rights.” This new power came out of its oblivion like the wicked fairy from the cupboard in the fairy tale. It wished that the young Dominion would prick its hand on the point of the clause and fall fast asleep. It nearly did. The war just woke it in time, or the Dominion, drowsing heavily at Ottawa, would have watched the huge Provinces play the Saxon Heptarchy.

What this clause in question really means no one knows. Probably the Fathers of Confederation meant that ordinary day-to-day buying and selling, property and real estate, belonged to the Provinces. It is used now to give the Provinces any and every power which the courts care to give them, and to snap asunder the generality of such clauses as “any mode or system of taxation.” It is like a chemical ingredient, thrown into the judicial retort to precipitate “provincial power.” What used to be federal control is thrown away as the scum off the top. By this means all attempt to make general Canadian laws for labour, social help, social control, break into fragments. A whole group of statutes for social betterment (Minimum Wage Act, Weekly Rest Act, Limitation of Hours of Work Act) were all declared by the decision of the Privy Council (1935) as outside of the power of Canada. What can’t be done on one authority is impossible as nine. People can’t enjoy nine kinds of rest and nine varieties of old age. So we are put back with the California barbers and the Sunday shave. The forty-eight stars of the United States move forward in the social sky towards national solidarity. The Canadian constellation of nine drifts, retrograde, towards the darker side of the heavens.

Nothing succeeds like success. A movement once started acquires momentum. Public opinion compelled the Dominion to give up its public western land (1931) and to pay a compensation ($6,250,000) for having ever had it. Dominion power to disallow a provincial law fell into disuse, till Alberta forced the pace so hard as to resurrect it. But the political power of the Provinces is seen in such a question as that of the Deep Waterways Plan, to connect ocean shipping with the Upper Lakes. This is a truly national question, in which we might envisage Canada as one. But the structure of Canadian political life brings in Ontario, as a full-sized partner in the argument.

This growth of provincial autonomy suited the book of French Canada. At Confederation the French numbered one third of the population of Canada. They had their Acadian extension eastward and their footing in the North West. The half breed Metis were spreading over the plains. The church towers of St. Boniface marked a French settlement of eight hundred souls, when Winnipeg—the name means “dirty water”—only indicated a group of shanties and saloons straggling out of Fort Garry. It had two hundred and fifty people, with or without souls. But the French hope of a bilingual West went out with the Manitoba boom, the rebellion of 1885 and the American invasion at the turn of the century. British Columbia, including Victoria and its enchanted Island, had acquired such French as it knew out of an English school-book. Hence French dualism for all Canada shrank to French Nationalism for Quebec.

This is not to say that French Canada is alien to the British Empire. The separatism is only as against the sister Provinces, and that not as hostility, except against a more or less imaginary group of Orangemen. It is an isolation like the polite and friendly subdivision of Montreal. The great majority of the French have long since accepted the Empire. It is a commonplace of history that the last shot in its defence will be fired by a French Canadian. His only new competitor might be a New Englander. The gallant service of French Canada under arms, in the past and repeated now, is ample warrant for personal courage and political loyalty. Independence, talked of in the dog days of years of stagnation, is just a sort of dream. A little group of our French people—a group only in the sense that four-leaved clovers make a group, one here, one there—like to talk of a dream republic called Laurentia. It is a lovely place; there are no English there, and no capitalists and no power companies; and there are no soldiers and no armies and it never goes to fight in Europe. In this dream world the government is all by orators—young orators—and they talk and talk, and write newspapers and pamphlets, and fall asleep and wake up and talk. No one quite knows where this Laurentia is, whether Montreal is in it, whether it has ports and ships that block the outlet of a continent, or whether it is up somewhere in the snows of Peribonka, in the country of Maria Chapdelaine. But what is life without its dreams?

When the war came to Canada it straightened all the Provinces into line. It was a sort of “eyes right” that took away attention from social credit in Alberta and from the retroactive inheritance tax that was resurrecting the dead in Ontario. These things could wait. The Quebec provincial election of October 1939 settled all question of Canadian neutrality. The new wind from over the sea clears the Canadian sky.

Australia presents a complete physical contrast with Canada. One is a whole continent, the other only a half. Canada touches the North Pole. Australia, in its mandated territory, almost reaches the Equator. Canada is divided by great mountain ranges. It falls north and south into separate systems of river basins and plains. There is water almost everywhere. Over great areas, as in the district round Lake Mistassini, it is hard to say whether the country is made up of land filled with lakes, or of lakes filled with islands. Australia is otherwise shaped. It has been compared to a vast tea-tray turned upside down and pounded in the centre. It thus consists, especially on the east and south-east of a great rim of mountain, plateau and fertile coast-line, with a sunken centre. The coastal region, with the adjacent island of Tasmania, contains all that is best of Australia. Its snowless climate is that of Mediterranean Europe, its fertile valleys admirable for fruitland, much of it a garden soil to vie with Southern France. Inland it slopes upward till it rises, in places with an abrupt lift of three or four thousand feet, to a high plateau of grass and sheepland. But the plateau itself sinks gradually inland to the vast central “dead heart of Australia,” which has set its stamp upon the picture of the continent. This country of one unending monotony of slate and sand and stunted shrub sinks in places below the level of the sea. Here such water as falls runs away from the sea, towards the centre, and dies away in the sands. The large inviting body of water which appears in blue upon the maps under the name of Lake Eyre (area 3,700 square miles), is sometimes there and sometimes not. Its bed lies 39 feet below the sea level. In dry seasons the “lake” is reduced to a certain feeling of dampness in the air where the water has evaporated.

This “dead heart of Australia” corresponds in a sort of pot-and-kettle fashion with the frozen north of Canada. Time may show that the heart is not so dead nor the north so frozen as fancy painted. A distinguished Glasgow scientist estimated a few years ago that Australia could support 45,000,000 people, then repented the estimate and wished he had doubled it. Any reasonable estimate of the potential population of Canada goes beyond that again. But meantime the physical environment of each country has conditioned its settlement. People had to find, not always successfully, warm corners in Canada. And population had to come to Australia by occupying the coastal belt. For each country, access must follow rivers and harbours. Sydney Harbour, really a submerged river valley, was admirable for entrance. But the great inland plateau behind, scarped steep by nature, defied all ascent for many years. Thus the Australian colonies broke out as patches on the coast. The Commonwealth still bears in its divisions and its economy this stamp that nature set on it. On its northern coast torrid heat challenges white residence and fertility invites in vain.

Settled in this way, federation was long in coming to Australia. The connection of the colonies with England and with one another was by sea—long distances at that. Even for modern steamers, Brisbane is two days from Sydney, two more to Melbourne, then two to Adelaide, and beyond that a four days’ voyage to Freemantle (the port of Perth) in Western Australia. To this last region there was no other access. Even for the eastern colonies the railways were on a local basis with varying gauges—in fact they still are. Until the time of the Japanese-Chinese War (1894) there was no outside danger to quicken union. The Orient seemed asleep.

The federation of all Australia was of course proposed in its cradle, as happy marriage is wished to a baby girl. The idea has a kind of grandeur about it, a natural consummation. But beyond grandeur there seemed little in it. The Australian colonies set more stress on their divergences than their points of resemblance. The fact that they were all of one race, one language, one culture and one allegiance, they took for granted. They had as a birthright what the mills grind slowly for the rest of us. But they laid stress on their disagreements. The colony of Victoria had been a pioneer in tariff protection (1860) and was proud of it. New South Wales was, outside of Britain, the sole remaining area of free trade, and clung to it like a survivor on a rock. Western Australia had received with its responsible government (1893) the unrestricted control of 975,000 square miles of the globe, about equal to one third of Europe. Its 50,000 inhabitants (1891) proposed to take advantage of this sublime imbecility of imperial administration. When presently nature threw in gold mines (1892-93) they clung to their inheritance all the closer.

The altered world that was made by the awakening and arming of Japan changed this situation. It was clear that six separate Australian colonies could never hold a white continent against an inundation of Asia in arms. The federation that followed after long negotiation was framed in Australia and cast in an imperial statute, the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act of 1900, proclaimed January 1, 1901. New Zealand stayed out. Distant some 1,500 miles, it must work out its own salvation. Western Australia, cast for the part of Rhode Island, or Prince Edward Island, stayed out at the initiation, but was coaxed in in time to become an original State. The chief inducement was the pledge of a railway across the desert. This is the trunk-line, Trans-Australian railway, 1,052 miles, connecting Port Augusta (the port of Adelaide), South Australia, with the Western Australia railway system at Kalgoordie, 387 miles east of Freemantle. The railway has proved an economic failure and even as a political gesture has missed its mark. Western Australia, thus married in haste, has repented at leisure. It has never ceased to deplore the Union. As recently as 1933 a plebiscite showed a two-to-one vote for secession, and the State petitioned the British government for release (1934). But the Westminster Statute had thrown away the key to the padlock. The British government was able to fall back on its own inability, using the Statute of Westminster much as Mr. Spenlow in David Copperfield explained that Jorkins was inexorable.

Under the circumstances described, the federal government of Australia was made on the reverse plan to that of Canada. The idea was to keep as much authority as possible for the separate units, and give only necessary powers to the central government. The names “State” and “Commonwealth” reflected this. Canada had been called a Dominion (official French, Puissance). The name was adopted as a second best. Sir John A. Macdonald and other leaders suggested “The Kingdom of Canada.” This frightened the Colonial Office, in that day the final authority. They wanted something with more sound and less meaning. Dominion hit it just right. But not for the Australians; they chose Commonwealth, a term at that time with just a touch of Oliver Cromwell and a whiff of Massachusetts in it. This has since evaporated in the larger sense that replaces Empire. “State” superseded province in spite of any academic contradiction. The States became the basis of the Federation. They kept the “residual power,” surrendered in Canada to Ottawa, meaning thereby that any authority not given to the Commonwealth must belong to the States. They kept, still keep, their Governors imported from England.

But unwittingly the Australians had made a constitution which nourished the centre, just as Canada kept draining it dry. First, they avoided certain obvious errors. They gave the Commonwealth a federal capital (made ten years later at Canberra)—a place to call its own, the humblest of human desires. In Canada the capital city of Ottawa is in and under Ontario. It must behave itself accordingly. Members of Parliament and federal civil servants are kept wet or dry with the Ontario liquor law; baseball and such wickednesses are forbidden on Sunday. Sleigh-riding on Sunday has brought children into courts. Australia, at least, knows nothing of this nonsense.

A sensible step was taken also by putting into the constitution a provision for amendment, modelled on the American plan. A proposed amendment must be passed by both Houses (Senate and Representatives), and then receive a majority popular vote, carrying also a majority in at least four States of the six. An amendment altering the representation of a State must also be accepted by the State itself. Under these terms, plus the Statute of Westminster, Australia could amend itself out of the Empire. It won’t.

Of necessity the tariff power had to be given to the Commonwealth. Victorian protection and New South Wales free trade were as incompatible as two women in one house. In such cases tariff wins. The sharp, specific interest of the producer fights better than the broader and lazier interest of the consumer, with whom everybody’s business is nobody’s business. Thus, incidentally, tariff making, and its connection with labour interest, strengthened the central government. Still more did its power grow by the application of the wide range of social services, labour arbitration, pensions, insurance, and the regulation of society, which grows as naturally on Australian soil as the plants round Botany Bay. There was a general consensus that no intrusion of States’ rights must alter this. The constitution provided specifically for a wide range of control in industrial arbitration, and such matters.

Of necessity, the huge central up-and-down strip of unoccupied area called Northern Australia passed under federal control (1911). As now divided into the administrative divisions of North Australia and Central Australia, it covers in all 523,000 square miles. An official estimate of 1937 found in it 4,011 white people and 1,802 “others.” These pathetic “others” are aborigines. More of them, about 22,000, live in Western Australia. The British colony of Papua was transferred to Australian control in 1906. To it was added, after the Great War, the part of the same huge island called the mandate of New Guinea. Thus the Commonwealth, apart from its other functions, is a trustee for humanity on a large scale.

It was, moreover, the Australian constitution which gave the first blow to the system of judicial appeals from the colonies to the Privy Council in London. This appeal, the right to plead to the King against the failure of justice in his courts, is as old as Kingship. In the early days of colonial settlement it was as reasonable as it was natural. But as settlement changed from pioneer colonies to huge industrial overseas communities like Australia and Canada, the system became as inconvenient as it was expensive. The Statute of Westminster has removed its constitutional basis, and it no longer exists except for Dominions which wish to retain it. There is no reason now why Australian or Canadian judges should not have a final decision as to the interpretation of the law of their own country. But when Australia, in drafting its constitution, proposed to cut out the appeal altogether, the home government objected and the appeal was retained in regard to matters involving interpretation of the constitution, as especially the powers of the federal and state governments. British public opinion at the time felt that to cut out the appeal to a single final court would destroy the unity of the Empire. So it would, but that sort of legal unity has vanished anyway with the Statute of Westminster. Canada, for its own reasons, keeps the system of appeal to the Privy Council. Originally it may have seemed a further safe-guard of the relative rights of French and English, of Province and Dominion. To many, it may have seemed that it would have meant better law. The appeal remains still, although the Canadian Supreme Court has given the opinion that the Canadian Parliament can abolish it. To outsiders the appeal seems cumbrous and expensive, and charged with fatal delay. For modern business a bad legal decision (what the lawyers call bad), if given quickly, is better than a slow good one. Business can accommodate itself to anything, provided it knows what it must accommodate itself to. A company that is kept waiting two years to know if a statute, vital to its operation, is valid or invalid, would rather settle it by drum-head court martial, or by asking Charlie McCarthy over the radio. Nor is it true that a Privy Council decision is, in and of itself, more logical than one made by Canadian judges.

The decisions, for Canada, about what is, and what is not, direct taxation, or rather as to what it meant in 1867, are about as true to the mark as sticks thrown at Aunt Sally at a fair. The decisions about property and civil rights that wiped out in 1935 for us in Canada all power of collective social legislation were deplorable and filled with menace for the future. When a clause can mean anything, you should ask what you would like it to mean, what national welfare needs it to mean, and interpret it as that. This is the American system, from Chief Justice Marshall down. A good judge can fit the law as a tailor fits clothes. A bad judge takes a pattern out of a book and makes a scarecrow.

