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to us in such books as the Canada Year-book and the Australian Year-book, retaining only the inestimable advantage that it may serve as an excuse for shunting the question of Imperial Preference for the next three years!
Mr. Harcourt was good enough to explain frankly, in the House of Commons on the 3rd of April, the artful pretence by which he and Mr. Asquith persuaded the Colonial Premiers at the Conference to assent to the stultification of their own wishes and opinions in this respect. He said:
The exclusion of the fiscal question from the terms of reference was agreed to by the whole Conference. It was quite clear from the discussion that it would be just as inconvenient and disagreeable to the Dominions to have a report of the Commission pressing Free Trade on them as it would be unpleasant to his Majesty's Government to have a report pressing a policy in which they, as a Government, did not believe.
This seems rather thin. Mr. Harcourt would have us believe that the Dominion Premiers were so devoted to the cause of Imperial Preference that they feared to expose it to the rude criticism of the proposed Royal Commission! I may admit, in passing, that they might have had some fair cause for such an absurd fear if they could have foreseen the gross and outrageous way in which Mr. Asquith's Government have 'loaded the dice' by packing this Commission with some of the most extreme Cobdenites they could find, as I shall presently show. But the Premiers could not have anticipated such a flagrant abuse of the Royal Prerogative; and, as a matter of fact, a careful study of the proceedings of the Conference impresses one with the idea that the Premiers, in politely yielding to their hosts on this one great and cardinal point, were really out-manoeuvred by them. They all expressed themselves as entirely in agreement with the original Australian resolution-as undoubtedly they were, for the object at which it aimed was the very one which they had been deputed by their respective Dominions to press. And yet they were ultimately cajoled into passing the following, which was little better than a derisory shadow of the original resolution :
That his Majesty should be approached with a view to the appointment of a Royal Commission representing the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia. New Zealand, South Africa, and Newfoundland, with a view of investigating and reporting upon the natural resources of each part of the Empire represented at this Conference, the development attained and attainable, and the facilities for production, manufacture, and distribution; the trade of each part with the others and with the outside world, the food and raw material requirements of each and the resources thereof available; to what extent, if any, the trade between each of the different parts has been affected by existing legislation in each, either beneficially or otherwise; and by what methods consistent with the existing fiscal policy of each part the trade of each part with the others may be improved and extended.
It should be remembered, in fairness to those who agreed to this resolution, that most of the old stalwarts of the Conferenceincluding such men as Mr. Deakin, Sir Starr Jameson, Mr. Moor, Sir R. Bond, Sir William Lyne and Sir Thomas Smartt-were, for one reason or another, absent from the Conference of 1911, and their places were either vacant or occupied by new and comparatively inexperienced men; and in the case of some of those who remained, it may fairly be admitted that, while their opinions and convictions remained as firm as ever, their position in respect to the point on which they were in such direct conflict with the eager prepossessions and prejudices of their hosts was a peculiar and awkward one. I need not labour the point. It is obvious, for instance, that Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Mr. Brodeur, while retaining to the full their old and convinced belief in Imperial Preference, would honourably find some difficulty in offering to Mr. Asquith and Mr. Harcourt the same uncompromising resistance as of old, seeing that they had received such strong support from the latter in their own alternative policy of American Reciprocity. Mr. Asquith and Mr. Harcourt had thrown overboard their Free-Trade principles, and supported American Reciprocity with Canada, though bitterly opposing British Reciprocity-and this fact obviously made Sir Wilfrid Laurier's position a little awkward. General Botha, too, and his colleagues from the South African Union, had never adopted the strong Colonial views of such men as Mr. Hofmeyr and Sir Starr Jameson, and were, very naturally and properly, reluctant to oppose openly the Radical Government at Westminster.
Moreover, it should not be forgotten that, at the moment of the Conference of 1911, Canada had not given that striking lead to the Empire that she gave three months later in tones that thrilled the whole world-nor could it have been confidently predicted at that moment that, within less than twelve months, a long and unbroken series of by-elections in the United Kingdom itself would prove that the cause of Imperial Preference now only awaits a General Election.
