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II.-THE QUEEN AND THE EMPIRE.
“HAPPILY for England a monarch was, at an eventful period, on the throne who stands distinguished in history for the rare discernment she evinced in promoting the welfare of her people and the glory of her country. Elizabeth clearly foresaw that England could neither obtain nor maintain a prominent position among the nations of Europe except by means of her maritime power, which could be insured only by the possession of Colonies. Encouragement was, therefore, offered to facilitate the discovery of hitherto unknown regions, and for the planting of new settlements.”—Martin's British Colonies, Vol. I.
ROBABLY the English of the seventeenth century never realised how much
they owed to Elizabeth until the throne was occupied by the Stuarts. It is to be hoped that we shall not have to wait for similar reigns of foils before
discovering our indebtedness to Victoria. The record of her reign is one long almost unbroken record of Imperial expansion. The heritage which she received at her coronation she will pass on to her successor multiplied many times. Of all the jewels in her diadem of Empire she has lost nonesave and except the rabbit-warren of Heligoland-an exception which makes all the more conspicuous the uniform record of the reign. Our disputed titles to Delagoa Bay and South Africa and to the island of San Juan in North-West America were maintained until the decision of an International Arbitration conveyed these vantage points to the other claimants. The Orange Free State and the Transvaal were not in existence in 1837. If we have lost them during the reign of Victoria, it was during her reign that they came under our flag. Neither would have been lost to us if Her Majesty had been permitted to overrule the veto which Downing Street placed upon South African federation. The Ionian Islands, which we occupied rather than possessed, we handed over to the kingdom of Greece. But with these inconsiderable exceptions, wherever the British flag flew on June 20th, 1837, it is flying to-day. Our heritage she has kept intact, and great military empires, hungry for the spoil of the Queen of the Seas, have risen up in the last sixty years; but of the colonies and possessions with which the Queen was invested in the grey old Abbey on that June day, she has lost none.
The additions to the British Empire during the Victorian reign began with the occupation of Aden in 1839, and from that date down to the occupation of Nupe, in the Niger Protectorate, in January, 1897, the record is one of continuous expansion.
Immense as have been the territorial extensions of the Victorian era, they are less significant than the rapid development of the self-governed Colonies. When the Queen came to the throne the whole population of Greater Britain outside the United States did not exceed one million souls. There were under 800,000 in Upper and Lower Canada, less than 100,000 in all Australia, and not a quarter of a million in the Cape. New South Wales was, on the Christmas before the Queen's accession, the only self-governed Colony in the Eastern hemisphere. South Australia dates from December 28, 1836 ; New Zealand from 1840; Victoria from 1851 ; Queensland from 1859. In the Western hemisphere a great belt of self-governing commonwealths span the continent. Manitoba was constituted in 1870. British Columbia came in a year later. The Leeward Isles in the West Indies were federated in 1871. The Windward Isles in 1885. The Federation of the Dominion of Canada dates from 1867. The Federation of South Africa might have dated from 1859, but for the insensate folly of English politicians who overruled the instinct of the Queen and the urgent representations of Governor Grey. The greatest administrative change, however, of the reign was the transfer after the Mutiny of the administration of the Indian Empire from the East India Company to the Crown.
What with protectorates and annexations, we have added to the territory sheltered by the Union Jack in the course of Her Majesty's reign dominions nearly double the area of the whole Indian Empire as it existed in 1837. There is nothing approaching to this record in the history of the world.
The facts of the growth of the Empire are familiar enough ; but what, it will be asked by the ill-informed, had the Queen to do with it? Much more than has yet appeared, or will be allowed to appear in her lifetime. For nearly half her reign the Queen was almost the only person in the Empire who seemed to care to keep it together.
The work of building up these vast dependencies, of weaving together into selfgoverning federations these nascent Commonwealths, has not been due to fortuitous circumstance. Paley constructed from the existence of a watch the theory of a Providence. It hardly needs a political Paley to infer the existence of a StatesmanQueen from the growth and consolidation of the Empire. During her sixty years' reign the Queen has seen thirty Colonial Secretaries come and go. Some of them were indifferent as to whether the Empire withered or expanded. Others were sworn advocates of the policy of reducing our responsibilities. Very few were really sincerely desirous of extending, federating, or developing the great trust which they were appointed to administer.
Yet, despite all difficulties, the Empire has grown, and is growing, at a rate which is at once the envy and the despair of all nations. It would be, of course, absurd to attribute that mighty impulse which is vitalising whole continents with the seed of Empire to any individual, even the most exalted. A world-movement like this is the visible embodiment and incarnation of the genius, of the instinct, and of the necessities of a race. But it may fairly be claimed that during the last sixty years no one mind has contributed so much helpful guidance, generous stimulus, and sage control to the great expansive impulse of this country as that of Her Majesty. Colonial Secretaries have come and Colonial Secretaries have gone ; but behind and above and beyond every Colonial Secretary there has ever been the Sovereign, with a continuous policy of her own, steadfastly adhered to under all difficulties, and skilfully carried out under successive Ministries, without ever straining, much less violating, the strictest rules of the Constitution.
It is of course impossible to reveal to the world more than a mere suggestion of the marvellous fashion in which Her Majesty has succeeded in ruling as well as reigning in this realm of England. “The Queen reigns, she does not govern,” is true. But it would be truer still to say the Queen does not govern, she reigns and she guides. Thirty or forty years since the nation, so far as it could make itself articulate through the mouths of its elective spokesmen, was practically unanimous. Whigs and Tories were alike impatient of the yoke of Empire. Disraeli, afterwards to be the most conspicuous convert and blatant disciple of the Queen whom he proclaimed Empress, was in those distant days a more uncompromising Little Englander than Mr. Labouchere. It was he who spoke of those wretched colonies which hang like a millstone round our neck,
Mr. Cobden was in the heyday of his power. The Conservatives vied with the Liberals in deprecating any extension of the Empire. Moralists and political economists agreed in decrying Imperialism. But although Whigs and Tories, Lords and Commons, Press and People, all seemed banded together against the Empire, she who wore the purple never faltered in proclaiming her faith in the destinies of her
people and in her loyalty to the civilising sovereignty of which her Throne was the symbol. Loyally abiding by all the rules of the game, the plucky little lady who had every one against her bided her time, seized her opportunities, and making up by influence what she lacked in power, had at last the supreme satisfaction of seeing the whole nation acclaim as the truth that which she almost single-handed maintained in the councils of the Realm.
What she wrote, what she said, is hidden from our eyes. What the others wrote and said, is it not chronicled in the innumerable volumes of Hansard, the broad-acred expanse of journalistic broadsheets? Yet the noisy-talking multitude which had at its disposal all the publicity of the press and all the power of Parliament has been beaten. Nay, more than beaten. It has been converted, in spite of itself, by the invincible force of events interpreted and applied by the lone “Widow of Windsor." Next century, when our children or grandchildren read the secret history of the reign, they will understand better than we can ever do how large and potent a share the Sovereign had in making the Empire over which she was anointed Queen. They will be able to read her private memoranda, her confidential correspondence, and the minutes of Ministerial interviews. In them they will discover the secret of much that at present would appear to be almost incredible were it not that “use lessons marvel." We have grown so accustomed to seeing the course of public policy deflected by an agency which, like the law of gravitation, is as potent as it is invisible, that we think nothing of the fact that we are all Imperialists now-a-days"—even including so faithful a Cobdenite as Mr. John Morley himself.
- Men of a thousand shifts and wiles, look here!
See one straightforward conscience put in pawn
By bravery's simple gravitation drawn !"
In the great tug of war between the politicians and the Monarchy over the policy of the Empire, the Monarch has triumphed all along the line. No doubt in Emerson's familiar phrase "she hitched her wagon to a star.” That is to say, she succeeded in converting her most determined opponents, because the force of things, the law of national growth, the exigencies of a rapidly increasing population, all fought for her as the stars in their courses fought against Sisera and his host. But hers was the instinct or intuition which enabled her to perceive where the governing forces lay, to discern them where they worked hidden from the eyes of politicians, and to identify herself boldly with them when they were almost universally discredited by the sagacious counsellors who surrounded the Throne.
It is very difficult to make the ordinary citizen of to-day understand the kind of talk that was habitual among the officials of Downing Street on this subject only thirty years ago. It is hardly too much to say that the note of the Colonial Office in the sixties was flat treason to the Empire. The officials in the first half of the sixties were Sir Henry Taylor and Sir F. Rogers, better known as Lord Blachford. In the autobiography of Henry Taylor we have the frankest possible expression of opinion on the part of the chiefs of the Colonial Office that the Empire should be broken up, and that the Crown was working against the interests of the Realm by its ceaseless effort to develop Colonial loyalty. What, for instance, can be more explicit than this extract from a letter written by Henry Taylor to the Duke of Newcastle, February 20th, 1864 :
“As to our American possessions (including, of course, the great Dominion of Canada, to which indeed the writer was previously referring)—As to our American possessions, I have long held and often expressed the opinion that they are a sort of damnosa hereditas, and when your Grace and the Prince of Wales were employing yourselves so successfully in conciliating the colonists, I thought that you were drawing closer ties which might better be slackened, if there were any chance of their slipping away altogether. I think that a policy which has regard to a not very far off future should prepare facilities and propensities for separation. . . . In my estimation the worst consequence of the late dispute with the United States (about the Trent) has been that of involving this country and its North American provinces in closer relations and a common cause. . . . All that I would advocate is a preparatory policy, loosening obligations and treating the repudiation by the colonists of legislative and