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The Past and Present Of New Zealand With Its Prospects for the Future

Confederation of the Provinces of the British Empire

Confederation of the Provinces of the British Empire.

An empire may be defined as an unity of parts; this is essential to its existence as well as prosperity. “A city must be at unity with itself;” there must be one grand feeling of mutual benefit pervading the whole, one uniform object page 186 in view, and when that is really the case, the empire will stand, however widely separated its parts.

The home kingdom is, in fact, such a combination, each having its own representatives, forming the Parliament, from whence proceed laws, and the ministry by which they are carried out; but the transmarine provinces of the British Empire have hitherto been treated as though they had no connection with the centre, and, therefore, to be converted into permanent appendages of the same dominion a new system is required. Rome ruled its empire as long as the central power was seated in it, and possessed the degree of force requisite to controul the whole: but, as that decreased, it gradually contracted itself; as its weakness became felt, it abandoned its extreme provinces, and made them the unwilling arbitrators of their own destinies, and thus, though first gained by brute force against the will of their inhabitants, finally retired contrary to the wishes of those subjected to its sway.

Something of this kind is now taking place between Britain and her provinces, with this difference, Britain seems to support without receiving direct aid from her colonies; she indeed makes India, as a conquered empire, support itself, but not so the colonies. Rome made her provinces maintain her as well as themselves, and when they ceased to be able to do so, she thrust them off as positive encumbrances. It is evident that no empire in the world could go on increasing and upholding such a state long, however great its resources; some plan therefore must be devised, either for amicable separation or effective coalition by due representation of the parts; if the parent state expects to rule, it must be by a community of interests and proportional share in the ruling power. Canada, Australia, and even New Zealand, are daily becoming more and more important appendages of the crown. They are kingdoms unrepresented, and hitherto have been ruled by the dictum of a colonial office, which has been but imperfectly acquainted with their peculiarities and necessities: they naturally claim representation according to their several degrees of import- page 187 ance. The Imperial Parliament should, like the Royal Exhibition, have a space within its walls, for all the provinces of the empire to be represented.

Immediately connected with this subject is another, which, however unwilling the colonies may be, will have to be considered, and that is, their fair contribution towards the maintenance of the empire. The army and navy are the chief agents employed in the colonies, and, therefore, that share which each will have to bear in its support, will, in a great measure, depend upon the degree of need which they will severally have of such aid. In times of danger, the want will be greater; but, at the same time, the power of the parts to bear such increased expense must also be borne in mind, and apportioned accordingly, the parent state making due allowance. The idea which has been broached of the colonies being useless, is as weak and foolish as it is pernicious. Every member of the body is needed, however remote it may be placed from the centre; the fingers, though severally feeble, yet in union effect all the great designs of the directing spirit, and it is by them the food is carried to the month. Are not the colonies the true feeders of the empire? and this fact is daily becoming more and more apparent; to cut them off is equivalent to closing our grand manufactories, our merchant navy, and our mercantile offices as well. Is it not self apparent, that as they increase, their imports will increase likewise; and since the gold fields have been opened their value in this respect has been most wonderfully developed. When the American struggle began, and the cotton supply failed, however great the distress thereby occasioned, what would it have been had not India and Britain’s other dependencies stepped forward, and filled up the deficiency. That calamity points out a remedy against a recurrence of the evil, by opening up for ourselves a grand cotton field in Australia, which will obviate our being compelled to lean in future on a foreign arm.

Surely the colonies ought to be viewed as integral parts of the empire, bound to it by ties of consanguinity, laws, language, and customs: it is most important this feeling page 188 should be maintained and perpetuated? If Britain continues to be the centre of all proceeding from her and speaking her language, what an amount of influence for good will it give her in uniting and confederating the whole civilized world, so as to put an end to those horrid wars, disgraceful to our humanity, in the nineteenth century; and what a means will it be of bringing all the ends of the world together, and uniting the scattered parts of the family of man in one. See what has been done by central power. Take the Bible and Missionary Societies; how much good has radiated from one point to the utmost end of the world. In a similar way, by unity of the great British Empire, how much may this be increased.

Does the wide ocean hinder all hopes of a lasting confederation? No; we may look, forward even to a closer intercourse; the telegraph wire is A bond of union; distance and time are annihilated by the electric spark. The expenses the colonies entail on the parent state, it must be allowed, are more than fully met by the means which they disclose of meeting them, and the wonderful way they have increased her resources by doubling her commerce.

A certain military and naval force is thought needful to be kept at home for the exigencies of the parent state, to enable her to maintain her position and influence amongst the ruling powers of the world; it does not materially add to the expense of the parent state, though she should employ those forces (when not needed at home) to guard her colonies; they most be somewhere, and better actively engaged, than kept in injurious idleness at home. One of the papers of the day concludes an article on the subject with saying, “And never was there a more misleading fallacy than that which blinds our eyes to our real position, by self-glorification about ‘the sun that never sets on England’s flag,’ and ‘the rule of the Empress of India over 130,000,000 of Oriental subjects.’ The life of England is to be found in the 30,000,000 of the inhabitants of these islands, only a few hundred miles in length and in breadth.” This is a very narrow view of the subject; were the life only there, the body would be only proportioned to the size of page 189 those isles; the few hundred miles of their extent would not enable them to be more than a second-rate kingdom at the best. Britain could not sustain its present army and navy with only its own area; it would not have its present resources. The sun does not set on its realm, its light is always shining on some portion of the empire, an emblem that it can always see its way plain. If Britain sends its laws, its religion, its Bible, to all parts, in watering others does it not water itself? Were it to narrow the sphere of its usefulness, it would narrow itself. Did Rome prosper when it gave up Britain? and will Britain prosper if it gives up its arms, Australia and America. Let the true way of maintaining the bond be duly weighed; let the advantages of the connection be seen, and the nature of it defined, so that the value of each may be duly appreciated.

The late war in New Zealand has not been without its good, however dearly paid for; it has broached a problem and aided in working it out. What is the true and proper relation between the colonies and the parent state? It has thus been the same with the Colenso case, with regard to the Church, and its real position and power when disconnected with the State.

Writers at home have taken one extreme view of the case, the colonists another; the probable result will, if not checked by a conciliatory policy of Government, weaken the attachment and hasten their separation from the parent state. In the present day such separation can be effected at any time by mutual consent, without the barbarous appeal to brute force. But our rulers must bear in mind that the colonies are their own work. New Zealand would have been colonized independently, had it been allowed; but they, jealous of such a measure, though not wanting to found another colony, stepped in and claimed it as their own.

The Fijii natives offered the sovereignty of their isles to Britain; the gift was declined, but British colonists still remain there, and doubtless will found a colony totally independent of the Crown. And why not? Must these lands remain unoccupied, when there are numbers anxious to page 190 settle there, and many already located in them, when such an appendage so near at hand would at once supply New Zealand with all the tropical products? It is self evident, that before long this must be the case, and the Melanesian Mission of New Zealand will be followed by a Melanesian colony as well. If, then, a separation must come, a gradual preparation for it might be made by placing the vice-regal powers over our great colonial dominions in the hands of our own princes. This would be a partial commencement of future disseverment, as that of the Brazils, and be also a means of advancing the dignity of those appendages of the Crown, and perpetuating their attachment to it.