The Framework of Home Rule
by Erskine Childers
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Let nobody think these phenomena are peculiar to Ireland. In many parts of the world where Ascendancies have existed, or exist, the same methods are employed, and always with a certain measure of success. Irish moral fibre was at least as tough as that of any other nationality in resisting the poison.

But the results were as calamitous in Ireland as in other countries. No country can progress under such circumstances. The test of government is the condition of the people governed. Judged by this criterion, it is no exaggeration to say that Ireland as a whole went backward for at least seventy years after the Union. Even Protestant North-East Ulster, with its saving custom of tenant-right, its linen industry, and all the special advantages derived from a century of privilege, though it escaped the worst effects of the depression, suffered by emigration almost as heavily as the rest of Ireland, and built up its industries with proportionate difficulty. Over the rest of Ireland the main features of the story are continuous from a period long antecedent to the Union. A student of the condition of the Irish peasantry in the eighteenth and in the first three-quarters of the nineteenth centuries can ignore changes in the form or personnel of government. He would scarcely be aware, unless he travelled outside his subject, that Grattan's Parliament ever existed, or that subsequently a long succession of Whig and Tory Ministers, differing profoundly in their political principles, had alternately sent over to Ireland Chief Secretaries with theoretically despotic powers for good or evil. These "transient and embarrassed phantoms" came and went, leaving their reputations behind them, and the country they were responsible for in much the same condition.

It is not my purpose to enter in detail into the history of Ireland in the nineteenth century, but only to note a few salient points which will help us to a comparison with the progress of other parts of the Empire. It is necessary to repeat that the basis upon which the whole economic structure of Ireland rested, the Irish agrarian system, was inconsistent with social peace and an absolute bar to progress. I described in Chapter I. how it came into being and the collateral mischiefs attending it. During the nineteenth century, by accident or design, these mischiefs were greatly aggravated. Until 1815 high war prices and the low Catholic franchise stimulated subdivision of holdings, already excessively small, and the growth of population. With the peace came evictions, conversions into pasture, and consolidation of farms. The disfranchisement of the mass of the peasantry which accompanied Emancipation in 1829 inspired fresh clearances on a large scale and caused unspeakable misery, with further congestion on the worst agricultural land. "Cottier" tenancy, at a competitive rent, and terminable without compensation for the improvements which were made exclusively by the tenant, was general over the greater part of Ireland. Generally it was tenancy-at-will, with perpetual liability to eviction. Leaseholders, however, were under conditions almost as onerous. The labourer, who was allowed a small plot, which he paid for in labour, was in the worst plight of all. In addition, burdensome tithes were collected by an alien Church and rents were largely spent abroad. If Irish manufactures had not been destroyed, and there had been an outlet from agriculture into industry, the evil effects of the agrarian system would have been mitigated. As it was, in one of the richest and most fertile countries in the world the congestion and poverty were appalling. Competition for land meant the struggle for bare life. Rent had no relation to value, but was the price fixed by the frantic bidding of hungry peasants for the bare right to live. The tenant had no interest in improving the land, because the penalty for improvement was a higher rent, fixed after another bout of frantic competition.

"Almost alone amongst mankind," wrote John Stuart Mill,[19] "the cottier is in this condition, that he can scarcely be either better or worse off by any act of his own. If he were industrious or prudent, nobody but his landlord would gain; if he is lazy or intemperate, it is at his landlord's expense. A situation more devoid of motives to either labour or self-command, imagination itself cannot conceive. The inducements of free human beings are taken away, and those of a slave not substituted. He has nothing to hope, and nothing to fear, except being dispossessed of his holding, and against this he protects himself by the ultima ratio of a defensive civil war. Rockism and Whiteboyism were the determination of a people, who had nothing that could be called theirs but a daily meal of the lowest description of food, not to submit to being deprived of that for other people's convenience.

"Is it not, then, a bitter satire on the mode in which opinions are formed on the most important problems of human nature and life, to find public instructors of the greatest pretension imputing the backwardness of Irish industry, and the want of energy of the Irish people in improving their condition, to a peculiar indolence and insouciance in the Celtic race? Of all vulgar modes of escaping from the consideration of the effect of social and moral influences on the human mind, the most vulgar is that of attributing the diversities of conduct and character to inherent natural differences."

The "civil war" referred to by Mill as the ultima ratio of the cottier tenant went on intermittently for ninety years of the nineteenth century, as it had gone on during the eighteenth century, and was met by coercive laws of the same general stamp. Until Mr. Gladstone took the question in hand in 1870, no reformer could get a hearing in Parliament. Bill after Bill, privately introduced, met with contemptuous rejection in favour of some senseless measure of semi-military coercion. There can, I believe, be no doubt that responsible Irish opinion, made effective, would have grappled with the evil firmly and conscientiously. Until the peasant class was driven to the last pitch of desperation, their leaders did not conceive, and, indeed, never wholly succeeded in implanting, the idea of a complete overthrowal of landlordism. The peasant was not unwilling to pay rent. He had, and still has, a deep, instinctive respect for a landed aristocracy, and was ready, and is still ready, to repay good treatment with an intensity of devotion difficult to parallel in other parts of the United Kingdom. In that veritably cataclysmic dispersion of the Irish race which ensued upon the great famine, rent continued to be paid at home out of sums remitted from relatives in America. No less than nineteen millions of money were thus remitted, according to the Emigration Commissioners of 1863, between 1847 and that date. The Roman Catholic Church, as in every part of the world, was strongly on the side of law and order, and, indeed, on many occasions stepped in to condemn disorder legitimately provoked by intolerable suffering. The wealthy and educated landlord class, face to face in a free Parliament with the tenant class, including, be it remembered, the Ulster Protestant tenants, with grievances less acute in degree, but similar in kind, would have consented to meet reform halfway under the stimulus of patriotism and an enlightened self-interest. Against the great majority of Irish landlords there was no personal charge. They came into incomes derived from a certain source under ancient laws for which they were not responsible. But, acting through the ascendancy Parliament far away in London, they remained, as an organized class—for we must always make allowance for an enlightened and public-spirited minority—blind to their own genuine interests and to the demands of humane policy. Their responsibility was transferred to English statesmen, who were not fitted, by temperament or training, to undertake it, and who always looked at the Irish land question, which had no counterpart in England, through English spectacles. We cannot attribute their failure to lack of information. At every stage there was plenty of unbiassed and instructed testimony, Whig and Tory, Protestant and Catholic, independent and official, as to the nature and origin of the trouble. Mill and Bright, in 1862, only emphasized what Arthur Young had said in 1772, and what Edward Wakefield, Sharman Crawford, Michael Sadler, Poulett Scrope, and many other writers, thinkers, and politicians had confirmed in the intervening period, and what every fair-minded man admits now to be the truth. Commission after Commission reported the main facts correctly, if the remedies they proposed were inadequate. The Devon Commission, reporting in 1845, on the eve of the great famine, condemned the prevalent agrarian tenure, and recommended the statutory establishment of the Ulster custom of tenant right. A very mild and cautious Bill was introduced and dropped.

Next year came the famine, revealing in an instant the rottenness of the economic foundations upon which the welfare of Ireland depended. The population had swollen from four millions in 1788 to nearly eight and a half millions in 1846, an unhealthy expansion, due to the well-known law of propagation in inverse ratio to the adequacy of subsistence. What happened was merely the failure of the potato-crop, not a serious matter in most countries, but in Ireland the cause of starvation to three-quarters of a million persons, and the starting-point of that vast exodus which in the last half of the nineteenth century drained Ireland of nearly four million souls. The famine passed, and with it all recollection of the report of the Devon Commission. Hitherto most of the land legislation had been designed to facilitate evictions. Now came the Encumbered Estates Act of 1849, whose purpose was to facilitate the buying out of bankrupt Irish landlords, and whose effect was to perpetuate the old agrarian system under a new set of more mercenary landlords, pursuing the old policy of rack-rents and evictions. In the three years 1849-1852, 58,423 families were evicted, or 306,120 souls. Aroused from the stupor of the famine, the peasants had to retaliate with the same old defensive policy of outrage. Peaceful agitation was of no use. The Tenant League of North and South, formed in 1852, claimed in vain the simplest of the rights granted under pressure of violence in 1870 and 1881.

Violence, indeed, was the only efficient lever in Ireland for any but secondary reforms until the last fifteen years of the century, when a remedial policy was spontaneously adopted, with the general consent of British statesmen and parties. Fear inspired the Emancipation Act of 1829, which was recommended to Parliament by the Duke of Wellington as a measure wrong in itself, but necessary to avert an organized rebellion in Ireland. Tithes, the unjust burden of a century and a half, were only commuted in 1838, after a Seven Years' War revolting in its incidents. Mr. Gladstone admitted, and no one who studies the course of events can deny, that without the Fenianism of the sixties, and the light thrown thereby on the condition of Ireland, it would have been impossible to carry the Act—again overdue by a century—for the disestablishment of the Irish Church in 1869, or the Land Act, timid and ineffectual as it was, of 1870. Without the organized lawlessness of the Land League it would have been equally impossible to bring about those more drastic changes in Irish land tenure which, amidst storms of protest from vested interests affected, were initiated under the great Land Act of 1881, and, after another miserable decade of crime and secret conspiracy, extended by the Acts of 1887, 1891, and 1896.

Briefly, the effect of these Acts was to establish three principles: a fair rent, fixed by a judicial tribunal, the Land Commission, and revisable every fifteen years; fixity of tenure as long as the rent is paid; and free sale of the tenant-right.

