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CHAPTER XXVII.: government colonization. - Herbert Spencer, Social Statics 
Social Statics: or, The Conditions essential to Happiness specified, and the First of them Developed, (London: John Chapman, 1851).
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A colony being a community, to ask whether it is right for the state to found and govern colonies, is practically to ask, whether it is right for one community to found and govern other communities. And this question not being one in which the relationships of a society to its own authorities are alone involved, but being one into which there enter the interests of parties external to such society, is in some measure removed out of the class of questions hitherto considered. Nevertheless, our directing principle affords satisfactory guidance in this case as well as in the others.
That a government cannot undertake to administer the affairs of a colony, and to support for it a judicial staff, a constabulary, a garrison, and so forth, without trespassing against the parent society, scarcely needs pointing out. Any expenditure for these purposes, be it like our own some three and a half millions sterling a year, or but a few thousands, involves a breach of state-duty. The taking from men property beyond what is needful for the better securing of their rights, we have seen to be an infringement of their rights. Colonial expenditure cannot be met without property being so taken. Colonial expenditure is therefore unjustifiable.
An objector might indeed allege, that by maintaining in a settlement a subordinate legislature, the parent legislature does but discharge towards the settlers its original office of protector, and that the settlers have a claim to protection at its hands. But the duty of a society towards itself, that is, of a government towards its subjects, will not permit the assumption of such a responsibility. For, as it is the function of a government to administer the law of equal freedom, it cannot, without reversing its function, tax one portion of its subjects at a higher rate than is needful to protect them, that it may give protection to another portion below prime cost; and to guard those who emigrate, at the expense of those who remain, is to do this. Manifestly, the guardianship which a nation in its corporate capacity extends to each of its members, is limited by conditions. The citizen must defray his share of the expenses, must agree to perform certain political duties, and must reside within specified geographical boundaries. If he prefers to go elsewhere, it may be presumed that he has duly considered, on the one hand, the benefits promised by his contemplated emigration, and on the other, the evils attending loss of citizenship, and that the prospective advantages of a change preponderate. At any rate he cannot show that, by refusing to send out officers to the antipodes to take care of him, society violates a recognised or implied contract.
Moreover, colonial government, properly so called, cannot be carried on without transgressing the rights of the colonists. For if, as generally happens, the colonists are dictated to by authorities sent out from the mother country, then the law of equal freedom is broken in their persons, as much as by any other kind of autocratic rule. If, again, they are allowed to administer their own affairs, the parent state retaining only a veto-power, there is still injustice in the assumption of greater freedom by the members of the old community than is conceded to those of the new one. And if the new community is as completely self-governed as the old one, then, politically speaking, it is not a colony at all, but a separate nation. In one way, however, legislative union between a parent state and its colonies may be maintained without breach of the law; namely, by making them integral parts of one empire, severally represented in a united assembly commissioned to govern the whole. But theoretically just as such an arrangement may be, and even carried out though it is by France, it is still too palpably impolitic for serious consideration. To propose that, whilst the English joined in legislating for the people of Australia, of the Cape, of New Zealand, of Canada, of Jamaica, and of the rest, these should in turn legislate for the English, and for each other, is much like proposing that the butcher should superintend the classification of the draper’s goods, the draper draw up a tariff of prices for the grocer, and the grocer instruct the baker in making bread.
Hence, the political union of a parent state with a colony is inadmissible; seeing that, as usually maintained, such union necessarily infringes the rights of the members of both communities, and seeing that it cannot be made just without at the same time being made absurdly unfit.
