« PreviousContinue »
COLONIAL EMPIRE OF GREAT BRITAIN.
Read to the Amblecote Church of England Young Men's
When I had the honour, some time ago, to preside at the Annual Meeting of this Association, a wish appeared to be entertained by some of its members that I should follow the example set by many of its friends since its formation, by delivering a Lecture on some subject of general interest. At the time I did not much expect that I should ever be able to comply with that wish. In my view, the due performance of such a function implies a systematic knowledge of some subject involving some, not inconsiderable, amount of research and reflection; and the course of my life, which has mainly been one of practical duties in various directions, has not been favourable to the acquisition of such knowledge. It recently, however, occurred to me that there is one subject concerning which, from particular circumstances, I happen to have been called to think and inform myself, far indeed from completely, yet still perhaps to a greater extent than most of those whom I am now addressing : and I immediately felt, as I need hardly say, that it would be a great pleasure to me if I could confer any, even a slight, benefit upon the Association, by calling their attention to it in the form of a Lecture. That subject is the one which has been announced to you-namely, our Colonial Empire, and that especially in its religious aspect and condition.
I must say a few words at the outset on both parts of this designation. I have not said simply our Colonies, but our Colonial Empire ; nor that again generally, but mainly in its religious aspect. To advert first to the latter point : it is clear that there are several reasons, in the consideration of such a question on an occasion like this, for limiting in some measure the scope of the inquiry to some one prominent part of the subject. The whole subject of our Colonial Empire is too large to be completely gone through, both in respect of my own powers and of your time. I might indeed have attempted to do this with respect to some one Colony. But such information as this is within your reach without much difficulty from various publications : and my object being rather to endeavour to set before you some general principles relating to Colonies and their relation to the mother-country, it seemed clear that that could be better done by treating of our Colonial dominions as a whole, than by confining myself to only one part of them.
In considering then in what point of view it would be most suitable to place the subject, I could have no hesitation in fixing upon the one which I have namednamely, the religious view. For this there is a general reason, that it is the most important one, and therefore entitled to the preference when a selection is to be made. But there is also a special reason, derived from the character of the body whom I am addressing. I doubt not that I am but expressing a feeling common to all its members, when I say that it is the peculiar happiness and pride of this Association that a strong and dis
tinctive religious character is of its very essence, and is that which in its collective utterances it would always place in the strongest light and the most leading position. I cannot be mistaken in this, for it is no more than has been recognised in the prominence given to what I lately read with hearty approval and satisfaction, the first sentence in your last Report : “The Committee of the Amblecote Church of England Young Men's Association desire to present their Sixth Annual Report, with humble thankfulness to Almighty God for the continued progress of the Society, and with earnest prayer that its progress may be attended by that holy influence on the hearts and lives of its members, without which no prosperity can be truly valuable or lasting.” This alone would therefore have justified the arrangement which I have proposed
I by no means, however, intend to confine myself wholly to the religious, or to any other distinct part of the question. It is, again, a happy incident of the constitution of this Association, that its members are not precluded, within the limits of propriety and fair discussion, from reference to any matter which may tend to elucidate the subject before them. It would be indeed, if not contrary to positive rule, still probably unadvisable, to introduce on such an occasion as this, what is commonly understood by the term party politics. But the politics of Colonies, or rather the politics concerning the relation between the Colonies and this country, do not seem to fall within the designation : and I intend, occasionally, to advert to them.
I have only to add on this point_namely, the religious aspect to be given to the question—that though I am aware there are some I address who are not members of this Association, I must regard myself simply as addressing that body. I say this, because, though I hope to say nothing that will be offensive to any person or party, I shall have to make several remarks in which I can look for the sympathy, perhaps for the assent, only of members of the Church of England." is a difference in the political machinery by which India is governed, namely, through the East India Company, from that by which Ceylon is governed, which is through what is called the Colonial Office; but this is the only difference. It has happened, perhaps from this, that the popular meaning of a Colony is what I have just indicated, a distant possession governed immediately by the Home Government through one of its departments, the Colonial Office; whereas, if it is otherwise governed, as by a Company, it is not called a Colony. But it is plain that this is no definition at all. A Colony of a country indicates that there is some actual connexion between the substance or body, so to speak, of the Colony, that is the people who form it, and that of the mother-country. If England happens to become possessed of a distant country inhabited by certain natives, and merely sends a few official people to govern that country, leaving the natives occupying nearly the whole of it—as is mainly the case in India, Ceylon, &c.; or if England occupies some post for purposes of military defence, with just enough force for that purpose only— as Gibraltar or Malta, such countries do not become Colonies ; they remain nearly as they were, only with a different government. We see this immediately when we look at the words that are kindred to the word Colony—“to colonize,” for example. To colonize is not the same as to conquer and occupy, which it must be if Malta and Heligoland were rightly called Colonies. A conquered country may remain uncolonized. So also, a Colonist is never understood to mean simply an inhabitant of one of our foreign possessions. The German in Heligoland, the Frenchman in the Mauritius, or even in
To turn now to the former part of the designation which I have given to this subject. I have brought before you our Colonial Empire. In introducing to you some remarks on this point, the first thing to do seems to be, to state clearly what we mean by a Colony: to give some definition of it. For we shall find that considerable inaccuracy prevails in the common notions and expressions about this. People speak of forty Colonies belonging to England, or thereabouts ; which, without specifying them all, are classed as the North American, the West Indian, the Australian Colonies ; the Cape of Good Hope, Ceylon, the Mauritius ; the Mediterranean possessions of Malta and Gibraltar; Sierra Leone, and the others on the West Coast of Africa ; and a few besides. But it is clear that there is some inexactness in this phraseology, from one simple consideration, that (besides the Hudson's Bay Company's territories in North America, to which I shall not further advert), the East Indies, our great Indian Empire, are not included in this popular list : whereas the Mauritius for instance, and the island of Ceylon still more, which is nothing but a part of the East Indies, are in themselves, and in the nature of their relation to England, just the same as India ; and if the former are rightly called Colonies, so should the latter be. There