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Both with Canada and Australia, every step in the process has been the result of voluntary effort, and it is notable that on the only occasion when the Imperial authorities attempted to hurry the pace—the attempted federation of South Africa in 1877 by Lord Carnarvon—the result was an absolute failure. The only group of colonies whose federation has been actually taken in hand by the Imperial authorities is also the only group which is at present not federated at all. Sir John Macdonald once complained to Lord Knutsford * that the union of Canada in 1866 was treated by the Duke of Buckingham, then Colonial Secretary, as a mere matter of convenience to the Colonial Office. But we have little doubt that the work was really done far more effectively because the Colonial Office left it to the Canadians themselves. Indeed, it might almost be argued that it is in such fits of absent-mindedness that the Empire has really grown best.
Both in Canada and Australia the movement towards federation came entirely from within, and in both cases it found its impulse in practical aims rather than sentimental idealism. The federation of the Canadian colonies was slow in coming, but it took place thirty-four years before that of the Australian, just because the practical need was more pressing. Those who read Sir John Macdonald's 'Memoirs will realise the complete deadlock that had been reached in the government of the colony then called 'Canada,' which included the present provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The only mistake made by Lord Durham had been in his creation of this impossible combination of equally balanced racial forces. The increase of population in Upper Canada created a demand for further representation, which Lower Canada strenuously resisted. It became impossible to govern. Ministry after ministry fell, and at length the proud politicians of the colony of Canada were driven to turn to federation-hitherto regarded as an amiable dream-as the only possible escape from their miseries. In 1864 they sent delegates to the Conference of the Maritime Colonies, which were just on the point of making a separate combination, and virtually became supplicants for unity. The conference of Charlottetown became in the autumn the conference of Quebec, where, in 1864, the main outlines were prepared of the great Act which sealed the bond of confederation in
* In a letter written on July 18, 1899, published in his Memoirs (vol. i. p. 312).
1867. The other provinces gradually came into the union, and now Newfoundland alone stands out-one of three signal and suggestive instances within the Empire of the dividing power of the sea. But it is to be noted that no Canadian thinks that the integrity of the Empire would be promoted by driving Newfoundland into a compulsory union.*
The confederation of Australia came far more slowly. Australia lacked the incentive of a great and possibly hostile power facing it across a land frontier of over 3,000 miles; there was no failure of government such as in central Canada; there was no great need for united effort such as the Canadian Pacific Railway demanded. The result was that fully fifty years intervened between the first public agitation for a federated continent and its final realisation. During these years the colonies seemed to be growing apart rather than coming together, and the fundamental facts of a common continent and a common race did not assert themselves until the practical discomforts and growing dangers of divided sovereignties literally drove almost every Australian statesman of foresight into the movement.
It is not necessary here to give more than a very brief account of the steps towards Australian federation between 1862, when it first became a question of practical politics, and its realisation in 1900. Up to 1862 it was little more than the dream of an Irish idealist, Charles Gavan Duffy, who had been accounted a notorious separatist in his own country-one of the most romantic figures in the history of the British Empire in the nineteenth century, and, happily,
* Sir John Macdonald's letter to the Governor-General after the defeat of his own confederation policy at the polls in Newfoundland in 1868 forms a very interesting statement of colonial policy on this point:— It would never do to adopt Colonel Hill's suggestion of adding Newfoundland to the Dominion by an Act of the Imperial Parliament. There can be no doubt of the power to do so, but the exercise of it would seem to me to be very unadvisable. We have had an infinity of trouble with Nova Scotia, although both the Government and the Legislature agreed to the union, because the question was not submitted to the electors. We have at a large cost settled that difficulty. The case would be much worse in Newfoundland, where there was a Dissolution and an appeal to the people for the express purpose of getting their deliberate opinion for or against the union. They have decided for the present against it, and I think we should accept their decision.'
still surviving into the twentieth. But the first attempt to confer on the matter was brought about by the severe pressure of the intercolonial tariffs. The abstract and sentimental arguments for unity were open to lively dispute, but the damage to trade resulting from numerous fiscal barriers was patent to all.
A series of Colonial Conferences between 1863 and 1885 at last bore fruit in the Federal Council Act, which conferred certain administrative powers on a Central Council. But as that body was unable to raise a revenue, it soon fell into contempt. The next stage of federation opened with the great Federal Convention of 1891 at Melbourne. This Convention laid the first foundations of the federal system, which were further elaborated at the Conference of Premiers in 1895, and finally hewn into shape and form in the second Federal Convention of 1897–8. But then occurred a bitch. The Bill was rejected by New South Wales on the referendum of 1898. A final Conference of Premiers in 1899 arranged a compromise on the disputed points, and on June 20 the second referendum pronounced in favour of federation.
