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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 78

A Council of the Empire

Front Cover

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The British Empire League


  • His Majesty The King And Emperor.
  • Her Majesty Queen Alexandra.


  • H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, K.G.
  • H.R.H. The Princess of Wales.
  • H.R.H. Duke of Connaught, K.G.


  • The Right Hon. the Earl of Derby, K.G.


  • His Grace the Duke of Devonshire, K.G. (First President of the League.)
  • The Right Hon. the Lord Mayor of London.
  • The Governor of the Bank of England.
  • His Grace the Duke of Fife, K. T.
  • His Grace the Duke of Montrose, K. T. (President of the Glasgow Branch.)
  • His Grace the Duke of Wellington, K.G.
  • The Most Hon. the Marquess of Linlithgow, K.T.
  • The Right Hon. the Earl of Crewe, K.P.
  • The Earl Egerton of Tatton. (President of the Manchester Branch.)
  • The Right Hon. the Earl of Jersey, G.C.B., G.C.M.G.
  • The Right Hon. the Earl of Kintore, G.C.M.G.
  • The Right Hon. the Earl of [unclear: O] G.C.M.G.
  • Field-Marshal the Right Hon. [unclear: a] Roberts, K.G.
  • The Right Hon. Viscount [unclear: Knu] G.C.M.G.
  • The Right Hon. Lord [unclear: Bal] Burleigh, K.T. President of the Edinburgh Branch
  • The Lord Brassey, G.C.B.
  • The Right Hon. Lord [unclear: Roth] G.C.V.O.
  • The Right Hon. H.H. Asquith, K.C.[unclear: M]
  • The Right Hon. A.J. Balfour, M.P.
  • The Right Hon. Sir George [unclear: TAC] Goldie, K.C.M.G.
  • The Right Hon. Sir Edward, Grey, [unclear: B] M.P.
  • The Right Hon. R.B. Haldane, K.C. [unclear: M]
  • The Right Hon. George Wyndham, [unclear: M]
  • The Right Hon. Sydney Buxton, M.P.

Hon. Treasurer:

  • The Right Hon. Lord Avebury.

Chairman of Executive:

  • The Right Hon. Viscount Selby.

Acting Hon. Treasurer:

  • W. Herbert Daw, F.S.I.


  • C. Freeman Murray.

Executive Committee of the Council:

  • The Chairman.
  • The Hon. Treasurer.
  • The Acting Hon. Treasurer.
  • The Hon. Sir Wm. Arbuckle.
  • F. Faithfull Begg.
  • Raphael E. Belilios.
  • Sir James Blyth, Bart.
  • The Hon. Sir John A. Cockburn, K.C.M.G., M.D.
  • Lient. General Sir E. H. H. Collen, G.C.I.E., C.B.
  • J.G. Colmer, C.M.G.
  • F.C. Danson.
  • The Hon. A. Dobson, C.M.G.
  • The Hon. Sir Charles W. Fremantle, K.C.B.
  • Admiral the Hon. Sir E. R. Fremantle, G.C.B., C.M.G.
  • Sir T.E. Fuller, K.C.M.G.
  • The Hon. Sir John T. Goldney.
  • General Sir R. Harrison, G.C.B., C.M.G.
  • W. Becket Hill.
  • W. Culver James, M.D.
  • Sir Walter R. Lawrence, Bart, G.C.I.E.
  • Sir Westby B. Perceval, K.C.M.G.
  • W. Garland Soper.
  • The Lord Strathcona And Mount [unclear: Bo] G.C.M.G.
  • The Hon. J.W. Taverner.
  • The Right Hon. Lord Tennyson, G.C.M.G.
  • The Hon. Sir Charles Tupper, Bart, G.C.M.G., C.B.
  • Sir Charles Rivers Wilson, G.C.M.G., C.B.
  • Sir Frederick Young, K.C.M.G.

For particulars of the Objects and Constitution of the League, see inside of back page of Cover

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A Council of the Empire.

