Page images

permanence of any settlement that might be reached. Lord Salisbury expressed his concurrence in these views.

Armenian affairs were the subject of debate on March 3, but with no practical result. Sir Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett distinguished himself by an absolute denial of the enormity of the massacres, characterizing the vast mass of testimony concerning them from correspondents, consuls, and the British min

ister, and even from photographs, as deception. He was answered by two masterly speeches from Mr. George Curzon and Sir Edward Grey. The resolution finally adopted was a colorless expression of a hope for the Armeniansshowing the British government still clinging, as for half a year past, to their standard policy of avoidance.

On the South African difficulty Mr. Chamberlain spoke on March 31, but with guarded utterance. Parliament seemed to have recognized that the delicacy of the af



fair at its present stage PRESIDENT OF THE BRITISH BOARD OF TRADE. made it a subject rather for the cabinet and for diplomacy than for legislative action.

The action on naval defense is noticed below, as is also the new education bill.


On March 31 parliament adjourned for a fortnight's re

Naval Defense.-A subject of vital interest to the British empire was presented on March 2 by Mr. Goschen, first lord of the admiralty, in a statement introducing the government's measure for naval defense (p. 63). His address of an hour and a-half was striking in the businesslike simplicity of the manner in which it recommended for the coming year the unparalleled expenditure (total)

on the navy, of £21,823,000, including about £4,325,000 falling immediately due. He proposed to apply to this purpose a large part of the unusual surplus (estimated at more than £12,000,000), the result of Sir William Harcourt's admirable administration of the treasury last year. Successive administrations have taken pride in even a small reduction of the national debt; and through the twenty-one years ending March 31, 1895, the debt. had been reduced from £769,000,000 to £657,000,000. The proposal, therefore, to use for the navy four millions of the last year's surplus, excited controversy; but what was deemed its most critical point, the appropriation for men, was passed one week later, the negative vote being only forty-five. Mr. Goschen announced that the unprecedented increase in naval power could not be viewed. as a menace against the United States, since the estimates had been framed last November. He announced also that Britain had more ships even then in commission than all the other great powers combined; and further, that every ship ready for commission could be manned forthwith by draft on the naval reserve.

It is evidently a general British feeling that the foreign relations of the empire, whose colonies belt the world in a confederacy grander, richer, more vital, and as a whole more beneficent than any other aggregation of peoples known in history, are at this hour in a more critical, at least a more uncertain, stage than ever before since the days of the Spanish Armada. If on questions Asiatic or African, or for mere jealousy of English success, or through anger at England's sometimes too ready lordliness, there is becoming possible an alliance of four great European powers to deliver a sudden blow at Britain's commercial supremacy or at any of her colonial dependencies, then the little British isles deem it necessary to be prepared, and to let the continent know that they are prepared, with a sea power to hold all seas in defense of their most remote colonial possessions.

The New School Bill.-Sir John E. Gorst, vice-president of the council for education, introduced on March 31 the government's school bill, bringing into parliament a question which had excited wide and troublesome public. controversy, and thus fulfilling the ante-election expectations raised among the friends of church schools. The causes and the main lines of this contention were outlined in the preceding number of this quarterly (Vol. 5, p. 929). The bill appears to be one of those numerous compro

mises in which each party considers its claim compromised more than the claims of its opponent; though it is evident that the bill gives the church increase of public money for its schools without giving local taxpayers any increase of control. The Roman Catholics, joining with the Anglican Church in opposing the non-conformists' plea for non-sectarian government schools, are complicating the situation by adding some demands of their own. Under such conditions a measure proposed by a conservative government could scarcely be other than a temporary expedient showing reactionary tendenciesa measure whose misfortune is that it is a compound of religion and politics, because a church is inwoven through the whole English civil state. The enormous conservative majority which is expected to enact this bill or one similar, will be justified as obeying the latest command of the English people at the polls.

