Classic History Books


The History of England by A. E. Pollard

which might develop its industries but would certainly lower its level of wages. It believes in high
protection, but takes care by socialistic legislation that high wages shall more than counterbalance high

prices; protection is to it merely the form of state socialism which primarily benefits the employer. It has

also nationalized its railways and denationalized all churches and religious instruction in public schools.

There is, indeed, no state church in the empire outside Great Britain. But the most significant, perhaps, of

Antipodean notions is the doctrine, inculcated in the Queensland elementary schools, of the sanctity of

state property.

Finally, the colonies have made momentous experiments in federation. New Zealand's was the earliest
and the briefest; after a few years' experience of provincial governments between 1852 and 1870, it

reduced its provincial parliaments to the level of county councils, and adopted a unitary constitution. In

Canada, on the other hand, the union of the Upper and Lower Provinces proved unworkable owing to

racial differences; and in 1867 the federation called the Dominion of Canada was formed by agreement

between Upper and Lower Canada (henceforth called Ontario and Quebec), New Brunswick, and Nova

Scotia. Prince Edward Island and British Columbia joined soon afterwards; and fresh provinces have

since been created out of the Hudson Bay and North-west Territories; Newfoundland alone has stood

aloof. Considerable powers are allotted to the provinces, including education; but the distinguishing

feature of this federation is that all powers not definitely assigned by the Dominion Act to the provinces

belong to the Dominion. This is in sharp contrast to the United States, where each individual state is the

sovereign body, and the Federal government only possesses such powers as the states have delegated to it

by the constitution.

In this respect the Australian federation called the Commonwealth, which was formed in 1900, resembles
the United States rather than Canada. The circumstance that each Australian colony grew up round a

seaport, having little or no overland connexion with other Australian colonies, kept them long apart; and

the commercial interests centred in these ports are still centrifugal rather than centripetal in sentiment.

Hence powers, not specifically assigned to the Federal government, remain in the hands of the individual

states; the Labour party, however, inclines towards a centralizing policy, and the general trend seems to

be in that direction. It will probably be strengthened by the construction of transcontinental railways and

by a further growth of the nationalist feeling of Australia, which is already marked.

The Union of South Africa, formed in 1909, soon after the Boer colonies had received self-government,
went almost as far towards unification as New Zealand, and became a unitary state rather than a

federation. The greater expense of maintaining several local parliaments as well as a central legislature,

and the difficulty of apportioning their powers, determined South African statesmen to sweep away the

old legislatures altogether, and to establish a united parliament which meets at Cape Town, a single

executive which has its offices at Pretoria, and a judicature which is located at Bloemfontein. Thus

almost every variety of Union and Home Rule exists within the empire, and arguments from analogy are

provided for both the British political parties.

Two extremes have been, and must be, avoided. History has falsified the impression prevalent in the
middle of the nineteenth century that the colonies would sooner or later follow the example of the United

States, and sever their connexion with the mother-country. It has no less clearly demonstrated the

impossibility of maintaining a centralized government of the empire in Downing Street. The union or

federation of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa has strengthened the claims of each of

those imperial realms to be considered a nation, with full rights and powers of self-government; and it

remains to be seen whether the federating process can be carried to a higher level, and imperial sentiment

 

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