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´╗┐Title: The Expansion of Europe; The Culmination of Modern History
Author: Muir, Ramsay, 1872-1941
Language: English
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The purpose of this book is twofold.

We realise to-day, as never before, that the fortunes of the world, and
of every individual in it, are deeply affected by the problems of
world-politics and by the imperial expansion and the imperial rivalries
of the greater states of Western civilisation. But when men who have
given no special attention to the history of these questions try to
form a sound judgment on them, they find themselves handicapped by the
lack of any brief and clear resume of the subject. I have tried, in
this book, to provide such a summary, in the form of a broad survey,
unencumbered with detail, but becoming fuller as it comes nearer to our
own time. That is my first purpose. In fulfilling it I have had to
cover much well-trodden ground. But I hope I have avoided the aridity
of a mere compendium of facts.

My second purpose is rather more ambitious. In the course of my
narrative I have tried to deal with ideas rather than with mere facts.
I have tried to bring out the political ideas which are implicit in, or
which result from, the conquest of the world by Western civilisation;
and to show how the ideas of the West have affected the outer world,
how far they have been modified to meet its needs, and how they have
developed in the process. In particular I have endeavoured to direct
attention to the significant new political form which we have seen
coming into existence, and of which the British Empire is the oldest
and the most highly developed example--the world-state, embracing
peoples of many different types, with a Western nation-state as its
nucleus. The study of this new form seems to me to be a neglected
branch of political science, and one of vital importance. Whether or
not it is to be a lasting form, time alone will show. Finally I have
tried to display, in this long imperialist conflict, the strife of two
rival conceptions of empire: the old, sterile, and ugly conception
which thinks of empire as mere domination, ruthlessly pursued for the
sole advantage of the master, and which seems to me to be most fully
exemplified by Germany; and the nobler conception which regards empire
as a trusteeship, and which is to be seen gradually emerging and
struggling towards victory over the more brutal view, more clearly and
in more varied forms in the story of the British Empire than in perhaps
any other part of human history. That is why I have given a perhaps
disproportionate attention to the British Empire. The war is
determining, among other great issues, which of these conceptions is to
dominate the future.

In its first form this book was completed in the autumn of 1916; and it
contained, as I am bound to confess, some rather acidulated sentences
in the passages which deal with the attitude of America towards
European problems. These sentences were due to the deep disappointment
which most Englishmen and most Frenchmen felt with the attitude of
aloofness which America seemed to have adopted towards the greatest
struggle for freedom and justice ever waged in history. It was an
indescribable satisfaction to be forced by events to recognise that I
was wrong, and that these passages of my book ought not to have been
written as I wrote them. There is a sort of solemn joy in feeling that
America, France, and Britain, the three nations which have contributed
more than all the rest of the world put together to the establishment
of liberty and justice on the earth, are now comrades in arms, fighting
a supreme battle for these great causes. May this comradeship never be
broken. May it bring about such a decision of the present conflict as
will open a new era in the history of the world--a world now unified,
as never before, by the final victory of Western civilisation which it
is the purpose of this book to describe.

Besides rewriting and expanding the passages on America, I have seized
the opportunity of this new issue to alter and enlarge certain other
sections of the book, notably the chapter on the vital period
1878-1900, which was too slightly dealt with in the original edition.
In this work, which has considerably increased the size of the book, I
have been much assisted by the criticisms and suggestions of some of my
reviewers, whom I wish to thank.

Perhaps I ought to add that though this book is complete in itself, it
is also a sort of sequel to a little book entitled Nationalism and
Internationalism, and was originally designed to be printed along with
it: that is the explanation of sundry footnote references. The two
volumes are to be followed by a third, on National Self-government, and
it is my hope that the complete series may form a useful general survey
of the development of the main political factors in modern history.

In its first form the book had the advantage of being read by my friend
Major W. L. Grant, Professor of Colonial History at Queen's University
Kingston, Ontario. The pressure of the military duties in which he is
engaged has made it impossible for me to ask his aid in the revision of
the book.

R. M. July 1917


    I. The Meaning and the Motives of Imperialism
   II. The Era of Iberian Monopoly
  III. The Rivalry of the Dutch, the French, and
         the English, 1588-1763
           (a) The Period of Settlement, 1588-1660
           (b) The Period of Systematic Colonial Policy, 1660-1713
           (c) The Conflict of French and English, 1713-1763
   IV. The Era of Revolution, 1763-1825
    V. Europe and the Non-European World, 1815-1878
   VI. The Transformation of the British Empire, 1815-1878
  VII. The Era of the World States, 1878-1900
 VIII. The British Empire amid the World-Powers, 1878-1914
   IX. The Great Challenge, 1900-1914
    X. What of the Night?



One of the most remarkable features of the modern age has been the
extension of the influence of European civilisation over the whole
world. This process has formed a very important element in the history
of the last four centuries, and it has been strangely undervalued by
most historians, whose attention has been too exclusively centred upon
the domestic politics, diplomacies, and wars of Europe. It has been
brought about by the creation of a succession of 'Empires' by the
European nations, some of which have broken up, while others survive,
but all of which have contributed their share to the general result;
and for that reason the term 'Imperialism' is commonly employed to
describe the spirit which has led to this astonishing and
world-embracing movement of the modern age.

The terms 'Empire' and 'Imperialism' are in some respects unfortunate,
because of the suggestion of purely military dominion which they
convey; and their habitual employment has led to some unhappy results.
It has led men of one school of thought to condemn and repudiate the
whole movement, as an immoral product of brute force, regardless of the
rights of conquered peoples. They have refused to study it, and have
made no endeavour to understand it; not realising that the movement
they were condemning was as inevitable and as irresistible as the
movement of the tides--and as capable of being turned to beneficent
ends. On the other hand, the implications of these terms have perhaps
helped to foster in men of another type of mind an unhealthy spirit of
pride in mere domination, as if that were an end in itself, and have
led them to exult in the extension of national power, without closely
enough considering the purposes for which it was to be used. Both
attitudes are deplorable, and in so far as the words 'Empire,'
'Imperial,' and 'Imperialism' tend to encourage them, they are
unfortunate words. They certainly do not adequately express the full
significance of the process whereby the civilisation of Europe has been
made into the civilisation of the world.

Nevertheless the words have to be used, because there are no others
which at all cover the facts. And, after all, they are in some ways
entirely appropriate. A great part of the world's area is inhabited by
peoples who are still in a condition of barbarism, and seem to have
rested in that condition for untold centuries. For such peoples the
only chance of improvement was that they should pass under the dominion
of more highly developed peoples; and to them a European 'Empire'
brought, for the first time, not merely law and justice, but even the
rudiments of the only kind of liberty which is worth having, the
liberty which rests upon law. Another vast section of the world's
population consists of peoples who have in some respects reached a high
stage of civilisation, but who have failed to achieve for themselves a
mode of organisation which could give them secure order and equal laws.
For such peoples also the 'Empire' of Western civilisation, even when
it is imposed and maintained by force, may bring advantages which will
far outweigh its defects. In these cases the word 'Empire' can be used
without violence to its original significance, and yet without apology;
and these cases cover by far the greater part of the world.

The words 'Empire' and 'Imperialism' come to us from ancient Rome; and
the analogy between the conquering and organising work of Rome and the
empire-building work of the modern nation-states is a suggestive and
stimulating analogy. The imperialism of Rome extended the modes of a
single civilisation, and the Reign of Law which was its essence, over
all the Mediterranean lands. The imperialism of the nations to which
the torch of Rome has been handed on, has made the Reign of Law, and
the modes of a single civilisation, the common possession of the whole
world. Rome made the common life of Europe possible. The imperial
expansion of the European nations has alone made possible the
vision--nay, the certainty--of a future world-order. For these reasons
we may rightly and without hesitation continue to employ these terms,
provided that we remember always that the justification of any dominion
imposed by a more advanced upon a backward or disorganised people is to
be found, not in the extension of mere brute power, but in the
enlargement and diffusion, under the shelter of power, of those vital
elements in the life of Western civilisation which have been the
secrets of its strength, and the greatest of its gifts to the world:
the sovereignty of a just and rational system of law, liberty of
person, of thought, and of speech, and, finally, where the conditions
are favourable, the practice of self-government and the growth of that
sentiment of common interest which we call the national spirit. These
are the features of Western civilisation which have justified its
conquest of the world[1]; and it must be for its success or failure in
attaining these ends that we shall commend or condemn the imperial work
of each of the nations which have shared in this vast achievement.

[1] See the first essay in Nationalism and Internationalism, in which
an attempt is made to work out this idea.

Four main motives can be perceived at work in all the imperial
activities of the European peoples during the last four centuries. The
first, and perhaps the most potent, has been the spirit of national
pride, seeking to express itself in the establishment of its dominion
over less highly organised peoples. In the exultation which follows the
achievement of national unity each of the nation-states in turn, if the
circumstances were at all favourable, has been tempted to impose its
power upon its neighbours,[2] or even to seek the mastery of the world.
From these attempts have sprung the greatest of the European wars. From
them also have arisen all the colonial empires of the European states.
It is no mere coincidence that all the great colonising powers have
been unified nation-states, and that their imperial activities have
been most vigorous when the national sentiment was at its strongest
among them. Spain, Portugal, England, France, Holland, Russia: these
are the great imperial powers, and they are also the great
nation-states. Denmark and Sweden have played a more modest part, in
extra-European as in European affairs. Germany and Italy only began to
conceive imperial ambitions after their tardy unification in the
nineteenth century. Austria, which has never been a nation-state, never
became a colonising power. Nationalism, then, with its eagerness for
dominion, may be regarded as the chief source of imperialism; and if
its effects are unhappy when it tries to express itself at the expense
of peoples in whom the potentiality of nationhood exists, they are not
necessarily unhappy in other cases. When it takes the form of the
settlement of unpeopled lands, or the organisation and development of
primitive barbaric peoples, or the reinvigoration and strengthening of
old and decadent societies, it may prove itself a beneficent force. But
it is beneficent only in so far as it leads to an enlargement of law
and liberty.

[2] Nationalism and Imperialism, pp. 60, 64, 104.

The second of the blended motives of imperial expansion has been the
desire for commercial profits; and this motive has played so prominent
a part, especially in our own time, that we are apt to exaggerate its
force, and to think of it as the sole motive. No doubt it has always
been present in some degree in all imperial adventures. But until the
nineteenth century it probably formed the predominant motive only in
regard to the acquisition of tropical lands. So long as Europe
continued to be able to produce as much as she needed of the food and
the raw materials for industry that her soil and climate were capable
of yielding, the commercial motive for acquiring territories in the
temperate zone, which could produce only commodities of the same type,
was comparatively weak; and the European settlements in these areas,
which we have come to regard as the most important products of the
imperialist movement, must in their origin and early settlement be
mainly attributed to other than commercial motives. But Europe has
always depended for most of her luxuries upon the tropics: gold and
ivory and gems, spices and sugar and fine woven stuffs, from a very
early age found their way into Europe from India and the East, coming
by slow and devious caravan routes to the shores of the Black Sea and
the Mediterranean. Until the end of the fifteenth century the European
trader had no direct contact with the sources of these precious
commodities; the supply of them was scanty and the price high. The
desire to gain a more direct access to the sources of this traffic, and
to obtain control of the supply, formed the principal motive for the
great explorations. But these, in their turn, disclosed fresh tropical
areas worth exploiting, and introduced new luxuries, such as tobacco
and tea, which soon took rank as necessities. They also brought a
colossal increment of wealth to the countries which had undertaken
them. Hence the acquisition of a share in, or a monopoly of, these
lucrative lines of trade became a primary object of ambition to all the
great states. In the nineteenth century Europe began to be unable to
supply her own needs in regard to the products of the temperate zone,
and therefore to desire control over other areas of this type; but
until then it was mainly in regard to the tropical or sub-tropical
areas that the commercial motive formed the predominant element in the
imperial rivalries of the nation-states. And even to-day it is over
these areas that their conflicts are most acute.

A third motive for imperial expansion, which must not be overlooked, is
the zeal for propaganda: the eagerness of virile peoples to propagate
the religious and political ideas which they have adopted. But this is
only another way of saying that nations are impelled upon the imperial
career by the desire to extend the influence of their conception of
civilisation, their Kultur. In one form or another this motive has
always been present. At first it took the form of religious zeal. The
spirit of the Crusaders was inherited by the Portuguese and the
Spaniards, whose whole history had been one long crusade against the
Moors. When the Portuguese started upon the exploration of the African
coast, they could scarcely have sustained to the end that long and
arduous task if they had been allured by no other prospect than the
distant hope of finding a new route to the East. They were buoyed up
also by the desire to strike a blow for Christianity. They expected to
find the mythical Christian empire of Prester John, and to join hands
with him in overthrowing the infidel. When Columbus persuaded Queen
Isabella of Castile to supply the means for his madcap adventure, it
was by a double inducement that he won her assent: she was to gain
access to the wealth of the Indies, but she was also to be the means of
converting the heathen to a knowledge of Christianity; and this double
motive continually recurs in the early history of the Spanish Empire.
France could scarcely, perhaps, have persisted in maintaining her far
from profitable settlements on the barren shores of the St. Lawrence if
the missionary motive had not existed alongside of the motives of
national pride and the desire for profits: her great work of
exploration in the region of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley
was due quite as much to the zeal of the heroic missionaries of the
Jesuit and other orders as to the enterprise of trappers and traders.
In English colonisation, indeed, the missionary motive was never, until
the nineteenth century, so strongly marked. But its place was taken by
a parallel political motive. The belief that they were diffusing the
free institutions in which they took so much pride certainly formed an
element in the colonial activities of the English. It is both foolish
and unscientific to disregard this element of propaganda in the
imperialist movement, still more to treat the assertion of it by the
colonising powers as mere hypocrisy. The motives of imperial expansion,
as of other human activities, are mixed, and the loftier elements in
them are not often predominant. But the loftier elements are always
present. It is hypocrisy to pretend that they are alone or even chiefly
operative. But it is cynicism wholly to deny their influence. And of
the two sins cynicism is the worse, because by over-emphasising it
strengthens and cultivates the lower among the mixed motives by which
men are ruled.

The fourth of the governing motives of imperial expansion is the need
of finding new homes for the surplus population of the colonising
people. This was not in any country a very powerful motive until the
nineteenth century, for over-population did not exist in any serious
degree in any of the European states until that age. Many of the
political writers in seventeenth-century England, indeed, regarded the
whole movement of colonisation with alarm, because it seemed to be
drawing off men who could not be spared. But if the population was
nowhere excessive, there were in all countries certain classes for
which emigration to new lands offered a desired opportunity. There were
the men bitten with the spirit of adventure, to whom the work of the
pioneer presented an irresistible attraction. Such men are always
numerous in virile communities, and when in any society their numbers
begin to diminish, its decay is at hand. The imperial activities of the
modern age have more than anything else kept the breed alive in all
European countries, and above all in Britain. To this type belonged the
conquistadores of Spain, the Elizabethan seamen, the French explorers
of North America, the daring Dutch navigators. Again, there were the
younger sons of good family for whom the homeland presented small
opportunities, but who found in colonial settlements the chance of
creating estates like those of their fathers at home, and carried out
with them bands of followers drawn from among the sons of their
fathers' tenantry. To this class belonged most of the planter-settlers
of Virginia, the seigneurs of French Canada, the lords of the great
Portuguese feudal holdings in Brazil, and the dominant class in all the
Spanish colonies. Again, there were the 'undesirables' of whom the home
government wanted to be rid--convicts, paupers, political prisoners;
they were drafted out in great numbers to the new lands, often as
indentured servants, to endure servitude for a period of years and then
to be merged in the colonial population. When the loss of the American
colonies deprived Britain of her dumping-ground for convicts, she had
to find a new region in which to dispose of them; and this led to the
first settlement of Australia, six years after the establishment of
American independence. Finally, in the age of bitter religious
controversy there was a constant stream of religious exiles seeking new
homes in which they could freely follow their own forms of worship. The
Puritan settlers of New England are the outstanding example of this
type. But they were only one group among many. Huguenots from France,
Moravians from Austria, persecuted 'Palatines' and Salzburgers from
Germany, poured forth in an almost unbroken stream. It was natural that
they should take refuge in the only lands where full religious freedom
was offered to them; and these were especially some of the British
settlements in America, and the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope.

It is often said that the overflow of Europe over the world has been a
sort of renewal of the folk-wandering of primitive ages. That is a
misleading view: the movement has been far more deliberate and
organised, and far less due to the pressure of external circumstances,
than the early movements of peoples in the Old World. Not until the
nineteenth century, when the industrial transformation of Europe
brought about a really acute pressure of population, can it be said
that the mere pressure of need, and the shortage of sustenance in their
older homes, has sent large bodies of settlers into the new lands.
Until that period the imperial movement has been due to voluntary and
purposive action in a far higher degree than any of the blind early
wanderings of peoples. The will-to-dominion of virile nations exulting
in their nationhood; the desire to obtain a more abundant supply of
luxuries than had earlier been available, and to make profits
therefrom; the zeal of peoples to impose their mode of civilisation
upon as large a part of the world as possible; the existence in the
Western world of many elements of restlessness and dissatisfaction,
adventurers, portionless younger sons, or religious enthusiasts: these
have been the main operative causes of this huge movement during the
greater part of the four centuries over which it has extended. And as
it has sprung from such diverse and conflicting causes, it has assumed
an infinite variety of forms; and both deserves and demands a more
respectful study as a whole than has generally been given to it.