The remedy eventually brought widespread relief, but, from a social and economic standpoint, it was not the right remedy. There is no security for good legislation unless it be framed by those who are to live under it. Constructive thought in Ireland for the solution of her own difficulties and the harmonizing of her own discordant elements had been systematically dammed, or diverted into revolutionary excesses, which, in the traditional spirit of Fitzgibbonism, were made the pretext for more stupid torture. Thus, O'Connell, whose attachment to law was so strong that in 1843, when the Repeal agitation had reached seemingly irresistible proportions, he deliberately restrained it, was tried for sedition. So, too, were dissipated the brilliant talents of the Young Ireland group and the grave statesmanship of Isaac Butt. Fits intervened of a penitent and bungling philanthropy which has left its traces on nearly all Irish institutions. For example, it was decided in 1830 that the Irish must be educated, and a system was set up which was deliberately designed to anglicize Ireland and extirpate Roman Catholicism. Four years later, in defiance of Irish opinion, a Poor Law pedantically copied from the English model was applied to Ireland. The railway system also was grossly mismanaged. And so with the land. When reform eventually came, the evil had gone too far, and it was beyond the art of the ablest and noblest Englishmen, inheriting English conceptions of the rights of landed property, to devise any means of placing the relations between landlord and tenant in Ireland, inhuman and absurd as they were, on a sound and durable basis. The dual ownership set up by the Land Acts was more humane, but in some respects no less absurd and mischievous. It exasperated the landlord, while, by placing before the tenant the continual temptation of further reductions in rent, it tended to check good cultivation.

Men came to realize at last that the complete expropriation of the landlords through the State-aided purchase of the land was the only logical resource, and this process, begun tentatively and on a very small scale as far back as 1870, under the inspiration of John Bright, and extended under a series of other Acts, was eventually set in motion on a vast scale by the Wyndham Act of 1903.

I leave a final review of Purchase and of other quite recent remedial legislation, as well as the far more important movements for regeneration from within, to later chapters. Meanwhile, let us pause for a moment and pronounce upon the political system which made such havoc in Ireland. All this havoc, all this incalculable waste of life, energy, brains, and loyalty, was preventable and unnecessary. Ethics and honour apart, where was the common sense of the legislative Union? Would it have been possible to design a system better calculated to embitter, impoverish, and demoralize a valuable portion of the Empire?

Let us now turn our eyes across the Atlantic, and observe the effects of an Imperial policy founded on the same root idea.


[19] "Principles of Political Economy," vol. ii., p. 392.



In comparing the history of Canada with the closely allied history of Ireland, we must bear in mind that in the last half of the eighteenth century the present British North America consisted of three distinct portions: Acadia, or the Maritime Provinces, which we now know as Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, colonized originally by a few Frenchmen and later by Scotch and Irish; Lower Canada, extensively colonized by the French, which we now know as the Province of Quebec; and Upper Canada, which we now know as Ontario, colonized last of all by Americans under circumstances to be described.

In 1763, before the repeal of any part of the Penal Code against Irish Roman Catholics, the French Catholic Colony of Lower Canada, with a population of about seventy thousand souls and the two small towns of Quebec and Montreal, passed definitely into British possession under the Treaty of Paris, which brought to a conclusion the Seven Years' War. Fortunately, there was no question, as in Ireland, of expropriating the owners of the soil in favour of State-aided British planters, and hence no question of a Penal Code, even on the moderate scale current in Great Britain at the same period. On the contrary, it became a matter of urgent practical expediency to conciliate the conquered Province in view of the growing disaffection of the American Colonies bordering it on the South. This disaffection, assuming ominous proportions on the enactment of the Stamp Act in 1765, was itself an indirect result of the conquest of Canada a few years before; for the claim to tax the Americans for Imperial purposes arose from the enormous expense of the war of conquest and of the subsequent charges for defence and upkeep. It was forgotten that American volunteers had captured Louisburg in 1745, and had borne a distinguished part in later operations, and that to lay a compulsory tax upon them would banish glorious memories common to America and Britain. Henceforward, conquered French Canada was made a political bulwark against rebellious America. The French colonists, a peaceable, primitive folk, as attached to their religion as the Irish, and devoted mainly to agriculture, retained, as long as they desired it, the old French system of law known as the Custom of Paris and the free exercise of their religion. Like the Irish, they were strongly monarchical and strongly conservative in feeling, and as impervious to the Republican propaganda emanating from their American neighbours as the Catholic Irish always at heart remained to the revolutionary principles of Wolfe Tone's school. Unmolested in their habits and possessions, they philosophically accepted the transference from the Bourbon to the Hanoverian dynasty, and became an indispensable source of strength to George III. when that monarch was using his German troops to coerce his American subjects and his British troops to overawe the Ulster Volunteers.

In 1774, immediately before the outbreak of a war against which Ireland was protesting, and in which, with the soundest justification, the Irish-Americans, Catholic and Protestant, took such a prominent part against the British arms, the Quebec Act was passed giving formal statutory sanction to the Catholic religion, and setting up a nominated legislative Council, whose members were subject to no religious test. In Ireland it was not till six years later, and, as we have seen, by means of precisely the same pressure—British fear of America—that the Irish Protestant Volunteers obtained the abolition of the test for Dissenters, while Catholics in Ireland were still little more than outlaws, and had to wait for nearly sixty years for complete emancipation. The result of the Quebec Act, together with the sympathetic administration of that great Irishman, Sir Guy Carleton, was the firm allegiance of the French Province in spite of an exceedingly formidable invasion, during the whole of the American War, and even after the intervention of European France. It is part of the dramatic irony of these occurrences that some of the invading army was composed of Morgan's Irish-American riflemen, and that one of the two joint leaders of the invasion was the Irish-American, General Richard Montgomery, who fell at the unsuccessful assault of Quebec on December 31, 1775.

In spite of Burke's noble appeal in the House of Commons, toleration in the abstract had nothing to do with the treatment of the French Catholics. British Catholics in the neighbouring Prince Edward Island were denied all civil rights in 1770, and only gained them in 1830. In England, the Quebec Act with difficulty survived a storm of indignation, in which even Chatham joined. The small minority of British settled in Quebec and Montreal made vehement protests, while the American Congress itself in 1774 committed the irreparable blunder of making the establishment of the Roman Catholic religion in Canada one of its formally published grievances against Great Britain. When war broke out, and the magnitude of the mistake was seen, efforts were made to seduce the Canadians by hints of a coming British tyranny, but the Canadians very naturally abode by their first impressions.

The peace of 1783 and the final recognition of American Independence led to results of far-reaching importance for the further development of the British Empire. Out of the loss of the American Colonies came the foundation of Australia and of British Canada. Before the war it had been the custom to send convicts from the United Kingdom to penal settlements in the American Colonies. The United States stopped this traffic. Pitt's Government decided, after several years of doubt and delay, to divert the stream of convicts to the newly acquired and still unpopulated territory of New South Wales, made known by the voyages of Captain Cook and Sir Joseph Banks. At the same period a very different class of men, seeking a new home, were thrown upon the charity of the British Government. These were the "United Empire Loyalists," as they styled themselves, some 40,000 Americans, with a sprinkling of Irishmen among them, such as Luke Carscallion, Peter Daly, Willet Casey, and John Canniff,[20] who had fought on the Royalist side throughout the war, and at the end of it found their fortunes ruined and themselves the objects of keen resentment. Pitt, with a "total lack of Imperial imagination," as Mr. Holland Rose puts it,[21] does not seem to have considered the plan of colonizing Australia with a part of these men, 433 of whom were reported to be living in destitution in London three years after the war. No more alacrity was shown in relieving the distress of those still in America. In 1788, however, a million and a quarter pounds were voted by Parliament for relief, and large grants of land were made in Canada, whither most of the Loyalists had already begun to emigrate. Some went to the Maritime Provinces, notably to the region now known as New Brunswick; a few went to the towns of the Quebec Province, for the country lands on the lower reaches of the St. Lawrence were already monopolized by the French "habitants"; the rest, estimated at 10,000, to the upper reaches of the St. Lawrence and along the shores of the Lakes Ontario and Erie, in short, to what we now know as the Province of Ontario, and to what then became known as Upper Canada.

From this moment the three Canadas gain sharp definition. To the west Upper Canada, exclusively American or, as we must now say, British in character; next to the east, and cutting off its neighbour from the sea, the ancient Province of Lower Canada, predominantly French, with a minority of British traders in the two towns Quebec and Montreal; last of all the Maritime Provinces, small communities with an almost independent history of their own, although, like Upper and Lower Canada, they eventually presented a problem similar fundamentally to the Irish problem on the other side of the Atlantic. Prince Edward Island is the closest parallel, for, besides the Catholic disabilities of 1770, in 1767 the whole of its land had been granted away by ballot in a single day to a handful of absentee English proprietors, who sublet to occupiers without security of tenure, with the result that a land question similar to that of Ireland arose, which inflamed society and retarded the development of the island for a whole century. Ultimately, moreover, statesmen were driven to an even more drastic solution—compulsory and universal State-aided land purchase.[22] Before the period we have now reached, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, which was carved out of it, had been given rude systems of representative Government, and New Brunswick, also at one time a part of Nova Scotia, received a Constitution in 1784.

The great question after the American War was how to govern the two contiguous Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, the one newly settled by men of British race and Protestant faith, the other also under the British flag, but overwhelmingly French and Catholic, both, in the critical half-century to come, to be reinforced by immigrants from the Old World, and to a large extent from misgoverned Ireland. But let the reader once and for all grasp this point, that, once out of Ireland, there ceases, not immediately, but in course of time, to be any racial or political distinction between the different classes of Irishmen, whose antagonism at home, artificially provoked and fomented by the bad form of government under which they lived, so often made Ireland itself a very hell on earth. I want to dwell on this point in order to avoid confusion when I speak of the bi-racial conditions of Lower Canada and Ireland respectively.

