Изображения страниц

3. Any conflict between the national powers of the United States and the local powers of the constituent States was precluded by the establishment of a Supreme National Court invested with authority to construe the Constitution, and entrusted with the duty on the one hand of maintaining the supremacy of the nation of the United States, and on the other hand of securing the independence of the separate States in the exercise of all powers relating to matters not reserved for the jurisdiction of the central power.

Having thus given an outline of the most important case which exists in history of a union of States, it remains to consider what are the conditions under which a consolidation of States into a nation can be effected.

First, and above all, a possibility must exist of creating an adequate representation either federally or nationally, or, as in the United States, both federally and nationally, of the constituent States; for, without such a representation the legislative body essential to the exercise of the national powers cannot be formed, and the funds required to support the national Government cannot be raised by taxation.

Secondly, there must exist such a geographical position of the constituent States as will enable the central Government to organise effectually a machinery of national officers for enforcing the laws and collecting the taxes of the national Government. To define the exact limits of the earth's surface which is too large for such a nation, or to describe the precise differences in the size of the constituent States, or of their interests and habits, which make it impracticable to combine them into one nation, is not possible; but thus much is clear ---that a legislative assembly must be limited to a certain number in order to avoid the confusion of a multitude; that a federated nation must dwell within such a limited area of the earth's surface as will allow the representatives of the people to meet as often as may be necessary for the transaction of public affairs; and, lastly, that the consolidated States must have such a general community of interest as will enable their representatives to decide on national measures without calling on any members of the nation to submit to taxes for objects in effecting which they cannot possibly take any part, and from which they cannot possibly derive any advantage.

[ocr errors]

To complete our inquiry into the purport of the expression Imperial Federation,' it remains to ascertain the meaning of 'Imperial,' for when this is determined, we shall be able to decide definitively on the practicability or impracticability of 'Imperial Federation.' Mr. Burke, in treating of this subject, says:—

Perhaps, sir, I am mistaken in my idea of an empire as distinguished from a single state or kingdom. But my idea of it is this: that an empire is the aggregate of many states under one common head, whether this head be a monarchy or pre

siding republic. It does in such constitutions frequently happen (and nothing but the dismal, cold, dead uniformity of servitude, can prevent its happening) that the subordinate parts have many local privileges and immunities. Between these privileges and the supreme common authority the line may be extremely nice."

Applying this definition of Mr. Burke to England and her Colonies, it will appear at once that the British Colonial Empire is an empire in which the Mother-country is the common head, and the aggregate of subordinate States are Colonies. The bond between the Mother-country and a Colony is the closest that can subsist between societies of men. A Colony is the child or adopted child of Great Britain-flesh of our flesh, bone of our bone. The common law declares: Let an Englishman go where he will, as a Colonist he carries with him so much of the laws of England as is applicable to his situation; and it is a fixed principle of the law of nations, that a Colony, although separated by distance, forms in law part of the Mother-country. Is it supposed that these unwritten bonds—of a common race, a common law, a common flag, a common sovereign


are less stringent than written Constitutions? Has not the idea of German unity developed into the German Empire? Have not Hellenic aspirations led to the establishment of the Kingdom of Greece? Have Sclavonic hopes still ungratified less potent influence in European politics than the Treaties of Vienna, of Paris, of Berlin ? Yet what comparison can be instituted between the strength of the sentimental attractions which have drawn, or are drawing, great communities into compact associations, and the power of cohesion which subsists in a colonial empire, each member of which is, by its very nature, part of the same nation, differing in no degree from a county or town of the Mother-country, except in having, by reason of its distance from the centre of national Government, larger powers of self-management in all local matters? The true character of the British Colonial Empire is described by Burke in language which can hardly be deemed too enthusiastic for the present situation of the British Empire, whatever it may have been in past days, when our Colonies did not equal one tenth part of their present extent.

I look, I say, on the imperial rights of Great Britain, and the privileges which the Colonies ought to enjoy under those rights, to be just the most reconcilable things in the world. The Parliament of Great Britain sits at the head of her extreme empire in two capacities: one as the local legislature of this island, providing for all things at home immediately and by no other instrument than the executive power; the other, and I think her nobler capacity, is what I call her imperial character, in which, as from the throne of heaven, she superintends all the several legislatures, and guides and controls them all without annihilating any. As all these provincial legislatures are only co-ordinate with each other, they ought

7 Burke, Speech on Conciliation with America, p. 191.

82 P. Wms., 75; Campbell v. Hall, Howell's State Trials, vol. xx. p. 289.
9 Vattel, vol. i. p. 19.

all to be subordinate to her, else they can neither preserve mutual peace, nor hope for mutual justice, nor effectually afford mutual assistance.10

The precise legal relations between the self-governing Colonies and the Mother-country depend on the constitution of each Colony; but it may be stated generally that a Colony either has, or will have as soon as it attains its maturity, powers of self-government far more extensive than a State enjoys under the United States Constitution, extending even to imposing duties, with a view only to protection, against imports from the Mother-country or its sister Colonies.


Enough has now been said to allow of the case being summed up or against Imperial Federation. To begin with the expression itself, for such expressions form party cries and it is material to ascertain their meaning. An Empire supposes a nation, the essential condition of which is that one of the component States is dominant. A Federation, or federated nation, is the exact converse: it is an aggregate of States which, claiming to be equal, and being unwilling to yield the pre-eminence to any one of their members, agree to create, by representation, a fictitious nation as it were; or, in other words, to vest the sovereignty in a representative body chosen by the constituent States. To call a Federation Imperial' is then a contradiction in

In so far as an institution is Imperial it cannot be Federal, and in so far as it is Federal it cannot be Imperial.

