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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57

Mr. W. Gisborne (New Zealand):*

Mr. W. Gisborne (New Zealand):*

I feel a considerable interest in this question. I have passed many years of public life in the Colony of New page 57 Zealand, where the question of the relations of the United Kingdom to her Colonies has elicited much discussion, and where it has, I think, presented more puzzling problems than in any other part of the British dominions. I am glad to hear from you, Sir, that we start from a common principle—the unity of the British Empire; and aim at a common end—the permanence of that union. I am only expressing my own individual views—I have no right to speak on behalf of any one—but I see two great anomalies in the existing state of the relations between the United Kingdom and the Colonies. These difficulties will only come into prominence when England goes into war with a great naval power. (Hear, hear.) What will then be the case? The strength of a connection lies, in the weakest part, and I wish to point out that in the state of things which will some day happen there will be a most defective link between England and her Colonies. (Hear, hear.) On the one side the United Kingdom will be paying for the naval defence of outlying parts of the Colonies without any assured or regular contribution from those Colonies (I am speaking of self-governing Colonies), although in those Colonies the average taxpayer is in a better position than the average taxpayer in the United Kingdom. (Hear, hear.) But what will be the state of the Colonies? The state of a Colony would be much worse. The Colony would not, like the United Kingdom, have had any voice in the origination of the war. It would have no voice in its prosecution, or in bringing it to a speedy and honourable termination. And yet the Colony must, under any circumstances, be a serious sufferer. Trade would suffer, and in the event—a very possible event—of any sudden attack by an enemy on the Colony the damage inflicted must be very grievous, and a great loss incurred both in life and property. (Hear, hear.) I would not say one word against the loyalty and the patriotism of Englishmen either at home or abroad. They are unquestionable. But I say there are hard, practical questions—(hear, hear)—which page 58 must not be left altogether to be regulated by an impulse of feeling. There are duties and responsibilities involved attaching to all parties, which must be determined and adjusted each in its due proportion. What is the remedy for these anomalies? I say the confederation of independent groups of Colonies, however useful for certain purposes, is no remedy for these anomalies. (Hear, hear.) It may be questioned whether this confederation of independent groups is even an aid to the Imperial confederation to which we wish to attain. The only remedy consists in some sort of Imperial confederation—some kind of Imperial confederation for the external defence of the whole Empire. (Hear, hear.) I believe in that will lie the true remedy for the anomalous state of the relations between England and the Colonies if England went to war with a naval power, and that in that lies the only approach to a permanent unity of the Empire. I believe, if that could be effected, anything which must be required to Supplement or perfect that unity could be attained afterwards with perfect ease. Let us approach the question, if possible, in that direction. Let us try by some means to put prominently this question of Imperial confederation for external defence before the public, so that it may elicit public discussion throughout the Empire, with a fair prospect of arriving at some practical conclusion. Once accomplish some such kind of confederation, and I believe the danger of disintegration of the Empire would at once cease, and the process of incorporation would at once begin.

This vast British Empire would never then become a disjointed or dissolving mass, but would become a living and coherent whole—an Empire, at unity in itself, and around which the course of time would only wrap closer and closer the bonds. (Cheers.) I hold that the existence of such an Empire would not only be of incalculable advantage to its own inhabitants, but would also be a material guarantee for the peace, order, and good government of the world, and the advancement of the whole human race. (Cheers.)

* Formerly Member of the New Zealand Ministry.