It was exceedingly cool of Pope Alexander VI. to parcel out the unknown countries of the Earth between the Spaniards and Portuguese, granting to Spain all discovered and undiscovered heathen lands lying west of a certain meridian drawn through the Atlantic, and to Portugal those lying east of it. Queen Elizabeth, too, was somewhat cool, when she empowered Sir Humphrey Gilbert “to discover and take possession of remote and heathen countries,” and “to exercise rights, royalties, and jurisdiction, in such countries and seas adjoining.” Nor did Charles II. show less coolness, when he gave to Winthrop, Mason, and others, power to “kill, slay, and destroy, by all fitting ways, enterprises, and means whatsoever, all and every such person or persons as shall at any time hereafter attempt or enterprise the destruction, invasion, detriment, or annoyance of the inhabitants,” of the proposed plantation of Connecticut. Indeed, all colonizing expeditions down to those of our own day, with its American annexations, its French occupations of Algiers and Tahiti, and its British conquests of Scinde, and of the Punjaub, have borne a very repulsive likeness to the doings of buccaneers. As usual, however, these unscrupulous acts have brought deserved retributions. Insatiate greediness—a mere blind impulse to clutch whatever lies within reach—has generated very erroneous beliefs, and betrayed nations into most disastrous deeds. “Men are rich in proportion to their acres,” argued politicians. “An increase of estate is manifestly equivalent to an increase of wealth. What, then, can be clearer than that the acquirement of new territory must be a national advantage?” So, misled by the analogy, and spurred on by acquisitiveness, we have continued to seize province after province, in utter disregard of the losses uniformly entailed by them. In fact, it has been inconceivable that they do entail losses. That the addition of anything must enrich seems so self-evident a truth, that it has never struck men to ask what happens when the thing added is a minus quantity. And even now, though doubt is beginning to dawn upon the public mind, the instinctive desire to keep hold is too strong to permit a change of policy. Our predicament is like that of the monkey in the fable, who, putting his hand into a jar of fruit, grasps so large a quantity that he cannot get his hand out again, and is obliged to drag the jar about with him, never thinking to let go what he has seized. When we shall attain to something more than the ape’s wisdom remains to be seen. Happily the old piratical spirit is on the decline. A conquest is no longer gloried in as a national aggrandizement. Our last Indian annexation was lamented as an unfortunate necessity. Experience is fast teaching us that distant dependencies are burdens, and not acquisitions. And thus this earliest motive for state-colonization—the craving for wider possessions—will very soon be destroyed by the conviction that territorial aggression is as impolitic as it is unjust.
Whilst the mere propensity to thieve,—commonly known under some grandiloquent alias, disguised by glittering falsehoods, and made sublime in men’s eyes by the largeness of its aims,—has been the real prompter of colonizing invasions, from those of Cortez and Pizarro downwards, the ostensible purpose of them has been either the spread of religion or the extension of commerce. In modern days the latter excuse has been the favourite one. To obtain more markets—this is what people have said aloud to each other, was the object aimed at. And, though second to the widening of empire, it has been to the compassing of this object that colonial legislation has been mainly directed. Let us consider the worth of such legislation.
Those holy men of whom the middle ages were so prolific, seem to have delighted in exhibiting their supernatural powers on the most trifling occasions. It was a common feat with them, when engaged in church-building, magically to lengthen a beam which the carpenter had made too short. Some were in the constant habit of calling down fire from heaven to light their candles. When at a loss where to deposit his habiliments, St. Goar, of Treves, would transform a sunbeam into a hat-peg. And it is related of St. Columbanus that he wrought a miracle to keep the grubs from his cabbages. Now, although these examples of the use of vast means for the accomplishment of insignificant ends are not quite paralleled by the exertions of governments to secure colonial trade, the absurdity attaching to both differs only in degree. An expenditure of power ridiculously disproportionate to the occasion is their common characteristic. In the one case, as in the other, an unnatural agency is employed to effect what a natural agency would effect as well. Trade is a simple enough thing that will grow up wherever there is room for it. But, according to statesmen, it must be created by a gigantic and costly machinery. That trade only is advantageous to a country which brings in return for what is directly and indirectly given, a greater worth of commodities than could otherwise be obtained. But statesmen recognize no such limit to its benefits. Every new outlet for English goods, kept open at no matter what cost, they think valuable. Here is some scrubby little island, or wild territory—unhealthy, or barren, or inclement, or uninhabited even—which by right of discovery, conquest, or diplomatic manœuvring, may be laid hands on. Possession is forthwith taken; a high salaried governor is appointed; officials collect round him; then follow forts, garrisons, guardships; from these by-and-bye come quarrels with neighbouring peoples, incursions, war; and these again call for more defensive works, more force, more money. And to all protests against this reckless expenditure, the reply is—“Consider how it extends our commerce.” If you grumble at the sinking of £800,000 in fortifying Gibraltar and Malta, at the outlay of £130,000 a year for the defence of the Ionian Islands, at the maintenance of 1200 soldiers in such a good-for-nothing place as the Bermudas, at the garrisoning of St. Helena, Hong Kong, Heligoland, and the rest, you are told that all this is needful for the protection of our commerce. If you object to the expenditure of £110,000 per annum on the government of Ceylon, it is thought a sufficient answer that Ceylon buys manufactures from us to the gross value of £240,000 yearly. Any criticisms you may pass upon the policy of retaining Canada, at an annual cost of £800,000, are met by the fact that this amounts to only 30 per cent. upon the sum which the Canadians spend on our goodsa . Should you, under the fear that the East India Company’s debt may some day be saddled upon the people of England, lament the outlay of £17,000,000 over the Affghan war, the sinking of £1,000,000 a year in Scinde, and the swallowing up of untold treasure in the subjugation of the Punjaub, there still comes the everlasting excuse of more trade. A Bornean jungle, the deserts of Kaffraria, and the desolate hills of the Falkland Islands, are all occupied upon this plea. The most profuse expenditure is forgiven, if but followed by an insignificant demand for merchandise; even though such demand be but for the supply of a garrison’s necessities—glass for barrack windows, starch for officers’ shirts, and lump-sugar for the governor’s table—all of which you shall find carefully included in Board of Trade Tables, and rejoiced over as constituting an increase in our exports.