It will thus be seen that the evolution of confederation in Australia was a far slower process than in Canada. The intercolonial jealousies were profound, and the rejection of the Bill by New South Wales in the referendum of 1898 was due very largely to the rivalries of Melbourne and Sydney, which are at the present moment still unsolved. We doubt, indeed, whether federation would ever have been achieved in Australia if it had not been for the losses endured through a divided customs and postal service, and perhaps also in some part to the common fear of European interference in the Pacific.
At no stage in this long process did the Imperial authorities venture to interfere. Their task was to sit still. When Lord Monck tried, during the negotiations preceding the Canadian confederation, to force the hand of Sir John Macdonald by a threat of resignation, he received a snubbing which effectually silenced him.* But no Governor ever attempted to force the hands of the Australian statesmen. There was only one attempt made on the part of the Imperial authorities to alter their Bill-on the 74th clause, and there, as we have said, the Australians virtually got their own way. The delegates from Australia arrived at Westminster
* See Sir John Macdonald's Memoirs, vol. i. pp. 299–303.
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with a clause virtually abolishing the Privy Council in so far as it affected Australia. Here a compromise was effected, but though the Imperial Government secured some remnant of authority for the Privy Council in the external relations of the Commonwealth, Australia secured absolute constitutional independence within her own borders.
But it is even more important to note that in the construction of their Constitution the Australians have in many respects taken the American rather than the British Constitution as a model. While in Canada the Dominion Government retains all powers which are not delegated to the provinces, in Australia the opposite principle prevails—the States retain all powers which are not conferred on the central Government. That is the governing principle of the American Constitution. Again, the Australian Senate is the American body transferred to the Pacific. The federal Court is also borrowed from the United States. When the Canadian confederation was framed the Canadians wished to call it a ' Kingdom,' and it was Lord Derby whose respect for American susceptibilities led him to call it • Dominion.' But Australia never even suggested ‘Kingdom.' * Commonwealth' was the name she desired, and · Common6 wealth’it is.
In every detail, then, Australia, even more than Canada, has been allowed to develope on her own lines. She has an American constitution which only requires a President to make it a republic, and she has acquired virtual independence of any control that we can exercise except through our fleet.
And yet what has been the result ?
Since the passing of the Commonwealth Act Australia has given to us the clearest possible marks of her loyalty. She has helped us ungrudgingly in a war of our own making. She has shown an almost touching confidence in our diplomacy and statesmanship. In this case, at any rate, a great colony has shown us that the more we trust her the more she will help us—the larger the freedom we give her the less she will desire separation. Could there be a greater contrast between the results of our complete abstention from interference in Australia and our perpetual intermeddling in every possible manner with the affairs of South Africa ?
We have now passed in review the story of confederation as far as it has gone in the British Empire. We might add an account of various interesting attempts to federate the West Indian Islands, of which the chief result at present is
VOL. CXCVI. NO. CCCCII.
the federation of the Leeward Islands under the Act of 1861. The Windward Islands are, it is true, under one Governor, but as each island has its own council they can scarcely be regarded as federated. In the case of these colonies, however, federation is mainly a question of expense, and scarcely involves the very interesting constitutional questions which have arisen in the self-governing colonies.
The history of the process of the federation within those colonies forms a striking reply to the doctrine of force as a bond of Empire. There is no case in the history of our Empire in which force bas succeeded in drawing the colonies nearer together. Those who attempted such a thing would find on their hands an impossible task. Like ourselves, our colonists will only consent to a form of government which they have chosen for themselves.
These considerations may seem trite, but they are not unnecessary at the present moment. Every wise man now hopes that it may be possible to extend the federal system to the government of South Africa. It is eminently adapted to that country. The attempt to govern two colonies like Natal and the Transvaal by means of one government would as surely end in failure as did the attempt to govern Quebec and Ontario entirely from one centre. We are gradually learning in politics that incompatibility of temper is as bad a basis for a common government as for a marriage. It is quite as impossible to suppose that Cape Colony and the Orange River Colony can unite in one government as that they could profitably remain entirely separate. In all these cases we want some solution which is neither entire separation nor complete absorption; and ever since the days of Greece that has been found in federation. Until that is achieved in South Africa there can be no final solution of its problems; and until South Africa is federated into one self-governing whole it is quite certain that we should talk in vain about the federation of the Empire. For if that is ever to come about it must be a federation of already federated groups.
But it is clear from our review of federation in the other colonies that federation in South Africa must come voluntarily and from within if it is to come at all. It must be born from the free spirit of free States. It must be the union of true souls, the marriage of true minds. As long as even the shadow of despotic government or martial law rests upon South Africa we may put aside even the dream of federation. For the history of Australia and that of Canada