The British Empire League. Offices: 112 Cannon Street, London, E.C. 1907.

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A Council of the Empire.

About Four years ago I wrote an article for the journal of the British Empire League, and about a year later a short sketch for the journal of the Society of Comparative Legislation, giving in as few words as possible the outline of a proposal to transform the periodical Colonial Conferences into a permanent Council for the Empire. In so short a apace it was impossible to develop the many arguments for the scheme, and I therefore did not attempt to develop them. Even in a debate which subsequently took place at the annual meeting of the British Empire League, when I moved resolutions embodying the scheme, my remarks were as brief as I could make them. It is due, I presume, to this absence of full explanation that my proposals for a Council for the Empire have been misunderstood by more than one critic, notably by Mr. Merriman, of South Africa. Mr. Merriman is not only an experienced politician and man of affairs, but a well-equipped student of history and politics. He is the very last man from whom I should have expected a complete misunderstanding and an unconscious misstatement of the scope of the proposed Council. Yet he has in perfect good faith and sincerity taken the scheme to be precisely what it is not. If a Colonial public man of his Knowledge and standing can so mistake it, there need, I think, be no apology for returning to the subject and page 4 offering a few words of explanation on certain points, in the hope of preventing future misunderstandings.

The scheme I sketched was not to centralise in the least degree the government of the Empire in London. It was not to take away from Colonial Parliaments any powers that they have, or from Colonial electors any freedom that they enjoy. First of all, it was to give Colonial Parliaments, through the Premiers who represent them, a more direct method of expressing their opinions on those Imperial matters in which Colonies, dependencies, and Mother Country have a common interest. At present the Colonies sometimes do express such opinions, but they do so in an irregular, unauthorised, and sometimes ill-informed way. The second point which I had in view in framing the proposal was to equip the Conferences between the representatives of Colonies and the Mother Country with the fullest possible information about Imperial questions under discussion. This full information, with all due respect to the periodical Conferences, two of which have been held, they do not at present invariably possess. Nor do I see how they are likely to be provided with it in the future unless some such scheme as that which I have outlined is adopted. In short, the proposed Council for the Empire, with its ancillary commission or committee was not a scheme of federation, of centralisation, or of revolution; it was simply a proposal to take the present loose, friendly Imperial union, and make the best of it in the practical and businesslike way.

My suggestion was to take a short cut to the Council for the Empire by giving a continuous and improved form to the recent Conferences of Colonial Premiers. It was to change a temporary Conference into a permanent Concil. The conception was that this Council should consist—at first, at any rate—of seven members. The president would be the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and the Secretaries of State for the Colonies and India would be members. The direct Colonial representatives might be four page 5 is number, representing North America, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand respectively. Who should these representatives be? That, of course, it would be for the Governments and Parliaments of the self-governing Colonies to determine. The representatives should either be the Premiers of the Colonies or such other persons as the respective Governments should choose. Prima facie the best representatives would be the Premiers. Special circumstances might arise under which a Commonwealth Colony might prefer someone else; in that case the someone else would be appointed and accepted. A special arrangement would have to be made in the case of South Africa. There the self-governing Colonies might appoint a joint representative. It will be seen that the suggested Council would at first be small. Later on its members might be added to. I have merely suggested as simple a beginning as possible—one departing as little as may be in form from that Colonial Conference of which we have, already had experience. Later on, for instance, each Colonial group might prefer to have two representatives instead of one. But for the present I think the proposal to have one representative only would entail less expense, [unclear: se] less jealousy, and make less difficulty by withdrawing busy politicians from their ordinary work.