The sad truth is that the personal interest of the lawyers is here opposed to that of the public at large. They don’t mind the expense of the trip to London, and they don’t mind the delay—if there could be any further appeal, say to Miami or Hollywood, they’d go there too. A lawyer, in going “over to the Privy Council,” acquires virtue, as the savages say. He comes back like an Indian with a scalp or a Borneo Dacoit with a dried head. Therefore, the lawyers advise us to leave the system as it is. There is an old rhyme from somewhere which is called “the lawyer’s lullaby,” and which runs, “Be still, my child, remain in statu quo, while father rocks the cradle to and fro.” That suits the case exactly.

To an outside point of view the evolution of central power in Australia seems eminently admirable. Apart from the divergent situation of Western Australia and the special interest of Tasmanian and South Australian agriculturists, as opposed to urban manufactures and labour, the Commonwealth has a wonderful unity of situation, culture and interest. It has no dispute (to speak of) over association in the Empire, over defence, over White Australia, over restricted immigration, excluding the destitutes, but with social help and bread and work for all lucky enough to have arrived in time.

The States may well subside to mere areas of dignity, chief centres of cricket, and of academic life in college. All federations, to fulfil their final aim, ought to move in that direction. In some far future, in our dreams of a world of peace, we can see government itself fading away into athletics and debating societies, marking the spot whence now spring peace and war.

New Zealand, the “Long White Cloud” that floats on the southern seas, from latitude 34 to 48 degrees south, is, as said in a chapter above, the most British of all the Dominions. In French they have a phrase, “plus royaliste que le roi.” And it may be that in the great changes that have in a generation overwhelmed the life of their mother country, the New Zealanders are now more British than the British. Not for nothing did Macaulay place his future New Zealand on London Bridge as a last survivor, or a new discoverer or something. Whatever it was he came for, he was just the man for the job. Moreover he knows it. New Zealand, as said above, calls Britain “home,” has no aspirations for large citizenship or separate culture or newer ideals.

It received its official designation as a Dominion in 1907. But the fact of free government had been with it from the start. In fact, too free. In spite of the repeated representations of missionaries and the eagerness of the new school of colonization (Gibbon Wakefield and company) to try a scheme on it, Britain, from its annexation by Captain Cook (in his voyage of 1768), which was disavowed, refused to spread its official mantle over New Zealand till 1840. They were only moved to action by the news that a French colonization company, La Compagnie Nanto-Bordelaise, was going to settle the islands. This was too much. Captain Hobson, R.N., hoisted the Union Jack over the Bay of Islands on January 22, 1840. It is there still and likely to stay. The French arrived four months after, just too late. It was just like their luck in those days—compare La Perouse and Bougainville.

The settlement that followed under the new colonization scheme is discussed in detail in the next chapter. All seemed dead history buried in Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s grave in Wellington, N. Z. The American-Canadian plan of individual homestead settlement put it off the map. Now, with homestead land gone and rugged individualism on the street, under the name of relief, the New Zealand plan may well come back and its records serve as a guide. Round its early years was organized the government of New Zealand.

The colony was fortunate in getting away early from the divisions of federalism, towards which it took its first steps. Federalism would have seemed natural at first but later would have put legislation in chains. The happy isolation of New Zealand has enabled it to carry out experimental social legislation which, even with mingled success and failure, has been a sort of advance reconnaissance for other countries. For this there is nothing like being four days’ steam away from everybody. For house-cleaning you need the place to yourself. Yet, at the start, federalism would have seemed natural. The two chief islands are separated by sea, and a rough sea at that. Each of them is broken into divisions connected, till recently, only by sea. In the North Island, Auckland, with the surrounding district, a climate like the Cornish riviera, was separated by mountain barriers from the district around Wellington, at the furthest away corner. In the south was Canterbury and the charming plains around it, all grass and pleasant streams, where English willows, drooping over newer Avons, forget to drop their leaves. But this again the mountains cut off from the Dunedin country to the south where Scotland renews its vigor, and, further south still, the rugged country of the snows and inlets of Invercargill and the Bluff, tough enough for a Highlander.

There were factors of union from the start. The settlers were all British, one race, one language, all men of goodwill, with no quarrels with one another. Yet, more or less of necessity, the first representative form of government set up in New Zealand by statute (1852) was largely on federal lines. There were six, later nine, different provinces with councils and a local jurisdiction of their own. But the general New Zealand government, recognized as “responsible” in 1856, had power to alter this arrangement, and did so in an act of 1875, abolishing the provincial system. This means that the government that sits at Wellington—Governor General and cabinet with a parliament made up of a Legislative Council (appointed) and a House of Representatives, elected—is supreme over all New Zealand, the local divisions of counties, boroughs and various districts deriving their powers from the centre.

It is this, as already said, that has enabled New Zealand to play so conspicuous a part in the development of social legislation, unhindered by the trammels that impede federal governments in the same path. The early announcements of the success of these new experiments proved premature. The “country without strikes,” under its compulsory arbitration, broke into strikes again when arbitration arbitrated downward. One more myth of a South Seas paradise went to join the others. But at any rate New Zealand has been in the front line of that advancing front which grapples with the problem of social betterment without social destruction.

Nor is it to be supposed that the New Zealand legislation of this sort is adapted or copied from the hard code of German social benefaction of the period, fifty years ago, by which the German Empire fought socialism, with results now visible. The New Zealand legislation is indigenous. Witness this evidence.

A certain English clergyman, dreaming dreams, wrote a little pamphlet, somewhere about 1860, proposing that at least old age should be set free from care by pensions paid by the government, that is, by all for each. The little pamphlet fell as forlorn on London book-stalls as little pamphlets do. But a copy drifted to New Zealand, to a Mr. Atkinson, then a new settler and nobody in particular. He too dreamed that if he ever became somebody he would try to get that scheme applied. Later he was somebody, being Prime Minister of New Zealand. With him began the New Zealand old age pension, the first non-contributory pension given free, the only kind worth instituting. It has since gone round the world. All those who draw pensions can appreciate the charm of it.

The circumstances which led to the formation of the Union of South Africa by an imperial statute of 1909, have already been discussed. In appearance, in prestige and in the historic background of its component parts, the Union is a federal government. But in legislative structure, it is not. The power of the Union government is now as complete and unlimited over the provinces as is that of the United Kingdom over the British counties. This is especially true since, as already indicated, the Statute of Westminster removed all reserved jurisdiction of the British government. But even as in operation from 1910 to 1931, before the statute was adopted, the government, apart from these reservations, was not federal. The administrator of each province is appointed for five years by the Governor General in Council, that is, by the South African cabinet. The provincial councils, although elected by the voters, have a fixed term of five years and no cabinet government. All local matters—in especial, roads, bridges, markets, the organization of municipalities and local education—are allotted to the provincial governments. But the allotment is one that the Union can alter at will. The railways, harbours and seaports are controlled by the Union itself, acting through a special board.

The reason is that federation in South Africa would be a misfit. The Cape, Natal, the Orange Free State and the Transvaal have each had their separate histories, but their economic life runs together in such a way as to make the welfare of each the interest of all. The overwhelming predominance of the mining industry at Johannesburg means that the railway systems all radiate from a common centre to the seaports. All South Africa draws on the mines. Mining profits make possible the progress of agricultural development. Hence the peculiar paradox that the more South Africa seems to be turning away from mining towards its other resources, the more it really depends on it. Nor would federation correspond to the division of race and language, as it does in Canada. The division into Dutch and British runs crosswise of the whole Union, showing a total, among the whole white population, of 58 per cent Dutch. Natal is predominantly British, but the oldest British province, the Cape of Good Hope, is more Dutch than British, especially outside of Cape Town.

The unhappy division of language shadows the Union. The case is entirely different from that of either Canada or Ireland. In Canada there never was a time when the French language could have been put out by authority, or would have died out of itself. Its rootage, at first isolated and frail, was at least strong enough to hold. The phenomenal increase of the French, and the background of a metropolitan press, has put the French language in Quebec in an entrenched position. Moreover it has behind it all the literature of old France.

But the Dutch language in South Africa was dying out of itself, before 1896. The Boers lived isolated from Holland. There were few Dutch books, other than the Bible, written in the language of the seventeenth century. The language spoken, the Taal, was at best a broken dialect. Then came the Jameson raid, and altered everything. The people reached back for their language, as the Magyars of Hungary had done with success two generations earlier. They saw in it, to use Alphonse Daudet’s phrase about Alsace, “the key of their prison.” Language committees fostered the use of Dutch. The language was polished up from dialect to dignity, from the kitchen to the hall. It has since spread, or returned, all over the Union, shares the schools and the colleges, and is the joint official language of the Union. It is a pity. A language maintained as a mark of separation, as a challenge to unity, is a poor asset. In Canada the British, the sensible ones, look on the French language as a common possession and claim their share in the bilingual culture which it brings. It is doubtful if there is much of this attitude in South Africa.

Ireland touches the other extreme. The resuscitation of Gaelic, its use lost to all but a few western peasants, was just a piece of Irish nonsense. It has no literature except to the fond eye of the antiquarian, and not enough words to say what it means without reaching up for English. The deliberate attempt to revive Gaelic seems to be succeeding. First thing, the Irish know, they’ll really talk it, and then they’ll be sorry.

But the matter of official Gaelic as the first language of Eire is a matter that hangs with its tangled history. Ireland’s cup of misery, it is said, has been overflowing for years and is not full yet. Having to learn Gaelic is just another bitter draught.

There is no need to recite here the sorrows of Ireland. There is no doubt that the legislative Union with Great Britain (1800) was a matter of force. The great mass of the Irish people never wanted it. Great Britain could but plead the military necessity of a life and death struggle of war. As the result, the nineteenth century was marked by one Irish “movement” after another. Movements of conciliation alternated with those of coercion, with starvation and pestilence to mock at both of them.

After the Union came the Repeal Movement (1800-1848). It failed when it appeared that its chief supporters were averse to force, but at least it helped to bring the Catholic Emancipation of 1829. After the Repeal Movement came the dark period of the potato famines, the ravages of cholera, the exodus to America, the brutal evictions with death by the roadside, and, in return, the fierce angers, the retaliations and the murders of the Fenian movement. This period spread Fenianism to America, led to the inroads into Canada (1866) and gave to Ireland in America a character of hatred and revenge, hardly all gone today. For the most part Fenianism met no answer but coercion, though presently there came the conciliation of new land laws, the extension of Ulster Tenant Right to the rest of Ireland (1881), and the beginning of land purchase of the Crown (1885), ownership shifting from the landlords to the tenants. After Fenianism came Home Rule (1870-1914), the demand not for repeal or separation but for the system of responsible government already in operation in the colonies. It originated about 1870 with Mr. Isaac Butt, an Irish M.P., in the Parliament at Westminster. He was permitted once a year to state the case argumentatively to an indulgent House, as a matter of fair play. Nothing happened. Then Charles Stewart Parnell and his associates tried the plan of making trouble instead of argument. Trouble, it seems, wins where argument wastes its breath. It is a sad comment on the evolution of our modern democracy that its own chosen method of reason and persuasion never gets it far. The stream of argument runs off the duck’s back of authority. But trouble—reiterated and repeated, as copied from the wasps and mosquitoes—at least excites attention. The Parnellites obstructed the House of Commons of the Gladstonian Parliament (1880-85) by talking all day and all night. They converted Mr. Gladstone, much as Mrs. Nation converted Kansas by smashing its saloons with an ax. Compare how labour presently gave up talk and tried “direct action,” turning off light and water; or how the suffragettes chained themselves to the galleries of the House of Commons and shouted; or how Mahatma Gandhi, by getting thin enough, by the sheer inertia of non-co-operation, compelled the government of India. The world still struggles today with this denial of all that the great era of liberty held sacred.

Obstruction in Ireland won Mr. Gladstone and ultimately won Home Rule. But when it finally came (1914) it was too late. War had closed over it. One can only wonder in retrospect whether it might not, twenty years sooner (the great Home Rule Bill, the first that passed the Commons, was in 1893), have reconciled Ireland and England. Home Rule enjoyed, even in England itself, a wide support on its merits, as apart from the mere strategy of politics. Scotland was all for it. Even Ulster, on different terms, with better guarantees, might have followed a lead given by England. America was all for it with overwhelming enthusiasm. So too British colonial opinion, and notably that of Canada, where Home Rule meetings met no challenge or answer. From Canada indeed went over Mr. Edward Blake, former leader of the Liberal opposition, to sit by invitation for an Irish constituency in Mr. Gladstone’s Parliament and explain how Home Rule worked.

All failed. Home Rule could not get a majority. The Boer War washed it out of the foreground. The Irish fought in the war, but they fought on both sides, as they had in the American Civil War. After South Africa, tariff reform took the floor. But at least the comprehensive Land Purchase Act of 1902 made a new landscape in Ireland. Tenantship turned into proprietorship. The sunshine of good times, the removal of all religious disability, seemed to many people to have cleared the Irish sky, and to leave on its horizon nothing but grievance for grievance’ sake. Still Home Rule never came. The House of Lords blocked the way. By the time they were lifted out of it with the block and tackle of the Parliament Act that removed their power of obstruction (1911), it was too late. The God of War took their place, blocking everything. The Home Rule Act just passed (1914) was suspended. Then came the war, with mismanagement—many people said—of Irish recruiting and the organization of Irish troops. The war brought the Easter Rebellion, suppressed in 1916. When the war had passed, the Home Rule movement was found to have been lost in the Sinn Fein—the demand for complete independence. This was no longer agitation but direct action. All the world knows its story, outrage alternating with Black and Tan repression. An Irish Republic came to life in the shadow. Home Rule was accepted by Ulster (Northern Ireland), as for itself alone (1920), but repudiated in the south. In place of it time and patience worked out, even in the atmosphere of murder and reprisal of the “Anglo-Irish War,” the conciliation accepted in the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act of 1921. This meant at last Dominion Status, equal partnership, all that the Parnells or the O’Connells ever could have dreamed of.

