- Imperialism: a Study
- Introductory Nationalism and Imperialism
- Part I the Economics of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter I: The Measure of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter II: The Commercial Value of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter III: Imperialism As an Outlet For Population
- Part I, Chapter IV: Economic Parasites of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter V: Imperialism Based On Protection
- Part I, Chapter VI: The Economic Taproot of Imperialism
- Part I, Chapter VII: Imperialist Finance
- Part Ii the Politics of Imperialism
- Part Ii, Chapter I: The Political Significance of Imperialism
- Part Ii, Chapter II: The Scientific Defence of Imperialism
- Part Ii, Chapter III: Moral and Sentimental Factors
- Part Ii, Chapter IV: Imperialism and the Lower Races
- Appendix the Labour Policy of Transvaal Mine-owners
- Part Ii, Chapter V: Imperialism In Asia
- Part Ii, Chapter VI: Imperial Federation
- Part Ii, Chapter VII: The Outcome
THE LABOUR POLICY OF TRANSVAAL MINE-OWNERS
This policy is most succinctly stated in the language of the President of the Chamber of Mines, at Johannesburg, in his annual address for 1898:—
"I consider that one of our chief aims should be to get a class of labour that stays, and in that direction I should consider it a distinct advantage if we had been allowed to establish at a short distance from here some huge location where the natives could live with their families, but having no other means of earning their livelihood except by working in the mines, they would have secured a supply of skilled labour constantly available" (Cd. 9345, p. 31).
Here is the mining policy in a nut-shell. Natives are to be induced to come from a distance "with their families." At present they leave these families behind, and when they have earned enough money go away with it, and resume their tribal life of agriculture. But if they can be got to bring their families, they will have broken their tribal ties, and however much they may afterwards regret their action and desire to return, they will have given hostages to fortune; they cannot carry off their families, trek many hundreds of miles, and resume the old tribal life. In their new location they are not to be allowed land to cultivate, but are to be kept in an economic condition, which allows them no option but continuous work at the mines. These "location" natives will no longer work three or six months, and go away with their wages as heretofore; the conditions named above, supported by a rigorous enforcement of the pass law, will oblige them to stay all their working life in the service of the mines. Here is one great advantage of the location over the compound. Another advantage hardly less important is that by this location system the mines will "breed" their labour on the spot, young Kaffirs ripening in reliable crops every year to meet the growing demands of the labour market, with no option of turning to any other market or of making a living off the soil.
No wonder the location policy is popular among mine owners and managers. This is the scheme which is approved by all the witnesses before the Industrial Commission. Mr. Albu "would not recommend the compound system," because "it would hurt the industrial community" (p. 25); but says, "I think if the natives had their locations here, and had their wives and families, they would make this place their home" (p. 24).
Mr. Way, mine manager, when asked," Can you suggest any plan by which a permanent supply could be relied upon for the Rand, skilled principally?" replied: "The only way is to give natives facilities for family life. We do it to a certain extent on the George Goch, and we get into considerable trouble for doing it. We have a location upon our lower claims, and I have boys who have their wives and families, who have been working at the mine for the last eight years. If locations could be established somewhere in the neighbourhood of the mines—within walking distance—so that the natives could bring down their wives and families, I think you would have a far greater supply than you require" (p. 43).
Mr. S. J. Jennings (p. 46), Mr. Brakhan (p. 184), Mr. Kenny (p. 376), Mr. W. Hall (p. 429), the other mining witnesses examined on this subject, all endorsed the location policy, the last named giving his opinion as follows:—
"As to the Kaffir, he cannot be made to become a progressive and reliable employee under the unnatural condition in which he is now held. That he should have at least a temporary home, within no great distance from the mine centre, to which he could inexpensively retire after his engagements on mine service are over, and with the end of returning to mine work, seems to me to be absolutely essential to the end in view; or else he must be carried by rail, at a merely nominal rate, practically to and from the country of his birth" (p. 429).
This last passage indicates a new "economy" of the location system. The demand for labour on the mines has been, and will continue to be, irregular, and subject to swift and sudden fluctuation. It is therefore important for the mine-owners to have upon the spot "a far greater supply than you require," in Mr. Way's words, so that you may get your increase quick and cheap when you want it, and may force it "inexpensively" to retire into unemployment when it is no longer wanted.
One other economy is subserved by the location. The miner will be forced to spend all his earnings, not merely in the country, but on the spot, in shops owned, rented, financed, or otherwise controlled by the mining companies, or by the members of those companies in some other business capacity.
The advocacy of the location system is, however, not confined to the mine-owner. The clergy and missionaries, who profess the deepest concern for the "elevation" of the natives, are divided between advocacy of the compounds and advocacy of the location. While the Rev. J. S. Moffat is persuaded of the beneficial moral influences of imprisonment in the Kimberley compound, the Rev. J. M. Bovill, rector of the Cathedral Church, Lorenzo Marques, champions the location. In his instructive book, "Natives under the Transvaal Flag," he states the case as follows:—
"Let native reserves or locations be established on the separated mines, or groups of mines, where the natives can have their huts built, and live more or less under the same conditions as they do in their native kraals. If a native found that he could live on the Rand under similar conditions to those he has been accustomed to, he will soon be anxious to save enough money to bring his wife and children there, and remain in the labour district for a much longer period than at present is the case. It would be a distinct gain to the mining industry as well as to the native " (p. 59).
This may be taken as a characteristic utterance of the sham philanthropy of the professional harmoniser of God and Mammon. For Mr. Bovill, who displays throughout his book an intimate acquaintance with the mining industry, must be well aware of the falsehood which is contained in the words we have italicised. These natives are not intended to live "more or less under the same conditions as they do in their native kraals," where their life is entirely agricultural and pastoral. On the contrary, it is, as we said, clearly recognised that they must not be allowed to work on the land, but must work in the mines for wages. In the location Mr. Bovill would not even leave them property in their own huts.
"Huts could be erected on a mine, or group of mines, at a very small cost, and I am sure that the natives would be quite willing to pay a monthly rent if they were properly housed. Their huts, of course, would be the property of the mines, built on ground belonging to the mines, and under the supervision of the mines, much as our miners' houses are in some of our colliery districts" (p. 61).
In order to complete the picture of economic servitude, it is right to understand the wage system under which these Kaffirs will work. Mr. Bovill does not trouble to explain this, but the admission of mining witnesses before the Industrial Commission and subsequent events supply the lack. When Kaffirs with their families are "induced" to settle in these locations, and to live in huts supplied by mining companies, not only must they work for wages in the mines, spending those wages in rent for their huts and for goods purchased from the mining companies, but they must work for whatever wages their employers choose to pay. They will have no voice whatever in determining their wages; no power of bargain will be left to them. Their wages will be fixed, not by competition, but by the dictation of a complete monopoly. For years past the policy of the various mining companies upon the Rand has been to adopt a fixed tariff of wages; this has been from the first a chief object of the Chamber of Mines. The 30 per cent. reduction of wages in 1897 was successfully carried out by joint action, and Mr. Albu, when asked, "Is there competition among the mines with regard to the wages?" replied, "I don't think so at the present moment." To the further question, "Is it in the power of the mining industry to regulate the wages of Kaffirs?" he answered, "To a great extent it is, provided that the Government assists us in bringing labour to this market" (p. 14).
Since 1897 the amalgamation of mining interests has proceeded apace, and the virtual supremacy of the Eckstein group greatly facilitates joint action. Before the war great progress had been made in common action as regards both Kaffir and white wages, and there is a plain recognition of the necessity of dealing with the native labour question by united co-operation with the Government. How clearly this need was recognised four years ago appears in the evidence of Mr. Wm. Hall, who put the matter thus:—
"In short, the mine managements must work together in this matter. For that purpose they must be organised as one institution, and every mine management must be in it. This could only be effected under a law of the Republic. The details of the law should be presented by the representative Chamber of Mines. The operation of it should be wholly in the hands of the organisation created by it, under general supervision—not absolute dictation—of the Government. By some such means only can I see the way at all clear to handle the Kaffir labour problem of the future of the Rand" (p. 428).
Before the war the fact that so much labour must be brought from a distance at great expense, and the difficulty of getting and keeping enough Kaffirs made it difficult to prevent mine managers from contravening secretly the regulations of the Chamber, and trying to entice away the labour from other mines, a selfish policy, facilitated by the loose administration of the pass law. With large native locations, a fixed population of native families, and a rigorous pass law, the wages schedule will be strictly adhered to, and natives will have to work for the mines adjoining their location at wages dictated by the Chamber of Mines. The special laws under which they will live would render strikes or other organised labour action impossible, while their utter dependence on the mines for a livelihood and their inability to leave the neighbourhood will make all effective resistance to reduction of wages ineffectual. The natives upon their locations will be ascripti glebæ, living in complete serfdom, with no vote or other political means of venting their grievances, and with no economic leverage for progress.
Part II, Chapter V
Imperialism in Asia
The great test of Western Imperialism is Asia, where vast peoples live, the inheritors of civilisations as complex as our own, more ancient and more firmly rooted by enduring custom in the general life. The races of Africa it has been possible to regard as savages or children, "backward" in their progress along the same general road of civilisation in which Anglo-Saxondom represents the vanguard, and requiring the help of more forward races. It is not so easy to make a specious case for Western control over India, China, and other Asiatic peoples upon the same ground. Save in the more recent developments of the physical sciences and their application to industrial arts, it cannot be contended that these peoples are "backward," and though we sometimes describe their civilisations as "arrested" or "unprogressive," that judgment either may imply our ignorance of the pace at which civilisations so much older than our own must continue moving, or it may even afford unconscious testimony to a social progress which has won its goal in securing a well-nigh complete adjustment between human life and its stable environment.
The claim of the West to civilise the East by means of political and military supremacy must rest ultimately upon the assumption that civilisations, however various in their surface growths, are at root one and the same, that they have a common nature and a common soil. Stripped of metaphor, this means that certain moral and intellectual qualities, finding embodiment in general forms of religion, law, customs, and arts of industry, are essential to all local varieties of civilisation, irrespective of race, colour, climate, and other conditions; that Western nations, or some of them, possess these qualities and forms of civilisation in a pre-eminent degree, and are able to impart them to Eastern nations by government and its accompanying political, religious, and industrial education. It certainly seems as if "humanity" implies such common factors. The ethics of the Decalogue appears to admit of a wide common application; certain rights of the individual, certain elements of social justice, embodied in law and custom, appear capable of universal appeal; certain sorts of knowledge and the arts of applying them appear useful to all sorts and conditions of men. If Western civilisation is richer in these essentials, it seems reasonable to suppose that the West can benefit the East by imparting them, and that her government may be justified as a means of doing so.
The British Empire in India may be taken as the most serviceable test. We did not, indeed, go there in the first instance for the good of the Indians, nor have our various extensions of political power been motived primarily by this consideration; but it is contended that our government of India has in point of fact conferred upon the people the benefits arising from our civilisation, and that the conferring of these benefits has of later years played a larger and a larger part in our conscious policy. The experiment has been a long and varied one, and our success in India is commonly adduced as the most convincing argument in favour of the benefits accruing to subject races from Imperialism.
The real questions we have to answer are these: "Are we civilising India?" and "In what does that civilisation consist?" To assist in answering there exists a tolerably large body of indisputable facts. We have established a wider and more permanent internal peace than India had ever known from the days of Alexander the Great. We have raised the standard of justice by fair and equal administration of laws; we have regulated and probably reduced the burden of taxation, checking the corruption and tyranny of native princes and their publicans. For the instruction of the people we have introduced a public system of schools and colleges, as well as a great quasi-public missionary establishment, teaching not only the Christian religion but many industrial arts. Roads, railways, and a network of canals have facilitated communication and transport, and an extensive system of scientific irrigation has improved the productiveness of the soil; the mining of coal, gold, and other minerals has been greatly developed; in Bombay and elsewhere cotton mills with modern machinery have been set up, and the organisation of other machine industries is helping to find employment for the population of large cities. Tea, coffee, indigo, jute, tobacco, and other important crops have been introduced into Indian agriculture. We are gradually breaking down many of the religious and social superstitions which sin against humanity and retard progress, and even the deeply rooted caste system is modified wherever British influence is felt. There can be no question that much of this work of England in India is well done. No such intelligent, well-educated, and honourable body of men has ever been employed by any State in the working of imperial government as is contained in the Civil Service of India. Nowhere else in our Empire has so much really disinterested and thoughtful energy been applied in the work of government. The same may be said of the line of great statesmen sent out from England to preside over our government in India. Our work there is the best record British Imperialism can show. What does it tell us about the capacity of the West to confer the benefits of her civilisation on the East?
Take first the test of economic prosperity. Are the masses of the people under our rule wealthier than they were before, and are they growing wealthier under that rule? There are some who maintain that British government is draining the economic life-blood of India and dragging her population into lower and more hopeless poverty. They point to the fact that one of the poorest countries in the world is made to bear the cost of a government which, however honestly administered, is very expensive; that one-third of the money raised by taxation flows out of the country without return; that India is made to support an army admittedly excessive for purposes of self-defence, and even to bear the cost of wars in other parts of the Empire, while nearly the whole of the interest on capital invested in India is spent out of the country. The statistical basis of this argument is too insecure for much reliance to be placed on it: it is probably untrue that the net cost of British government is greater than the burden of native princes which it has largely superseded, though it is certainly true that the extortionate taxation under native rule was expended in the country on productive work or unproductive native services. Whether the increasing drain of wheat and other food-stuffs from India exceeds the gain from improved irrigation, and whether the real income of the "ryot" or other worker is increasing or diminishing, cannot be established, so far as the whole country is concerned, by any accurate measure. But it is generally admitted, even by British officials strongly favourable to our rule, that we have not succeeded in giving any considerable economic prosperity to India. I quote from a recent source strongly favourable to our rule:
"The test of a people's prosperity is not the extension of exports, the multiplication of manufactures or other industries, the construction of cities. No. A prosperous country is one in which the great mass of the inhabitants are able to procure, with moderate toil, what is necessary for living human lives, lives of frugal and assured comfort. Judged by this criterion, can India be called prosperous?