I am not at all surprised that even the most innocent scheme for setting up an Imperial Council should rouse suspicions. Former proposals for constructing an Imperial Council have contemplated a permanent body residing in London. This has not met with favour in the Colonies, Though the scheme now adopted by the Empire League contemplates nothing of the sort, it is not, perhaps, reasonable to expect that all critics will at once comprehend the difference. In the same way there have been proposals for giving some status to an Imperial Committee of the Privy Council. To some not unintelligent minds this idea has attractions. I confess that I sympathise with those who would like to utilise the Privy Council for Imperial page 6 purposes. At the same time I do not think it expedient to press such a proposal upon the Colonies now. Imperialists—even sane Imperialists—must remember that the Colonists whom they have to deal with are twelve millions of white men scattered about in the four quarters of the globe, intensely proud of their local autonomy, intensely auspicious of interference with their local rights, and apt to be sharply resentful of advice offered from any quarter. They will not tolerate the notion of any power or machinery coming between them and the complete and prompt control of their own affairs. Their Prime Ministers they trust, because their Prime Ministers live amongst them, have to consider their opinions, and may be made or unmade at very short notice. But when Colonists think of the Privy Council, many of them think of iM some sort of an ornamental appendage—a dignified and glittering Something, closely connected with embroidered uniforms, the Lord Chamberlain, and the Gold Stick in Waiting. Other Colonists, I imagine, may seriously believe that a Committee of the Privy Council would in some mysterious way give the Throne more direct and personal power in Imperial affairs, and somehow outflank Parliament. Moreover, it is just possible that some popular Colonial representative may not wish to be made a Privy Councillor. Doubtless such personal objections would be very rare, but they might be felt; and it would never do to exclude the best possible Man in Australia because he had some honest, though rather fanciful, objection to a laced coat and the title of Right Honourable.

The less mysterious, the less decorative the Council could seem in Colonial eyes the better. To that end I need hardly say it would be well for its procedure to be as informal as possible. Most of its work would be purely the work of consultation. It might pass resolutions, but they would not bind anybody. Its members might agree to submit certain proposals to their respective Parliaments, page 7 but their Parliaments would accept them or not as they liked. Where the opinions formed by the Council were unanimous they would have great weight as expressions of the views of responsible Imperial statesmen—that would be all. But the longer the Council existed and the better informed it grew to be, by virtue of tradition or experience, the greater would be the weight attached to its views. In certain quarters some stress has been laid upon the useful part which might be played by the clerk to the Council. Doubtless the post might become one of great utility if occupied by a zealous and capable official—such an one as could easily be chosen from the ranks of the English Civil Service. Whether be should be appointed and paid by the English Government alone or by the different Governments composing the Council acting together is a small point not worth importing about. But when once appointed he would soon become a depository of a mass of information on Imperial affairs, and his office would naturally be the centre of documents dealing with Imperial problems and vexed questions. He would, moreover, be the natural link between the Council and the ancillary commission of experienced advisers who should work for and under the Council. This ancillary commission is an essential portion of my scheme. In practice the body will do the work of an Imperial Intelligence Office. There are some who would like to call it by this name. The name matters little. What is wanted is the thing—a group of experts to do the "devilling" for the Council of the Empire. Are these experts to be permanent or temporary members of the commission? I should think that they might be partly permanent and partly temporary. They would, probably, in the first instance, consist of the High Commissioners or other London representatives of the Colonial Governments and of a certain number of experts—gentlemen qualified to inquire into questions affecting the relations of the different parts of the Empire with each page 8 other. I do not doubt that men with practical kuowledge of Crown colony life and work and Asiatic affairs could easily be found in London. I believe that first-class men would ba ready to serve on such a commission, either unpaid, or at the most for very moderate fees when actually engaged on inquiry work.

Special experts could from time to time be appointed to assist the commission in matters where special knowledge would be required. In this way the Colonies might be encouraged to send over occasional commissioners to London to aid in particular investigations of important and complex cases. It would be easy for Canada and not difficult for South Africa to do so. In the cases of Australia and New Zealand the distances ate greater, but even from those countries men might come sometimes. For the most part the Colonies would have to trust to their High Commissioners, or to such chance help as they might get by utilising Colonists residing for the time in London. This last class—the occasional visitors—are by no means to be ignored. There are always many Colonists of ability, mostly experienced men, paying long visits to England and Europe—visits sometimes lasting many months. Such men would regard it as an honour to assist an Imperial Commission by evidence or otherwise and would often supply most valuable help.