To return to the question of Government. The American Colonies were lost. Here in Canada was an opportunity for a new Imperial policy, better calculated to retain the affections of the colonists. Three distinct problems were involved:

1. Was French or Lower Canada, with its small minority of British, to be given representative Government at all?

2. If so, was it to be left as a separate unit, or was it to be amalgamated in a Union with its neighbour, Upper Canada?

3. Whichever course was taken, what was to be the relation between the Home Government and Canada?

All these questions arise in the case of Ireland itself, and the parallel in each case is interesting. In Canada they were determined for the space of half a century by the Constitutional Act of 1791, passed at the period when Grattan's unreformed Parliament was hastening to its fall, and Wolfe Tone was founding his Society of United Irishmen. Let us take in turn the three questions posed above.

1. The British minority in Lower Canada, supported by a corresponding school in England, were strong for an undisguised British ascendancy, without any recognition of the French. They urged, what was true, that the French were unaccustomed to representative government, and implied, what was neither true nor politic, that they could not, and ought not to, be educated to it. If there was to be an Assembly at all, it should, they claimed, be wholly British and Protestant, or, in the alternative, the Protestant minority only should be represented at Westminster. In other words, they wished either for the pre-Union Irish system or for the post-Union Irish system, both of them, as time was just beginning to prove, equally disastrous to the interests of Ireland. We are not surprised to find these ideas supported by the Irishman Burke, in whom horror of the French Revolution had destroyed the last particle of Liberalism. If Pitt lacked "Imperial imagination," he knew more than most of his contemporaries about the elementary principles of governing white men. It was only a few years before that he had urged upon his Irish Viceroy, Rutland, a reform of the Irish Parliament which might have united the races and averted all the disasters to come, and in this very year (1791) he was pressing forward the Catholic franchise in Ireland. The French in Canada must, he said, be represented in a popular Assembly equally with the British, and on the broadest possible franchise, and they were.

2. The next question was that of the union or separation of Upper and Lower Canada. Here, and from the same underlying motive, the British minority in Lower Canada were for the Union, partly on commercial grounds, but mainly as a step in the direction of overcoming French influence. Upper Canada, wholly British, was, on the whole, neutral. Pitt, on high principle, again took correct ground. He did not, indeed, foresee that separation, for geographical reasons, would cause certain inconveniences; but he did understand—and experience in both Provinces ultimately proved him right—that it was absolutely hopeless to try and avert social and racial discord by artificially swamping the French element. He declared, then, for the separation of the two Canadas into two distinct Provinces. Note the beginnings of another, though a distant, analogy with the relations of Ireland and Great Britain, distant because the French at this time largely outnumbered the British of both Provinces, and in after-years maintained something very near a numerical equality. But the same underlying principle was involved. Pitt, in the Legislative Union of Ireland and Great Britain nine years later, constructed without geographical necessity, indeed, in defiance of geography and humanity, the very system which, in a form by comparison almost innocuous, he had condemned for Canada; but not, we must in fairness remember, before doing his part at an earlier date to arrive at a solution which, given a fair chance, would have rendered the Union of Ireland and England unnecessary.

3. So far, good. But there still remained a further question far transcending the other in importance—What was to be the relation between the Home Government and the new Colonies? Here all British intellects, that of Fox alone excepted, were as much at a loss as ever. One simple deduction was made from what had happened in America, namely, that the new Colonies must not be forced to contribute to Imperial funds by taxes levied from London. That claim had already been abandoned in 1778 by the Colonial Tax Repeal Act, which nevertheless expressly reserved the King's right to levy "such duties as it may be expedient to impose for the regulation of commerce," the sum so raised to be retained for the use of the Colony. No one made the more comprehensive deduction, even in the case of wholly British Upper Canada, that Colonial affairs should be controlled by Colonial opinion, constitutionally ascertained, and that the British Governor should act primarily through advisers chosen by the majority of the people under his rule. We must bear in mind that, had Grattan's Parliament been reformed, and the warring races in Ireland been brought into harmony, it would still have had to pass through the crucial phase of establishing its right to choose Ministers by whose advice the Lord-Lieutenant should be guided, that is, if it were to become a true Home Rule Parliament of the kind we aim at to-day.

From the date of the Constitutional Act passed for Canada in 1791, it took fifty-six troubled years and an armed rebellion in each Province to establish the principle of what we call "responsible Government" for Canada, and, through Canada, for the rest of the white Colonies of the Empire. During these fifty-six years, which correspond in Irish history to a period dating from the middle of Grattan's Parliament down to the great Famine, ascendancies, with the symptoms of disease which always attended ascendancies, grew up in Canada, as they had in Ireland, in spite of conditions which were far more favourable in Canada to healthy political growth. Canada started with this great advantage over Ireland, that instead of a corrupt parody of a Parliament, each of her Provinces, under the Constitutional Act of 1791, had a real popular Assembly, elected without regard to race or religion. It was the Upper House or Legislative Council, as it was called, that interposed the first obstacle to the free working of popular institutions. In both Provinces this Council was nominated by the Governor, and could be used, and was naturally used, to represent minority interests and obstruct the popular assembly. Fox had correctly prophesied that it would soon come "to inspire hatred and contempt." But he did not mean that such a chamber was in itself an insuperable bar to harmony. Nominated or hereditary second chambers are not necessarily inconsistent with popular government, provided that the Executive Government itself possesses the confidence of the representative Assembly. Under that lever, obstruction eventually gives way. But this idea of a tie of confidence between the Governors and the governed was exactly what was lacking.

The Executive Council in each Province was also chosen by the British Governor or Lieutenant-Governor, generally a military man, from persons representing either his own purely British policy or the ideas of a privileged colonial minority, and without regard to the wishes or opinions of the Colonial Assembly, just as the Executive officers in Ireland, both before and after the Union, were chosen out of corresponding elements by the Lord-Lieutenant or Chief Secretary, acting under the orders of the British Government, and without any regard to the wishes or opinions of the majority of Irishmen. Behind all, in remote Downing Street stood the British Government, in the shape of the Colonial Office for Canada and the Irish Office for Ireland, both working in dense ignorance of the real needs of the countries for which they were responsible, and permeated with prejudice and pedantry. To complete the parallel, there was now a foreign Power in the close neighbourhood of each dependency, the United States in the case of Canada, France in the case of Ireland, both of them Republican Powers, and both able and willing to take advantage of disaffection in the dependencies in order to further a quarrel with the Mother Country. We have seen the results in Ireland. Let us now observe the results in Canada, taking especial care to notice that an ascendancy Government gives rise to the same type of evil in a uni-racial as in a bi-racial community.

Let us glance first at what happened in Upper Canada, which was uni-racial, that is, composed of settlers from the United Kingdom (including Ireland) and America. Here the original settlers, the "United Empire Loyalists" from America, formed from the first, and maintained for half a century, an ascendancy of wealth and religion over the incoming settlers, who soon constituted the majority of the population. As in Ireland, though in a degree small by comparison, there was a land question and a religious question, closely related to one another. Happily, it was not a case of robbery, but of simple monopoly. Excessively large grants of land, nine-tenths of which remained uncultivated, were obtained by the original settlers, most of whom were Episcopalian in faith, and, under the Act of 1791, further tracts of enormous extent, which for the most part lay waste and idle, were set apart in each township, under the name of "Clergy Reserves" for the Episcopalian Church. Since the majority of the incoming settlers were Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, or Roman Catholics, many of them from the Protestant and Catholic parts of Ireland, some from America, some even from Germany, these conditions caused intense irritation, checking both the development of the country and the growth of solid character among the colonists. Absentee ownership was a grave economic evil, though happily it was not complicated and embittered by a vicious system of tenure. Education suffered severely through the diversion of the income from public lands to private purposes.

The ascendancy was maintained on lines familiar in Ireland—through the mutual dependence of the colonial minority and the Home Government acting through its Governor. A few leading Episcopalian families from among the United Empire Loyalists, installed at Toronto, with the support of a succession of High Tory Lieutenant-Governors, monopolized the Executive Council, the Legislative Council, the Bench, the Bar, and all offices of profit, denying a Canadian career to the vast majority of Upper Canadians, just as Irishmen were excluded from an Irish career. For a long time the Assembly itself, which retained its original Constitution long after the influx of immigrants had rendered necessary its enlargement on a new electoral basis, was a subject of monopoly also. Even when enlarged in 1821 it was helpless against the nominated Council and Executive, backed by Downing Street. The oligarchy came to be known by the name of the "family compact," and, as the reader will observe, it bore a close resemblance in form to the "undertaker" system in Ireland before the Union, and to the monopoly of patronage obtained by certain families, notably the Beresfords.

While the Colony was still small, the system worked tolerably well; but from the second decade of the nineteenth century onwards, when the population grew from 150,000 to 250,000 in 1832, and to 500,000 a few years later, and the Episcopalians sank into a numerical minority as low as a quarter, troubles of the Irish type became proportionately acute. The Colony was in reality perfectly content with its position under the Crown, and in the war with America in 1812 all classes and creeds united to repel invasion with enthusiasm. One of the prominent leaders was an Irishman, James Fitzgibbon, and a poor Irish private, James O'Hara, won fame by refusing to surrender at the capture of Toronto Fort. As usual, however, a fictitious standard of "loyalty," which, in fact, meant privilege, was set up, obscuring those questions of good government which were the only real matters at issue in Canada, as in Ireland. There were Republican immigrants of many denominations from America, Radicals of Cobbett's school from England and Scotland, tenants of a democratic turn from Ulster, and a growing stream of Catholic cottiers flying from the "clearances" and tithe war in other Irish Provinces. All these classes of men made excellent settlers, and only wanted fair and equal treatment to make them perfectly peaceable citizens. To the official oligarchy, however, even their moderate leaders came to be viewed as rebels, and were often subjected to imprisonment or to banishment.