"Comfort, of course, is a relative term.... In a tropical country, like India, the standard is very low. Little clothing is required there. Simple diet suffices. Artificial wants are very few, and, for the most part, are not costly. The Indian Empire is a peasant Empire. Ninety per cent. of the people live upon the land.... An unfailing well of water, a plot of land, and a bit of orchard—that will satisfy his heart's desire, if indeed you add the cattle needful to hire, 'the ryot's children,' as they are called in many parts. Such is the ryot's ideal. Very few realise it. An acre may stand for the modus agri, the necessary plot of ground. A man to an acre, or 640 men to the square mile, is the utmost density of population which India can comfortably support, except near towns or in irrigated districts. But millions of peasants in India are struggling to live on half an acre. Their existence is a constant struggle with starvation, ending too often in defeat. Their difficulty is not to live human lives—lives up to the level of their poor standard of comfort—but to live at all and not die.... We may truly say that in India, except in the irrigated tracts, famine is chronic-endemic."
A century of British rule, then, conducted with sound ability and goodwill, has not materially assisted to ward off the chronic enemy, starvation, from the mass of the people. Nor can it be maintained that the new industrialism of machinery and factories, which we have introduced, is civilising India, or even adding much to her material prosperity. In fact, all who value the life and character of the East deplore the visible decadence of the arts of architecture, weaving, metal work and pottery, in which India had been famed from time immemorial. "Architecture, engineering, literary skill are all perishing out, so perishing that Anglo-Indians doubt whether Indians have the capacity to be architects, though they built Benares; or engineers, though they dug the artificial lakes of Tanjore; or poets, though the people sit for hours or days listening to the rhapsodists as they recite poems, which move them as Tennyson certainly does not move our common people." The decay or forcible supersession of the native industrial arts is still more deplorable, for these always constitute the poetry of common life, the free play of the imaginative faculty of a nation in the ordinary work of life.
Sir George Birdwood, in his great work on "The Industrial Arts of India," written more than twenty years ago, gives a significant judgment upon the real meaning of a movement which has ever since been advancing at an accelerating pace: "If owing to the operation of certain economic causes, machinery was to be gradually introduced into India for the manufacture of its great traditional handicrafts, there would ensue an industrial revolution which, if not directed by an intelligent and instructed public opinion and the general prevalence of refined taste, would inevitably throw the traditional arts of the country into the same confusion of principles, and of their practical application to the objects of daily necessity, which has for three generations been the destruction of decorative art and of middle-class taste in England and North-Western Europe and the United States of America. The social and moral evils of the introduction of machinery into India are likely to be greater." Then follows a detailed account of the free picturesque handicrafts of the ordinary Indian village, and the author proceeds: "But of late these handicraftsmen, for the sake of whose works the whole world has been ceaselessly pouring its bullion into India, and who, for all the marvellous tissue they have wrought, have polluted no rivers, deformed no pleasing prospects, nor poisoned any air; whose skill and individuality the training of countless generations has developed to the highest perfection—these hereditary handicraftsmen are being everywhere gathered from their democratic village communities in hundreds and thousands into the colossal mills of Bombay, to drudge in gangs for tempting wages, at manufacturing piece goods, in competition with Manchester, in the production of which they are no more intellectually and morally concerned than the grinder of a barrel organ in the tunes turned out from it."
Even from the low standpoint of the world-market this hasty destruction of the native arts for the sake of employing masses of cheap labour in mills is probably bad policy; for, as the world becomes more fully opened up and distant countries are set in closer communication with one another, a land whose industries had so unique and interesting a character as those of India would probably have found a more profitable market than by attempting to undersell Lancashire and New England in stock goods.
But far more important are the reactions of these changes on the character of the people. The industrial revolution in England and elsewhere has partaken more largely of the nature of a natural growth, proceeding from inner forces, than in India, and has been largely coincident with a liberation of great popular forces finding expression in scientific education and in political democracy: it has been an important phase of the great movement of popular liberty and self-government. In India, and elsewhere in the East, there is no such compensation.
An industrial system, far more strongly set and more closely interwoven in the religious and social system of the country than even were the crafts and arts in Europe, has been subjected to forces operating from outside, and unchecked in their pace and direction by the will of the people whose life they so vitally affected. Industrial revolution is one thing when it is the natural movement of internal forces, making along the line of the self-interests of a nation, and proceeding pari passu with advancing popular self-government; another thing when it is imposed by foreign conquerors looking primarily to present gains for themselves, and neglectful of the deeper interests of the people of the country. The story of the destruction of native weaving industry for the benefit of mills started by the Company will illustrate the selfish, short-sighted economic policy of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. "Under the pretence of Free Trade, England has compelled the Hindus to receive the products of the steam-looms of Lancashire, Yorkshire, Glasgow, &c., at mere nominal duties; while the hand-wrought manufactures of Bengal and Behar, beautiful in fabric and durable in wear, have had heavy and almost prohibitive duties imposed on their importation to England." The effect of this policy, rigorously maintained during the earlier decades of the nineteenth century, was the irreparable ruin of many of the most valuable and characteristic arts of Indian industry. "In India the manufacturing power of the people was stamped out by Protection against her industries, and then Free Trade was forced on her so as to prevent a revival."
When we turn from manufacture to the great industry of agriculture, which even now occupies nine-tenths of the population, the difficulty of alien administration, with whatever good intention, is amply illustrated. Not a few of our greatest Indian statesmen, such as Munro, Elphinstone, and Metcalfe, have recognised in the village community the true embodiment of the spirit of Eastern civilisation.
"The village communities," wrote Sir C. Metcalfe, "are little republics, having nearly everything that they can want within themselves, and almost independent of any foreign relations. They seem to last where nothing else lasts. Dynasty after dynasty tumbles down; revolution succeeds to revolution; Hindu, Pathan, Moghul, Mahratta, Sikh, English, are masters in turn; but the village communities remain the same." "The union of the village communities, each one forming a separate little State in itself, has, I conceive, contributed more than any other cause to the preservation of the people of India through all revolutions and changes which they have suffered, and it is in a high degree conducive to their happiness and to the enjoyment of a great portion of freedom and independence. I wish, therefore, that the village constitutions may never be disturbed, and I dread everything which has a tendency to break them up."
Yet the whole efforts of British administration have been directed to the destruction of this village self-government in industry and politics. The substitution of the individual ryot for the community as the unit of revenue throughout Bombay and Madras struck a fatal blow at the economic life of the village, while the withdrawal of all real judicial and executive powers from the zemindars or headmen, and their concentration in British civil courts and executive officers, virtually completed the destruction of the strongest and most general institution of India—the self-governing village.
Both these important steps were taken in furtherance of the new Western idea of individual responsibility as the only sound economic basis, and centralised government as the most efficacious mode of political machinery. The fact that it should be considered safe and profitable suddenly to subvert the most ancient institutions of India, in order thus to adapt the people to English modes of life, will be taken by sociologists as one of the most amazing lessons of incompetence in the art of civilisation afforded by modern history. Indeed the superior prosperity of a large part of Bengal, attributable in part at any rate to the maintenance of a local landlord class, who served as middlemen between the State and the individual cultivators, and mitigated the mechanical rack-rent of the land-tax, is a sufficiently remarkable testimony to the injury inflicted upon other parts of India by sudden ill-advised application of Western economic and political methods.
When we turn from industry to the administration of justice and the general work of government in which the ability and character of British officialism finds expression, we are led to further questioning. Is Great Britain able to Anglicise the government of India, is she doing so, and is she thereby implanting Western civilisation in India? How much a few thousand British officials, endowed with the best ability and energy, can achieve in stamping British integrity and efficiency upon the practical government of three hundred million people of alien race and character it is difficult to judge. Numbers are not everything, and it is probable that these diffused units of British authority exercise directly and indirectly a considerable influence upon the larger affairs of government, and that this influence may sometimes permeate far down among native official circles. But it must be kept in mind that those few British officials are rarely born in India, have seldom any perfect understanding of the languages of the people, form a close "caste," never mingling in free social intercourse with those whom they govern, and that the laws and regulations they administer are largely foreign to the traditionary institutions of the Indian peoples. When we remember how large a share of real government is the personal administration of detail, the enforcement of law or regulation upon the individual citizen, and that in the overwhelming majority of cases this work must always be left to native officials, it is evident that the formal virtues of British law and justice must admit much elasticity and much perversion in the actual processes of administration.
"No one can deny that this system of civil and criminal administration is vastly superior to anything which India ever possessed under former rulers. Its defects arise chiefly from causes extraneous to it. The unblemished integrity and unswerving devotion to duty of the officials, whether English or Indian, who occupy the higher posts, no one will call in question. The character of the subordinate officials is not always so entirely above suspicion, and the course of justice is too often perverted by a lamentable characteristic of the Oriental mind. 'Great is the rectitude of the English, greater is the power of a lie' is a proverbial saying throughout India. Perhaps the least satisfactory of the government departments is the police. A recent writer says, 'It is difficult to imagine how a department can be more corrupt.' This, too, may be an over-statement. But, taken on the whole, the rank and file of the Indian police are probably not of higher integrity and character than those of New York." Now one sentence of this statement deserves special attention. "Its defects arise chiefly from causes extraneous to it." This is surely incorrect. It is an essential part of our system that the details of administration shall be in native hands: no one can contemplate any considerable displacement of lower native officials by English; the latter could not do the work and would not if they could, nor could the finances, always precarious, possibly admit of so huge an increase of expenditure as would be involved by making the government of India really British in its working. The tendency, in fact, is all the other way, and makes for the more numerous employment of natives in all but the highest grades of the public service. If it is true that corruption and mendacity are deeply rooted in all Eastern systems of government, and that the main moral justification of our rule consists in their correction by British character and administration, it is pretty clear that we cannot be performing this valuable work, and must in the nature of the case be disabled from even understanding where and how far we fall short of doing so. The comment made by Mr. Lilly upon Indian police is chiefly significant because this is the one department of detailed practical government where special scandals are most likely to reveal the failure of our excellent intentions as embodied in criminal codes and judicial procedure. One would wish to know whether the actual native officer who collects the land-tax or other dues from the individual ryot practises the integrity of his British superior official or reverts to the time-honoured and universal practice of the East.
How much can a handful of foreign officials do in the way of effectual check and supervision of the details of government in a country which teems with populations of various races, languages, creeds, and customs? Probably not very much, and ex hypothesi they, and so we, cannot know their failures.
The one real and indisputable success of our rule in India, as indeed generally through our Empire, is the maintenance of order upon a large scale, the prevention of internecine war, riot, or organised violence. This, of course, is much, but it is not everything; it is not enough in itself to justify us in regarding our imperial rule as a success. Is British justice, so far as it prevails, and British order good for India? will seem to the average Briton a curious question to ask. But Englishmen who have lived in India, and who, on the whole, favour the maintenance of our authority, sometimes ask it. It must, in the first place, be remembered that some of the formal virtues of our laws and methods which seem to us most excellent may work out quite otherwise in practice. The rigorous justice in the exaction of the land-tax and in the enforcement of the legal claims of usurers is a striking instance of misapplied notions of equity. Corrupt as the practice of Eastern tax-gatherers has ever been, tyrannical as has been the power of the usurer, public opinion, expediency, and some personal consideration have always qualified their tyranny: the mechanical rigour of British law is one of the greatest sources of unpopularity of our government in India, and is probably a grave source of actual injury.
There is even some reason to suspect that Indians resent less the illegal and irregular extortion of recognised native autocrats, whose visible authority is familiarly impressed on their imaginations, than the actually lighter exactions of an inhuman, irresistible and immitigable machine, such as the British power presents itself to them.
It is pretty clear that, so far as the consent of the governed in any active sense is a condition of success in government, the British Empire in India has not succeeded. We are deceived by Eastern acquiescence, and our deception may even be attended by grave catastrophe unless we understand the truth. Mr. Townsend, who has brought close thought to bear upon the conditions of our hold of India, writes thus:—
"Personal liberty, religious liberty, equal justice, perfect security—these things the Empire gives; but then are these so valued as to overcome the inherent and incurable dull distaste felt by the brown men to the white men who give them? I doubt it greatly."
The reasons he gives for his doubt are weighty. The agricultural populace, whom we have, he holds, materially benefited, is an inert mass: the active classes endowed with initiative, political ambition, patriotism, education are silently but strongly hostile to our rule. It is natural this should be so. We have spoiled the free career open to these classes under native government; the very order we have imposed offends their instincts and often thwarts their interests. The caste system, which it is the boast of our more liberal laws and institutions to moderate or disregard, is everywhere consciously antagonistic to us in its self-defence, and deeply resents any portion of our educative influences which impairs its hold upon the minds of the people. This force is well illustrated by the almost complete failure of our energetic Christian missions to make converts out of any members of the higher castes. The testimony of one of the most devoted of Roman Catholic missionaries after thirty years of missionary labours deserves attention:—
"During the long period I have lived in India in the capacity of a missionary, I have made, with the assistance of a native missionary, in all between two and three hundred converts of both sexes. Of this number two-thirds were Pariahs or beggars, and the rest were composed of Sudras, vagrants and outcasts of several tribes, who, being without resources, turned Christians in order to form connections, chiefly for the purpose of marriage, or with some other interested views."
This view is borne out in the general treatment of Christian missions in Mr. Barrie's report on the census in 1891. "The greatest development (of Christianity) is found where the Brahmanic caste system is in force in its fullest vigour, in the south and west of the Peninsula, and among the hill tribes of Bengal. In such localities it is naturally attractive to a class of the population whose position is hereditarily and permanently degraded by their own religion."
