Page images
PDF

the supply of what we consume, and equally superfluous for the consumption of what we produce. The days of bounties and discriminating duties have passed away. We buy our lumber and our com and fish, not in the close markets of Canada, Nova Scotia, or Newfoundland, but in the open market of the world. We import our sugar, not exclusively from Mauritius or the West Indies, but from every tropical country where it can be raised. We send our cottons and our cutleries with no less and no greater advantages to foreign and alien lands than to our own colonial dependencies. Whatever wealth or enjoyment trade can give us, we have independently of our colonies. Whatever appearance of power or state is given by their possession is needless for our security, and disproportioned to our strength. We should be as rich, as productive, as secure, and as powerful without Canada, Australia, Ceylon, and the West Indies, as we are with them.

This argument would be imperfect and ineffective if it were not strengthened by appeals to personal fears and public exigencies. Englishmen generally care little for abstract speculation. It is only when its doctrines' are reduced to practice, and touch the pockets of the public, that theories, either of government or trade, find numerous advocates and propagators in England. The present crisis is favourable to these anti-colonial theories. When the paralysis of a great branch of national industry has carried panic and destitution to the homes of so many of our countrymen and countrywomen, and when the circle of indigence threatens to become even wider, it is natural that the taxation of the country should provoke a more than ordinary inquisition and a more than usually severe criticism. Seventy millions sterling is indeed a huge burden to lay on thirty millions of people who have to pay in addition poorrates, police-rates, and highway-rates. To many an angry complainant the expense of keeping colonies explains the pressure of a gigantic expenditure; and the supposed unproductiveness of its object finds a large body of ready remonstrants. Were the circumstances of our time different from what they are just now— were the Lancashire mills humming with the buzz of continuous labour, and Lancashire operatives spending full wages—there would be neither question nor murmur. The Government might levy ten millions of additional taxation and plant half-a-dozen new settlements in various parts of the world, while the economists and the philosophers declaimed, without a hearing, against our expenditure and our folly.

But though the circumstances which have enlisted a portion of the public on the side of theories which are not universally

popular, popular, are, we hope, temporary and fluctuating, the question of the value of colonies is not without importance, both deep and permanent. It is true that the abrogation of the old Colonial system has destroyed a certain narrow class of advantages which once belonged to the possession of colonies; it is true that our dependencies do not contribute directly to the revenues of the empire; it is true that certain responsibilities of protection attach to their retention; still, after making all these admissions, we think it can be shown to be far more advantageous to England to keep her colonies than to give them up.

What have the Colonies done for England? To answer the question, it is necessary to consider certain conditions which would have existed but for them.

Do those who thus interrogate us ever take the trouble to inquire what is the number of Englishmen, not of one class but of every class but the smallest and highest, for whose energies, mental and physical, our Colonies afford a constant and ready safety-valve? It may perhaps be known to many that the annual emigration of our labouring poor to the Colonies comprises in ordinary years about 50,000 souls, and in extraordinary years 100,000. This is of itself no inconsiderable escape from evils from which neither Poor-laws, nor prisons, nor anything else but an odious enforcement of (so called) Malthusian restrictions, could save us. And it is not only relief from the pressure of population on the means of subsistence which this emigration supplies, but something more valuable still. The simple annals of the poor teach us that the humble emigrant, whether from Tipperary or from Devonshire, contrives to remit to the old folks at home sums which by the recipients must be regarded as absolute wealth. This is of itself an important and valuable result of emigration. It is one which, by abating the poverty of the poorest classes, abates also their crimes; it is one which provides employment for those who remain in England to work, and support for those who remain unable to work. But it is by no means the most valuable result of emigration. It would be possible to carry on the government of the country, even if the labouring classes were suffering from periodical visitations of destitution, or from a normal state of indigence. The country would be less happy, and less wealthy, and perhaps less orderly and peaceful; still it would not necessarily be convulsed by civil war, or brought to the verge of revolution, without other and more powerful causes. But emigration does prevent one of the most potent causes of civil anarchy and domestic broils. It provides an ample field for the bold, the adventurous, and the discontented. These are to be found in all

countries countries in the world, and they are perhaps more numerous in England than elsewhere. Look at the sons of our trading and professional classes, the sons of our unbeneficed and poorer clergy, of our half-pay officers, of our small provincial lawyers, doctors, shopkeepers, factors, brokers. Add to these the younger sons of our least wealthy landed gentry, and the sons of men whose wealth, acquired by the lucky gains of commerce, has disappeared as suddenly as it came. All these young men have had some education; have had their faculties and ambition whetted by the stories of adventure which schoolboys most love to read; have been brought up with a taste, not for luxury, but for comfort and abundance; have the natural English desire to rise in the world; are tolerably sharp, strong, and bold; hate idleness and unprofitable quietude; are, in a word, resolved to 'get on.' But few of them have either the natural or acquired advantages which could alone ensure them success in the higher branches of commerce, or in the learned professions. A select fraction may hope to attain the prizes of the Church and Bar; or, failing these, to vegetate in after years as college dons or rural vicars. Here and there a young Stephenson may, by dint of innate genius and unfaltering resolution, win fame and fortune as an engineer. But the vast majority of them can only aspire to ill-paid curacies, the smaller vicarages, and that multitudinous form of employment, the holders of which are termed 'clerks.' Such a brigade of indigent semigentility, inheriting the wants of the higher and the energies of the lower classes, would, by natural accretion in two or three generations, swell into an • army of discontent,' which neither the reverence for law, nor sound common sense, nor any other virtue or quality for which, as a nation, we give ourselves credit, could prevent from becoming dangerous to property and social order.