During the Middle Ages the contact of Europe with the rest of the world
was but slight. It was shut off by the great barrier of the Islamic
Empire, upon which the Crusades made no permanent impression; and
although the goods of the East came by caravan to the Black Sea ports,
to Constantinople, to the ports of Syria, and to Egypt, where they were
picked up by the Italian traders, these traders had no direct knowledge
of the countries which were the sources of their wealth. The threat of
the Empire of Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century aroused the
interest of Europe, and the bold friars, Carpini and Rubruquis, made
their way to the centres of that barbaric sovereign's power in the
remote East, and brought back stories of what they had seen; later the
Poli, especially the great Marco, undertook still more daring and
long-continued journeys, which made India and Cathay less unreal to
Europeans, and stimulated the desire for further knowledge. The later
mediaeval maps of the world, like that of Fra Mauro (1459),[3] which
incorporate this knowledge, are less wildly imaginative than their
predecessors, and show a vague notion of the general configuration of
the main land-masses in the Old World. But beyond the fringes of the
Mediterranean the world was still in the main unknown to, and
unaffected by, European civilisation down to the middle of the
fifteenth century.

[3] Simplified reproductions of this and the other early maps alluded
to are printed in Philip's Students' Atlas of Modern History, which
also contains a long series of maps illustrating the extra-Europeans
activities of the European states.

Then, suddenly, came the great era of explorations, which were made
possible by the improvements in navigation worked out during the
fifteenth century, and which in two generations incredibly transformed
the aspect of the world. The marvellous character of this revelation
can perhaps be illustrated by the comparison of two maps, that of
Behaim, published in 1492, and that of Schoener, published in 1523.
Apart from its adoption of the theory that the earth was globular, not
round and flat, Behaim's map shows little advance upon Fra Mauro,
except that it gives a clearer idea of the shape of Africa, due to the
earlier explorations of the Portuguese. But Schoener's map shows that
the broad outlines of the distribution of the land-masses of both
hemispheres were already in 1523 pretty clearly understood. This
astonishing advance was due to the daring and enterprise of the
Portuguese explorers, Diaz, Da Gama, Cabral, and of the adventurers in
the service of Spain, Columbus, Balboa, Vespucci, and--greatest of them

These astonishing discoveries placed for a time the destinies of the
outer world in the hands of Spain and Portugal, and the first period of
European imperialism is the period of Iberian monopoly, extending to
1588. A Papal award in 1493 confirmed the division of the non-European
world between the two powers, by a judgment which the orthodox were
bound to accept, and did accept for two generations. All the oceans,
except the North Atlantic, were closed to the navigators of other
nations; and these two peoples were given, for a century, the
opportunity of showing in what guise they would introduce the
civilisation of Europe to the rest of the globe. Pioneers as they were
in the work of imperial development, it is not surprising that they
should have made great blunders; and in the end their foreign dominions
weakened rather than strengthened the home countries, and contributed
to drag them down from the high place which they had taken among the

The Portuguese power in the East was never more than a commercial
dominion. Except in Goa, on the west coast of India, no considerable
number of settlers established themselves at any point; and the Goanese
settlement is the only instance of the formation of a mixed race, half
Indian and half European. Wherever the Portuguese power was
established, it proved itself hard and intolerant; for the spirit of
the Crusader was ill-adapted to the establishment of good relations
with the non-Christian peoples. The rivalry of Arab traders in the
Indian Ocean was mercilessly destroyed, and there was as little mercy
for the Italian merchants, who found the stream of goods that the Arabs
had sent them by way of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf almost wholly
intercepted. No doubt any other people, finding itself in the position
which the Portuguese occupied in the early sixteenth century, would
have been tempted to use their power in the same way to establish a
complete monopoly; but the success with which the Portuguese attained
their aim was in the end disastrous to them. It was followed by, if it
did not cause, a rapid deterioration of the ability with which their
affairs were directed; and when other European traders began to appear
in the field, they were readily welcomed by the princes of India and
the chieftains of the Spice Islands. In the West the Portuguese
settlement in Brazil was a genuine colony, or branch of the Portuguese
nation, because here there existed no earlier civilised people to be
dominated. But both in East and West the activities of the Portuguese
were from the first subjected to an over-rigid control by the home
government. Eager to make the most of a great opportunity for the
national advantage, the rulers of Portugal allowed no freedom to the
enterprise of individuals. The result was that in Portugal itself, in
the East, and in Brazil, initiative was destroyed, and the brilliant
energy which this gallant little nation had displayed evaporated within
a century. It was finally destroyed when, in 1580, Portugal and her
empire fell under the dominion of Spain, and under all the reactionary
influences of the government of Philip II. By the time this heavy yoke
was shaken off, in the middle of the seventeenth century, the
Portuguese dominion had fallen into decay. To-day nothing of it remains
save 'spheres of influence' on the western and eastern coasts of
Africa, two or three ports on the coast of India, the Azores, and the
island of Magao off the coast of China.

The Spanish dominion in Central and South America was of a different
character. When once they had realised that it was not a new route to
Asia, but a new world, that Columbus had discovered for them, the
Spaniards sought no longer mainly for the riches to be derived from
traffic, but for the precious metals, which they unhappily discovered
in slight quantities in Hispaniola, but in immense abundance in Mexico
and Peru. It is impossible to exaggerate the heroic valour and daring
of Cortez, Pizarro, Hernando de Soto, Orellana, and the rest of the
conquistadores who carved out in a single generation the vast Spanish
empire in Central and South America; but it is equally impossible to
exaggerate their cruelty, which was born in part of the fact that they
were a handful among myriads, in part of the fierce traditions of
crusading warfare against the infidel. Yet without undervaluing their
daring, it must be recognised that they had a comparatively easy task
in conquering the peoples of these tropical lands. In the greater
islands of the West Indies they found a gentle and yielding people, who
rapidly died out under the forced labour of the mines and plantations,
and had to be replaced by negro slave-labour imported from Africa. In
Mexico and Peru they found civilisations which on the material side
were developed to a comparatively high point, and which collapsed
suddenly when their governments and capitals had been overthrown; while
their peoples, habituated to slavery, readily submitted to a new
servitude. It must be recognised, to the honour of the government of
Charles V. and his successors, that they honestly attempted to
safeguard the usages and possessions of the conquered peoples, and to
protect them in some degree against the exploitation of their
conquerors. But it was the protection of a subject race doomed to the
condition of Helotage; they were protected, as the Jews were protected
by the kings of mediaeval England, because they were a valuable asset
of the crown. The policy of the Spanish government did not avail to
prevent an intermixture of the races, because the Spaniards themselves
came from a sub-tropical country, and the Mexicans and Peruvians
especially were separated from them by no impassable gulf such as
separates the negro or the Australian bushman from the white man.
Central and Southern America thus came to be peopled by a hybrid race,
speaking Spanish, large elements of which were conscious of their own
inferiority. This in itself would perhaps have been a barrier to
progress. But the concentration of attention upon the precious metals,
and the neglect of industry due to this cause and to the employment of
slave-labour, formed a further obstacle. And in addition to all, the
Spanish government, partly with a view to the execution of its native
policy, partly because it regarded the precious metals as the chief
product of these lands and wished to maintain close control over them,
and partly because centralised autocracy was carried to its highest
pitch in Spain, allowed little freedom of action to the local
governments, and almost none to the settlers. It treated the trade of
these lands as a monopoly of the home country, to be carried on under
the most rigid control. It did little or nothing to develop the natural
resources of the empire, but rather discouraged them lest they should
compete with the labours of the mine; and in what concerned the
intellectual welfare of its subjects, it limited itself, as in Spain,
to ensuring that no infection of heresy or freethought should reach any
part of its dominions. All this had a deadening effect; and the
surprising thing is, not that the Spanish Empire should have fallen
into an early decrepitude, but that it should have shown such
comparative vigour, tenacity, and power of expansion as it actually
exhibited. Not until the nineteenth century did the vast natural
resources of these regions begin to undergo any rapid development; that
is to say, not until most of the settlements had discarded the
connection with Spain; and even then, the defects bred into the people
by three centuries of reactionary and unenlightened government produced
in them an incapacity to use their newly won freedom, and condemned
these lands to a long period of anarchy. It would be too strong to say
that it would have been better had the Spaniards never come to America;
for, when all is said, they have done more than any other people, save
the British, to plant European modes of life in the non-European world.
But it is undeniable that their dominion afforded a far from happy
illustration of the working of Western civilisation in a new field, and
exercised a very unfortunate reaction upon the life of the

The conquest of Portugal and her empire by Philip II., in 1580, turned
Spain into a Colossus bestriding the world, and it was inevitable that
this world-dominion should be challenged by the other European states
which faced upon the Atlantic. The challenge was taken up by three
nations, the English, the French, and the Dutch, all the more readily
because the very existence of all three and the religion of two of them
were threatened by the apparently overwhelming strength of Spain in
Europe. As in so many later instances, the European conflict was
inevitably extended to the non-European world. From the middle of the
sixteenth century onwards these three peoples attempted, with
increasing daring, to circumvent or to undermine the Spanish power, and
to invade the sources of the wealth which made it dangerous to them;
but the attempt, so far as it was made on the seas and beyond them, was
in the main, and for a long time, due to the spontaneous energies of
volunteers, not to the action of governments. Francis I. of France sent
out the Venetian Verazzano to explore the American shores of the North
Atlantic, as Henry VII. of England had earlier sent the Genoese Cabots.
But nothing came of these official enterprises. More effective were the
pirate adventurers who preyed upon the commerce between Spain and her
possessions in the Netherlands as it passed through the Narrow Seas,
running the gauntlet of English, French, and Dutch. More effective
still were the attempts to find new routes to the East, not barred by
the Spanish dominions, by a north-east or a north-west passage; for
some of the earlier of these adventures led to fruitful unintended
consequences, as when the Englishman Chancellor, seeking for a
north-east passage, found the route to Archangel and opened up a trade
with Russia, or as when the Frenchman Cartier, seeking for a north-west
passage, hit upon the great estuary of the St. Lawrence, and marked out
a claim for France to the possession of the area which it drained. Most
effective of all were the smuggling and piratical raids into the
reserved waters of West Africa and the West Indies, and later into the
innermost penetralia of the Pacific Ocean, which were undertaken with
rapidly increasing boldness by the navigators of all three nations, but
above all by the English. Drake is the supreme exponent of these
methods; and his career illustrates in the clearest fashion the steady
diminution of Spanish prestige under these attacks, and the growing
boldness and maritime skill of its attackers.

From the time of Drake's voyage round the world (1577) and its
insulting defiance of the Spanish power on the west coast of South
America, it became plain that the maintenance of Spanish monopoly could
not last much longer. It came to its end, finally and unmistakably, in
the defeat of the Grand Armada. That supreme victory threw the ocean
roads of trade open, not to the English only, but to the sailors of all
nations. In its first great triumph the English navy had established
the Freedom of the Seas, of which it has ever since been the chief
defender. Since 1588 no power has dreamt of claiming the exclusive
right of traversing any of the open seas of the world, as until that
date Spain and Portugal had claimed the exclusive right of using the
South Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Indian Oceans.

So ends the first period in the imperial expansion of the Western
peoples, the period of Spanish and Portuguese monopoly. Meanwhile,
unnoticed in the West, a remarkable eastward expansion was being
effected by the Russian people. By insensible stages they had passed
the unreal barrier between Europe and Asia, and spread themselves
thinly over the vast spaces of Siberia, subduing and assimilating the
few and scattered tribes whom they met; by the end of the seventeenth
century they had already reached the Pacific Ocean. It was a conquest
marked by no great struggles or victories, an insensible permeation of
half a continent. This process was made the easier for the Russians,
because in their own stock were blended elements of the Mongol race
which they found scattered over Siberia: they were only reversing the
process which Genghis Khan had so easily accomplished in the thirteenth
century. And as the Russians had scarcely yet begun to be affected by
Western civilisation, there was no great cleavage or contrast between
them and their new subjects, and the process of assimilation took place
easily. But the settlement of Siberia was very gradual. At the
beginning of the eighteenth century the total population of this vast
area amounted to not more than 300,000 souls, and it was not until the
nineteenth century that there was any rapid increase.



The second period of European imperialism was filled with the rivalries
of the three nations which had in different degrees contributed to the
breakdown of the Spanish monopoly, the Dutch, the French, and the
English; and we have next to inquire how far, and why, these peoples
were more successful than the Spaniards in planting in the non-European
world the essentials of European civilisation. The long era of their
rivalry extended from 1588 to 1763, and it can be most conveniently
divided into three sections. The first of these extended from 1588 to
about 1660, and may be called the period of experiment and settlement;
during its course the leadership fell to the Dutch. The second extended
from 1660 to 1713, and may be called the period of systematic colonial
policy, and of growing rivalry between France and England. The third,
from 1713 to 1763, was dominated by the intense rivalry of these two
countries, decadent Spain joining in the conflict on the side of
France, while the declining power of the Dutch was on the whole ranged
on the side of Britain; and it ended with the complete ascendancy of
Britain, supreme at once in the West and in the East.

(a) The Period of Settlement, 1588-1660

The special interest of the first half of the seventeenth century is
that in the trading and colonial experiments of this period the
character of the work which was to be done by the three new candidates
for extra-European empire was already very clearly and instructively
displayed. They met as rivals in every field: in the archipelago of the
West Indies, and the closely connected slaving establishments of West
Africa, in the almost empty lands of North America, and in the trading
enterprises of the far East; and everywhere a difference of spirit and
method appeared.

The Dutch, who made a far more systematic and more immediately
profitable use of the opportunity than either of their rivals, regarded
the whole enterprise as a great national commercial venture. It was
conducted by two powerful trading corporations, the Company of the East
Indies and the Company of the West Indies; but though directed by the
merchants of Amsterdam, these were genuinely national enterprises;
their shareholders were drawn from every province and every class; and
they were backed by all the influence which the States-General of the
United Provinces--controlled during this period mainly by the
commercial interest--was able to wield.

The Company of the East Indies was the richer and the more powerful of
the two, because the trade of the Far East was beyond comparison the
most lucrative in the world. Aiming straight at the source of the
greatest profits--the trade in spices--the Dutch strove to establish a
monopoly control over the Spice Islands and, in general, over the Malay
Archipelago; and they were so successful that their influence remains
to-day predominant in this region. Their first task was to overthrow
the ascendancy of the Portuguese, and in this they were willing to
co-operate with the English traders. But the bulk of the work was done
by the Dutch, for the English East India Company was poor in comparison
with the Dutch, was far less efficiently organised, and, in especial,
could not count upon the steady support of the national government. It
was mainly the Dutch who built forts and organised factories, because
they alone had sufficient capital to maintain heavy standing charges.
Not unnaturally they did not see why the English should reap any part
of the advantage of their work, and set themselves to establish a
monopoly. In the end the English were driven out with violence. After
the Massacre of Amboyna (1623) their traders disappeared from these
seas, and the Dutch supremacy remained unchallenged until the
nineteenth century.

It was a quite intolerant commercial monopoly which they had
instituted, but from the commercial point of view it was administered
with great intelligence. Commercial control brought in its train
territorial sovereignty, over Java and many of the neighbouring
islands; and this sovereignty was exercised by the directors of the
company primarily with a view to trade interests. It was a trade
despotism, but a trade despotism wisely administered, which gave
justice and order to its native subjects. On the mainland of India the
Dutch never attained a comparable degree of power, because the native
states were strong enough to hold them in check. But in this period
their factories were more numerous and more prosperous than those of
the English, their chief rivals; and over the island of Ceylon they
established an ascendancy almost as complete as that which they had
created in the archipelago.

They were intelligent enough also to see the importance of good
calling-stations on the route to the East. For this purpose they
planted a settlement in Mauritius, and another at the Cape of Good
Hope. But these settlements were never regarded as colonies. They were
stations belonging to a trading company; they remained under its
complete control, and were allowed no freedom of development, still
less any semblance of self-government. If Cape Colony grew into a
genuine colony, or offshoot of the mother-country, it was in spite of
the company, not by reason of its encouragement, and from first to last
the company's relations with the settlers were of the most unhappy
kind. For the company would do nothing at the Cape that was not
necessary for the Eastern trade, which was its supreme interest, and
the colonists naturally did not take the same view. It was this
concentration upon purely commercial aims which also prevented the
Dutch from making any use of the superb field for European settlement
opened up by the enterprise of their explorers in Australia and New
Zealand. These fair lands were left unpeopled, largely because they
promised no immediate trade profits.

In the West the enterprises of the Dutch were only less vigorous than
in the East, and they were marked by the same feature of an intense
concentration upon the purely commercial aspect. While the English and
(still more) the French adventurers made use of the lesser West Indian
islands, unoccupied by Spain, as bases for piratical attacks upon the
Spanish trade, the Dutch, with a shrewd instinct, early deserted this
purely destructive game for the more lucrative business of carrying on
a smuggling trade with the Spanish mainland; and the islands which they
acquired (such as Curayoa) were, unlike the French and English islands,
especially well placed for this purpose. They established a sugar
colony in Guiana. But their main venture in this region was the
conquest of a large part of Northern Brazil from the Portuguese (1624);
and here their exploitation was so merciless, under the direction of
the Company of the West Indies, that the inhabitants, though they had
been dissatisfied with the Portuguese government, and had at first
welcomed the Dutch conquerors, soon revolted against them, and after
twenty years drove them out.

On the mainland of North America the Dutch planted a single colony--the
New Netherlands, with its capital at New Amsterdam, later New York.
Their commercial instinct had once more guided them wisely. They had
found the natural centre for the trade of North America; for by way of
the river Hudson and its affluent, the Mohawk, New York commands the
only clear path through the mountain belt which everywhere shuts off
the Atlantic coast region from the central plain of America. Founded
and controlled by the Company of the West Indies, this settlement was
intended to be, not primarily the home of a branch of the Dutch nation
beyond the seas, but a trading-station for collecting the furs and
other products of the inland regions. At Orange (Albany), which stands
at the junction of the Mohawk and the Hudson, the Dutch traders
collected the furs brought in by Indian trappers from west and north;
New Amsterdam was the port of export; and if settlers were encouraged,
it was only that they might supply the men and the means and the food
for carrying on this traffic. The Company of the West Indies
administered the colony purely from this point of view. No powers of
self-government were allowed to the settlers; and, as in Cape Colony,
the relations between the colonists and the governing company were
never satisfactory, because the colonists felt that their interests
were wholly subordinated.