If British Christianity and British rule were welcomed by large bodies of the ryots and the low-caste and Pariah populations, the opposition of the native "classes" might seem a strong testimony to the beneficence of our rule, as an instrument for the elevation of the poorer working people who always form the great majority. Unfortunately no such result can seriously be pretended. There is no reason to suppose that we hold the allegiance of any large section of the people of India by any other bond than that of fear and respect for our external power. Mr. Townsend puts the matter in a nut-shell when he affirms: "There is no corner in Asia where the life of a white man, if unprotected by force, either actual or potential, is safe for an hour; nor is there an Asiatic State which, if it were prudent, would not expel him at once and for ever." There are, according to this view, no psychical roots to the civilisation we are imposing upon India: it is a superficial structure maintained by force, and not grafted on to the true life of the nation so as to modify and educate the soul of the people. Mr. Townsend is driven with evidently deep reluctance to the conclusion that "the Empire hangs in air, supported by nothing but the minute white garrison and the unproved assumption that the people of India desire it to continue to exist." It was indeed pointed out by Professor Seeley, and is generally admitted, that our Empire in India has only been rendered possible by the wide cleavages of race, language, religion and interests among the Indian populations, first and foremost the division of Mohammedan and Hindu.
But it may be fairly contended that the forcible foundation of our rule and the slowness and reluctance of the natives to appreciate its benefits are no proof that it is not beneficial or that in process of time we may not infuse the best principles of Western civilisation into their life.
Are we doing this? Is the nature of our occupation such as to enable us to do it? Apart from the army, which is the aspect of the Empire most in evidence, there is a British population of some 135,000, less than 1 to every 2000 of the natives, living neither the normal life of their own country nor that of the foreign country which they occupy, in no sense representative units of British civilisation, but exotics compelled to live a highly artificial life and unable to rear British families or to create British society of such a sort as to embody and illustrate the most valuable contents of our civilisation.
It is certain that the machinery of government, however excellent, can of itself do little to convey the benefits of civilisation to an alien people. The real forces of civilisation can only be conveyed by contact of individual with individual. Now the conditions of free, close, personal contact between British and Indians are virtually non-existent. There is no real, familiar, social intercourse on equal terms, still less is there intermarriage, the only effective mode of amalgamating two civilisations, the only safeguard against race hatred and race domination. "When intermarriage is out of the question," writes Dr. Goldwin Smith, "social equality cannot exist; without social equality political equality is impossible, and a republic in the true sense can hardly be."
The vast majority of whites admittedly live their own life, using natives for domestic and industrial service, but never attempting to get any fuller understanding of their lives and character than is required to exact these services from them or to render official services in return. The few who have made some serious attempt to penetrate into the Indian mind admit their failure to grasp with any adequacy even the rudiments of a human nature which differs, in its fundamental valuations and its methods of conduct, so radically from our own as to present for its chief interest a series of baffling psychological puzzles. It is indeed precisely from these students that we come to understand the impossibility of that close, persistent, interactive contact of mind with mind which is the only method by which that "mission of civilisation" which we profess is capable of fulfilment. Even those English writers who seem to convey most forcibly what is called the spirit of the East as it shows forth in the drama of modern life, writers such as Mr. Kipling and Mrs. Steel, hardly do more than present a quaint alluring atmosphere of unintelligibility; while study of the great Indian literature and art which may be taken as the best expression of the soul of the people exhibits the hitherto unbridgeable divergence of the British conception of life from the Indian. The complete aloofness of the small white garrison is indeed in no small measure due to an instinctive recognition of this psychical chasm and of their inability to enter into really vital sympathy with these members of an "inferior" race. They are not to blame, but rather the conditions which have brought them there and imposed on them a task essentially impossible, that of implanting genuine white civilisation on Asiatic soil. It must clearly be understood that it is not a question of the slowness of a process of adaptation: the really vital process of change is not taking place. We are incapable of implanting our civilisation in India by present methods of approach: we are only capable of superficially disturbing their civilisation. Even the external life of the vast bulk of the population we hardly touch; the inner life we do not touch at all. If we are deceived by the magnitude of the area of our political control and the real activity of the machinery of government into supposing that we are converting the Indian peoples to British Christianity, British views of justice, morality, and to the supreme value of regular intense industry in order to improve the standard of material comfort, the sooner we face the facts the better. For that we are doing none of these things in an appreciable degree is plain to most British officials. Of the nearest approaches to such success they are openly contemptuous, condemning outright the Eurasian and ridiculing the "stucco civilisation of the baboo." The idea that we are civilising India in the sense of assisting them to industrial, political, and moral progress along the lines either of our own or their civilisation is a complete delusion, based upon a false estimate of the influence of superficial changes wrought by government and the activity of a minute group of aliens. The delusion is only sustained by the sophistry of Imperialism, which weaves these fallacies to cover its nakedness and the advantages which certain interests suck out of empire.
This judgment is not new, nor does it imply the spirit of a "little Englander." If there is one writer who, more than another, is justly accredited with the stimulation of large ideas of the destiny of England, it is the late Professor Seeley. Yet this is his summary of the value of the "imperial" work which we have undertaken in India:—
"At best we think of it as a good specimen of a bad political system. We are not disposed to be proud of the succession of the Grand Mogul. We doubt whether, with all the merits of our administration, the subjects of it are happy. We may even doubt whether our rule is preparing them for a happier condition, whether it may not be sinking them lower in misery; and we have our misgivings that perhaps a genuine Asiatic Government, and still more a national Government springing up out of the Hindu population itself, might, in the long run, be more beneficial, because more congenial, though perhaps less civilised, than such a foreign, unsympathetic Government as our own."
While India presents the largest and most instructive lesson in distinctively British Imperialism, it is in China that the spirit and methods of Western Imperialism in general are likely to find their most crucial test. The new Imperialism differs from the older, first, in substituting for the ambition of a single growing empire the theory and the practice of competing empires, each motived by similar lusts of political aggrandisement and commercial gain; secondly, in the dominance of financial or investing over mercantile interests.
The methods and motives of the European Powers are not open to serious dispute. The single aim of Chinese policy from time immemorial had been to avoid all dealings with foreigners which might lead to the establishment of inter-governmental relations with them. This did not imply, at any rate until recently, hostility to individual foreigners or a reluctance to admit the goods or the ideas which they sought to introduce. Arabs and other Asiatic races of the West had traded with China from very early times. Roman records point to intercourse with China as early as Marcus Aurelius. Nor were their relations with the outside world confined to trade. Christianity was introduced some fifteen hundred years ago by the Nestorians, who propagated their religious views widely in the Central Kingdom; Buddhist foreign missionaries were well received, and their teaching found wide acceptance. Indeed few nations have displayed so much power of assimilating foreign religious notions as the Chinese. Roman Catholic missionaries entered China during the Mongol dynasty, and later in the Ming dynasty. Jesuits not only propagated Christianity, but introduced Western science into Pekin, attaining the climax of their influence during the latter part of the seventeenth century. Not until the arrival of the Dominicans introduced an element of religious faction, attended by political intrigue, did Christianity come into disrepute or evoke any sort of persecution. With the introduction of Protestant missions during the nineteenth century, the trouble has grown apace. Though the Chinese as a nation have never displayed religious intolerance, they have naturally mistrusted the motives of Westerns who, calling themselves Christians, quarrelled amongst themselves, and by their tactless zeal often caused local rioting which led to diplomatic or armed interference for their protection. Almost all lay European authorities in China bear out the following judgment of Mr. A. J. Little:
"The riots and consequent massacres resulting from mission work throughout Indo-China may be justified by the end; but it is certain our relations with the Chinese would be far more cordial than they are, were we not suspected of an insidious design to wean them from such habits of filial piety and loyalty as they possess, to our advantage."
The main outlines of Chinese policy are quite intelligible. Though not averse from incidental contact with Europeans or with other Asiatics, traders, travellers, or missionaries, they have steadily resisted all attempts to disturb their political and economic system by organised pressure of foreign Powers. Possessing in their enormous area of territory, with its various climatic and other natural conditions, its teeming industrial population, and its ancient, well-developed civilisation, a full material basis of self-sufficiency, the Chinese, following a sound instinct of self-defence, have striven to confine their external relations to a casual intercourse. The successful practice of this policy for countless centuries has enabled them to escape the militarism of other nations; and though it has subjected them to a few forcible dynastic changes, it has never affected the peaceful customary life of the great mass of little self-sufficing industrial villages of which the nation is composed. The sort of politics of which Western history is mainly composed has meant virtually nothing to the Chinese. It is the organised attempt of Western nations to break through this barrier of passive resistance, and to force themselves, their wares, their political and industrial control, on China that gives importance to Imperialism in the Far East. It is not possible here to trace, even in bare outlines, the history of this pressure, how quarrels with traders and missionaries have been utilised to force trade with the interior, to establish treaty ports, to secure special political and commercial rights for British or other European subjects, to fasten a regular system of foreign political relations upon the central government, and at the conclusion of the nineteenth century to drive China into wars, first with Japan, next with a confederacy of European Powers, which threaten to break up the political and industrial isolation of forty centuries, and to plunge China into the great world-competition.
The conduct of European Powers towards China will rank as the clearest revelation of the nature of Imperialism. Until late years Great Britain, with France as a poor second, had made the pace in pursuit of trade, covering this trading policy with a veneer of missionary work, the real relative importance of the two being put to a crucial test by the opium war. The entrance of Germany and America upon a manufacturing career, and the occidentation of Japan, enhanced the mercantile competition, and the struggle for the Far Eastern markets became a more definite object of national industrial policy. The next stage was the series of forceful moves by which France, Russia, Germany, Great Britain, and Japan have fastened their political and economic fangs into some special portion of the body of China by annexation, sphere of influence, or special treaty rights, their policy at this stage culminating in the ferocious reprisals of the recent war, and the establishment of a permanent menace in the shape of international political and financial conditions extorted from a reluctant and almost impotent central government by threats of further violence.
It is now hardly possible for any one who has carefully followed recent events to speak of Europe undertaking "a mission of civilisation "in China without his tongue in his cheek. Imperialism in the Far East is stripped nearly bare of all motives and methods save those of distinctively commercial origin. The schemes of territorial acquisition and direct political control which Russia, Germany, and France have developed, the "sphere of influence" which has oscillated with "an open door" in our less coherent policy, are all manifestly motived by commerce and finance.
China seems to offer a unique opportunity to the Western business man. A population of some four hundred millions endowed with an extraordinary capacity of steady labour, with great intelligence and ingenuity, inured to a low standard of material comfort, in occupation of a country rich in unworked minerals and destitute of modern machinery of manufacture or of transport, opens up a dazzling prospect of profitable exploitation.
In our dealings with backward races capable of instruction in Western industrial methods there are three stages. First comes ordinary commerce, the exchange of the normal surplus produce of the two countries. Next, after Great Britain, or some other Western Power has acquired territory or invested capital in the foreign country with the aim of developing the resources, she enjoys a period of large export trade in rails, machinery, and other forms of capital, not necessarily balanced by the import trade since it really covers the process of investment. This stage may continue long, when capital and business capacity cannot be obtained within the newly developed country. But a third stage remains, one which in China at any rate may be reached at no distant period, when capital and organising energy may be developed within the country, either by Europeans planted there or by natives. Thus fully equipped for future internal development in all the necessary productive powers, such a nation may turn upon her civiliser, untrammelled by need of further industrial aid, undersell him in his own market, take away his other foreign markets and secure for herself what further developing work remains to be done in other undeveloped parts of the earth. The shallow platitudes by which the less instructed Free Trader sometimes attempts to shirk this vital issue have already been exposed. It is here enough to repeat that Free Trade can nowise guarantee the maintenance of industry or of an industrial population upon any particular country, and there is no consideration, theoretic or practical, to prevent British capital from transferring itself to China, provided it can find there a cheaper or more efficient supply of labour, or even to prevent Chinese capital with Chinese labour from ousting British produce in neutral markets of the world. What applies to Great Britain applies equally to the other industrial nations which have driven their economic suckers into China. It is at least conceivable that China might so turn the tables upon the Western industrial nations, and, either by adopting their capital and organisers or, as is more probable, by substituting her own, might flood their markets with her cheaper manufactures, and refusing their imports in exchange might take her payment in liens upon their capital, reversing the earlier process of investment until she gradually obtained financial control over her quondam patrons and civilisers. This is no idle speculation. If China in very truth possesses those industrial and business capacities with which she is commonly accredited, and the Western Powers are able to have their will in developing her upon Western lines, it seems extremely likely that this reaction will result.
The inner significance of the joint attack of Western Powers in China lies here. It is the great speculative coup of international capitalism not fully ripened for international co-operation, but still hampered by the necessity under which the groups of capitalists lie, of using national feelings and policies to push their special interests. So long as it is necessary to use diplomatic pressure and armed force in order to secure some special field of investment in railroads, mining rights, or other development, the peace of Europe is endangered by national intrigues and bickering. Though certain areas may be considered as more or less definitely allocated, Manchuria to Russia, the southern provinces of Tonking, with Hainan to France, Shan-tung to Germany, Formosa and Fokien to Japan, for industrial exploitation and for political control, there are large areas where the industrial and future political control, as spheres of influence, is likely to cause grave discord. Yunnan and Quan-tung on the southern boundary are disputed territory between England and France, the Chinese Government having given to each of these Powers a similar assurance that these provinces should not be alienated to any other Power. Great Britain's claim to the vast indefinite area known as the Yang-Tse basin as her separate sphere of influence for industrial concessions and political dominance is now exposed to the serious avowed encroachments of Germany, while Corea remains an open sore between Russia and Japan. The United States, whose interest in China for investment and for trade is developing faster than that of any European Power, will certainly insist upon an open door, and will soon be in a position to back her claim by strong naval force. The present epoch, therefore, is one of separate national policies and special alliances, in which groups of financiers and capitalists urge their Governments to obtain leases, concessions, or other preferences over particular areas. It is quite possible that the conflicts of national Imperialism thus provoked, skilfully used for self-defence by the Chinese Government, may retard for a long time any effective opening up of China by Western enterprise, and that China may defend herself by setting her enemies to fight among themselves.
