21 AUGUST 1841, Page 15


Pourry. A Essay on the Government of Denendenci

Au es. By George Cornewall Lewis, Esq.



Stormer; a Tale of Mesmerism. To which are added, other Sketches from Life. By Isabella F. Romer. In three volumes. Bentley.


The Moor and the Loch; containing Practical Hints on Highland Sports. and Notices of the Habits of the different Creatures of Game and Prey in the Moun- tainous Districts ttf Scutiand ; with Instructions in River, Burn, and Loch Fishing. By John Colquhoun. Second edition Murray.


THERE are two kinds of philosophers,—first, those who examine life or nature, and deduce principles from things as they exist in entirety or in relation to other things ; second, those who look at matters abstractedly, rarely considering a whole subject as it is, but as it might be if it existed alone or could subdue all other things to its own nature. The former, or practical philo- sophy, is by far the most difficult ; for it requires living ob- servation, great sagacity to perceive the true elements of things, and much reflection to estimate exactly their respective influences. It is also the most useful, and the most enduring ; for though the mere forms of things are very various, their real 'essentials are few in number, and a true deduction from a sufficiently extensive subject- matter will give a lasting general truth. But abstractions, not having been copied from life, never resemble any thing living ; and though not devoid of partial and subordinate truth, the main utility of such theories arises from the attention they call to the subject, and the truths they elicit in the process of being con- futed. The Schoolmen may be instanced as an example of the abstract kind of philosophers, BACON and his followers of the practical class ; or, to give a particular instance of more general apprehension, ADAM SMITH is an example of the real, and M'CuLLoett of the hypothetical school.

The philosophy of Mr. CORNEWALL LEWIS inclines towards the abstract. There are many useful remarks in his Essay on the Government of Dependencies, and some of his conclusions embrace the extent of his subject ; but his larger truths are few in number and not very difficult to attain, whilst his lesser truths are not of so choice or rare a kind as to require so large a volume to bold them.

The title is not strictly expressive of the subject of the work; which consists of a good deal more than the mere government of dependencies. The book opens with an introductory essay on the powers of a sovereign government, in which the abstract is eminently conspicuous ; Mr. LEWIS confounding together supreme and ar- bitrary governments and the essential nature of the state, and follow- ing HoRnes in that abstraction of his about a sovereign ruler which never yet existed in practice, except during such periods as ROBESPIERRE'S Reign of Terror. Besides this preliminary inquiry, "to draw the distinction between sovereign and subordinate governments," the volume contains—I. An exposition of the nature of a dependency, and a subordinate government ; which was not a very difficult matter to handle, since, whatever may be the powers of a sovereign government, there is no doubt that a subordinate government cannot act or legislate absolutely. 2. The advantages and disadvantages, both to the superior and dependent states, from their connexion with each other ; which is rather unsatisfactorily treated by Mr. LEWIS. The advantage of dependencies in modern times are, in his opinion, of necessity nothing, except as military posts, whilst the benefit to the depend- encies is resolvable into protection as long as they are unable to protect themselves : the disadvantages to each party being pretty numerous. 3. An account of the modes of acquiring a depend- ency; which, as they are self-evident, might have been enumerated in a paragraph instead of occupying a chapter. 4. An historical view of the distinguishing features of the colonies of ancient and modern times ; which is the best and most interesting if not the most useful section of the book : its fault is brevity—a charge which cannot be brought against any other portion of the volume.

The literary merit of this essay is clearness, and pedantry its defect. Mr. LEWIS is a master of scholastic logic, both in the statement of his propositions and his deductions founded on them. His leading views are propounded with a formal perspicuity, which, embracing as they generally do a wide extent of subject, if not the whole of it, fills the mind of the reader, and raises his expectations. But these expectations are soon dissipated. Quitting the broad masses of his subject, the author hunts for all its instances,— as if a philosophic treatise were like the technical description in a deed, and should omit nothing : or, after telling his reader what a thing is, he proceeds to tell him what it is not,—as if his definitions should include what those of other people exclude. In matters of combined abstruseness and novelty, this over-minute- ness may be necessary, to prevent misunderstandings of a meaning very difficult to be conveyed : but surely, the most zealous follower of HOBBES, and greatest stickler for the absolute power in a sove- reign government to do every thing it pleases, would have admitted that government cannot change the laws of nature, without these obvious examples- " On the other hand, the power of a sovereign government has not a greater extent than that which has been stated.