The distinguishing feature of French imperial activity during this
period was its dependence upon the support and direction of the home
government, which was the natural result of the highly centralised
regime established in France during the modern era. Only in one
direction was French activity successfully maintained by private
enterprise, and this was in the not very reputable field of West Indian
buccaneering, in which the French were even more active than their
principal rivals and comrades, the English. The word 'buccaneer' itself
comes from the French: boucan means the wood-fire at which the pirates
dried and smoked their meat, and these fires, blazing on deserted
islands, must often have warned merchant vessels to avoid an
ever-present danger. The island of Tortuga, which commands the passage
between Cuba and Hispaniola through which the bulk of the Spanish
traffic passed on its way from Mexico to Europe, was the most important
of the buccaneering bases, and although it was at first used by the
buccaneers of all nations, it soon became a purely French possession,
as did, later, the adjoining portion of the island of Hispaniola (San
Domingo). The French did, indeed, like the English, plant sugar
colonies in some of the lesser Antilles; but during the first half of
the seventeenth century they attained no great prosperity.

For the greater enterprises of trade in the East and colonisation in
the West, the French relied almost wholly upon government assistance,
and although both Henry IV. in the first years of the century, and
Richelieu in its second quarter, were anxious to give what help they
could, internal dissensions were of such frequent occurrence in France
during this period that no systematic or continuous governmental aid
was available. Hence the French enterprises both in the East and in the
West were on a small scale, and achieved little success. The French
East India Company was all but extinct when Colbert took it in hand in
1664; it was never able to compete with its Dutch or even its English

But the period saw the establishment of two French colonies in North
America: Acadia (Nova Scotia) on the coast, and Canada, with Quebec as
its centre, in the St. Lawrence valley, separated from one another on
land by an almost impassable barrier of forest and mountain. These two
colonies were founded, the first in 1605 and the second in 1608, almost
at the same moment as the first English settlement on the American
continent. They had a hard struggle during the first fifty years of
their existence; for the number of settlers was very small, the soil
was barren, the climate severe, and the Red Indians, especially the
ferocious Iroquois towards the south, were far more formidable enemies
than those who bordered on the English colonies.

There is no part of the history of European colonisation more full of
romance and of heroism than the early history of French Canada; an
incomparable atmosphere of gallantry and devotion seems to overhang it.
From the first, despite their small numbers and their difficulties,
these settlers showed a daring in exploration which was only equalled
by the Spaniards, and to which there is no parallel in the records of
the English colonies. At the very outset the great explorer Champlain
mapped out the greater part of the Great Lakes, and thus reached
farther into the continent than any Englishman before the end of the
eighteenth century; and although this is partly explained by the fact
that the St. Lawrence and the lakes afforded an easy approach to the
interior, while farther south the forest-clad ranges of the Alleghanies
constituted a very serious barrier, this does not diminish the French
pre-eminence in exploration. Nor can anything in the history of
European colonisation surpass the heroism of the French missionaries
among the Indians, who faced and endured incredible tortures in order
to bring Christianity to the barbarians. No serious missionary
enterprise was ever undertaken by the English colonists; this
difference was in part due to the fact that the missionary aim was
definitely encouraged by the home government in France. From the
outset, then, poverty, paucity of numbers, gallantry, and missionary
zeal formed marked features of the French North American colonies.

In other respects they very clearly reproduced some of the features of
the motherland. Their organisation was strictly feudal in character.
The real unit of settlement and government was the seigneurie, an
estate owned by a Frenchman of birth, and cultivated by his vassals,
who found refuge from an Indian raid, or other danger, in the stockaded
house which took the place of a chateau, much as their remote ancestors
had taken refuge from the raids of the Northmen in the castles of their
seigneur's ancestors. And over this feudal society was set, as in
France, a highly centralised government wielding despotic power, and in
its turn absolutely subject to the mandate of the Crown at home. This
despotic government had the right to require the services of all its
subjects in case of need; and it was only the centralised government of
the colony, and the warlike and adventurous character of its small
feudalised society, which enabled it to hold its own for so long
against the superior numbers but laxer organisation of its English
neighbours. A despotic central power, a feudal organisation, and an
entire dependence upon the will of the King of France and upon his
support, form, therefore, the second group of characteristics which
marked the French colonies. They were colonies in the strictest sense,
all the more because they reproduced the main features of the home

Nothing could have differed more profoundly from this system than the
methods which the English were contemporaneously applying, without plan
or clearly defined aim, and guided only by immediate practical needs,
and by the rooted traditions of a self-governing people. Their
enterprises received from the home government little direct assistance,
but they throve better without it; and if there was little assistance,
there was also little interference. In the East the English East India
Company had to yield to the Dutch the monopoly of the Malayan trade,
and bitterly complained of the lack of government support; but it
succeeded in establishing several modest factories on the coast of
India, and was on the whole prosperous. But it was in the West that the
distinctive work of the English was achieved during this period, by the
establishment of a series of colonies unlike any other European
settlements which had yet been instituted. Their distinctive feature
was self-government, to which they owed their steadily increasing
prosperity. No other European colonies were thus managed on the
principle of autonomy. Indeed, these English settlements were in 1650
the only self-governing lands in the world, apart from England herself,
the United Provinces, and Switzerland.

The first English colony, Virginia, was planted in 1608 by a trading
company organised for the purpose, whose subscribers included nearly
all the London City Companies, and about seven hundred private
individuals of all ranks. Their motives were partly political ('to put
a bit in the ancient enemy's (Spain's) mouth'), and partly commercial,
for they hoped to find gold, and to render England independent of the
marine supplies which came from the Baltic. But profit was not their
sole aim; they were moved also by the desire to plant a new England
beyond the seas. They made, in fact, no profits; but they did create a
branch of the English stock, and the young squires' and yeomen's sons
who formed the backbone of the colony showed themselves to be
Englishmen by their unwillingness to submit to an uncontrolled
direction of their affairs. In 1619, acting on instructions received
from England, the company's governor summoned an assembly of
representatives, one from each township, to consult on the needs of the
colony. This was the first representative body that had ever existed
outside Europe, and it indicated what was to be the character of
English colonisation. Henceforth the normal English method of governing
a colony was through a governor and an executive council appointed by
the Crown or its delegate, and a representative assembly, which wielded
full control over local legislation and taxation. 'Our present
happiness,' said the Virginian Assembly in 1640, 'is exemplified by the
freedom of annual assemblies and by legal trials by juries in all civil
and criminal causes.'

The second group of English colonies, those of New England, far to the
north of Virginia, reproduced in an intensified form this note of
self-government. Founded in the years following 1620, these settlements
were the outcome of Puritan discontents in England. The commercial
motive was altogether subsidiary in their establishment; they existed
in order that the doctrine and discipline of Puritanism might find a
home where its ascendancy would be secure. It was indeed under the
guise of a commercial company that the chief of these settlements was
made, but the company was organised as a means of safe-guarding the
colonists from Crown interference, and at an early date its
headquarters were transferred to New England itself. Far from desiring
to restrict this freedom, the Crown up to a point encouraged it.
Winthrop, one of the leading colonists, tells us that he had learnt
from members of the Privy Council 'that his Majesty did not intend to
impose the ceremonies of the Church of England upon us; for that it was
considered that it was the freedom from such things that made people
come over to us.' The contrast between this licence and the rigid
orthodoxy enforced upon French Canada or Spanish America is very
instructive. It meant that the New World, so far as it was controlled
by England, was to be open as a place of refuge for those who disliked
the restrictions thought necessary at home. The same note is to be
found in the colony of Maryland, planted by the Roman Catholic Lord
Baltimore in 1632, largely as a place of refuge for his
co-religionists. He was encouraged by the government of Charles I. in
this idea, and the second Lord Baltimore reports that his father 'had
absolute liberty to carry over any from his Majesty's Dominions willing
to go. But he found very few but such as ... could not conform to the
laws of England relating to religion. These declared themselves willing
to plant in this province, if they might have a general toleration
settled by law.' Maryland, therefore, became the first place in the
world of Western civilisation in which full religious toleration was
allowed; for the aim of the New Englanders was not religious freedom,
but a free field for the rigid enforcement of their own shade of

Thus, in these first English settlements, the deliberate encouragement
of varieties of type was from the outset a distinguishing note, and the
home authorities neither desired nor attempted to impose a strict
uniformity with the rules and methods existing in England. There was as
great a variety in social and economic organisation as in religious
beliefs between the aristocratic planter colonies of the south and the
democratic agricultural settlements of New England. In one thing only
was there uniformity: every settlement possessed self-governing
institutions, and prized them beyond all other privileges. None,
indeed, carried self-government to so great an extent as the New
Englanders. They came out organised as religious congregations, in
which every member possessed equal rights, and they took the
congregational system as the basis of their local government, and
church membership as the test of citizenship; nor did any other
colonies attain the right, long exercised by the New Englanders, of
electing their own governors. But there was no English settlement, not
even the little slave-worked plantations in the West Indian islands,
like Barbados, which did not set up, as a matter of course, a
representative body to deal with problems of legislation and taxation,
and the home government never dreamt of interfering with this practice.
Already in 1650, the English empire was sharply differentiated from the
Spanish, the Dutch, and the French empires by the fact that it
consisted of a scattered group of self-governing communities, varying
widely in type, but united especially by the common possession of free
institutions, and thriving very largely because these institutions
enabled local needs to be duly considered and attracted settlers of
many types.

(b) The Period of Systematic Colonial Policy, 1660-1713

The second half of the seventeenth century was a period of systematic
imperial policy on the part of both England and France; for both
countries now realised that in the profitable field of commerce, at any
rate, the Dutch had won a great advantage over them.

France, after many internal troubles and many foreign wars, had at last
achieved, under the government of Louis XIV., the boon of firmly
established order. She was now beyond all rivalry the greatest of the
European states, and her king and his great finance minister, Colbert,
resolved to win for her also supremacy in trade and colonisation. But
this was to be done absolutely under the control and direction of the
central government. Until the establishment of the German Empire, there
has never been so marked an instance of the centralised organisation of
the whole national activity as France presented in this period. The
French East India Company was revived under government direction, and
began for the first time to be a serious competitor for Indian trade.
An attempt was made to conquer Madagascar as a useful base for Eastern
enterprises. The sugar industry in the French West Indian islands was
scientifically encouraged and developed, though the full results of
this work were not apparent until the next century. France began to
take an active share in the West African trade in slaves and other
commodities. In Canada a new era of prosperity began; the population
was rapidly increased by the dispatch of carefully selected parties of
emigrants, and the French activity in missionary work and in
exploration became bolder than ever. Pere Marquette and the Sieur de la
Salle traced out the courses of the Ohio and the Mississippi; French
trading-stations began to arise among the scattered Indian tribes who
alone occupied the vast central plain; and a strong French claim was
established to the possession of this vital area, which was not only
the most valuable part of the American continent, but would have shut
off the English coastal settlements from any possibility of westward
expansion. These remarkable explorations led, in 1717, to the
foundation of New Orleans at the mouth of the great river, and the
organisation of the colony of Louisiana. But the whole of the intense
and systematic imperial activity of the French during this period
depended upon the support and direction of government; and when Colbert
died in 1683, and soon afterwards all the resources of France were
strained by the pressure of two great European wars, the rapid
development which Colbert's zeal had brought about was checked for a
generation. Centralised administration may produce remarkable immediate
results, but it does not encourage natural and steady growth. Meanwhile
the English had awakened to the fact that England had, almost by a
series of accidents, become the centre of an empire, and to the
necessity of giving to this empire some sort of systematic
organisation. It was the statesmen of the Commonwealth who first began
to grope after an imperial system. The aspect of the situation which
most impressed them was that the enterprising Dutch were reaping most
of the trading profits which arose from the creation of the English
colonies: it was said that ten Dutch ships called at Barbados for every
English ship. To deal with this they passed the Navigation Act of 1651,
which provided that the trade of England and the colonies should be
carried only in English or colonial ships. They thus gave a logical
expression to the policy of imperial trade monopoly which had been in
the minds of those who were interested in colonial questions from the
outset; and they also opened a period of acute trade rivalry and war
with the Dutch. The first of the Dutch wars, which was waged by the
Commonwealth, was a very even struggle, but it secured the success of
the Navigation Act. Cromwell, though he hastened to make peace with the
Dutch, was a still stronger imperialist than his parliamentary
predecessors; he may justly be described as the first of the Jingoes.
He demanded compensation from the Dutch for the half-forgotten outrage
of Amboyna in 1623. He made a quite unprovoked attack upon the Spanish
island of Hispaniola, and though he failed to conquer it, gained a
compensation in the seizure of Jamaica (1655). And he insisted upon the
obedience of the colonies to the home government with a severity never
earlier shown. With him imperial aims may be said to have become, for
the first time, one of the ruling ends of the English government.

But it was the reign of Charles II. which saw the definite organisation
of a clearly conceived imperial policy; in the history of English
imperialism there are few periods more important. The chief statesmen
and courtiers of the reign, Prince Rupert, Clarendon, Shaftesbury,
Albemarle, were all enthusiasts for the imperial idea. They had a
special committee of the Privy Council for Trade and Plantations,[4]
and appointed John Locke, the ablest political thinker of the age, to
be its secretary. They pushed home the struggle against the maritime
ascendancy of the Dutch, and fought two Dutch wars; and though the
history-books, influenced by the Whig prejudice against Charles II.,
always treat these wars as humiliating and disgraceful, while they
treat the Dutch war of the Commonwealth as just and glorious, the plain
fact is that the first Dutch war of Charles II. led to the conquest of
the Dutch North American colony of the New Netherlands (1667), and so
bridged the gap between the New England and the southern colonies. They
engaged in systematic colonisation, founding the new colony of Carolina
to the south of Virginia, while out of their Dutch conquests they
organised the colonies of New York, New Jersey, and Delaware; and the
end of the reign saw the establishment of the interesting and admirably
managed Quaker colony of Pennsylvania. They started the Hudson Bay
Company, which engaged in the trade in furs to the north of the French
colonies. They systematically encouraged the East India Company, which
now began to be more prosperous than at any earlier period, and
obtained in Bombay its first territorial possession in India.

[4] It was not till 1696, however, that this Board became permanent.

More important, they worked out a new colonial policy, which was to
remain, in its main features, the accepted British policy down to the
loss of the American colonies in 1782. The theory at the base of this
policy was that while the mother-country must be responsible for the
defence of all the scattered settlements, which in their weakness were
exposed to attack from many sides, in she might reasonably expect to be
put in possession of definite trade advantages. Hence the Navigation
Act of 1660 provided not only that inter-imperial trade should be
carried in English or colonial vessels, but that certain 'enumerated
articles,' including some of the most important colonial products,
should be sent only to England, so that English merchants should have
the profits of selling them to other countries, and the English
government the proceeds of duties upon them; and another Act provided
that imports to the colonies should only come from, or through,
England. In other words, England was to be the commercial entrepot of
the whole empire; and the regulation of imperial trade as a whole was
to belong to the English government and parliament. To the English
government also must necessarily fall the conduct of the relations of
the empire as a whole with other powers. This commercial system was
not, however, purely one-sided. If the colonies were to send their
chief products only to England, they were at the same time to have a
monopoly, or a marked advantage, in English markets. Tobacco-growing
had been for a time a promising industry in England; it was prohibited
in order that it might not compete with the colonial product; and
differential duties were levied on the competing products of other
countries and their colonies. In short, the new policy was one of
Imperial Preference; it aimed at turning the empire into an economic
unit, of which England should be the administrative and distributing
centre. So far the English policy did not differ in kind from the
contemporary colonial policy of other countries, though it left to the
colonies a greater freedom of trade (for example, in the
'non-enumerated articles') than was ever allowed by Spain or France, or
by the two great trading companies which controlled the foreign
possessions of Holland.

But there is one respect in which the authors of this system differed
very widely from the colonial statesmen of other countries. Though they
were anxious to organise and consolidate the empire on the basis of a
trade system, they had no desire or intention of altering its
self-governing character, or of discouraging the growth of a healthy
diversity of type and method. Every one of the new colonies of this
period was provided with the accustomed machinery of representative
government: in the case of Carolina, the philosopher, John Locke, was
invited to draw up a model constitution, and although his scheme was
quite unworkable, the fact that he was asked to make it affords a
striking proof of the seriousness with which the problems of colonial
government were regarded. In several of the West Indian settlements
self-governing institutions were organised during these years. In the
Frame of Government which Penn set forth on the foundation of
Pennsylvania, in 1682, he laid it down that 'any government is free
where the laws rule, and where the people are a party to these rules,'
and on this basis proceeded to organise his system. According to this
definition all the English colonies were free, and they were almost the
only free communities in the world. And though it is true that there
was an almost unceasing conflict between the government and the New
England colonies, no one who studies the story of these quarrels can
fail to see that the demands of the New Englanders were often
unreasonable and inconsistent with the maintenance of imperial unity,
while the home government was extremely patient and moderate. Above
all, almost the most marked feature of the colonial policy of Charles
II. was the uniform insistence upon complete religious toleration in
the colonies. Every new charter contained a clause securing this vital

It has long been our habit to condemn the old colonial system as it was
defined in this period, and to attribute to it the disruption of the
empire in the eighteenth century. But the judgment is not a fair one;
it is due to those Whig prejudices by which so much of the modern
history of England has been distorted. The colonial policy of
Shaftesbury and his colleagues was incomparably more enlightened than
that of any contemporary government. It was an interesting
experiment--the first, perhaps, in modern history--in the
reconciliation of unity and freedom. And it was undeniably successful:
under it the English colonies grew and throve in a very striking way.
Everything, indeed, goes to show that this system was well designed for
the needs of a group of colonies which were still in a state of
weakness, still gravely under-peopled and undeveloped. Evil results
only began to show themselves in the next age, when the colonies were
growing stronger and more independent, and when the self-complacent
Whigs, instead of revising the system to meet new conditions, actually
enlarged and emphasised its most objectionable features.