But it is idle to suppose that the industrial attack on China can be ultimately evaded. Unless China can be roused quickly from the sleep of countless centuries of peace and can transform herself into a powerful military nation, she cannot escape the pressure of the external powers. To suppose that she can do this, because her individual citizens show a capacity for drill and discipline, is to mistake the issue. The whole genius of the Chinese peoples, so far as it is understood, is opposed to militant patriotism and to the strongly centralised government required to give effect to such a policy. The notion of China organising an army of six millions under some great general, and driving "the foreign devil" out of the country, or even entering herself upon a career of invasion and conquest, ignores the chief psychological and social factors of Chinese life. At any rate this is the least likely of all early issues in the Far East.
Not until then shall we realise the full risks and folly of the most stupendous revolutionary enterprise history has known. The Western nations may then awaken to the fact that they have permitted certain little cliques of private profit-mongers to engage them in a piece of Imperialism in which every cost and peril of that hazardous policy is multiplied a hundred-fold, and from which there appears no possibility of safe withdrawal. The light-hearted, casual mood in which the nations have been drawn on to the opening up of a country with a population almost as large as that of Europe, nineteen-twentieths of whom are perfectly unknown to us, is the crowning instance of irrational government. In large measure such an enterprise must rank as a plunge in the dark. Few Europeans even profess to know the Chinese, or to know how far the Chinese they do know are representative of the nation as a whole. The only important fact upon which there is universal agreement is that the Chinese are of all the "lower races" most adaptable to purposes of industrial exploitation, yielding the largest surplus product of labour in proportion to their cost of keep. In a word, the investors and business managers of the West appear to have struck in China a mine of labour power richer by far than any of the gold and other mineral deposits which have directed imperial enterprise in Africa and elsewhere; it seems so enormous and so expansible as to open up the possibility of raising whole white populations of the West to the position of "independent gentlemen," living, as do the small white settlements in India or South Africa, upon the manual toil of these laborious inferiors. For a parasitic exploit so gigantic the competing groups of business men who are driving on their respective Governments might even abate their competition and co-operate in the forceful steps required in starting their project. Once encompass China with a network of railroads and steamer services, the size of the labour market to be tapped is so stupendous that it might well absorb in its development all the spare capital and business energy the advanced European countries and the United States can supply for generations. Such an experiment may revolutionise the methods of Imperialism; the pressure of working-class movements in politics and industry in the West can be met by a flood of China goods, so as to keep down wages and compel industry, or, where the power of the imperialist oligarchy is well set, by menaces of yellow workmen or of yellow mercenary troops, while collaboration in this huge Eastern development may involve an understanding between the groups of business politicians in the Western States close enough and strong enough to secure international peace in Europe and some relaxation of militarism.
This would drive the logic of Imperialism far towards realisation; its inherent necessary tendencies towards unchecked oligarchy in politics, and parasitism in industry, would be plainly exhibited in the condition of the "imperialist" nations. The greater part of Western Europe might then assume the appearance and character already exhibited by tracts of country in the South of England, in the Riviera, and in the tourist-ridden or residential parts of Italy and Switzerland, little clusters of wealthy aristocrats drawing dividends and pensions from the Far East, with a somewhat larger group of professional retainers and tradesmen and a large body of personal servants and workers in the transport trade and in the final stages of production of the more perishable goods: all the main arterial industries would have disappeared, the staple foods and manufactures flowing in as tribute from Asia and Africa. It is of course idle to suppose that the industrialisation of China by Western methods can be achieved without effective political control, and just in proportion as Western Europe became dependent economically upon China would the maintenance of that joint imperial control react upon Western politics, subordinating all movements of domestic reform to the need of maintaining the Empires, and checkmating the forces of democracy by a skilful use of a highly centralised bureaucracy and army.
It is true that things may work out otherwise in the Far East. It is conceivable, though hardly probable, that China herself under the pressure of events may become a centralised military Empire, and, either alone, or with the aid of the neighbour whose interests are most closely bound with hers, Japan, may beat back the power of Western civilisation from her shores. Again, China, passing more quickly than other "lower races" through the period of dependence on Western science and Western capital, and quickly assimilating what they have to give, may re-establish her own economic independence, finding out of her own resources the capital and organising skill required for the machine industries, and, cutting short the second stage described above, may quickly launch herself upon the world-market as the biggest and most effective competitor, taking to herself first the trade of Asia and the Pacific, and then swamping the free markets of the West and driving the closed markets of the West to an ever more rigorous Protection with its corollary of diminished production. Lastly, it is conceivable that the powerful industrial and financial classes of the West, in order better to keep the economic and political mastery at home, may combine to reverse the policy, which has hitherto been gaining ground in the United States and in our white colonies, and may insist upon the free importation of yellow labour for domestic and industrial service in the West. This is a weapon which they hold in reserve, should they need to use it in order to keep the populace in safe subjection.
Those who regard with complacency the rapid development of China, because of a general conviction that the liberation of these great productive forces must by ordinary processes of commercial intercourse be beneficial to the Western nations, entirely miss the issue. The peaceful, equitable distribution over the industrial world of the increase of world-wealth rising from the development of China implies a successful movement of industrial democracy in the Western nations, yielding not merely increased productivity of their national resources, but a continual rise in standard of consumption of the peoples. Such a condition might, by securing ordinary processes of world-exchange, enrich the nations with a legitimate share of the prosperity of China. But the economic raison d'être of Imperialism in the opening up of China is, as we see, quite other than the maintenance of ordinary commerce: it consists in establishing a vast new market for Western investors, the profits of which will represent the gains of an investing class and not the gains of whole peoples. The normal healthy processes of assimilation of increased world-wealth by nations are inhibited by the nature of this Imperialism, whose essence consists in developing markets for investment, not for trade, and in using the superior economies of cheap foreign production to supersede the industries of their own nation, and to maintain the political and economic domination of a class.
So far the influence of the "opening" or "break-up "of China upon the Western world has been the subject of inquiry. Let us now ask what this "break-up" means for China. Certain plain features stand out in the structure of Chinese society. China has never been a great Empire, or had any strong national existence in the European sense. The central government has always been very slight, virtually confined to a taxing power exercised through the provincial government, and to a small power of appointment of high officials. Even the provincial government has, in ordinary times, touched the actual life of the mass of the people lightly and at few points. China may be described properly as a huge nest of little free village communes, self-governing, and animated by a genuine spirit of equality. Mr. Colquhoun names the faculty of local self-government as "a main source of national vitality." "Groups of families constitute villages, which are self-governing, and the official who ventures to trench on their immemorial rights to the point of resistance is, according to an official code not confined to China, disavowed by his superiors, and generally finds a change of scene imperative." "The family system, with its extension to village and town groups, is the cheapest form of government extant, for it dispenses with police, while disposing effectually of offenders against the peace or respectability of the community." Similarly the great German explorer Richthofen: "No people in the world are more exempt from official interference."
"The great fact," says Colquhoun, "to be noted as between the Chinese and the Government is the almost unexampled liberty which the people enjoy, and the infinitesimally small part which Government plays in the scheme of national life."
The family is the political, economic, and moral unit of society, the village commune being either a direct enlargement of a single family or a group of closely related families. Sometimes communal ownership is maintained, but usually a division takes place with each growth of family, and the operative principle in general vogue is an occupying ownership of small proprietors, paying a low land-tax to the State, the sole landlord, in return for a lease in perpetuity. The land-tax is based on profitable use, and unoccupied lands revert to the community. Patrimonial institutions prevent accumulation of large properties. Numerous provisions of law and custom provide against land-grabbing and monopoly. "Nowhere in China would it be possible for a rich man to take possession of a spring and convey its water to his pond by subterranean drains, leaving dry the fields under which it passed. Water is as indispensable to life as air and land. No individual has the right to say 'It is mine, it belongs to me.' This feeling is very strongly rooted in China."
A family council, partly elective, partly hereditary, settles most important issues, punishing crimes, collecting the taxes, and settling divisions of property; recourse to legal processes is rare, the moral authority of the family commonly sufficing to preserve order.
This moral factor is, indeed, the one great vital principle in Chinese life. It not only governs economic relations, and presents a substitute for wider politics, but it figures prominently in the education and the religious or ethical system of the people." Life seems so little worth living to a man outlawed from family and home that even capital sentences are executed by consent"; and where growth of population drives male members to seek employment in the towns, the closest family associations are retained. The reverence for family history and for the moral obligations it entails constitutes the kernel of national culture and the great stimulus to individual education and ambition in life.
Upon this basis is built one of the most extraordinary civilisations the world has known, differing in certain very vital matters from the civilisation of the West.
Two points merit particular attention, because they drive down into the roots of Chinese civilisation. The first is the general recognition of that "dignity of labour" which in the West has degenerated into a cant phrase so far as the common forms of work are concerned. Manual labour is not only a necessary means of livelihood, but a genuinely absorbing personal interest for the entire body of the nation; with simple tools, and scarcely any use of machinery, minute personal skill is applied to agriculture and the manufactures; most workers have some considerable variety of occupation, and see and enjoy the useful results of their toil. The whole economic system stands on a broad basis of "bread labour," applied in intensive cultivation of the land; destitute of Western science or Western machinery, the detailed empirical study of agriculture has been carried farther than in any other country, and this "gardening" life is the most prominent factor in the external civilisation of the country.
The second point is the wide diffusion of some sort of literary education and a genuine reverence for "things of the mind." The high respect in which a narrow conservative and pedantic literary system is held, the extraordinary importance attached to verbal memory and trivialities of ritual in their culture, have not unnaturally aroused much astonishment and some contempt among educated Westerns. But the general prevalence of schools and libraries, the democratisation of the machinery of education, the opening of the highest offices of State to a free competition of the people, conducted on an intellectual test, are indicative of a standard of valuation which entitles China to rank high among the civilisations of the world. In no Western nation do the man of learning and the gardener rank higher in the common regard of the people than the soldier. These valuations, economic and intellectual, lie firmly rooted in the Chinese mind, and have helped through countless generations to mould the social institutions of the people. The civilisation, sprung up under these conditions, manifests some serious defects, compared with the best standards of the West. Life and conduct seem unduly cramped by detailed conventions; outside officialism there seems little scope for individual distinction; beyond the range of family, emotional life appears attenuated; the fine arts have never flourished, literature is conventional, morals are closely practical; the rigorous economy of material life seems attended by a less sensitive, nervous organisation than that of any Western nation, and individual life seems to run upon a somewhat lower level of consciousness, and to be valued proportionately less.
But it should be recognised that the merits of this civilisation are better attested than the defects, for the fruits of Chinese industry, honesty, orderly behaviour, and high regard for learning, are easily discernible by foreigners, while the more serious defects might vanish or be deeply modified by a more intimate understanding of Chinese psychology than any foreigner is likely to possess. The "barbarities" which have commonly won for China an ill-fame in Western lands, the savage punishments inflicted on criminals, the exposure of female infants, the brutal assaults on foreigners, are no normal part of the conduct of the nation, but rather sporadic survivals of brute habits and instincts, not more to be regarded as final tests of the civilisation of China than negro-lynching of that of America or wife-kicking of that of England.
If this brief conspectus of the essential features of Chinese civilisation is substantially correct, it is evident that "the break-up" brought about by the forces of Western nations will destroy the very foundations of the national order.
Its first fruits have been to impair security of life, peaceful industry and property over large areas of territory, to arouse a disorderly spirit of guerilla, to erect large public debts and so to enhance the burden of central government upon the body of the people, diminishing their communal independence. As the Western economic forces make further way, they must, partly by increased taxation needed for an expensive central government with armies, elaborate civil services and military debts, partly by the temptation of labour agents, draw large numbers of the workers from the position of independent little farmers into that of town wage-earners. This drain of population into industrial cities and mining districts, and the specialisation of agriculture for large markets, will break up the communal land system with its fixed hereditary order and will sap the roots of family solidarity, introducing those factors of fluidity, minute sub-division, and concentration of labour which are the distinctive characteristic of Western industry. The economic and social equality which belongs to ordinary Chinese life will disappear before a new system of industrial caste which capitalism will entail. The decay of morals, which is so noticeable in the declassés Chinese, will spread with the decay of the family power, and an elaborate judicial and punitory machinery will replace the rule of the self-governing family. This collapse of local status will react upon the habit of commercial integrity attested throughout China by the inviolability of business pledges; the new credit system of elaborate Western commerce will involve a network of commercial law and an education in that habit of litigiousness which exercises so dangerous a fascination over some other Asiatic peoples. The increase of wealth which this new industrialism would bring would either flow in economic tribute to the West, or would go to the endowment of a new powerful capitalist caste in China itself, who, following the Western lines, would ally themselves with imperialist politics in order to protect their vested interests. Capitalism, centralised government, militarism, protection, and a whole chain of public regulations to preserve the new order against the rising of old conservative traditional forces—such would be the inevitable outcome. The changes of external environment which have come with dangerous rapidity on Europe during the nineteenth century, forced still more rapidly on China by foreign profit-seekers, would produce reactions of incalculable peril upon the national life and character.
It would seem to imply no less than the destruction of the existing civilisation of China and the substitution in its place of what? There has been no serious pretence that European nations can impose or inculcate the essentials of their civilisation on China. The psychology of the Chinese is a terra incognita: the most experienced European residents are those who are the frankest in declaring their inability to grapple with the mysteries of Chinese character and Chinese morality; where less discreet writers venture on generalisations, their pages are riddled with the wildest contradictions and inconsistencies. What is, however, pretty clear is this: the Chinaman who detaches himself from the family bond and its moral associations and adopts European manners is distrusted alike by his fellow-countrymen and by his new patrons; Christianity makes no way among "respectable" Chinese, the educated classes presenting no ground of appeal for any form of supernaturalism; though Western science may hope in time to make a legitimate impression upon the intellectual life of China, the process will be one of slow absorption from within and cannot be imposed by alien instruction from without.