Suppose, then, (1), the Imperial Council of Premiers and Ministers to have been given a permanent shape, and, (2) the ancillary commission of Imperial experts to have been duly embodied, what work will there be for the Council and its commissioners to do? Persons critically disposed towards the new proposal usually ask this question, and are, of course, justified in asking it. The first answer to give them is to ask them to glance through the records of the Colonial Conferences of 1897 and 1902. A goodly list of subjects for discussion was tabled at these gatherings. How many of them have been finally disposed of? Very few. Many of the matters brought up page 9 still remain to be threshed out. Good progress has, indeed, been made in dealing with some of them; others remain pretty much as they were ten years ago. But the list of Imperial questions to be gone into is by no means exhausted by the contents of the agenda of the two Conferences referred to. As the Empire grows, and as communication is quickened and intercourse increases between the different portions of it, so the number of problems born of the relations of those different parts is steadily added to. A whole group of these intra-Imperial difficulties have either come into being or grown more acute during the last twenty years. Scarcely any special machinery has been created to deal with them. The Colonial Office has its governors, who, in the self-governing Colonies, double the very different and sometimes conflicting rôles of constitutional sovereigns and servants of a great British department. Self-governing Colonies have their High Commissioners or Agents-General in London, who do their best to discharge duties which, for reasons upon which I need not enlarge, are delicate and more difficult than is commonly imagined. There is the Council of Imperial Defence, which is good, so far as it goes, but which has not yet been allowed to do very much. And there is a special Council for India. All these are links, but they are imperfect and disconnected links; and, as I have said, there are plenty of vexed Imperial questions which are bound to he considered, and which ought to be settled. The following list is fay no means complete, but it is long enough to justify my contention:

(1)Immigration laws affecting aliens, coloured and white.
(2)Immigration laws affecting coloured British subjects.
(3)Immigration laws affecting undesirable classes of white British subjects.
(4)Merchant shipping laws.
(5)Fiscal preferences to be granted by Protectionist Colonies to British imports.page 10
(6)The development of trade between the Mother Country and Colonies by other means than by preferential duties.
(7)Imperial defence.
(8)Post and telegraph matters, including the control and extension of telegraph cables.
(9)Patent laws, copyright laws, and laws affecting mercantile intercourse generally.
(10)Reciprocity in the admission of professional men to practise their professions.
(11)Naturalisation laws.
(12)Marriage laws.
(13)Double taxation by income tax or otherwise.
(14)Reforms the object of which is to expedite, cheapen, and improve the system of appeals to the Privy Council.
(15)The occasional exchange of Civil servants.
(16)Certain development of education, and especially of University education and research.
(17)Currency and coinage.