Among others William Gourlay, a Scotsman, Stephen Willcocks and Francis Collins, Irishmen, all three perfectly respectable reformers, suffered in this way. Bidwell, the great Robert Baldwin, and other good men were rendered powerless for good. As invariably happens in any part of the world where a course is pursued which estranges moderate men and embitters extreme men, agitators came to the front lacking that self-control and sense of responsibility which the sobering education of office alone can give, and generally ruining themselves while they benefit humanity at large. Chief of these was W.L. Mackenzie, a Presbyterian Scot from Dundee. All this man really wanted was what exists to-day as a matter of course in all self-governing countries—responsible government. He even conceived that great idea of the Confederation of British North America, which came to birth in 1867. Thwarted in his attacks on the oligarchy, he degenerated into violent courses, and ultimately organized, or rather was provoked into organizing, the rebellion of 1837. The grievances which led to this outbreak were genuine and severe, and were all in course of time admitted and redressed. One, the powerlessness of the Assembly, owing to the control by the Executive of annual sums sufficient to pay the official expenses of Government, corresponded to a pre-Union Irish grievance, and was remedied by an Act of 1831. Most of the other grievances were incurable by constitutional effort. They may be found summarized in the "Seventh Report of Grievances," a temperate and truthful document drawn up by a Committee of the Assembly in 1835. The huge unsettled Clergy Reserves and Crown Lands were the worst concrete abuse, and matters had just then been aggravated by the sudden establishment of scores of sinecure rectories. Jobbery, maladministration, and the dependence of the judges on the Executive were other complaints; but the main assault was made quite rightly on the form of the Colonial Government, which rendered peaceful reform of any abuse as impossible as in Ireland, and the cardinal claim was that the Executive should act, not under the dictation of Downing Street, of an irresponsible Governor, or of a narrow colonial oligarchy, but in accordance with popular opinion. Mackenzie's rebellion of 1837 was a no more formidable affair than the similar efforts in Ireland made under incomparably greater provocation by Emmett in 1803 and Smith O'Brien in 1848, and was as easily suppressed; but, unlike the Irish outbreaks, and in conjunction with a revolt arising in the same year and from similar causes in the adjoining Province of Lower Canada, it led to a complete change of system.

In Lower Canada the same preposterous system of government was aggravated by the presence of the two races, French and English. Yet there was nothing inherently dangerous or unwholesome about this situation. The French, like the Catholics in Ireland, never showed the smallest tendency towards religious intolerance, nor were they less loyal at heart than the Radicals of Upper Canada or the Tories of either Province. They took the same energetic part in repelling the American invasion of 1812, and produced at least one remarkable leader in the person of Colonel Salaberry, who commanded the French-Canadian Voltigeurs. Like their co-religionists in Ireland, they were temperamentally averse to Republicanism in any shape, whether on the American model over the border or on the model of revolutionary France, where Republicanism since 1793 was anti-Catholic and the result of miseries and oppressions as bad as those in Ireland; whence, moreover, many priests and nobles fled from persecution to Lower Canada. As in eighteenth-century Ireland, we find that the Roman Catholic clergy, the seigneurs or aristocrats, and the habitants or peasants, were of a Conservative cast, throwing their weight, often even against their own interests, into the scale of the established Government, while the lawyers and journalists alone produced determined agitators. The racial cleavage, moreover, as in Ireland, was artificially accentuated by the political system. There was in reality a strong community of interest between the British lower class and the French lower class against the tyranny of an official clique, and to the end a substantial number of Englishmen worked with the French for reform; but with the failure of their efforts came that inevitable tightening of the bonds of race, even against interest, which we have seen operating with such lamentable effect in Ireland. And, as in Ireland, we find the best instincts of the people withered and perverted into rebellion by "Fitzgibbonism," the policy of distrust and coercion.

The British official ascendancy, supreme from the first, became extraordinarily rigid. The Executive Council and Legislative Council were almost entirely British, the Assembly overwhelmingly French. There were no regular heads of departments, so that the Governor had no skilled advice, much less responsible advice. The Councils blocked all legislation they disliked, and for more than forty years, by means of unrestricted control over a large part of the provincial revenues, were able to defy the Assembly. It will be observed that, although Ireland never had anything worth calling an Assembly, her structure both before and after the Union was essentially the same, in that Irish public opinion, whether voiced by the Volunteers against the unreformed Parliament or after the Union by the Nationalist party at Westminster, was powerless. The existence of a popular Assembly in Canada only made the anomalies more obvious.

There were, of course, marked divergencies of character and less marked divergencies of interest between the French majority and the British minority in Canada. The French, by comparison, were a backward and conservative race, less well educated and less progressive and energetic both in agriculture and commerce than the British. On the other hand, subsequent experience showed that, under free constitutional government, British intelligence, wealth, and energy would, here as elsewhere, have preserved their full legitimate influence. Under a system which throttled French ideas and aspirations, and treated the most harmless popular movements as treasonable machinations, deadlock and anarchy were in the long run inevitable.

The popular demands were much the same as those in Upper Canada: control of the purse, the independence of the judges, an elective Legislative Council, and a curtailment of the arbitrary powers and privileges of the Executive, which led to gross jobbery, favouritism, and extravagance. As in Upper Canada, the greatest practical grievance, though it assumed a somewhat different form, was the disposal of the public lands. Here, too, there were extensive and undeveloped Clergy Reserves for the Episcopalian Church, as well as free grants on a large scale to speculators. The estates of the Jesuit Order had been confiscated, so that disputes about their disposal were tinged with religious bitterness. But most of the friction over the land question came from the operations of a chartered land company, which, under the protection of the Government, and with financial and political support from England, dealt with the unsettled land in a manner very unfair and often corrupt, and promoted here, as in Upper Canada and Ireland, absentee ownership.

The popular agitation ran the same course as in Upper Canada, reached its crisis at the same moment, threw into prominence the same types of men, moderate and extreme, and produced the same waste of good human material and distortion of human character, both in the ascendant and the subject classes. As Sir John Cockburn tells us in his "Political Annals of Canada" (p. 177), some of the most incendiary speakers and writers (in 1836) were "most able and worthy men, who in the subsequent days of tranquillity occupied most prominent and distinguished positions in the public service, revered as loyal, true, and able statesmen by all classes." The popular movement was by no means wholly French. A Scot, John Neilson; an Englishman, Wilfred Nelson; and an Irish journalist, Dr. O'Callaghan, were prominent members of a kind of Radical party; but the ablest and most influential among the agitators, and in every respect more admirable than Mackenzie, was the Frenchman, Louis Papineau, who first became Speaker of the Assembly in 1817, and retained that high position until the verge of the rebellion of 1837. By no means devoid of superficial faults, but eloquent, honest, accomplished and adored by his compatriots, here was a man who, if he had been given reasonable scope for his talents, and steadied by official responsibility, would have been a tower of strength to the Colony and the British connection. He corresponds in position and aims, and to a certain extent in character and gifts, to his great Irish contemporary, O'Connell. But O'Connell was too conservative to produce great results. Papineau, dashing himself in vain for twenty years against the entrenched camp of the ascendancy, finally degenerated, like Mackenzie, into a commonplace rebel.

The phases through which the agitation passed before it reached this disastrous point need only a brief review. Naturally enough, owing to the bi-racial conditions, friction had arisen earlier in Lower than in Upper Canada, yet the first recognition of the flagrant defects of the Constitution was not made till 1828, when a Committee of the British House of Commons published a Report which, though its recommendations were mild and inadequate, was in effect a censure of the whole political system of the Province and an admission of the justice of the agitation. There was no result for four years, while matters went from bad to worse in the Colony. At last, in 1832, under an Act similar to that passed for Upper Canada, all the provincial revenues were placed under the control of the Assembly in return for the voting of a fixed Civil List. This well-meant half-measure made matters worse, because it left the Assembly just as powerless as before over the details of legislation and administration, while giving it the power to paralyze the Government by refusing all, instead of only part, of the supplies. This it proceeded to do, and in the next five years large deficits were piled up, and the Colony became insolvent.

Meanwhile, in February, 1834, a year before the publication of the "Seventh Report of Grievances" in Upper Canada, and three months before O'Connell's celebrated motion in the House of Commons for the Repeal of the Union between England and Ireland, the Assembly of Lower Canada, at Papineau's instance, passed the equally celebrated "Ninety-two Resolutions." Bombastic and diffuse, like parts of O'Connell's speech, this historic document nevertheless was as true in all really essential respects as Mackenzie's manifesto and as O'Connell's tremendous indictment of the system of Government in Ireland. All three men, O'Connell with far the most justification, demanded the same thing, good government for their respective countries under a responsible Parliament and Ministry. They all occasionally used wild language, O'Connell the least wild. O'Connell, who nine years later deliberately quenched a popular revolt he could have headed, failed in his aim as completely as Tone, Emmett, and Smith O'Brien, who pressed their efforts to the point of violence. Mackenzie and Papineau, who took to arms, succeeded in their aim.