There is an old motto: “He gives twice who gives quickly.” Similarly he who gives too late gives nothing. So it always has seemed with Ireland. The Free State (Agreement) Act became a mere ladder from which to reach up for more fruit from the same wall. Ireland proceeded to take further power, without sanction or recognition, smashing up the imperial constitution with Mrs. Nation’s axe. It cut out the claim of the British landlords for interest from Irish tenants, cut out judicial appeals to the Privy Council, oaths of allegiance, and the alien Governor Generalship. The remaining landlords, about one third, were bought out by compulsion. By an agreement with the British government the Free State took over the naval ports reserved by the Act of 1921. It compromised the question of the land purchase debt to Great Britain with a lump sum. Finally it adopted an entire new constitution, approved by a plebiscite of July 1, 1937, and in force by December 29, 1937. Under this constitution there is no more Irish Free State; it is replaced by Eire, pronounced after the Gaelic fashion in two syllables to rhyme with Sarah. There is no mention here of Crown or King or Empire. Such connection as Ireland retains with the Empire must be deduced from what it has not abolished. By the Constitution (Amendment) Act of December, 1936, a product of the abdication of King Edward VIII, Ireland appears to be still an associated member of the Commonwealth of Nations united as the British Empire. Under this act the King is King outside of Ireland, though not in it. This status seems to persist under the new, entire constitution.

The constitution, though without acknowledgment of the King, is written in terms of great piety. “In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity,” so it declares, “from Whom is all authority and to Whom as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred, We, the people of Eire, humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ . . . do here adopt . . . and give to ourselves this constitution.”

By this lowly gift Eire is declared a sovereign independent democratic state. Its official language is Irish—English only recognized as a second language in case of need, a status recalling Mark Twain’s witness who could tell the truth if necessary. There is a national flag—green, white and orange. At the head of the State is an elected Uachlarán na h’ Eireann. It is understood to mean “president” in English. He acts on the advice of the Taoiscach who is himself the nominee of the Dail Eireann, a translation into Gaelic of what is called Cabinet Government at Westminster.


The Irish, having thus obtained all that they could want, had to look round for something to want next. Yet when it came they wouldn’t take it. The Abdication of King Edward VIII, officially only a statute of the British Parliament, threw independence at their feet. Had they chosen to keep King Edward, or to have some other King than ours, or no one at all as King, common decency would have forbidden all question of compulsion. It wouldn’t have been cricket—not the thing. There was the independent republic of a century of dreams—harp, shamrock and all. They wouldn’t take it. They prefer still to want something which they can’t have—the compulsion of Northern Ireland by British military force, to join the state of Eire. This of course is outside of all discussion.

But whether the Union of all Ireland, as one Dominion of the British Empire, will presently come “of itself” is quite another matter. There is no prophecy at present more calculated than this to enrage Irishmen of both divisions. Ulster shouts with derision at the idea of union with republican idolatry. Eire scoffs at concessions to monarchy. But time is long. The shouts sound hollow, the anger overloud—the voice of age raised in a dispute that the young must settle. Each generation carries its grievances to the grave, and time wreathes its ivy over the stone.

For, after all, even in Ireland life must go on. Life is not all moonlight murder behind a hedge or a brawl in the street. Ireland, through all its tears, has kept the smiles of its literature and art, the humours of its social life, like its own April sunshine through the rain on its green hills. A country as richly favoured by nature’s beauty, a people as richly endowed with bravery and brains cannot be lost to the world by a mere century or two of discord.

Meantime Ireland, when the present war began, declared itself out of it. This is a strange thing. There has been no war in Europe for hundreds of years without the Irish in it on one side or the other side, or on both, if only as soldiers of fortune. The long list of so-called English generals who were Irish—the Wellingtons and the Wolseleys and the Robertses and the Napiers—is as familiar as the record of the deeds of Irish regiments. But it may presently prove that the Gaelic for neutrality has a kick in it. We can only wait.

Some Books for Reference

Keith, A. B. Responsible Government in the Dominions. 3 vols. 1912.

Keenlyside, H. Canada and the United States. 1929.

Kennedy, W. P. The Constitution of Canada. 1938.

Siegfried, A. Canada: Les Deux Races (Ed. 1916) and Le Canada: Puissance Internationale. 1937.

Seitz, C. Newfoundland, the Great Island. 1927.

Moore, W. H. Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. 1910.

Hancock, W. H. Australia. 1930.

Roberts, E. New Zealand. 1935.

Hofmeyr, J. H. South Africa. 1931.

Harrison, H. Ireland and the British Empire. 1937.


Lack of Economic Unity in the Empire—Areas of Separate Authority—The Unsolved Problem of Empire Development—The Paradox of Wealth and Want—Land, Migration and Capital under Separate Control—A Handful of Settlers Own Half a Continent—The Free Trade Era That Was—Its Collapse—The Present World Dislocation of Money, Exchange and Trade—Nationalism Strangling Human Welfare—Tariffs in the Empire—How to Develop the Empire—Integration of Land, Labour, Migration and Capital—The New Migration—Come to Canada—Immigration Companies that Were and Can Be Again—Migration as Inspiration and Union

The British Empire has no corporate existence. It has no offices, no money and no assets. You can’t bring a suit against it. In fact you can’t find it. Like the famous Mrs. Harris, there is no such person. In other words the British Empire is the name of an association of members which have not consolidated their possessions into one unit, and which have no single or even uniform method of management.

There is no uniform system of money, not even of money of account, no unified exchange, no Empire bank, or consolidated public debt, or command of public lands or natural resources. There is no unified control of navigation or of commerce. The Empire is broken up at present into seven major tariff systems—the United Kingdom, five Dominions and India—all conducted on a protective basis as against one another. The United Kingdom controls in addition the separate customs systems of the Crown Colonies and other dependencies. Most striking of all is the fact that there is no unified control over immigration and land settlement.

Inside these economic frames, assets and population are distributed with the greatest inequality and irregularity. England carries 685 people to the square mile, Barbados has just about reached standing room only with 1,138. But vast stretches of British territory—good, usable land as in northern British Columbia—carry only one or two people to the square mile. The half million occupants of Western Australia own at least 1,000 acres each of public land, but they have no capital, and no control of immigration. The capital is in London, the control is in Canberra, and the people, for example, in Glasgow or elsewhere, on the relief. The first impression thus given by the Empire is the need for unification and integration, and the glory there would be in its accomplishment. To bring together the land and the people and the capital into one orderly state, with such abundant resources and opportunities as to banish want and to ensure plenty, would seem to be one of the major ambitions of the world. So it is.

But it is not so easy as it looks. The nations not so blessed as us—the words are from “Rule Britannia”—look on our vast heritage and think, “If we only had that, our people could never want.” Yet when Italy tries to develop Libya, or Holland to drain the Zuider Zee, they run up against the same puzzle as did Western Australia under the Empire Settlement Act. The capital spent is more than the return. It would cost less to pay the people to stay at home. Hence these economic misfits of a world seeking vainly for adjustment have brought the settlement of the overseas Empire to a full stop, with migration closed, except for people rich enough not to want it, and population drifting slowly back from the huge empty Dominions to the little British Isles, crowded but indomitable.

This Empire problem should invite the most earnest endeavour and the best patriotism that we possess among us. It is obvious that co-operation is needed. But what is to be done with co-operation when we get it? Are we to remove all tariffs? If we did, all the big cities of the Dominions would collapse. Open up immigration? If we did, we should have a yellow Canada and a brown Australia, and two new people on the dole in a poor community for every one taken off in a rich. Someone may say that we should abolish the “profits system,” the new name under which an old dog is nowadays hanged. There is no time in this limited volume to discuss nonsense of that sort. The “profits system” is only the name for the fact that I eat my food and you eat yours, and you don’t wear my boots. In its proper sense “every man for himself” is the only starting point in economics. Socialism is just a beautiful soap-bubble. Communism is a penitentiary. Unlimited free competition, let it be admitted, means the London slums of the 1860’s and the sweated labour of The Song of the Shirt. Yet somewhere there must be findable the relative equilibrium of a stable society, where even “the poorest,” like Evangeline’s people in Acadia, “have in abundance.” And if such a new Acadia is to be found, it is within and by the British Empire that we can best find it. If this is so, it means that our Empire not only contains in its destiny the chief hope for universal peace, but the chief opportunity towards that abiding plenty and prosperity on which alone universal peace can permanently rest. Whether or not it can be done, at least it is fine stuff to make dreams of.

But we can see at once that a part of the difficulty in this great problem does not belong to the Empire alone but is shared by all industrialized countries. All over the world we have this aspect of unused capital and unemployed labour. All over the world we have the same unsolved riddle of wealth and want; the same paradox of starvation in the midst of plenty; the same power of over-production exercised only to break the machine.

As yet we can only realize the problem, not solve it. It is clear that our present economic system of private buying and selling (the only system that ever worked outside of the Garden of Eden) hangs on scarcity. We must always produce just less than enough and not more, or else the price will crash and the machine goes out of gear. Over-plenty spells danger. This paradox seems to go beyond patience. Old-time economists explained that this meant a nice adjustment of demand and supply; but a part of the nice adjustment was the existence of underpaid people half starving on the edge of wages, and other people entirely starving with no work at all. As the scale of production increased, the sweep of this “adjustment” and the swath reaped by pauperism went wider and wider. The situation forced the attempt at social regulation that began with the factory acts of a century ago and continues in the “new deals” of today. Meantime these economic paradoxes and maladjustments check and hinder new countries as they do old. For all countries now run on machinery, and on buying and selling. The pioneer with the axe, self-sufficient in his happy cabin, has passed out of the picture. South Sea Islands, dropping bread and fruit on the grass beside “limpid streams,” are occupied now by labour unions of South Sea Islanders.

But if the Empire thus shares a problem common to all the world, it is in the Empire that it is most acute, or rather most obvious and conspicuous. The contrast between our resources and our limited ability to use them challenges us to do better. Thus the problem confronts us with a double difficulty—how to solve the riddle of labour and capital, and how to unify and integrate our vast domain.

Oddly enough the Empire started on its career with organic economic unity, and once, in mid-career, again nearly achieved it. That is to say, the old-time colonial Empire was all controlled from London. After it was gone, in Cobden’s time, it looked as if the Empire, along with all the world, would be controlled and united by political economy. The world would be made one by enlightened self-interest.

The old colonial system that began under James I and ended with the American Revolution was based on the plantation idea. It was conquered, occupied and exploited, first and foremost for the advantage of Great Britain. But it had in it from the first the germs of better things. The merchant owners and the settlers enjoyed British protection. From the first the colonies had certain special rights in the British market, such as the monopoly of tobacco, the growth of the plant being forbidden in Great Britain itself. The Navigation Laws pressed the plantations in one direction, but gave them room in another. Thus the American sea-board colonies enjoyed the lucrative West Indian trade, but lost it (for the time) when they became independent. Massachusetts and the others enjoyed, if we can use the word, the profitable treaty rights for slave catching and slave selling obtained by Great Britain from Spain. Two at least of the great plantation and trading companies of this first epoch, the Hudson’s Bay and the East India Companies, carried forward till 1858 and 1869, and carried British sovereignty with them. The former is still there, strong as ever, with the laurels of commerce in place of the arms of sovereignty. With wiser management and more foresight this unified and regulated colonial Empire could have rounded the Stamp Act corner and entered by a short cut on the road so difficult to find now. But the strain of the colonial controversy from the Stamp Act to the Boston Tea Party was too intense for such a frail structure.

Unity seemed to dawn with the aurora of the free trade period. The Liberal school which dominated European thought for a generation confidently expected universal free trade and the abolition of all barriers to international intercourse. But the “freedom” school took for granted the very thing that it wanted to create—a world of brotherly love and equality. Free competition, unchecked at home, would have put the weak under the strong. Free migration would have filled the newer worlds with mixtures of all kinds of peoples, of all colours, of all creeds, of all races, without coherence or common thought. Free trade, unchecked, would have killed overseas manufacture at the start, as an oak tree can be killed while yet a shoot. International free trade would have levelled down high wages to the standards of lower races and prevented all social betterment by the sheer extent of the field that must be covered all at once or not at all.

We can see now the errors in these preconceptions of free trade. But it managed in the mid-Victorian days to invest itself with a sort of godliness that clung to it for two generations. It was not business, it was gospel. It ranked along with the Protestant Reformation and the Whig Revolution, and the eminence of Mr. Gladstone. It reached even to the colonies. A certain taint of wickedness long clung to a Canadian manufacturer. Those of us who can recall the British public opinion of fifty years ago realize how reluctantly this frame of mind was abandoned. A Gladstonian Liberal now belongs in a museum, but in his day he looked over the world as from an eminence, an Ark of Salvation on Mount Ararat.

But the pity is that in abandoning one extreme we should have been carried to the other; that the world’s escape was from the frying-pan to the fire. In giving up the illusions of universalism, the dream of an all-one world, we should not have turned restriction into a set of fetters. Even if all the world could not be one garden, as of Eden, we should not have allowed nationalism, in replacing liberalism, to grow like a tangled weed over its separated fields and hedges, choking their own growth.

This is what the Great War did for us.

On the eve of the Great War, at the opening of the year 1914, universal free trade was dead. But international commerce went strong. The protective tariffs of the United States and of the great Dominions, as of the industrial European countries, still permitted a vast and continued importation. Even the self-sufficient economy that marked the German “agricultural tariff” after 1900, was far from exclusive. Public policy everywhere aimed at a sort of happy equilibrium favouring home manufacture and drawing a revenue from foreign imports. The ugly cloud of the balance of trade doctrine still hung before the vision of common sense. Yet the nations thought of it in the general rather than in the particular, and, if need be, bought without selling, in individual cases. Migration, apart from oriental exclusion, was still relatively free. Europe sent out about 2,000,000 emigrants every year. For navigation and commerce the open door was the rule; restrictions, such as coastal laws, the exception.

Most happy of all was the system of universal money, the one legacy of the Cobdenite era that had endured and expanded. This was so wide-spread that it was taken for granted, just as the highest art seems effortless and the most beautiful language inevitable. The adoption of gold as a basis, with paper as its representative, with free coinage and instant redemption, had been evolved by the happy accidents of British monetary history. It spread over the civilized world in the nineteenth century. It connected indirectly with a fixed exchange for silver money. Payment could be made in any country from any other, with nothing extra but the cost on the carriage of gold. Even that vanished where bargains cancelled out, or turned into a premium if the majorities of bargains turned the other way. Everybody’s actual money became everybody else’s. In transit, gold napoleons or roubles or dollars were all one.

The Great War smashed all this into fragments. The peace (1918-39) brought the great crash that pulverized even the fragments. The broad paved highways of international trade are now broken stones and mud.