But not only do we expend so much to gain so little, we absolutely expend it for nothing; nay, indeed, in some cases to achieve a loss. All profitable trade with colonies will come without the outlay of a penny for colonial administration—must flow to us naturally; and whatever trade will not flow to us naturally, is not profitable, but the reverse. If a given settlement deals solely with us, it does so from one of two causes: either we make the articles its inhabitants consume at a lower rate than any other nation, or we oblige its inhabitants to buy those articles from us, though they might obtain them for less elsewhere. Manifestly, if we can undersell other producers, we should still exclusively supply its markets, were the settlement independent. If we cannot undersell them, it is equally certain that we are indirectly injuring ourselves and the settlers too; for, as M’Culloch says:—“Each country has some natural or acquired capabilities that enable her to carry on certain branches of industry more advantageously than any one else. But the fact of a country being undersold in the markets of her colonies, shows conclusively that, instead of having any superiority, she labours under a disadvantage, as compared with others, in the production of the peculiar articles in demand in them. And hence, in providing a forced market in the colonies for articles that we should not otherwise be able to dispose of, we really engage a portion of the capital and labour of the country in a less advantageous channel than that into which it would naturally have flowed.” And if to the injury we do ourselves by manufacturing goods which we could more economically buy, is added the injury we suffer in pacifying the colonists, by purchasing from them commodities obtainable on better terms elsewhere, we have before us the twofold loss which these much-coveted monopolies entail.
Thus are we again taught how worthy of all reverence are the injunctions of equity, and how universal is their applicability. Just that commercial intercourse with colonies which may be had without breaking these injunctions, brings gain; whilst just that commercial intercourse which cannot be so had, brings loss.
Passing from home interests to colonial interests, we still meet nothing but evil results. It is a prettily sounding expression that of mother-country protection, but a very delusive one. If we are to believe those who have known the thing rather than the name, there is but little of the maternal about it. In the Declaration of American Independence we have a candid statement of experience on this point. Speaking of the king—the personification of the parent state, the settlers say:—
“He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.
“He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
“He has kept among us in times of peace standing armies, without the consent of our legislatures.
“He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their pretended acts of legislation:—
“For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us.
“For protecting them by a mock trial from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states.
“For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world.
“For imposing taxes upon us without our consent.
“For depriving us in many cases of the benefits of trial by jury,” &c., &c., &c.
Now, though tyrannies so atrocious as these do not commonly disgrace colonial legislation in the present day, we have but to glance over the newspapers published in our foreign possessions, to see that the arbitrary rule of the Colonial Office is no blessing. Chronic irritation, varying in intensity from that of which petitions are symptomatic, to that exhibited in open rebellions, is habitually present in these forty-six scattered dependencies which statesmen have encumbered us with. Two outbreaks in fifteen years pretty plainly hint the feeling of the Canadas—a feeling still extant and growing, as recent events testify. Within the same period the Cape Boers have revolted thrice; and we have just had a tumultuous agitation and a violent paper war about convicts. In the West Indies there is universal discontent. Jamaica advices tell of stopped supplies, and state-machinery at a dead lock. Guiana sends like news. Here are quarrels about retrenchment; there, insurrectionary riots; and anger is everywhere. The name of Ceylon calls to mind the insolence of a titled governor on the one side, and on the other the bitterness of insulted colonists. In the Australian settlements, criminal immigration has been the sore subject; whilst from New Zealand there come protests against official despotism. All winds bring the same tale of a negligence caring for no expostulations, impertinence without end, blunderings, disputes, delays, corruption. Canadians complain of having been induced by a proffered privilege to sink their capital in flour-mills, which subsequent legislation made useless. With an ever-varying amount of protection, sugar-planters say they do not know what to be at. South Africa bears witness to a mismanagement that at one time makes enemies of the Griquas, and at another entails a Kaffir war. The emigrants of New Zealand lament over a seat of government absurdly chosen, money thrown away upon useless roads, and needful works left undone. South Australia is made bankrupt by its governor’s extravagance; lands are apportioned so as to barbarize the settlers by dispersion, and labourers are sent out in excess, and left to beg. Our Chinese trade gets endangered by the insulting behaviour of military officers to the natives; and the authorities of Labuan make their first settlement in a pestilential swamp.
