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would be of the nature of the British Cabinet itself, so far as a thing called into existence by authority can be like a thing which is purely the outgrowth of time, experience, and political exigency. It would be consultative, deliberative, receptive, communicative, with the freest possible scope for offering and receiving information and counsel, explaining the objects and interpreting the wishes of the distant governments, and assisting to reconcile conflicting interests in furtherance of the general good of the Empire. That cases will arise where the interests of the Australasian communities will be deemed in conflict with the interests of the Empire is sufficiently proved by the proposed annexation of New Guinea. We may be sure that other New Guinea difficulties will present themselves ; some arising from causes too palpable to be overlooked by present observers, and some to be generated by circumstances hereafter which are not now included in the wisest statesman's forecast. That all such difficulties arising between Australia and England would be best dealt with by some such body as the one I propose, understanding the interests and possessing the confidence of the Australian people, can hardly on any reasonable ground be doubted. If doubted, it seems incumbent upon those who doubt it to show some better means of preserving and strengthening the Imperial connection with the Colonies, as year by year those Colonies grow into the proportions, and cultivate the aspirations and habits, of free English states.
But how is this Council to be organised so as to secure the confi.dence of the Australian people, and at the same time ensure in its members those qualities of weighty knowledge, clear insight, well-tempered judgment, and conciliatory manners which are assumed to be necessary for the management of high affairs? In the first place, the Council should be clothed with such forms of dignity as would, together with the importance of its duties, make the honour of being a member of it an object of ambition to the best men in Australasia. The number of its members should be small-limited perhaps to one representative of each colony or state, irrespective of the difference in population. The electoral bodies should consist of the members of the respective Parliaments without distinction. If the present Australian colonies and New Zealand made up the federated States of Australasia, the number of the council would be seven. If Fiji and New Guinea were included, the number would be nine.
As a preliminary step, the same free institutions as are enjoyed by the other Australian colonies, and which have worked with so much benefit to the people, should be extended to Western Australia, though possibly with the reserved right to divide hereafter the enormous extent of territory now held by a mere handful of inhabitants. The area of Western Australia is more than eleven times larger than that of Victoria, and considerably more than three times larger than that of New South Wales, so that it is a fair question whether a new
colony should not be planted in a portion of that extensive territory. The smallness of the population in Western Australia, however, cannot be considered an objection to the introduction of parliamentary government any more than in British Columbia. At all events, the anomaly of this one Crown colony in the Australian group ought not to exist any longer. Even now it will be found a stumbling-block in the way of federation, and in any further advance it would be a serious impediment. Sooner or later, Western Australia must come into the family of free colonies, and the sooner she comes, the better for herself and the rest of the group.
This step taken, the Australias and New Zealand would be politically equal. Let the members of the two Houses of Parliament in each colony meet together for the purpose of electing a member of the Imperial Council, their power of election being limited to one, but their choice extending over all the colonies, as the interests of all the colonies would be represented in the Council. There might be definite qualifications for members, such, for example, as a fixed period of service in the legislature, or service as a Cabinet minister or in the higher offices of state; although I should attach little value to any such qualifications, believing that the constituency which is proposed would in every case send a good man to London. But I should consider it important that restrictions should be imposed upon persons offering themselves, or assuming the position of candidate, for a seat in the Council, and against persons canvassing for votes, so that the choice should be perfectly free and untrammelled. The parliamentary constituency might meet to place persons in nomination, say not more than three; and on a subsequent day meet to elect from the number so nominated. So chosen, there can be no doubt in the mind of any person thoroughly acquainted with the Australian populations that the Council of Australia would be a body which Her Majesty's ministers at Westminster would regard with consideration and respect. For more than twenty-seven years the parliamentary colonies have filled the highest offices in a free community; they have made presidents and speakers of the Houses of Parliament, Chief Justices and Judges of the Supreme Court, heads of large and important departments, and chiefs of military forces, not only without scandal, but, so far as I know, with credit to the several governments and satisfaction to the people. It cannot be doubted that they would be equal to the occasion of electing their representative council in London, nor can it be doubted that the men on whom the honouring choice should fall would rise to the higher range of their new duties. Englishmen in Australia are only Englishmen with a more ardent temperament; they will be found equal to whatever Englishmen can do in other parts of the world.
In the several young states of Australasia, a change of ministry frequently occurs. Not that our Governments are of a more transitory character than those of other countries. The last Administration, of which I was myself the head, existed for more than four years. I recollect mentioning that fact to M. De Freycinet, who, with a desponding smile, expressed bis fear that his would not last longer than that number of months. Frequently Australian Governments continue in existence three years and more, but in the six existing Governments a ministerial change, in one colony or other, is frequent. But this would in nowise affect the permanent and consistent representation of Australasian interests in the Council in London. If it were a question of keeping faith with predecessors in office, faith would be kept. The Australian Parliaments have at all times shown a jealous care of the public honour; have uniformly fulfilled all engagements to which their respective countries have been committed. But the Council of Australia would not represent any division of the country, or any section of the population ; it would represent the whole of the united colonies, and every section of their aggregated people. The men chosen for its work would always be men widely known for their knowledge of the country, and the value of their services. It would not derive its authority from any Executive Government, but from the free choice of the several Parliaments. It would have no party character, but, being national in its very conception and structure, it would soon engender, by its own working, broad sympathies with the progress of Australasia as a noble part of the Empire. It would be open alike to the cause of the smallest and the cause of the largest of the colonies, and would represent the cause of each in the light of the public good of all; and this, too, in relation to the welfare and honour of the whole British people.