But however this may be, the terms of the resolution which the diplomatic skill of Mr. Asquith and Mr. Harcourt imposed on the Imperial Conference of 1911 have enabled the Government to set up a bogus Royal Commission on Imperial Trade, with a reference which not only excludes from its investigations the main point at issue, the question of Imperial Preference, but also, by an unobserved side-wind, altogether shuts out India, Ceylon, the West Indies, and the other Crown Colonies, Protectorates and Dependencies from the scope of its inquiries-thereby excluding very nearly half the trade between the United Kingdom and the British Possessions beyond the Seas, and much more than half the total trade of those Possessions!
For the Blue-book of Papers Laid before the Conference (Cd. 5746-1) shows that the exports from the United Kingdom to the included Dominions are of an annual value of seventy-six millions sterling, while those to the excluded Possessions are of an annual value of seventy-one millions, and the imports to the United Kingdom in the former case are ninety-six millions sterling, and in the latter case seventy-four millions. The total external trade of India alone is of the annual value of 246 millions sterling-far greater than that of any other part of the Empire except the United Kingdom-the nearest approaches to it being 140 millions sterling for Canada and 114 millions for Australia. Mr. Page Croft, M.P., in his admirable little book The Path of Empire, has shown that India purchases from the Mother Country 13,000,000l. per annum more than any foreign country-more than Belgium and Holland and Denmark and Japan put together -and that in this way she gives far more employment to British working-men than any other country in the world.
And, further, the circumstances of India are such as to give infinitely greater promise of future expansion of industry and commerce than almost any other land on the face of the globe. She possesses a rapidly increasing population, numbered last year at 315,000,000, who, taken in the aggregate, are more progressive in regard to their standards of civilisation and comfort than almost any, perhaps more sober and thrifty and docile, and certainly not less intelligent than any, with captains of industry and leaders of commerce of the greatest ability and enterprise. With an area greater than all Europe excluding Russia, she possesses every variety of climate and soil, and produces in vast abundance almost every commodity that is useful to man, either as food or as raw material for his industries. She has immense unworked stores of coal and iron and gold, and every other useful or precious mineral, with resources in forests and water-power almost unrivalled. She has vast areas of uncultivated fertile wheat-land, only awaiting the irrigation-canal and the plough; and other resources practically illimitable. Mr. Webb, C.I.E., the able chairman of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce, gives a good summary of some of these resources:
We bring before our mind's eye the 109,000 square miles-an area practically as large as Italy-devoted solely to the production of rice; then 50,000 square miles equal to all England-producing millets (jowari and bajra); next the 31,000 square miles (say the whole of Portugal) under wheat; the 16,000 square miles (the equivalent of Denmark) given up to the cultivation of cotton; the 4700 square miles under jute; the 4400 square miles under sugar-cane; and so on. Then we recall the many millions sterling that India can command by the sale of these valuable products, and by the disposal of her surplus oil-seeds, her tea and coffee, her hides and skins, her lac, indigo and spices, to make no mention of wool, silk, timber, tobacco, and a host of minor commodities everywhere in strong demand. Nor must
we forget that she possesses coal and iron in abundance-9,735,010 tons of the former were raised in 1906, whilst the manufacture of the latter is now receiving attention by the brains of some of her most distinguished sons. Gold, too, she possesses in handsome quantities over 322 lakhs of rupees' worth being unearthed in 1906-7. Further, many of her resources are being developed with an energy and success that cannot fail to extort a tribute of admiration even from experienced England. Jute manufactures to the value of over 10,000,000l. sterling were exported in 1906-7, whilst nearly 14,000,000l. have been already invested in cotton mills, the annual yield of which is now of substantial proportions.