In many quarters, doubtless, there still exists a comfortable faith that if we leave these questions alone they will be settled by existing machinery or will settle themselves—that, in fact, we shall muddle through somehow. To this I reply that "muddling through," as we found a few years ago in South Africa, may sometimes be a most tedious and cruelly costly process. There are other critics who appear honestly to think that because the subjects recited in the above list are difficult matters to handle they are therefore dangerous to touch. These critics seem to imagine that if you try to set up machinery to adjust them you are more likely to create friction than to compose differences. To this I answer that, as it is, these questions are being touched from time to time in a hesitating and half-hearted fashion; that attempts are being made to page 11 dispose of them more or less unsuccessfully; and that they are already causing friction. If you do not want them discussed, why have periodical Colonial Conferences in order to discuss them? Yet almost everyone favours the holding of the Colonial Conferences. That being so, let us try to make these Conferences as effectual as possible for dealing with the work laid before them. A Colonial Conference is in the nature of a Cabinet meeting—a discussion by responsible Ministers. But no Cabinet could possibly do its work unless it bad the assistance of departments and expert officials to thresh out for it details of policy and the questions which come before it. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a Department of the Empire. There is no central office whose special and only work it is to deal with the group of questions to which I have referred—namely, questions, affecting the relations of one part of the Empire with other parts. Colonial merchant shipping laws may disturb Imperial trade and demand scrutiny by marine departments in half a dozen Colonies, when passed by the Colonial Legislatures they may be reserved for the consideration of the Colonial Office; and the Colonial Office may, when it receives them, pass them on for the judgment of the English Board of Trade. But no machinery exists by means of which the Colonial Office, the Board of Trade, the Marine Departments in the Colonies, representatives of Colonial Governments, and representatives of British shipping can discuss vexed questions or give evidence on contentious points. It is notorious, for example, that merchant shipping laws passed by a self-governing Colony have been "hung up" by the Colonial Office, sometimes for many months, on account of the objections or apprehensions of British shipowners. Impatience and irritation have in this way been caused in more than one Colony, and yet the process has not always led to a businesslike or satisfactory settlement. It is well known, for instance, that for the last two years the Colonial Office has been anxious page 12 for the holding of a special conference on the merchant shipping laws of some of the Colonies. But no machinery exists for holding such a conference automatically, and only after years of delay is it now to be held. How venture-some and far-reaching the shipping laws of some Colonies are, and are likely to become, has just been shown by the publication of the report of the Australian Navigattion Commission, Here we have proposals for giving preference to British ships manned by British seamen, and thereby imposing disabilities on alien vessels or British vessels having coloured crews. There are proposals to regulate the wages, hours, and food of seamen of almost all vessels connected with the Australian coastal trade—a term of somewhat wide scope. Most of these recommendations are excellent, but their enactment and application will demand care. Anyone who has perused the record in the case of Kingston v. Gadd, and in certain other Colonial shipping suits of recent years, will agree that the sooner a reasonable working understanding between the Mother Country and the Colonies in regard to ocean-going shipping is arrived at the safer and better it will be.

If we turn to telegraphs, I can personally, as a member of the Pacific Cable Board, testify to the exasperating results of the absence of machinery for a conference between the Mother Country and those Colonies who are partners in the Pacific cable. A conference which ought to have been held respecting the partnership disputes in this matter was delayed upon one pretext or another for three years, and has undoubtedly caused a loss of many thousands of pounds to the Governments who are partners in the State enterprise. This loss is by no means at an end, and in addition a feeling of discomfort and something like suspicion was bred which has but recently begun to die away.

Apart from the Pacific cable, and before quitting the department of telegraphs, it may be pointed out that the page 13 development of wireless telegraphy is making further additions to the forms of enterprise which require close watching by Governments, and which may have to be dealt with by Imperial arrangements.

Great strides have, of course, been made in recent years towards cheapening postal communication. The penny over-sea post is now no longer a fad merely; it will soon be universal under the flag. But the transmission and charging for newspapers, magazines, and trade circulars still present vexed and unsettled questions which ought not to be allowed to drag on longer, since there is no real reason why they should not be amicably disposed of. Post Offices may be made & help or a hindrance in stimulating British trade throughout the Empire, according as they are administered in a liberal and progressive spirit or otherwise.

The payment of income tax by Colonists who have returned to reside in the Mother Country is not, perhaps, a very cruel grievance in the case of individuals. Colonists who deliberately elect to become absentees must take what mercy they can get from the English Income Tax Commissioners, the quality of whose mercy is apt to be strained, as we all know. But a more serious injustice may be inflicted on the shareholders of companies doing business mainly in the Colonies, and making their profits generally there, but which have one of their controlling boards located in London. Such institutions, while liable to Colonial taxation, are also, it is feared, to be taxed on their entire profits by the English Treasury. This does not appear to me to be equitable, and double taxation of such a kind is certainly a queer way of stimulating the investment of British capital in the outlying parts of the Empire. Here, surely, is a question for dispassionate analysis and a (air arrangement between the English Treasury and Colonial Governments.