That the squabbles of European potentates for territorial expansion, the lusts of merchants or financiers, the ludicrously false expectations of missionaries, the catch-words of political parties in European elections, should be driving European nations to destroy the civilisation of a quarter of the human race without possessing the ability or even recognising the need to provide a substitute, ought surely to give pause to those Imperialists who claim to base their policy on reason and the common good.
No thinking man can seriously question the immense importance of free intercourse between the West and the East, or doubt the gain that would accrue to the civilisation of the world by a wise communication to the Eastern mind of those arts which peculiarly represent Western civilisation, the laborious, successful study of the physical sciences and their application to the arts of industry, the systematic development of certain definite principles and practices of law and government, and the thought and literature which are the conscious flowering of this growth of practical achievement.
That Europe could in this way render an invaluable service to Asia is certain.
"Some strange fiat of arrest, probably due to mental exhaustion, has condemned the brown men and the yellow men to eternal reproduction of old ideas." To revivify the mind of Asia, to set it working again along new lines of rich productivity, this might be the boon of Europe. And for this service she too might take a rich reward. The brooding mind of Asia gave to sluggish Europe in past ages the great momenta in religion and philosophy and in the mathematics; even in its sleep, or what appears to us the sleep of many centuries, it may have had its noble and illuminative dreams. The reason of the West may yet need the insight of the East. An union so profitable in the past may not be barren for the future. It is the right condition of this wholesome intercourse which is of supreme importance to the cause of civilisation. Now one thing at least is certain. Force and the pushful hand of material greed inhibit the free interaction of mind and mind essential to this intercourse. The ancient civilisations of India and China, whose duration bears testimony to inherent qualities of worth, have not been directed chiefly to the attainment of progress in the arts of material wealth, though the simpler industries have in parts of China and India attained a high perfection, but rather to the maintenance of certain small types of orderly social life, with a strong hierarchy of social and industrial ranks in India, with a fundamentally democratic character in China.
The energy spared from political and industrial struggles, and in China from military practices, has gone, partly to the cultivation of certain simple qualities of domestic life and personal conduct, partly to the wide diffusion of a certain real life of the soul, animated by profound religious and philosophic speculations and contemplations in India, or by the elaboration of a more practical, utilitarian wisdom in China. These Eastern civilisations alone have stood the test of time; the qualities which have enabled them to survive ought surely to be matter of deep concern for the mushroom civilisations of the West. It may even be true that the maintenance of these younger and more unstable civilisations depends upon unlocking the treasure-house of the wisdom of the East. Whether this be so or not, the violent breaking down of the characteristic institutions of Asia to satisfy some hasty lust of commerce, or some greed of power, is quite the most fatally blind misreading of the true process of world-civilisation that it is possible to conceive. For Europe to rule Asia by force for purposes of gain, and to justify that rule by the pretence that she is civilising Asia and raising her to a higher level of spiritual life, will be adjudged by history, perhaps, to be the crowning wrong and folly of Imperialism. What Asia has to give, her priceless stores of wisdom garnered from her experience of ages, we refuse to take; the much or little which we could give we spoil by the brutal manner of our giving. This is what Imperialism has done, and is doing, for Asia.
Part II, Chapter VI
The imperial policy of Great Britain since 1870, and more particularly since 1885, has been almost entirely absorbed in promoting the subjugation and annexation of tracts of territory where no genuine white settlement of any magnitude is contemplated. This policy, as we have seen, differs essentially from colonisation; and from the standpoint of government it implies a progressive diminution of freedom in the British Empire by constantly increasing the proportion of its subjects who are destitute of real power of self-government.
It is important to consider how this new Imperialism reacts, and is likely in the future to react, upon the relations between Great Britain and her self-governing colonies. Will it stimulate these colonies to an assertion of growing independence and final formal severance from the mother country, or will it lead them to form a closer political union with her upon a basis, no longer of Empire, but of a Federation of equal States? This is a vital issue, for it is quite certain that the present relations will not be maintained.
Hitherto the tendency has been towards a steady consistent increase of self-government, and a growing relaxation of Empire in the shape of control exercised by the home Government. In Australasia, North America, and South Africa seventeen self-governing colonies have been established, endowed with reduced types of the British constitution. In the case of Australia and of Canada the growth of self-government has been formally and actually advanced by acts of federation, which have, in fact, especially in Australia, compensated the restriction of the power of the federated States by a more than equivalent increase of governing power vested in the federal Government.
Great Britain has in the main learned well the lesson of the American Revolution; she has not only permitted but favoured this growing independence of her Australian and American colonies. During the very period when she has been occupied in the conscious policy of extending her Empire over lands which she cannot colonise and must hold by force, she has been loosening her "imperial" hold over her white colonies. While 1873 removed the last bond of economic control which marked the old "plantation" policy, by repealing the Act of 1850 which had forbidden Australian colonies from imposing differential duties as between the colonies and foreign countries, and permitting them in future to tax one another's goods, the Australian Commonwealth Act of 1900 has, by the powers accorded to its Federal Judicature, reduced to the narrowest limits yet attained the constitutional control of the Privy Council, and has by the powers enabling the Federal Government to raise a central armed force for defence obtained a new substantial basis for a possible national independence in the future. Though it is unlikely for some time to come that the federal Government which is contemplated for British South Africa will be accorded powers equivalent to those of the Australian or even the Canadian Federations, the same tendency to increased self-government has in the past steadily prevailed in Cape Colony and Natal, and it is tolerably certain that, if the racial animosities between the two white races are abated, a South African Commonwealth would soon be found in possession, of a far larger measure of real self-government than the British colonies which enter it have hitherto possessed.
But while the trend of British colonialism has uniformly been towards increased self-government or practical independence, and has been appreciably strengthened by the process of federating colonial States, it is evident that the imperial statesmen who have favoured most this federation policy have had in view some larger recasting of the political relations with the mother country, which should bind parent and children in closer family bonds, not merely of affection or of trading intercourse, but of political association. Though imperial federation for British purposes is no modern invention, Lord Carnarvon was the first Colonial Secretary to set it before him as a distinct object of attainment, favouring federation in the various groups of colonies as the first step in a process which should federate the Empire. The successful completion in 1873 of the process of federation which formed the Dominion of Canada doubtless stimulated Lord Carnarvon, entering office the next year, to further experiments along similar lines. Unfortunately he laid hands upon South Africa for his forcing process, and suffered a disastrous failure. Twenty years later Mr. Chamberlain resumed the task, and, confronted by the same essential difficulties, the forcible annexation of the two Dutch Republics, and the coercion of Cape Colony, has brought his federation policy in South Africa towards completion, while the federation of Australian States marks another and a safer triumph of the federation principle.
The process of federation, as bearing on the relations of the federating colonies, is of course a triumph for the centripetal forces; but, by securing a larger measure of theoretical and practical independence for the federal Governments, it has been centrifugal from the standpoint of the Imperial Government. The work of securing an effective political imperial federation implies, therefore, a reversal of hitherto dominant tendencies.
It is quite evident that a strong and increasing desire for imperial federation has been growing among a large number of British politicians. So far as Mr. Chamberlain and some of his friends are concerned, it dates back to the beginning of the struggle over Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule for Ireland policy. Speaking on Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill in 1886, Mr. Chamberlain said: "I should look for the solution in the direction of the principle of federation. My right honourable friend has looked for his model to the relations between this country and her self-governing and practically independent colonies. I think that is of doubtful expediency. The present connection between our colonies and ourselves is no doubt very strong, owing to the affection which exists between members of the same nation. But it is a sentimental tie, and a sentimental tie only.... It appears to me that the advantage of a system of federation is that Ireland might under it really remain an integral part of the Empire. The action of such a scheme is centripetal and not centrifugal, and it is in the direction of federation that the democratic movement has made most advances in the present century."
Now, it is quite true that the democratic movement, both now and in the future, seems closely linked with the formation of federal States, and the federation of the parts of the British Empire appears to suggest, as a next step and logical outcome, the federation of the whole.
Holding, as we must, that any reasonable security for good order and civilisation in the world implies the growing application of the federation principle in international politics, it will appear only natural that the earlier steps in such a process should take the form of unions of States most closely related by ties of common blood, language, and institutions, and that a phase of federated Britain or Anglo-Saxondom, Pan-Teutonism, Pan-Slavism, and Pan-Latinism aright supervene upon the phase already reached. There is perhaps a suspicion of excessive logic in such an order of events, but a broad general view of history renders it plausible and desirable enough. Christendom thus laid out in a few great federal Empires, each with a retinue of uncivilised dependencies, seems to many the most legitimate development of present tendencies, and one which would offer the best hope of permanent peace on an assured basis of inter-Imperialism. Dismissing from our mind the largest aspect of this issue, as too distant for present profitable argument, and confining our attention to British imperial federation, we may easily agree that a voluntary federation of free British States, working peacefully for the common safety and prosperity, is in itself eminently desirable, and might indeed form a step towards a wider federation of civilised States in the future.
The real issue for discussion is the feasibility of such a policy, and, rightly stated, the question runs thus: "What forces of present or prospective self-interest are operative to induce Great Britain and her colonial groups to reverse the centrifugal process which has hitherto been dominant?" Now there are many reasons for Great Britain to desire political federation with her self-governing colonies, even upon terms which would give them a voice proportionate to their population in a Parliament or other council charged with the control of imperial affairs, provided the grave difficulties involved in the establishment of such a representative, responsible governing body could be overcome. The preponderance of British over colonial population would enable the mother country to enforce her will where any conflict of interest or judgment arose in which there was a sharp line of division between Great Britain and the colonies: the distribution of imperial burdens and the allocation of imperial assistance would be determined by Great Britain. If the Crown colonies and other non-self-governing parts of the Empire were represented in the imperial council, the actual supremacy of the mother country would be greater still, for these representatives, either nominated by the Crown (the course most consonant with Crown colony government), or elected on a narrow franchise of a small white oligarchy, would have little in common with the representatives of self-governing colonies, and would inevitably be more amenable to pressure from the home Government. A chief avowed object of imperial federation is to secure from the colonies a fair share of men, ships, and money for imperial defence, and for those expansive exploits which in their initiation almost always rank as measures of defence. The present financial basis of imperial defence is one which, on the face of it, seems most unfair; Great Britain is called upon to support virtually the whole cost of the imperial navy, and, with India, almost the whole cost of the imperial army, though both these arms are at the service of any of our self-governing colonies that is threatened by external enemies or internal disorders. In 1899, while the population of these colonies was close upon one-third of that of the United Kingdom, their revenue nearly one-half, and the value of their sea-borne commerce one-fifth of the entire commerce of the Empire, the contribution they were making to the cost of the naval defence of the Empire was less than one-hundredth part. These colonies raise no regular or irregular military force available for the general defence of the Empire, though they have supported small contingents of imperial troops quartered upon them by the Imperial Government, and have maintained considerable militia and volunteer forces for home defence. The colonial contingents taking part in the South African war, though forming a considerable volunteer force, fell far short of an imperial levy based upon proportion of population, and their expenses were almost entirely borne by the United Kingdom. From the standpoint of the unity of the British Empire, in which the colonies are presumed to have an interest equivalent to that of the United Kingdom, it seems reasonable that the latter should be called upon to bear their fair share of the burden of imperial defence; and an imperial federation which was a political reality would certainly imply a provision for such equal contribution. Whatever were the form such federation took, that of an Imperial Parliament, endowed with full responsibility for imperial affairs under the Crown, or of an Imperial Council, on which colonial representatives must sit to consult with and advise the British ministry, who still retained the formal determination of imperial policy, it would certainly imply a compulsory or quasi-compulsory contribution on the part of the colonies proportionate to that of the United Kingdom.
Now it is quite evident that the self-governing colonies will not enter such an association, involving them in large new expenses, out of sentimental regard for the British Empire. The genuineness and the warmness of the attachment to the British Empire and to the mother country are indisputable, and though they were not called upon to make any considerable self-sacrifice in the South African campaign, it is quite evident that their present sentiments are such as would lead them voluntarily to expend both blood and money where they thought the existence, the safety, or even the honour of the Empire was at stake. But it would be a grave error to suppose that the blaze of enthusiastic loyalty, evinced at such a period of emergency, can be utilised in order to reverse the general tendency towards independence, and to "rush" the self-governing colonies into a closer formal union with Great Britain, involving a regular continuous sacrifice. If the colonies are to be induced to enter any such association, they must be convinced that it is essential to their individual security and prosperity. At present they get the protection of the Empire without paying for it; as long as they think they can get adequate protection on such terms, it is impossible to suppose they would enter an arrangement which required them to pay, and which involved an entire recasting of their system of revenue. The temper of recent discussions in the Australian and Canadian Parliaments, amid all the enthusiasm of the South African war, makes it quite clear that no colonial ministry could in time of peace persuade the colonists to enter such a federation as is here outlined, unless they had been educated to the conviction that their individual colonial welfare was to be subserved. Either Australia and Canada must be convinced that imperial defence of Australia or Canada upon the present basis is becoming more inadequate, and that such defence is essential to them, or else they must be compensated for the additional expense which federation would involve by new commercial relations with the United Kingdom which will give them a more profitable market than they possess at present.
Now the refusal of the self-governing colonies hitherto to consider any other contribution to imperial defence than a small voluntary one has been based upon a conviction that the virtual independence they hold under Great Britain is not likely to be threatened by any great Power, and that, even were it threatened, though their commerce might suffer on the sea, they would be competent to prevent or repel invasion by their own internal powers of self-defence. The one exception to this calculation may be said to prove the rule. If Canada were embroiled in war with her great republican neighbour, she is well aware that though the British navy might damage the trade and the coast towns of the United States, she could not prevent Canada from being over-run by American troops, and ultimately from being subjugated.
