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 80

The Development of the Colonies

The Development of the Colonies.

Before discussing any means of a further consolidation of the machinery for directing the future of the Empire, it will be well to consider very briefly how the Governments of the Colonies are at present related to the British Constitution. The latter is, as we know, an organisation of extremely slow growth; it has been formed in the course of centuries, and has been subject to modifications from time to time. The growth of our Empire has been one of the factors of its development, but it is nevertheless true that in the early life of each Colony its policy was page 3 bound to conform to the British Constitution as existing at that time. Thus, at its origin, each Colony was under the complete control of the British Parliament. In that Parliament the Colonies were not represented, nor had they any legislatures of their own. The wishes of the Colonists were neglected. A wrong policy was adopted towards them by Ministers, upon the selection of whom they had no influence whatever. The result of this state of affairs was the loss to England of her American Colonies.

The experience derived from the case of the American Colonies led to a change of policy. From time to time as the Colonies grew in importance they were granted representative Government, and legislatures having power to deal with all the internal affairs of their respective countries were established.*

There can be but little doubt that this policy was pursued under the mistaken belief that it was only a matter of time until one by one they should cease to be connected by political ties with the British Crown, and, when strong enough, become separate International States. This view is apparently still entertained by many politicians in the British Liberal Party.

But as time went on the necessity for mutual cooperation among Colonies situated as those of British North America, led to the policy of Federation, as is exemplified in the case of the Dominion of Canada in 1870, and in recent years the Commonwealth of Australia, and lastly in the Union of South Africa. Next to these States in order of development come the Crown Colonies, and then those administered and developed by trading companies under Charters from the Crown. Hence today, the British Empire consists of the United Kingdom and many other countries in various stages of political development.

page 4
The present relationship of the United Kingdom and the more advanced Colonies was thus aptly described by Lord Milner at Manchester on 14th December 1906:—

"But the self-governing Colonies are no longer, in anything but in name, under the Colonial Office, or, indeed, under any British authority except the King. They are, in fact, States of the Empire, and the United Kingdom itself is such a State, though no doubt still vastly the greatest and most important, bearing almost all the common burdens and alone responsible for the great dependencies. Still, the difference between the United Kingdom and the other States, in the view of the Imperialism of the future, of the only Imperialism that can stand, ought to be regarded as a difference which, however great to-day, must tend to disappear."

This change of status from "Colonies" to States of the Empire has been recognised by the Imperial Legislature in the Royal Titles Act by which it conferred on His late Majesty the title of King of the British Dominions beyond the Seas.

* The terms "Colony" and "Colonial" are considered by many to be disparaging; they have no such meaning attached to them in the United Kingdom but are merely descriptive of the position of the States oversea and are fully understood. Sometimes no other word can conveniently be used for "Colonial."