The cheapening and expediting of Colonial appeals to the Privy Council is another reform which cries aloud for page 14 attention. I can only hope that Mr. Haldane, now that he is an influential member of the Government, will not forget those enlightened views on this subject with which he made the British Empire League familiar more than once. Many thoughtful men hold steadily to the belief that one of the greatest services the Mother Country can perform to her scattered Colonies and dependencies is to provide them with a tribunal of ultimate resort wherein they may rely upon finding absolute impartiality as well as the finest quality of legal intellect. The decisions of such a tribunal must be of the greatest value as much in important private suits as in appeals on constitutional and semi-political matters.

If the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council were to be nothing else in the future, it might on occasion be an admirable Imperial safety-valve. All the more reason, then, to delay no longer with reasonable reforms in its procedure. At present appeals to it are both too costly and too dilatory. The evil of cost is not small, but the evil of delay is much the more grave of the two. And, unless I am much misled by what is told me by Colonial lawyers, reforms in both directions might easily be carried out. It will be a shame if they are not carried out. In saying this I speak not entirely without special knowledge. It has been my duty for many years to watch closely the course of appeals to the Privy Council in which the Government j of New Zealand has been interested.

The word "education "reminds me that some two years ago a congress of representatives of universities within the Empire wa3 held in London. Excellent speedhes were made, and the air was full of bright hopes of co-operation. If I remember rightly, the word "co-ordination "was not infrequently employed. At the time it seemed to some of us that the summoning of this gathering had been a very happy thought indeed; but I have yet to learn what practical outcome it led to. If it should have failed to do much good, it is another proof of the doubtful utility of page 15 spasmodic and occasional conferences. What is wanted in these things is continuity, and that continuity an Imperial Council with expert Imperial Commissioners is most likely to supply.

The training of Civil servants and administrators may be said to be, indirectly, a branch of public education, It has often been hinted that, to this end, occasional exchange of officers would be an excellent thing if the Imperial and Colonial Governments eared to make it. So, doubtless, it would be, though there are difficulties in the way. The real obstacles, however, would be the departmental objections which would be offered, and very stubbornly insisted upon, not only in London, but in other parts of the Empire. Heads of departments are never willing to lose good officers, even for a period. Still more do they dislike admitting strangers into their offices, even for a time. This reluctance is often shared by their subordinates. Still, the suggestion is such a good one that I should be glad to see the experiment tried. In this connection I have often regretted that the secretaries of Colonial governors are not officials of the Colonial Office, just as the private secretaries of Ministers are members of the Civil Service. The experience gained by such men in the Colonies would be of value to the heads in Downing Street. As it is, a governor in a self-governing Colony appoints and pays all the members of his own staff. If these gentlemen learn anything about the Colonies during their term of service it is not because they have any inducement to do so. Any knowledge they pick up is scarcely likely to be utilised. Occasionally a new governor engages one of his predecessor's staff—an excellent plan. But as a rule he takes out an entirely fresh entourage; and this arrangement has often seemed to involve disadvantages.

To return from this digression. A law dealing with Colonial marriages has just been passed by the Imperial Parliament, which will remove a certain Colonial grievance. page 16 I cannot help believing that had we possessed a Council of Empire the passing of the remedial measure would have been agreed to years ago.

