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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57

An Australian Appeal to the English Democracy

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An Australian Appeal to the English Democracy.

Thes English Editor and Politician seem, at last, to be awakening to the existence of an Australian Continent. After years of neglect, the English Press has suddenly begun to notice our affairs, to praise our sentiments, and even to speak of our several Colonies and cities with some approach to geographical accuracy. After this unexpected compliment, it is, perhaps, ungracious to be critical of those who pay it. But the zeal of recent friendship can endure some cooling breaths; and those, who have the welfare of the Empire seriously at heart, will not resent a timely warning, lest this new-born interest in Australia prove as hurtful to the country as the old indifference.

Distance is proverbially misleading, so that it is not surprising if an English journalist should often fail to estimate the forces of Australian politics. It is difficult even for an Australian, living on the spot, to ascertain the political sentiments of the majority of voters. Elections generally turn upon local or personal issues, and questions of political principle are seldom before the country. Under such circumstances there are very few occasions upon which public opinion can make itself known. Orangemen and Catholics, indeed, are active politicians, and the sectarianism of their several societies is often a considerable influence in a general election. But, with this shameful exception, there is no political organisation worthy of the name.

There is, however, one body of men whose sentiments are always forcibly expressed and always brought before the English public. Let any Australian topic be noticed by the English Press, and vigorous letters will be written, speeches made, or resolutions passed, betokening the most surprising unanimity! The English reader must imagine that here, indeed, is a happy country, where men are not divided in opinion! And yet the first warning, which ought to be given to an observer of Australian affairs, is to bid him remember that page 4 the Australians who write to the Times, or hold meetings at the Colonial Institute, are seldom representative of Australian sentiment. For the most part they are not Australians, hut Englishmen who have spent some years of their life in making money in Australia; and, with a few honourable exceptions, they regarded politics, during their absence from England, with ostentatious indifference. All of them, moreover, belong to a class which, in spite of the benefits that it has rendered to Australian progress, has always been upon the losing side in politics—namely, the class of the squatters and their immediate connections, the bankers and merchants. This body of men, which represents the monied interests of the Colonies, has always fought unitedly against the rest of the people for the possession of the public lands. Hitherto the victory has been to the people; but many causes of quarrel still remain, and with them remains a feeling of soreness and class-hatred, which makes squatters and their friends an unsafe guide to the knowledge of Australian sentiment.

Unfortunately the monied interests of Australia have the ear of English opinion. English visitors see nothing of the poorer classes; and—seldom staying long enough in the Colonies to understand political questions—they imagine that in the Melbourne Club or at Darling Point they can become acquainted with every shade of Australian feeling. The Democracy, on the other hand, has no spokesman in England, and but few sympathisers among English travellers. Before long, it may be hoped that the English people will become alive to the necessity for closer intercourse and union with the people of Australia; but, under the existing administration of colonial affairs, it is certain that the perversity of Colonial opinion in London is even more misleading to the English journalist than the sluggishness of public opinion in the Colonies.

Under such circumstances almost any views on Australian politics will only be the impression of one individual, to be taken for what they may be worth. But, in the absence of an authoritative expression of the opinions of the Australian Democracy, the opinion even of an individual acquires a certain interest, especially when Englishmen at present listen only to the other side.

The first difficulty which presents itself to an Australian, who would offer an opinion upon politics to Englishmen, is, that the only Australian questions, which have attracted the attention of the English public, are just those to which Australians are most indifferent. Imperial Union, Colonial Federation, Annexation in the Pacific, are matters of which it may be said that this country knows nothing, except through the letters of London correspondents. It is said, and the statement is probably true, page 5 that in the last general election in New South Wales only one candidate made any reference to any of these topics. In Victoria the case is different. Hut even in Victoria the question of Imperial Union has not yet been treated seriously by any political party, and the two other questions of Colonial Federation and Pacific Annexation excite an interest for particular local reasons which an Englishman is apt to overlook.

This may be discouraging intelligence to earnest sympathisers with Australian progress. Nevertheless, in all probability, we know our own business bettor than the most enthusiastic advocate of colonial expansion; and it is at least certain that colonists, although they may be too busy with private affairs to form opinions upon distant matters of high policy, will deal with these subjects in a sympathetic and liberal spirit whenever the opportunity for action comes The danger is lest our people should be disgusted by visionary schemes, or, still worse, be made the subject of crude experiments. Englishmen will have to watch our affairs much more closely than they have done, if they wish to direct colonial opinion into wide channels, or to catch the drift of passing events. The mistakes of English opinion upon each of the three political questions already named will serve to point a moral to this warning.

First in importance comes the question of Imperial Union. With regard to this Australian sentiment is undoubtedly changing. The recent dispatch of troops from New South Wales to Egypt has been taken for the sign of an entirely new departure. It has brought the question of Imperial Union within the range of Australian politics. But this does not mean, as some eager Federalists imagine, that any one of the difficulties in the way of Union has been removed by Mr. Dalley's offer. The question has simply become ripe for discussion; and it is to the course of that discussion that Englishmen should give attention.