(c) The Conflict of French and English, 1713-1763

While France and England were defining and developing their sharply
contrasted imperial systems, the Dutch had fallen into the background,
content with the rich dominion which they had already acquired; and the
Spanish and Portuguese empires had both fallen into stagnation. New
competitors, indeed, now began to press into the field: the wildly
exaggerated notions of the wealth to be made from colonial ventures
which led to the frenzied speculations of the early eighteenth century,
John Law's schemes, and the South Sea Bubble, induced other powers to
try to obtain a share of this wealth; and Austria, Brandenburg, and
Denmark made fitful endeavours to become colonising powers. But the
enterprises of these states were never of serious importance. The
future of the non-European world seemed to depend mainly upon France
and England; and it was yet to be determined which of the two systems,
centralised autocracy enforcing uniformity, or self-government
encouraging variety of type, would prove the more successful and would
play the greater part. Two bodies of ideas so sharply contrasted were
bound to come into conflict. In the two great wars between England and
Louis XIV. (1688-1713), though the questions at issue were primarily
European, the conflict inevitably spread to the colonial field; and in
the result France was forced to cede in 1713 the province of Acadia
(which had twice before been in English hands), the vast basin of
Hudson's Bay, and the island of Newfoundland, to which the fishermen of
both nations had resorted, though the English had always claimed it.
But these were only preliminaries, and the main conflict was fought out
during the half-century following the Peace of Utrecht, 1713-63.

During this half-century Britain was under the rule of the Whig
oligarchy, which had no clearly conceived ideas on imperial policy.
Under the influence of the mercantile class the Whigs increased the
severity of the restrictions on colonial trade, and prohibited the rise
of industries likely to compete with those of the mother-country. But
under the influence of laziness and timidity, and of the desire quieta
non movere, they made no attempt seriously to enforce either the new or
the old restrictions, and in these circumstances smuggling trade
between the New England colonies and the French West Indies, in
defiance of the Navigation Act and its companions, grew to such
dimensions that any serious interference with it would be felt as a
real grievance. The Whigs and their friends later took credit for their
neglect. George Grenville, they said, lost the colonies because he read
the American dispatches; he would have done much better to leave the
dispatches and the colonies alone. But this is a damning apology. If
the old colonial system, whose severity, on paper, the Whigs had
greatly increased, was no longer workable, it should have been revised;
but no Whig showed any sign of a sense that change was necessary. Yet
the prevalence of smuggling was not the only proof of the need for
change. There was during the period a long succession of disputes
between colonial governors and their assemblies, which showed that the
restrictions upon their political freedom, as well as those upon their
economic freedom, were beginning to irk the colonists; and that
self-government was following its universal and inevitable course, and
demanding its own fulfilment. But the Whigs made no sort of attempt to
consider the question whether the self-government of the colonies could
be increased without impairing the unity of the empire. The single
device of their statesmanship was--not to read the dispatches. And, in
the meanwhile, no evil results followed, because the loyalty of the
colonists was ensured by the imminence of the French danger. The
mother-country was still responsible for the provision of defence,
though she was largely cheated of the commercial advantages which were
to have been its recompense.

After 1713 there was a comparatively long interval of peace between
Britain and France, but it was occupied by an acute commercial rivalry,
in which, on the whole, the French seemed to be getting the upper hand.
Their sugar islands in the West Indies were more productive than the
British; their traders were rapidly increasing their hold over the
central plain of North America, to the alarm of the British colonists;
their intrigues kept alive a perpetual unrest in the recently conquered
province of Acadia; and away in India, under the spirited direction of
Francois Dupleix, their East India Company became a more formidable
competitor for the Indian trade than it had hitherto been. Hence the
imperial problem presented itself to the statesmen of that generation
as a problem of power rather than as a problem of organisation; and the
intense rivalry with France dwarfed and obscured the need for a
reconsideration of colonial relations. At length this rivalry flamed
out into two wars. The first of these was fought, on both sides, in a
strangely half-hearted and lackadaisical way. But in the second (the
Seven Years' War, 1756-63) the British cause, after two years of
disaster, fell under the confident and daring leadership of Pitt, which
brought a series of unexampled successes. The French flag was almost
swept from the seas. The French settlements in Canada were overrun and
conquered. With the fall of Quebec it was determined that the system of
self-government, and not that of autocracy, should control the
destinies of the North American continent; and Britain emerged in 1763
the supreme colonial power of the world. The problem of power had been
settled in her favour; but the problem of organisation remained
unsolved. It emerged in an acute and menacing form as soon as the war
was over.

During the course of these two wars, and in the interval between them,
an extraordinary series of events had opened a new scene for the
rivalry of the two great imperial powers, and a new world began to be
exposed to the influence of the political ideas of Europe. The vast and
populous land of India, where the Europeans had hitherto been content
to play the part of modest traders, under the protection and control of
great native rulers, had suddenly been displayed as a field for the
imperial ambitions of the European peoples. Ever since the first
appearance of the Dutch, the English, and the French in these regions,
Northern India had formed a consolidated empire ruled from Delhi by the
great Mogul dynasty; the shadow of its power was also cast over the
lesser princes of Southern India. But after 1709, and still more after
1739, the Mogul Empire collapsed, and the whole of India, north and
south, rapidly fell into a condition of complete anarchy. A multitude
of petty rulers, nominal satraps of the powerless Mogul, roving
adventurers, or bands of Mahratta raiders, put an end to all order and
security; and to protect themselves and maintain their trade the
European traders must needs enlist considerable bodies of Indian
troops. It had long been proved that a comparatively small number of
troops, disciplined in the European fashion, could hold their own
against the loose and disorderly mobs who followed the standards of
Indian rulers. And it now occurred to the ambitious mind of the
Frenchman Dupleix that it should be possible, by the use of this
military superiority, to intervene with effect in the unceasing strife
of the Indian princes, to turn the scale on one side or the other, and
to obtain over the princes whose cause he embraced a commanding
influence, which would enable him to secure the expulsion of his
English rivals, and the establishment of a French trade monopoly based
upon political influence.

This daring project was at first triumphantly successful. The English
had to follow suit in self-defence, but could not equal the ability of
Dupleix. In 1750 a French protege occupied the most important throne of
Southern India at Hyderabad, and was protected and kept loyal by a
force of French sepoys under the Marquis de Bussy, whose expenses were
met out of the revenues of large provinces (the Northern Sarkars)
placed under French administration; while in the Carnatic, the coastal
region where all the European traders had their south-eastern
headquarters, a second French protege had almost succeeded in crushing
his rival, whom the English company supported. But the genius of Clive
reversed the situation with dramatic swiftness; the French authorities
at home, alarmed at these dangerous adventures, repudiated and recalled
Dupleix (1754), and the British power was left to apply the methods
which he had invented. When the Seven Years' War broke out (1756), the
French, repenting of their earlier decision, sent a substantial force
to restore their lost influence in the Carnatic, but the result was
complete failure. A British protege henceforward ruled in the Carnatic;
a British force replaced the French at Hyderabad; and the revenues of
the Northern Sarkars, formerly assigned for the maintenance of the
French force, were handed over to its successor. Meanwhile in the rich
province of Bengal a still more dramatic revolution had taken place.
Attacked by the young Nawab, Siraj-uddaula, the British traders at
Calcutta had been forced to evacuate that prosperous centre (1756). But
Clive, coming up with a fleet and an army from Madras, applied the
lessons he had learnt in the Carnatic, set up a rival claimant to the
throne of Bengal, and at Plassey (1757) won for his puppet a complete
victory. From 1757 onwards the British East India Company was the real
master in Bengal, even more completely than in the Carnatic. It had
not, in either region, conquered any territory; it had only supported
successfully a claimant to the native throne. The native government, in
theory, continued as before; the company, in theory, was its subject
and vassal. But in practice these great and rich provinces lay at its
mercy, and if it did not yet choose to undertake their government, this
was only because it preferred to devote itself to its original business
of trade.

Thus by 1763 the British power had achieved a dazzling double triumph.
It had destroyed the power of its chief rival both in the East and in
the West. It had established the supremacy of the British peoples and
of British methods of government throughout the whole continent of
North America; and it had entered, blindly and without any conception
of what the future was to bring forth, upon the path which was to lead
to dominion over the vast continent of India, and upon the tremendous
task of grafting the ideas of the West upon the East.

Such was the outcome of the first two periods in the history of
European imperialism. It left Central and South America under the
stagnant and reactionary government of Spain and Portugal; the eastern
coast of North America under the control of groups of self-governing
Englishmen; Canada, still inhabited by Frenchmen, under British
dominance; Java and the Spice Islands, together with the small
settlement of Cape Colony, in the hands of the Dutch; a medley of
European settlements in the West Indian islands, and a string of
European factories along the coast of West Africa; and the beginning of
an anomalous British dominion established at two points on the coast of
India. But of all the European nations which had taken part in this
vast process of expansion, one alone, the British, still retained its
vitality and its expansive power.



'Colonies are like fruits,' said Turgot, the eighteenth-century French
economist and statesman: 'they cling to the mother-tree only until they
are ripe.' This generalisation, which represented a view very widely
held during that and the next age, seemed to be borne out in the most
conclusive way by the events of the sixty years following the Seven
Years' War. In 1763 the French had lost almost the whole of the empire
which they had toilsomely built up during a century and a half. Within
twenty years their triumphant British rivals were forced to recognise
the independence of the American colonies, and thus lost the bulk of
what may be called the first British Empire. They still retained the
recently conquered province of French Canada, but it seemed unlikely
that the French Canadians would long be content to live under an alien
dominion: if they had not joined in the American Revolution, it was not
because they loved the British, but because they hated the Americans.
The French Revolutionary wars brought further changes. One result of
these wars was that the Dutch lost Cape Colony, Ceylon, and Java,
though Java was restored to them in 1815. A second result was that when
Napoleon made himself master of Spain in 1808, the Spanish colonies in
Central and South America ceased to be governed from the
mother-country; and having tasted the sweets of independence, and still
more, the advantages of unrestricted trade, could never again be
brought into subordination. By 1825 nothing was left of the vast
Spanish Empire save the Canaries, Cuba, Porto Rico, and the Philippine
Islands; nothing was left of the Portuguese Empire save a few decaying
posts on the coasts of Africa and India; nothing was left of the Dutch
Empire save Java and its dependencies, restored in 1815; nothing was
left of the French Empire save a few West Indian islands; and what had
been the British American colonies were now the United States, a great
power declaring to Europe, through the mouth of President Monroe, that
she would resist any attempt of the European powers to restore the old
regime in South America. It appeared that the political control of
European states over non-European regions must be short-lived and full
of trouble; and that the influence of Europe upon the non-European
world would henceforth be exercised mainly through new independent
states imbued with European ideas. Imperial aspirations thus seemed to
that and the next generation at once futile and costly.

Of all these colonial revolutions the most striking was that which tore
away the American colonies from Britain (1764-82); not only because it
led to the creation of one of the great powers of the world, and was to
afford the single instance which has yet arisen of a daughter-nation
outnumbering its mother-country, but still more because it seemed to
prove that not even the grant of extensive powers of self-government
would secure the permanent loyalty of colonies. Indeed, from the
standpoint of Realpolitik, it might be argued that in the case of
America self-government was shown to be a dangerous gift; for the
American colonies, which alone among European settlements had obtained
this supreme endowment, were the first, and indeed the only, European
settlements to throw off deliberately their connection with the
mother-country. France and Holland lost their colonies by war, and even
the Spanish colonies would probably never have thought of severing
their relations with Spain but for the anomalous conditions created by
the Napoleonic conquest.

The American Revolution is, then, an event unique at once in its
causes, its character, and its consequences; and it throws a most
important illumination upon some of the problems of imperialism. It
cannot be pretended that the revolt of the colonists was due to
oppression or to serious misgovernment. The paltry taxes which were its
immediate provoking cause would have formed a quite negligible burden
upon a very prosperous population; they were to have been spent
exclusively within the colonies themselves, and would have been mainly
used to meet a part of the cost of colonial defence, the bulk of which
was still to be borne by the mother-country. If the colonists had been
willing to suggest any other means of raising the required funds, their
suggestions would have been readily accepted. This was made plain at
several stages in the course of the discussion, but the invitation to
suggest alternative methods of raising money met with no response. The
plain fact is that Britain, already heavily loaded with debt, was
bearing practically the whole burden of colonial defence, and was much
less able than the colonies themselves to endure the strain. As for the
long-established restrictions on colonial trade, which in fact though
not in form contributed as largely as the proposals of direct taxation
to cause the revolt, they were far less severe, even if they had been
strictly enforced, than the restrictions imposed upon the trade of
other European settlements.

It is equally misleading to attribute the blame of the revolt wholly to
George III. and the ministers by whom he was served during the critical
years. No doubt it is possible to imagine a more tactful man than
George Grenville, a more far-seeing and courageous statesman than Lord
North, a less obstinate prince than George III. himself. But it may be
doubted whether any change of men would have done more than postpone
the inevitable. The great Whig apologists who have dictated the
accepted view of British history in the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries have laboured to create the impression that if only Burke,
Chatham, and Charles Fox had had the handling of the issue, the tragedy
of disruption would have been avoided. But there is no evidence that
any of these men, except perhaps Burke, appreciated the magnitude and
difficulty of the questions that had been inevitably raised in 1764,
and must have been raised whoever had been in power; or that they would
have been able to suggest a workable new scheme of colonial government
which would have met the difficulty. If they had put forward such a
scheme, it would have been wrecked on the resistance of British
opinion, which was still dominated by the theories and traditions of
the old colonial system; and even if it had overcome this obstacle, it
would very likely have been ruined by the captious and litigious spirit
to which events had given birth among the colonists, especially in New

The root of the matter was that the old colonial system, which had
suited well enough the needs of the colonies as they were when it was
devised by the statesmen of Charles II.'s reign, was no longer suitable
to their condition now that they had become great and prosperous
communities of freemen. They enjoyed self-government on a scale more
generous than any other communities in the world outside of Britain;
indeed, in one sense they enjoyed it on a more generous scale than
Britain herself, since political rights were much more widely exercised
in the colonies, owing to the natural conditions of a new and
prosperous land, than they were to be, or could be, in Britain until
nearly a century later. No direct taxation had as yet been imposed upon
them without their own consent. They made the laws by which their own
lives were regulated. They were called upon to pay no tribute to the
home government, except the very indirect levy on goods passing through
England to or from their ports, and this was nearly balanced by the
advantages which they enjoyed in the British market, and far more than
balanced by the protection afforded to them by the British fleet. They
were not even required to raise troops for the defence of their own
frontiers except of their own free will, and the main burden of
defending even their landward frontier was borne by the mother-country.
But being British they had the instinct of self-government in their
blood and bones, and they found that the control of their own affairs
was qualified or limited in two principal ways.

In the first place, the executive and judicial officers who carried out
the laws were not appointed by them but by the Crown in England: the
colonies were not responsible for the administration of their own laws.
In the second place, the regulations by which their foreign trade was
governed were determined, not by themselves, but by the British
parliament: they were not responsible for the control of their own
traffic with the outside world. It is true that the salaries of the
executive officials and the judges depended upon their grant, and that
any governor who acted in the teeth of colonial opinion would find his
position quite untenable, so that the colonists exercised a real if
indirect control over administration. It is true also that they
accepted the general principles of the commercial system, and had
reaped great benefits from it.

But it is the unfailing instinct of the citizens in a self-governing
community to be dissatisfied unless they feel that they have a full and
equal share in the control of their own destinies. Denied
responsibility, they are apt to become irresponsible; and when all
allowance has been made for the stupidities of governors and for the
mistakes of the home authorities, it must be recognised that the
thirteen American colonial legislatures often behaved in a very
irresponsible way, and were extremely difficult to handle. They refused
to vote fixed salaries to their judges in order to make their power
felt, simply because the judges were appointed by the Crown, although
in doing so they were dangerously undermining judicial independence.
They refused in many cases to supply anything like adequate contingents
for the war against the French and their Indian allies, partly because
each legislature was afraid of being more generous than the others,
partly because they could trust to the home government to make good
their deficiencies. Yet at the same time they did nothing to check, but
rather encouraged, the wholesale smuggling by which the trade
regulations were reduced to a nullity, though these regulations were
not only accepted in principle by themselves, but afforded the only
compensation to the mother-country for the cost of colonial defence. It
is as unscientific to blame the colonists and their legislatures for
this kind of action, as it is to blame the British statesmen for their
proposals. It was the almost inevitable result of the conditions among
a free, prosperous, and extremely self-confident people; it was,
indeed, the proof that in this young people the greatest political
ideal of western civilisation, the ideal of self-government, had taken
firm root. The denial of responsibility was producing irresponsibility;
and even if the Stamp Act and the Tea Duties had never been proposed,
this state of things was bound to lead to increasing friction. Nor must
it be forgotten that this friction was accentuated by the contrast
between the democratic conditions of colonial life, and the
aristocratic organisation of English society.

It ought to have been obvious, long before Grenville initiated his new
policy in 1764, that the colonial system was not working well; and the
one circumstance which had prevented serious conflict was the danger
which threatened the colonists in the aggressive attitude of the French
to the north and west. Since the individual colonies refused to raise
adequate forces for their own defence, or to co-operate with one
another in a common scheme, they were dependent for their security upon
the mother-country. But as soon as the danger was removed, as it was in
1763, this reason for restraint vanished; and although the great
majority of the colonists were quite sincerely desirous of retaining
their membership of the British commonwealth, the conditions would
inevitably have produced a state of intensifying friction, unless the
whole colonial system had been drastically reconstructed.