Nevertheless, these odd results of mother-country protection need not surprise us, if we consider by whom the duties of maternity are discharged. Dotted here and there over the earth, at distances varying from one thousand to fourteen thousand miles, and to and from some of which it takes three-quarters of a year to send a question and get back an answer, are forty-six communities, consisting of different races, placed in different circumstances. And the affairs of these numerous, far-removed communities—their commercial, social, political, and religious interests, are to be cared for—by whom? By six functionaries and their twenty-three clerks, sitting at desks in Downing Street! being at the rate of 0.13 of a functionary and half a clerk to each settlement!
Is is not, then, sufficiently clear that this state-colonization is as indefensible on the score of colonial welfare, as on that of home interests? May we not reasonably doubt the propriety of people on one side of the earth being governed by officials on the other? Would not these transplanted societies probably manage their affairs better than we can do it for them? At any rate our benevolent anxiety on their behalf may be at rest, should it turn out that they would willingly dispense with our superintendence. All that the most romantic generosity can require from us, is the tender of our good offices; and should these be declined, our consciences may feel fully discharged of any assumed duty. Now on polling the inhabitants of each colony on the question whether England should continue legislating for them or not, we should be pretty certain to get the answer that, were it the same thing to us, they would much rather legislate for themselves.
Great, however, as are the evils entailed by government colonization upon both parent state and settlers, they look insignificant when compared with those it inflicts upon the aborigines of the conquered countries. The people of Java believe that the souls of Europeans pass at death into the bodies of tigers; and it is related of a Hispaniolan chief that he hoped not to go to heaven when he heard there would be Spaniards there. Significant facts these: darkly suggestive of many an unrecorded horror. But they hint nothing worse than history tells of. Whether we think of the extinct West-Indian tribes, who were worked to death in mines; or of the Cape Hottentots, whose masters punished them by shooting small shot into their legs; or of those nine thousand Chinese whom the Dutch massacred one morning in Batavia; or of the Arabs lately suffocated in the caves of Dahra by the French, we do but call to mind solitary samples of the treatment commonly received by subjugated races from so-called Christian nations. Should any one flatter himself that we English are guiltless of such barbarities, he may soon be shamed by a narrative of our doings in the East. The Anglo-Indians of the last century—“birds of prey and of passage,” as they were styled by Burke—showed themselves only a shade less cruel than their prototypes of Peru and Mexico. Imagine how black must have been their deeds, when even the Directors of the Company admitted that “the vast fortunes acquired in the inland trade have been obtained by a scene of the most tyrannical and oppressive conduct that was ever known in any age or country.” Conceive the atrocious state of society described by Vansittart, who tells us that the English compelled the natives to buy or sell at just what rates they pleased, on pain of flogging or confinement. Judge to what a pass things must have come when, in describing a journey, Warren Hastings says, “most of the petty towns and serais were deserted at our approach.” A cold-blooded treachery was the established policy of the authorities. Princes were betrayed into war with each other; and one of them having been helped to overcome his antagonist, was then himself dethroned for some alleged misdemeanor. Always some muddied stream was at hand as a pretext for official wolves. Dependent chiefs holding coveted lands were impoverished by exorbitant demands for tribute; and their ultimate inability to meet these demands was construed into a treasonable offence, punished by deposition. Even down to our own day kindred iniquities are continueda Down to our own day, too, are continued the grievous salt-monopoly, and the pitiless taxation, that wrings from the poor ryots nearly half the produce of the soil. Down to our own day continues the cunning despotism which uses native soldiers to maintain and extend native subjection—a despotism under which, not many years since, a regiment of sepoys was deliberately massacred, for refusing to march without proper clothing. Down to our own day the police authorities league with wealthy scamps, and allow the machinery of the law to be used for purposes of extortion. Down to our own day, so-called gentlemen will ride their elephants through the crops of impoverished peasants; and will supply themselves with provisions from the native villages without paying for them. And down to our own day, it is common with the people in the interior to run into the woods at sight of a European!