In the first place, Australian opinion on the matter is by no means unanimous. Even now, * in the height of the war fever, and while the preparation for the dispatch of troops is still proceeding, a growing murmur of discontent is making itself heard. Sir Henry Parkes, our most experienced party leader, and a man of rare capacity and knowledge, has declared against the course adopted by the Government, and is supported, so far as can be judged by the resolutions of public meetings, by the bulk of the working class. Probably, however, the dispatch of troops will be approved by Parliament. Colonists are naturally disposed to favour an adventurous policy, and there is, no doubt, a strong British sentiment even among genuine Australians.

* Written 3rd March, 1885.

page 6 But it has yet to be seen how the home-abiding taxpayer will regard the Expeditionary Bill, and it would be rash to infer from the warlike enthusiasm of the Press, and the splendid quality and temper of the Soudan force, that Australia will be always ready to supply contingents to the British army.

To Englishmen it may seem a small thing to send 600 men to fight in an Egyptian war; but in a country which has hitherto been working out a glorious destiny, removed from European entanglements, and without a thought of warlike dangers, it is natural that political sentiment should be profoundly stirred by such an entry upon unknown paths The anomalies of the position are obtrusive. In a country where every man is wanted to take his part, in some form or another, in colonising work, we seem to be going out of our way to encourage military ardour! With the right hand we are expending our revenues to import able-bodied men to subjugate the soil, while with the left hand we are sending away the hardiest of our youth to fight the Soudanese! We have to borrow money in England for our necessary public works, and yet with the stroke of a pen and without the knowledge of Parliament, a Minister squanders on a warlike expedition one-twelfth of our annual revenue! Our defenceless position is just beginning to excite alarm when we remove three-quarters of our little army! No wonder that the measure has been strongly canvassed, or that it requires a full defence. For, after all, what have we done?—Joined in a war, in the making of which we had no voice, which many of us disapprove, and which involves us in unknown responsibilities: collected a body of 600 men, of whom only a minority are natives of Australia: paid even the privates among them at the rate of 10s. a day, and undertaken to provide for the wives and children of those who are maimed! "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre !"

If such things are always to be an incident of the English connection as it is at present, and if things cannot be put upon a different footing, it may happen that we shall yet congratulate ourselves on having learnt experience at so cheap a rate.

It lies with English Federalists to prevent this calamitous result. They have most unexpectedly obtained their opportunity! Will they prove themselves capable of taking it? The dispatch of Australian troops to the Soudan is the first step along a bifurcating road, which leads either to Imperial Union or to Separation. Having once surrendered the advantage of our isolated position, we must hence forward be prepared either to take a proper part in European affairs, or else to hold aloof. The notion that Australia might remain a colony of England, and still be neutral if England were engaged in war, has lost what little vitality it ever had. Australia, having revealed her wealth page 7 and power to the enemies of England, must now be ready to protect herself against them, either by the help of England or by Independence.

Mr. Forster and the Imperial Federation League have told us that they are enemies of Imperial Union, who imagine schemes by which it might be brought about. But there is a preliminary to Imperial Union, which is eminently pressing for a practical solution, namely, the question of Imperial Defence. Australia has at present some ten thousand men accustomed to bear arms, distributed among the six Colonies; it has also a small naval force, which is perhaps sufficient to defend one harbour. For the rest we rely upon the English squadron This, however, is notoriously wanting both in strength and speed; and a German purchased cruiser, or the ships of the Messageries Maritimes, could clear the sea of Australian commerce. Were this done, even for six months, the result to us would be national bankruptcy. A nation of less than three million people cannot do a trade of fifty millions annually without a free use of borrowed capital. Were the supply of this stopped, and were the wool clip, even of a single season, prevented from leaving our shores, it is no rash prophecy that nearly every bank would have to close its doors. Federalists must face this danger, and provide against it. The Separatists insist (although they overlook other considerations), that were Australia independent, our commerce would be always safe, since we are never likely to be engaged in war upon our own account—first, because we have no neighbours, and, secondly, because Foreign Powers would never permit any of their own number to aggrandise himself by an attack upon Australia. Further, they say we could assist England better if we were independent, for we should then relieve her of the responsibility of protecting us, and should be able to help her with our own forces as occasion required.

In the face of such arguments it is the duty of Federalists to show that the grave danger to Australian welfare, which is caused by the existing Colonial relations, can be removed without the risk and inconvenience of another schism. And it is at least their immediate duty to recognise that an occasion has at last arisen for suggesting measures to remove one forcible objection to dependence, namely—its commercial insecurity.

