Other formats

    Adobe Portable Document Format file (facsimile images)   TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 62


page 38


No paper on a British Colony seems complete without a reference to the great question of Imperial Federation.

A certain amount of practical work has been done during the past few years in setting on foot a system of Imperial Defence, and in determining other matters of common interest, but statesmen having got so far appear timid about going any further, and seem now rather to fight shy of the whole question, and to adopt a laissez faire policy. Short of proposing any scheme, it seems to me there is still much to be done in the way of "clearing the decks for action," and embracing every opportunity of effecting arrangements which, although possibly small in themselves, are to the mutual advantage of this country and the Colonies. A not unimportant instance is a Bill which Lord Knutsford has passed through the House of Lords during the present session dealing with the Probate of Wills.

It is now almost an axiom of the subject that Federation must be based on a foundation of practical and reciprocal benefits, and that the sentimental aspect of the question, however attractive it may be, will not prove a bond of union sufficiently strong to last, unless there are material advantages as well. I cannot go into this question further here than enumerate a few matters which seem to me to call for early consideration, and which are noncommittal. We need not hesitate "to clear the decks," as I call it, so as to be ready for action when time is ripe. How long it may be prudent to wait before we face the whole question is one of the many difficulties surrounding the matter. It must be borne in mind that political thought flows faster in the Colonies than here, and it is by no means certain that the Colonies will, as time goes on, manifest the same dispositions they now entertain. It is most difficult for the various Colonies, separated as they are, to propound a scheme which in the very nature of things should emanate from the Mother Country. The chief reason this country should make the advance, is because the question of Imperial Federation is, it seems to me, of much more importance to this country than it is to the Colonies. It may be that the commercial aspect of the whole question is becoming more prominent than the political aspect, and that the great lever of commercial public opinion must be used to lift politicians from their lethargy. Signs are not wanting to show that the British commercial world is dissatisfied with the future prospects of British trade. Do not understand me to imply that this great question of Imperial Federation must be settled hastily. page 39 I agree with those who think that it will not do to "force the running"; but so far from any precipitate action being likely, it seems as if we are running a risk of going to the opposite extreme and allowing the matter to sleep. The subject is too vast to discuss at the end of a paper already too long. New Zealand can certainly claim to be thoroughly loyal to the British flag, but in the matter of Imperial Federation, although I believe the people of the Colony would hail with pride and pleasure any proposal for more firmly binding together the bonds between the Mother Country and the Colony, those bonds must secure to the people of New Zealand practical benefits. As you know, New Zealand was very shy about committing herself to the scheme of Australasian Federation. She had many reasons for this. I will quote one which was weighty with me, and it is that I was not at all sure that Australasian Federation was a stepping-stone to Imperial Federation. The questions which appear to me to demand Imperial attention at the present moment, leaving on one side the ever important question of defence, are:—
1.The abrogation of the provisions of any treaties with foreign powers imposing limitations upon the full development of trade between the United Kingdom and other parts of the British Empire.
2.The determining of conditions under which the Colonial Government securities may be recognised in this country, as a proper field for the investment of trust moneys.
3.The holding of an Imperial Postal Conference for the purpose of determining the basis of a penny Imperial post and cheaper cable rates.
4.The adoption throughout the Empire of identical laws on such questions as patents, copyright, marriage, divorce, &c.
5.The fixing of some universal standard under which university degrees and professional qualifications might be mutually recognised.
6.The reduction of the stamp fees charged by the Imperial Government on all Colonial loans and conversions.1

These are, I venture to think, all practical proposals which have been made at various times, and are illustrations of what I referred to in speaking of clearing the decks for action.

page 40
I will conclude with a sentiment of Mr. J. A. Froude:—

The Colonies have shown more clearly than before that they are as much English as we are, and deny our right to part with them. At home the advocates of separation have been forced into silence, and the interest in the subject has grown into practical anxiety. The union which so many of us now hope for may prove an illusion after all. The feeling which exists on both sides may be a warm one, but not warm enough to heat us, as I said, to the welding point.

The event, whatever it is to be, lies already determined, the philosophers tell us, in the chain of causation. What is to be, will be. But it is not more determined than all else which is to happen to us, and the determination does not make us sit still and wait till it comes. Among the causes are included our own exertions, and each of us must do what he can, be it small or great, as this course or that seems good and right to him. If we work on the right side, coral insects as we are, we may contribute something not wholly useless to the general welfare.

Amidst the uncertainties which are gathering round us at home—a future so obscure that the wisest man will least venture a conjecture what that future will be—it is something to have seen with our own eyes that there are other Englands besides the old one, where the race is thriving with all its ancient characteristics. Those who take "leaps in the dark," as we are doing, may find themselves in unexpected places before they recover the beaten tracks again. But let fate do its worst, the family of Oceana is still growing, and will have a sovereign voice in the coming fortunes of man.

(A number of lime-light views of New Zealand scenery were shown at the conclusion of the paper.)

Printed by Spottis Woods and Co., New Street Square London

1 On the loans of the British Colonies considerably more than £1,000,000 has been paid to the English Treasury in stamp duty; and as many of the loans will shortly have to he paid off, involving reborrowing for the purpose, the tax on the Colonies during the next few years will be very heavy.