Such a class as we have described would furnish the leaders and the abettors of every movement directed against the possessors of wealth and the employers of labour. The Chartist, the Socialist, the Proletarian, burning to destroy the existing institutions of his country, would find each his natural leader in men whose education had made them more sensitive to the bitterness of poverty, and more able to denounce its injustice, than the bulk of their fellow-sufferers. England might, in the course of a few generations, witness what Franceand other Continental States haveoften witnessed: the ardent and intelligent youth of the middle classes heading hungry mobs of the unlettered and excited poor ; erecting barricades, and tearing up pavements, not for the vindication of a political idea, but in resentment at the partiality of Fortune and the inequality of human conditions. England is saved from this combination of educated vigour with intemperate anarchy by the

possession possession of domains fax wider and more productive than the broad acres of her own insular metropolis. How many men, whom starvation at the English Bar, or in the English Church, or in the murky offices consecrated to English commerce, would have impelled into the ranks of professional demagogueism, and inspired with that bitter detestation of their social condition which only a life of drudging and instructed indigence can inspire—how many such men have been redeemed from the ranks of Discontent, and been made honest and patriotic Conservatives, by the rich rewards of a Colonial career? Let any man who doubts this position visit Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, Cork, the Highlands, and every non-manufacturing town of England. Let him go to the houses which are rented from 30/. to 70/. a-year, and inquire of the resources of each family, and the destination of its members. He will And that in the majority of the families of small and moderate means at least one son— oftener more than one son—is making a fortune or earning a livelihood in India, Australia, New Zealand, the Cape of Good Hope, or Ceylon; perhaps remitting money for the support of a mother and sisters. Everywhere throughout the empire we see families maintained in comfort by the mental or physical toil of their relatives in the wide field of India and the British Colonies. Add to these also the families who have emigrated wholesale to the eastern and southern dependencies, and thus eased the pressure of 'genteel' competition at home, and we obtain a clear notion of the relief which our transmarine possessions enable us to afford to the struggling classes of our population. There may be many who, admitting the truth of our assertion, yet question the justice of the policy which it illustrates, and ask—as we ourselves have heard Chartists and others ask—' Why should poor folks be sent to earn their bread abroad when there is sufficient land to divide among all at home?' Our readers will not trouble us to enter on this deep argument. The majority of them will rather, we believe, be content to acquiesce in the maintenance of a system which reduces the number of such questioners to the lowest possible amount; which diminishes infinitely both the causes and the occasions of agrarian outrages, and leaves the doctrines of property and primogeniture unassailed, • save by occasional and unimportant declaimers at a borough hustings, or by the rabid rhetoricians of an uninfluential press. So long as the growing commerce and agriculture of our colonial dependencies find harvest-work for the arms which for want of it might be doing violence here, and useful employment for brains which might be scheming mischief here; and so long as the bitter Radical of England developes into a Conservative at the Antipodes, so long Vol. 114.—No. 227. K we we shall have a very good prima facie case for the retention of our Colonies.

'But,' it is answered, ' why keep colonies for such a purpose? If all that you want is to get rid of a redundant population, you can do this without sending them to colonies. They can go—as many of them do go—to the United States. When they are there, they not only ease the labour-market in England, but increase the number of the consumers who require its produce. They do all that you desire your colonists to do, without the expenditure and taxation which your colonists contrive to impose upon you.'

We would first of all remind these objectors that the existence of the United States as a field of immigration is an argument in favour of colonization. Had there been no English Colonies in America, there would have been no independent States to receive adventurers from England. So far as the Northern Republic is qualified to adopt and provide for the surplus population of England, just in that degree are the foundation and the protection of colonies justified on the score of utility. But the.argument goes farther. There are many Englishmen who do not like to live in the United States; there are many who do not like their countrymen to live there. Rightly or wrongly, they hold that neither the social habits nor the political institutions of that Republic are suitable to the tastes of Englishmen. This prejudice may perhaps be condemned or ridiculed. But there is another consideration which cannot be treated with contempt. Although two-thirds or three-fourths of the people inhabiting the New England States are the descendants of men who were born and reared in this England of ours, it is notorious that they have no remarkable affection for the land of their forefathers. A very large proportion of our emigrants have gone to the United States, and it is not improbable that those States may continue to be our chief outlet. But the experience of the past leaves us no hope that the families of English emigrants can be imbued with other sentiments than those which are the traditionary inheritance of the population which surrounds them. It becomes, therefore, an object of some moment to provide a domicile for our emigrating countrymen which shall at least leave them in some degree English in heart and allow their children to be English also. Such domiciles may naturally be supposed to be found by many in our own Colonies. The Colonies likewise will afford (as long as English institutions prevail) a more profitable because a safer investment for our capital than foreign countries.

But the question then meets us,—Do we not pay too dearly

for

« PreviousContinue »