The details of any scheme for effecting such an object must be worked out in England, and the impulse towards its acceptance must also come from there. For not only will England have to supply the requisite naval force, but it is, in reality, her commerce which will be protected. Among all the vessels which are employed to carry to and fro the forty million pounds page 8 (£40,000,000) worth of goods, which represent our annual dealings with England, there is not a single line, and possibly not a single ship, which is owned entirely in Australia. Were Australia independent and England involved in war, we could find other carriers for our goods, and it would be England that would suffer most from the disturbance of Australian commerce. By realising that, so long as the present Colonial relations continue, any attack upon Australia will be felt with undiminished stress in England, Englishmen may grow accustomed to regard the safety of Australia as a matter of concern to them. We can at any time escape from danger, but England will remain exposed to it in either case. At present it is only a sentiment of loyalty which restrains us from obtaining a position of complete security; and he is the wisest statesman who puts as little strain on sentiment as possible.

The two salient facts about Australia which Federalists must keep in mind are, first—that we shall never need protection against land attacks, and secondly—that unless we are dragged into war by England, our sea-borne commerce is absolutely safe. It is out of the question that we should ever be at war upon our own account, so that, if we were an independent nation our commerce would always be protected by the laws of neutrality; and since we could, with very little trouble, raise a disciplined militia of 200,000 men, our shores would be sufficiently-protected against wanton aggression.

Nevertheless, union with England is worth some sacrifice. An independent Australia would undoubtedly be friendly to England, and might indeed have greater power to help her than if she were an English province. Hut, with independence there would come the risk of disagreement, together with the clanger and the wasted power of separate Governments. The creation of new separate states is opposed to the spirit of Democracy, whose mission it is to reduce and not to multiply the elements of discord in the human family. Moreover, the feeling of nationality is growing everywhere with immense rapidity, so that it could not fail to be injurious to the English race to fight against the force of nationality. It may be many years before an actual tie can be constructed; but, in the meantime, causes of difference may be removed and encouragement given to the sentiment of union. As the administration of English affairs becomes more inspired by popular ideas, the possibility of closer ties increases. For the spirit of Democracy is Union: and when that spirit has penetrated the English and Australian peoples, the political problem of a Federal Constitution will be nearer to solution.

The present martial movement in Australia has its only justification in being an expression of this wish for union. It may not induce any political changes, but it offers Englishmen page 9 the opportunity of taking the only step towards political union which is at present practicable, namely—the construction of a Federal System of Defence.

If England were ready to provide a squadron, which should be devoted simply to the protection of Australia, and which should never be withdrawn from that particular duty, Australians could be depended upon to raise a sufficient force to protect their own country, and to secure the coaling stations in the Pacific for the English navy. The squadron must consist of cruisers fast enough to clear the seas of hostile ships, of torpedo boats for harbour defence, and of one or more ironclads. In return, Australia would fortify her harbours, supply stores for the squadron, and be ready to send soldiers when they were urgently required. England might also provide material for the fortifications and a sufficient number of instructors for the troops. The additional expense of this protection would be trifling as compared with the extent of English commerce, which it would secure. Moreover, it cannot be too often repeated to those who murmur at increased expenditure, that Australia cannot and ought not to make costly naval preparations; and that, in the event of a war between England and a foreign power, Australia will always have it in her power to make her trade with Europe safe, but England will lose it all.

It may be that the practical difficulties in the way of any joint defence will prove insuperable; but this can only be established by experiment The present is an unique opportunity for making the experiment, which Federalists in England will surely take advantage of, if they are politicians, and not visionaries! A message from the Queen would stir the Colonies to action, and a mere executive order from the Admiralty would accomplish all that is required upon the part of England. The larger schemes of Federal Union can stand over until the Empire is secured against attack. If joint defence should prove impossible, we shall know what value to attach to the dreams of Imperial Federalists.

It is premature to offer an opinion on this larger question, but it is well to realise the nature of its difficulty.

The first condition of a closer union is that the people of England and Australia should understand each other better.

If such an understanding were once brought about, the English Democracy would immediately recognise that it was rejecting a powerful ally in loosening the connection with Australia. And the people of Australia in their turn would gather strength to overcome the plutocratic spirit from the impulse of English culture and the example of English legislation.*

* In matters of social legislation, such as the Factory Acts, City Improvement Acts, Adulteration Acts, Legal Procedure, etc., Australia about is thirty years behind England.

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The desire for a better understanding between the Democracies of England and Australia is no mere sentimental longing, but is the outcome of a bitter experience of many mistakes. Even at the present moment events are illustrating in a very striking manner the disadvantages which arise from mutual misunderstandings, both to England and Australia.

The two Australian questions which have recently attracted English attention are those of Australian Federation and of Annexation in the Pacific Ocean; and yet, with regard to each of these, the temper of the popular party in Australia has been greatly misunderstood.