No one can fail to see that these cruelties, these treacheries, these deeds of blood and rapine, for which European nations in general have to blush, are mainly due to the carrying on of colonization under state-management, and with the help of state-funds and state-force. It is quite needless to point to the recent affair at Wairau in New Zealand, or to the Kaffir war, or to our perpetual aggressions in the East, or to colonial history at large, in proof of this, for the fact is self-evident. A schoolboy, made overbearing by the consciousness that there is always a big brother to take his part, typifies the colonist, who sees in his mother-country a bully ever ready to back and defend him. Unprotected emigrants, landing amongst a strange race, and feeling themselves the weaker party, are tolerably certain to behave well, and a community of them is likely to grow up in amicable relationship with the natives. But let these emigrants be followed by regiments of soldiers—let them have a fort built, and cannons mounted—let them feel that they have the upper hand, and they will no longer be the same men. A brutality will come out, which the discipline of civilized life had kept under; and not unfrequently they will prove more vicious than they even knew themselves to be. Various evil influences conspire with their own bad propensities. The military force guarding them has a strong motive to foment quarrels; for war promises prize-money. To the civil employés, conquest holds out a prospect of more berths and quicker promotion—a fact which must bias them in favour of it. Thus an aggressive tendency is encouraged in all—a tendency which is sure to show itself in acts, and to betray the colonists into some of those atrocities that disgrace civilization.
As though to round off the argument more completely, history presents us with proof that whilst government colonization is accompanied by endless miseries and abominations, colonization naturally carried on is free from these. Notwithstanding the misconduct he is accused of, to William Penn belongs the honour of having shown men that the kindness, justice, and truth of its inhabitants, are better safeguards to a colony than troops and fortifications and the bravery of governors. In all points Pennsylvania illustrates the equitable, as contrasted with the inequitable, mode of colonizing. It was founded not by the state, but by private individuals. It needed no mother-country protection, for it committed no breaches of the moral law. Its treaty with the Indians, described as “the only one ever concluded which was not ratified by an oath, and the only one that was never broken,” served it in better stead than any garrison. For the seventy years during which the Quakers retained the chief power, it enjoyed an immunity from that border warfare, with its concomitant losses, and fears, and bloodshed, to which other settlements were subject. On the other hand, its people maintained a friendly and mutually-beneficial intercourse with the natives; and, as a natural consequence of complete security, made unusually rapid progress in material prosperity.
That a like policy would have been similarly advantageous in other cases, may reasonably be inferred. No one can doubt, for instance, that had the East India Company been denied military aid and state-conferred privileges, both its own affairs, and the affairs of Hindostan, would have been in a far better condition than they now are. In sane longing for empire would never have burdened the Company with the enormous debt which at present paralyzes it. The energy that has been expended in aggressive wars would have been employed in developing the resources of the country. Unenervated by monopolies, trade would have been much more successful. The native rulers, influenced by a superior race on friendly terms with them, would have facilitated improvements; and we should not have seen, as now, rivers unnavigated, roads not bridged or metalled, and the proved capabilities of the soil neglected. Private enterprise would long ago have opened up these sources of wealth, as in fact it is at length doing, in spite of the discouragements thrown in its way by conquest-loving authorities. And had the settlers thus turned their attention wholly to the development of commerce, and conducted themselves peaceably, as their defenceless state would have compelled them to do, England would have been better supplied with raw materials, the markets for her goods would have enlarged, and something appreciable towards the civilization of the East would have been accomplished.
In many ways, then, does experience enforce the verdict pronounced by the law of state-duty against state-colonization. It turns out that extension of empire is not synonymous with increase of wealth; but that, on the contrary, aggressions bred of the desire for territorial gain, entail loss. The notion that we secure commercial benefits by legislative connection with colonies, is a proved delusion. At best we throw away the whole sum which colonial government costs us; whilst we may, and often do, incur further loss, by establishing an artificial trade. The plea for protection to the settlers must be abandoned; seeing that this so-called protection is in practice oppression; and seeing that the settlers, from whose judgment on the matter there is no appeal, hint very plainly their wish to dispense with it. As for the aborigines, it is manifest that the cruelties inflicted on them have been mainly due to the backing of emigrants by the parent state. And, lastly, we have conclusive proof not only that voluntary colonization is practicable, but that it is free from those many evils attendant upon colonization managed by a government.
[a]For these and other such facts, see Sir W. Molesworth’s speeches delivered during the sessions of 1848 and 1849.
[a]See Sir Alexander Burns dispatches.