But, it may at least be urged, the importance of maintaining a British navy adequate to protect their trade will at least be recognised; the colonies will perceive that in face of the rising wealth and naval preparations of rival Empires, in particular Germany, France, and the United States, the United Kingdom cannot bear the financial strain of the necessary increase of ships without substantial colonial assistance. This is doubtless the line of strongest pressure for imperial federation. How far is it likely to prove effective? It is certain to educate colonial politicians to a closer consideration of the future of their colony; it will force them to canvass most carefully the net advantages or disadvantages of the imperial connection. Such consideration seems at least as likely to lead them towards that definite future severance from Great Britain which, during the last half-century, none of them has seriously contemplated, as it is to bring them into a federation. This consummation, if it ultimately comes about, will arise from no abatement of natural good feeling and affection towards the United Kingdom, but simply from a conflict of interests.
If the movement towards imperial federation fails, and the recent drift towards independence on the part of the self-governing colonies is replaced by a more conscious movement in the same direction, the cause will be Imperialism. A discreet colonial statesman, when invited to bring his colony closer to Great Britain, and to pay for their joint support while leaving to Great Britain the virtual determination of their joint destiny, is likely to put the following pertinent questions: Why is Great Britain obliged to increase her expenditure in armaments faster than the growth of trade or income, so that she is forced to call upon us to assist? Is it because she fears the jealousy and the hostility of other Powers? Why does she arouse these ill feelings? To these questions he can hardly fail to find an answer. "It is the new Imperialism that is wholly responsible for the new perils of the Empire, and for the new costs of armaments." He is then likely to base upon this answer further questions. Do we self-governing colonies benefit by this new Imperialism? If we decide that we do not, can we stop it by entering a federation in which our voices will be the voices of a small minority? May it not be a safer policy for us to seek severance from a Power which so visibly antagonises other Powers, and may involve us in conflict with them on matters in which we have no vital interest and no determinant voice, and either to live an independent political life, incurring only those risks which belong to us, or (in the case of Canada) to seek admission within the powerful republic of the United States?
However colonial history may answer these questions, it is inevitable that they will be put. Imperialism is evidently the most serious obstacle to "imperial federation," so far as the self-governing colonies are concerned. Were it not for the presence of these unfree British possessions and for the expansive policy which continually increases them, a federation of free British States throughout the world would seem a reasonable and a most desirable step in the interests of world-civilisation. But how can the white democracies of Australasia and North America desire to enter such a hodge-podge of contradictory systems as would be presented by an imperial federation, which might, according to a recent authority, be compiled in the following fashion: first a union of Great Britain, Ireland, Canada, West Indies, Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, Newfoundland, Mauritius, South Africa, Malta, to be followed later by the admission of Cyprus, Ceylon, India, Hong-Kong, and Malaysia, with an accompaniment of semi-independent States such as Egypt, Afghanistan, Natal, Bhutan, Jehore, and perhaps the kingdoms of Uganda and of Barotse, each with some sort of representation on an Imperial Council and some voice in the determination of the imperial destiny?
Is it likely that the great rising Australian Commonwealth or the Dominion of Canada will care to place her peaceful development and her financial resources at the mercy of some Soudanese forward movement or a pushful policy in West Africa?
An imperial federation comprising all sorts and conditions of British States, colonies, protectorates, veiled protectorates, and nondescripts, would be too unwieldy, and too prolific of frontier questions and of other hazards, to please our more isolated and self-centred free colonies; while, if these former were left without formal representation as special protégés of the United Kingdom, their existence and their growth would none the less hang like a mill-stone round the neck of the federal Government, constantly compelling the United Kingdom to strain the allegiance of her confederates by using her technical superiority of voting power in what she held to be their special interest and hers.
The notion that the absence of any real strong identity of interest between the self-governing colonies and the more remote and more hazardous fringes of the Empire can be compensated by some general spirit of loyalty towards and pride in "the Empire" is a delusion which will speedily be dispelled. The detached colonies of Australasia may not unreasonably argue that the very anxiety of British statesmen to draw them into federation is a confession of the weakening of that very protection which constitutes for them the chief value of the present connection. "The United Kingdom," they may say, "asks us to supply men and ships and money in a binding engagement in order to support her in carrying farther the very imperialist policy which arouses the animosity of rival Powers and which disables her for future reliance on her own resources to sustain the Empire. For our increased contribution to the imperial resources we shall therefore receive in return an increase of peril. Is it not something like asking us, out of pure chivalry, to throw in our lot with a sinking vessel?" It will doubtless be replied that a firmly federated Empire will prove such a tower of strength as will enable her to defy the increased jealousy of rival Powers. But this tempting proposition will be submitted to cool calculation in our colonies, which will certainly refuse to be "rushed" into a change of policy implying a reversal of the general tendency of half a century. Admitting the obvious political and military gain of co-operative action in the face of an enemy, the colonists will ask whether this gain is not offset by an increased likelihood of having to face enemies, and when they reflect that they are really invited to federate, not merely with the England whom they love and admire, but with an ever-growing medley of savage States, the balance of judgment seems likely to turn against federation, unless other special inducements can be applied.
There are two special inducements which might bring the self-governing colonies, or some of them, to favour a closer political union with Great Britain. The first is a revision of the commercial and financial policy of the mother country, so as to secure for the colonies an increased market for their produce in Great Britain and in other parts of the British Empire. In discussion of this issue it is customary to begin by distinguishing the proposal to establish an Imperial Zollverein, or Customs Union, from the proposal for a preferential tariff. But very little reflection suffices to perceive the futility of the former without the latter as an appeal to the self-interest of the colonies. Will these colonies assimilate their financial policy to that of Great Britain, abolishing their protective tariffs and entering a full Free Trade career? The most sanguine Free Trader suggests no such possibility, nor indeed would such a course afford any real guarantee of increasing the commercial inter-dependence of the Empire. It would simply force the colonies upon processes of direct taxation repugnant to their feelings. Is Free Trade within the Empire, with a maintenance of the status quo as regards foreign countries, really more feasible? It would simply mean that the colonies gave up the income they obtained from taxing the goods of one another and of Great Britain, each getting in return a remission of tariffs from the other colonies with which its trade is small and no remission from Great Britain, which would continue to receive its goods free as before. Though this same policy would ultimately be beneficial to their commerce, it would only encourage the existing tendency to trade less with the Empire and more with foreign nations, while it would involve a revolution of their fiscal method. No; Free Trade within the Empire is only conceivable upon the basis of Great Britain agreeing to abandon Free Trade with countries outside the Empire. Even were Great Britain prepared to adopt such a course, it would remain most unlikely that the colonies would make the sacrifice of customs income involved by admitting goods from all the Empire free; for this course would entail a sacrifice much greater than at first sight appears, inasmuch as such discrimination would virtually enable the goods admitted free to displace the taxed goods, reducing to quite insignificant dimensions the income still derived from customs.
Engaged as we are now in finding special inducements to draw the colonies into closer political union with Great Britain, we need not discuss the probability of an extension of the policy which Canada initiated by her preferential tariff, according to Great Britain a preferential tariff by a surrender of duties upon British imports amounting to 33 per cent. It is needless to discuss the motives which may have animated this advance. If we look to its result we find that it has been quite inoperative, regarded as a stimulus to British trade. "In spite of the preferential tariff, the percentage of American goods entering Canada has continued to increase and the percentage of British goods to decline." This is attributed to the "sham" character of the concession, as illustrated by the fact that "before giving a preference to British goods the Laurier ministry was careful to raise the duties on cotton goods largely coming from Great Britain, while lowering or abolishing the duties on raw materials coming from the United States."
Thus the much-boasted British preference is to a large extent a delusion. In spite of the preference, British goods still pay a higher average tax on entering Canada than American goods. Here are the figures:—
|CANADIAN IMPORT DUTES.|
|Year ending June 30.||Average Duty on British Goods.||Average Duty on American Goods.|
|1897||21.1 per cent.||14.3 per cent.|
|1901||18.3 per cent.||12.4 per cent.|
Even if it is claimed that the act was a pure offering of goodwill, it is not contended that the colonies will generally follow the example, making concessions and receiving no preference in return. The only Zollverein proposal which claims serious discussion is one based upon the general adoption of preferential treatment within the Empire, involving on the part of Great Britain herself an abandonment of Free Trade with foreign countries. Here, at least, the colonies would have some quid pro quo, a guaranteed monopoly of the imperial market for their exports, in compensation for their loss of customs revenue from admitting imperial imports free, or at a lower rate of duties. Assuming that the colonies would enter such an arrangement, Great Britain would have to pay a heavy price for the political and military support which such a commercial policy was designed to purchase. Apart from the immediate dislocation of her industries, which would follow this partial abandonment of Free Trade on her part, and which would be more serious than a carefully imposed tariff applied equally to all imports, it would tax all classes of consumers and producers in this country by raising the prices of ordinary necessaries and conveniences of life, and of materials imported from abroad to be employed in home industry. Grain and flour, cattle and meat, wool, timber, and iron would form the chief commodities which, in the supposed interests of our colonies, would be taxed first. Unless it did raise these prices it could have no effect in enabling colonial producers to displace foreign producers: the tariff, to be operative at all, must remove all profit from some portion of foreign goods previously imported, and, by preventing such goods from entering our markets in the future, reduce the total supply: this reduction of supply acts of necessity in raising the price for the whole market. This well-recognised automatic operation of the law of supply and demand makes it certain that English consumers would pay in enhanced prices a new tax, part of which would be handed over to colonists in payment for their new "loyalty," part would go to the British exchequer, and part to defray expenses of collection.
Nor is this all, or perhaps the worst. By this very method of binding our colonies closer to us we take the surest way of increasing the resentment of those very nations whose political and military rivalry impels us to abandon Free Trade. The vast and increasing trade we have with France, Germany, Russia, and the United States is the most potent guarantee of peace which we possess. Reduce the volume and the value of our commerce with these nations, by means of the re-establishment of a tariff avowedly erected for the purpose, and we should convert the substantial goodwill of the powerful financial, mercantile, and manufacturing interests in these countries into active and dangerous hostility. It would be far worse for us that we had never been a Free Trade country than that we relapsed into a protective system motived by the desire to weaken our commercial bonds with the political and commercial Powers whose rivalry we have most to fear. By the statistics of an earlier chapter it has been shown that not merely is our trade with these foreign nations far greater than the trade with the self-governing colonies, but that it is growing at a faster rate. To offend and antagonise our better customers in order to conciliate our worse is bad economy and much worse politics.
The shrewder politicians in our colonies might surely be expected to look such a gift-horse in the mouth. For the very bribe which is designed to win them for federation is one which enhances for them enormously and quite incalculably the perils of a new connection by which they throw in their lot irrevocably with that of Great Britain. A monopoly of the imperial market for their exports may be bought too dear, if it removes the strongest pledge for peace which England possesses, at a time when that pledge is needed most. Nor would these colonies share only the new peril of England; their own discriminative tariffs would breed direct ill-feeling against them on the part of foreigners, and would drag them into the vortex of European politics. Finally, by distorting the more natural process of commercial selection, which, under tariffs equally imposed, has in the past been increasing the proportion of the trade done by these colonies with foreign countries, and reducing the proportion done with Great Britain, we shall be forcing them to substitute a worse for a better trade, a course by which they will be heavy losers in the long run.
It cannot be too clearly understood that not merely is the natural tendency of development in our self-governing colonies towards a decreasing commercial dependence upon Great Britain, but the same commercial separatist tendency operates among the colonies in their relations to one another. The colonies do not find their interests to lie in increasing the proportion of their trading intercourse with one another. Professor Flux in his close investigation of the statistics comes to the following conclusion:—
"As for the trade between the colonies, the Australian inter-colonial trade, which we have stated at £22,500,000 for 1892-96, was only between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000 at the earlier date here considered. Other inter-colonial trade has hardly grown in value. It was recorded at about £20,000,000 on the import side and £25,000,000 on the export side during the years 1867-71. Thus nearly 76 per cent. of colonial imports were derived from the Empire, and about 73 per cent. of the exports went to the Empire, or about 74 per cent. of the total trade was carried on with other parts of the Empire, as compared with the 65 per cent. at the more recent date, as recorded above." Why should we persuade our self-governing colonies to reverse the natural tide of their commerce, which flows towards internationalism, and force it into the narrower channel of Imperialism?
In face of such facts it will be impossible for Great Britain to offer the self-governing colonies a sufficient commercial inducement to bring them into imperial federation. Is there any other possible inducement or temptation? There is, I think, one, viz. to involve them on their own account in Imperialism, by encouraging and aiding them in a policy of annexation and the government of lower races. Independently of the centralised Imperialism which issues from Great Britain, these colonies have within themselves in greater or less force all the ingredients out of which an Imperialism of their own may be formed. The same conspiracy of powerful speculators, manufacturing interests and ambitious politicians, calling to their support the philanthropy of missions and the lust for adventure which is so powerful in the new world, may plot the subversion of honest self-developing democracy, in order to establish class rule, and to employ the colonial resources in showy enterprises of expansion for their own political and commercial ends.
Such a spirit and such a purpose have been plainly operative in South Africa for many years past. That which appears to us an achievement of British Imperialism, viz. the acquisition of the two Dutch Republics and the great North, is and always has appeared something quite different to a powerful group of business politicians in South Africa. These men at the Cape, in the Transvaal and in Rhodesia, British or Dutch, have fostered a South African Imperialism, not opposed to British Imperialism, willing when necessary to utilise it, but independent of it in ultimate aims and purposes. This was the policy of "colonialism" which Mr. Rhodes espoused so vehemently in his earlier political career, seeking the control of Bechuanaland and the North for Cape Colony and not directly for the Empire. This has been right through the policy of an active section of the Africander Bond, developing on a large scale the original "trek" habit of the Dutch. This was the policy to which Sir Hercules Robinson gave voice in his famous declaration of 1889 regarding Imperialism: "It is a diminishing quantity, there being now no longer any permanent place in the future of South Africa for direct imperial rule on any large scale." A distinctively colonial or South African expansion was the policy of the politicians, financiers, and adventurers up to the failure of the Jameson Raid; reluctantly they sought the co-operation of British Imperialism to aid them in a definite work for which they were too weak, the seizure of the Transvaal mineral estates; their absorbing aim hereafter will be to relegate British Imperialism to what they conceive to be its proper place, that of an ultima ratio to stand in the far background while colonial Imperialism manages the business and takes the profits. A South African federation of self-governing States will demand a political career of its own, and will insist upon its own brand of empire, not that of the British Government, in the control of the lower races in South Africa.