The crisis in Lower Canada was precipitated, and, indeed, provoked, by a challenge thrown out in March, 1837, from the British House of Commons, where, at Lord John Russell's instance, the Ten Resolutions were agreed to, which amounted in effect to a denial of all the colonial claims and a declaration of war upon those who made them. Papineau had to eat his words or make them good, and he chose the latter course. His insurrection was arranged in concert with that of the Upper Province, broke out simultaneously in the winter of 1837, and was extinguished with little difficulty. The men who made it suffered. Canada and the Empire profited. Both Papineau and Mackenzie, following the precedent of Wolfe Tone with France, endeavoured with little success to engage American sympathy and the aid of her army, though Canada had as little desire for American rule as Ireland had for French rule.

Let us remark, as an interesting fact for those who imagine that Irishmen are always instinctively on the side of turbulence and disorder, that the Irish immigrants who poured into Canada at the average annual rate of 20,000 in the years—terrible years in Ireland—preceding the rebellions,[23] acted much as we might expect. In the Lower Province, following the lead of the French Catholic hierarchy, they declared in November, 1837, against Papineau's party, and thus strengthened the hands of the Government when the crisis approached.[24] In the Upper Province Catholics were strongly on the side of reform, but took no part in the rebellion. Orangemen in both Provinces, as we might guess, sided as strongly with the ascendancy parties, but colonial air seems to have taken some of the theological venom out of Orangeism. If Charles Buller is to be trusted, some Catholics joined the societies in Upper Canada, which were more Tory than religious, and the healths of William of Orange and the Catholic Bishop Macdonnell were drunk in impartial amity.[25]

In the meantime, three of the four outlying Provinces of North America—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island—where the same form of Constitution prevailed as in Upper and Lower Canada, had been passing through a similar phase of misgovernment and agitation during the previous thirty years. Each suffered under a little monopolist ascendancy, called by the same name, "the family compact," and sustained, against the prevailing sentiment and interest, by the British Governor, and in each had arisen, or was arising, the same loud demand for responsible government. Samuel Wilmot in New Brunswick, Joseph Howe in Nova Scotia, were the best-known spokesmen. There was no violence, but a growing dislocation. In five Provinces of North America, therefore, the Colonial Government had broken down or was tottering, and from exactly the same cause as in Ireland, though under provocation infinitely less grave. For the moment, however, attention was concentrated upon the Canadas, where, as a result of the rebellion, the Constitution of Lower Canada was suspended early in 1838. In the summer of 1838 Lord Durham, the Radical peer, was sent out by Melbourne's Ministry as Governor-General, with provisionally despotic powers, and with instructions to advise upon a new form of government.

Before we come to Durham's proposals, let us pause and examine the state of home opinion on the Irish and Colonial questions. The people of Great Britain at large had no opinion at all. They were ignorant both of Canada and Ireland, and had been engaged, and, indeed, were still engaged, in a political struggle of their own which absorbed all their energies. The Chartist movement in 1838 was assuming grave proportions. The Reform, won in 1832 under the menace of revolution and in the midst of shocking disorders, was in reality a first step toward the domestic Home Rule that Ireland and the five Provinces of North America were clamouring for. Tory statesmen were quite alive to this political fact, and condemned all the political movements, British, Irish, and Colonial, indiscriminately and on the same broad anti-democratic grounds. The Duke of Wellington, who was not a friend of the Reform Act, and had only adopted Catholic Emancipation in order to avoid civil war in Ireland, speaking about Canada in the House of Lords on January 18, 1838, coupled together the United States, British North America, and Ireland as dismal examples of the folly of concession to popular demands. Pointing to the results of the Canada Act of 1831, to which I have already alluded, and which gave the Assemblies control of the provincial revenue, and with an eye, no doubt, on the tithe war barely at an end in Ireland, he said: "Let noble lords learn from Canada and our other dominions in North America what it is to hold forth what are called popular rights, but which are not popular rights here or elsewhere, and what occasion is given thereby to perpetuate a system of agitation which ends in insurrection and rebellion."

The Whig statesmen who, if we except Peel's short Administration of 1834-35, were in power from 1830 to 1841, though by no means democratic men, were clear enough about Reform for Great Britain, but nearly as ignorant and quite as wrong about Ireland and Canada as the Tories. The only prominent Parliamentarian who, as after events proved, correctly diagnosed and prescribed for the disease in both countries was O'Connell. Not fully alive to the Irish analogy, but correct from first to last about Canada, was a small group of independent Radicals, of whom Roebuck, Hume, Grote, Molesworth, and Leader were the principal representatives. After the insurrections in Canada came John Stuart Mill, Edward Gibbon Wakefield, Charles Buller, and with them Lord Durham himself.

No one can understand either Irish or Colonial history without reading the debates of this period in the Lords and Commons on Canada and Ireland. Alternating with one another with monotonous regularity, they nevertheless leave an impression of an extraordinary lack of earnestness, sympathy, and knowledge, and an extraordinary degree of prejudice and of bigotry in the Parliament to whose care for better or worse the welfare of nearly ten millions of British citizens outside Great Britain was entrusted. Save for an occasional full-dress debate at some peculiarly critical juncture, the debates were ill-attended. The prevailing sentiment seems to have been that Ireland and Canada, leavened by a few respectable "loyalists" and officials, on the whole, were two exceedingly mutinous and embarrassing possessions, which, nevertheless, it was the duty of every self-respecting Briton to dragoon into obedience. Both dependencies were assumed to be equally expensive, though, in fact, Ireland, as we know now, was showing a handsome profit at the time, whereas Canada was costing a quarter of a million a year. For the rest, the pride of power tempered a sort of fatalistic apathy. In the case of Ireland the element of pure selfishness was stronger, because the immense vested interests, lay and clerical, in Irish land were strongly represented. The proximity of Ireland, too, rendered coercion more obvious and easy. Otherwise, her case was the same as that of Canada. "The Canadas are endeavouring to escape from us, America has escaped us, but Ireland shall not escape us," said an English member to O'Connell just before the Repeal debate of 1834. Such was the current view.

Yet, as in the case of Ireland and of the lost American Colonies, the materials for knowledge of Canada were considerable. Petitions poured in; Committees and Commissions were appointed, and made reports which were consigned to oblivion. Roebuck, one of the small Radical group, was himself a Lower Canadian by birth, and acted as agent at Westminster for the popular party in that Province. He was as impotent as O'Connell, the spokesman of the Irish popular party. If the Colonial Office was not quite the "den of peculation and plunder" which Hume called it in 1838,[26] it was an obscure and irresponsible department, where jobbery was as rife as in Dublin Castle. In the ten years of colonial crisis (1828-1838), there were eight different Colonial Secretaries and six Irish Chief Secretaries.

Over and above all this apathy and arrogance was the perfectly genuine incapacity to comprehend that idea of responsible government which even the most hot-headed and erratic of the colonial agitators did instinctively comprehend. Until Durham had at last opened Lord John Russell's eyes, the great Whig statesman was as positive and explicit as the Tories, Wellington and Stanley, in declaring that it was utterly impossible for the Monarch's Representative overseas to govern otherwise than by instructions from home and through Ministers appointed by himself in the name of the King. One constitutional King ruled over Great Britain, Canada, and Ireland. He could not be advised by two sets of Ministers. The thing was not only an unthinkably absurd nullification of the whole Imperial theory, but, in practice, would destroy and dissolve the Empire. William IV. himself told Lord Melbourne that it was his "fixed resolution never to permit any despatch to be sent ... that can for a moment hold out the most distant idea of the King ever permitting the question even to be entertained by His Majesty's confidential servants of a most remote bearing relative to any change of the appointment of the King's Councils in the numerous Colonies." Lord Stanley said, in 1837, that the "double responsibility" was impossible, that there must either be separation or no responsible government, and that it was "no longer a question of expediency but of Empire." Lord John Russell, polished, sober, scorning to descend to the mere vulgar abuse of the colonials which disfigured the utterances of many of his opponents, struggling visibly to reconcile Liberalism with Empire, nevertheless arrived at the same conclusion. In a debate of March 6, for example, in the same year, in proposing the defiant Resolutions which provoked the rebellion in Canada, he argued at length that a responsible Colonial Ministry was "incompatible with the relations of a Mother Country and a Colony," and would be "subversive of the power of the British Crown," and again, on December 22, that it meant "independence." O'Connell rightly replied to the former speech that Russell and his followers were supporting "principles that had been the fruitful source of civil war, dissension, and distractions in Ireland for centuries." The Radical group pushed home the Irish parallel. Hume quoted, as applicable to Canada, Fox's saying: "I would have the whole Irish Government regulated by Irish notions and Irish prejudices, and I firmly believe ... that the more she is under Irish Government the more she will be bound to English interests." Molesworth declared, what was perfectly true at that moment of passion and folly, that his extreme political opponents wanted to make the reconquest of Ireland a precedent for the reconquest of Canada.

It would repay the reader to turn back from this debate to the Irish Repeal Debate of three years earlier, and listen to Sir Robert Peel stating as one of the "truths which be too deep for argument," that the Repeal of the Union "must lead to the dismemberment of this great Empire, must make Great Britain a fourth-rate Power, and Ireland a savage wilderness," which, as a matter of fact, it was at the very time he was speaking, after thirty years of the Legislative Union, and seven hundred years of irresponsible government. We must listen to him claiming that the beneficent and impartial British Government was "saving Ireland from civil war" between its own "warring sects," whereas, in fact, it was that Government which had brought those warring sects into being, which had fomented and exploited their dissensions, which had provoked the rebellion of 1798, and by its shameful neglect and partiality in the succeeding generation had flung Ireland into a social condition hardly distinguishable from "civil war." And we must realize that closely similar arguments, with special stress on the right of taxation, had been used for the coercion of the American Colonies, and that exactly the same arguments, founded on the same inversion of cause and effect, were used to defend the coercion of Canada. There, also, the Fitzgibbonist doctrine of revenge and oppression by a majority vested with power was freely used, even by Lord John Russell, in his speech of March 6, 1837, and of December 22 in the same year, when he spoke of the "deadly animosity" of the French and "of the wickedness of abandoning the British to proscription, loss of property, and probably of lives." He ignored the fact that the same state of anarchy had been reached in uni-racial Upper Canada as in bi-racial Canada, and that the "loyalists" in both cases were not only in the same state of unreasoning alarm for their vested rights, but, in the spirit of the Ulstermen of that day and ever since, were threatening to "cut the painter," and declare for annexation to the United States if their ascendancy were not sustained by the Home Government. Then, as to-day, the ascendant minority were supported in their threats by a section of British politicians. Lord Stanley's speech of March 8, 1837, where he boasted that the "loyal minority of wealth, education, and enterprise" would protect themselves, and, if necessary, call in the United States, is being matched in speeches of to-day. In all the debates of the period it is interesting to see the ignorance which prevailed about the troubles in Upper Canada. The racial question in Lower Canada, owing to the analogy with Ireland, was seized on to the exclusion of the underlying and far more important political question in both Provinces.