The question of laws restricting immigration is something more than a complex and delicate matter. It is a question which claims more and more attention with each decade. At one time exclusion laws were airily supposed to be an unamiable eccentricity peculiar to Australia and New Zealand, and even there to be aimed solely at the virtuous and inoffensive representatives of one ancient Asiatic civilisation. It is barely a quarter of a century since the question gained any notice at all in this country. But since 1880 the example of the drastic exclusion laws of the United States has been copied in many parts of the Empire. Such laws have grown to be much more than machinery for levying a landing tax on Chinamen. We have lived to see perhaps the severest policy in the Empire for dealing with undesired immigrants carried out in Cape Colony. We have lived to see the Transvaal importing Chinese while Cape Colony shuts them out; to see severaly restrictive conditions imposed upon British Indians residing in parts of Africa; to see the Government of India actively concerning itself in the welfare of its coolies in other parts of the Empire; to see the immigration policy of the Transvaal debated in the Legislatures of other Colonies, and even become a factor in a British general election; to see British Columbia agitated over incoming Asiatics, and the Parliament of Ottawa dealing with the danger to Canada threatened by undesirable Europeans; to see a cry raised in Canada for the punishment in Great Britain of persons holding out false inducements to British emigrants to the Dominion; to see serious irritation caused in this country by exaggerated stories about such incidents as the challenging of the six hatters at Sydney; last, but not least, to see a law aiming at the exclusion of undesirable aliens passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. If page 17 facts do not betoken that immigration laws have be[unclear: e] an Imperial question of the first moment, then most observers are strangely deluded. Moreover, the amount of friction caused by the present system—or absence of system—is considerable. During the last ten years a number of Colonial laws have been prevented from coming into force by the Colonial Office. The Colonies have acquiesced very quietly. But no one supposes that they have enjoyed the experience. Those who have seen smoothered irritation in the past fear open irritation in the future. No one knows better than I do the anxiety of the Imperial Government and the Colonial Office to avoid wounding the self-respect of the Colonies. Bat I should be surprised to learn that the Imperial authorities themselves are free from uneasiness as to the outlook. To some of us the position seems full of awkward possibilities, and this quite irrespective of the personnel of any Government which may happen to be in office at any critical moment. It is not men who cause anxiety; it is a system which has not changed or expanded with changing and expanding circumstances.

The most thorny of all Colonial questions has for the last three years been furnished by suggested fiscal arrangements between the self-governing parts of the Empire. The matter will be, I presume, again discussed at next year's Colonial Conference. In this country it has been mostly exhaustively discussed since 1903.

About two months before Mr. Chamberlain's famous pronouncememt at the date last mentioned I happened to write an article in these columns, in which I suggested that proposals for an Imperial Zollverein raised precisely the kind of question which might be properly referred to an expert commission attached to an Imperial Conference. The suggestion fell to the ground unnoticed, and the vexed question has been examined into and threshed out in a very different spirit, and after a very different fashion. In the result the opinion expressed by the British con- page 18 stitueneies has been distinct enough, in all conscience, But I am far from being disabused of my original belief that, if the question was to be gone into, the wisest method of opening it would have been by referring it to an Imperial body of expert investigators. Such a body might or might not have arrived at precisely the same conclusion as the majority of British voters have arrived at; but, at any rate, they could have examined into a very complicated and difficult question without haste or bitterness, and without the accompaniment of the whistling of paper bullets and the roar of noticed artillery.

There is, moreover, the large question of the encouragement of trade within the Empire, quite apart from Tariff Reform. Even the hottest Tariff Reformers, even the stiffest Free Traders, have admitted that here there is a wide field for the zealous. Mr. Emmott and Mr. Russell Rea are not by any means supporters of Mr. Chamberlain's fiscal proposals. But Mr. Emmott some time ago wrote a very interesting article in this Review indicating directions in which public encouragement might be given to Imperial trade. Mr. Russell Rea, M.P., has recently asserted the same doctrine in the Nineteenth Century.

To say that nothing has been done in this field during the last decade would be unfair to the Colonial Office, and still more unfair to the Board of Trade. But I am by no means solitary in believing that there is room for a very much bolder and more active policy than anything that has you been shaped. Everybody admits that trade within the Empire might be greatly stimulated by quickening and cheapening communication and by spreading and exchanging really trustworthy information. How small in comparison with the vastness of the subject-matter do the respectable efforts of the past decade seem—with about one notable exception!

There is no reason, it appears to me, why the friends of page 19 the Council of Defence, which we have already, should new the departure proposed in this article with suspicion. The Council would continue to exist. It would be a division of the body of expert opinion which would be at the service of the Council of the Empire. But the other experts would not overshadow it, thwart it, or interfere with it in any way whatever. On the contrary, the coming into being of a permanent Council of the Empire ought to improve the position and strengthen the hands of the Council of Defence.

