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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 4

The Field, 24th June 1876

The Field, 24th June 1876.

This pamphlet presents a most able argument for the establishment of a great museum, which shall serve the purpose of bringing before the English public specimens of the productions both of our vast Indian empire, and also of those colonies, varied in their size and use and existing in all parts of the world, which justify us in speaking also of our colonial empire. It advocates the erection side by side, on the old Fife House site on the Thames Embankment, of two independent museums, one for India, and the other for the colonies. It proposes page 18 that the Colonial Museum should consist of sections representing separately each colony, and that provision should be made both for the India Library and for a special Colonial Library and Reading-room. The rooms of the Royal Asiatic Society might be contained in the building devoted to the India Museum, and those of the Royal Colonial Institute in those of the Colonial Museum. In the latter building might also be concentrated the business of the colonies, by placing there the offices of the Crown agents and of the agents-general for the colonies.

The whole scheme, as will thus be seen, is one not only to promote the speedy despatch of business by bringing many now scattered offices into one spot, but is also one which would be certain to bring about a more intelligent knowledge of our colonies and their capabilities. If definite information is now wanted about any colony, or about India, it has to be hunted up in many, and not always convenient, places. Were such a scheme as that proposed by Dr. Forbes Watson to be carried out, anyone desiring information of this kind would know certainly where it could be obtained, and would have ample means of comparison between the colony he was studying and others most nearly allied to it.

In his pamphlet, Dr. Forbes Watson shows the importance of the trade of India and the colonies with England; and we would draw the attention of those who say that our colonies would trade with us equally, whether they were independent or not, to the following statement:—

India finds a complete parallel in China, yet, with a smaller and poorer population, it absorbs more than three times the value of English produce, even when including the trade of Hong Kong with that of China proper; the figures for 1874 giving 24,000,000 for India, and about 8,000,000 for China and Hong Kong. Again, Australia and Canada may be compared with the United Stales. These latter, with a population exceeding 40,000,000), imported in 1874 a smaller quantity of English manufactures than Australia and Canada together, though with a population of less than 6,000,000. This fact shows of what vital importance to England is the direction into which the stream of emigration is turned. Each emigrant sent to Canada represents a customer of English goods to the extent of 2l. 10s. per annum; if sent to Australia, of 8l. per annum; whereas if the same emigrant were settled in the United States, he would not require more than 15s. worth per annum of English manufactures. In fact, not only are there no other markets in the world which, in proportion to population, consume such large quantities of English manufactures, but there are also no markets which depend so exclusively upon England for the supply of manufactures as ' India and the colonies.

The colonies are classified by the author under the three heads of trading stations or trade entrepôts, such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and Aden; plantation colonies, as the West Indies, Mauritius, and Ceylon; and the real colonies, settled by English people, as Canada, the Cape, and Australia, which he arranges into agricultural, pastoral, and mining. With regard to each of the colonies, classified as above, he gives most important statistics as to trade and population.

The special character of the Indian trade makes it be treated apart, and the author shows that India combines the characteristics of the trading stations and plantation colonies with the special opening which it affords for the occupation of professional Englishmen. At some future time, which yet seems far off, he hopes that colonization by Englishmen may take place in the cool valleys of the Himalaya and Nilghiri ranges.

page 19

Having shown the importance which such museums as those proposed would possess, Dr. Watson proceeds to discuss the question of sites. The India Museum, after various changes of place, has found a temporary home in the galleries at South Kensington, and to this locality as a temporary home he offers no objection; but the site is too far away from the centres of political and business life to allow of its being looked upon as a suitable place for permanent museums. The Fife House site, as a little map well shows, is accessible both from east and west, while South Kensington requires a special pilgrimage to reach it. Moreover, it is understood that the colonies will not support a proposal to place their museum at South Kensington, whereas they will respond heartily if a site on the Embankment be obtained. If Government does not see its way to purchasing a site on the Embankment, it is intended to make an effort to raise the money by subscription; and the joint committee of the Royal Asiatic Society and the Royal Colonial Institute are bestirring themselves in the matter.

Dr. Forbes Watson's pamphlet is worthy of perusal, not merely on account of its arguments in favour of a scheme which has a national interest, but also because it abounds in facts with regard to India and the colonies which are of great interest to all who watch the progress of our empire.