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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 80

Discussion and Public Opinion

Discussion and Public Opinion.

The problem is now ripe for solution. The constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom has given an opportunity for raising this question. The opportunity is unique. During the next few months the public will be interested in Constitutional questions. If any solution of our difficulties such as is here sketched out is to be brought within the range of practical politics, it will be possible only by means of public opinion and the free Press. To promote and assist in a discussion of the subject these pages are written. Politicians at home will not take this question up unless a demand for a change comes from the British dominions beyond the sea. It is the States oversea which have most at stake and it is their Statesmen that must demand a change. First, the question must be raised and urged by the people themselves both by discussion and by the Press, so as to give weight to the demand for simple justice. Then expression should be given to the demand, say, by petitions to the King, from his subjects oversea, for a direct share in the Councils of the Crown, presented through the Governors of their respective States. These would not fail to arouse interest and carry weight at home. Later on, this policy could be advocated in the United Kingdom by representatives from oversea, so as to awaken interest and promote the mutual co-operation of the peoples at home and beyond the sea. The appeal then should be made direct to the electorate, the source of power.

The object to be attained is two-fold:—(1) to give the oversea States an efficient share in directing their own page 28 Foreign and Imperial policy, and (2) to free this from the evils and drawbacks of British party government.

Federation on the foregoing lines or some better plan, is a policy that may be followed at home by public men of all political views, Liberal or Conservative, Free Traders or Tariff Reformers. An Imperial Cabinet could discuss and decide on the question of Federation on the lines of Preferential Trade much better than a Conference of Premiers without a voice in the ultimate decision. This policy satisfies the Liberal idea of responsible (as distinguished from merely representative) Government, under which contributions for Imperial purposes and representation go hand-in-hand. Moreover, the ultimate basis of the Imperial Government and source of power throughout the Empire would by this policy be the will of the people of the whole Empire, and not merely the will of those within the narrower bounds of the United Kingdom. For the present, the task of advocating some such change will fall on the Unionist party at home. They must undertake the duty of pressing on the "policy of consolidation" by educating the British people to the importance of the issues at stake—of arousing interest and co-operation with their fellow subjects beyond the sea—and in so doing bind the Daughter States within the Empire closer to the Mother Land.

James Roberts.

3, Temple Gardens, London, E.C.

Postscript.—Since the preceding pages were set up in type, the writer has learned that the Royal Colonial Institute passed a resolution some weeks ago to urge the Prime Minister to put on the Agenda for the Imperial Conference the question of securing for the oversea dominions a real and effective share in the responsibilities of Empire. Copies of that resolution have been sent to all the Premiers. It is hoped that it may be supported [by public opinion.