The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 57
Since most of the above was written, Mr. Murray Smith, the Agent-General for Victoria, has received a despatch from Mr. Service, the Premier of his colony, giving his views on federation.
This despatch has already been published, but it seems to me so important that my readers should look at this matter from a colonial point of view, that I must beg them to reperuse it in connection with the remarks I have made, and for which I cannot but be glad to find so much confirmation from so high a colonial authority.
The chief of those considerations is the very anomalous position which these colonies occupy as regards respectively local government and the exercise of Imperial authority. In regard to the first, the fullest measure of constitutional freedom and Parliamentary representation has been conceded to the more important colonies; but, as regards the second, we have no representation whatever in the Imperial system. Subjects of this part of the Empire may be deeply interested in the action or, it may be, the inaction of the Imperial authorities, but they have no voice nor vote in those councils of the Empire to which Her Majesty's Ministers are responsible; thus, in all matters in which the exercise of the Imperial authority has interests for them, that authority is, to all intents and purposes, an unqualified autocracy; on the one hand, we are under constitutional government, on the other under an antiquated autocracy or bureaucracy.
The weakness of this position has at times been most disadvantageously apparent, and its humiliation keenly felt. Lately, more especially, when policy of the highest concern to the Australasian colonies has had to be administered by the Imperial Government, we have occupied the position of outside petitioners to the Colonial Office, with scarcely more influence than a county member of the House of Commons. I thankfully acknowledge the courtesy extended by the Colonial Office to yourself, as well as, I believe, to the other Colonial Agents-General; but it is something more than concessions of courtesy that is needed. Colonial interests are sufficiently important to entitle us to some defined position in the Imperial economy—to some tangible means of asserting, if necessary, our rights.
It may be difficult to say in what way so vast and scattered an Empire can be federated; but any scheme that may be decided upon, while it cannot take from us anything that we at present possess, must give to the colonies more tangible influence, and more legal and formal authority, than they have now. I, therefore, had no hesitation in directing you to give a general support to the idea, guarding, of course, our local self-government.
A further consideration is that Victoria, and I am sure Australasia, is and always has been heartily loyal both to the Throne and the Empire—a national sentiment which has never failed to express itself on every suitable occasion. The notion, before now openly propounded by Professor Goldwin Smith and others, of disinter. page 18 grating the Empire by catting off the colonies, has, I am persuaded, little sympathy from Australasians—nor is this altogether a matter of sentiment; but we believe that the colonies, justly and wisely governed, may be tributaries of strength to the parent State; that they and it may be mutually recipients of numberless advantages. I am sure that I speak the mind of the colonists generally in expressing our desire to remain, as now, an integral portion of the Empire; and it is in this view, therefore, that I desire to support the movement for Imperial Federation.
I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient servant,
James Service, Premier.