Reconstruction was therefore inevitable in 1764. The Whig policy of
simply ignoring the issue and 'not reading the dispatches' could no
longer be pursued; it was indeed largely responsible for the mischief.
George III. and Grenville deserve the credit of seeing this. But their
scheme of reconstruction not unnaturally amounted to little more than a
tightening-up of the old system. The trade laws were to be more
strictly enforced. The governors and the judges were to be made more
independent of the assemblies by being given fixed salaries. The
colonists were to bear a larger share of the cost of defence, which
fell so unfairly on the mother-country. If the necessary funds could be
raised by means approved by the colonists themselves, well and good;
but if not, then they must be raised by the authority of the imperial
parliament. For the existing system manifestly could not continue
indefinitely, and it was better to have the issue clearly raised, even
at the risk of conflict, than to go on merely drifting.

When the colonists (without suggesting any alternative proposals)
contented themselves with repudiating the right of parliament to tax
them, and proceeded to outrageous insults to the king's authority, and
the most open defiance of the trade regulations, indignation grew in
Britain. It seemed, to the average Englishman, that the colonists
proposed to leave every public burden, even the cost of judges'
salaries, on the shoulders of the mother-country, already loaded with a
debt which had been largely incurred in defence of the colonies; but to
disregard every obligation imposed upon themselves. A system whereunder
the colony has all rights and no enforcible duties, the mother-country
all duties and no enforcible rights, obviously could not work. That was
the system which, in the view of the gentlemen of England, the
colonists were bent upon establishing; and, taking this view, they
cannot be blamed for refusing to accept such a conclusion. There was no
one, either in Britain or in America, capable of grasping the
essentials of the problem, which were that, once established,
self-government inevitably strives after its own fulfilment; that these
British settlers, in whom the British tradition of self-government had
been strengthened by the freedom of a new land, would never be content
until they enjoyed a full share in the control of their own affairs;
and that although they seemed, even to themselves, to be fighting about
legal minutiae, about the difference between internal and external
duties, about the legality of writs of assistance, and so forth, the
real issue was the deeper one of the fulfilment of self-government.
Could fully responsible self-government be reconciled with imperial
unity? Could any means be devised whereby the units in a fellowship of
free states might retain full control over their own affairs, and at
the same time effectively combine for common purposes? That was and is
the ultimate problem of British imperial organisation, as it was and is
the ultimate problem of international relations. But the problem,
though it now presented itself in a comparatively simple form, was
never fairly faced on either side of the Atlantic. For the mother and
her daughters too quickly reached the point of arguing about their
legal rights against one another, and when friends begin to argue about
their legal rights, the breach of their friendship is at hand. So the
dreary argument, which lasted for eleven years (1764-75), led to the
still more dreary war, which lasted for seven years (1775-82); and the
only family of free self-governing communities existing in the world
was broken up in bitterness. This was indeed a tragedy. For if the
great partnership of freedom could have been reorganised on conditions
that would have enabled it to hold together, the cause of liberty in
the world would have been made infinitely more secure.

The Revolution gave to the Americans the glory of establishing the
first fully democratic system of government on a national scale that
had yet existed in the world, and of demonstrating that by the
machinery of self-government a number of distinct and jealous
communities could be united for common purposes. The new American
Commonwealth became an inspiration for eager Liberals in the old world
as well as in the new, and its successful establishment formed the
strongest of arguments for the democratic idea in all lands. Unhappily
the pride of this great achievement helped to persuade the Americans
that they were different from the rest of the world, and unaffected by
its fortunes. They were apt to think of themselves as the inventors and
monopolists of political liberty. Cut off by a vast stretch of ocean
from the Old World, and having lost that contact with its affairs which
the relation with Britain had hitherto maintained, they followed but
dimly, and without much comprehension, the obscure and complex
struggles wherein the spirit of liberty was working out a new Europe,
in the face of difficulties vastly greater than any with which the
Americans had ever had to contend. They had been alienated from
Britain, the one great free state of Europe, and had been persuaded by
their reading of their own experience that she was a tyrant-power; and
they thus found it hard to recognise her for what, with all her faults,
she genuinely was--the mother of free institutions in the modern world,
the founder and shaper of their own prized liberties. All these things
combined to persuade the great new republic that she not only might,
but ought to, stand aloof from the political problems of the rest of
the world, and take no interest in its concerns. This attitude, the
natural product of the conditions, was to last for more than a century,
and was to weaken greatly the cause of liberty in the world.

Although the most obvious features of the half-century following the
great British triumph of 1763 were the revolt of the American colonies
and the apparently universal collapse of the imperialist ambitions of
the European nations, a more deeply impressive feature of the period
was that, in spite of the tragedy and humiliation of the great
disruption, the imperial impetus continued to work potently in Britain,
alone among the European nations; and to such effect that at the end of
the period she found herself in control of a new empire more extensive
than that which she had lost, and far more various in its character.
Having failed to solve one great imperial problem, she promptly
addressed herself to a whole series of others even more difficult, and
for these she was to find more hopeful solutions.

When the American revolt began, the Canadian colonies to the north were
in an insecure and unorganised state. On the coast, in Nova Scotia and
Newfoundland, there was a small British population; but the riverine
colony of Canada proper, with its centre at Quebec, was still purely
French, and was ruled by martial law. Accustomed to a despotic system,
and not yet reconciled to the British supremacy, the French settlers
were obviously unready for self-government. But the Quebec Act of 1774,
by securing the maintenance of the Roman Catholic religion and of
French civil law, ensured the loyalty of the French; and this Act is
also noteworthy as the first formal expression of willingness to admit
or even welcome the existence, within the hospitable limits of the
Empire, of a variety of types of civilisation. In the new British
Empire there was to be no uniformity of Kultur.

The close of the American struggle, however, brought a new problem.
Many thousands of exiles from the revolting colonies, willing to
sacrifice everything in order to retain their British citizenship,
poured over the borders into the Canadian lands. They settled for the
first time the rich province of Ontario, greatly increased the
population of Nova Scotia, and started the settlement of New Brunswick.
To these exiles Britain felt that she owed much, and, despite her own
financial distress, expended large sums in providing them with the
means to make a good beginning in their new homes. But it was
impossible to deny these British settlers, and the emigrants from
Britain who soon began to join them, the rights of self-government, to
which they were accustomed. Their advent, however, in a hitherto French
province, raised the very difficult problem of racial relationship.
They might have been used as a means for Anglicising the earlier French
settlers and for forcing them into a British mould; it may fairly be
said that most European governments would have used them in this way,
and many of the settlers would willingly have fallen in with such a
programme. But that would have been out of accord with the genius of
the British system, which believes in freedom and variety. Accordingly,
by the Act of 1791, the purely French region of Quebec or Lower Canada
was separated from the British region of Ontario or Upper Canada, and
both districts, as well as the coastal settlements, were endowed with
self-governing institutions of the familiar pattern--an elected
assembly controlling legislation and taxation, a nominated governor and
council directing the executive. Thus within eighteen years of their
conquest the French colonists were introduced to self-government. And
within nine years of the loss of the American colonies, a new group of
self-governing American colonies had been organised. They were
sufficiently content with the system to resist with vigour and success
an American invasion in 1812. While the American controversy was
proceeding, one of the greatest of British navigators, Captain Cook,
was busy with his remarkable explorations. He was the first to survey
the archipelagoes of the Pacific; more important, he was the real
discoverer of Australia and New Zealand; for though the Dutch explorers
had found these lands more than a century earlier, they had never
troubled to complete their explorations. Thus a vast new field,
eminently suitable for European settlement, was placed at the disposal
of Britain. It was utilised with extraordinary promptitude. The loss of
the American colonies had deprived Britain of her chief dumping-ground
for convicts. In 1788, six years after the recognition of their
independence, she decided to use the new continent for this purpose,
and the penal settlement of Botany Bay began (under unfavourable
auspices) the colonisation of Australia.

But the most important, and the most amazing, achievement of Britain in
this period was the establishment and extension of her empire in India,
and the planting within it of the first great gift of Western
civilisation, the sovereignty of a just and impartial law. This was a
novel and a very difficult task, such as no European people had yet
undertaken; and it is not surprising that there should have been a
period of bewildered misgovernment before it was achieved. That it
should have been achieved at all is one of the greatest miracles of
European imperialism.

By 1763 the East India Company had established a controlling influence
over the Nawabs of two important regions, Bengal and the Carnatic, and
had shown, in a series of struggles, that its control was not to be
shaken off. But the company had not annexed any territory, or assumed
any responsibility for the government of these rich provinces. Its
agents in the East, who were too far from London to be effectively
controlled, enjoyed power without responsibility. They were privileged
traders, upon whom the native governments dared not impose
restrictions, and (as any body of average men would have done under
similar circumstances) they gravely abused their position to build up
huge fortunes for themselves. During the fifteen years following the
battle of Plassey (1757) there is no denying that the political power
of the British in India was a mere curse to the native population, and
led to the complete disorganisation of the already decrepit native
system of government in the provinces affected. It was vain for the
directors at home to scold their servants. There were only two ways out
of the difficulty. One was that the company should abandon India, which
was not to be expected. The other was that, possessing power, of which
it was now impossible to strip themselves, they should assume the
responsibility for its exercise, and create for their subjects a just
and efficient system of government. But the company would not see this.
They had never desired political power, but had drifted into the
possession of it in spite of themselves. They honestly disliked the
idea of establishing by force an alien domination over subject peoples,
and this feeling was yet more strongly held by the most influential
political circles in England. The company desired nothing but trade.
Their business was that of traders, and they wanted only to be left
free to mind their business. So the evils arising from power without
responsibility continued, and half-hearted attempts to amend them in
1765 and in 1769 only made the conditions worse. The events of the
years from 1757 to 1772 showed that when the superior organisation of
the West came in contact with the East, mere trading exploitation led
to even worse results than a forcibly imposed dominion; and the only
solution lay in the wise adaptation of western methods of government to
eastern conditions.

Thus Britain found herself faced with an imperial problem of apparently
insuperable difficulty, which reached its most acute stage just at the
time when the American trouble was at its height. The British
parliament and government intervened, and in 1773 for the first time
assumed some responsibility for the affairs of the East India Company.
But they did not understand the Indian problem--how, indeed, should
they?--and their first solution was a failure. By a happy fortune,
however, the East India Company had conferred the governorship of
Bengal (1772) upon the greatest Englishman of the eighteenth century,
Warren Hastings. Hastings pensioned off the Nawab, took over direct
responsibility for the government of Bengal, and organised a system of
justice which, though far from perfect, established for the first time
the Reign of Law in an Indian realm. His firm and straightforward
dealings with the other Indian powers still further strengthened the
position of the company; and when in the midst of the American war, at
a moment when no aid could be expected from Britain, a combination of
the most formidable Indian powers, backed by a French fleet, threatened
the downfall of the company's authority, Hastings' resourceful and
inspiring leadership was equal to every emergency. He not only brought
the company with heightened prestige out of the war, but throughout its
course no hostile army was ever allowed to cross the frontiers of
Bengal. In the midst of the unceasing and desolating wars of India, the
territories under direct British rule formed an island of secure peace
and of justice. That was Hastings' supreme contribution: it was the
foundation upon which arose the fabric of the Indian Empire. Hastings
was not a great conqueror or annexer of territory; the only important
acquisition made during his regime was effected, in defiance of his
protests, by the hostile majority which for a time overrode him in his
own council, and which condemned him for ambition. His work was to make
the British rule mean security and justice in place of tyranny; and it
was because it had come to mean this that it grew, after his time, with
extraordinary rapidity.

It was not by the desire of the directors or the home government that
it grew. They did everything in their power to check its growth, for
they shrank from any increase to their responsibilities. They even
prohibited by law all annexations, or the making of alliances with
Indian powers.[5] But fate was too strong for them. Even a governor
like Lord Cornwallis, a convinced supporter of the policy of
non-expansion and non-intervention, found himself forced into war, and
compelled to annex territories; because non-intervention was
interpreted by the Indian powers as a confession of weakness and an
invitation to attack. Non-intervention also gave openings to the
French, who, since the outbreak of the Revolution, had revived their
old Indian ambitions; and while Bonaparte was engaged in the conquest
of Egypt as a half-way house to India (1797), French agents were busy
building up a new combination of Indian powers against the company.

[5] India Act of 1784

This formidable coalition was about to come to a head when, in 1798,
there landed in India a second man of genius, sent by fate at the
critical moment. In five years, by an amazing series of swiftly
successful wars and brilliantly conceived treaties, the Marquess
Wellesley broke the power of every member of the hostile coalitions,
except two of the Mahratta princes. The area of British territory was
quadrupled; the most important of the Indian princes became vassals of
the company; and the Great Mogul of Delhi himself, powerless now, but
always a symbol of the over-lordship of India, passed under British
protection. When Wellesley left India in 1805, the East India Company
was already the paramount power in India south-east of the Sutlej and
the Indus. The Mahratta princes, indeed, still retained a restricted
independence, and for an interval the home authorities declined to
permit any interference with them, even though they were manifestly
giving protection to bands of armed raiders who terrorised and
devastated territories which were under British protection. But the
time came when the Mahrattas themselves broke the peace. Then their
power also was broken; and in 1818 Britain stood forth as the sovereign
ruler of India.

This was only sixty years after the battle of Plassey had established
British influence, though not British rule, in a single province of
India; only a little over thirty years after Warren Hastings returned
to England, leaving behind him an empire still almost limited to that
single province. There is nothing in history that can be compared with
the swiftness of this achievement, which is all the more remarkable
when we remember that almost every step in the advance was taken with
extreme unwillingness. But the most impressive thing about this
astounding fabric of power, which extended over an area equal to half
of Europe and inhabited by perhaps one-sixth of the human race, was not
the swiftness with which it was created, but the results which flowed
from it. It had begun in corruption and oppression, but it had grown
because it had come to stand for justice, order, and peace. In 1818 it
could already be claimed for the British rule in India that it had
brought to the numerous and conflicting races, religions, and castes of
that vast and ancient land, three boons of the highest value: political
unity such as they had never known before; security from the hitherto
unceasing ravages of internal turbulence and war; and, above all, the
supreme gift which the West had to offer to the East, the substitution
of an unvarying Reign of Law for the capricious wills of innumerable
and shifting despots. This is an achievement unexampled in history, and
it alone justified the imposition of the rule of the West over the
East, which had at first seemed to produce nothing but evil. It took
place during the age of Revolution, when the external empires of Europe
were on all sides falling into ruin; and it passed at the time almost
unregarded, because it was overshadowed by the drama of the
Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

The construction of the Indian Empire would of itself suffice to make
an age memorable, but it does not end the catalogue of the achievements
of British imperialism in this tremendous period. As a result of the
participation of Holland in the war on the side of France, the Dutch
colony at the Cape of Good Hope was occupied by Britain. It was first
occupied in 1798, restored for a brief period in 1801, reoccupied in
1806, and finally retained under the treaty settlement of 1815. The
Cape was, in fact, the most important acquisition secured to Britain by
that treaty; and it is worth noting that while the other great powers
who had joined in the final overthrow of Napoleon helped themselves
without hesitation to immense and valuable territories, Britain, which
had alone maintained the struggle from beginning to end without
flagging, actually paid the sum of 2,000,000 pounds to Holland as a
compensation for this thinly peopled settlement. She retained it mainly
because of its value as a calling-station on the way to India. But it
imposed upon her an imperial problem of a very difficult kind. As in
Canada, she had to deal here with an alien race of European origin and
proud traditions; but this racial problem was accentuated by the
further problem of dealing with a preponderant and growing negro
population. How were justice, peace, liberty, and equality of rights to
be established in such a field?

It was, then, an astonishing new empire which had grown up round
Britain during the period when the world was becoming convinced that
colonial empires were not worth acquiring, because they could not last.
It was an empire of continents or sub-continents--Canada, Australia,
India, South Africa--not to speak of innumerable scattered islands and
trading-posts dotted over all the seas of the world, which had either
survived from an earlier period, or been acquired in order that they
might serve as naval bases. It was spread round the whole globe; it
included almost every variety of soil, products, and climate; it was
inhabited by peoples of the most varying types; it presented an
infinite variety of political and racial problems. In 1825 this empire
was the only extra-European empire of importance still controlled by
any of the historic imperial powers of Western Europe. And at the
opening of the nineteenth century, when extra-European empires seemed
to have gone out of fashion, the greatest of all imperial questions was
the question whether the political capacity of the British peoples,
having failed to solve the comparatively simple problem of finding a
mode of organisation which could hold together communities so closely
akin as those of America and the parent islands, would be capable of
achieving any land of effective organisation for this new astounding
fabric, while at the same time securing to all its members that liberty
and variety of development which in the case of America had only been
fully secured at the cost of disruption.



When the European peoples settled down, in 1815, after the long wars of
the French Revolution, they found themselves faced by many problems,
but there were few Europeans who would have included among these
problems the extension of Western civilisation over the as yet
unsubjugated portions of the world. Men's hearts were set upon the
organisation of permanent peace: that seemed the greatest of all
questions, and, for a time, it appeared to have obtained a satisfactory
solution with the organisation of the great League of Peace of 1815.
But the peace was to be short-lived, because it was threatened by the
emergence of a number of other problems of great complexity. First
among these stood the problem of nationality: the increasingly
clamorous demand of divided or subject peoples for unity and freedom.
Alongside of this arose the sister-problem of liberalism: the demand
raised from all sides, among peoples who had never known political
liberty, for the institutions of self-government which had been proved
practicable by the British peoples, and turned into the object of a
fervent belief by the preachings of the French. These two causes were
to plunge Europe into many wars, and to vex and divide the peoples of
every European country, throughout the period 1815-78. And to add to
the complexity, there was growing in intensity during all these years
the problem of Industrialism--the transformation of the very bases of
life in all civilised communities, and the consequent development of
wholly new, and terribly difficult, social issues. Preoccupied with all
these questions, the statesmen and the peoples of most European states
had no attention to spare for the non-European world. They neglected it
all the more readily because the events of the preceding period seemed
to demonstrate that colonial empires were not worth the cost and labour
necessary for their attainment, since they seemed doomed to fall
asunder as soon as they began to be valuable.