"For example, it cannot suddenly augment the quantity of food in a country, except by importation from abroad ; and consequently, it cannot change scarcity into plenty, if the foreign supplies should be scanty and dear. " The power of a sovereign government is further limited to that portion of 'the force of the community which it is able practically to command. The question whether it is physically possible for a law to be executed, is different from the question whether a law 18 likely to be executed. Thus it would be physically impossible to execute a law for changing the course of the seasons or the height of the tides. On the other hand, there are many laws which might be carried into effect with the universal consent of the community, but which a sovereign government, from the unwillingness of a large portion of the community to submit to them, would he unable to enforce. Such are, for ex- ample, over severe penal lams, vexatious revenue-laws, usury-laws, laws prohi- biting the export of coin, laws regulating prices and wages.

" It is also to be observed, that there are acts possible to some sovereign go- vernments which are not possible to others. Since the power of a sovereign government is limited to the united forces of the persons forming the com- munity which it governs, it is natural that many things should be within the power of the government of aolarge and rich nation which are not within the power of the government of a small and poor nation. Again, the progress of civilization increases the power of governments, as well as of persons, or bodies of persons, in a private capacity. Thus many a small and feeble state could now produce results which would have surpassed the powers of the most mighty nations of antiquity."

These faults, coupled with the abstract character we have al- ready spoken of, will detract from the effect of the volume; especially as the style of Mr. LEWIS, though clear, is not powerful, nor his manner attractive. Neither does he display a keen or felicitous perception : he wants the finding out faculty. In fine, the work is rather the result of well-directed reading and study, than of original observation or reflection. The existence of many of the principles and facts are obvious, though the mind may not have been turned to them : and here, perhaps, we have the true use of the Essay on the Government of Dependencies. It collects many things, and presents them in a systematic order, which might otherwise be unnoticed or slip from attention : its views of political economy are also sound, as well as the doctrines inculcates respecting the mischiefs of war, and the general prin- ciple that should govern the conduct of the sovereign state towards all large dependencies—a steady regard to their ultimate independ- ence. So little of original investigation, however, is to be found in the volume, that some of the most striking features of our unpa- relleled Indian dependency have escaped Mr. LEWIS. He mentions the subject, but he by no means gives it the importance it is entitled to as a dependency. And this oversight is readily accounted for : India is not a colony, and has excited little attention from writers on the principles and practice of modern colonization ; though as a dependency it is one of the most curious the world has seen, not merely from its greatness, but its complex character.

