16 FEBRUARY 1850, Page 13



LORD him RUSSELL'S exposition of Colonial policy has been well received by the public. It comes up to the general opinion and wish. This country, so far as it cares at all about anything be- yond the limits of the United Kingdom, desires that our Colonial empire should be preserved, by all means which are neither costly nor warlike; and it believes that of these, the most efficient, as well as the gentlest and cheapest, is the grant of local self-go- vernment to the Colonies. From all the parties in the House of Commons there were cheers of assent when Sir William Moles- worth said, " Let us have faith in our colonists : let us believe them to be rational people, capable of understanding their own loeal affairs better than we can ; and let us accordingly bestow on them the uncontrolled management of their Local affairs as distin- guished from those of the Empire." And all this Lord John Rus- sell's speech promised, in large, emphatic, unmistakeable words. From whatever cause, producing its effect in February 1850, the Colonial policy of the British Government,. as set forth by the Prime Minister, is just that which opinion both at home and in the Colonies wishes to see realized: A more unexceptionable de- claration of views and intentions was never uttered by prince or minister. - But we must now proceed to a very curious feature in this mat- ter, which moreover illustrates the necessity, with a view to good Colonial government, of letting the Colonies manage their own affairs in ;their own way, uncontrolled by any distant authority. The British public—so far always as it has eared to form any opinion on the subject—probably believes that the principles declared by Lord John will be realized by the measure which he described for giving new constitutions to the Colonies of Australia ; and Lord John himself appears to be sincerely of that opinion. He spoke as if he had no doubt that the Australian Government Bill of last year, now reproduced by him with scarcely an alteration of mo- ment, is really and truly a measure for giving to the Colonies the uncontrolled management of their local affairs ; and in so viewing it the British public agrees with him. Is it so, or is it not ? Suppose it to be a measure which really and truly preserves the present authority of the Colonial Office over the local affairs of the Colonies in question ? If it is so—if both the British public and the Prime Minister of England have se- oompletely mistaken the nature of a Colonial measure purporting to be of the very highest importance—here is a remarkable proof, in addition to the many which existed before, that neither Minister nor Parliament nor public in these islands, is capable of usefully handling the affairs of distant colonies, but that all are disqualified for the task by a natural incurable carelessness. But which is this bill—one of real local self-government, or one for maintaining the distant authority of Downing Street in local matters ? If any reader in this coun- try can seriously attend for a moment, he will see that Lord John's declarations and his measures are totally at variance. The bill makes a constitution for five colonies ; or rather it ex- tends to four of them the present constitution of New South Wales, which it preserves for that colony. Under this constitution there is a Legislature consisting of two branches—the Council and the governor: The Council is composed of two classes of members, two-thirds of them being elected, and the other third appointed by the Governor: it is as if 436 Members of the House of Commons were elected and 218 appointed by the Executive. The Governor or head of the local Executive, who thus appoints one third of the Council, is himself appointed and removeable by the Cotonial Office. All offices in the colony are in the appointment of the Governor,— that is, of the Colonial Office, whose servant he is. The assent of this servant of the Colonial Office is indispensable to all acts of the Legislature; and he can reserve acts for assent or disallowance by the Colonial Office. Being himself an essential portion of the Legislature, and having the appointment of a third of the other portion, as well as of all Executive officers, he is bound to obey whatever instructions he may receive from the Colonial Office in London. We are stating facts. Let the bill be examined, and there they will be found. They may be incredible, but there they are. Excepting as the elective for is so far admitted into the constitution of these colonies as to provide for impediments to le- gislation, and for discord between the Executive and a portion of the Legislature, all local authority and power is ostensibly as well as really, secured for distant Downing Street : it is the " local self- government" of antipodean colonies -by an authority resident in London : the difference between the declaration of principles and the measure proposed is one of contradiction in words and complete opposition in substance. We have said that Lord John intends to bestow upon these colo- nies government which shall be of and belonging to the place,—lo- cal self-government, not government by antipodean Downing Street. Then why not do so ? Why fill these Australian consti- tutions with provisions which preserve for Downing Street the reality of power in the Colonies ? Is it in order to preserve the patronage ? That motive may have weighed ; and the excessive dislike of 'Downing Street itself 'to promote its own extinction by parting with its distant local authority, may have been brought to bear on the Prime Minister, as it appears to have been completely, infused into his weaker-minded Colonial colleague; but a less dis- tit4table motive may be attributed to both of these Ministers for meaning one thing and doing another. The permanent part of the Colonial Office—the sitting part—the " Bumbureaueracy," as the Times used to call it—is at its wits' end for devices to preserve its authority over the half-rebellious Colonies; and its last device is the following argument. It would be monstrous to hand over to local jurisdiction in the Colonies those matters which regard Imperial interests and honour; these subjects of authority must be guarded from Colonial into ference : in order to keep them exclusively within Imperial j diction, it is requisite to maintain a large amount of Imperial con- trol over the Colonial Governments : in order to preserve the honour and interests of the Empire from damage by the Colonial Governments, we of the Imperial Colonial Office in Downing Street must retain an absolute power over one-third of the Legis- lative Council, over the other branch of the Legislature, and over all the Executive authorities in the colony. This control by us is necessary, not with a view to Local matters in the colony, but with a view to Imperial matters in the colony. You cannot draw any clear line of distinction between Local and Imperial matters in the colony : to do so is simply impossible. Therefore, in order to maintain Imperial control over Imperial matters in the colony, you must preserve for us, the Imperial Colonial Office, control over Lo- cal matters also. The determination from time to time of what matters in the colony are Imperial and what Local, must be left to our judgment—to the " unfettered discretion " of an Imperial authority. In order that such discretion may be unfettered, we must possess a lawful control over all matters. Therefore, these constitutions, whilst they profess to give local self-government to the colonists, carefully preserve the local authority of this Office. That it should be so is a necessity belonging to the nature of things.