Yet the period 1815-78 was to see an extension of European civilisation
in the non-European world more remarkable than that of any previous
age. The main part in this extension was played by Britain, who found
herself left free, without serious rivalry in any part of the globe, to
expand and develop the extraordinary empire which she possessed in
1815, and to deal with the bewildering problems which it presented. So
marked was the British predominance in colonial activity during this
age that it has been called the age of British monopoly, and so far as
trans-oceanic activities were concerned, this phrase very nearly
represents the truth. But there were other developments of the period
almost as remarkable as the growth and reorganisation of the British
Empire; and it will be convenient to survey these in the first instance
before turning to the British achievement.

The place of honour, as always in any great story of European
civilisation, belongs to France. Undeterred by the loss of her earlier
empire, and unexhausted by the strain of the great ordeal through which
she had just passed, France began in these years the creation of her
second colonial empire, which was to be in many ways more splendid than
the first. Within fifteen years of the fall of Napoleon, the French
flag was flying in Algiers.

The northern coast of Africa, from the Gulf of Syrtis to the Atlantic,
which has been in modern times divided into the three districts of
Tunis, Algeria, and Morocco, forms essentially a single region, whose
character is determined by the numerous chains of the Atlas Mountains.
This region, shut off from the rest of Africa not only by the Atlas but
by the most impassable of all geographical barriers, the great Sahara
desert, really belongs to Europe rather than to the continent of which
it forms a part. Its fertile valleys were once the homes of brilliant
civilisations: they were the seat of the Carthaginian Empire, and at a
later date they constituted one of the richest and most civilised
provinces of the Roman Empire. Their civilisation was wrecked by that
barbarous German tribe, the Vandals, in the fifth century. It received
only a partial and temporary revival after the Mahomedan conquest at
the end of the seventh century, and since that date this once happy
region has gradually lapsed into barbarism. During the modern age it
was chiefly known as the home of ruthless and destructive pirates,
whose chief headquarters were at Algiers, and who owned a merely
nominal allegiance to the Sultan of Turkey. Ever since the time of
Khair-ed-din Barbarossa, in the early sixteenth century, the powers of
Europe have striven in vain to keep the Barbary corsairs in check.
Charles V., Philip II., Louis XIV. attacked them with only temporary
success: they continued to terrorise the trade of the Mediterranean, to
seize trading-ships, to pillage the shores of Spain and Italy, and to
carry off thousands of Christians into a cruel slavery; Robinson
Crusoe, it may be recalled, was one of their victims. The powers at
Vienna endeavoured to concert action against them in 1815. They were
attacked by a British fleet in 1816, and by a combined British and
French fleet in 1819. But all such temporary measures were
insufficient. The only cure for the ill was that the headquarters of
the pirate chiefs should be conquered, and brought under civilised

This task France was rather reluctantly drawn into undertaking, as the
result of a series of insults offered by the pirates to the French flag
between 1827 and 1830. At first the aim of the conquerors was merely to
occupy and administer the few ports which formed the chief centres of
piracy. But experience showed that this was futile, since it involved
endless wars with the unruly clansmen of the interior. Gradually,
therefore, the whole of Algeria was systematically conquered and
organised. The process took nearly twenty years, and was not completed
until 1848. In all the records of European imperialism there has been
no conquest more completely justified both by the events which led up
to it and by the results which have followed from it. Peace and Law
reign throughout a country which had for centuries been given over to
anarchy. The wild tribesmen are unlearning the habits of disorder, and
being taught to accept the conditions of a civilised life. The great
natural resources of the country are being developed as never since the
days of Roman rule. No praise can be too high for the work of the
French administrators who have achieved these results. And it is worth
noting that, alone among the provinces conquered by the European
peoples, Algeria has been actually incorporated in the mother-country;
it is part of the French Republic, and its elected representatives sit
in the French Parliament.

In the nature of things the conquest of Algeria could not stand alone.
Algeria is separated by merely artificial lines from Tunis on the east
and Morocco on the west, where the old conditions of anarchy still
survived; and the establishment of order and peace in the middle area
of this single natural region was difficult, so long as the areas on
either side remained in disorder and war. In 1844 France found it
necessary to make war upon Morocco because of the support which it had
afforded to a rebellious Algerian chief, and this episode illustrated
the close connection of the two regions. But the troops were withdrawn
as soon as the immediate purpose was served. France had not yet begun
to think of extending her dominion over the areas to the east and west
of Algeria. That was to be the work of the next period.

Further south in Africa, France retained, as a relic of her older
empire, a few posts on the coast of West Africa, notably Senegal. From
these her intrepid explorers and traders began to extend their
influence, and the dream of a great French empire in Northern Africa
began to attract French minds. But the realisation of this dream also
belongs to the next period. In the Far East, too, this was a period of
beginnings. Ever since 1787--before the Revolution--the French had
possessed a foothold on the coast of Annam, from which French
missionaries carried on their labours among the peoples of Indo-China.
Maltreatment of these missionaries led to a war with Annam in 1858, and
in 1862 the extreme south of the Annamese Empire--the province of
Cochin-China--was ceded to France. Lastly, the French obtained a
foothold in the Pacific, by the annexation of Tahiti and the Marquesas
Islands in 1842, and of New Caledonia in 1855. But in 1878 the French
dominions in the non-European world were, apart from Algeria, of slight
importance. They were quite insignificant in comparison with the
far-spreading realms of her ancient rival, Britain.

On a much greater scale than the expansion of France was the expansion
of the already vast Russian Empire during this period. The history of
Russia in the nineteenth century is made up of a series of alternations
between a regime of comparative liberalism, when the interest of
government and people was chiefly turned towards the west, and a regime
of reaction, when the government endeavoured to pursue what was called
a 'national' or purely Russian policy, and to exclude all Western
influences. During these long intervals of reaction, attention was
turned eastward; and it was in the reactionary periods, mainly, that
the Russian power was rapidly extended in three directions--over the
Caucasus, over Central Asia, and in the Far East.

Before this advance, the huge Russian Empire had been (everywhere
except on the west, in the region of Poland) marked off by very clearly
defined barriers. The Caucasus presented a formidable obstacle between
Russia and the Turkish and Persian Empires; the deserts of Central Asia
separated her from the Moslem peoples of Khiva, Bokhara and Turkestan;
the huge range of the Altai Mountains and the desert of Gobi cut off
her thinly peopled province of Eastern Siberia from the Chinese Empire;
while in the remote East her shores verged upon ice-bound and
inhospitable seas. Hers was thus an extraordinarily isolated and
self-contained empire, except on the side of Europe; and even on the
side of Europe she was more inaccessible than any other state, being
all but land-locked, and divided from Central Europe by a belt of
forests and marshes.

The part she had played in the Napoleonic Wars, and in the events which
followed them, had brought her more fully into contact with Europe than
she had ever been before. The acquisition of Poland and Finland, which
she obtained by the treaties of 1815, had increased this contact, for
both of these states were much influenced by Western ideas. Russia had
promised that their distinct national existence, and their national
institutions, should be preserved; and this seemed to suggest that the
Russian Empire might develop into a partnership of nations of varying
types, not altogether unlike the form into which the British Empire was
developing. But this conception had no attraction for the Russian mind,
or at any rate for the Russian government; and the reactionary or
pure-Russian school, which strove to exclude all alien influences, was
inevitably hostile to it. Hence the period of reaction, and of eastward
conquest, saw also the denial of the promises made in 1815. Poland
preserved her distinct national organisation, in any full degree, only
for fifteen years; even in the faintest degree, it was preserved for
less than fifty years. Finland was allowed a longer grace, but only,
perhaps, because she was isolated and had but a small population: her
turn for 'Russification' was to come in due course. The exclusion of
Western influence, the segregation of Russia from the rest of the
world, and the repudiation of liberty and of varieties of type thus
form the main features of the reactionary periods which filled the
greater part of this age; and the activity of Russia in eastward
expansion was in part intended to forward this policy, by diverting the
attention of the Russian people from the west towards the east, and by
substituting the pride of dominion for the desire for liberty. Hence
imperialism came to be identified, for the Russian people, with the
denial of liberty.

But it is a very striking fact that each of the three main lines of
territorial advance followed by Russia in Asia during this period led
her to overstep the natural barriers which had made her an isolated and
self-dependent empire, brought her into relation with other
civilisations, and compelled her to play her part as one of the factors
in world-politics.

Russia had begun the conquest of the wild Caucasus region as early as
1802; after a long series of wars, she completed it by the acquisition
of the region of Kars in 1878. The mastery of the Caucasus brought her
into immediate relation with the Armenian province of the Turkish
Empire, which she henceforward threatened from the east as well as from
the west. It brought her into contact also with the Persian Empire,
over whose policy, from 1835 onwards, she wielded a growing influence,
to the perturbation of Britain. And besides bringing her into far
closer relations with the two greatest Mahomedan powers, it gave her a
considerable number of Mahomedan subjects, since some of the Caucasus
tribes belonged to that faith.

Again, the conquest of Central Asia led her to overstep the barrier of
the Kirghiz deserts. The wandering Kirghiz and Turkoman tribes of this
barren region lived largely upon the pillage of caravans, and upon
raids into neighbouring countries; they disposed of their spoil (which
often included Russian captives) mainly in the bazars of Bokhara,
Khiva, Samarkand and Khokand--Mahomedan Khanates which occupied the
more fertile areas in the southern and south-eastern part of the desert
region. The attempt to control the Turkoman raiders brought Russia into
conflict with these outposts of Islam. Almost the whole of this region
was conquered in a long series of campaigns between 1848 and 1876.
These conquests (which covered an area 1200 miles from east to west and
600 miles from north to south) made Russia a great Mahomedan power.
They also brought her into direct contact with Afghanistan. Russian
agents were at work in Afghanistan from 1838 onwards. The shadow of her
vast power, looming over Persia and the Persian Gulf on the one hand,
and over the mountain frontiers of India on the other, naturally
appeared highly menacing to Britain. It was the direct cause of the
advance of the British power from the Indus over North-Western India,
until it could rest upon the natural frontier of the mountains--an
advance which took place mainly during the years 1839-49. And it formed
the chief source of the undying suspicion of Russia which was the
dominant note of British foreign policy throughout the period.

Another feature of these conquests was that, taken in conjunction with
the French conquest of Algeria and the British conquest of India, they
constituted the first serious impact of European civilisation upon the
vast realm of Islam. Until now the regions of the Middle East which had
been subjugated by the followers of Mahomed had repelled every attack
of the West. More definite in its creed, and more exacting in its
demands upon the allegiance of its adherents, than any other religion,
Mahomedanism had for more than a thousand years been able to resist
with extraordinary success the influence of other civilisations; and it
had been, from the time of the Crusades onwards, the most formidable
opponent of the civilisation of the West. Under the rule of the Turk
the Mahomedan world had become stagnant and sterile, and it had shut
out not merely the direct control of the West (which would have been
legitimate enough), but the influence of Western ideas. All the
innumerable schemes of reform which were based upon the retention of
the old regime in the Turkish Empire have hopelessly broken down; and
the only chance for an awakening in these lands of ancient civilisation
seemed to depend upon the breakdown of the old system under the impact
of Western imperialism or insurgent nationalism. It has only been
during the nineteenth century, as a result of Russian, French, and
British imperialism, that the resisting power of Islam has begun to
give way to the influence of Europe.

The third line of Russian advance was on the Pacific coast, where in
the years 1858 and 1860 Russia obtained from China the Amur province,
with the valuable harbour of Vladivostok. It was an almost empty land,
but its acquisition made Russia a Pacific power, and brought her into
very close neighbourhood with China, into whose reserved markets, at
the same period, the maritime powers of the West were forcing an
entrance. At the same time Russian relations with Japan, which were to
have such pregnant consequences, were beginning: in 1875 the Japanese
were forced to cede the southern half of the island of Sakhalin, and
perhaps we may date from this year the suspicion of Russia which
dominated Japanese policy for a long time to come.

Thus, while in Europe Russia was trying to shut herself off from
contact with the world, her advances in Asia had brought her at three
points into the full stream of world-politics. Her vast empire, though
for the most part very thinly peopled, formed beyond all comparison the
greatest continuous area ever brought under a single rule, since it
amounted to between eight and nine million square miles; and when the
next age, the age of rivalry for world-power, began, this colossal
fabric of power haunted and dominated the imaginations of men.

A demonstration of the growing power of Western civilisation, even more
impressive than the expansion of the Russian Empire, was afforded
during these years by the opening to Western influence of the ancient,
pot-bound empires of the Far East, China and Japan. The opening of
China began with the Anglo-Chinese War of 1840, which led to the
acquisition of Hong-Kong and the opening of a group of treaty ports to
European trade. It was carried further by the combined Franco-British
war of 1857-58, which was ended by a treaty permitting the free access
of European travellers, traders, and missionaries to the interior, and
providing for the permanent residence of ambassadors of the signatory
powers at the court of Pekin. All the European states rushed to share
these privileges, and the Westernising of China had begun. It did not
take place rapidly or completely, and it was accompanied by grave
disturbances, notably the Taiping rebellion, which was only suppressed
by the aid of the British General Gordon, in command of a Chinese army.
But though the process was slow, it was fully at work by 1878. The
external trade of China, nearly all in European hands, had assumed
great proportions. The missionaries and schoolmasters of Europe and
America were busily at work in the most populous provinces. Shanghai
had become a European city, and one of the great trade-centres of the
world. In a lame and incompetent way the Chinese government was
attempting to organise its army on the European model, and to create a
navy after the European style. Steamboats were plying on the
Yang-tse-kiang, and the first few miles of railway were open. Chinese
students were beginning to resort to the universities and schools of
the West; and although the conservatism of the Chinese mind was very
slow to make the plunge, it was already plain that this vast hive of
patient, clever, and industrious men was bound to enter the orbit of
Western civilisation.

Meanwhile, after a longer and stiffer resistance, Japan had made up her
mind to a great change with amazing suddenness and completeness. There
had been some preliminary relations with the Western peoples, beginning
with the visits of the American Commodore Perry in 1853 and 1854, and a
few ports had been opened to European trade. But then came a sudden,
violent reaction (1862). The British embassy was attacked; a number of
British subjects were murdered; a mixed fleet of British, French,
Dutch, and American ships proved the power of Western arms, and Japan
began to awaken to the necessity of adopting, in self-defence, the
methods of these intrusive foreigners. The story of the internal
revolution in Japan, which began in 1866, cannot be told here; enough
that it led to the most astounding change in history. Emerging from her
age-long isolation and from her contentment with her ancient,
unchanging modes of life, Japan realised that the future lay with the
restless and progressive civilisation of the West; and with a national
resolve to which there is no sort of parallel or analogy in history,
decided that she must not wait to be brought under subjection, but must
adopt the new methods and ideas for herself, if possible without
shedding too much of her ancient traditions. By a deliberate exercise
of the will and an extraordinary effort of organisation, she became
industrial without ceasing to be artistic; she adopted parliamentary
institutions without abandoning her religious veneration for the person
of the Mikado; she borrowed the military methods of the West without
losing the chivalrous and fatalist devotion of her warrior-caste; and
devised a Western educational system without disturbing the deep
orientalism of her mind. It was a transformation almost terrifying, and
to any Western quite bewildering, in its deliberation, rapidity, and
completeness. Europe long remained unconvinced of its reality. But in
1878 the work was, in its essentials, already achieved, and the one
state of non-European origin which has been able calmly to choose what
she would accept and what she would reject among the systems and
methods of the West, stood ready to play an equal part with the
European nations in the later stages of the long imperial struggle.

One last sphere of activity remains to be surveyed before we turn to
consider the development of the new British Empire: the expansion of
the independent states which had arisen on the ruins of the first
colonial empires in the New World. Of the Spanish and Portuguese states
of Central and South America it is not necessary to say much. They had
established their independence between 1815 and 1825. But the unhappy
traditions of the long Spanish ascendancy had rendered them incapable
of using freedom well, and Central and South America became the scene
of ceaseless and futile revolutions. The influence of the American
Monroe Doctrine forbade, perhaps fortunately, the intervention of any
of the European states to put an end to this confusion, and America
herself made no serious attempt to restrain it. It was not until the
later years of our period that any large stream of immigration began to
flow into these lands from other European countries than Spain and
Portugal, and that their vast natural resources began to be developed
by the energy and capital of Europe. But by 1878 the more fertile of
these states, Argentina, Brazil, and Chili, were being enriched by
these means, were becoming highly important elements in the
trade-system of the world, and were consequently beginning to achieve a
more stable and settled civilisation. In some regards this work (though
it belongs mainly to the period after 1878) constitutes one of the
happiest results of the extra-European activities of the European
peoples during the nineteenth century. It was carried on, in the main,
not by governments or under government encouragement, but by the
private enterprises of merchants and capitalists; and while a very
large part in these enterprises was played by British and American
traders and settlers, one of the most notable features of the growth of
South America was that it gave play to some of the European peoples,
notably the Germans and the Italians, whose part in the political
division of the world was relatively small.