Let it be recollected, as I have said, that I am looking to the future. The doctrine of laissez faire may do for a little while; it cannot in the nature of things continue long. In the future—in the near future- questions will arise much more knotty than the annexation of New Guinea, the harmonising of conflicting tariffs, the influx of alien races, which is far from being settled, the hard impingement on Australian interests of treaties with foreign nations, the ocean trade of the Colonies, and, above all, the attitude of the Colonies if, unhappily, Great Britain should be involved in a great war. In the latter case, the question ought not to be, What protection can be extended from the mother country ? but, What aid can be rendered by Australia ? These and many more questions of the first magnitude, some updreamt-of in our day, will come up for solution. How can they be solved, without a rupture, by the old-fashioned machinery which now exists? It is because I love Old England, because I see according to my lights the grand future possible to the English people, that I try to point out the breakers which I think I clearly see not far ahead of our present course. Those who wrap themselves up in an obstinate sense of security, are almost always awakened from their dreams by a sudden shock.
THE COLONIES OF FRANCE.
Ar the present moment, when the spirited colonial policy of France is attracting general attention, when this policy is being supported by armed expeditions in Tonkin, in Madagascar, and on the Congo, it may be of interest to give a general summary of the present position of the French colonial possessions. As Englishmen we are wont to ridicule the pretensions of the French as colonisers, and though the Parisian press warmly resents such views, a study of history and of the general feelings of the middle and lower classes of the French population, laying op one side entirely the unfortunate pecuniary condition of the colonies, is more than enough to confirm an impartial observer in the generally accepted idea that the French cannot colonise. It is true that under Louis the Fourteenth the white flag of the Bourbons covered many a possession long since transferred to other Powers, and it is possible that, had these territories remained in the hands of the early French settlers, they might now have been profitable appendages to the Republic; it is equally true that the colonies restored to France by the Treaties of Paris of 1814 and 1815 were situated in climes where colonisation is difficult, and where the life of a European labourer is practically forbidden, and thus the prosperity of her distant possessions was, as it were, heavily handicapped. Still the fact remains that the colonies which France possesses at the present day are a serious drain on the expenditure of the mother country, afford no field for the emigration of its surplus poorer population, are so over-ridden by bureaucracy as to be very unpleasant places of residence for all but the official classes, and swallow up in garrisons a force larger than the standing army of Great Britain, and far larger than that with which we hold India.
The French colonies in round numbers consist of 386,000 square miles, with a population of five and a half millons and a garrison of 121,000 men.
In Asia she has the establishments: in India of Pondicherry, Karikal, Chanderoagore, and Mahé, besides the comparatively recently conquered province of Cochin China.
In Africa : the islands of Réunion, Mayotte, and Nossi Bé; Senegal, the Gold Coast and Gaboon.
In America : the islands of Martinique, Guadaloupe, and their dependencies, French Guiana, and the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon off the Newfoundland coast.
In the southern Pacific Ocean : New Caledonia, the penal settlement, Tahiti and the neighbouring islands, which have lately been placed under French protection.
On the first occupation of these colonies, the government was as a rule left in the hands of the early settlers, who, either by purchase or by force of arms, became lords of the soil; but as time rolled on and the direction of affairs was entrusted to trading companies (analogous to our East India Company as it was in the seventeenth century), it became evident that some permanent official connection must be established with the parent kingdom. In or about the year 1635, Governors-General were appointed to the various French colonies by order of the King, but they were expressly forbidden from interfering in any way with matters concerning commerce or the sale of lands; they were, in fact, Captains-General and Governors-in-Chief entrusted with all measures for the defence of the colonies to which they were appointed, and for the efficient carrying on of legislation. It was not long, however, before the anomalous position of these officials was shown by the acrimonious quarrels which arose between them and the settlers, and in the year 1679 a civilian administrator was appointed to assist Governors in the more purely administrative portion of their duties, their hands being further strengthened in the year 1789 by the nomination of colonial assemblies in all the chief dependencies. The Constitution of 1791, overwhelming as it was in its effects on the mother country, did not deal with the colonies, but a special decree of September of that year introduced fundamental changes in the government of the French possessions. Pressure of business at home prevented the Directory from giving effect to its new ruling, and it was not until a decree of the Senate dated the 4th of August, 1803, that any actual alteration was carried out, when the Captains-General were supported by colonial Préfets and colonial judges. In 1814, fresh steps became necessary, in order to put an end to the endless bickerings between colonial officials, and special laws were passed defining the power of the various authorities and granting municipal councils to the chief towns in the colonies. Rest has never been an attribute of the French legislator, and the colonies have suffered in no small degree from the never-ending tinkering at the hands of the Chambers. In 1825, 1827, 1828, 1830, 1833, 1840, and 1844, fresh laws were passed dealing with colonial administration, and each fresh law brought with it fresh taxation and raised fresh grievances.
At last, in 1848, the abolition of slavery fell with such a heavy blow on colonial proprietors that the Senate was compelled to sanction the formation of a Commission to study the measures best calculated to ameliorate the condition of the impoverished landlords, and