Money went first. The gold standard vanished at the outbreak of the war. After the war the attempts to revive it were defeated by the great crash, which brought down also the gold standard of the United States. The war brought an era of paper money, irredeemable and unlimited, a thing which in the view of bygone political economy was as deadly as a creeping palsy. With such currency went a haphazard exchange, all standards gone.

Then followed a strange thing never dreamed of in the older economics. It turned out that the nation with the worst currency did best in international trade. This, to the school of Mill and Ricardo, would have sounded like lunacy. But it was just a fact. What is more, each further depreciation of currency helped the export trade a little more. In the early days of railroad competition it was found that a railroad “fights best in the ditch.” That is to say, once it was bankrupt, with its fixed changes gone, it could cut rates more easily than a solvent road. So it now seemed with nations. Long ago there had been noted, as far back as the days of Sir Thomas Gresham, the founder of the Royal Exchange under Queen Elizabeth, that, inside a country, “bad money drives out good.” The phrase is called “Gresham’s Law” and is A.B.C. to students of political economy.

But since the Great War there appears a Gresham’s Law in international trade also—that bad exchange beats good. The reason is not far to seek and is widely understood now, although it did not enter in the argument of early economics. When a particular currency is depreciated, its rate of exchange with other currencies falls, and, at the same time, in its own area, prices and wages rise. But these things do not all move at the same rate. Exchange itself is as volatile as a lump of quicksilver on a sheet of glass. It will move from mere apprehension that it is going to move. It is like the famous dog of Jean de Nivelle “qui s’enfuit quand on l’appelle.” Prices also move, but some much faster than others. Fresh eggs leap up, while pig iron remains immovable. Last of all come wages, hard and difficult to rise, as when a foot is drawn out of mud, each step a harder pull than the last.

Thus the change caused by depreciated money means a harvest for the exporting manufacturer. He gets the same amount of foreign money—dollars or what—for his export, exchanges it for more of his own money than before, but pays for the moment nothing more for material and wages at home. Presently he pays more, but it takes time before the rise in commodity prices drags up wages. In other words depreciated currency is an invisible way of lowering wages and increasing profits.

All this, Mill or Ricardo would have said, is, however, only temporary. In the long run the bad currency will be equalized out in wages and prices. In fact this argument, under the name of “purchasing power parity,” is still current in the schools. But the trouble is that “the long run” is too long to wait for. Before it comes, something else happens. Nations had no time to wait for it, and hence came new tariffs to offset international exchange. These were something like the discriminating or dumping duties directed against cut prices of exports and first used by Canada as far back as 1907. But after the war the old dumping duty and the new exchange duty joined in a stranglehold on commerce. To rope it round still tighter, there was invented the quota system—forbidding trade except by allotments—refusing imports except as paid by exports—and applied both to the quantity of goods and the volume of exchange. The song, “Yes, we have no bananas,” which broke on the world at this very time, seems, in its odd contradiction, to express the idea of the quota most faithfully.

Thus has been caused the great blockage of the world’s trade, like a street block of traffic. The sheer number of the vehicles makes the movement impossible. One old horse and wagon would be better than a hundred blocked taxis.

Over the scene hangs the heavy cloud, grown heavier, of the balance of trade doctrine, by which foreign sale is virtue and foreign purchase sin. Of all the foolish doctrines which have obscured the commercial outlook of mankind and injured peace and goodwill among the nations, this is the worst. What does it matter who sells and who buys, as long as both are satisfied? If I buy a dozen eggs from my grocer, he has, I admit, the balance of trade; but, after all, I have the eggs. Especially in newer countries such as the British overseas Dominions does the doctrine do harm, for there an “unfavourable balance” is the natural accompaniment of growth and expansion. In other words, an unfavourable balance may mean glorious things for a nation. After the war ends, there should ensue a period of development for Canada such as few countries have seen—a flood of immigration, a mass import of machinery, and a vast development of natural resources. The balance of trade will be utterly and completely unfavourable, year after year, and the more rapid the development the heavier the adverse balance. The infancy of a nation spells an adverse balance from the efforts made on its behalf; just as human infancy means an adverse balance of care and kisses. Then, as a nation grows old, so old that its efforts end, and it sits still and lives on its investments abroad, its feet in warm water and its gruel at its side, that again leaves an adverse balance, for the gruel. Thus in the life of trade, as in the life of man, do youth and age contrast, and age presents its sorry parody of a second childhood.

Here then, inside this world setting, is the present situation of the Empire. There are many things that we can do to relieve it, to some extent, very rapidly; others, only slowly; some we can do by ourselves, others only with outside co-operation.

We might begin with our money, and first with the mere aspect of it, as money of account. At present the Empire uses three kinds, the pounds, shillings and pence of sterling currency, the dollars and cents of America, and the rupees, annas and pice of India. Broadly speaking, Britain sterling currency is used in all the British Isles (till Ireland notices it, and starts something else) and in all the colonies and dependencies in Africa and Asia, except in Singapore and the Straits Settlements. It is the money also of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Canada and Newfoundland use dollars and cents. The West Indies officially use pounds, shillings and pence, but, for the tourist’s sake, dodge in and out of both currencies, in a sort of egg dance that carefully avoids loss.

British people have used pounds, shillings and pence so long that they don’t notice anything wrong with them. They do not realize the hopeless anachronism involved, the limitation of price making, the difficulty of rapid calculation or conversion. The dollar system is decimal, like our system of numbers itself. Pounds, shillings, and pence carries back to the counting of fingers and toes. It refuses to fit in with the orderly notation of our numbers. A Canadian department store can announce a ten per cent discount on all goods, and a ten-year-old child can calculate it. In London this would defy Regent Street and Lombard Street together. The old “guinea” still survives only because a reduction from guineas to pounds is practically a five per cent discount.

Our place system of numbers—ten up at a move—was invented by the Hindus. It’s a pity, the mathematicians say, that they didn’t make it twelve which divides better than ten. But it’s too late now. The Arabs invented the cipher, 0, to mark empty spaces. The Spaniards applied it to their money by dividing the silver piece (once the piece of eight) into one hundred centavos. The silver piece was nicknamed a “thaler” because the silver came from a valley (Joachimsthal) in Bohemia, and Bohemia was then in Spain. Bohemia has been a little bit everywhere, on the sea coast with Shakespeare, in Spain, in Paris with Trilby, and now for a while in Germany. It was a good place for the universal dollar to come from.

The dollar and the cent went all round the trading world and all over the New World. That is how they came to the Americas and to the Straits Settlements. The French Revolution brought a mass of “rational” changes to replace old weights and measures, and the decimal system among them. It was badly applied, as the franc was too low in value for its one hundredth part to mean anything. The French are condemned ever since to count in fives, which is foolish. But at least it is decimal, and from France decimal money went all over continental Europe not already using dollars and cents. Even the quantitative unit of the franc reappeared as the lira and the peseta. Not so with Great Britain. Why change? “Brown Bess” was good enough for Waterloo, and the pound sterling good enough for John Bull. So it stays. And fifty million people who have never known the ease of easy money struggle along with bad. Yet the change would be very simple. Take the half sovereign as the unit—call it a George—and it divides of itself, decimally, into ten shillings. Old accounts in pounds multiply by two. Ten pence are made a shilling, and the most anyone has lost on an old account is a few “tuppences.” The change is easy. But it won’t be done. Why change? There’s no hurry.

But if not with the method of counting money, we could do much with the money itself. What is needed is to re-introduce the gold standard. The world is full of misunderstanding on this. The Empire could re-introduce it without waiting for anyone else, and any component Dominion introduce it without waiting for the others. The gold standard does not of necessity mean lower prices or lower wages. That depends on how much gold we put in the standard. A sovereign used to mean 113 grains of pure gold, and a dollar 23.22. At present in order to buy one troy ounce of gold we should need about ten paper pounds sterling, or 35 paper dollars. But we can cut the gold content down to what we like—cut it so low, if need be, that prices and wages will jump up, not down. Any difficulty in management is as nothing beside the hopeless dead-lock in which managed currencies have landed us. It would be claimed that we couldn’t redeem the paper money in gold, or that, if we tried to, we would find all our gold drained away. But let it drain. We couldn’t be worse off than now. We don’t redeem it now. We sit on it, and call it a “reserve” and take a look at it, now and then, like a miser with a money-box or a French peasant with a sock. The Chancellor of the Exchequer sits on his, and the Governor of the Bank of Canada sits on his—like hens on eggs. Occasionally they get off, take a look, and cluck. But the eggs are dead.

The true principle is to make money redeemable in gold, and redeem as long as you have the gold, and stop when you haven’t. The principle is that described above as “Yes, we have no bananas.” The Empire especially could do this; all the flood of gold from South Africa and Canada would have to run through the mints before redemption ran dry. Each stoppage, if such came, would stimulate mining. A hoard is no good unless you use it. An egg is not for sitting on but for hatching.

The world can never regain its trade till it recovers its automatic exchange.

Still more can be done with the reorganization of credit. We are here losing a potential asset of great magnitude. We all borrow money separately, when we ought to borrow it together—not all of our borrowed money, but some of it, some for each, pledged by all. Debtors are like rods in bundles; get enough of them and they won’t break.

The world’s money is borrowed at rates that vary with the prospect of repayment. The Stuart Kings thought nothing of paying 12 per cent—and often, incidentally, thought nothing of not paying it. The United States, in the Civil War days, paid 6; in the Panama Canal days, less than 2. The United Kingdom, in the great solidarity of Victorian finance, had all the money it wanted at 2½ per cent. The rate has gone even lower. In those days a guarantee given by the British government—such as the one given to the Dominion of Canada seventy years ago for its borrowings to build the Intercolonial Railway—cut the rate otherwise needed in half. And no one was a penny the worst.

In the world in which we live the ground shakes even under the Bank of England. A pan-imperial loan would spread so wide that the rocks under Ottawa and the reef under Johannesburg would keep the ground steady. At present we make no use of such a general guarantee, and very little use of any mutual guarantees except on a small scale from Britain to undeveloped Crown Colonies. There is a certain indirect credit link in the various (British) Colonial Stock Acts (1877, 1892, 1900, 1934). Under these acts Colonial and Dominion stocks are listed as securities that British trustees may purchase, under conditions accepted overseas. The advantage is mutual, but the field occupied is small.

What is meant here is something far larger. We could have an all-Empire loan, raised in quotas among the United Kingdom and the Dominions, and allotted in quotas, but with interest guaranteed by each for all. If need be, we could even ear-mark custom-duties as interest. The interest rate, for all our governments, is rising with the war. Such a plan might easily cut the rate by a quarter. The world is full of people for whom security is everything, and the rate a lesser matter. They can tighten their belt to that. These are partly people clinging to the rocks after the flood of the great depression, and with them the people who had always preferred the safety of the rocks to the hazard of open ground.

There is room for a new Empire finance, as imposing as has been Lombard Street and the Bank.

The network of Empire tariffs is far too extensive and complicated for detailed exposition in this place. It involves the permutations and combinations of each of the seven principal tariff areas with each of the others. The protective duties first adopted in the Province of Canada (1859) and the Colony of Victoria (1860) broke the original mould of the free trade Empire. After that tariffs multiplied. The attempt at a preferential system, initiated in Canada under Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1898, was of little effect. It was stultified by the fact that it was a quid without a quo, free trade Britain having nothing to give in return. Moreover, preference, at least as given by Canada, was adjusted with great nicety not to prefer. The foreigner had to climb over a high tariff wall, and John Bull only over a low one. But he couldn’t climb it anyway. As late as 1930 a blunt British minister called preference a “humbug.” Blunt people say things which polite people have known for years and not said.

As a matter of fact, when Mr. Jim Thomas said “humbug,” the situation had changed. Great Britain itself had at last adopted a protective tariff. It took nearly a generation over it. How distasteful it was is seen in the way in which the pill was sugar-coated, the medicine concealed in jam. The dose was taken first as “colonial preference,” obviously a patriotic tonic. When that lost its effect, protection reappeared as war revenue, as the safe-guard of key industries. At last it gave itself its true name, and, like truth, it prevailed. The British protective tariff (1932) made a give-and-take possible and resulted in the Ottawa Compacts of 1932. But in these intricate back-and-forward arrangements the same difficulty appeared as before. The Dominions were anxious to give a preference to the United Kingdom by making duties still higher against the foreigner, not by lowering them to the mother country. Many of the Ottawa agreements have already been allowed to lapse without renewal. And the whole system of trade compacts inside the Empire has been expanded into trade compacts with outside nations, such as that between Canada and the United States (1935), and between the United States and Great Britain (1939). But at least a useful step was taken at Ottawa in laying down the principle of differential costs as the proper measure of a protective tariff. In the ideal sense, this means that a manufacturer is entitled to just as much protection against an outsider as is warranted by the difference in wages and other costs between the two. This is the ideal sense. In practice it is as hard to find as ideals always are. Cost can mean anything. And always the difficulty occurs that the manufacturer is eager and alert and the consumer unfindable.

Meantime the Empire tariff situation is the same, though not so extreme, as the trade blockage in the world at large. We need freer trade and more of it. But it cannot be got by a mere maze of bargains. It has to have behind it the mass impact of public opinion, moving policy towards expanding trade and reducing tariff impediments to the minimum. There is a prayer which asks for the creation of a new heart and the renewal of a right spirit. Without the idea, the impetus, the general desire, neither the world nor the Empire can get rid of the incubus that lies heavy on it. We must wake up the consumer, asleep, in the Dominions, for a generation, and now dozing off in Great Britain. We must exert and assert the interest of all against the more eager, more combative, interest of the single one.

But the best way to quicken the trade and commerce of the Empire is to develop the Empire itself. There is certain to ensue, after the war, a period of wonderful opportunity for the overseas Dominions, and above all for Canada. It is an ill wind that blows no one luck, and the storms of death and destruction let loose to blow over Europe will cast upon our shores as part of its wreckage a golden harvest of opportunity. Thus ever have the sorrows and disasters of Europe brought fortune to America. Every European cycle of hard times, famine or depression has washed its waves of new comers to our plains and forests and raised up in the sunshine a newer generation that would have faded in the European shadow.

Continental Europe for a long time to come is badly damaged as a residential site. Evil-minded nations do not so soon cast off their evil-mindedness. The mechanism of war, the wholesale power to kill, will grow greater, not less. The dark shadow from the Continent will fall across what was once the snug security, the “glorious isolation” of Great Britain. The “right little, tight little” island will be as right and tight as ever, in its soul—but not an island.