Far more impressive was the almost miraculous expansion which came to
the United States during this period. When the United States started
upon their career as an independent nation in 1782, their territory was
limited to the lands east of the Mississippi, excluding Florida, which
was still retained by Spain. Only the eastern margin of this area was
at all fully settled; and the population numbered at most 2,000,000,
predominantly of British blood. In 1803, by a treaty with Napoleon, the
French colony of Louisiana, with vast and ill-defined claims to the
territory west of the Mississippi, was purchased from France. Meanwhile
the stream of immigrants from the eastern states, and in a less degree
from Europe, was pouring over the Alleghany Mountains and occupying the
great central plain; and by 1815 the population had risen to almost
9,000,000, still mainly of British stock, though it also included
substantial French and German elements, as well as large numbers of
negro slaves. In 1819 Florida was acquired by purchase from Spain. In
1845-48 a revolution in Texas (then part of Mexico), followed by two
Mexican wars, led to the annexation of a vast area extending from the
Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific coast, including the paradise of
California; while treaties with Britain in 1818 and 1846 determined the
northern boundary of the States, and secured their control over the
regions of Washington and Oregon.

Thus the imperialist spirit was working as irresistibly in the
democratic communities of the New World as in the monarchies of Europe.
Not content with the possession of vast and almost unpeopled areas,
they had spread their dominion from ocean to ocean, and built up an
empire less extensive indeed than that of Russia, but even more
compact, far richer in resources, and far better suited to be the home
of a highly civilised people. Into this enormous area there began to
pour a mighty flood of immigration from Europe, as soon as the
Napoleonic wars were over. By 1878 the population of the States had
risen to about 50,000,000, and was greater than that of any European
state save Russia. A new world-state of the first rank had arisen. It
was made up of contributions from all the European peoples. Those of
British stock, especially the Irish, still predominated throughout this
period, but the Germans and the Scandinavians were becoming
increasingly numerous, and the Italians, Greeks, Poles, Czechs, Russian
Jews, and other stocks were beginning to form very substantial
elements. It was a melting-pot of races, which had to be somehow welded
into a nation by the moulding-power of the traditions implanted by the
earlier British settlers. It may fairly be said that no community has
ever had imposed upon it a more difficult task than the task imposed by
Fate upon the American people of creating a national unity out of this
heterogeneous material. The great experiment was, during this period,
singularly successful. The strength of the national sentiment and of
the tradition of freedom was very powerfully exhibited in the strain of
the great Civil War (1861-65) which maintained at a great cost the
threatened unity of the republic, and brought about the emancipation of
the negro slaves. And the Civil War produced in Abraham Lincoln a
national hero, and an exponent of the national character and ideals,
worthy to be set beside Washington. The America of Lincoln manifestly
stood for Liberty and Justice, the fundamental ideals of Western

But in this great moulding tradition of freedom there was one dubious
and narrowing element. Accustomed to regard herself as having achieved
liberty by shaking off her connection with the Old World, America was
tempted to think of this liberty as something peculiar to herself,
something which the 'effete monarchies' of the Old World did not, and
could not, fully understand or share, something which exempted her from
responsibility for the non-American world, and from the duty of aiding
and defending liberty beyond her own limits. In the abounding
prosperity of this fortunate land, liberty was apt to be too readily
identified merely with the opportunity of securing material prosperity,
and the love of liberty was apt to become, what indeed it too often is
everywhere, a purely self-regarding emotion. The distance of the
republic from Europe and its controversies, its economic
self-sufficiency, its apparent security against all attack, fostered
and strengthened this feeling. While the peoples of the Old World
strove with agony and travail towards freedom and justice, or wrestled
with the task of sharing their own civilisation with the backward races
of the globe, the echo of their strivings penetrated but faintly into
the mind of America, like the noises of the street dimly heard through
the shuttered windows of a warmed and lighted room. To the citizens of
the Middle West and the Far West, especially, busy as they were with
the development of vast untapped resources, the affairs of the outer
world necessarily appeared remote and insignificant. Even their
newspapers told them little about these far-off events. Naturally it
appeared that the function of the republic in the progress of the world
was to till its own garden, and to afford a haven of refuge to the
oppressed and impoverished who poured in from all lands; and this idea
was strengthened by the great number of immigrants who were driven to
the New World by the failure of the successive European revolutions of
the nineteenth century, and by the oppressive tyranny of the Habsburg
monarchy and the Russian despots.

This attitude of aloofness from, and contempt, or, at the best,
indifference, to the Old World was further encouraged by the
traditional treatment of American history. The outstanding event of
that story was, of course, the breach with Britain, with which the
independent existence of the Republic began, and which constituted also
almost its only direct contact with the politics of the Old World. The
view of this conflict which was driven into the national mind by the
school-books, by the annual celebrations of the Fourth of July, and by
incessant newspaper writing, represented the great quarrel not as a
dispute in a family of free communities, in which a new and very
difficult problem was raised, and in which there were faults on both
sides, but as one in which all the right was on one side, as a heroic
resistance of free men against malevolent tyranny. This view has been
profoundly modified by the work of American historians, whose
researches during the last generation have transformed the treatment of
the American Revolution. To-day the old one-sided view finds
expression, in books of serious pretensions, only in England; and it is
to American scholars that we must have recourse for a more scientific
and impartial treatment. But the new and saner view has scarcely yet
made its way into the school-books and the newspapers. If Britain, the
mother of political liberty in the modern world, the land from which
these freemen had inherited their own liberties and the spirit which
made them insist upon their enlargement, was made to appear a tyrant
power, how could it be expected that the mass of Americans, unversed in
world-politics, should follow with sympathy the progress of liberty
beyond the limits of their own republic? It was in the light of this
traditional attitude that the bulk of Americans regarded not only the
wars and controversies of Europe, but the vast process of European
expansion. All these things did not appear to concern them; they seemed
to be caused by motives and ideas which the great republic had
outgrown, though, as we have already seen, and shall see again, the
republic had by no means outgrown them. The strength of this
traditional attitude, fostered as it was by every circumstance,
naturally made the bulk of the American people slow to realise, when
the great challenge of Germany was forced upon the world, that the
problems of world-politics were as vitally important for them as for
all other peoples, and that no free nation could afford to be
indifferent to the fate of liberty upon the earth.

At one moment, indeed, almost at the beginning of the period, it
appeared as if this narrow outlook was about to be abandoned. The
League of Peace of the great European powers of 1815[6] had, by 1822,
developed into a league of despots for the suppression of revolutionary
tendencies. They had intervened to crush revolutionary outbreaks in
Naples and Piedmont; they had authorised France to enter Spain in order
to destroy the democratic system which had been set up in that country
in 1820. Britain alone protested against these interventions, claiming
that every state ought to be left free to fix its own form of
government; and in 1822 Canning had practically withdrawn from the
League of Peace, because it was being turned into an engine of
oppression. It was notorious that, Spain once subjugated, the monarchs
desired to go on to the reconquest of the revolting Spanish colonies in
South America. Britain could not undertake a war on the Continent
against all the Continental powers combined, but she could prevent
their intervention in America, and Canning made it plain that the
British fleet would forbid any such action. To strengthen his hands, he
suggested to the American ambassador that the United States might take
common action in this sense. The result was the famous message of
President Monroe to Congress in December 1823, which declared that the
United States accepted the doctrine of non-intervention, and that they
would resist any attempt on the part of the European monarchs to
establish their reactionary system in the New World.

[6] See "Nationalism and Internationalism," p. 155 ff.

In effect this was a declaration of support for Britain. It was so
regarded by Monroe's most influential adviser, Thomas Jefferson. 'Great
Britain,' he wrote, 'is the nation which can do us the most harm of any
one, or all, on earth, and with her on our side we need not fear the
whole world. With her, then, we should the most sedulously cherish a
cordial friendship; and nothing would tend more to knit our affection
than to be fighting once more side by side hi the same cause.' To be
fighting side by side with Britain in the same cause--the cause of the
secure establishment of freedom in the world--this seemed to the
Democrat Jefferson an object worth aiming at; and the promise of this
seemed to be the main recommendation of the Monroe Doctrine. It was
intended as an alliance for the defence of freedom, not as a
proclamation of aloofness; and thus America seemed to be taking her
natural place as one of the powers concerned to strengthen law and
liberty, not only within her own borders, but throughout the world.

The Monroe Doctrine was rapidly accepted as expressing the fundamental
principle of American foreign policy. But under the influence of the
powerful tradition which we have attempted to analyse, its significance
was gradually changed; and instead of being interpreted as a
proclamation that the great republic could not be indifferent to the
fate of liberty, and would co-operate to defend it from attack in all
cases where such co-operation was reasonably practicable, it came to be
interpreted by average public opinion as meaning that America had no
concern with the politics of the Old World, and that the states of the
Old World must not be allowed to meddle in any of the affairs of either
American continent. The world of civilisation was to be divided into
water-tight compartments; as if it were not indissolubly one. Yet even
in this rather narrow form, the Monroe doctrine has on the whole been
productive of good; it has helped to save South America from becoming
one of the fields of rivalry of the European powers.

But it may be doubted whether the mere enunciation of the doctrine,
even in this precise and definite form, has of itself been sufficient
to secure this end. There is good reason to believe that the doctrine
would not have been safe from challenge if it had not been safeguarded
by the supremacy of the British Fleet. For throughout the last
half-century all the world has known that any defiance of this
doctrine, and any attack upon America, would bring Britain into the
field. During all this period one of the factors of world-politics has
been the existence of an informal and one-sided alliance between
Britain and America. The alliance has been informal, because it has not
rested upon any treaty or even upon any definite understanding. It has
been one-sided, because while average opinion in America has been
distrustful of Britain, has been apt to put unfavourable constructions
upon British policy, and has generally failed to appreciate the value
and significance of the work which Britain has done in the outer world,
Britain, on the other hand, has always known that America stood for
justice and freedom; and therefore, however difficult the relations
between the two powers might occasionally become, Britain has
steadfastly refused to consider the possibility of a breach with
America, and with rare exceptions has steadily given her support to
American policy. The action of the British squadron off the Philippines
in 1898, in quietly interposing itself between the threatening German
guns and the American Fleet, has, in fact, been broadly typical of the
British attitude. This factor has not only helped to preserve the
Monroe Doctrine from challenge, it has indirectly contributed to deepen
the American conviction that it was possible, even in the changed
conditions of the modern world, to maintain a complete isolation from
the political controversies of the powers.

During the period 1815-1878, then, while the greater part of Europe was
still indifferent to extra-European affairs, America had developed into
a vast state wherein freedom and law were enthroned, a huge melting-pot
wherein diverse peoples were being gradually unified and turned into a
new nation under the moulding power of a great tradition of liberty.
But her geographical position, and certain elements in her tradition,
had hitherto led her to abstain from, and even to repudiate, that great
part in the shaping of the common destinies of civilisation to which
she was manifestly called by her wealth, her numbers, her freedom, and
her share in the traditions of all the European peoples. In the nature
of things, whatever some Americans might think, this voluntary
isolation could not continue for ever. It was to be brought to an end
by the fevered developments of the next era, and by the great challenge
to the liberties of the world in which it culminated.



Mighty as had been the achievements of other lands which have been
surveyed in the last section, the main part in the expansion of
European civilisation over the world during the first three-quarters of
the nineteenth century was played by Britain. For she was engaged in
opening out new continents and sub-continents; and she was giving an
altogether new significance to the word 'Empire.' Above all, she was
half-blindly laying the foundations of a system whereby freedom and the
enriching sense of national unity might be realised at once in the new
and vacant lands of the earth, and among its oldest civilised peoples;
she was feeling her way towards a mode of linking diverse and free
states in a common brotherhood of peace and mutual respect. There is no
section of the history of European imperialism more interesting than
the story of the growth and organisation of the heterogeneous and
disparate empire with which Britain entered upon the new age.

This development appeared, on the surface, to be quite haphazard, and
to be governed by no clearly grasped theories or policy. It is indeed
true that at all times British policy has not been governed by theory,
but by the moulding force of a tradition of ordered freedom. The period
produced in Britain no imperialist statesman of the first rank, nor did
imperial questions play a leading part in the deliberations of
parliament. In fact, the growth of the British Empire and its
organisation were alike spontaneous and unsystematic; their only guide
(but it proved to be a good guide) was the spirit of self-government,
existing in every scattered section of the people; and the part played
by the colonists themselves, and by the administrative officers in
India and elsewhere, was throughout more important than the part played
by colonial secretaries, East Indian directors, parliamentarians and
publicists at home. For that reason the story is not easily handled in
a broad and simple way.

Enjoying almost a monopoly of oversea activity, Britain was free, in
most parts of the world, to expand her dominions as she thought fit.
Her statesmen, however, were far from desiring further expansion: they
rightly felt that the responsibilities already assumed were great
enough to tax the resources of any state, however rich and populous.
But, try as they would, they could not prevent the inevitable process
of expansion. Several causes contributed to produce this result.
Perhaps the most important was the unexampled growth of British trade,
which during these years dominated the whole world; and the flag is apt
to follow trade. A second cause was the pressure of economic distress
and the extraordinarily rapid increase of population at home, leading
to wholesale emigration; in the early years of the century an
extravagantly severe penal code, which inflicted the penalty of death,
commonly commuted into transportation, for an incredible number of
offences, gave an artificial impetus to this movement. The restless and
adventurous spirit of the settlers in huge and unexplored new countries
contributed another motive for expansion. And in some cases, notably in
India, political necessity seemed to demand annexations. Over a
movement thus stimulated, the home authorities found themselves, with
the best will in the world, unable to exercise any effective restraint;
and the already colossal British Empire continued to grow. It is no
doubt to be regretted that other European nations were not able during
this period to take part in the development of the non-European world
in a more direct way than by sending emigrants to America or the
British lands. But it is quite certain that the growth of British
territory is not to be attributed in any degree to the deliberate
policy, or to the greed, of the home government, which did everything
in its power to check it.

In India the Russian menace seemed to necessitate the adoption of a
policy towards the independent states of the North-West which brought
an extension of the frontier, between 1839 and 1849, to the great
mountain ranges which form the natural boundary of India in this
direction; while a succession of intolerable and quite unprovoked
aggressions by the Burmese led to a series of wars which resulted in
the annexation of very great territories in the east and north-east:
Assam, Aracan, and Tenasserim hi 1825; Pegu and Rangoon in 1853;
finally, in 1885-86, the whole remainder of the Burmese Empire. In
North America settlers found their way across the Rocky Mountains or
over the Isthmus of Panama into the region of British Columbia, which
was given a distinct colonial organisation in 1858; and the
colonisation of the Red River Settlement, 1811-18, which became hi 1870
the province of Manitoba, began the development of the great central
plain. In South Africa frontier wars with the Kaffirs, and the restless
movements of Boer trekkers, brought about an expansion of the limits of
Cape Colony, the annexation of Natal, and the temporary annexation of
the Orange River Settlement and the Transvaal; but all these additions
were most reluctantly accepted; the Orange River Settlement and the
Transvaal soon had their independence restored, though the former, at
any rate, accepted it unwillingly. In Australia, drafts of new settlers
planting themselves at new points led to the organisation of six
distinct colonies between 1825 and 1859; and this implied the definite
annexation of the whole continent. New Zealand was annexed in 1839, but
only because British traders had already established themselves in the
islands, were in unhappy relations with the natives, and had to be
brought under control.

But it was not the territorial expansion of the British Empire which
gave significance to this period in its history, but, in a far higher
degree, the new principles of government which were developed during
its course. The new colonial policy which gradually shaped itself
during this age was so complete a departure from every precedent of the
past, and represented so remarkable an experiment in imperial
government, that its sources deserve a careful analysis. It was brought
into being by a number of distinct factors and currents of opinion
which were at work both in Britain and in the colonies.

In the first place, there existed in Britain, as in other European
countries, a large body of opinion which held that all colonies were
sure to demand and obtain their independence as soon as they became
strong enough to desire it; that as independent states they could be
quite as profitable to the mother-country as they could ever be while
they remained attached to her, more especially if the parting took
place without bitterness; and that the wisest policy for Britain to
pursue was therefore to facilitate their development, to place no
barrier in the way of the increase of their self-government, and to
enable them at the earliest moment to start as free nations on their
own account. This was not, indeed, the universal, nor perhaps even the
preponderant, attitude in regard to the colonies in the middle of the
nineteenth century. But it was pretty common. It appeared in the most
unexpected quarters, as when Disraeli said that the colonies were
'millstones about our necks,' or as when The Times advocated in a
leading article the cession of Canada to the United States, on the
ground that annexation to the great Republic was the inevitable destiny
of that colony, and that it was much better that it should be carried
out in a peaceable and friendly way than after a conflict. It is
difficult to-day to realise that men could ever have entertained such
opinions. But they were widely held; and it must at least be obvious
that the prevalence of these views is quite inconsistent with the idea
that Britain was deliberately following a policy of expansion and
annexation in this age. Men who held these opinions (and they were to
be found in every party) regarded with resentment and alarm every
addition to what seemed to them the useless burdens assumed by the
nation, and required to be satisfied that every new annexation of
territory was not merely justifiable, but inevitable.

