2 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 24


IN the last few months Britons have listened to some frank criticisms by Colonists of the diplomacy of the Mother-country. The irritation of Australians when the New Hebrides Convention was signed was followed by the outbursts of Sir Robert Bond. in Newfoundland ; and more recently, and we would. say more unexpectedly, Sir Wilfrid Laurier accused Britain of making a practice of sacrificing Canadian interests. These cases are not similar, of course ; each Colony has a grievance peculiar to itself and peculiar in form ; but they are all alike in this, that they express a feeling, which we dare say is ' a growing feeling among our Colonists, that Britain does not trouble to do the best for her own people. She would. rather sacrifice them than risk complications with a Great Power ; and even when she does not fear war she is too indifferent to her children's interests really to put herself out in the matter of bar- gaining. We said at the time of Sir Wilfrid Laurier's speech to the Canadian Manufacturers' Association that there was no reason why Englishmen should not listen respectfully to all criticisms from a man on the spot who has had. so much experience as Sir Wilfrid Laurier. We should, indeed, think it was too unequal a contest for us to undertake publicly to contradict him, and it would. be a graceless task into the bargain. All criticism from men on the spot is of the first importance to us when it is honestly offered. This principle, however, cuts both ways ; if we listen carefully to our condemnation, we are not required to be deaf to words in our defence, or even to lyrics sung • in our honour, which come with the same geographical authority from men on the spot. For this reason we have found particularly grateful a defence of British diplomacy which appears in the latest number of the Canadian University Magazine, published at Montreal. The paper, "The Patience of England," which is by Mr. Andrew Macphail, is an introduction to a series of historical dis- cussions entitled "British Diplomacy and Canada." The first of this series appears in the same number under the heading of "The Ashburton Treaty." We cannot say whether Mr. Macphail's views have many supporters in Canada ; but it seems quite likely that the present dis- content will drive into Mr. Macphail's camp a respectable party of thinkers and historians, who will read all round the question and sum up in favour of Britain after all.

Mr. kfacphail begins with a shrewd and pithy dissection of the British character, of which British diplomacy is, of course, only a particular expression :— " England to foreign minds is a paradox. They are never done wondering at her stubborn determination not to be forced into action. But their wonder is increased to amazement, when the right moment has come, and they see the promptitude with which she is aroused and the resolution with which she proceeds, entirely oblivious of the scruples which restrained her and the hesitancy with which she began. It would be of great advantage to foreigners if they could obtain a formula by which they might discover the flashing point of English passion. They have seen it slumber during clamour, smoulder when it should have burst into flame; and again they have seen it flash as a reaction against some innocent and unpremeditated operation on the part of an irresponsible rival. With the utmqat of placid amazement, England read Mr. Cleveland's Venezuela message of Decem- ber 17th, 1895, and broke into a fury of flying squadrons because the Emperor of Germany had sent a simple, well-meaning telegram to a friend. The English mind is not logical ; it is sentimental, passionate, quixotic. No ohe can tell—least of all one of themselves—what kind of insult will arouse this strange race to action. If Palmerston, instead of Salisbury, had been at the head of affairs when Mr. Cleveland took that amazing hazard, there would surely have been trouble ; whilst the earlier Premier would probably have put a straw in his mouth when he read the German Kaiser's telegram and wondered what it was all about."

If British Colonists themselves do not understand the motives of "this strange race," it is because they are scarcely yet out of the years of childhood. A child does not appreciate the virtues of his parents till he himself becomes a father. Then he discovers in his own children an embodiment of his own early selfishness, truculence, and ingratitude, and he perceives for the first time the exact degree of the tolerant forbearance in his parents. "Now, that we in Canada," says Mr. Maephail, "have come- to man's estate, it is proper that we should. take an accounting for ourselves of what England has done for us. England does not demand such a reckoning. We owe it to ourselves to present it" The writer goes on to trace the curiously mixed temper of the British race in contact with world-wide problems of extraordinary intricacy. No one problem can be dealt with as though it stood alone, without relation to all other problems. To forget this was the obvious and cardinal mistake of Sir Robert Bond which Lord Elgin rebuked with both force and justice. Sir Wilfrid Laurier com- plained before Mr. Bryce that Britain had withdrawn her boundary-line from the Ohio River in 1783. "As well," says Mr. Macphail, "might he blame her for withdrawing her boundary from the New England coasts," and adds sardonically : "Most persons, I imagine, are aware that her withdrawal from that part of the American continent was not quite voluntary. The Premier would also do well to remember that -France was at England's throat and that she had some considerable employment before she succeeded in rescuing Europe." At all periods of diplomacy it was the same story,—Britain had her hands full, and did as well as she could in the circumstances. "Canada is a great country ; but the Premier must not blame England too severely because she did not abandon her dealings with the Turk, with the heathen gods of India, with the spirits of murder and pestilence which for centuries had stalked through the Upper Sudan, even though we admit that, whilst she was engaged in the dark places of the earth teaching the helpless to help themselves, the people of the United States were stealing our fish from the waters of Prince Edward Island." Again, "the Premier is aware—and, if he is not fully informed upon the subject, his friend Mr. Botha will furnish him with particulars—that England was fighting for her life in South Africa, whilst the vultures hovered in the European sky. During those years of warfare, gold was discovered in the Upper Yukon. Small wonder that England appeared abstracted when she was asked to define the true borders of Alaska." One illustration is enough to show the necessarily mixed motives of all British diplomacy. In 1866 Canada was invaded from the United States. The Canadian Militia assembled, battles were fought, and men were killed before the invaders were expelled. Britain made no demand for an indemnity. She herself paid the bill. Why ? Because she knew the sore temper of the United States after the Civil War, and foresaw that under a common menace the North and the South would draw together. Besides, whether she won or lost, war with the United States would be ruinous. It was an occasion for reticence. But reticence is easily mistaken for culpable indifference.

The chief objects of attack in Canada are the four well- known diplomatic arrangements, the Ashburton Treaty of 1842, the Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 and its abrogation in 1866, the Oregon Treaty of 1846, and the Alaskan Award of 1901. We have not space to examine these matters, but must quote Mr. Maephail's conclusion that "in no single instance was injustice done, nor were the interests of Canada jeopardized." Around the Ashburton Treaty mischievous legends have arisen, and are still taught in Canadian "school-books, histories, and other romances." We agree that a great deal of harm is done by bad history-books. In the United States till recently children were reared on histories which preposterously represented the folly of George III. and the obstinacy of Lord North as the considered wishes and judgment of the whole English people. But in spite of Canadian history- books, Mr. Macphail says that "all intelligent persons are now agreed that no different conclusion could have been arrived at by Lord Ashburton in regard to the boundaries between Canada and Maine." The abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty, again, unquestionably meant a derange- ment of trade in Canada, as every great fiscal rearrange- ment must, but the ultimate effect of abrogation was to turn the eyes of Canadians away from the lodestar of the United States, to the great benefit of their com- mercial independence, alertness, and enterprise. In the case of the Oregon Treaty, Britain secured the recognition of the forty-ninth parallel of latitude as the western boundary between Canada and the United States in spite of the American attempt to place the boundary as high as the fifty-fourth. Finally, Mr. Macphail gives a delightful point to his argument by citing the circumstances in which Canada received autonomy. The upshot of the armed revolt of 1837 was Lord Durham's scheme of self-government which Lord Elgin put into effect. In 1849 the " Tories." or "patriots," of Canada themselves revolted, burned the Parliament buildings, and appealed to Britain to save Canada from the effects of autonomy. Lord Grey defended autonomy in London, and Lord Elgin did the same at his post in Canada. And they triumphed. Thus was Canada defended against herself, and her rights were thrust upon her. We do not pretend that Britain has always done what was best. We would only say this once more, that the difficulties have been multifarious ; and we trust that Colonial statesmen will ilot lightly allow disaffection at British diplomacy to turn itself into a legend or an obsession. Either is more easily arrived at than is perhaps supposed, and either would be as harmful to our Colonies as to us.