Under these circumstances, who would not dream, if only for the children’s sake, of the peace of North America, guaranteed by goodwill, or the isolation of Australia? It is not lack of patriotism to urge for the next generation a vast migration of British people overseas. If even righteousness must now walk armed, the best way to ensure peace is to promote strength. Millions of emigrants, cradlefuls of children, open opportunity, hard work—and in half a century there will be a changed world.

There is much futile and idle discussion of how many people the Dominions can absorb, and much silly limitation set on it. A broken town, its industries collapsed, its workers on relief, cannot absorb one man. A western farm, dried out in dust, cropless and bankrupt, cannot feed another mouth. But when the wheels hum and the prairies blossom, every new comer is an asset. We can absorb them up to the full power of sustenance in the soil.

A false doctrine has got abroad that implies that new comers to a new country live on those already there, share their bread and steal their jobs. This new view of migration is a product of industrial depression, favoured by the more or less natural point of view of organized labour. Labour sees clearly but with only one eye. It cannot focus the background. For people working by the day, the present is as far as they dare look. They see only a first apparent effect, and must not look beyond. This defeatist view, that immigration is an added burden, contrasts with the triumphant optimism of the nineteenth century, which saw an asset in every immigrant and new jobs for all with every increase of arrivals. The immigrant “built up the country”—the poorer and the humbler the better. For with him came capital as a whale follows fish. Hence the traditional American policy of the open door and the free homestead land as the lure that opened up the West. Instinctively the moving picture public of today never tires of the covered wagons, the canal boats, the boom-towns and the river-steamers that chronicle the great American epic of migration. In place of this, our gloomy century sits behind its closed doors, counting its quotas and warning the destitute from the gate. The world cannot live on that. That way lies war. We must get back into the sunshine.

Immigration, of course, needs boom times. But with proper contrivance immigration makes boom times and boom times make immigration. The only difficulty in hard times is to step forward with both feet first. But it can be done and we must do it.

The extent of “absorption” of possible immigration is only limited by the amount of land and resources. In the mass, and in the long run, nations live on the ground under their feet, from what is in, on, and under the soil. A nation may live, irrespective of local resources, if work is carried to its people and carried away when completed. A nation can live if its people follow the calling of the sea, carriers of the world’s goods. In these ways live a great part of the British population. But nations cannot all be workshops of the world or carriers of the sea. Mainly their populations live on their home resources.

In the overseas Empire are great areas of diversified land, forest, field and stream—the valleys and the uplands and the islands of British Columbia, the varied and fertile Peace River country, as yet scarcely touched, and the wooded land, the more northerly part, of Saskatchewan—to speak of only one Dominion. These are not like the flat wheat land of the plains, the spruce forests of the north, capable of only one use, dependent on an exterior market, blessed or ruined outside of their power of control.

The fatal idea of a “market” has replaced the simpler idea of settlement that supports itself. Selling to the foreigner has obscured the humbler notion of eating at home. Take the case of British Columbia. Here are 350,000 square miles, and if the Yukon is added, 577,000. Here are 22,000,000 acres of farm land, only one acre in ten in use. Here are 142,000 square miles of merchantable timber, all but about 20,000 of it still belonging to the public. Here is a coal reserve estimated at twenty billion—let us write it out—20,000,000,000 tons. Here are fish strung along an iceless coast of 7,000 miles, and crowding up into the rivers, waiting to be canned. Here are valleys hung with fruit, rivers roaring with power, hidden gold and copper to be dug from the mountains. Over it all is the enchantment of a climate that recalls the long slow spring of England lingering over its early flowers; April sunshine wet with tears as for a winter that never was; a summer that blossoms but never burns; and a mimic winter with a tang of frost just in time for an English Christmas.

We own this place. And if we had twenty million children to dispose of, there is easily room for all of them. But the place is, so to speak, boarded and shut up. No market for grain, we are told; no sale for fruit; catch one more salmon and you break the market—and so on all along the line. But if we can’t sell the food, suppose we eat it; if we can’t sell the fish, let’s cook them; if we can’t export the lumber, let’s make it into houses and sit in them. If no one wants to buy power or light, let’s sit in a flood of it, and laugh.

In other words everybody is everybody else’s customer. All live off the produce of the earth, by the fruit of their labour. This, since Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, is the sole source of human sustenance. Adam and Eve had no foreigner to sell to, except the Devil. And we have no devil to sell to, except the foreigner.

This great opportunity for the development and settlement of the overseas Dominions is coming after the war. It came to us after the last war, but we missed it. The Empire Settlement Act of 1922 was a conspicuous failure. It had against it the hostility of organized labour overseas, refusing to share up. In South Africa the dead weight of Dutch opinion was thrown into the scale against it; the back-block Boers had enough British already. In Canada it met the hostility, or at least the indifference, of the French. Immigration meant to them one more wave of English-speaking incomers, swamping out their language and their aspirations. Without immigration, they can hope, within two generations, to see their prolific increase equal their numbers with the English. The “revenge of the cradle,” as they call it, will restore the lost balance. They prefer the home product to the imported. Hence the Empire Settlement Act offered no general opportunity for the rank and file of the people to come out overseas. In shutting out untrained, untaught, destitute people, it broke the mould in which the world’s migration had been cast. It was Israel without the Israelites, a Great Trek without vortrekkers. The Settlement Act and all the Dominion statutes that went with it are dead. Next time we must try something else. And while we were waiting, the population of the Empire, before the present war, was drifting back to the centre, like retrograde stars across the sky, back to the bright lights and the cheerful rackets of the slums, in place of the God’s awful silence of the winter prairie—back to the crowded little streets and lighted pubs and shops, where poverty at least rubs elbows with its fellows and out-of-doors becomes a club.

How are we to approach the organization of migration, how set in work the moving mass of capital and labour, to call the empty spaces to life? We cannot do it on philanthropy alone. Voluntary contribution, patriotic subscription, charity, goodwill and ready endeavour—these springs run dry in the sands of difficulty and disappointment. There is a limit to what people will do for nothing. There is no limit to what they will do for money. A voluntary worker, apart from war-time, working for nothing, is just about worth what he gets. One of the chief contemporary authorities on the colonial Empire, Lord Lugard, has said, “European brains, capital and energy have not been, and never will be, expended in developing the resources of Africa from motives of pure philanthropy.” What is true of Nigeria holds good of Canada or Australia.

Moreover the schemes of philanthropy are aimed mostly at “deserving people.” The world has perhaps heard a little too much of them. The ones we must help are the undeserving. In the Christian sense, they deserve it most. But philanthropy at best can only be a supplement, a tributary stream, and not a main current. A touch of it must be there to sweeten profit and give the double satisfaction that goes with charity that comes home, not to roost but as dividends. Migration must be business, with direct profit to land and development companies, and indirect profit to all the nation in quicker business and new chances, and adding every year, by the increase of numbers and power, a further bulwark of national defence in arms, by which alone, for a generation, the Devil can be trampled underfoot.

The broad basis of migration, as I see it, lies thus. It must aim first and foremost at bringing British people; French, too, if they would come. But they won’t. They prefer to stay at home on the boulevards, read the sixth edition of the evening paper over a “bock,” and wait for the next war. Scandinavians, too, in any amount. Because we can turn a Scandinavian into a Canadian so fast that he doesn’t know what’s happened to him. Before he knows it, he’s in the Saskatchewan legislature, talking English. In any case there are not enough Scandinavians, all put together, to swamp us. But for continental Europe we should go slow, and, for some areas, shut out their people as we would the bubonic plague. For all the Orient, the only policy is and must be exclusion. Where we cannot marry, where we cannot worship, where we cannot eat, there we cannot live. The Eastern and Western races cannot unite. Biologists tell us that where they intermarry their progeny is an ill-joined product, two brains rattling in one skull. Nor could we institute in the Empire, certainly not in the temperate Dominions, a servile class, a race of coolies. All the old empires based on that have crumbled with Nineveh and Tyre—and the new ones will go down in earthquake. It has been claimed that perhaps, in the part of Australia too hot for white labour, the settlement of people of a less sensitive race—in families, as free people but under control—might be hazarded. As such immigrants, we could not let in people like the Japanese, with an imperial home power behind them. That would mean an open gate for war. But we might let in the meeker and homeless people—the Negroes who have learned humility in centuries of adversity. The meek, it is said, will inherit the earth. Long-time vision shows already how it may happen.

The immigration of those we want should be based on the idea of free transport, all found, of a start in debt and a struggle out of it. It can originate with private settlers bringing money and servants. This is the class that used to be called “gentlemen,” lords of the manor in the bush, “squires” of a new squireship, with time to die before the squireship and the gentility have quite died out as the mass levels up and the class levels down. It can originate with direct government “planting” of people in favoured spots, a Peace River Valley, a Slave Lake district (when free from mosquitoes). These would be people with a little money but not much, yet enough to afford from the start a place to call their own and not be hired labourers. These are the people who “learn farming.” By the time they have learned it, their money is gone, but then they can begin farming. Different from all these is the great class of people who come out, free of cost, to work as labourers and to save money, so that they too can learn farming, and then lose it. This is not comedy. This is the strange up and down of the economics of immigration, a moving dynamic mass, by which a community is stirred and kneaded like dough—and some time later on settles down, as dough does. Presently, as a “settled community,” it falls asleep beneath the elm trees of its country churchyard. Parts of older Canada—the sequestered corners of Ontario, as Lundy’s Lane beside Niagara, or Georgina on Lake Simcoe, the “townships” in Quebec and, more than all, the French settlements of the Island of Orleans, still dreaming of Jacques Cartier—have taken on already this air of immemorial antiquity. So too the embowered districts of Dutch South Africa, as at Stellenbosch, and along the Avon in Canterbury, New Zealand. We must hurry up and make some more of them. It will only take a hundred and fifty years.

This great flock of immigrant labourers will work mainly for companies—land, mines, fish, timber, every one of them with special privileges, monopolies, and the hope of gain in the future if not at once. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but not deferred profits. These opportunities for colonial investment waft the sweet scent of profit from overseas to unlock capital from London vaults and ducal deed-boxes. Nor is there any more pleasant pastime in life, any more rhythmical accompaniment to the passage of life itself, than to sprinkle a little capital round and see what happens to it. Not much is needed. We are told, as already quoted in this book, that in Evangeline’s time even the poorest had a share in abundance. So, too, it was seen that in the days of the recent stock exchange boom even the poorest had a few shares of something. Those were halcyon days. Barbers as they shaved talked of their gold mines. The dull monotony of life—all visible in its narrow track ahead—changed all its colour when illuminated by a chance—even an odd, an infinitesimal chance—of sudden fortune. Our unhappy Puritanical legacy has bred in us a national attitude, reflected in our national legislation, against the sin of gambling, of sweepstakes, of games of chance—things that are said to undermine character, destroy effort and lead to ruin. So they will, if you let them. So will whisky, tobacco, golf, study—even Christianity itself, if you get too much of it.

The organization of Empire development companies should be on such broad lines that stock can be widely distributed, that people with only a few pounds to throw away can throw them in that direction. But they should carry also classes of securities, duly baited for philanthropists, bonds at a very low interest, too low to represent a real commercial return—but with a silver lining of common stock, lowest class, that just may, some day, bring a great return. The philanthropist subscribes for his two per cent bond as a patriot, dreams, as his real self, of the some day dividend, and so dies dreaming.

The immigrant policy must get away from the preconceptions of bygone days—above all from the preconception that immigration means only land working, and that land means wheat farming. Homesteading has vanished—or at least shifted from the centre of the picture to the back corner. This was the plan which the United States adopted as soon as the Civil War set the North free from Southern opposition to western free settlement. The law of 1862, copied in Canada in 1874, inaugurated a system that pushed aside all others and ran strong till 1914. The basis was the gift of 160 acres of fertile empty land, which needed nothing but scratching, to anybody who could live on it for at least three months of scratching. The immigrant must make his own way to the land. But cheap transportation made that easy. He scratched, and up came wheat. He made a house of sods, or bought a few boards and made a shack. Then he stayed all winter, scratched harder, up came more wheat, and then presently a brick house, and a barn as big as a church, and a harvester and a pianola and a trip back to Ontario to bring his mother, and then a trip to California, without his mother. Then came the dust and buried him.

Homesteading depended on free fertile land, needing no clearing. It is gone. It depended on an insatiable wheat market. It is glutted and sluggish, inert as an overfed hog. It depended on people able and willing to live in sod houses and frame shacks, in the dark, in silence, in solitude. There are none left. Those earlier people had never seen the “pictures” flicker on the screen, nor heard the radio calling all dogs to Hollywood. Our world is urbanized. The radio, indeed, can work both ways, to comfort solitude itself or make it still more solitary with the contrast that it recalls. Kipling’s banjo on the Nile was pain, not solace.

The homesteader is gone. Gone also, except for an odd eccentric here and there, the pioneer. This man, the pioneer, is one of the epic figures of North American history. By the pioneer is meant the individual settler, the man with the axe, moving, with his few scattered fellows as the skirmish line of civilization, into the rich woods and fertile plains. He built his cabin of cedar logs, hewn flat with a broad-ax, with spruce poles for rafters; lived on game and on a random corn patch till he could clear the land. With him was his wife, the spinning-wheel as her emblem of office, and with them presently a raggedy flock of barefoot children, born God knows how, with death’s relentless discount taken from their number. There are little graveyard corners in what are now the sunny fields of Ontario or Ohio where the wild flowers straggle over the rude stones and rain-sunk mounds, where rest the settlers, advanced even beyond the pale of cemeteries. Such people would walk forty miles to carry home a bag of salt, or make a painful journey of a week, with a yoke of oxen over a bush track, once a year, to buy supplies in the nearest settlement—a run pleasantly made by their descendants in an hour’s drive in a motor-car.

Such people are gone and passed with their epoch. We no longer have the rich land, the gardens of the wilderness, to give them. But if we had, few people now would willingly accept the conditions, not so much the isolation in itself as the distance from all outside help and, above all, from medical care. Read over again in the pages of Maria Chapdelaine, as the tragic shadow of illness falls across the Peribonka cabin, the helplessness of the slow surrender to inevitable death. Few people now, even if we had the land, would consent to see their wives, few wives to see their children, so far from help. Our settlement must move on a broader front, with a skirmish line of doctors, young men whose aeroplane flight can reach everywhere. Medicine in great cities cannot easily be socialized without incurring the inertia which threatens all governmental service. But the medicine of the immigration frontier easily can. The frontier supplies its own inspiration to sustained effort.