Such a federal State will not only develop an internal policy regarding the native territories different from, perhaps antagonistic to, that of British Imperialism, but its position as the "predominant" State of South Africa will develop an ambition and a destiny of expansion which may bring it into world politics on its own account.
Australasia similarly shows signs of an Imperialism of her own. She has recently taken over New Guinea, and some of her sons are hankering after the New Hebrides, quite willing to incite Great Britain to break away from the joint-control over these islands which she holds along with France.
If this is a substantially correct view of Australasian tendencies, it has a most important bearing upon the feasibility of imperial federation, because it indicates another force which might be utilised for a reversal of the centrifugal movement hitherto dominant in colonial policy. If Great Britain is prepared to guarantee to Australasia and to South Africa a special imperial career of their own, placing the entire federal resources of the Empire at the disposal of the colonial federal States, to assist them in fulfilling an ambition or a destiny which is directed and determined by their particular interests and will, such a decentralisation of Imperialism might win the colonies to a closer federal union with the mother country. For Great Britain herself it would involve great and obvious dangers, and some considerable sacrifice of central imperial power; but it might win the favour and support of ambitious colonial politicians and capitalists desirous to run a profitable Imperialism of their own and to divert the democratic forces from domestic agitation into foreign enterprises.
If Australasia can get from Great Britain the services of an adequate naval power to enforce her growing "Monroe doctrine" in the Pacific without paying for it, as British South Africa has obtained the services of our land forces, she will not be likely to enter closer formal bonds which will bind her to any large financial contribution towards the expenses of such a policy. But if Great Britain were willing to organise imperial federation upon a basis which in reality assigned larger independence to Australia than she has at present, by giving her a call upon their imperial resources for her own private imperial career in excess of her contribution towards the common purse, the business instincts of Australia might lead her to consider favourably such a proposal.
How fraught with peril to this country such imperial federation would be it is unnecessary to prove. Centralised Imperialism, in which the Government of Great Britain formally reserves full control over the external policy of each colony, and actually exercises this control, affords some considerable security against the danger of being dragged into quarrels with other great Powers: the decentralised Imperialism, involved in imperial federation, would lose us this security. The nascent local Imperialism of Australasia and of South Africa would be fed by the consciousness that it could not be checked or overruled in its expansive policy as it is now; and the somewhat blatant energy of self-expression in colonial Governments would be likely to entangle us continually with Germany and the United States in the Pacific, while Canada and Newfoundland would possess a greatly enhanced power to embroil us with France and the United States. If it be urged that after all no serious steps in Australian, Canadian or South African "Imperialism" could be taken without the direct conscious consent of Great Britain, who would, by virtue of population and prestige, remain the predominant partner, the answer is that the very strengthening of the imperial bond would give increased efficacy to all the operative factors in Imperialism. Even as matters stand now there exists in Great Britain a powerful organised business interest which is continually inciting the Imperial Government to a pushful policy on behalf of our colonies: these colonies, the Australasian in particular, are heavily mortgaged in their land and trade to British financial companies; their mines, banks, and other important commercial assets are largely owned in Great Britain; their enormous public debts are chiefly held in Great Britain. It is quite evident that the classes in this country owning these colonial properties have a stake in colonial politics, different from and in some cases antagonistic to that of the British nation as a whole: it is equally evident that they can exercise an organised pressure upon the British Government in favour of their private interests that will be endowed with enhanced efficacy under the more equal conditions of an imperial federation.
Whether the bribe of a preferential tariff, or of a delegated Imperialism, or both, would suffice to bring the self-governing colonies into a closer formal political federation with Great Britain may, however, well be doubted. Still more doubtful would be their permanent continuance in such a federation. It is at least conceivable that the colonial democracies may be strong and sane enough to resist temptation to colonial Imperialism, when they perceive the dangerous reactions of such a course. Even were they induced to avail themselves of the ample resources of the Empire to forward their local imperial policy, they would, in Australia as in South Africa, be disposed to break away from such a federation when they had got out of it what advantages it could be made to yield, and they felt strong enough for an independent Empire of their own.
It is no cynical insistence upon the dominance of selfish interests which leads us to the conviction that the historic drift towards independence will not be reversed by any sentiments of attachment towards Great Britain. "My hold of the colonies," wrote Burke, "is 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 as strong as links of iron." But in these ties, save the last only, there is nothing to demand or to ensure political union. The moral bonds of community of language, history and institutions, maintained and strengthened by free social and commercial intercourse, this true union of hearts, have not been weakened by the progress towards political freedom which has been taking place in the past, and will not be weakened if this progress should continue until absolute political independence from Great Britain is achieved.
It is quite certain that the issue must be determined in the long run by what the colonies consider to be their policy of net utility. That utility will be determined primarily by the more permanent geographical and economic conditions. These have tended in the past, so far as they have had free play, towards political independence: they will have a freer play in the future, and it seems, therefore, unlikely that their tendency will be reversed. Though the element of distance between the parts of an Empire is now less important than formerly as a technical difficulty in representation, the following pithy summary of American objections to schemes of imperial federation in the eighteenth century, as recorded by Pownall, still has powerful application:—
"The Americans also thought that legislative union would be unnecessary, inexpedient, and dangerous, because
"(1) They had already sufficient legislatures of their own.
"(2) If the colonies were so united to England they would share the burden of British taxes and debt.
"(3)Representatives in England would be too far from their constituents, and the will of the colonies would, therefore, be transferred out of their power, and involved in that of a majority in which the proportion of their representatives would hold no balance."
While then it is conceivable, perhaps possible, that, for a time at any rate, the self-governing colonies might be led into an imperial federation upon terms which should secure their private industrial and political ambitions as colonies, it is far more reasonable to expect that Canada would drift towards federation with her southern neighbour, and Australasia and South Africa towards independent political entities, with a possible future re-establishment of loose political relations in an Anglo-Saxon federation.
It is no aspersion on the genuineness and the strength of the "loyalty" and affection entertained by the colonies towards England to assert that these sentiments cannot weigh appreciably in the determination of the colonial "destiny" against the continuous pressure of political, industrial, and financial forces making towards severance. Though a few politicians, or even a party in these colonies, may coquet with the notion of close federation on an equal basis, the difficulties, when the matter is resolved, as it must be, into financial terms, will be found insuperable. The real trend of colonial forces will operate in the same direction as before, and more persistently, when the nature of the burdens they are invited to undertake is disclosed to them.
The notion that one great result of the South African war has been to generate a large fund of colonial feeling which will materially affect the relations of the colonies with Great Britain is an amiable delusion based upon childish psychology. While the rally of sentiment has been genuine, so has been the discovery of the perils of the mother country which have made colonial assistance so welcome and caused it to be prized so highly that imperial statesmen essay to turn the tide of colonial development by means of it.
Reflection, which follows every burst of sentiment, cannot fail to dwell upon the nature of the peril which besets an empire so vast, so heterogeneous, and so dispersed as the British Empire. When the glamour of war has passed away, and history discloses some of the brute facts of this sanguinary business which have been so carefully kept from the peoples of Australia, New Zealand and Canada, their relish for the affair will diminish: they will be more suspicious in the future of issues whose character and magnitude have been so gravely misrepresented to them by the Imperial Government. But the discovery likely to weigh most with the colonial democracies is the unsubstantial assets of the new Imperialism. It is one thing to enter a federation of free self-governing States upon an equal footing, quite another to be invited to contribute to the maintenance and acquisition of an indefinitely large and growing number of dependencies, the property of one of the federating States. The more clearly the colonies recognise the precarious nature of the responsibilities they are asked to undertake, the more reluctant will they show themselves. Unless the democratic spirit of these colonies can be broken and they can be driven to "Imperialism" upon their own account, they will refuse to enter a federation which, whatever be the formal terms of entrance, fastens on them perils so incalculable. The new Imperialism kills a federation of free self-governing States: the colonies may look at it, but they will go their way as before.
The sentimental attractions which the idea may at first present will not be void of practical results. It may lead them to strengthen their preparation for internal defence, and to develop, each of them, a firmer national spirit of their own. The consciousness of this gain in defensive strength will not the more dispose them to closer formal union with Great Britain; it is far more likely to lead them to treat with her upon the terms of independent allies. The direction in which the more, clear-sighted colonial statesmen are moving is and always has been tolerably clear. It is towards a slighter bond of union with Great Britain, not a stronger. The near goal is one clearly marked out for the American colonies by Jefferson as early as 1774, and one which then might have been attained if England had exercised discretion. Jefferson thus describes his plan in the draft of instructions to delegates sent by Virginia to Congress: "I took the ground that from the beginning I had thought the only one orthodox or tenable, which was that the relation between Great Britain and those colonies was exactly the same as that of England and Scotland after the accession of James and until after the Union, and the same as the present relation with Hanover, having the same executive chief, but no other necessary political connection." This same project, that of narrowing down the imperial connection to the single tie of a common monarchy, was avowed by the "Reformers" who in Upper Canada usually made a majority of the Legislative Assembly during 1830-40, and underlies the conscious or unconscious policy of all our self-governing colonies when subject to normal influences. Brief, temporary set-backs to this movement under the stress of some popular outburst of enthusiasm or some well-engineered political design are possible, but unless the real forces of colonial democracy can be permanently crushed they will continue to drive colonial policy towards this goal. Whether they will drive still farther, to full formal severance, will depend upon the completeness with which Great Britain has learnt during the last century and a half the lesson of colonial government which the American Revolution first made manifest. At present, owing to our liberal rendering of the term "responsible self-government," there exists no powerful set of conscious forces making for complete independence in any of our colonies, save in South Africa, where our exceptional policy has given birth to a lasting antagonism of economic interests, which, working at present along the lines of race cleavage, must in the not distant future arouse in the people of a federated South Africa a demand for complete severance from British control as the only alternative to a control which they, British and Dutch, will regard as an intolerable interference with their legitimate rights of self-government.
This forcible interference of the Imperial Government with the natural evolution of a British South Africa, accompanied by a direct attack upon colonial liberties and a substitution of mechanical stimulation for organic growth in the process of a South African federation, will come home later to the other self-governing colonies through its reaction upon British policy. The legacy of this disastrous imperial exploit is enhanced militarism for Great Britain, and the rapacious dominance of armaments over public finance. These considerations almost inevitably goad public policy in Great Britain to make eager overtures to the colonies which will be rightly understood as an invitation to share risks and burdens in large excess of all assured advantages. The endeavours on our part to secure the closer political connection of the colonies are more likely than any other cause to bring about a final disruption; for the driving force behind these endeavours will be detected as proceeding from national rather than imperial needs. Australia, New Zealand, Canada have had no voice in determining recent expansion of British rule in Asia and Africa; such expansion serves no vital interest of theirs; invited to contribute a full share to the upkeep and furtherance of such Empire, they will persistently refuse, preferring to make full preparation for such self-defence as will enable them to dispense with that protection of the British flag which brings increasing dangers of entanglement with foreign Powers.
The new Imperialism antagonises colonial self-government, tends to make imperial federation impracticable, and furnishes a disruptive force in the relations of Great Britain with the self-governing colonies.
Part II, Chapter VII
If Imperialism may no longer be regarded as a blind inevitable destiny, is it certain that imperial expansion as a deliberately chosen line of public policy can be stopped?
We have seen that it is motived, not by the interests of the nation as a whole, but by those of certain classes, who impose the policy upon the nation for their own advantage. The amalgam of economic and political forces which exercises this pressure has been submitted to close analysis. But will the detection of this confederacy of vicious forces destroy or any wise abate their operative power? For this power is a natural outcome of an unsound theory in our foreign policy. Put into plain language, the theory is this, that any British subject choosing, for his own private pleasure or profit, to venture his person or his property in the territory of a foreign State can call upon this nation to protect or avenge him in case he or his property is injured either by the Government or by any inhabitant of this foreign State. Now this is a perilous doctrine: It places the entire military, political, and financial resources of this nation at the beck and call of any missionary society which considers it has a peculiar duty to attack the religious sentiments or observances of some savage people, or of some reckless explorer who chooses just those spots of earth known to be inhabited by hostile peoples ignorant of British power; the speculative trader or the mining prospector gravitates naturally towards dangerous and unexplored countries, where the gains of a successful venture will be quick and large. All these men, missionaries, travellers, sportsmen, scientists, traders, in no proper sense the accredited representatives of this country, but actuated by private personal motives, are at liberty to call upon the British nation to spend millions of money and thousands of lives to defend them against risks which the nation has not sanctioned. It is only right to add that unscrupulous statesmen have deliberately utilised these insidious methods of encroachment, seizing upon every alleged outrage inflicted on these private adventurers or marauders as a pretext for a punitive expedition which results in the British flag waving over some new tract of territory. Thus the most reckless and irresponsible individual members of our nation are permitted to direct our foreign policy. Now that we have some four hundred million British subjects, any one of whom in theory or in practice may call upon the British arms to extricate him from the results of his private folly, the prospects of a genuine pax Britannica are not particularly bright.
But those sporadic risks, grave though they have sometimes proved, are insignificant when compared with the dangers associated with modern methods of international capitalism and finance. It is not long since industry was virtually restricted by political boundaries, the economic intercourse of nations being almost wholly confined to commercial exchanges of goods. The recent habit of investing capital in a foreign country has now grown to such an extent that the well-to-do and politically powerful classes in Great Britain to-day derive a large and ever larger proportion of their incomes from capital invested outside the British Empire. This growing stake of our wealthy classes in countries over which they have no political control is a revolutionary force in modern politics; it means a constantly growing tendency to use their political power as citizens of this State to interfere with the political condition of those States where they have an industrial stake.