The new bill makes the county council paramount in administering, inspecting, and developing education in the country. This transfer of control in part from the national to a local authority-"decentralization of the code," as Sir John Gorst terms it-is a desirable reform, as is also the raising of the limit of school age from eleven to twelve years. If this bill becomes law, the board schools hitherto non-sectarian, though not necessarily non-religious, must admit sectarian teaching in school hours at the demand of a reasonable number" of parents in the case of any elementary school. These board schools, by the reports of the official inspectors, now rank highest for educational results; while the denominational schools rank in lower grades as their denominationalism increases, as follows, Wesleyan, Church of England, Roman Catholic. The denominations not named here mainly avail themselves of the board schools.

Intra-Imperial Free Trade.-What has been termed "the magnificent isolation of England," referring to Britain's lack in recent years of close alliance or friendship with other nations, is operating to draw into firmer union the widely scattered countries that compose the empire. Vague shadows of danger, appealing to the ancient loyalty, summon it into new consciousness of itself; they appeal also to prudence to reinforce patriotism and to confirm the bond between the home land and the colonies along all the lines of common interest, commercial and industrial. Mr. Chamberlain, colonial secretary of state, is moving on these practical lines, not as yet officially, but with suggestions aimed at awakening public thought and preparing the way for an imperial policy nothing less than revolutionary in trade relations.

On March 25 he was the guest of honor at the annual meeting of the Canada club in London. Many prominent men were present. In

a brilliant speech on the present situation of the empire, having de clared that the greatest of the colonies' common obligations is imperial defense, and the greatest of their common interests imperial trade, he declared it difficult to deal with the subject of defense without dealing first with the subject of trade. He cited the creation of the German empire as an example, tracing it as arising gradually through a union of the separate states in a commercial Zollverein. Referring respectfully to some movements in Canada for a new customs arrange. ment between Great Britain and her colonies, he characterized as too

startling for a free-trade country like England a proposal that each member of the empire should levy a small duty against foreign products imported, and should use the proceeds for purposes of imperial defense: this he deemed impossible of adoption in its present form.


He then brought forward his own suggestion, which it is difficult to consider as differing from the other except in "form.' The true Zollverein of the empire, which might be discussed and would probably lead to a satisfactory customs arrangement, if the colonies were willing to consider it, was, he said, free trade throughout the empire, even though this involved a tariff against foreigners. The London Times of March 26 referred to the proposed arrangement as amounting to "an imperial customs union which would at once establish free trade within the empire as it exists within the vast territories [i. e., among the forty-five several states] of the United States." It will be remembered that for nearly half a century, while the United Kingdom has followed a policy of free trade, its colonies on the whole have had protective tariffs against one another and against the mother country.


Mr. Chamberlain, in this first stage, is speaking guardedly: he suggests a tariff not for protection, but for revenue. Yet, as he distinctly declares his purpose to stimulate and develop colonial industry, the question may be expected later, as to what advantage colonial industries can get from a system of intra-imperial free trade unless it involves some "protection" for them as distinct from foreign nations who are excluded from its benefits.

Mr. Chamberlain's suggestion shows the intellectual and practical mastery which he brings to the art of gov

ernment. He sees the tremendous obstacles to his scheme no less than he sees what he considers to be the incalculable benefits of the adoption of such a measure by the British empire. The most important objection thus far heard is that the empire may not be self-supporting. The United Kingdom now depends upon the United States large. ly for its wheat, meat, and cotton supply, and on Russia and Argentina for much

of its wheat. Should the colonies be unable to meet this demand, what will the British workman say when the corn laws are revived and an import tax is put on the cotton for British spindles?

The British Empire League succeeds the Imperial Federation League, as a society whose objects are promotion of the unity and defense of the empire, and to further reciprocal trade between its various parts. The Duke of Devonshire has accepted its presidency (p. 170).



The Irish Nationalists. The Parnellites seized the opportunity of British foreign complications in January to stir up Irish hatred of England. Mr. Davitt and Mr. Dillon declared the undying hostility of Ireland to the present conservative government, and predicted dire results for England in the wars that she was provoking by her dealing with Venezuela and the Transvaal.

Justin McCarthy resigned the leadership of the antiParnellite section of the Irish nationalists in parliament, on February 5, giving as his reasons his delicate health and his engagement in literary pursuits. Thomas Sexton, unanimously chosen as his successor, immediately declined, and on February 18 resigned his seat in parliament. He retains the directorship of The Freeman's Journal, the

« PreviousContinue »