The argument is sound except in one particular. It assumes the impossibility of separating Imperial and Local subjects of go- vernment. If these could be separated, there might be real self- government as regards Local matters, and, separately from that, Imperial authority in the colony as regards Imperial matters there. Is the separation impossible? It used to be, somewhat rudely indeed, but still sufficiently accomplished, under that old English system of municipal government for dependencies which founded en Colonies in North America ; and it is very completely and satisfactorily established as between the numerous States of the American Union and their General or Imperial Government. That may be, says Downing Street, with regard to the United

States ; but it is impossible for the British pire : if you at- tempted it, there would be perpetual collision between the Colonies and the Mother-country. For example, if the constitution of Canada had expressly reserved for Imperial control all questions relating to high treason, which is a crime against the Empire, the Rebellion- Losses-Indemnity measure would have led to such collision. The answer is, that if the constitution of Canada had distinctly reserved for Imperial jurisdiction, or had as distinctly placed under Local jurisdiction such questions as that of giving indemnity to rebels, the risk of collision which actually occurred would have been prevented. As it was, neither party knew exactly what it might do or what it was not competent to do. If questions of this kind had distinctly belonged to the colony, there would have been no outcry in this country, no debates in our Parliament, about the act of the Cana- dian Legislature. If such questions had been as distinctly reserved for the Empire, the introduction of the Rebellion-Losses Bill into the Canadian Parliament would have been a measure as ostensibly based on Imperial consent as it was in fact by Lord Elgin's assent to its introduction. In the actual case, the Imperial Government assented beforehand to the measure. It might have refused its assent, and so brought on collision. Collision was not pre- vented by the absence of a distinct separation between Imperial and Local subjects of government; but the risk of collision would have been less if the constitution of Canada had distinctly set forth either that the Colony might, or that it might not, entertain questions relating to high treason without the consent of the Empire. The example, being examined, tells against the view of those who cite it. A thousand more might be adduced, to show how advan- tageous at least the proposed separation would be if it were pos- sible. Manifestly, such separation, if it were possible, would have a tendency to prevent discord and collision between the colony and the empire—to promote the smooth and harmonious -working of both branches of government in a colony : for indeed, the proposal is to _place all authority in Imperial matters and all authority in Local matters on parallel lines, where it would be impossible for them to meet. This impossibility, then, is one greatly to be de- sired. Does the other exist? If it does, why does it? Those who assert it offer no proof ; they merely assert it. Why should not England do with her Colonies what the American Union does with its separate States ? If this were done by us as perfectly as it is by them, there would be two Governments in every colony— one altogether Local both in its Legislature and Executive, the other exclusively Imperial. What the form of the Local Govern- ment might be, is a question into which we do not enter now : only let it be wholly Local,—that is, totally exempt from Colonial Office control. The other might consist of one or more Imperial officers, —a Lord-Lieutenant, Lord High Commissioner, or Viceroy, with his staff, who would be solely responsible to and paid by the Im- perial Government, and who would have the exclusive manage- ment of Imperial matters. Why not ? The question deserves the serious attention of Parliament : for if the alleged impossibility really exists, the unreal concession of local powers which we make to the Colonies in the form of representative institutions, will only provoke and enable them the sooner to assert that sovereign bide-

pendence which too many of them already regard as the only means of escaping from intolerable misgovernment by the distant Colonial Office.