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In these latter days when the plague of book-making has taken its place, along with influenza, among the blessings of an advanced civilization, the appearance of any volume, not vouched by an author of eminence, requires a word of apology. Perhaps, however, the standpoint of the present work affords it some justification. There are, of course, various books dealing with various phases of Colonial Policy, or with such policy for some particular period, but there is no book which deals with the subject systematically on historical lines, while in the regular histories the subject of policy naturally takes a subordinate and incidental position. The point of view of the book explains its method. Where a narrative of events is concerned, it is the duty of the author to weigh his authorities, and from them to evolve his own story; but, where we are dealing with the history of opinions, it is desirable, as far as possible, to allow the authorities to speak for themselves. This must be my excuse for a plentiful employment of quotations : there appearing little advantage in the method which makes the text a bald summary and throws the living interest of a book into its footnotes.
In dealing with the history of Colonial Policy, there is one preliminary objection which must be met. “Colonial Policy,” it is said, “why—there is no such thing! Great Britain has
merely blundered into the best places of the earth and means to keep them.” If by “policy” be meant a premeditated advance to a definite goal, the criticism must be allowed. Nevertheless, behind the dim gaze and circumscribed horizon of each individual generation, we recognise forces at work fitting events, apparently fortuitous, into the scheme of a mighty system. The thoughtful student of the past finds himself somewhat in the position of Æneas, when, enlightened by his goddess mother, he recognised the deliberate work of the very gods in what at first had seemed the mere sport of fire and chaos.
The following pages were in the press before the arrival of the Colonial Premiers in England, and it has been therefore impossible to deal with the lessons of this annus mirabilis of Imperial history. This is the less to be regretted, as there can be nothing to add to what has been so well said by various persons of authority. In the face, however, of recent utterances of Sir Wilfrid Laurier and others on the subject of Imperial Federation, it may be well to add a word of explanation of the views maintained in the text. I have not denied-and no one, I think, candeny—that, if the Colonies come to demand Imperial Federation, Imperial Federation there will have to be. Undoubtedly they have a formal and technical grievance in the subordinate position of their Executives and Legislatures with regard to Imperial questions, and, if they come to consider that grievance a real one, some remedy will have to be applied. Further, it is impossible to suppose that the present system can go on indefinitely when the respective proportions of population
1 In fairness it should be remembered that my introductory chapter was written more than a year ago.
and wealth in the Mother country and the Colonies have become materially altered. All that I have ventured to maintain is that Imperial Federation, if it means a Rederal Imperial Parliament, will have its own difficulties, its own occasions for misunderstanding and friction, and that it may after all turn out that the future has in store some more satisfactory solution of the problem to be solved. Moreover the Colonial Premiers themselves unanimously, with the exception of the New Zealand and Tasmanian representatives, have agreed “that the present political relations between the United Kingdom and the self-governing Colonies are generally satisfactory under the existing condition of things.” 2
In spite of all that has been recently written on the South African question, I am not without hopes that the portion of this book relating to it may be of some slight use. The subject has been generally approached either from the point of view of the experienced observer on the spot or of the partisan of some particular policy; my aim has been to bring out from the Parliamentary Papers how largely the present is the heritage of the past. Pace Mr H. M. Stanley, it does not follow that because we are convinced that Great Britain must remain paramount in South Africa, we need therefore refuse any sympathy to Dutch grievances, which are largely due to the mistakes and hesitations of English statesmen in
In a volume which deals with a long period of time and many scattered events, there are doubtless mistakes and inaccuracies. For such I would pray pardon in anticipation.
1 Mr Chamberlain's suggestion of “a great Council" for purposes of consultation must be noted. (Parl. Pap., 1897.)
2 Parl. Pap., 1897.
With all its faults the book represents much reading and some thought. In writing what is, to some extent, a history of opinion, it has been impossible altogether to suppress my own individual opinions. I trust, however, that I have not seemed to attach importance to them. In dealing with the later periods, I remembered Sir Walter Raleigh's remark on the fate which awaits the treatment of contemporary history; but obscurity may claim its compensations, and at least I am not conscious of having written under the bias of personal or party prejudice.
HUGH E. EGERTON. Sept. 1897