The error has, perhaps, been greatest upon the question of Federation. It is generally believed in England that Victoria has been making efforts to form an Australian Dominion, and that she is only prevented from doing so by the provincial jealousy of New South Wales and New Zealand. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is at present but a single obstacle to the union of the Australian Colonies, namely, the Victorian tariff. New South Wales Ministries have (time after time) attempted to draw the Colonies together, but their policy has always been frustrated by the Protectionist party in Victoria. Now the rôles seem changed. Victoria has come forward as the patriot, eager to remove provincial jealousies! The explanation is simple. Fifteen years of Protection have sufficed to choke her markets; she must find new outlets for her products at all hazards. Hence this agitation for a Federal Union and for Annexation! The hope is, that if the Colonies are once united, oven under the semblance of a Federal Constitution, a Protectionist Zoll-verein will sooner or later be adopted. Negotiations in this direction have already begun; and Tasmania has been induced to make a reciprocity treaty with Victoria upon a Protectionist basis. In this way it is hoped to close the Australian market against any Free trade Colony—a proof of a disinterested desire for Union which requires no comment.

But, whether it is New South Wales or Victoria that is most eager for Australian Union is a comparatively unimportant local matter. It is far otherwise with the proposed new Constitution. This, as may be well known, establishes what is called a "Federal Council," with limited power to legislate on matters of common interest. It is evident that the constitution of such a governing body is a matter of supreme importance; and it happens that from the Democratic point of view the constitution of the Council, as it stands at present, deserves the strongest expression of ridicule and censure. Yet, so little help do we got at present from the Democracy in England, that not a single newspaper has even attempted a criticism of the clauses of the so called "Enabling Bill," which the Imperial Parliament may page 11 be called upon to pass at any moment. It may be fearlessly asserted that, had it not been for the ignorance of Australian matters which prevail in England, it would have been impossible that the draft Bill of the Sydney Convention could have been approved by the Imperial Government. It can only have been accepted in England because it was believed to be an expression of Australian opinion.

But what are the facts? The Bill originated in no Colonial Parliament, and was suggested by no popular movement. The tale of its preparation reads like a passage from a burlesque; yet, told in plain language, the framing of the Constitution of United Australia, which is intended, in the lifetime of many now living, to provide for the governance of thirty millions of people, scattered over a country which is about the size of Europe, if we except the Spanish peninsula, is literally and exactly as follows :—Certain Colonial Ministers met in Sydney in November, 1883. They bore no credentials from their respective Parliaments, nor had any of them any authority to act in any way on behalf of their Colonies. They were merely private individuals on a holiday trip. It occurred to them to frame a Constitution. They held five meetings with closed doors. At these meetings they drafted a Bill, which each of them pledged himself to submit to his respective Parliament. The instant the contents of this Bill were known it was assailed in every Colony with a storm of criticism. No Parliament, it was thought, would pass such a Bill without radical amendment. But the members of the Conference had anticipated this possibility, and had prepared for it by agreeing together not to submit the Bill to their Parliaments in the ordinary way, to be discussed clause by clause, but to tack it, as a sort of schedule, to a resolution requesting the Queen to alter the existing Colonial Constitutions in the manner suggested. The Bill, therefore, could not be amended, and had either to be rejected or accepted in globo. The consequence was that in New South Wales and New Zealand the resolution was shelved by means of the "Previous Question." But in the other Colonies Ministers staked their existence on the carrying of the resolution, and calculated accurately that the Opposition could not turn them out on a matter upon which the outside public took so little interest. Those, who know anything of the working of Colonial politics, will understand how safe such a calculation was likely to be. Even with this difficulty in the path the Opposition in Queenland and South Australia was so active, that it had to be pacified by the assurance, that the right time for proposing amendments would be on the return of the Bill from the Colonial Office. That time has now come. Yet again we are witnessing, in a Democratic country, a spectacle which would be impossible even in Germany or Russia. Ministers in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania have communicated page 12 their views to each other by means of private memoranda. Cabinet Councils are then held in the several Colonies, and the alterations in the Bill proposed by the Colonial Office are said to be approved or disapproved, as the case may be, by the people of that Colony. Not one of the Parliaments has been summoned to consider the alterations, and the amended Bill will return to the Colonial Office with the unanimous approval of the four Colonies already named. The result is that a few men will have taken advantage of popular indifference to force a Constitution on the country which had never been discussed, never been approved, and never even been presented to the people. Assuredly Democratic forms, where the spirit of Democracy is sluggish, do offer the greatest opportunities to despotism! But it is not yet too late for the English Democracy to help us. New South Wales and New Zealand have done their best to call attention to the sort of Constitution which is being foisted on Australia; but the criticism of one Colony seldom awakens more than angry irritation among its neighbours. The criticism which is required is a frank, sympathetic criticism in the English Press and in the English Parliament. This would rouse attention here, and give the Opposition a foothold for resistance. At present electors regard Federation as a question which is outside of politics. The political hacks do not understand or care for it; and the people, except in New Zealand and New South Wales, have never had it before them.

