The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57
Pall Mall Gazette. — The Future of the English Realm
Pall Mall Gazette.
The Future of the English Realm.
"Rapid as is the rush of events, still more rapid is the ripening of public opinion. It is not five years since it was the fashion among those who regarded themselves as the thoughtful Liberals to postulate as inevitable the disintegration of the empire. In those days, when the most important Liberal newspapers were directed by men who seemed to think they owed Providence a grudge for making them citizens of a world-encircling State, such a Conference as that which assembled yesterday under the presidency of Mr. Forster would have been overwhelmed with denunciation and ridicule. To-day, when we take up newspaper after newspaper, we ask in amazement, The advocates of a little England, where are they now? Without one solitary exception, the whole of the English press burets forth in an unbroken chorus of approval of a project which in 1880 would have been derided as visionary if it had not been denounced as mischievous. Judging from the comments of the newspapers the journalist of the school of Mr. Goldwin Smith is as extinct as the megatherium. The contraction of England has not one articulate advocate left in the daily press, and Liberals and Radicals vie with Conservatives in professions of enthusiastic patriotism, in that larger sense, which regards all the English, whether they live at home page 95 or are dwellers beyond the seas, as the fellow-citizens of a common realm. The old school has passed away, giving place unto the new, and it is one of the most hopeful auguries for the future that this remarkable revolution of English opinion has taken place simultaneously with the rapid progress of the English democracy towards that position of supremacy which it is ultimately certain to attain.
"The meeting yesterday was a portent of better things to come, but the reception which it has met this morning is a gratifying proof of the extent to which the new Liberalism has outgrown the decaying traditions of the so-called Manchester school. No English public man with any regard to his future will now speak of colonies as incumbrances, or allude to the possible disruption of the empire except as a national calamity. Six or seven years ago there was a danger that the reaction against the bombastic Imperialism of Lord Beaconsfield might lead to a revival of the fallacies of the extreme non-interventionist school. From that we were happily rescued by Mr. Gladstone and the Bulgarian agitation. In that great popular movement the democracy was taught the value of the European Concert, and the lesson was fatal to the hopes of the advocates of a policy of national abdication. In the popularisation of the principle of the European Concert, that germ of a federalised Europe, it will probably be found that we gained more than was lost even by the Jingo fever. The Afghan and Zulu wars gave great opportunities to the party of retreat, but fortunately the Beaconsfield Cabinet fell in time to impose upon the Liberals the duty of facing the responsibilities and realising the opportunities of empire. For some time after our advent to office the reaction from Jingoism rendered it almost impossible for the advocates of a reasonable Imperialism to gain a hearing. Time, however, and experience have done their work. Imperialism is no longer tainted with the foul associations of a swashbuckler Jingoism, and the most advanced Liberals can now take part without reproach in a movement avowedly intended to maintain and consolidate the unity of the empire. It is a great and happy change, and one which, it is to be hoped, will be duly noted by those highly-placed officials who, although at present in positions of power, represent the ideas page 96 and prejudices of an age that is fast vanishing away. Never again, we hope, will a distinguished Colonial statesman return to the Antipodes declaring that Liberal Ministers did not care one penny piece if all the Colonies were to cut the painter to-morrow. But that such an impression was ever produced sheds a flood of light upon the extreme unwisdom of some of those who have acted as Colonial Secretaries in our time.
"Professor Seeley strongly condemns the extravagance of those who speak of the British Empire as if it were a miracle; but probably if the eloquent author of 'The Expansion of England' had had a more familiar acquaintance with the Colonial Office in recent times he would have modified his condemnation. Nothing but a miraculous interposition of a kindly Providence could have ensured its maintenance intact to the present time. It has, however, fortunately held together, and what we have to do is to take anxious thought for its preservation. We have at least gained a great point in having it recognised, almost without one dissentient voice, that to the English at home as to the English beyond the sea the idea of separation is abhorrent. Whatever may befall us, that must at all cost be averted. Whether we should ever be able so far to overcome the vis inertœ of the established order of things as to federalise our empire of our own mere will and motion we do not know. But events stronger than ourselves will force our hands. 'Home Rule,' said a distinguished Colonial administrator after a careful survey of the situation at home and abroad, 'will save the empire yet,' and he was right. At present it is premature to discuss details of federalisation. We are not yet in committee on the subject. But it is a great thing, so to speak, to have carried the second reading nem. con.
'Before very long it will be almost incredible that any patriotic Englishmen ever contemplated with complacency the disruption of this 'world-wide Venice with its ocean streets.' But at present leading statesmen continue to cherish the old delusion that the sea is an element of division instead of a bond of union. As a matter of fact, for all purposes of communication we are nearer to New Zealand than we are to Khartoum. Six hundred miles of land are a more formidable barrier than page 97 sixteen thousand miles of sea.' 'Day by day the world perceptibly shrinks before our eyes. 'Steam and electricity have brought all the world next door. We have yet to readjust our political arrangements to the revolution that has been wrought in time and space. But at this stage it is probable that an English Arndt, who would accustom the masses of our people to the thought that the English Fatherland, the true country of the English patriot, is as wide as the whole range of English-peopled lands, would be politically more useful than any Sièyes, however able he might be at devising systems of federal government"