But a great deal can be done by the other type of migration to which I have referred above, the “manorial migration” of people with a certain amount of means. I am thinking here of British people who live on their own money and wish they had more of it—not young people with nothing, but old people with something. These are people straitened within a narrow income, distracted by taxation and anxious for their children’s future. These are the people who ought all to come to Canada. Of Australia I cannot speak; perhaps they ought all to go there too, and to South Africa. But I know that they ought all to come to Canada, and that there is room for all of them. I mean, they should come out to Canada, buy a “little place,” and live “on it” and “off it,” ever after. They will not make money. They will lose it, but lose it as gradually and gently as the vigor of life itself fades into old age. In the meantime as the Lord of a little Manor, or the Lady of a lesser Grange, their means will last out their lives and their children grow up in what will sooner or later be again a country of advancing glory.

A little place—that means ten, twenty or forty acres—with an old brick house on it that someone built out of the Crimean War wheat—old elms, a sweeping lawn, all ragged and overgrown, with flower-beds planted with the old-fashioned flowers of the England of a hundred years ago. You shall find such places all the way westward through what was Upper Canada, from where the pointed French houses die out at Coteau du Lac to where the sky-scrapers rise in the mist of the river horizon, over in Detroit. These places represent the bygone chapters of our history of the early settlement of Upper Canada and of the valley of the St. John, New Brunswick, in the days of the Loyalists. Here came not only Loyalists, but the half-pay officers of the wars, the younger sons portioned off into exile, and all that class of “gentlemen,” by which is meant people who cannot earn their own living and, if they work, must do it out of sight. One can revive, with honour, the vanishing picture of the country-side that once held them, the strange mingling of the New World and the Old, of hardship and simplicity of life, matched with old-time courtesy. Inside a parsonage of logs or a manor-house of hewn timber there were still the manners and the taste of those who had known the larger amenity of the Old World. Their day is gone but they helped to stamp on Upper Canada the tone and temper it has never lost and to which it was never truer than today.

Such families are now largely broken up. Few live where they first settled. The winds of fortune blowing to the West swept them to the prairies. The cities caught them to the arms of the professions. The conditions of Ontario farming cut each thousand-acre estate into ten hundred-acre farms; paved highways cut through the lines of spruce trees where long ago each man must needs have his own avenue; and much that was once lawn and hedge or old-time maze quickened into sudden value as suburban real estate. But, tucked away in corners, still, you can find your old red-brick manor-house if you want it. You can tell that it is the right one because it will have walls two and a half feet thick and a wine-cellar with bins for Madeira. Living in it with your children, you cannot lose money as easily and simply as the financiers do, but you will keep losing a little all the time. But long before you have lost it all, your children will give you all you want.

If our Dominion and Provincial governments were wise, they would give a solid income-tax exemption, for an initial period, to British people coming to us thus with money and children—our two foremost needs. If our municipalities were wise, they would give an exemption from local taxes. Outsiders should be warned that the insane expansion of Canadian town areas has carried municipal taxes (rates, so called in England) in many places clear out into the country. To settle down on such a bed of taxes would be like sitting on a wasp’s nest. But a five-year exemption would remove the sting. Meantime all that we gave to the manorial settlers we should get back twice over—the most blessed kind of giving that there is.

But the largest hope is in company settlement, corporate settlement. Here the government supplies a charter and sells certain privileges and monopolies. People with money buy the shares, and, more willingly still, the bonds of the company. The settlers come out at the cost of the company, receiving at first everything, though they may individually be also shareholders. The simplest case is that of the land company. Here the prospective profit of the shareholder is found—or expected—in the advancing value, some day, of the blocks of land reserved for them among the actual settlers. Here is that beautiful prospect of getting rich without working, such as Solomon detected in the lily. This manner of growing rich has been much discredited in the past century, by the history of city lots on Broadway, the unearned increment of Henry George and the flock of taxes called the single tax. But, properly used, there is nothing more wrong with it than with whisky or tobacco. If a land company takes over a block of fifty square miles in the Peace River district, a subscriber, in putting in a hundred dollars, is not covenanting with sin. It is, for him, the result of past work, not of present. Those whose busy efforts give it value are using his labour of the past.

Land companies are only one type. Equally feasible are mining, fishing and forest companies—anything where the grant of a privilege may be matched by the obligation to hire labour and to develop the country.

This was the general plan of migration strongly favoured by public opinion in England before the gift of responsible government took away British control of colonial land. It is the system that still connects the memory, half discredited and half exalted, of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, whose remains lie in the cemetery of Wellington, New Zealand. Wakefield abducted an heiress. That’s not against him; few of us get the chance. But he went to Newgate for it, in the days when the transportation of convicts was going strong. Prison set him thinking. For after all, as La Fontaine said of the wolf’s lair, “What can you do in a prison except think in it?” Wakefield planned a scheme of colonial settlement which presently “caught on.” The Canterbury Province of New Zealand and the State of South Australia stand as the result of it, if only by having tried it and cast it out. But the fault lay not in the scheme itself but in its application. Wakefield’s plan, as already indicated, is that of settlers, brought out free as labourers, buying cheap land holdings from their savings—which money then brings out new settlers to work for the first ones. Thus was to be set up a sort of endless chain, like the endless chain letters of a Ladies’ Church Endowment Fund, which end so chainlessly. The Wakefield system, in its South Australian application, was a sort of cheerful comedy, suitable to a mild climate where you can sit on your packing cases and drink up your capital—a thing impossible below zero. Canterbury dropped the system, as a vigorous patient drops a crutch, and the world passed on and forgot it.

But something very similar was tried out with huge success in Upper Canada in the days of the old Canada Company (1824 and on) before yet the new Province of Canada, with its new responsible powers, took over Upper Canada (1841), land and all. The Canada Company received great blocks of land in the western peninsula of Ontario—itself a garden country, never used, because of the nearby Senecas. The company received proprietary rights of soil and timber; were pledged to bring out settlers and put them on individual holdings; they built roads, churches and schools, with tax exemptions for doing so. The company founded Galt, Stratford and Guelph. They got their money out of the unearned increment and made lots of it. If the academic socialists are right, the company promoters were all “bourgeoisie,” seizing an “unearned increment,” and no doubt went to hell for it. But for Canada’s sake, it was worth having them go there.

Here is a passage quoted from a contemporary memoir of the old Canada Company.

As the sun set on a summer evening of 1827 Galt and his associates stood in the forest and with the axe passed from hand to hand, they felled on a rising knoll a great maple tree to mark the site of a town. This done, the axe was exchanged for a circulating flask of whiskey and a health was drunk to the prosperity of the future city [the present city] of Guelph.

Anyone who can read that passage without sympathy and emotion is not wanted in the British Empire.

Place beside it, as a pendant, this from a current annual register:

Guelph, a city of Ontario on the river Speed; a large agricultural centre; exports grain fruit and live stock; seat of the Ontario Agricultural College; contains many factories, flour mills, saw mills and woollen mills, population 21,000.

All that, with one drink of whisky!

Union of South Africa

Nor are we to think that migration from the mother country means flight or abandonment. It is the very essence of Empire, the support of our common existence. It is the reaction of its migrating people that helps to make Great Britain what it is. All those who have come over since first Gilbert claimed Newfoundland and all who spring from them have had their share in building up, in increasing the power, in guaranteeing the safety, not of a Dominion alone but of the country from which it sprang. The boys who for three centuries ran away to sea, the dispossessed younger sons who blew like thistledown over the newer lands, the Covenanters martyred to the West Indies, and, in the Victorian age, the outgoing singing poor, crowded and dirty and triumphant—all these in their going and in their casual returns, in the magnet attraction of their new hopes, the glamour of their new fortunes—all of these helped to fashion, to remake the character of Britain as we know it. Those of us who thus belong to the new Dominions—I speak here collectively for uncounted millions of us, dead or alive—can in a sense say of it, “We too made it.”

Some Books for Reference

Knowles, L. A. Economic Development of the Overseas Empire, 1st ed. 1924.

Cunningham, W. Growth of English Industry and Commerce. 3 vols. 5th ed. 1927.

Leacock, Stephen. Economic Prosperity in the British Empire. 1929.

Carrothers, W. A. Immigration from the British Isles. 1929.


The Search for Peace and Union—The Claptrap of Paper Treaties and Semi-Ready Federations—Limitations of a League of Nations; a Servant not a Master; its Place the Desk not the Throne—Britain and America—Our Real and Unwritten Union—Canada and the United States a Pattern to the World—France and England—Wars between Gentlemen—La Fayette, We Are Here—Britain, America and France—World Security without Ink

Nations cannot be held to one another by written compacts. Malevolence can tear them up, and then only force remains. In such one-sided bargains, sin beats righteousness at the start, since the one is free to break its word and the other cannot help but keep it. A nation that throws away its arms on the strength of a piece of paper is lost. The paper is only good if what is written on it is already in the heart.

A spring can rise no higher than its source. Laws and institutions cannot exist till the spirit first comes. They are the expression of it. Laws against theft arise from the fact that the great mass of the people are determined not to steal. The philosopher Kant thought that a social compact of laws could be made even among devils. But he was wrong. Why the devil should a devil keep a compact if he wants to break it? Kant would say that two or more devils could make a devil keep a compact. But so they could without the compact. The word is worthless without the inspiring spirit.

It is this that renders fruitless much of the current discussions of the future federations to be formed, presumably, of present devils; of a new League of Nations, or of a super-state to be made by mixing devils half-and-half with honest men.

All these things are ropes of sand, nothing—Kant’s devils over again. In the world about us we must look around for ties that hold.

If a League of Nations has no armed forces of its own, it cannot of itself use any coercive control. It can only say what it thinks; and any of us can do that. If it has armed forces, but not superior to those of ordinary nations, then it only adds one more to join in a fight; only turns a private fight into a public one. But if the League of Nations is turned into a super-state, armed with force over disarmed nations powerless against it, then this is nothing but committing hara-kiri. In the world in which we now know we live, the proposal is so silly as to be beyond discussion. It is silly in the good old English sense, to mean innocent. It belongs among the nebulous illusions of people too kind and too credulous to realize facts or of people cunning enough to think that they can fool others with it.

A League of Nations can do admirable service. It can serve as a voluntary agent for international discussion, for arbitration. It can serve as a world’s clearing-house for statistics and economic research. It can gather information to aid the social progress of the world. But it can never exercise a coercive control. Its weapon is the pen, not the sword. Its member is a professor, not a statesman and still less a soldier.

We must, therefore, look about to find what real bonds of union there are to connect the Empire with enduring peace. These we find in its association with the United States and with France. The peace of North America has risen on the horizon as a light for all the world. We can read the future by it. We can see from it how nations can remain in peace and harmony with neither force nor compact. Likewise the entente between Britain and France, and all that has gone with it, has grown already into an organic union, not written, but existing.

With America, and in a sense with all the world, the Empire is united by the English language and by the community in literature that it brings. A single world-language is as yet only a world-dream. But English is already, or already becoming, the second language of all the world. It is spoken as a mother tongue by 200,000,000 people. Russian, at a glance, seems to approach it with 140,000,000. But Russian is shut into its own area. It is an island. England is an atmosphere. Outside of Russia you cannot buy a cup of tea in Russian. You can feed in English all over the world. Where Russia changes into Mongolia, you can see printed signs for travellers, we are credibly informed, that read: “English spoken; American understood.” English is the language of the sea. And when the continents and islands of the Empire end, English still washes forward in broken waves of pidgin English (business English) of the Orient, of the Beach-la-mar talk of the Pacific Island, or the queer jabber in which West Africa trades gin and coco-nuts. The outside people who have handled English—from the Normans on—have knocked out of it all the grammatical nonsense of suffixes and affixes, and fitted it for world consumption. It carries its awful spelling like a ball and chain on its foot, but it marches on. There is no doubt of the power of language to unite, or rather of the power of diverse language to separate. In the United States, as colonies, the English language got enough rootage to hold its place and spread across the continent. Without that, the world’s history would be different. If the German immigrants to the Middle West had made a German-speaking bloc, if the Creole French speech had spread to cover a larger Louisiana, with a Spanish area from Texas to California, and if a Scandinavian country had appeared in Minnesota and the Dakotas, it is hard to believe that there could exist the united republic that we see.

Still more intimate is the bond of literature common to us and to the Americans from Shakespeare and King James’s Bible down to Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Churchyard”—common till then, and since then shared in common. American boys and girls at school charge with Tennyson’s Light Brigade. English children climb Excelsior with Longfellow’s mysterious boy, as ignorant of where he is trying to get to as American children themselves. Mr. Pickwick, and Rip Van Winkle, the Deerslayer and Gunga Din, the Boy on the Burning Deck and Huck Finn on his Raft are the common possessions of Britain and America.

But most intimate and powerful of all is that union of intercourse and ideas that is seen as between Canada and the United States. Here Canada acts as a middle term between the Empire and America. It is well to dwell on this, for in it we can see the living outline of a world to come—that or chaos.

Turn back the pages of our history to the American Revolution that ended with the surrender of—or not that, it sounds a little painful—let us say, that ended with the Peace of 1783. It turned out, and has been turning out more and more as kindlier eyes looked at it, in the colours of the sunset, that it wasn’t a revolution at all—just a sort of triumph of British freedom on the soil of America.

The British themselves saw it first. They discovered after the Revolution, as I say, that it was a great triumph for British freedom, and that George Washington was a typical English country gentleman. In fact, they annexed the whole thing, made it part of British school history, called it “manifest destiny,” and recommended it to all other, quieter colonies—just as a mother always likes best the bad boy of the family.

After the Revolution came the “Loyalists” to settle in Upper Canada. But they none the less remained Americans, in their way. They brought with them from New England their Thanksgiving Day turkey, and from New York the “York shilling” that was our count of money till yesterday. From them too came the “little red schoolhouse” in its “school section” framed on the Massachusetts model; and later the local government and the township that they themselves had brought out of Lincolnshire.