A bare perusal of the Bill will show its faults. There is no occasion for lengthy criticism from this country. * But let those who believe in popular institutions understand that this "Enabling Bill" transfers the supreme political authority over the whole of Australia to a non-elective body of thirteen members and their opposition to it is assured. This body, which has

* The Federal Council is to have "original" powers of legislation (paramount in cases of conflict with the local legislature of any federated Colony) on the following subjects, inter alia :—(1) The relations of Australia with the Islands of the Pacific; (2) Prevention of the Influx of Criminals; (3) Fisheries in Australasian Waters beyond territorial limits; (4) The service of Civil and Criminal Process of the Courts of any Colony outside the jurisdiction of that Colony; (5) The Enforcement of Judgments of Courts of Law of any Colony beyond the limits of that Colony. It is to have "derivative" powers of legislation (that is, by request of the legislatures of at least two federated Colonies) on the following subjects :—(1) General Defences; (2) Quarantine; (3) Patent Law; (4) Copyright; (5) Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes; (6) Marriage and Divorce Laws; (7) Naturalisation and Aliens; (8) Any other matter of general Australian interest, with respect to which the legislatures of the several Colonies can legislate within their own limits, and as to which it is deemed desirable that there should be a Law of General Application. This is plainly not an "Enabling" Bill, but a Constructive Bill of a bad kind. A true Enabling Bill is what we want. Give the Colonies power to alter their own Constitution, and trust to them to take all possible steps towards a real union.

page 13 no representative basis, and is too small to generate within itself that healthy degree of public opinion which is indispensable to sound legislation, is to have the sole control of all our foreign policy, and to be the supreme authority over many matters of domestic concern. No wonder that it receives the vehement support of the Australian Tories, who fear popular government, and themselves love power. Still it is surprising that the "formal" defects of such a Constitution should have escaped the notice of its framers! This precious "Federal Council" is inferior in all the attributes of a governing body. It makes no provision for an executive: it has no power of taxation: it has no power to appropriate a penny of the Federal Revenue: it contains no provisions for an appeal to the power to which it owes its existence, or for an appellate judiciary to decide on any conflicts between federal and local authority. It is thus a Cabinet without responsibility, a Government without authority, an Executive without a revenue. Even those who may not be hostile to the principle of the measure must recognise that in its present form it must give rise to numberless occasions for dispute, and that it offers no remedy for these except disruption of the Union.

The derivative power of legislation is also open to great objection. At first it seems reasonable enough that any two Colonies may refer a question of common interest to be settled by the Federal Council; but it is plain, upon reflection, that this power will work injuriously in practice. Suppose, for example, that the Federal Council frames a divorce law for the two Colonies of Tasmania and Victoria: that law will then become the Federal Statute on the subject of divorce, and will have to be accepted in globo by any other Colonies that may wish for Federal legislation on the subject. Thus the indirect result of the action of any two Colonies will be either to force a Statute on all the other Colonies, or else to compel them to except the subject of that Statute from the jurisdiction of the Federal Council. What the result of this may be if the matter referred to the Council is the settlement of a tariff, it requires no power of political forecast to imagine.

The Federal Council, indeed, in these respects, goes too far, while in others it does not go far enough. Until the means of communication between the Colonies are bettered, and the tariff difficulty is removed, a close Federal Union is impossible. But a Central Council for deliberative and consultative purposes would foster the spirit of union, and be, practically, very useful. The duties of such a Council should be strictly limited to the suggestion of measures on matters of intercolonial interest. Their work might be that both of innovators and codifiers—either they might draft new measures, or harmonise those which already exist; but in each case the actual legislative authority page 14 would remain with the local Parliaments. Australia is quite ripe for such a Council, and its work would he of an extremely useful character. Australian politicians often lack the power or opportunity to prepare well-drafted measures on technical subjects, and the differences of local legislation arise quite as much from carelessness or ignorance as from any settled difference in policy. The suggestions and supervision of a council of experts could not fail to improve Colonial legislation, both in form and quality. The proposed Federal Council will do nothing well. It does not pretend to give genuine Federation, but it substitutes a grotesque, amorphous phantom, which, by the irritating disputes between the Colonies to which its existence will give rise, will create a new and almost insurmountable obstacle to the real union which all Australians desire.

Nor is the existence of such a council altogether without danger to England, since the first matter which the Enabling Bill surrenders to its control is "The relations of Australasia with the Islands of the Pacific"; that is to say—the people of each Colony are to surrender all control over the only matters of foreign policy which are likely to lead us into serious difficulties. By an amendment of the Colonial Office, nothing can be done tinder this authority without the previous sanction of the Imperial Government.

But the history of New Guinea shows how difficult it will be for the English Government to object to anything after it is done. The Federal Council will be able to force the hands of the English Government whenever it likes, just as it will also be able to force the hands of the Australian Parliaments.

