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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57

Professor Seeley, Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Cambridge; Author of "The Expansion of England."

Professor Seeley, Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Cambridge; Author of "The Expansion of England."

"Dear Sir,

"As I am absent from England, and as it is impossible for me to attend your meeting, I hope I may be allowed to convey to it by letter my warm sympathy with those who have convened it. I am in hearty agreement not only with their purpose, but also with those more particular views of the Committee which are expressed in the minute of which you have sent me a copy.

"I heartily agree that it is not desirable at the present page 19 moment to raise a premature cry of Federation, or to discuss the details of a federal organisation. In such questions "ripeness is all;" discussed now, they might seem insurmountably difficult, but the difficulty will vanish if they are held in reserve till the proper time.

"I am also glad to hear that you receive support from both political parties. There is, indeed, no reason why politicians of every school should not meet in furthering an enterprise like this.

"Some, no doubt, of those who pride themselves upon being serious politicians will exclaim, 'Child's play!' but surely, on your Committee there are those who will not be denied to be serious politicians. Surely, too, if it be true that we may have too much even of a good thing, this is a moment when we have at least enough of party politics.

"I suppose it is the effect of party polities, making passion and discord almost the one motive force in public affairs, that has betrayed us into the unaccountable attitude which we assume towards the Empire. How else can it be accounted for that on the question of the Unity of the Empire the majority of Englishmen have actually no opinion?—and this not because they have considered it with anxious care, and have been unable to arrive at a conclusion, but because they have never considered it, have never studied it, and have no knowledge about it at all.

"To enlighten public opinion is the main object which the Committee propose that a Society should be formed to attain; and even if they had not the strong conviction which they have—which all of us have—of the desirableness of maintaining and strengthening the unity of the Empire, it would still be urgently necessary that public opinion should be enlightened upon the subject—that, at least, the existence of this vast Empire should be impressed upon the mind and imagination of every Englishman, rich and poor, whether in England or the Colonies, is urgently necessary.

"The idea ought to be popularised and diffused—a page 20 whole literature ought to be devoted to it. The extension and vocation of the English race ought to be a subject of study to a whole staff of students, and of exposition to a brigade of popular writers; and so it ought to become familiar to all Englishmen alike.

"That this has not for a long time been the case is to me a matter of astonishment. I cannot understand the deadness of imagination which has made us remain, as it were, indifferent to the subject. I am sure that such melancholy narrowness and pettiness ought to cease. The main thing is to fill our imaginations with the great fact. Let this once be done, and I hardly think it will be necessary for the Society to inculcate any particular doctrine.

"If, when we have been once awakened to the question, and have learned to consider it with eager interest, we arrive at the conclusion that the Empire had better go, or at the still stronger conclusion that it should be left to chance to decide whether it shall go or not, be it so! In that case, we shall show ourselves a unique people! But it seems more reasonable to expect that some sort of pan-Anglicanism will spring up. In this century, when the idea of national unity has been everywhere so powerful—in Italy, in Germany—should we alone among nations remain insensible to it? But if we do, let us at least be sure that we resist the fascination from superior wisdom—that is, after due study of the subject—not from sheer dulness and indifference, not because the motions of our spirits are dull as night!

"Yours truly,

"J. R. Seeley."