Against the policy of the two great political parties in England the little group of Radicals struggled manfully, and in the long run not in vain, although for years they had to submit to insult and contumely in their patriotic efforts to expose the vices of the colonial administration and to avert the rebellion they foresaw in the Canadas. What they feared, with only too good cause, was that the American and Irish precedents would be followed, and war made for the coercion of the Canadas, to be followed, if successful, by a still more despotic form of government, which would in its turn provoke a new revolt. Rather than that such a catastrophe should take place, they went, rightly, to the extreme point of saying that an "amicable separation" should be arranged, maintaining, what is indisputable, that the claims of humanity should supersede the claims of possession. With Russell himself declaring till the eleventh hour that responsible government was out of the question because it meant "separation," they were quite justified in demanding that separation, if indeed inevitable, should come about by agreement, not as the possible result of a fratricidal war. For such a war, though Russell could not see it until Durham made him see it, was the only alternative to the grant of responsible government. But the Radicals never used this argument unless circumstances forced them to. Molesworth, in a debate of March 6, 1838, denounced the prevailing view of the Colonies, insisted that we should be proud of them and study their interests, that reform, not separation, should be our aim. The Radicals were fully aware of the alternatives, and were unwearied in pointing out the justice and policy, in the Imperial interests, of acceding to the colonial popular demands. Grote had expressed the truth in the December debate of 1837, when he implored the House "not to use a tone of triumph at the superior power of England," but to remember that the colonists, "though freemen, like ourselves," desired to remain, "if they could do so with honour, in connection with England as the Mother Country." He was followed by a gentleman named Inglis, who said that "it was in Canada as in Ireland," a faction called itself Canada, and that we must bring "back the colonists," like the Irish, "to subordination."

Roebuck, who led the Radicals in Canadian matters, had some of the faults of Papineau and Mackenzie; yet posterity should give him and his comrades credit for a constructive Imperialism which the great men of his day lacked. It is now known that he and Sir William Molesworth powerfully influenced Durham's policy. In a paper he drew up at Durham's request on the eve of that nobleman's departure for Canada he sketched a plan, imperfect in some details, but wise in broad conception, for pacifying the Canadas, and went further in elaborating a scheme, also defective, for the Confederation of British North America under the Crown on the lines conceived by the despised demagogue, Mackenzie.[27] But the two men who, by influencing Durham, probably did most to save Canada for the Empire and to lay the foundations of the present Imperial structure, were Charles Buller, the Radical M.P., and Edward Gibbon Wakefield, both of whom accompanied the new Governor-General to Canada, and who are generally believed to have inspired, if they did not actually write, the greater part of the celebrated Report which became the Magna Charta of the self-governing Colonies of the Empire.

A word about the events which ended in the publication of this Report. Durham reached Canada at the end of May, 1838, and in November was recalled in disgrace for exceeding—strange as it seems!—the almost absolute powers temporarily entrusted to him. He was an extraordinary mixture of a despot and a democrat, an extreme Radical in politics, an autocrat in manners, as vain and tactless as he was generous and sincere, making bitter enemies and warm friends in turn. He began by winning and ended by estranging almost every class in both Provinces of Canada, and returned to England to all appearances a spent and extinguished meteor. There is some truth, perhaps, in Greville's observation that, had he been "plain John Lambton," he would never have been chosen for Canada. It is certain that those who sent him there little dreamed of the consequences of their action. Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister, in a letter to the Queen, charged him with magnifying the Canadian troubles "in order to give greater eclat to his own departure."[28] Still, he did his work of investigation faithfully, and formed his conclusions sanely, and there were plain men of greater ability at his elbow in the persons of Wakefield and Buller, by whose advice he was wise enough to be guided. All opinion was against him when news came of his recall, and even Roebuck was denouncing him in the Spectator for his autocratic excesses; but a brilliant article by John Stuart Mill in the Westminster Review, pleading for time and confidence, arrested the tide of obloquy.

Durham's long Report, and the events which followed it, ought to be studied carefully by every voter, however lowly, who has a voice in deciding the fate of Irish Home Rule. After an exhaustive discussion of the causes of disorder in Canada, Durham made two recommendations, the first of incalculable importance, and proved by subsequent experience to be right; the second of minor consequence, and proved by subsequent experience to be wrong.

The first was that responsible government should be inaugurated both in Canada and in the Maritime Provinces of North America, whose constitutional troubles Durham also discussed. His proposal was that the Governor should govern in accordance with advice given by Colonial Ministers in whom the popular Assembly reposed confidence, and who, through that Assembly, were in touch with popular opinion; for it was to the strangulation of popular opinion that Durham attributed all the disorders and disasters of the past. This recommendation was eventually adopted, not in the Act subsequently passed, but by instructions to the Governors concerned; instructions which were first interpreted in the full liberal spirit by Lord Elgin in 1847. The Maritime Provinces at various dates and under various Governors received full responsible government by 1854. Responsible government proved the salvation of Canada and the Empire, as it would have proved, if given the chance, the salvation of Ireland and a source of immensely enhanced strength to the Empire.

The second and less important recommendation, afterwards embodied in the Act of 1840, was the Union of the two Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. Here Lord Durham, misled unhappily by the Irish precedent, fell into an error. During his visit to Canada he came near to accepting that higher conception of a Federal Union with local Home Rule for each Province, outlined by Roebuck and Mackenzie, and eventually consummated thirty years later. When he came home to London he made a volte face, rejecting the Federal idea and accepting its antitype, that Legislative and Administrative Union of the two Provinces which had been rejected by Pitt in 1791. There were, of course, economic arguments for Union apart from the racial factor; but they do not seem to have been decisive with Durham. At the last moment he gave way to a dread of predominant French influence in Lower Canada, similar at bottom to his dread of the unchecked influence of the British minority. While he feared that the latter, if let alone, would inaugurate a reign of terror, he added also: "Never again will the present generation of French-Canadians yield a loyal submission to a British Government." The argument is inconsistent with the whole spirit of the Report, which attributes the friction in both Provinces to bad political institutions. It is probable that Durham was really more influenced by the quite reasonable recognition that the French were relatively backward in civilization and ideas. He sought, therefore, both to disarm them politically and to anglicize them socially, by amalgamating their political system with that of wholly British Upper Canada. His calculation was that in a joint assembly the British would have a small but sufficient majority. The estimated population of Lower Canada was 550,000, of whom 450,000 were French, and 100,000 British and Irish; that of Upper Canada 400,000, all British and Irish. That is to say, that in both Provinces together there was a British and Irish majority of 100,000. The calculation over-estimated the British element, but in the event this mistake proved to be immaterial. Though Durham himself appears to have intended representation to be in strict accordance with population, the Union Act, passed in 1840, allotted an equal number of representatives in the Joint Assembly to each of the old Provinces. The assumption here was that the British Members from Upper Canada would unite with those of old Lower Canada to vote down the French, just as the Ulster Protestants voted with English members to vote down the Irish majority.

In practice the Union, after lasting twenty-six years, eventually broke down. Durham's fear of French disloyalty proved to be as groundless as his ideal of complete anglicization was futile. It was neither necessary, sensible, nor possible to extinguish French sentiment, and human nature triumphed over this half-hearted effort to apply in dilution the medicine of Fitzgibbonism to the Colonies. Little harm was done, because the introduction of responsible government, far transcending the Union in importance, worked irresistibly for good. Parties did not run wholly on racial lines, but racialism was encouraged by the equal representation of the two Provinces in the Assembly, in spite of the greater growth of population in the Upper Province. The system was unhealthy, and at last produced a state of deadlock, in which two exactly equal parties were balanced, and a stable Government impossible. When that point was reached, men began to observe the strong and supple Constitution of the adjacent United States, and to recognize that a politically feeble Canada was courting an absorption from that quarter which all Canadians disliked. The Legislative Union was dissolved by the mutual consent of the Provinces with the approval of the Mother Country, and in 1867, under the British North America Act, the Federal Union was formed which exists in such strength and stability to-day. Fear of French disloyalty or tyranny was a night-mare of the past, even with the British minority in Lower Canada. It was realized that French national sentiment was perfectly consistent with racial harmony under the British flag. Upper Canada became Ontario, Lower Canada Quebec. Each Province reserved a local autonomy for itself, and each at the same moment voluntarily surrendered certain high powers to a supreme centralized Government, in which both had confidence. Such a political system is capable of indefinite expansion. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined the Federation at the outset, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia a little later, and were followed in turn by the successively developed Provinces which now form the united and powerful Dominion of Canada.