Suppose—and the supposition is not improbable—that a majority of the Council should agree to annex the greater part of the Pacific Islands! Such a measure might or might not be desirable. But are the people of each Colony, who will have to pay the cost of annexation, to have no voice in the matter? Small bodies of men are generally more ready for a "forward policy" than the masses, on whom the responsibility will ultimately fall. Let Englishmen put themselves in our place. Imagine that during the Russo-Turkish war the control of foreign affairs had been completely in the hands of the Beaconsfield Cabinet! Is it not morally certain that England would have been committed to a position from which it would have been impossible to with-draw peaceably? A foreign policy, more than a domestic policy, requires the constant check and pressure of public opinion. This, as English experience has proved, can be brought to bear most effectually upon the Minister of a Representative Assembly, where every proposal can be publicly canvassed. Foreign affairs, more than any other, require to be conducted in the light of day, and popular knowledge of what is being done may often be the surest guarantee of peace.

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Nor are we in Australia without a recent experience of the recklessness with which a certain party is ready, in the names of Christianity and commerce, to disregard the rights of other nations. Late events have brought into a startling prominence a party which insists on the entire exclusion of foreigners from the Pacific Ocean. The headquarters of these narrow doctrinaries are naturally in Melbourne, where the zealous Christian is more pressed to find relief for pious feelings and for glutted markets Their views, however, found some supporters at the Sydney Convention; and it is quite likely, if the proposed Federal Council came into existence, that Victoria, in the absence of New South Wales, will be able to commit the associated Colonies to a policy which will seriously involve Australia, and which may complicate the relations of England with other European Powers.

It is a mistake, however, to suppose that the compact body of Annexationists, with their definite interests to serve, and their opportunities for making themselves heard, accurately represent the feelings of the disorganised and silent mass of Australian voters. New South Wales, indeed, has already given an emphatic refusal to join in a demand for further annexation; although, as usual, this difference of opinion is attributed in England to provincial jealousy. In reality, however, the older colony is, in this matter, the mouthpiece of Democratic sentiment, and ought, therefore, to receive the warm support of English Radicals.

It would seem, from the arguments of Annexationists, that foreign settlements are deplored upon two grounds, namely—for the injury they will inflict on our material interests, and for the suffering they will cause to native races. The humanitarian argument is that which we have heard so often, and which is always trotted out to justify aggression. No one, who is acquainted with the missionaries of the Pacific Islands, could doubt that there are some of them who use this argument in all good faith. The widest extension of British rule would be desirable if it would strengthen the hands of men like Chalmers. Lawes, or Selwyn. But experience does not show that British rule is beneficial to a native race. With the best intentions and with really heroic sacrifices, Englishmen have failed to win the regard of any nation that they rule. Everywhere they form a governing class apart from the people; and where Frenchmen or Spaniards would, by intermarriage with the natives, continue something of the national life, Englishmen only destroy whatever society already exists. The Pacific Islands, in particular, are painful witnesses to our disastrous presence. Rum and disease have everywhere carried to the natives more convincing proof of the nature of English benevolence than could page 16 be afforded by the best of wishes or by miles of missionary calico. Set Java and Tahiti on one side, and New Zealand on the other, and then let it be said whether we can claim a monopoly of charitable feeling towards the native races! Certainly whatever may be our feelings, we have not surpassed either the Dutch or the French in the success with which we have exhibited them to the Pacific Islanders. These may well pray to be delivered from English kindness.

In one point only have the friends of the Pacific Islanders any real cause for alarm.

Prince Bismark has proclaimed, in deference to the wish of Gorman traders, that he aims rather at protecting commerce than at founding Colonies. In plain language, this means, in the Pacific, that German traders will be free to deal with native races as they please.

At present, England is making a noble effort to protect the Pacific Islanders from the greed of Europeans. The regulations of the High Commissioner endeavour to control the Labour Traffic, to stop the importation of rum and firearms, and to prohibit the purchase of land Other nations have, as yet, been chary of assisting at this work; and it is now feared that the occupation of new territory by France or Germany will give a shelter to the lawless practices which England has been struggling to put down. The Germans, in particular, have disregarded their duties to native races with most shameless cynicism; and the German traders openly avow their disbelief in measures to protect the islanders, and their intention to govern their new territories upon purely commercial principles. The French have hitherto shown more humanity, and their Colony of Otaheite is the only Pacific island under white control where the native population is increasing. *

Accordingly, the honest members of the missionary party denounce the recent annexations, because they fear, not that the Germans will establish arsenals, but that they will neglect to govern. They take Prince Bismarck at his word, and they believe that it will be possible even for Germany, now that she

* This is one of the reasons in favor of the proposal to annex the New Hebrides to France. Those islands are already developed largely by French enterprise, and could without difficulty be brought under French influence. Moreover, the islands are geographically attached to New Caledonia, and their occupation by the English would be likely to give rise to constant irritation between us and the French. If the French should pledge themselves (as they have declared their willingness to do) not to use these islands for a penal settlement, their presence could not in any way injure or menace Australia, while it would be in the highest degree beneficial to the natives and to the increase of commerce in the Pacific Ocean. The agitation against the French has been got up by mining and land speculators, and by the Protestant missionaries, who are jealous of their Catholic rivals. It has actually been made a formal cause of complaint by the English missionaries that the native children in the Loyalty Islands are instructed in the French language; while it is hardly necessary to say, that, while the French Protectorate continues, the missionaries cannot act as they have done in Tonga, and assume the reins of government. The alternative proposal, to "internationalise" these and every other island which England does not at present covet, is one which can only have emanated from an editorial arm-chair. To "internationalise" in the Pacific Ocean is simply to create an Alsatia. An international arrangement between France, Germany, England, and America, for police purposes, having reference to the labour traffic, the acquisition of land, and the sale of rum and fire-arms, would be very useful, but the internal government of the islands ought to be under some one responsible power.

