The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 83
Mr. Escott has compressed his "England" from two volumes into one, and much improved it. Without attempting even to sketch the work, we will write of some ideas which its perusal may evoke.
Twenty years have passed since Jevons raised the alarm about the proximate exhaustion of the English coalfields. Tyndall supported him with the statement that "the life-blood of the nation is ebbing away." Nevertheless, since that time the output of English coal has enormously increased. Some scientists hold that the exhaustion is immeasurable, and others that a substitute will turn up long before it occurs. Tyndall combats this. Coal, he says, is the last word in fuel, but the really inexhaustible fields are in North America and China. Doubtless the lack of coal, to work its iron, has kept Ireland in darkness.
Other thoughts raised by Escott are with regard to landed property. He is specially interesting in his details on the management of vast estates, such as those of the Duke of Northumberland, Duke of Cleveland, and Earl of Derby. Strange to relate, there was no modern census of the ownership page 70 of land in England until 1876, and it is even yet incomplete. However, there is crushing material for Henry George, the socialist dynamitard.
Again, we have been led into a train of thought on the miraculous development of travelling during the past half century. The thorough maintenance of the great English highroads only dates back a couple of hundred years. The regular stage coaches are very much more recent. As for the railways, they seem to be laid with one flash, when we contemplate the whole ages of English History.
Sir John O'Shanassy said that as sure as ever the question of Australian Federation was raised, that of Imperial Federation would be drawn, as a red herring, across the trail. Thus it has proved. Escott is one of the federalists, in a professional way. The headquarters are at the Royal Colonial Institute, London, where every Nobody from Australia can pose, in the land where Mr. Millais paints Mr. Simon Fraser as "An Eminent Victorian Statesman." Such are the statesmen at two thousand guineas apiece.
We can sympathise with Professor Seeley's "Expansion of England" without believing in the chimera of Imperial Federation. It is impossible to make Australia feel vitally concerned in the independence of Belgium, or to care much whether the Russians or the English possess Herat. We marched an Australian Contingent up the hill and down again, ferried them over the water and back again. New South Wales taxed herself liberally, and will be in a great hurry to repeat it, merely to gratify the filibustering propensities of the young Australian Jingoes, who do want to fight, and don't care what they fight.
While New South Wales rushed to the Soudan, all the forty millions of the English population, with its 150,000 drilled volunteers, never moved a finger. What a hollow thing, then, was this supposed demonstration of Imperial sentiment! We will actually do more for England than England will for itself. The Enabling Act is the first step in Australian Independence. The federated English speaking people will include the independent nations of the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. So long as the rupture is not in blood, independence will not mar sympathy.
Although Mr. Escott confines himself to Little Britain, our minds will struggle and swell to the Greater. Lord Salisbury is Premier, and Lord Lytton's extravagantly grandiloquent lines upon him, in "Glenaveril," are strangely apropos." Thou hast it—Thane of Cawdor." Instead of Gladstone tempered by Chamberlain, we have Salisbury tempered by Churchill. This is rather more than despotism tempered by epigrams. Gladstone slips his neck out of the collar with all the adroitness of the page 71 venerable politician. Lord Salisbury's position has been very difficult indeed. However, he clutches the strings for the General Election, but then he is so proud and unbending that Churchill will never be able to fuse with him in a Disraeli policy, to spread birdlime for the Tory democracy. Ireland scarcely enters into Mr. Escott's England. Troublesome Ireland! Kept loyal by 60,000 armed men. Is the game worth the candle? Emmet's portrait adorns the cottage walls of Ireland, with his last words, "When my country takes her place among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let a memorial be placed over my grave." The statues of Brutus and Cassius were the more conspicuous by their absence from the Roman forum. No statue yet to Emmet. The Prince and Princess of Wales take a nervous tour, and the Mayor of Dublin is conspicuously disloyal. Nor will they sing "God Bless the Prince of Wales" in the Limerick theatre.
Sir Henry Taylor's Autobiography is that of a long lifetime spent in the Colonial Office. The private opinion of Mr, Gladstone, as to the impossibility of Imperial Federation, is well enough known. Taylor shows that Disraeli held the same opinion. It is the sentiment, too, of the Colonial Office generally, and of all statesmen and officials who have had to do with the practical aspects of the question. Sir H. Taylor is himself one of the most emphatic witnesses. Goldwin Smith struck the true keynote, nearly a quarter of a century back, with his book on The Empire. The Australian Governors have already been reduced to political nonentities, the Agents-General in London being virtually ambassadors.
We have been touching up this article at three or four sittings, with demurrers and replications, and so we can bring in a reference to Mr. Chas. Marvin's enormously circulated pamphlet of "The Russians at the Gates of Herat." It puts the case even more strongly than Col. Malleson's "Russo-Afghan Question," noticed in a foregoing article. Mr. Marvin's brochure focuses the information given in his numerous larger works bearing on this subject. The most startling point he brings out is that a coach and four horses can be driven all the way from the Russian settlements on the Caspian to the British frontier in India, via Herat. The hills on that line are, according to Lessar's survey, a mere bugbear. We are in the habit of confounding the Russian advance from a more northerly direction with this easy route. On the other route there are, indeed, insuperable looking difficulties in the huge mountains. The line of the Paropamisus has been supposed to fence in Herat, but the Paropamisus melted before Lessar, into pleasant and negotiable great rounded hills.
Mr. Marvin's pen sketches, together with the portraits, of Alikanhoff and others, are most opportune. Altogether, we page 72 never met with such a suggestive pamphlet. Lessar is a coming man. He has made his mark as a diplomate in London, as well as in the capacity of an engineer and surveyor on the Afghan frontier.