Presently there came the War of 1812. We can’t get it quite straight now, what it was all about. It makes fine moving “pictures.” But what that war was for, we can no more make out now than old Caspar could with his. It was something to do with “pressing” sailors, but it’s all gone now—“pressed and cleaned” like the rest of our history, as fragrant as old lavender in a cedar chest. As a matter of fact, as in all our conflicts and quarrels, both kinds of people seem to have been on both sides. Why, in the Upper Canada of that day, of its 80,000 inhabitants only 35,000 represented the Loyalists and their children, and 25,000 were “American” settlers who had come in on their own account, and the rest (20,000) had wandered in from the old country. And, per contra, ever so many Americans thought the declaration of war was a policy of madness, and the Governor of Massachusetts issued a proclamation (June 26, 1812) for a public fast for a wrong committed “against the nation from which we are descended and which for many generations has been the bulwark of the religion we possess.”

So that was how our history started and that was the way it kept going on. Quarrels that refused to turn to hate, animosities that broke down into friendship, seeds of dissension sown in a soil that brought them up as flowers; angers that passed like April showers, or summer thunder, only to clear the air.

The underlying reason of all this is the queer intermingling of our history and our population. The Loyalists were only just the beginning of it. All through a century and a half our populations have washed back and forward over the line. Why, if at the present moment you count up all the people born in Canada and still alive, fourteen out of every hundred are living in the United States, a total of 1,250,000 in all. And conversely, 350,000 American born people are living among us.

All this interchange of population one might think would have to lead to amalgamation, to the “annexation” of Canada by the United States, or of the United States by Canada. “Annexation” indeed used to be the bogy of our Canadian politics, the turnip on a stick, with a candle in its mouth, used to frighten the electors. It is a dead topic now.

Annexation made its last appearance in 1911, a period that begins to seem like ancient history now, all peace and sunshine and such a thing as a “World War” just a fanciful dream of the imagination. Elections in days like those had none of the grim reality of life and death struggle in which we live now. They were made up of 50 per cent business and 50 per cent humbug. You had, of course, to start an “issue,” and, if there was none in sight in a clear sky, you had to make one, as an Alberta rain-maker makes rain. So this time the Liberals said to the Conservatives, “How about annexation?”—and the Conservatives said, “First rate, which side do you want?”—because both sides had had each. It was like the way in which the “scholars” in the little red schoolhouse used to decide on who should have first innings by throwing a baseball bat and matching hands on it. So the Liberals took Annexation and lost out on it.

Looking back on it now after nearly forty years, it all seems coloured with the evening light of retrospect. Nor were there any great angers over it at the time. One of the great arguments of the platform was to quote a letter of good Mr. Taft, the President, in which he had spoken of our becoming an “Annex” of the Republic. He probably meant it as a compliment, just as one speaks with pride of the expansion of a hotel. But naturally for us “Taft’s letter” became the target of heroic denunciation. They used to carry it round, copies of it, to election meetings and have it on the speaker’s table, beside the water jug, as Exhibit No. 2—right after the telegrams from all the distinguished people who would not be at the meeting—a little touch that lends class to a political gathering. It’s not who’s there, that counts, it’s who’s not.

Years after they gave a big dinner to Mr. Taft at the University Club in Montreal, when he had long finished being President and was up here as an “arbitrator” to decide whether the Grand Trunk Railway was worth nothing or less than nothing. In introducing Mr. Taft, the Chairman read out from bygone newspapers those old denunciations of Mr. Taft and added: “Look at him! The man has the face of a Mephistopheles!” And Mr. Taft, smothered with laughter, admitted that he had.

But if anyone wants to understand our relations with one another better than history can tell or statistics teach, let him go and stand anywhere along the Niagara-Buffalo frontier at holiday time—Fourth of July or First of July, either one—they’re all one to us. Here are the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jacks all mixed up together, and the tourists pouring back and forward over the International Bridge; immigration men trying in vain to sort them out; Niagara mingling its American and Canadian waters and its honeymoon couples . . . or go to the Detroit-Windsor frontier and move back and forward with the flood of commuters, of Americans sampling ale in Windsor and Canadians sampling lager in Detroit . . . or come here to Montreal and meet the Dartmouth boys playing hockey against McGill . . . or if that sounds too cold, come to Lake Memphremagog in July and go out bass fishing and hook up the International Boundary itself.

But all of such fraternization is only all the more fraternal because we know that we are satisfied on each side of the line to keep our political systems different. Annexation in the old bygone sense has vanished out of the picture. And in the other sense, of a union of friendship that needs neither constitution nor compacts, we have it now and mean to keep it.

Turn from that picture to consider the almost equally happy relations of our Empire with France. For all the long centuries from the Norman Conquest to the Battle of Waterloo, the French and the English were supposed to be hereditary enemies. For three hundred years after 1066 the two nations were confused and blended, with a monarchy holding both sides of the Channel and fighting other monarchies on each. But once it was understood that England was a separate place, and once its rulers had got a real hold on the English language, they opened out with an English-French war that lasted a Hundred Years (1337 to 1453). In a sense, it never stopped. Each generation always expected that there would soon be another war with France. As between the English Revolution of 1688 and the French Revolution of 1789 they had five major wars—thirty-five years in all. Then in 1793 came the biggest and best of all, the “Great War” that lasted with practically no break for twenty-two years. France and England (the name England clings here, Britain won’t do) fought all over the map, Europe, Asia, America—Fontenoy, Plassey, Quebec. Their conflicts settled the history of the world. Indeed in the British and French school-books there was little other history. And they always took for granted that they would fight again. In a naval memoir of the time of Lord Exmouth, the one who bombarded Algiers in 1818 (peace with France was on), you may read of the visit of a group of French officers to one of his ships in the Mediterranean. “It seems a pity,” says the naval memoir-writer in describing the visit, “that in the natural course of things we shall one day be fighting those fine fellows again.”

But what both British and French failed to notice was that in between wars they were for centuries partners in literature, in art, in science, sharing their wealth with one another. Each taught the other. The French taught the English to dance, to sing, to converse, and the English taught the French how to keep still and say nothing. The Scots were a special case. They were always close to the French. Extremes meet. They differed in everything, race, habit, climate; they even hated the English in different ways. But they “got on fine,” were allies in war and cousins in peace, by a sort of natural affinity. This broke out again when the Scots came to French Canada and organized a new Scottish-French Settlement out of Montreal. And all this time the achievements of France and England, in art and science, were the twin glory of the world. The Italians painted and sang; the Germans, a simple people, carried on a line of folk-lore, fairy stories, dreams and philosophy, all in a cloud of smoke; but France and Britain led the world.

Nor were they enemies—at least they ceased to be as the barbarities of the Middle Ages died away into the wars between gentlemen of the days of Marlborough and Montcalm. “Gentlemen of the French Guard, pray fire first.”—“Not at all—after you.” That immortal opening dialogue of the battle of Fontenoy (1745) will never die. But one may match it with a thousand incidents that mark the chivalry and the mutual esteem of the “great wars” of England and France—great in a sense forgotten now. During the memorable siege of Gibraltar, a new French general, arriving to take command of the besieging forces, sent in to the beleaguered British Commander, General Elliott, a basket of iced fruit and game. He conveyed with it, in a note, “the particular esteem” of his royal master, the Comte d’Artois, then visiting his army. This is almost up to the standard of the New Zealand Maoris who once sent in a present of more powder to a British stockade garrison that had run out of it. When a group of Admiral Benbow’s captains refused to fight, and thus lost him the certainty of victory, the French Admiral, whose outmatched ships were thus able to escape, sent over a note of genuine commiseration. “I confess,” he said, “that I had no other expectation than of dining in your cabin tonight.” The reference is to the sort of dinner of courtesy that naval gallantry extended to a beaten adversary.

The record of all this is written broad over the pages of history. The chief British military historian of the original great war, Sir William Napier, himself a veteran, is never weary in his admiration of French gallantry, French national character, and of the world-service of French democracy. Marshal Soult, the chief opponent of Wellington in the Peninsula War, helped Napier with the documents for his history. Soult, as England’s guest, rode in triumphant acclaim through London with the Duke himself. We know enemies now who will never ride through London unless on a fence rail.

Even commercial rivalry died out with the free trade era. French wine and French silk matched English railway machinery. Cobden’s treaty of 1860 set a crown on the work. It fell off again—but even a broken arch still joins. Rivalry of expansion died out as the French grew to have more of Africa than the British, and both of them more than they needed. The sudden crisis of 1898, matching the claims based on Fashoda against those based on Omdurman, only showed that there was no quarrel left in Africa worth fighting about. The entente of 1904—by which France at last understood what the British were doing in Egypt (they didn’t themselves), and the British clearly grasped the French position in Morocco (though the French didn’t)—this entente was a real crown. The British and French woke up to find their age-long enmity had been a dream.

Then came the Great War—the sacrifice, the comradeship in arms, the poppies that blow to mark the graves in Flanders Fields—oh, no, the French and the British can never fight again. That’s over. There is now a real organic unity, a blending of opinions and of interests, and a halo of memories that will henceforth make, for any cause of difference, agreement easy and war impossible.

The same sacred union joins France with America. Their histories blend and unite. The voice calling “La Fayette, we are here” echoes from the past into the mists of the future. It carries a summation of history, and a guarantee of peace.

It is on this basis that we can build for the peace and safety of the world. There is no question here of a formal federation or a written compact. These things can defeat their own end. They indicate as much what will not be done as what will. They invite a grudging dispensation of assistance, a measured allotment of goodwill. But goodwill cannot be measured and allotted; and without it a federation is just a chain, weak as its weakest link, and an axis a weathercock, turning with every wind. Alliance under arms, assistance in distress, arise with the time and the occasion. Where the spirit is, they will not fail. Where the spirit is not, no call can bring them.

The world needs an unwritten union of Britain, America and France. This will set up a standard to which all honest men may rally. This will build a barrier to shelter the weak against iniquity. As the keystone of the arch formed by such a union, the government of free men that arose in Saxon England and became in America government by the people and for the people will have fulfilled its final purpose.



Component UnitsDate of EntryArea in Square MilesPopulation in Thousands, Censuses and EstimatesGovernment
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandOriginal94,63346,000 Est. 1937Sovereign Parliament and a local parliament for Northern Ireland.
Eire (Ireland)Conquered 116927,0002,968Self-styled sovereign State, passively accepts association as Dominion in external affairs.
GibraltarConquered 1709 and ceded 1713219Crown Colony,[1] Governor and Executive Council.
MaltaConquered and ceded 1814122265Crown Colony, semi-responsible government, till suspended 1939.

Component UnitsDate of EntryArea in Square MilesPopulation in Thousands, Censuses and EstimatesGovernment
Aden, Perim and Aden ProtectorateAden captured 1839. Perim annexed 18579,00048Colony, with a mainland Protectorate with a Governor.
North Borneo, Brunei and SarawakConcessions from Native Sultans 1842-188177,106875Protected States under British suzerainty.[2]
CeylonConquered 1796 and 180225,3325,312Governor with a State Council, which is both executive and legislative, 50 elected members, 11 nominated.[3]
CyprusCeded 18783,584372Status of a Colony since 1925: Governor and Executive Council. Legislative Council, partly elective, replaced by Advisory Council in 1933.
Hong KongCeded 18413911,000Crown Colony, Governor, Executive Council, and Legislative Council partly elected.
IndiaEast India Co. 1600 and conquest1,808,679352,838Federation of British Provinces and Native States, 1937, with Federal Government, but vital powers reserved to the Crown.
BurmaConquest 1826 and later261,61014,667Separate Colony since 1937. Governor, Council of Ministers, elected House of Representatives and a Senate half nominated by the Governor half elected by the House.
Straits SettlementsConquest 17951,5351,344Crown Colony. Governor, Executive Council and a nominated Legislative Council.
Federated Malay StatesAgreements 1895 and later27,6482,090Protected States under British suzerainty.
Unfederated Malay StatesAgreement with Siam 190923,4861,739Protected States under British suzerainty.
PalestineMandate 19229,0001,383League of Nations mandate to United Kingdom.

Component UnitsDate of EntryArea in Square MilesPopulation in Thousands, Censuses and EstimatesGovernment
Kenya Colony and ProtectorateLease from Zanzibar 1895212,0003,334A Crown Colony with a Governor, Executive Council and a Legislative Council, partly elected, partly nominated. Part of the Coast remains as a Protected State.
Uganda ProtectorateEast Africa Co. 1890110,3003,711A Protectorate in name but administered by a Governor and appointed Councils.
ZanzibarDeclared a protectorate in 18901,020235A Sultan, with a British Resident and nominated Council (1926).
Mauritius and DependenciesCeded 1814800413Colony with a Governor and Executive Council and a Council of Government, partly elective.
Nyasaland ProtectorateAssumed 189137,8901,638Protectorate in name but administered by a Governor and nominated Councils.
St. Helena and AscensionCeded 1814814Colony with a Governor and a nominated Executive Council.
Seychelles IslandsCaptured 1794 Ceded 181415631Colony with a Governor and a nominated Executive Council.
Somaliland ProtectorateControlled from India 1884: colony since 189868,000345Governor and appointed officials.
BasutolandProtected since 186811,716562Not officially called Protectorate. British Resident Commissioner and District Commissioners exercise control.
Bechuanaland ProtectorateControl assumed 1885275,000266Resident Commissioner, District Commissioners and Police of Native Chiefs administer tribal law.
Southern RhodesiaFrom the British South Africa Co. 1923189,0001,304Colony with responsible government except on reserved subjects. Governor, Cabinet and Assembly.
Northern RhodesiaFrom the British South Africa Co. 1923288,0001,376Governor, Executive Council and Legislative Council, partly elective.
SwazilandAnnexed after Boer War, 19036,704157Resident and District Commissioners with native rule.
Union of South AfricaConquest and Cession Cape 1814 Settlement Natal Conquest Transvaal and Orange Free State, 1902472,3479,590A Dominion of four Provinces in a legislative Union as organized in 1909.
NigeriaNative cessions beginning 1861335,70020,476Includes a Colony with a Governor and nominated Councils and a Protectorate with native rule.
GambiaSettlement made a Crown Colony in 18434,134185Governor and nominated Councils but, except in Bathurst (seaport), under native rule.
Gold Coast and ProtectorateTransferred from Holland 187179,0003,700Colony with a Governor and appointed Councils and a Protectorate in the interior.
Sierra Leone and ProtectorateBought from natives 178831,0001,777Colony with a Governor and appointed Councils and a Protectorate in the interior.
Anglo-Egyptian SudanConquest 18981,014,0006,187Condominium under Egypt and United Kingdom.
Tanganyika TerritoryMandate360,0005,182League of Nations Mandate to United Kingdom.
South-West AfricaMandate317,725359League of Nations Mandate to Union of South Africa.
CameroonsMandate34,081826League of Nations Mandate to United Kingdom.
TogolandMandate13,041339League of Nations Mandate to United Kingdom.