These are the circumstances of the particular State of the British Empire which-together with Ceylon, the Straits Settlements, Mauritius, the West Indies, and other Crown Colonies, Protectorates and Dependencies-has been deliberately, by the strategy of Mr. Asquith and Mr. Harcourt, excluded from all participation in the attentions or inquiries of this precious 'Imperial' Trade Commission! On Wednesday, the 10th of April, in answer to questions in the House of Commons, Mr. Harcourt stated that:
The intention of the Conference was well known to the Prime Minister and myself, who were members of it, and we have drafted, in consultation and concurrence with all the Dominions, the Reference, which follows as closely as possible the terms of the resolution of the Imperial Conference.
On the same occasion Mr. Harcourt made a statement regarding the personnel of the Royal Commission, to which I shall return presently; and he read the following final form of the reference that was the chef-d'œuvre of the strategy of Mr. Asquith and himself, in which, it will be observed, not only is 'fiscal policy' to be sacred from the intrusion of the Commission (to which the Premiers had consented for fear of being forcibly made Cobdenites!), but the Commission is also strictly prohibited from making any impertinent inquiries as to whether the trade of any part of the Empire has been or is being affected, beneficially or otherwise, by '-any 'fiscal laws '! Could Cobdenite obscurantism and dread of the light of truth and free inquiry have a more lurid illustration than this? Here is the masterpiece of Mr. Asquith and Mr. Harcourt in extenso :
To inquire into and report upon the natural resources of the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, the Union of South Africa, and the Colony of Newfoundland; and, further, to report upon the development of such resources, whether attained or attainable; upon the facilities which exist or may be created for the production, manufacture, and distribution of all articles of commerce in those parts of the Empire; upon the requirements of each such part and of the United Kingdom in the matter of food and raw materials, and the available sources of such; upon the trade of each such part of the Empire with the other parts, with the United Kingdom, and with the rest of the world; upon the extent, if any, to which the mutual trade of the several parts of the Empire has been or is being affected beneficially or otherwise
by the laws now in force, other than fiscal laws; and, generally, to suggest any methods, consistent always with the existing fiscal policy of each part of the Empire, by which the trade of each part with the others and with the United Kingdom might be improved and extended.
From the wording of this reference it is clear that the minds of Mr. Asquith and Mr. Harcourt, when drafting it, were obsessed by that wild and unreasoning panic that the mere whisper of the words fiscal policy' seems to suggest to Cobdenites, ever since the result of the Canadian elections and the report of Lord Balfour's Commission on the trade between Canada and the West Indies have shown which way the wind is blowing. It is doubtless felt that in the terms of reference of Lord Balfour's Commission far too much scope had been given for honest conviction. It had been thought sufficient for the sacred cause of Cobdenism, in the case of the Canada-West Indies Commission, if an advanced Cobdenite were appointed chairman-but it happened that the chairman was not only an advanced Cobdenite, but also a Scottish gentleman of the highest character and position, and not merely a party politician 'on the make.' And the result was disastrous to Cobdenism; for the report, now being happily acted on to the immense advantage both of Canada and of the West Indies, was solid for Imperial Preference between those countries. So Mr. Asquith and Mr. Harcourt are evidently determined, when instructing this great 'Imperial' Trade Commission, to leave no loopholes for conscience or convictions-the dangerous question must be tabooed altogether.
Further, in the nomination of at least three out of the six British Commissioners, the selection has obviously been ruled primarily by the same considerations.
It is true that Mr. Harcourt, when announcing the names of those on whom the choice of the Government has fallen for this duty-which ought to be one of higher responsibility than almost any that has ever been imposed on a Royal Commissionerunctuously declared that they had 'deliberately excluded all members of the House of Commons in order to exclude any possible question of party politics'!
A more audacious or hypocritical claim has probably never been made in Parliament. Lord Inchcape, the distinguished President of the Commission, is a most able and experienced gentleman, a great representative of Indian shipping, a director of the Suez Canal and other important companies, and the negotiator of a Treaty with China in 1902 that was much disliked in India. But his chief fame rests on the fact that in 1907 he was chosen by the Radical Government to be the 'representative' of India in the Imperial Conference of that year, with the idea-as Lord Reay publicly announced at a meeting of the East India Association shortly before the appointment was made-that as