page 17 has assumed at least a nominal authority, to decline the responsibility of preserving order. She will, undoubtedly, require pressure to be brought upon her; but let her Government be once established, and she will be compelled by the force of public opinion to give protection to her native subjects. Our object ought to be to bring the necessity for such protection strongly before the German Government; and if the English journalists, when they are tired of abusing Lord Derby, would insist that we should have a common understanding with France and Germany as to the purchase of land from the islanders, and the traffic in labour, firearms, and rum, they would benefit Australia greatly, whilst serving the cause of humanity. What is wanted is an International agreement, such as that which was proposed at the Congo Conference, to the effect that all annexations of barbarous territories should carry with them the responsibility for order and government. At present it is openly admitted by the German traders in Sydney that commerce is their only concern; and unless strong pressure is brought to bear upon the Government by France and England, the Imperial flag will only float in the Pacific in order to conceal the present infamies.

It is, perhaps, too much to expect that the Germans will show the same aptitude as the French for dealing with the native races, or that they will turn any of their new possession into a northern Otaheite; but, at least, they are a civilised people, who are not likely, when the facts are brought to their notice, to encourage a revival of the labour traffic, or of land-grabbing, or of the sale of rum and firearms to ignorant islanders.

Hut even supposing that this expectation is not fulfilled, and that the acts of Germany should justify the worst anticipations of those who have already seen the conduct of her traders; yet, that will not impose upon our Government the duty of immediate annexation. How often must it be repeated that we have no mission to redress the grievances of every native race, even were we able to do it? Germany may fail to treat the natives well, but we ourselves are by no means certain to succeed page 18 better, although our points of failure might be different. Yet, in order to correct the possible faults of German rule, we are asked ourselves to assume the reins of Government, before we have tried the efficacy either of official remonstrances or of the pressure of well-informed public opinion! Surely our first concern is with Australian affairs; and while we ought to use all our influence to secure fair treatment to the islanders, it would be a grave political mistake to endanger our own security in order to protect theirs.

But this, the Annexationists have said, is a begging of the question. Annexation by England would involve us, they say, in far fewer difficulties than those into which we shall certainly fall if the annexation is made by any foreign power.

The most baseless assertion comes to be believed if it is frequently repeated; so that it is possible that honest men may really believe that the presence of the Germans at New Britain, or the French at the New Hebrides, will be a source of danger to Australia! Yet, how is such a view borne out by any facts? Is the presence of the French at Pondicherry any danger to the Indian Empire? Or does the adjacency of Cuba menace the United States? Yet, in twenty years Australia will be to the Pacific Islands as the United States are to Cuba or Jamaica. They will just as little be a source of danger to our ports and commerce; and, in the event of war, we could snap them up in a week—if we wanted to do so.

If, on the other hand, we annexed those islands, instead of leaving them to foreign powers, we should be scattering instead of concentrating our resources. We should be offering a greater number of vulnerable points to any enemy, instead of leaving him to offer them to us.

But can we seriously believe that any islands taken by a foreign power are to be turned at once into fortified posts? Let us show a little common sense in talking about foreign politics! Let us remember what these islands are—that they are tropical islands, with malarious climates, lying far from civilised settlement: that they are places which offer no inducement to English settlers, and no work for European labourers. What then do we suppose that it would cost a European power to establish and maintain a Malta at a place like one of these? And if an Annexationist is bold enough to face this question, let him be further asked to explain the motive for such waste of money.

But there is another side to the question. Suppose it to be granted, for the sake of argument, that the presence of foreigners in the Pacific will cause some appreciable danger to Australia! The risk from English Annexation might still be out page 19 of all proportion to the danger which we would avoid. The Democratic party here believe that to be the case; and that the exclusion of foreigners from the Pacific would not only involve us in responsibilities that would seriously hamper our material progress, but would deprive Australia of grant at moral and material benefits.

It is certain that England is in no mood to acquire new responsibilities. If the islands are annexed, it is Australia that will have to be responsible. English journalists, particularly those who are most eager to display their friendship to Australia, talk of this as though it were a matter of no concern Yet the popular party in Australia takes a very different view.

In the first place, we have not got the men who could administer the islands. Our Parliaments show no superfluity of administrative talent; and we have not succeeded well in such a comparatively simple matter as the regulation of the Labour Traffic. Our own affairs still occupy us fully. Three-quarters of our own continent have still to be annexed. And yet we are advised by Englishmen to direct our energies into other fields!