Turn back to Ireland and weigh well the analogy. Mutatis mutandis, almost every paragraph of the Durham Report applied with greater force to the Ireland of his day. The ascendancy of a caste and creed minority in Upper Canada; of a race minority in Lower Canada; "the conflict of races, not of principles"; the consequent obliteration of natural political divisions, and the substitution of unnatural and vindictive antagonisms demoralizing both sides to every quarrel; the universal disgust with and distrust of the British Government, though for reasons diametrically opposite; the hopelessness of true reforms; the perpetuation of abuses; the stagnation of trade and agriculture; the re-emigration to America, and the abuses of a Church Establishment with endowments from sources by right public—all these phenomena and many others had their counterpart in Ireland. Some have disappeared. The Church is disestablished. The land question is on the way to settlement. The old ascendancy is mitigated. But many of the political, and all the psychological, features of the situation which Durham described do, alas! exist to-day in Ireland. Ireland, like the Canada of 1838, is a land of bewildering paradox. There is a similarly unwholesome arrest of free political life, the same unnatural division of parties, the same suppression of moderate opinion, and the same inevitable maintenance of a Home Rule agitation, harmful in itself, because it retards the country and accentuates for the time being the very divisions it seeks to cure, but absolutely necessary for the final salvation of Ireland. Durham, in the case of Canada, saw the truth, and swept into the limbo of discredited bogies the old figments of the coercionists. In a singularly noble and profound passage (p. 229), revealing the ethical basis on which his philosophy rested, he declared that even if the political freedom of the Colony were to lead in the distant future to her separation from the Empire, she nevertheless had an indefeasible moral right to the blessings of freedom; but he prophesied correctly that the connection with the Empire "would only become more durable and advantageous by having more of equality, of freedom, and of local administration."

If only Irish and British Unionists would realize that these words came from a profound knowledge of human nature in the mass, and are applicable to Irishmen in Ireland just as much as to Irish, British, French, and Dutch in the Colonies!

The tenacity of the old superstition is extraordinary, and we can see it in the case of Canada. It remains a wonder to this day how responsible government was ever introduced. There can be no question that the Act of 1840 only secured a smooth passage because, in providing for the Union of the French and British Provinces, it represented a superficial analogy to that Union of Britain and Ireland which had paralyzed Irish aspirations. Durham himself had actually quoted both the Irish and Scotch Unions as successful expedients for "compelling the obedience of a refractory population," and thus arrived at the outstanding and solitary defect of his otherwise noble scheme. And O'Connell, in a debate upon the Report on June 3, 1839, opposed the Canadian Union for Irish reasons, and in language which after-experience proved to be perfectly correct. Happily, as we have seen, the defect was small and curable, because the analogy with Ireland, where there was no responsible, but, on the contrary, a separate and wholly irresponsible Executive Government, and whose interests were upheld by only 100 Members in a House of 670, was exceedingly remote. On responsible government itself the Canadian Act of 1840 was entirely silent. We may thank Providence for the fact. Durham's cardinal proposals had received unbridled vituperation as sentimental rubbish where they were not treasonable poison, the whole controversy taking precisely the same form as in 1886 and 1893 over Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bills for Ireland. The Quarterly Review spoke of "this rank and infectious Report," though it is fair to say that Peel and Wellington did not join in such wild language. Five months after the issue of Lord Durham's Report, Lord John Russell, in the debate of June 3, was denying, with the approval of all but the Radicals, the possibility of responsible government as emphatically as ever. Durham seems to have partially converted him in the summer, for in introducing the Act itself in 1840 he cautiously committed himself to the plan of instructing the Canadian Governor to include in his Executive Council, or Cabinet, men expressly chosen because they possessed the confidence of the Assembly. But the Act as it stood, ignoring this vital change, was impeccably Conservative, and on that account went through. In some points it seemed, without good reason, to be even reactionary, and was regarded in that light with displeasure by the Radicals, with satisfaction by Whigs and Tories. While confirming the control of revenue by the Assembly, in return for a fixed civil list, it took away from the Assembly, and vested in the Executive, the power of recommending money votes, and it also retained the Legislative Council or Upper Chamber as a nominated, not as an elective, body. Provided that the Executive had the confidence of the representative Assembly or Lower House, the first point was perfectly sound, and the second was not vital; but there was no security for the condition precedent other than Russell's vague outline of subsequent policy. While the supreme power of the King, acting with or without the Governor, was reaffirmed in the most vigorous terms, there was not a word in the Act about the composition of the Executive Council or its relation to the Assembly.

In Canada much the same misconceptions prevailed, and promoted the acceptance of the Act by the supporters of the old ascendancies. The question of the Union and the question of responsible government, both raised by Lord Durham's Report, became inextricably confused, and the various petitions and resolutions of the time reflect this confusion. The French opposed the Union and supported responsible government on the same grounds, and in almost identical terms, as the Irish opposed, and still oppose, their Union with Great Britain, and ask for responsible government in Ireland. Moderate Britishers supported both proposals, but the extremists of the old ascendancy bitterly denounced the whole theory of responsible government, Union or no Union. Their views are ably and incisively set forth by a Committee of the old Legislative Council of Upper Canada, that is, by the members of the "family compact," in a protest signed and transmitted to London, where it was quoted with approval by Lord John Russell. It may be found, together with other petitions of the time, in the "Canadian Constitutional Development" of Messrs. Grant and Egerton. With a few unessential changes and modifications, the whole document might be signed to-day by a Committee of Ulster Unionists, and I heartily wish that every Ulsterman would read it in a spirit of reason and generosity, and observe how every line of it was falsified by history, before he declares that the situation of Ulster is peculiar, and sets his hand or gives his adhesion to a similar document. The signatories, who, it must be remembered, were a small ruling minority of the colonists, whose power was artificially sustained by the British Governor, claim that they alone, in glorifying and in battling for "colonial dependence," are the true Imperialists. They hold dear the "unity of the Empire." Responsible government within their own Colony would lead to the "overthrowal" of that Empire, and the reduction of Britain to a "second-rate Power." A colonial Cabinet is absurd; the local and sectional interests are too strong; the British Government must remain as "umpire" to keep the parties from flying at one another's throats. The majority, who are themselves a prey to divisions (and one thinks of Nationalist splits), are seeking only for illegitimate power; the minority are for "justice and protection, and impartial government." Yet in the same breath we are told that all is happy and peaceable as it is. Why subject the Colony to the dissensions of party? Why foster a spirit of undying enmity among a people disposed to dwell together in harmony? The signatories argue from the history of Ireland and Scotland, "which never had responsible government, yet government became impracticable the moment it approached to equal rights." Hence a Union, because "government must be conducted with a view to some supreme ruling power, which is not practicable with several independent Legislatures." Finally, Loyalists and Imperialists as they are, they are not going to stand an attempt to "force independence" on them. They will take the matter into their own hands, and, if necessary, call in the United States to "replace the British influence needlessly overthrown."

I do not quote this sort of thing in order to add any tinge of bitterness to present controversies. The signatories lived to see their errors and to be ashamed of what they wrote. They, like the Irish Unionist leaders of to-day, were able and sincere men, unconscious, we may assume, that their pessimism about the tendencies of their fellow-citizens was really due to the defective institutions which they themselves were upholding, and to the forcible suppression of the finer attributes of human nature; unconscious, we may also assume, of identifying loyalty with privilege, and "the supreme ruling power" with their own ruling power; unconscious that what they called "Imperial Unity" was in reality on the verge of producing Imperial disruption; and wholly unconscious, certainly, of the ghastly irony of their analogy drawn from the brutally misgoverned, job-ridden, tithe-ridden, rack-rented Ireland of their day, living, for no fault of its own, under a condition of intermittent martial law, and hurrying at that moment towards the agony of the famine years. Less severe in degree, analogous abuses perpetuated in their own interest existed in their own Colony, and were only abolished under the new regime which they attacked with such vehemence before it came, and which, because it transformed and elevated their own character and that of their fellow-citizens, while drawing them closer to the old country, they afterwards learned to regard with pride and thankfulness.

As an effective contrast to the mistaken views of the Upper Canadian statesmen, the reader cannot do better than study the letters of Joseph Howe, the brilliant Nova Scotia "agitator," to Lord John Russell, in answer to that statesman's speech of June 3, 1839, when he argued against responsible government, and quoted the Upper Canadian manifesto as his text. These letters make a wonderful piece of sustained and humorous satire, of which every word was true and every word applicable to Ireland. Howe's portrait, for example, of the average Colonial Governor applies line for line to the average Chief Secretary, coming at an hour's notice to a country he has never seen, and knows nothing of, vested with absolute powers of patronage, and often pledged to carry out a policy in direct conflict with the wishes of the vast majority of the people whose interests he is supposed to guard.

The Act of 1840 went through, but it had little to do with the regeneration and reconciliation of Canada. Poulett Thompson, the first Governor, peremptorily declined to admit the principle of Ministerial responsibility. Some good reforms were, indeed, made in the early years, but the Act was on the verge of breaking down when Lord Elgin, Durham's son-in-law, came to Canada as Governor-General in 1847. After many party changes and combinations, French influence was temporarily in the ascendant, and in 1849 a Bill was on the stocks for compensating French as well as British subjects for losses in the rebellion of 1837. Elgin, following the advice of his Ministers, of whom Baldwin was one, Lafontaine another, gave the Royal Assent to the Bill. The British, with the old cry of "loyalism," and with Orangemen in the van, rioted, mobbed the Governor, and burnt down the Parliament House at Montreal. Elgin, expostulating with Lord John Russell, who was as pessimistic as ever, and threatened with recall, stuck to his guns under fierce obloquy, and the principle of responsible government was definitely established. It was applied at about the same period to the other British Provinces of North America, with the ulterior results I have described, and in a few years to Australia.