In the same way there is no need for Indians to suppose that India's affairs will be needlessly meddled with by the new body. Very few persons in this country, and no one whatever in the White Colonies, wish to interfere with India. But India is too large and too immensely important to be ignored in the setting-up of any Council created to discuss intra-Imperial problems. India contributes to some of these problems, and is affected by others, I need not labour this point, because His Majesty's Government has accepted the view that India ought to be represented at the next Colonial Conference, so India will, I assume, be repre-ed there.

It may, not unfairly, occur to some observers that any information and assistance required by a Council of the Empire could and should be supplied by the Colonial Office. All sensible men must admit the wide knowledge, real, and high abilities of the officials of the Colonial Office. The traditions of the great bureaucracy may be sometimes criticised, but that is another matter. But the Colonial Office has its bands very full. It has to govern and direct the Crown Colonies; and the Crown Colonies alone are an enormous responsibility. Africa itself supplies nowadays enough business and trouble to task the energies of the most powerful department. And the Crown Colonies, of course, are very far from being confined to Africa. The Colonial Office, moreover, is a department of the central Government of the Empire. A Council of the Empire will page 20 represent not only the central and predominant Government, but five or six others as well. The Council will want to get at every division of Imperial opinion and tap every source of provincial information. The Colonial Office would, it is needless to say, be strongly represented both on the Council itself and upon its ancillary commission, but it would not—at any rate, it is desirable that it should not—furnish all the members of the ancillary body.

Spottiswoode & Co. Ltd., Printers, New-street Square, London, E.C.

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Objects and Constitution of the League.

[unclear: a] conference held in London on 20th July, 1894, the Right Hon. Sir John [unclear: ck] Bart., M.P., in the chair, it was unanimously resolved that an [unclear: ciation] be established with the object of maintaining and strengthening [unclear: ion] between the United Kingdom and the outlying portions of the [unclear: empire] by the discussion and promotion of questions of common interest, [unclear: e] particularly those relating to Trade arrangements and Mutual Defence, In pursuance of this resolution a further meeting was held at the House of Commons on 30th May, 1895, the Bight Hon. Sir John Lubbock, Bart., [unclear: P.] in the chair, when it mis determined to constitute the proposed association on the following lines:

(1).The Association to be called "The British Empire League."
(2).It shall be the primary object of the League to secure the permanent [unclear: ty] of the Empire.
(3).The following to be among the other principal objects of the League:
(a.)To promote trade between the United Kingdom, the Colonies, and India, and to advocate the holding of periodical meetings of representatives from sill parts of the Empire for the discussion of matters of general commercial interest, and the consideration of the best means of expanding the national trade.
(b.)To consider how far it may be possible to modify any laws or treaties which impede freedom of action in the making of reciprocal trade arrangements, between the United Kingdom and the Colonies, or between any two or more British Colonies or Possessions.
(c.)To promote closer intercourse between the different portions of the Empire by the establishment of cheaper, and, where required, more direct, steam, postal and telegraphic communication, preference being given to routes not traversing Foreign Territory.
(d.)To develop the principles on which all parts of the Empire may best share in its general defence; endeavouring to bring into harmony public opinion at Home and in the Colonies on this subject, and to devise a more perfect co-operation of the Military Mid Naval Forces of the Kmpire with a special view to the due protection of the trade routes.
(e.)To assimilate, as far as local circumstances permit, the laws relating to copyright, patents, legitimacy, and bankruptcy, throughout the Empire.
(4.)The League shall use ever; constitutional mean-to bring about the [unclear: as] for which it is established, and shall invite the support of men of all [unclear: des] political opinion throughout the Empire.
(5.)The League shall advocate the establishment of periodical Confer-[unclear: es] to deal with such questions as may appear ripe for consideration, on the [unclear: es] of the London Conference of l887, and the Ottawa Conference of 1894.

The Minimum Subscription of Membership is One Guinea per Annum. All further information may be obtained from

The Secretary at 112 Cannon Street, London, E.C.