The essentially illicit nature of this use of the public resources of the nation to safeguard and improve private investments should be clearly recognised. If I put my savings in a home investment, I take into consideration all the chances and changes to which the business is liable, including the possibilities of political changes of tariff, taxation, or industrial legislation which may affect its profits. In the case of such investment, I am quite aware that I have no right to call upon the public to protect me from loss or depreciation of my capital due to any of these causes. The political conditions of my country are taken into calculation at the time of my investment. If I invest in consols, I fully recognise that no right of political interference with foreign policy affecting my investment is accorded to me in virtue of my interest as a fund-holder. But, if I invest either in the public funds or in some private industrial venture in a foreign country for the benefit of my private purse, getting specially favourable terms to cover risks arising from the political insecurity of the country or the deficiencies of its Government, I am entitled to call upon my Government to use its political and military force to secure me against those very risks which I have already discounted in the terms of my investment. Can anything be more palpably unfair?
It may be said that no such claim of the individual investor upon State aid is admitted. But while the theory may not have been openly avowed, recent history shows a growth of consistent practice based upon its tacit acceptance. I need not retrace the clear chain of evidence, consisting chiefly of the admissions of the mining capitalists, by which this claim to use public resources for their private profit has been enforced by the financiers who seduced our Government and people into our latest and most costly exploit. This is but the clearest and most dramatic instance of the operation of the world-wide forces of international finance: These forces are commonly described as capitalistic, but the gravest danger arises not from genuine industrial investments in foreign lands, but from the handling of stocks and shares based upon these investments by financiers. Those who own a genuine stake in the natural resources or the industry of a foreign land have at least some substantial interest in the peace and good government of that land; but the stock speculator has no such stake: his interest lies in the oscillations of paper values, which require fluctuation and insecurity of political conditions as their instrument.
As these forms of international investment and finance are wider spread and better organised for economic and political purposes, these demands for political and military interference with foreign countries, on the ground of protecting the property of British subjects, will be more frequent and more effective; the demands of investors will commonly be backed by personal grievances of British outlanders, and we shall be drawn into a series of interferences with foreign Governments, which, if we can conduct them successfully, will lead to annexation of territory as the only security for the lives and property of our subjects.
That this policy marks a straight road to ruin there can be no doubt. But how to stop it. What principle of safety can we lay down? Only one—an absolute repudiation of the right of British subjects to call upon their Government to protect their persons or property from injuries or dangers incurred on their private initiative. This principle is just and expedient. If we send an emissary on a public mission into a foreign country, let us support and protect him by our public purse and arms; if a private person, or a company of private persons, place their lives or property in a foreign land, seeking their own ends, let them clearly understand that they do so at their own risk, and that the State will not act for their protection.
If so complete a reversal of our consistent policy be regarded as a counsel of perfection involving a definite abandonment of domiciliary, trading, and other rights secured by existing treaties or conventions with foreign States, upon the observance of which we are entitled to insist, let us at any rate lay down two plain rules of policy. First, never to sanction any interference on the part of our foreign representatives on general grounds of foreign misgovernment outside the strict limits of our treaty rights, submitting interpretation of such treaty rights to arbitration. Secondly, if in any case armed force is applied to secure the observance of these treaty rights, to confine such force to the attainment of the -specific object which justifies its use.
Analysis of Imperialism, with its natural supports, militarism, oligarchy, bureaucracy, protection, concentration of capital and violent trade fluctuations, has marked it out as the supreme danger of modern national States. The power of the imperialist forces within the nation to use the national resources for their private gain, by operating the instrument of the State, can only be overthrown by the establishment of a genuine democracy, the direction of public policy by the people for the people through representatives over whom they exercise a real control. Whether this or any other nation is yet competent for such a democracy may well be matter of grave doubt, but until and unless the external policy of a nation is "broad-based upon a people's will" there appears little hope of remedy. The scare of a great recent war may for a brief time check the confidence of these conspirators against the commonwealth, and cause them to hold their hands, but the financial forces freshly generated will demand new outlets, and will utilise the same political alliances and the same social, religious, and philanthropic supports in their pressure for new enterprises. The circumstances of each new imperialist exploit differ from those of all preceding ones: whatever ingenuity is requisite for the perversion of the public intelligence, or the inflammation of the public sentiment, will be forthcoming.
Imperialism is only beginning to realise its full resources, and to develop into a fine art the management of nations: the broad bestowal of a franchise, wielded by a people whose education has reached the stage of an uncritical ability to read printed matter, favours immensely the designs of keen business politicians, who, by controlling the press, the schools, and where necessary the churches, impose Imperialism upon the masses under the attractive guise of sensational patriotism.
The chief economic source of Imperialism has been found in the inequality of industrial opportunities by which a favoured class accumulates superfluous elements of income which, in their search for profitable investments, press ever farther afield: the influence on State policy of these investors and their financial managers secures a national alliance of other vested interests which are threatened by movements of social reform: the adoption of Imperialism thus serves the double purpose of securing private material benefits for favoured classes of investors and traders at the public cost, while sustaining the general cause of conservatism by diverting public energy and interest from domestic agitation to external employment.
The ability of a nation to shake off this dangerous usurpation of its power, and to employ the national resources in the national interest, depends upon the education of a national intelligence and a national will, which shall make democracy a political and economic reality. To term Imperialism a national policy is an impudent falsehood: the interests of the nation are opposed to every act of this expansive policy. Every enlargement of Great Britain in the tropics is a distinct enfeeblement of true British nationalism. Indeed, Imperialism is commended in some quarters for this very reason, that by breaking the narrow bounds of nationalities it facilitates and forwards internationalism. There are even those who favour or condone the forcible suppression of small nationalities by larger ones under the impulse of Imperialism, because they imagine that this is the natural approach to a world-federation and eternal peace. A falser view of political evolution it is difficult to conceive. If there is one condition precedent to effective internationalism or to the establishment of any reliable relations between States, it is the existence of strong, secure, well-developed, and responsible nations. Internationalism can never be subserved by the suppression or forcible absorption of nations; for these practices react disastrously upon the springs of internationalism, on the one hand setting nations on their armed defence and stifling the amicable approaches between them, on the other debilitating the larger nations through excessive corpulence and indigestion. The hope of a coming internationalism enjoins above all else the maintenance and natural growth of independent nationalities, for without such there could be no gradual evolution of internationalism, but only a series of unsuccessful attempts at a chaotic and unstable cosmopolitanism. As individualism is essential to any sane form of national socialism, so nationalism is essential to internationalism: no organic conception of world-politics can be framed on any other supposition.
Just in proportion as the substitution of true national governments for the existing oligarchies or sham democracies becomes possible will the apparent conflicts of national interests disappear, and the fundamental cooperation upon which nineteenth-century Free Trade prematurely relied manifest itself. The present class government means the severance or antagonism of nations, because each ruling class can only keep and use its rule by forcing the antagonisms of foreign policy: intelligent democracies would perceive their identity of interest, and would ensure it by their amicable policy. The genuine forces of internationalism, thus liberated, would first display themselves as economic forces, securing more effective international co-operation for postal, telegraphic, railway, and other transport services, for monetary exchange and for common standards of measurement of various kinds, and for the improved intercommunication of persons, goods, and information. Related and subsidiary to these purposes would come a growth of machinery of courts and congresses, at first informal and private, but gradually taking shape in more definite and more public machinery: the common interests of the arts and sciences would everywhere be weaving an elaborate network of intellectual internationalism, and both economic and intellectual community of needs and interests would contribute to the natural growth of such political solidarity as was required to maintain this real community.
It is thus, and only thus, that the existing false antagonisms of nations, with their wastes and perils and their retardation of the general course of civilisation, can be resolved. To substitute for this peaceful discovery and expression of common interests a federal policy proceeding upon directly selfish political and military interests, the idea which animates an Anglo-Saxon alliance or a Pan-Teutonic empire, is deliberately to choose a longer, more difficult, and far more hazardous road to internationalism. The economic bond is far stronger and more reliable as a basis of growing internationalism than the so-called racial bond or a political alliance constructed on some short-sighted computation of a balance of power. It is, of course, quite possible that a Pan-Slav, Pan-Teutonic, Pan-British, or Pan-Latin alliance might, if the federation were kept sufficiently voluntary and elastic, contribute to the wider course of internationalism. But the frankly military purpose commonly assigned for such alliances bodes ill for such assistance. It is far more likely that such alliances would be formed in the interests of the "imperialist" classes of the contracting nations, in order the more effectively to exploit the joint national resources.
We have foreshadowed the possibility of even a larger alliance of Western States, a European federation of great Powers which, so far from forwarding the cause of world-civilisation, might introduce the gigantic peril of a Western parasitism, a group of advanced industrial nations, whose upper classes drew vast tribute from Asia and Africa, with which they supported great tame masses of retainers, no longer engaged in the staple industries of agriculture and manufacture, but kept in the performance of personal or minor industrial services under the control of a new financial aristocracy. Let those who would scout such a theory as undeserving of consideration examine the economic and social condition of districts in Southern England to-day which are already reduced to this condition, and reflect upon the vast extension of such a system which might be rendered feasible by the subjection of China to the economic control of similar groups of financiers, investors, and political and business officials, draining the greatest potential reservoir of profit the world has ever known, in order to consume it in Europe. The situation is far too complex, the play of world-forces far too incalculable, to render this or any other single interpretation of the future very probable: but the influences which govern the Imperialism of Western Europe to-day are moving in this direction, and, unless counteracted or diverted, make towards some such consummation.
If the ruling classes of the Western nations could realise their interests in such a combination (and each year sees capitalism more obviously international), and if China were unable to develop powers of forcible resistance, the opportunity of a parasitic Imperialism which should reproduce upon a vaster scale many of the main features of the later Roman Empire visibly presents itself.
Whether we regard Imperialism upon this larger scale or as confined to the policy of Great Britain, we find much that is closely analogous to the Imperialism of Rome.
The rise of a money-loaning aristocracy in Rome, composed of keen, unscrupulous men from many nations, who filled the high offices of State with their creatures, political "bosses" or military adventurers, who had come to the front as usurers, publicans, or chiefs of police in the provinces, was the most distinctive feature of later imperial Rome. This class was continually recruited from returned officials and colonial millionaires. The large incomes drawn in private official plunder, public tribute, usury and official incomes from the provinces had the following reactions upon Italy. Italians were no longer wanted for working the land or for manufactures, or even for military service. "The later campaigns on the Rhine and the Danube," it is pointed out, "were really slavehunts on a gigantic scale."
The Italian farmers, at first drawn from rural into military life, soon found themselves permanently ousted from agriculture by the serf labour of the latifundia, and they and their families were sucked into the dregs of town life, to be subsisted as a pauper population upon public charity. A mercenary colonial army came more and more to displace the home forces. The parasitic city life, with its lowered vitality and the growing infrequency of marriage, to which Gibbon draws attention, rapidly impaired the physique of the native population of Italy, and Rome subsisted more and more upon immigration of raw vigour from Gaul and Germany. The necessity of maintaining powerful mercenary armies to hold the provinces heightened continually the peril, already manifest in the last years of the Republic, arising from the political ambitions of great pro-consuls conspiring with a moneyed interest at Rome against the Commonwealth. As time went on, this moneyed oligarchy became an hereditary aristocracy, and withdrew from military and civil service, relying more and more upon hired foreigners: themselves sapped by luxury and idleness, and tainting by mixed servitude and licence the Roman populace, they so enfeebled the State as to destroy the physical and moral vitality required to hold in check and under government the vast repository of forces in the exploited Empire. The direct cause of Rome's decay and fall is expressed politically by the term "over-centralisation," which conveys in brief the real essence of Imperialism as distinguished from national growth on the one hand and colonialism upon the other. Parasitism, practised through taxation and usury, involved a constantly increasing centralisation of the instruments of government, and a growing strain upon this government, as the prey became more impoverished by the drain and showed signs of restiveness. "The evolution of this centralised society was as logical as every other work of nature. When force reached the stage where it expressed itself exclusively through money the governing class ceased to be chosen because they were valiant or eloquent, artistic, learned or devout, and were selected solely because they had the faculty of acquiring and keeping wealth. As long as the weak retained enough vitality to produce something which could be absorbed, this oligarchy was invariable; and, for very many years after the native peasantry of Gaul and Italy had perished from the land, new blood, injected from more tenacious races, kept the dying civilisation alive. The weakness of the moneyed class lay in this very power, for they not only killed the producer, but in the strength of their acquisitiveness they failed to propagate themselves."
This is the largest, plainest instance history presents of the social parasitic process by which a moneyed interest within the State, usurping the reins of government, makes for imperial expansion in order to fasten economic suckers into foreign bodies so as to drain them of their wealth in order to support domestic luxury. The new Imperialism differs in no vital point from this old example. The element of political tribute is now absent or quite subsidiary, and the crudest forms of slavery have disappeared: some elements of more genuine and disinterested government serve to qualify and mask the distinctively parasitic nature of the later sort. But nature is not mocked: the laws which, operative throughout nature, doom the parasite to atrophy, decay, and final extinction, are not evaded by nations any more than by individual organisms. The greater complexity of the modern process, the endeavour to escape the parasitic reaction by rendering some real but quite unequal and inadequate services to "the host," may retard but cannot finally avert the natural consequences of living upon others. The claim that an imperial State forcibly subjugating other peoples and their lands does so for the purpose of rendering services to the conquered equal to those which she exacts is notoriously false: she neither intends equivalent services nor is capable of rendering them, and the pretence that such benefits to the governed form a leading motive or result of Imperialism implies a degree of moral or intellectual obliquity so grave as itself to form a new peril for any nation fostering so false a notion of the nature of its conduct." Let the motive be in the deed, not in the event," says a Persian proverb.
Imperialism is a depraved choice of national life, imposed by self-seeking interests which appeal to the lusts of quantitative acquisitiveness and of forceful domination surviving in a nation from early centuries of animal struggle for existence. Its adoption as a policy implies a deliberate renunciation of that cultivation of the higher inner qualities which for a nation as for an individual constitutes the ascendency of reason over brute impulse. It is the besetting sin of all successful States, and its penalty is unalterable in the order of nature.
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