The great year, then, was 1847, the year of the Irish famine, and the year before the pitiful rebellion of Smith O'Brien, surrendering in the historic cabbage-garden. Our thoughts go back sixty-four years to 1783, when the American War of Independence ended; when, as a result of that war, British Canada and Australia were founded, and when, at the crisis—premature, alas!—of Ireland's fortunes, the Volunteers in vain demanded the Reform which might have saved their country. Look into historical details, read contemporary debates, and watch the contrast. Within five years of responsible government Canada solved all the great questions which had been convulsing society for so long, and turned her liberated energies towards economic development. In Ireland the abuses of ages lingered to a point which seems incredible. The Church was not disestablished, amid outcries of imminent ruin and threats of a Protestant rebellion, till 1869, when Canada had already become a Federated Dominion. The Irish land question, dating from the seventeenth century, was not seriously tackled until 1881, not drastically and on the right lines till 1903. Education languishes at the present day. Canada started an excellent system of municipal and local government in the forties. In Ireland, while the minority, in Greville's words, were "bellowing spoliation and revolution," an Act was passed in 1840 with the utmost difficulty, removing an infinitesimal part of the gross abuses of municipal government under the ascendancy system, and it was not till 1898 that the people at large are admitted to a full share in county and town government. Even this step inverted the natural order of things, for the new authorities are hampered in their work by the incessant political agitation for the Home Rule which should have preceded their establishment, as it preceded it in Great Britain and Canada. Home Rule, the tried specific, was resisted, as those who read the debates of 1886 and 1893 will recognize, on the same grounds as Canadian Home Rule, in the same spirit, and often in terms absolutely identical.

Was it because Ireland, unlike Canada, was "so near"? Let us reflect. Did Durham advocate Canadian Home Rule because Canada was "so far"? On the contrary, it was a superficial inference, drawn not merely from Ireland, but from Scotland, and since proved to be false both in Canada and South Africa, that made him shrink from the full application of a philosophy which was already far in advance of the political thought and morality of his day. Is it to be conceived that if he had lived to see the Canadian Federation, the domestic and Imperial results of South African Home Rule, and the consequences of seventy more years of coercive government in Ireland, he would still have regarded the United Kingdom in the light of a successful expedient for "compelling the obedience of refractory populations"? In truth, Durham, like ninety-nine out of a hundred Englishmen of his day, knew nothing of Ireland, not even that her political system differed, as it still differs, toto coelo from that of Scotland, and came into being under circumstances which had not the smallest analogy in Scotland. So far as his knowledge went, he was a student of human nature as affected by political institutions. Wakefield, who advised him, was a doctrinaire theorist who put his preconceived principles into highly successful practice both in Australia and Canada. They said: "Your coercive system degrades and estranges your own fellow-citizens. Change it, and you will make them friendly, manly, and prosperous." They were right, and one reflects once more on the terrible significance of Mr. Chamberlain's admission in 1893, that "if Ireland had been a thousand miles away, she would have what Canada had had for fifty years."


[20] "The Irishman in Canada" (N.F. Davin), a book to which the author is indebted for much information of the same character.

[21] "William Pitt and the National Revival."

[22] Canadian Archives, 1905; "History of Prince Edward Island," D. Campbell; "History of Canada," C.D.G. Roberts. In 1875, after a long period of agitation and discontent, the Land Purchase Act was passed, and the Dominion Government asked Mr. Hugh Childers to adjudicate on the land-sale expressly on the ground that he had been associated with the Irish Land Act of 1870 ("Life of Mr. Childers," by Lieut.-Col. Spencer Childers, vol. i., p. 232).

[23] Canadian Archives, 1900. Note B. Emigration (1831-1834). Irish immigrants in 1829, 9,614; in 1830, 18,300; in 1831, 34,155; in 1832, 28,024; in 1833, 12,013; in 1834, 19,206: about double the immigration of English and Scottish together in the same period.

[24] "Self-government in Canada," F. Bradshaw, p. 96 et seq.

[25] "Durham Report," p. 130.

[26] Hansard, January 23.

[27] "Self-government in Canada," F. Bradshaw, p. 17.

[28] "Letters of Queen Victoria," vol. i., November 22, 1838.



I have described the Canadian crisis at considerable length because it was the turning-point in Imperial policy. Yet policy is scarcely the right word. The Colonists themselves wrenched the right to self-government from a reluctant Mother Country, and the Mother Country herself was hardly conscious of the loss of her prerogatives until it was too late to regret or recall them. The men who on principle believed in and laboured for Home Rule for Canada were a mere unconsidered handful in the country, while most of those who voted for the Act of 1840 thought that it killed Home Rule. No general election was held to obtain the "verdict of the predominant partner" on the real question at issue, with the cry of "American dollars" (which had, in fact, been paid); with lurid portraits of Papineau and Mackenzie levying black-mail on the Prime Minister, and quotations from their old speeches to show that they were traitors to the Empire; with jeremiads about the terrors of Rome, the abandonment of the loyal minority, and the dismemberment of the Empire, to shake the nerves and stimulate the slothful conscience of an ignorant electorate. Had there been any such opportunity we know it would have been used, and we can guess what the result would have been; for nothing is easier, alas! than to spur on a democracy with such cries as these to the exercise of the one function it should refrain from—interference with another democracy, be it in Ireland or anywhere else. As it was, a merciful veil fell over Canada; Lord Elgin's action in 1849 passed with little notice, and a mood of weary indifference to colonial affairs, for which, in default of any Imperial idealism, we cannot be too thankful, took possession of Parliament and the nation.

It was in this mood that the measures conferring self-government on the Australasian Colonies, 12,000 miles away from the Mother Country, and exciting proportionately less concern than Canada, were passed a few years later.

From the landing of the first batch of convicts at Botany Bay in 1788, New South Wales, the Mother Colony, was a penal settlement pure and simple, under military Government, for some thirty years. The island Colony, Tasmania, founded under the name of Van Diemen's Land in 1803, was used for the same purpose. Victoria, originally Port Phillip, just escaped a like fate in 1803, and remained uncolonized till 1835, when the free settlers set their faces against the penal system, and in 1845, acting like the Bostonians of 1774 with the famous cargo of tea, refused to allow a cargo of convicts to land. South Australia, first settled in 1829, also escaped; so did New Zealand, which was annexed to the Crown in 1839. Western Australia, dating from 1826, proceeded on the opposite principle to that of Victoria. Free from convicts until 1849, when transportation to other Colonies was checked at their own repeated request, and came to an end in 1852, this Colony, owing to a chronic shortage of labour, actually petitioned the Home Government to divert the stream of criminals to its shores, with the result that in ten years' time nearly half the male adults in the Colony, and more than half in the towns, were, or had been, convicts. It was not until 1865, under strong pressure from the other Colonies, that the system was finally abolished which threw Western Australia forty years behind its sister Colonies in the attainment of Home Rule.

The transportation policy has been unmercifully criticized, and with all the more justice in that Pitt, when the American war closed the traditional dumping-ground for criminals, had the chance of employing the exiled loyalists of America, many of whom were starving in London, as pioneers of the new lands in the Antipodes. "The outcasts of an old society cannot form the foundations of a new one," said a Parliamentary Report of July 28, 1785. But they could do so, and did do so. Ruskin's saying, a propos of Australia, that "under fit conditions the human race does not degenerate, but wins its way to higher levels," comes nearer the truth. In an amazingly short time after the transportation policy was reversed the taint disappeared. We must remember, however, that, sheer refuse as some of the convicts were, especially in the later period, a large number of the earlier convicts were the product of that "stupid severity of our laws" which the Vicar of Wakefield deplored, and to this category belonged many an unhappy Irish peasant, sound in character, but driven into Whiteboyism, or into the rebellions of 1798 and 1803 by some of the worst laws the human brain ever conceived. Hundreds of these men survived the barbarous and brutalizing ordeal of a penal imprisonment to become prosperous and industrious citizens.

It was not until 1825, or thereabouts, that free white settlers, many Irishmen among them, came in any substantial number to the Mother Colony of New South Wales, and not until 1832 that these men began to press claims for the management of their own affairs, under the inspiration of an Irish surgeon's son, William Wentworth, the Hampden of Australia. The later Colonies rapidly came into line, Western Australia, for the reason given above, remaining stationary. The first representative institutions were granted in 1842 to New South Wales, and in 1850 to Victoria, South Australia, and Tasmania. At that date, therefore, these settlements stood in much the same constitutional position as the Canadas had stood in 1791 (although technically their Constitutions were of a different kind), but with this important difference, that the Act of 1850, "for the better Government of Her Majesty's Australian Colonies," gave power to those Colonies to frame new Constitutions for themselves. This they soon proceeded to do, each constructing its own, but all keeping in view the same model, the British Constitution itself, and aiming at the same ideal, responsible Government by a Colonial Cabinet under a Government representing the Crown. Since responsible Government in Great Britain itself was not a matter of legal enactment, but the product of slowly evolved conventions and precedents, to which political scientists had not yet given a scientific form, it is no wonder that the colonial Constitution-makers found great difficulty in expressing exactly what they wanted in legal terms, and, indeed, none of them came near succeeding; but time, their own political instinct, a succession of sensible Governors, and the forbearance of the Home Government solved the problem, and evolved home-ruled States legally subordinate to the Crown, but with a Constitution closely resembling our own. The Constitutions became law by Acts of the Imperial Parliament passed by a Liberal Ministry in 1855. They are of unusual interest because they represent the first rude attempt to put into legal language a small part of the theory of the British Constitution as applied to dependencies of the Crown.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse