Classic History Books


The History of England by A. E. Pollard

interested in the woes of negroes in South Africa than in those of children in British mines and factories,
attributed to Dutch brutality; and a Hottentot police was actually established. In 1837 the more

determined of the Dutch "trekked" north and east to found republics in Natal, the Orange River Free

State, and the Transvaal. Purged of these discontented elements, the Cape was given representative

government in 1853, and Natal, which had been annexed in 1844, received a similar constitution in 1856.

Meanwhile, Canada had advanced through constitutional struggles and open rebellion to the second
stage. It had received its baptism of fire during the war (1812-1814) between Great Britain and the

United States, when French and British Canadians fought side by side against a common enemy. But

both provinces soon experienced difficulties similar to those between the Stuarts and their parliaments;

their legislative assemblies had no control over their executive governments, and in 1837 Papineau's

rebellion broke out in Lower, and Mackenzie's in Upper, Canada. Lord Durham was sent out to

investigate the causes of discontent, and his report marks an epoch in colonial history. The idea that the

American War of Independence had taught the mother-country the necessity of granting complete

self-government to her colonies is a persistent misconception; and hitherto no British colony had

received a fuller measure of self-government than had been enjoyed by the American colonies before

their Declaration of Independence. The grant of this responsible self-government was one of the two

principal recommendations of Lord Durham's report. The other was the union of the two provinces,

which, it was hoped, would give the British a majority over the French. This recommendation, which

ultimately proved unworkable, was carried out at once; the other, which has been the saving of the

empire, was left for Lord Elgin to elaborate. He made it a principle to choose as ministers only those

politicians who possessed the confidence of the popular assembly, and his example, followed by his

successors, crystallized into a fundamental maxim of British colonial government. It was extended to

Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1848, and to Newfoundland (which had in 1832 received a

legislative assembly) in 1855.

To Lord John Russell, who was prime minister from 1846 to 1851, to his colonial secretary, the third
Earl Grey, and to Lords Aberdeen and Palmerston, who succeeded as premiers in 1852 and 1855,

belongs the credit of having conferred full rights of self-government on most of the empire's oversea

dominions. Australia, where the discovery of gold in 1851 added enormously to her population, soon

followed in Canada's wake, and by 1856 every Australian colony, with the exception of Western

Australia, had, with the consent of the Imperial parliament, worked out a constitution for itself,

comprising two legislative chambers and a responsible cabinet. New Zealand, which had begun to be

sparsely settled between 1820 and 1840, and had been annexed in the latter year, received in 1852 from

the Imperial parliament a Constitution Act, which left it to Sir George Grey, the Governor, to work out in

practice the responsibility of ministers to the legislature. Other colonies were slower in their

constitutional development; Cape Colony was not granted a responsible administration till 1872; Western

Australia, which had continued to receive convicts after their transportation to other Australian colonies

had been successfully resisted, did not receive complete self-government till 1890, and Natal not until

1893.

The latest British colonies to receive this livery of the empire were the Transvaal and the Orange River
colonies. A chequered existence had been their fate since their founders had trekked north in 1837. The

Orange River Free State had been annexed by Britain in 1848, had rebelled, and been granted

independence again in 1854. The Transvaal had been annexed in 1877, had rebelled, and had been

granted almost complete independence again after Majuba in 1881. The Orange Free State, relieved of

the diamond fields which belonged to it in the neighbourhood of Kimberley in 1870, pursued the even

 

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