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No. 454.-JANUARY, 1918.
Art. 1.-IMPERIAL UNITY: THE PRACTICAL CONDITIONS.
1. Imperial Federation: the Problem of National Unity. By Geo. R. Parkin. Macmillan, 1892.
2. Imperial Unity and the Dominions. By Arthur Berriedale Keith. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1916.
3. The Problem of the Commonwealth. Macmillan, 1916. 4. The Privy Council and Problems of Closer Union of the Empire. By Arthur P. Poley. In Journal of the Society of Comparative Legislation,' Jan. 1917.
5. The Organisation of the Empire: A suggestion. By the Rt Hon. Herbert Samuel. In The Nineteenth Century and After.' March 1917. 6. The War and the Empire. By J. H. Morgan. In the 'Law Quarterly Review,' July 1917.
7. Parliamentary Papers. [1910, Cd 5273; 1911, Cd 5513, Cd 5741 (Imperial Conference of 1911); 1914, Cd 7347 (representation of the Dominions on the Imperial Defence Committee); 1917, Cd 8566 (Imperial War Conference).]
And other works.
I. The Empire and its Components.
THE war has quickened men's thinking in many ways; it has caused us to recognise matters as urgent which had passed for being merely speculative; it has placed many standing questions of policy in a wholly new light. Among the problems of which this may be most truly said is that of devising some effective organic form to embody the unity of the British Empire. Here a Vol. 229.-No. 454.
beginning of action is already under our eyes. The Government of the mother country is in intimate contact with the Governments of the Dominions, and is in a better position than it has ever been before for ascertaining what the people of the Dominions really desire, to what extent their desires agree, and what measures intended to give effect to their claims will be most acceptable and practicable. Little now remains secret as to the knowledge the King's Ministers have acquired and the direction in which it has led their thoughts.
On May 4, 1917, it was announced that the Imperial War Cabinet, among other unanimous resolutions, recommended the calling of a special Imperial Conference immediately after the cessation of hostilities to consider the subject of constitutional relations within the Empire. On May 17 it was announced in Parliament that there would be an annual meeting of the Imperial Cabinet. Mr Lloyd George led up to this announcement by his statement, made at the Guildhall on April 27, in which he laid down the fundamental conditions as matters no longer of opinion, fixing the task of British statesmanship in the immediate future. In the past, he said, we treated that great commonwealth of nations, the British Empire, as a glorious abstraction (this must be taken, of course, as applying to the general attitude of the public in the mother country, and in that sense it is perfectly true); but now the choice must be made between immediate concentration and ultimate dissolution. The Dominions had established claims to a real partnership; henceforth effective consultation must be the only basis of future cooperation. Our Councils of Empire must be a reality; and (what is even more significant) the experiment of the Imperial War Cabinet must be incorporated in the fabric of the Empire. General Smuts's no less remarkable speech of May 15 may be taken as giving, in some measure, the answer of South Africa.
Mr Lloyd George (need it really be said?) means by an empire what Burke meant, the aggregate of many states under one common head; whether this head be a monarch, or a presiding republic.' There is no implication of a titular emperor, or of arbitrary government, or of any particular species of government, or of any rule or tendency of external policy. Thus India is,
as has been well said, an empire within an empire; and it is so because it is not only British India, but an aggregate of states, many of them important states. India was an empire not only before there was an imperial title, but before the Crown had assumed direct sovereignty; and the King's description as Kaisar-i-Hind is in truth only the recognition of the fact which existed a century ago and more. Some people dislike the word 'empire' because they imagine it to be anti-democratic, or capable of being misunderstood in an anti-democratic sense. For my part I am content to accept the true meaning as declared by Burke, a master of English defending American liberties.* There is no other word that will do as well, for commonwealth' is ambiguous. Massachusetts, which for international purposes has no being at all, is officially and in fact a commonwealth. It is well to remember that the excellent word 'commonwealth' itself was in disfavour for a long time after the Restoration. The term 'imperial commonwealth' has now been used by the Imperial War Conference.