Moreover, there is another argument in favour of foreign settlements, which can only, perhaps, be fully appreciated by those who are acquainted with Australia. We suffer at present from our isolation. We are outside the main current of European thought; so that in spiritual and intellectual matters we are somewhat stagnant. We have but one type—that of the British "bourgeois," with "his sombre attire, his repellent manners, his gloomy worship, his mechanic habitudes of toil." Is it better that the Pacific Islands should be kept for the perpetuation of this type, or that other types should settle there for our example and improvement? France and Germany have, each of them, political and intellectual ideas which differ from the English; and the observation of new ideas and other forms of social life cannot fail to stimulate a nation's mental growth. By the presence of foreign settlements in the Pacific, Australia would be brought more into the stream of modern thought,—and that is of itself a great advantage.

But besides the moral advantages of having in our neighbourhood the representatives of other civilisations, there are great material advantages to be derived from this propinquity.

Sydney is, by its position, the emporium of the island trade. Whatever develops commerce in the islands must increase the wealth of Sydney. The only question is, whether this development is to be effected by introducing fresh capital and labour from new European sources, or whether it is be effected by drawing on our own stores, which are already insufficient to pro- page 20 perly develop our own country. No Australian, at any rate, is likely to deny, that had Fiji been exploited by a foreign power, millions of much needed capital would never have been taken from Australia.

Penal settlement as it is, New Caledonia has already caused a considerable increase in the volume of Australian trade. A similar result must follow the establishment of every new settlement. Whatever commerce may spring up in the Pacific, Australia must obtain the larger share of it. The Germans may attempt to exclude English trade, but the position of Australia, as the nearest source of supply, will prevent them establishing any insurmountable barriers.

Foreign Annexation will also save us from another danger which Englishmen cannot be blamed for not appreciating.

Those tropical islands can never form a coherent part of our political system. They can only be worked by coloured labour, and coloured labour will be a permanent source of disunion and difficulty to Australia. A foreign power can face this danger, because it has no white settlements close by; but workmen in Australia will never consent to be taxed for the government of coolie plantations. The coloured labour difficulty is at this very time threatening the disruption of Queensland, and we cannot forget that it is not 20 years since the same difficulty menaced the existence of the United States.

Englishmen, accordingly, do not assist the Democratic party in Australia by echoing the clamour of the Annexationists. When a real danger arises, such as that which was lately threatened by the Récidiviste Bill, we can protect ourselves against it fully, and without panic. But we are not now threatened by any danger great enough to drive us into vast and unknown responsibilities. Our greatest danger in the Pacific is the continuance of the present disorder, and we are grateful to any civilised power which offers to set up a staple government. Any danger of future hostilities is very trifling, and to insure ourselves against it, by ourselves annexing, requires too high a premium for the risk. While we are united with England her navy will protect us from danger; if we should be independent, the causes of collision are removed. Our work, as Australians, lies in another direction than in acquiring dependencies. If we annex the islands they must be exploited by Australian capital, to the detriment of Australian development. As things are, we shall have an influx of foreign capital, foreign enterprise, and foreign ideas. We leave all the rough work of settlement to others, and can, at any time, if we should so desire, step into the inheritance.

Finally, the Democratic party in Australia denounces further Annexation upon higher grounds. They insist that duty page 21 counts for something in a nation's politics, and that to drive a native people from its land is not the less an act of robbery because it is supported by some missionaries. Black races, they say, have a claim to equal treatment at our hands; and the nation which disregards justice in its dealings, even with a savage race, inevitably falls away in moral strength. Australians have a noble future for their country, independently of foreign conquests. We have to build up a great nation upon the bases of social equality and political freedom. That is a sufficient task, from which we do not need distraction, and it is the task by which our claim to greatness will be judged. Nobility of thought, not acreage of territory, is the secret of national strength.

These are the ideas that we look to the English people, and especially to English Radicals, to enforce in their policy and writings. For it is in points like these that the influence of one Democracy re-acts upon another. Yet, if a certain section of the Liberal party shall prevail in England, this is just the help that we shall not receive from the English Democracy.

It is no business of ours to join in the conflict of English parties; but when any programme is put forward in the name of Democracy, the Democratic party in every quarter of the Empire may, without presumption, offer words of warning and advice. For Democracy is of no country. It is a spirit uniting all.

Yet our new guides, speaking in the name of Democracy, are urging us upon a policy which would shatter the English Union. By fanatical appeals to national selfishness and periodic incitements to war, they would drive England further and further upon the path of foreign aggression. Their policy is a new Jingoism, which only differs from the Beaconsfieldian by a substitution of the epithet "moral." Wherein the particular "morality" of that policy consists is a question for the consciences of its supporters. Outsiders are only concerned with its practical effects, and of these among the first would be the separation of England's self-governing Colonies. Those who desire the union of the English Empire through an union of the English people can only regard the prevalence of such a policy with sheer dismay.

Bernhard Wise,

Wentworth Court, Sydney,