But passing from verbal criticism to matters of substance, and accepting 'Imperial Federation' as an inaccurate substitute for 'Imperial Union,' the question remains, Can the existing legal relations between the self-governing Colonies and the Mother-country be altered with advantage? Such an alteration can only be made in one of two ways. Local powers, or some of them, may be taken from the Colonies and vested in the Home Government or in some other body; or Imperial powers may be withdrawn from the Home Government and vested in the Colonies or some other body. Now, with respect to the first proposition, it may be true that an advantage might have been secured to the Empire and to the Colonies themselves if the British Colonial Empire had been constituted a Zollverein, and the Colonies been prohibited from erecting commercial barriers by means of protective imposts between the component parts of the Empire and between themselves and the Mother-country. But it is too late now to ask the Dominion of Canada or New South Wales to alter its tariff at the bidding of England. At all events, to deprive the Colonies of a portion of their powers is not what is meant by Imperial Federation, and nobody thinks that the Empire will be compacted by depriving the Colonies of existing privileges. It need scarcely be said that this is a very different question from the recent federation of the Dominion of Canada, or

10 Burke, On American Taxation, p. 174.

the possible federation of the Australian Colonies. Neighbouring colonies with common interests cannot do better than give up some of their local powers to a common local head. The Colonies forming the Dominion of Canada have led the way, and we may well hope that other groups of Colonies will follow so good an example.

There still remains to be considered the surrender of Imperial powers to the Colonies. These powers consist in the power of making peace and war, with the regulation of commerce with foreign


Here there is no middle course. If any change is made, the British Empire must cease to exist as such, and what was an Empire must become (if anything) either a confederacy or a Federated Nation. To reduce the Empire to a mere Confederacy is to forget the fate of the American Confederacy, and to propose a scheme for the dismemberment and not for the closer association of the constituent elements of the British Empire. There remains then the status of a Federated Nation. Is the change of the British Colonial Empire into a Federated Nation within a measurable distance, or even within the bounds of possibility? First as to the political objection. Is it conceivable that the British Crown and British Parliament would descend from their eminence and agree to be forced into a war against their will by all or any number of Colonies? But were they ever so willing to commit so suicidal an act, in what representative body could the power of determining such questions be placed? An efficient representation of the Colonies, either federally or nationally, in the House of Commons is impracticable. Distance is the least of the difficulties. The House of Commons has already reached the limit of numbers capable of transacting business; yet any adequate. representation of the Colonies would increase the number to an extent which would make effective legislation impossible. Again, suppose a Council to be substituted for the Houses of Parliament, and to be clothed with the right of making peace and war. Is the representation to be federal, and Newfoundland to have an equal vote with the Dominion of Canada? or is it to be national-in which case the number of representatives will be intolerably large? but what common interests are there in the Colonies, considered as a body, which could make common consultation advisable? The question of the Newfoundland fisheries may be vital to the Dominion of Canada, but cannot be of the least concern to New South Wales. On the other hand, New South Wales may well trouble herself with the escape of French convicts from New Caledonia, but the Dominion of Canada will not be disturbed by so remote a danger. How can we suppose that these two countries would submit to taxation with equal equanimity for objects in which the one might have no interest, and on which the very existence of the other might depend? But we will suppose the difficulty of establishing an efficient governing body to be VOL. XIX.-No. 107.

surmounted: how can war taxes be imposed and levied? By what means would it be possible for a central Government to maintain taxing officers, with official courts to enforce the taxes, throughout the length and breadth of the Colonial Empire-that is to say, throughout about one tenth part of the area of the globe? Any one of these objections is sufficient to show the inexpediency of any attempt at converting the British Empire into a British Federation; taken together, they prove every scheme of Federation to be impossible. Turn again for one moment to America, and imagine a realisation of what is said. in joke to be a favourite speculation of our Transatlantic brethren— namely, that the old country has been played out,' and England and her Colonies have been annexed to the United States. What would be the consequence? Would the dependencies be represented in Congress? Certainly not; the United States and her dependencies would form an American Empire in which the United Kingdom would be a self-governing dependency, subject to the Imperial control of Congress.

[ocr errors]

Are we then, it may be asked, to despair of the British Empire, because it is incapable of Federation?

Burke replies to the question as follows:

The hold of (Great Britain) on the Colonies is in the close affection which grows from common names, from kindred blood, from similar privileges and equal protection. These are ties which, though light as air, are strong as iron. Let the Colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your Government; they will cling and grapple to you, and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance."

In conclusion, it may be admitted that the promoters of Imperial Federation deserve well of their country in so far as they are instrumental in directing the attention of Englishmen to the vast importance of our Colonial Empire and the necessity of conciliating the sympathies and affections of our Colonial fellow-subjects. By all means let England cherish and reward by her most coveted honours her distinguished Colonial children; let her be ready to hear and redress complaints and to facilitate addresses to the Queen and to Parliament in matters concerning any Colony. If such be the meaning of Imperial Federation, the intentions of its supporters are right, but their language is misleading and wrong. There is danger in enunciating principles in which all men concur under guise of something new and unusual. There is danger in adding to such enunciations loose hints of schemes which are incapable of realisation, and give rise to hopes which by the certainty of their failure can only have the effect of producing in the Colonies disappointment and perhaps, as a consequence of disappointment, distrust and disaffection. HENRY THRING.

Burke, On Conciliation with the Colonies, p. 203.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »