MR. LOWE ON IMPERIALISM.
AIR. LOWE appeals in the pages of the Fortnightly Review 1 from Lord Beaconsfield's Cabinet to the British nation, —from a docile majority in Parliament, to the constituencies which elected them. An English Government should be, he says, guided in its choice of a policy simply by the considera- tion how to produce for the country the greatest amount of happiness of which the condition of its existence admits. It should endeavour to render the community desirous of solid good. It should teach the country to despise glittering vanities, such as diplomatic or military triumphs, increase of territory, or prestige of any kind. Ministers should use their command of the national resources on the understanding that men's happiness is best consulted not by State expenditure, but by leaving each generation of Englishmen in turn to spend its own money in its own way. National vigour and national wealth should not be squandered on attempts to in- fluence the destinies of other nations. Not only are territorial encroachments ungenerous and unjnst, but they have no tendency to make the conqueror happier. England has gained more by the arts of peace than by the most victorious wars. Australia we owe to the former, Canada to the latter. We strove to keep the North-American Colonies by force ; the United States are, for all pacific uses, as much at our service now as if we had bound them to us by chains of iron. The axiom of British policy for the quarter of a century before last January was that " the way to grow rich is not to plunder and ruin other people, but to assist them in becoming rich themselves." During the past Session of Parliament the policy called " Imperialism " has been substituted. Imperial- ism means, says Mr. Lowe, the assertion of abso- lute force over others. A State which desires to pursue an Imperial policy must not condescend to reason an adversary into compliance by argument, or into good-humour by con- cessions. Imperialism compels subservience by a threat or show of force, or best of all, by force itself. Right may chance to be on the side of the bigger battalions, but the triumph of Imperialism is more complete when it is strong enough to beat down not armies only, bat argument. It is the apotheosis of violence ; every scintilla of justice in its ease is so much deducted from its imperial quality.
England may before this have abused her power, but the present is, according to Mr. Lowe, the first time in English history that an English Government has stooped to glory in the abuse. It is, he thinks, a dangerous pride to cherish in any people, as France and the Third Napoleon found at Sedan. To maintain such a principle of national conduct, the whole British system would have to be changed. The youth of England must be led away to barracks, and some form of OH- scription must be adopted. Alreadk the new policy liar bah put in practice ; and the nation may judge, by the saangeli, what is to follow. Indian not British interests tenni* it is alleged, the coercion of Afghanistan. "India is o-trieletherit weakness, and Great Britain our element of strength;'' bllt Great Britain is to be exhausted, with a view to dale reniofe contingency which affects India. At Berlin, we met to rilbitiiite among the Powers of Europe. But Imperial interests *did Sit- posed to command that we should go behind the hacks of or fellow-arbitrators, and we actually lowered ourselves to take a bribe from a principal party to the suit. We should be much mistaken, says Mr. Lowe, if we imagined that Imperialism rode roughshod only over the foreign relaticits of England. The present Ministry has need a half- dormant prerogative of the Crown to play the despot Orer.the British nation itself. The power to make Treaties was re- served to the Crown in the faith that, exercised solely by a responsible Ministry, it would be employed at the discretion of the country. The present Parliament has discorered that responsibility has no terrors for a Government which aways an obedient majority. The kingdom has been pledged to a league which might at any moment plunge us into war, without the most formal consultation of Parliament. ParliaMent has ceased to control and instruct Ministers. R seems to haie been assumed during the last Session that " the duty of a House of Commons is to create a Government, and then sink into a state of political coma, till a new election herald the advent of a new or the continuance of an old Ministry." A general election—in that Mr. Lowe finds his solitary ground of hope. Within two years, at fartheat, the Constituencies will have to choose between the old and the new principles of Government. Industry and freedom at home, and peace, fair-dealing, and moderation abroad, were the objects at which an English Miniater formerly aimed. The preference of might to right, the stupid worship of size and bulk, the ambition to establish tritiah dominion on a basis of foreign degradation, and the claim- to fetter Parliament and people by Treaties they have, never consented to, are the principles which guide an English Minister now. The question', according to the so-called Con- servative Cabinet, is between a great and a little England. According to the best of English statesmen, Conservative as well as Liberal, the question should be between an honest and happy, and a disgraced, unhappy England. Let the electors of Great Britain and Ireland prepare themselves in the next two years to say how the question should be framed, and how it should be answered.
If the Constituencies will but accept Mr. Lowe's challenge, we have no fear of the result. Englishmen do not desire any radical and revolutionary change in English policy. If they Would examine thoughtfully the circumstances of the Anglo- Turkish Convention, the Memoranda of May 31; and the Mission to Cabul, no doubt would be left in their minds that the most subversive Liberal never dreamed of so novel a policy as that on which a Conservative Cabinet has entered. Our apprehension is that the facts will not be examined. They have been before the country for several monthsy and it has not yet awoke to any suspicion of the plot in operation against its ancient Constitution. On the contrary, each fresh usurpation by the Ministry has been applauded more and and more enthusiastically. In truth, the question the Con- stituencies have to answer is scarcely so simple as Mr. Loft appears to believe. Imperialism we hate and detest al vehe- mently as can Mr. Lowe. We are convinced that it leads straight to the tyranny abroad, and the cynical contempt for the control of public opinion and the rights of minorities at home, which Mr. Lowe discerns in it. But these are effects. The thing itself is more complex. Whether for good or for ill, Great Britain has attached to herself a chain of innumerable Dependencies. That one among them Which in- volves the direst responsibilities, which, Mr. Lowe eayd,, it a wolf held by the ears, as difficult to let go as to keep, was no fruit of English state ambition. But it is now English territory, like the rest, and has to be aAniinis- tered, with all the incidental liabilities of further annexa- tions. All these several dominions and dependencies have their own special circumstances, needs, and dangerii be- sides their common share in those of England. Imperialism arises from a disproportionate regard to the interests of the dependencies, as compared with those of the country whose de- pendencies they are. To the English Imperialist, the circle of British dominions is equally vulnerable at every point. He makes no proper distinction between limbs and heart. In- stead of the magnificent array of colonies and territories adding to the essential night of England, every fresh dependency bears upon its sleeve the British heart, for daws to peck at. Insolent contempt of the rights of an Ameer of Cabul to decide whom he will receive at his Court and whom he will not receive becomes, in Imperialist eyes, a duty of Great Britain, acting not for herself, but for India. With Imperialism fully developed, an Englishman's honour is no longer in his own keeping. What he would loathe to do as between England and Russia, he has no scruple in doing as representing the relations of the British and the Russian Empires. Different principles of policy, different codes of honour, to those which would rule the policy of England, seem to him to govern the policy of the Empire. Lerd Beaeonsfield and Lord Salisbury profess to be affronted at the charge of having violated the Act of Settlement or Bill of Rights. Neither Act of Settlement nor Bill of Rights appears to them to have any force or significance as applied to the Island of Malta. A Local Board would find more courage necessary to settle an Irish pauper in an English union than a Conservative Cabinet required to take a lease of Cyprus for the Empire, and to pledge the same abstraction to the territorial integrity of Turkey in Asia. The relaxation, however, of English political morality is sufficiently alarming, without supposing it to be as capricious as Mr. Lowe's argument implies. Well-meaning politicians, such as Lord Cranbrook and Mr. Cross, have got bewildered by what seem to them overlapping and even con- flicting duties of Great Britain and the British Dependencies. They have made a compromise out of them all, lending the British power to the enforcement of a policy which they would else have deemed neither for the honour nor for the interest of Great Britain. Not approving the morality of a transac- tion, they have yet condoned it ; they have assumed that the standard of good-faith in Imperial matters differs naturally from the standard of good-faith for a purely English policy. On the same principle, the Parliamentary control which would be properly applied to the affairs of Great Britain is supposed by them to have little relevancy in Imperial affairs. The annexation of Cyprus, and the guarantee of the Sultan's Asiatic dominions are Imperial concerns. If money be wanted to carry out the agreement, Parliament may claim to be con- sulted, but not otherwise. Ministers owe an explanation to Parliament of the way in which they spend British money ; and Parliament may, at any moment, eject them at its dis- cretion. But so long as they remain Ministers, they are Ministers for the. British Empire. Only certain of the affairs of the British Empire, according to this wonderful discovery, come within the cognisance of the Parliament. of Great Britain.
The origin of Imperialism is somewhat more natural if not more reasonable than Mr. Lowe is disposed to allow. But not only iait in its effects .a perpetual conspiracy, against the Eng- lish Constitution ; it is itself founded on a fallacy. "The 'United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland " and " the British Empire," ought to be, for a British Minister, virtually equivalent terms. His duty to the Empire, and his duty to the 'British Parliament, cover precisely the same ground. It is either an act of gross ignorance, or a breach of his Constitu- tional responsibilities, when a Minister distinguishes the title of Parliament to supervise one part and another part of his conduct. The secrecy of the Anglo-Turkish Convention might possibly be excused, though it never has been excused, by the plea of overruling necessity. In the same way might a breach of the Habeas Corpus Act be excused. Either act is an equal violation of the understanding of the Constitution. But if the novel fashion of distinguishing between " Great Britain " and " the Empire " be fallacious as a constitu- tional dogma, it is at least as mischievous and perilous in practice. Great Britain is bound, not merely for her own sake, but for that of her Dependencies, to look to herself first of all. The strength of England is the strength of her Dependencies. Mr. Lowe is arguing for India as well as for England, when he reprobates the blind folly of regulating our policy by " the interest of the Empire, rather than the interest of the Kingdom." With the resources of England husbanded for productive use, with the efforts of English Ministers directed to the end of increasing the independence and happiness of England, India need fear no attack from Russia. The danger of India is in the exhaustion of England, through parrying visionary blows at this or that outlying dependency or terri- tory. Mr. Lowe is .afraid the Constituencies should suppose the question .they have to answer is whether a great Eng- land or a little England is to be preferred. That, in our judgment, is the question to be answered. A great Eng- land, however, is only possible in the future, as it is in the present, and has been in the past, through the insistence of the Constituencies that a policy advocated as necessary for the Dependencies should be proved, first, not to be fatal to the Mother-country, that the interests of Great Britain should not be merged in the interests of the British Empire. Dependen- cies whose interests cannot stand this test had better .be cut adrift. We know of none, except Cyprus, if that be one, which would not stand it.