Turning from names to substance, we find before us the very problem that Burke formulated more than a century and a half ago-to admit the people of our colonies into an interest in the constitution.'t True it is that our Dominions have long had their own constitutions, and that the government of all our possessions, whether enjoying more or less autonomy, has long been conducted under constitutional traditions. I do not except India, whose government, though not popular, is a system elaborately framed by Parliament, and is administered by public servants ultimately responsible to Parliament. Real exceptions, if such there be, have to be sought in mere naval and military stations; and the arm of the House of Commons will reach at need even to those. But the direction of the whole, as distinct from the governance of the parts, remains where the formal sovereignty is, namely, with the King in Parliament, the Parliament of Great Britain; and in this the Dominions have no definable share.
Burke's definition occurs in the Speech on Conciliation with America (1775): Works,' ed. 1852, iii, 263.
+ Ibid., p. 266.
This is notably the case as regards foreign policy, both in the conduct of relations with other Powers and in the decision of immediate urgent issues. Here is undoubtedly the main stress of our imperial problem. It may be that some kind of merely consultative machinery (more efficient, in any case, than the half-hearted methods of past Imperial Conferences) would suffice for the regulation of common interests within the Empire, such as trade, communications, and uniformity of commercial law; but this would leave the vital difficulty still outstanding. Peace and war would remain in the hands of counsellors answerable only to the British Parliament; and the Dominions might be committed by acts of the Home Government, in which they had no voice, to a war they deemed imprudent, to a peace they would resent as dishonourable, or to a course of policy leading to dangers invisible or unobserved in the latitude of Downing Street. To those who say (if any one still does) that the Dominions are content to leave things as they are, we must answer bluntly that they are not. The existence of a problem cannot be denied, though it is very possible to propose, and in good faith, solutions which would be rejected as making matters worse.
The empires of antiquity may perhaps teach us, in some measure, what to avoid; I do not think they have many lessons in construction to give us. Historians are familiar with the subjection of many tribes and kindreds, of different languages and manners, and spread over extensive territories, to a central government which has given them the blessing of peace among themselves even when it has not improved their ordinary conditions. The British Empire has further and novel attributes. The territories it embraces are not compact or continuous, but dispersed round the world; and their inhabitants exhibit not only the utmost variety of race, tongues, and customs, but many and diverse local political institutions. Under the Roman Empire provincial customs were left pretty much alone in non-political matters, but superior government and administration were of uniform type. No Roman official would have understood how a federal commonwealth, whose component states reserved a share, though a limited share, of all but independent sovereignty, could itself be a
member of a world-wide union. It would have seemed to him still more incredible that the shortest way from the imperial capital to that colony (a word he would understand, though not in its right modern significance without much explanation) should pass by an Asiatic member of this same strange union, offering to the student's consideration an infinite amount of social and racial complexities wholly different in kind from those of European states.
From the experience of modern federal systems in America, Switzerland, and our own Dominions of late years, we may learn more. But here, too, we must not be in haste to assume that the combination of homogeneous elements will always afford a guide in dealing with scattered and heterogeneous units. The relation between the Protestant and the Catholic cantons of Switzerland may be roughly likened to that of Ontario and Quebec; but we shall hardly find among citizens of the same state in Europe, and not easily in America, a difference corresponding to that of a French Canadian from a citizen of Aberdeen, or a Newfoundland fisherman from a Cape Dutch farmer.
II. Allegiance and Sovereignty. The reader is assumed to be aware of the political differences in kind between the units making up the British Empire-self-governing Dominions; Crown Colonies, some of them all but self-governing; India under a unique system, now recognised as a full partner; the Channel Islands, unique in another way; and finally (though not within our immediate scope) protectorates and other jurisdictions in foreign parts. It is not material to distinguish the various modes by which they have come under British sovereignty or protection.
If we are asked what all these diverse units really have in common, the only identical element we can assign is allegiance to the King of Great Britain. Even this cannot be taken, as the schoolmen say, univocally ; for the inhabitants of British protectorates are the subjects of their own local rulers, not British subjects, and their allegiance is therefore indirect.
Allegiance to the British Crown has two distinct