Component UnitsDate of EntryArea in Square MilesPopulation in Thousands, Censuses and EstimatesGovernment
CanadaHudson’s Bay 1670, Nova Scotia ceded 1713. Cession P.E.I. and Canada 1763. Brit. Columbia settled3,729,66511,367 est.A Dominion with Federal Government and nine Provinces, as organized in 1867.
Falkland Islands and South Georgia18145,6183Crown Colony with dependencies. Governor with Executive Legislative Council, nominated.
British GuianaCeded 181489,480337Governor and Executive and Legislative Councils nominated.
British HondurasSettled from Jamaica 16388,59857A Crown Colony, Governor, Executive and Legislative Council, partly elective.
NewfoundlandClaimed 1583162,734294A Dominion with status suspended on request 1933: Commission government.
BermudasSettled various dates1931Colony with Representative Government. Governor, Legislative Council and an elected legislature.
BahamasSettled various dates4,40467Colony with Representative Government: Governor, Council and elected Assembly.
BarbadosOccupied 1627166191See Bahamas.
JamaicaCaptured 16564,4501,139Governor Privy Council and a Legislative Council of 29 members of whom 14 are elected.
Leeward IslandsMostly by settlement715142A Governor with Commissioner and nominated Council.
TrinidadCeded 18021,978456Governor with Executive and Legislative Councils, partly elected.
Windward IslandsMostly by settlement516188Governor with Administrators and Councils.

Component UnitsDate of EntryArea in Square MilesPopulation in Thousands, Censuses and EstimatesGovernment
Commonwealth of AustraliaSettled 17882,974,5816,867A Dominion with a Federal Government and six States as organized in 1900.
PapuaProtectorate declared 188490,540300A territory of Australia since 1906.
New ZealandSettled 1840104,7511,574A Dominion with a Unitary Government.
FijiAssumed 18747,083205Government Council and a Legislative Council, partly elective.
Pacific IslandsVarious dates11,450265Under a High Commissioner for the Western Pacific, with appointed officials.
Territory of New GuineaMandate 191989,252979League of Nations Mandate to Australia.
Western SamoaMandate 19191,25058League of Nations Mandate to New Zealand.
NauruMandate 1919193League of Nations Mandate to United Kingdom.

[1] Meaning a colony under the Colonial Office.

[2] Meaning paramount-control of foreign relations.

[3] To mean, ex officio or appointed by the Crown.


  Grand Total13,353,952500,774,000

[Note. Estimates vary according to territory included and recentness of estimates. The figures here are conservative. The figure 525,000,000 is frequently given by recent authorities.]


Aden, 60-61, 132

Alaric, 80

Alfred, King, 6

Algonquins, 26

Allison, Sir A., 54

All-Red cable, 59

Amritsar, 148

Amsterdam Island, 61

Andaman Island, 60

Annexation of Canada to the U. S., 238-39

Antarctica, 50

Apples, world crop, 85

Argentina, railways, 108

Argentine Republic, 33

Ariel (ship), 88

Asbestos, 105

Ascension Island, 59, 126

Assemblies, colonial, 30

Atkinson, prime minister, 182

Auckland, N. Z., 181

Australia, 19 sqq., 38, 170 sqq.


Bab-El-Mandeb, 60

Bagehot, W., 122

Bagot, Sir Charles, 31

Bahamas, 14

Balance of trade, 204

Baltimore, Lord, 12

Barbados, 14, 135-36

Basutoland, 130, 133-34

Bathurst (Australia), 21

Beagle, 23

Bechuanaland, 128

Benbow, Admiral, 243

Bermudas, 14

Bhutan, 30

Black Rod, 115

Blake, Edward, 188

Botany Bay, 20-21

British Columbia, 36, 163, 215 sqq.

British Guiana, 66

British Honduras, 66

British North America Act, 165

Bryce, James, 35-36

Buenos Aires, 70

Burma, 66

Butt, Isaac, 186


Cabot, John and Sebastian, 9-10

Cameroons, 49

Canada, 161 sqq.;

  confederation, 35 sqq.;

  French, conquest of, 18

Canada Company, 23, 229-30

Canberra, 174

Canterbury, N. Z., 181, 229

Cape of Good Hope, 21, 184

Caste, India, 142 sqq.

Cattle, world, 84

Census, history of, 55

Ceylon, 21, 131

Chancellor, 119

Chancery, 120

Channel Islands, 124

Chaucer, 7, 8, 22

Chignecto Canal, 118-19

Cinque Ports, 6, 115

Clerk of the Checque, 115

Clive, 15

Coal, 96 sqq.

Cobden, 32-33, 89;

  era, 201

Cobden’s treaty, 244

Cocos Island (Costa Rica), 60

Cocos (Keeling) Islands, 60

Coffee, 94-95

Coffee Houses, 80

Colonial Laws Validity Act, 125, 157

Colonial Stock Acts, 209

Columbus, 8

Company Settlement, 227-28

Congress (India), 146-47

Convict system, 20-21

Convention of London, 41

Convocation (Church), 121

Cook, Captain, 20, 60, 179

Cortereal, 10

Cotton, 95-96

Credit, imperial, 208 sqq.

Cromwell, Oliver, 13

Crown Colonies, 128

Cyprus, 51, 58


Dampier, 20

Darwin, 23

Debt, national, in eighteenth century, 18

Disraeli, 32

Dollar, origin, 206

Dominica, 14

Dominions, see Chap. V

Douglas (“lands forlorn”), 54

Dufferin, Lady, 29

Dunedin, N. Z., 181

Durham, Lord, 31

Dy-archy, 148


East India Co., 14-15, 37, 198

East Indies, 79

Edward VIII, 190

Egypt, 50

Eire, 48, see also Ireland;

  Constitution, 190

Eldon, Lord, 77

Elgin, Lord, 31, 155

Elliott, General, 243

Emden, 60

Emigration, nineteenth century, 24, 219 sqq.

Empire Settlement Act, 217

English, as a world-language, 234 sqq.

Exchequer, 120

Exmouth, Lord, 241

Eyre, Lake, 171


Falkland Islands, 33, 59

Fashoda, 244

Fenianism, 186

Fiji, 59

Fontenoy, 242

France (economic policy), 90

Freemantle, 172

French Canada, 168-69


Gaelic, 185

Galt, 25, 230

Galt, John, 230;

  poetry, 29

George III, King, 18

Georgina, 221

Gilbert, Sir Humphrey, 9

Gladstone, 187, 199

Gobi (desert), 67

Gold, 103

Gold standard, 207 sqq.

Government of India Act, 149-50

Gibraltar, 51, 58, 130;

  siege of, 243

Glengarry (settlement), 27

Grain crops, world, 83-84

Great Bear Lake, 64

Great Trek, 39

Greenwich, longitude, 22

Gresham, Sir Thomas, 202

Griqualand, 41

Guadaloupe, 53

Guelph, 25, 230


Haiti, 14

Hakluyt, Richard, 11

Harrison, John, 23

Hastings, Warren, 15

Hawaii, 59-60

Henry, Prince of Portugal, 8

Hobson, Captain, 180

Hogs, world, 84-85

Home Rule, 186 sqq.

Homestead system, 222-23

Hong Kong, 60, 134

Howe, Joseph, 36

Hudson’s Bay Territory, 165

Hundred Years’ War, 241

Huxley, 23


Immigration, 219 sqq.

Imperial conference, 147

Imperial Federation, 37 sqq.

India, 30, 37-38, 139 sqq.

Invercargill, N. Z., 181

Investment, British, 100 sqq.

Ionian Islands, 58

Ireland, 185 sqq.

Irish Free State, 48 sqq., 189

Iron and steel, 99 sqq.

Iroquois Indians, 3

Isle of Man, 125


Jamaica, 14

Jameson raid, 42, 184

Jevons, Stanley, 96

Johannesburg, 41-42

Jubilees, Golden and Diamond, 38


Kalahari Desert, 68

Keeper of the Swans, 115

Kenya-Uganda, 66

Kimberley, 41

Kingsley, Charles, 11

Kipling, Rudyard, 24, 29, 56

Kruger, Paul, 42

Kuro Shiwo, 68


Labrador, 68

La Hontan, 26

Land companies, 228

Land Purchase Act, 188

Laurentia, 169

League of Nations, 48, 233 sqq.

Lindsay, William, 7

Lower Canada, 30

Loyalists, 19

Lugard, Lord, 218

Lundy’s Lane, 221


Macaulay, Lord, 145

Magna Charta, 116, 117

Majuba, 41

Malay States, 66, 126

Malta, 51, 58, 131-32

Malvinas, Islas (or Falkland Islands), 59

Manganese, 101

Manhattan (Dutch), 26

Manorial settlement, 225 sqq.

Maoris, 69, 243

Maria Chapdelaine, 224

Marlborough, 242

Marshall, Chief Justice, 178

Massachusetts Bay Co., 15

Mauritius, 61

Mayflower, 15

Meat supply, world, 84

Melbourne, population, 71

Mercator, 45 sqq.

Michelet, Jules, 55

Mistassini, Lake, 170

Money, British, 205 sqq.

Monroe (doctrine), 34

Montcalm, 16

Montevideo, 70

Montreal, population, 71

Morley, Lord, 147

Mutiny Act, 123


Napier, Sir William, 243

Natal, 39 sqq., 183, 184

Nauru, 49

Navigation Laws, 198

Nepal, 50

New Brunswick, 19, 30

Newfoundland, 9, 36, 153-54

New Guinea, 176

New Hebrides, 127

New South Wales, 172

Newton, Sir Isaac, 22

New York, 16

New Zealand, 20, 30, 39, 179 sqq.

Nigeria, 66, 128, 137

Norroy King at Arms, 115

North Borneo, 126

Northern Rhodesia, 105, 110

Nova Scotia, 19, 30, 36

Nyassaland, 128


Orange Free State, 41

Orange River Colony, 31, 43

Ottawa Compacts, 211

Over-production, 92


Palestine, 49

Panama Canal, 88

Papua, 49, 176, 130-31

Parliament, origin, 120 sqq.

Parnell, C. S., 187

Paston Letters, 7

Pennsylvania, 16

Pepper, 80

Peribonka, 169

Perim, 60

Peterborough, 25

Petition of Right, 123

Petroleum, 106

Phillip, Captain Arthur, 20

Pike, Warburton, 54

Pioneer settlement, 223-24

Pitcairn Island, 59

Pope Alexander VI, 8

Population, divisions of the Empire, 56

Population, white, of Empire, 69

Preference, tariff, 210 sqq.

Pretoria, 41

Prince Edward Island, 36

Privy Council (appeals), 176 sqq.

Protected States, 126

Puerto Rico, 13

Pursuivant Unicorn, 115


Quebec Act, 30

Queensland, 30


Radisson, 26

Radium, 104-05

Railways, Empire, 78

Rattlesnake, 23

Red Dragon, 115

Red River Settlement, 36

Repeal Movement, 186

Rhodesias (climate), 68

Richard Coeur de Lion, fleet of, 6

Ripon, Lord, 146

Roba El Khali (desert), 67


Sahara, 53

Samoa, 49

Sandwich Islands, 33

Sarawak, 126

Selden, 7

Senegal, 135

Seychelles Islands, 61

Shah of Persia, 129

Sidgwick, Henry, 35

Sierra Leone, 55

Simcoe, Lake, 221

Smith, Goldwin, 158

Sokotra Island, 60

Somers, Sir George, 14

Sorel, 19

Soult, Marshall, 243

South Africa, 39 sqq., 155 sqq., 183 sqq.

South Africa, Union of, 43

South African War, 39 sqq.

South Australia, 30, 229

Southern Rhodesia, 131

South-West Africa, 49

Spice Islands, 53, 79, 80

Spitzbergen, 58

Stamp Act, 15

Stanneries, Lord of, 115

States’ Rights, 163

St. Helena, 59

St. Paul Island, 61

St. Vincent, 14

Strafford, Lord, 124

Straits Settlements, 60, 126

Stratford, 230

Sudan, 35, 50, 127

Suez Canal, 34

Sugar, 95;

  world production, 83

Swaraj, 151

Sydney, population, 71


Taal (language), 184

Taft, President, 239-40

Taiping (ship), 88

Tanganyika, 49

Tariffs, Empire, 210 sqq.

Tasmania, 30

Tea, 94

Temperate Zones, 66 sqq.

Teneriffe, 22

Tennyson, 36

Thar (desert), 67

Thomas, J., 211

Thuggee, 129

Tobacco, world crop, 85

Togoland, 49

Tonga Islands, 127

Transjordan, 49

Transvaal, 31, 43

Treasury, First Lord of, 115

Treaty of Versailles, 48

Trinidad, 21

Trinity House, 21

Tropical Zone, 64

Tropics, white races in, 63 sqq.

Tubal Cain, 99

Tyrrells (of Canada), 54


Uganda, 50

Ulster Tenant Right, 186

United States, see Chap. VII

Upper Canada, 30;

  settlement, 19

Uruguay, 108;

  railways, 73


Vanadium, 102

Vereeniging, peace of, 43

Versailles Treaty, 48

Victoria (Australia), 172

Victoria (colony), 30

Vineland, 6

Virginia, 13


Wakefield, Gibbon, 179, 180, 228-29

War of 1812, 237

Water power, 98-99

Wealth, National, 77 sqq.

Wellington, Duke of, 32, 243

Western Australia, 38, 172, 194

West Indies, 13, 66

Westminster, Statute of, 48, 117, 156 sqq.

Wheat, 87 sqq.

Wine, world production, 86

Winnipeg, 168

Witwatersrand, 103

Wolfe, 16

Wolseley, General, 36

World statistics, 81


Yeoman of the Guard, 115

York Shilling, 237

Yukon, 77-78


Zones of climate, 63 sqq.


Mis-spelled words and printer errors have been fixed.

Though breaks were sometimes shown as a row of dots; but in other places as simply vertical space. It was not obvious that there was a difference between these two breaks. Hence, in this edition, all are shown in the same way.

[The end of The British Empire: Its Structure, Its Unity, Its Strength by Stephen Leacock]