Some of the opinions advanced by Mr. LEWIS have a direct re- lation to existing plans of colonization ; and to these we shall con- fine our attention. One of his proposals is to "try the system of granting the land, not in perpetuity, but only for a term of years ; upon the understanding that, at the expiration of the term, the land would be granted again, for a similar term, at the market- price. The rents of the lands thus granted might in time afford a revenue which would enable the local government to defray its ex- penses without resorting to taxation direct or indirect ; and as the experiment would be tried in a country in which the land had not been appropriated, it would not disturb existing interests." Ab- stractedly speaking this scheme is plausible ; it looks well upon paper ; and Maw., we think, had some such notion about rent and taxes: but if any colony should be so ill-advised as to attempt it, immigration to that colony would surely cease ; and if it were practised throughout our colonies, British emigration would be di- rected to the United States. The national opinion is in favour of a freehold : the public has never tried to raise loans in terminable annuities ; and the attempt at converting permanent stock into an- nuities for one hundred years has failed, though accompanied by what is, mathematically and abstractedly, a bonus. The calculated value between a lease for eighty-five years and a freehold is next to nothing ; but in practice, the freehold fetches considerably more, (or rather, the leasehold less,) for people feel, if they cannot ex- press, that in order to realize the mathematical value, they must ever conduct their affairs with mathematical exadness, which the constitution of human nature and of society prevents their doing. If these reasons operate with force in England, where all land is appropriated, and investments must be made as they offer, how much stronger must be their operation in a new country, wh;ther men go in order to realize that future improvement of which the flan of Mr. LEWIS would altogether deprive them. Of course, in a colony there are some of all sorts—adventurers, speculators, restless and wrong-headed men, with the prospectless of every grade from paupers to spendthrifts : but the permanent depend- ence of all new colonies—the class which enables a plantation to be founded, and afterwards to prosper—are family-men, with energy, industry, and some capital. The principal object of these men in emigrating is to make sure of an ample competence for their children ; for as regards themselves, they suffer more hardship, privation, and discomfort, in the struggles of colonial life, than await them at home, to say nothing of the severing of natural ties and accustomed habits. All this, however, they are content to bear in order to found fortunes for their descendants ; and when this fortune might be realized, the scheme of Mr. LEWIS would come into operation, to swallow up all the scientific rent, all the value added to it by the progress of society, and some of the interest on capital expended in improvements—leaving the man an option of his own good-will in the premises, but nothing more. And it does this at a time when the actual progress of society may have placed the descendant in the position of his original ancestor, and drive him to emigrate also, if he would give a clear field of industry to his children, unless he be a man with a very small family and a very large prudence.

The following suggestion is also of a questionable kind.


The rule which prevents the English Crown from legislating for a dependency in which the fiwni of the local subordinate government is popular, does not lead to inconvenient consequences, provided that the dependency be allowed to manage its own internal affairs and to enjoy a virtual independence. But the application of this rule to dependencies to which England does not intend to allow a virtual independence is inconvenient, since it is impossible for Parlia- ment to legislate frequently for a single dependency-' and therefore, when a necessity arises for the legislative interposition of the dominant country, it is likely that the interposition will come at too late a period, or will be made otherwise under unfavourable circumstances. Accordingly, in a dependency belonging to tbe latter class, it seems expedient that the Douse of Assembly should be considered mainly as a check upon the legislative powers of the Governor and his Council ; and that the Crown should possess a power of legislating for such a dependency in the same manner as it legislates for a Crown colony.

The following reasons may be alleged in support of this conclusion. If Eng- land is to legislate at all respecting the internal affairs of any of its dependen- cies, the possession of this power 'by the Crown would, in general, enable it to legislate under the most favourable circumstances. Since the Crown would act upon the advice of the department peculiarly charged with the affairs of the dependency to which the law would relate, its interposition would probably be made at a sufficiently early time to prevent the various evils arising from delay. The persons so advising the Crown would be exempt from local interests and passions, and would probably not be influenced materially by any political party in the dependency. They would, moreover, be directly responsible to Parlia- ment for the advice so given by them, and their responsibility might be in- creased if every Order in Council, or other legislative act issued by the Crown to is dependency, mere presented to Paeliament, together with a written state- ment of the purpose and grounds of tlic measure.

The concession of a power of ibis kind to the Crown would not diminish the legislative power of Parliament over the dependencies. The Crown would act by powers expressly delegated to !` be Parliament. Now, when a supreme legislature delegates a power of t--"toioituate legislation respecting a certain

subject, it does not diminish its own of legislating respecting that subject. An Order in Council affecting a depesnicncyJnight be repealed or modified by Parliament as soon as it was issued, and no provision of an Order in Conned would be valid which was inconsistent with an act of Parliament.

It may be objected to legislation for a dependency by Orders in Council, that they are advised by persons who are not the chosen representatives of the people of the dependency, and over whom the latter exercise no direct influence. But this objection equally applies to legislation for a dependency by Parliament, since the people of a dependency are not directly represented in Parliament ; and it, in fact, involves a claim inconsistent with a state of dependence. It may be remarked, that the Secretary of State for the Colonial Depart- ment and his official assistants know more about the condition and interests of the British dependencies than Parliament or the public, inasmuch as their attention is more exclusively directed to the subject. It is likewise probable that they will care more for the interests of the dependencies committed to their charge, on account of their being under a responsibility to public opinion,


by which Parliament is not affected n an equal degree, and from which the public at large is nearly exempt.

When Parliament has to legislate for a colony with a legislature of its own, it is under peculiar circumstances; and then the legit'. lation in 1arly every case the legislation of Government—that is, of the Colonial Secretary. The only difference between the Parliamentary and the Crown legtslation would be, that one is public and the other virtually secret. In bringing a measure be- fore Parliament, a Minister must pay some sort of deference to opinion in the colony, and to the feeling of common sense and common justice in the dominant country : in the Council, he might do pretty much what he pleased. It may be said that, from the pressure of business before Parliament, colonial questions are frequently postponed till mischief ensues—but we suspect, as often through the fault of Ministers as of Parliament : on the other hand, the Minister's master, " Mr. Mothercountry," might be continually obtruding his legislation on the colony, wh2n legis- lation might be offensive. If it be held that a really able Mi- nister—a HESKISSON or a TURGOT—might be fettered in his actions, our opinion is that he would not be so when he had really shown his ability. But were it so, it cannot be helped : this falling short of abstract excellence must be borne to avoid practical tyranny. Death is the end of life ; separation is the end of a colony. For this, so far as opinion is concerned, no preparation is needed in a young country—" the brisk minor pants for twenty-one." But the propriety of a peaceable and willing separation cannot be too much inculcated upon the sovereign state. We will therefore close with a homily by Mr. LEWIS, with which we cordially agree.


If a dominant country understood the true nature of the advantages arising from the relation of supremacy and dependence to the related communities, it would voluntarily recognize the legal independence of such of its own depend- encies as were lit for independence ; it would, by its political arrangements, study to prepare for independence those which were still unable to stand alone; and it would seek to promote colonization for the purpose of extending its trade rather than its empire, and without attempting to maintain the dependence of its colonies beyond the time when they need its protection.

The practical difficulties and inconveniences inherent in the government of dependencies, which have been stated in preceding chapters, are necessary or natural consequences of the relation of supremacy and dependencb, and of the imperfect though necessary expedient of a subordinate government. Now if a dependency is considered as in training for ultimate independence, the diffi- culties naturally incident to its government, if they do not vanish, are never- theless greatly reduced. If a dependency were so considered, the free and forcible action of its local institutions would be encouraged as an unmixed good— not discouraged as a source of strife with the dominant country, and of vain resistance to its power ; and all precautions on the part of the supreme govern- ment for the purpose of preventing the people of the dependency from regarding their subordinate government as virtually supreme, would be needless. If a dependency be distant, if its territory be large and its population numerous, and if the powers of its local subordinate government reside to a considerable extent in a body chosen by the inhabitants, it is difficult for the dominant country to prevent it from forming habits and opinions which are scarcely con- sistent with its virtual dependence. But if such a dependency be regarded as in training for independence, the local popular institutions leading to and implying self-government may be allowed to have free play, and the interferences of the

dominant country with the political affairs of the country may cease almost insensibly.

Admitting the impossibility of the prevailing opinions concerning the advan- tages of extensive empire being so far modified as to permit a dominant country to take such a view of its political relations with its dependencies as that now indicated, it is proved by the example of England, that the dominant country may concede virtual independence to a dependency, by establishing in it a system of popular self-government, and by abstaining almost constantly from any interference with its internal affairs. Such a relation of the dominant country and the dependency as has been described in the preceding paragraph, seems, however, scarcely consistent with the duration of the dependence of the latter for any considerable period. At all events, the long duration of its dependence under such circumstances implies as much moderation and rationality on both sides as would be implied on the side of the dominant country by a voluntary cession of its authority over the dependency..

It is obvious to remark, that the dominant country ought not to abandon its authority over a dependency, unless the people of the dependency consent to the cession, and are capable of forming an independent community. It is bound morally not to throw off a helpless dependency, although the possession of it should promise no advantage to itself.