A second factor which contributed to the change of attitude towards the
colonies was the growing influence of a new school of economic thought,
the school of Adam Smith, Ricardo, and Malthus. Their ideas had begun
to affect national policy as early as the twenties, when Huskisson took
the first steps on the way to free trade. In the thirties the bulk of
the trading and industrial classes had become converts to these ideas,
which won their definite victories in the budgets of Sir Robert Peel,
1843-46, and in those of his disciple Gladstone. The essence of this
doctrine, as it affected colonial policy, was that the regulation of
trade by government, which had been the main object of the old colonial
policy, brought no advantages, but only checked its free development.
And for a country in the position which Britain then occupied, this was
undeniably true; so overwhelming was her preponderance in world-trade
that every current seemed to set in her direction, and the removal of
artificial barriers, originally designed to train the current towards
her shores, allowed it to follow its natural course. The only
considerable opposition to this body of economic doctrine came from
those who desired to protect British agriculture; but this motive had
(at this period) no bearing upon colonial trade. The triumph of the
doctrine of free trade meant that the principal motive which had
earlier led to restrictions upon the self-government of the
colonies--the desire to secure commercial advantages for the
mother-country--was no longer operative. The central idea of the old
colonial system was destroyed by the disciples of Adam Smith; and there
no longer remained any apparent reason why the mother-country should
desire to control the fiscal policy of the colonies. An even more
important result of the adoption of this new economic doctrine was that
it destroyed every motive which would lead the British government to
endeavour to secure for British traders a monopoly of the traffic with
British possessions. Henceforth all territories administered under the
direct control of the home government were thrown open as freely to the
merchants of other countries as to those of Britain herself. The part
which Britain now undertook in the undeveloped regions of her empire
(except in so far as they were controlled by fully self-governing
colonies) was simply that of maintaining peace and law; and in these
regions she adopted an attitude which may fairly be described as the
attitude, not of a monopolist, but of a trustee for civilisation. It
was this policy which explains the small degree of jealousy with which
the rapid expansion of her territory was regarded by the rest of the
civilised world. If the same policy had been followed, not necessarily
at home, but in their colonial possessions, by all the colonising
powers, the motives for colonial rivalry would have been materially
diminished, and the claims of various states to colonial territories,
when the period of rivalry began, would have been far more easily

These were negative forces, leading merely to the abandonment of the
older colonial theories. But there were also positive and constructive
forces at work. First among them may be noted a new body of definite
theory as to the function which colonies ought to play in the general
economy of the civilised world. It was held to be their function not
(as in the older theory) to afford lucrative opportunities for trade to
the mother-country: so far as trade was concerned it seemed to matter
little whether a country was a colony or an independent state. But the
main object of colonisation was, on this view, the systematic
draining-off of the surplus population of the older lands. This, it was
felt, could not safely be left to the operation of mere chance; and one
of the great advantages of colonial possessions was that they enabled
the country which controlled them to deal in a scientific way with its
surplus population, and to prevent the reproduction of unhealthy
conditions in the new communities, which was apt to result if emigrants
were allowed to drift aimlessly wheresoever chance took them, and
received no guidance as to the proper modes of establishing themselves
in their new homes. The great apostle of this body of colonial theory
was Edward Gibbon Wakefield; and his book, A View of the Art of
Colonisation (1847), deserves to be noted as one of the classics of the
history of imperialism. He did not confine himself to theory, but was
tireless in organising practical experiments. They were carried out, in
a curious revival of the methods of the seventeenth century, by means
of a series of colonising companies which Wakefield promoted. The
settlement of South Australia, the first considerable settlement in the
North Island of New Zealand, and the two admirably designed and
executed settlements of Canterbury and Otago in the South Island of New
Zealand, were all examples of his methods: with the exception of the
North Island settlement, they were all very successful. Nor were these
the only instances of organised and assisted emigration. In 1820 a
substantial settlement, financed by government, was made in the eastern
part of Cape Colony, in the region of Grahamstown and Port Elizabeth,
and this brought the first considerable body of British inhabitants
into South Africa, hitherto almost exclusively Dutch. An unsuccessful
plantation at Swan River in West Australia may also be noted.
Systematic and scientific colonisation was thus being studied in
Britain during this period as never before. In the view of its
advocates Britain was the trustee of civilisation for the
administration of the most valuable unpeopled regions of the earth, and
it was her duty to see that they were skilfully utilised. So high a
degree of success attended some of their efforts that it is impossible
not to regret that they were not carried further. But they depended
upon Crown control of undeveloped lands. With the growth of full
self-government in the colonies the exercise of these Crown functions
was transferred from the ministry and parliament of Britain to the
ministries and parliaments of the colonies; and this transference put
an end to the possibility of a centralised organisation and direction
of emigration.

A second constructive factor very potently at work during this age was
the humanitarian spirit, which had become a powerful factor in British
life during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It had
received perhaps its most practical expression in the abolition of the
slave-trade in 1806, and the campaign against the slave-trade in the
rest of the world became an important object of British policy from
that time onwards. Having abolished the slave-trade, the humanitarians
proceeded to advocate the complete abolition of negro slavery
throughout the British Empire. They won their victory in 1833, when the
British parliament declared slavery illegal throughout the Empire, and
voted 20,000,000 pounds--at a time when British finance was still
suffering from the burdens of the Napoleonic War--to purchase from
their masters the freedom of all the slaves then existing in the
Empire. It was a noble deed, but it was perhaps carried out a little
too suddenly, and it led to grave difficulties, especially in the West
Indies, whose prosperity was seriously impaired, and in South Africa,
where it brought about acute friction with the slave-owning Boer
farmers. But it gave evidence of the adoption of a new attitude towards
the backward races, hitherto mercilessly exploited by all the
imperialist powers. One expression of this attitude had already been
afforded by the organisation (1787) of the colony of Sierra Leone, on
the West African coast, as a place of refuge for freed slaves desiring
to return to the land of their fathers.

It was principally through the activity of missionaries that this new
point of view was expressed and cultivated. Organised missionary
activity in Britain dates from the end of the eighteenth century, but
its range grew with extraordinary rapidity throughout the period. And
wherever the missionaries went, they constituted themselves the
protectors and advocates of the native races among whom they worked.
Often enough they got themselves into bad odour with the European
traders and settlers with whom they came in contact. But through their
powerful home organisations they exercised very great influence over
public opinion and over government policy. The power of 'Exeter Hall,'
where the religious bodies and the missionary societies held their
meetings in London, was at its height in the middle of the nineteenth
century, and politicians could not afford to disregard it, even if they
had desired to do so. This influence, supporting the trend of
humanitarian opinion, succeeded in establishing it as one of the
principles of British imperial policy that it was the duty of the
British government to protect the native races against the exploitation
of the European settlers, and to guide them gently into a civilised way
of life. It is a sound and noble principle, and it may fairly be said
that it has been honestly carried out, so far as the powers of the home
government rendered possible. No government in the world controls a
greater number or variety of subjects belonging to the backward races
than the British; no trading nation has had greater opportunities for
the oppressive exploitation of defenceless subjects. Yet the grave
abuse of these opportunities has been infrequent. There have been in
the history of modern British imperialism sporadic instances of
injustice, like the forced labour of Kanakas in the Pacific. But there
have been no Congo outrages, no Putumayo atrocities, no Pequena slave
scandals, no merciless slaughter like that of the Hereros in German
South-West Africa.

The principle of the protection of backward peoples has, however,
sometimes had an unfortunate influence upon colonial policy; and there
was no colony in which it exercised a more unhappy effect than South
Africa. Here the Boer farmers still retained towards their native
neighbours the attitude which had been characteristic of all the
European peoples in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: they
regarded the negro as a natural inferior, born to servitude. It is not
surprising that no love was lost between the Boers and the
missionaries, who appeared as the protectors of the negroes, and whose
representations turned British opinion violently against the whole Boer
community. This was in itself a sufficiently unfortunate result: it
lies largely at the base of the prolonged disharmony which divided the
two peoples in South Africa. The belief that the Boers could not be
trusted to deal fairly with the natives formed, for a long period, the
chief reason which urged the British Government to retain their control
over the Boers, even when they had trekked away from the Cape (1836)
and established themselves beyond the Orange and the Vaal rivers; and
the conflict of this motive with the desire to avoid any increase of
colonial responsibilities, and with the feeling that if the Boers
disliked the British system, they had better be left in freedom to
organise themselves in their own way, accounts for the curious
vacillation in the policy of the period on this question. At first the
trekkers were left to themselves; then the lands which they had
occupied were annexed; then their independence was recognised; and
finally, when, at the end of the period, they seemed to be causing a
dangerous excitement among the Zulus and other native tribes, the
Transvaal was once more annexed; with the result that revolt broke out,
and the Majuba campaign had to be fought.

Again, tenderness for the natives led to several curious and not very
successful experiments in organisation. The annexation of Natal was
long delayed because it was held that this area ought to form a native
reserve, and fruitless attempts were made to restrict the settlement of
Europeans in this empty and fertile land. An attempt was also made to
set up a series of native areas under British protection, from which
the white settler was excluded. British Kaffraria, Griqualand East and
Griqualand West were examples of this policy, which is still
represented, not unsuccessfully, by the great protected area of
Basutoland. But, on the whole, these experiments in the handling of the
native problem in South Africa did more harm than good. They were
unsuccessful mainly because South Africa was a white man's country,
into which the most vigorous of the native races, those of the Bantu
stock (Kaffirs, Zulus, Matabili, etc.), were more recent immigrants
than the white men themselves. Owing to their warlike character and
rapidly growing numbers they constituted for a long time a very
formidable danger; and neither the missionaries nor the home
authorities sufficiently recognised these facts.

Perhaps the most unhappy result of this friction over the native
question, apart from the alienation of Boer and Briton which it
produced, was the fact that it was the principal cause of the long
delay in establishing self-governing institutions in South Africa. The
home government hesitated to give to the colonists full control over
their own affairs, because it distrusted the use which they were likely
to make of their powers over the natives; even the normal institutions
of all British colonies were not established in Cape Colony till 1854,
and in Natal till 1883. But although in this case the new attitude
towards the backward races led to some unhappy results, the spirit
which inspired it was altogether admirable, and its growing strength
accounts in part for the real degree of success which has been achieved
by British administrators in the government of regions not suited for
the settlement of Europeans in large numbers. Indeed, this spirit has
come to be one of the outstanding features of modern British

It was not only in the treatment of backward races that the
humanitarian spirit made itself felt. It was at work also in the
government of the highly developed civilisations of India, where,
during this period, British power began to be boldly used to put an end
to barbarous or inhumane practices which were supported or tolerated by
the religious beliefs or immemorial social usages of India. Such
practices as thagi, or meria sacrifices, or female infanticide, or,
above all, sati, had been left undisturbed by the earlier rulers of
British India, because they feared that interference with them would be
resented as an infraction of Indian custom or religion. They were now
boldly attacked, and practically abolished, without evil result.

Alongside of this new courage in measures that seemed to be dictated by
the moral ideas of the West, there was to be seen growing throughout
this period a new temper of respect for Indian civilisation and a
desire to study and understand it, and to safeguard its best features.
The study of early Indian literature, law, and religious philosophy had
indeed been begun in the eighteenth century by Sir William Jones and
Nathaniel Halhed, with the ardent encouragement of Warren Hastings. But
in this as in other respects Hastings was ahead of the political
opinion of his time; the prevalent idea was that the best thing for
India would be the introduction, so far as possible, of British
methods. This led to the absurdities of the Supreme Court, established
in 1773 to administer English law to Indians. It led also to the great
blunder of Cornwallis's settlement of the land question in Bengal,
which was an attempt to assimilate the Indian land-system to that of
England, and resulted in an unhappy weakening of the village
communities, the most healthy features of Indian rural life. In the
nineteenth century this attitude was replaced by a spirit of respect
for Indian traditions and methods of organisation, and by a desire to
retain and strengthen their best features. The new attitude was perhaps
to be seen at its best in the work of Mountstuart Elphinstone, a great
administrator who was also a profound student of Indian history, and a
very sympathetic observer and friend of Indian customs and modes of
life. But the same spirit was exemplified by the whole of the
remarkable generation of statesmen of whom Elphinstone was one. They
established the view that it was the duty of the British power to
reorganise India, indeed, but to reorganise it on lines in accordance
with its own traditions. Above all, the principle was in this
generation very definitely established that India, like other great
dependencies, must be administered in the interests of its own people,
and not in the interests of the ruling race. That seems to us to-day a
platitude. It would not have seemed a platitude in the eighteenth
century. It would not seem a platitude in modern Germany. And it may
safely be said that the enunciation of such a doctrine would have
seemed merely absurd in any of the earlier historical empires. In 1833
an official report laid before the British parliament contained these
remarkable words: 'It is recognised as an indisputable principle, that
the interests of the Native Subjects are to be consulted in preference
to those of Europeans, wherever the two come in competition.' In all
the records of imperialism it would be hard to find a parallel to this
formal statement of policy by the supreme government of a ruling race.
When such a statement could be made, it is manifest that the meaning of
the word Empire had undergone a remarkable transformation. No one can
read the history of British rule in India during this period without
feeling that, in spite of occasional lapses, this was its real spirit.

But the most powerful constructive element in the shaping of the new
imperial policy of Britain was the strength of the belief in the idea
of self-government, as not only morally desirable but practically
efficacious, which was to be perceived at work in the political circles
of Britain during this age. Self-government had throughout the modern
age been a matter of habit and practice with the British peoples; now
it became a matter of theory and belief. And from this resulted a great
change of attitude towards the problems of colonial administration. The
American problem in the eighteenth century had arisen ultimately out of
the demand of the Americans for unqualified and responsible control
over their own affairs: the attitude of the Englishman in reply to this
demand (though he never clearly analysed it) was, in effect, that
self-government was a good and desirable thing, but that on the scale
on which the Americans claimed it, it would be fatal to the unity of
the Empire, and the unity of the Empire must come first. Faced by
similar problems in the nineteenth century, the Englishman's response
generally was that self-government on the fullest scale was the right
of all who were fit to exercise it, and the most satisfactory working
solution of political problems. Therefore the right must be granted;
and the unity of the Empire must take care of itself. No doubt this
attitude was more readily adopted because of the widespread belief that
in fact the colonies would all sooner or later cut their connection
with the mother-country. But it was fully shared by men who did not
hold this view, and who believed strongly in the possibility and
desirability of maintaining imperial unity. It was shared, for example,
by Wakefield, a convinced imperialist if ever there was one, and by
that great colonial administrator, Sir George Grey. It was shared by
Lord Durham and by Lord John Russell, who were largely responsible for
the adoption of the new policy. Their belief and hope was that the
common possession of free institutions of kindred types would in fact
form the most effective tie between the lands which enjoyed them. This
hope obtained an eloquent expression in the speech in which, in 1852,
Russell introduced the bill for granting to the Australian colonies
self-government on such a scale as amounted almost to independence. It
is not true, as is sometimes said, that the self-governing institutions
of the colonies were established during this period owing to the
indifference of the home authorities, and their readiness to put an end
to the connection. The new policy of these years was deliberately
adopted; and although its acceptance by parliament was rendered easier
by the prevalence of disbelief in the permanence of the imperial tie,
yet, on the part of the responsible men, it was due to far-sighted

The critical test of the new colonial policy, and the most dramatic
demonstration of its efficacy, were afforded by Canada, where, during
the thirties, the conditions which preceded the revolt of the American
colonies were being reproduced with curious exactness. The
self-governing institutions established in the Canadian colonies in
1791 very closely resembled those of the American colonies before the
revolution: they gave to the representative houses control over
taxation and legislation, but neither control over, nor responsibility
for, the executive. And the same results were following. Incomplete
self-government was striving after its own fulfilment: the denial of
responsibility was producing irresponsibility. These was the same
unceasing friction between governors and their councils on the one
hand, and the representative bodies on the other hand; and the
assemblies were showing the same unreasonableness in refusing to meet
manifest public obligations. This state of things was becoming steadily
more acute in all the colonies, but it was at its worst in the province
of Quebec, where the constitutional friction was embittered by a racial
conflict, the executive body being British, while the great majority of
the assembly was French; and the conflict was producing a very
dangerous alienation between the two peoples. The French colonists had
quite forgotten the gratitude they had once felt for the maintenance of
their religion and of their social organisation, and there was a strong
party among them who were bent upon open revolt, and hoped to be able
to establish a little isolated French community upon the St. Lawrence.
This party of hotheads got the upper hand, and their agitation
culminated in the rebellion of Papineau in 1837. In the other colonies,
and especially in Upper Canada, the conditions were almost equally
ominous; when Papineau revolted in Quebec, William Mackenzie led a
sympathetic rising in Ontario. The situation was quite as alarming as
the situation in the American colonies had been in 1775. It is true
that the risings were easily put down. But mere repression formed no
solution, any more than a British victory in 1775 would have formed a
solution of the American question.

Realising this, the Whig government sent out Lord Durham, one of their
own number, to report on the whole situation. Durham was one of the
most advanced Liberals in Britain, a convinced believer in the virtues
of self-government, and he took out with him two of the ablest
advocates of scientific colonisation, Edward Gibbon Wakefield and
Charles Buller. Durham's administrative work was not a success: his
high-handed deportation of some of the rebel leaders was strongly
condemned, and he was very quickly recalled. But he had had time to
study and understand the situation, and he presented a masterly Report
on Canada, which is one of the classics in the history of British
imperialism. His explanation of the unhappy condition of Canadian
politics was not (as some were tempted to say) that the colonists had
been given too much liberty, but that they had not been given enough.
They must be made to feel their responsibility for the working of the
laws which they adopted, and for the welfare of the whole community. As
for the conflict of races, its only cure was that both should be made
to feel their common responsibility for the destinies of the community
in which both must remain partners.

Lord Durham's recommendations were fully carried into effect, partly in
the Canada Act of 1840, but more especially by a simple instruction
issued to governors, that their ministries must henceforward be chosen,
in the British fashion, on the ground that they commanded the support
of a majority in the elected house; and that the governors themselves
must be guided by their advice. A crucial test of this new policy came
in 1849, when the ministers and the parliamentary majority proposed to
vote compensation for property destroyed in 1837. This to many seemed
compensation for rebels, and the indignant loyalists were urgent that
the governor, Lord Elgin, should veto it. He firmly declined to do so;
and thus gave an invaluable lesson to both parties. The Canadian
people, acting through their representatives, were now responsible for
their actions. If they chose to vote for irresponsible and dangerous
devices, they must henceforward realise that they must themselves
answer for the consequences.

Thus, within a few years of the outbreak of rebellion in two provinces,
full power had been entrusted to the rebels themselves. It was a daring
policy, only to be justified by a very confident belief in the virtues
of self-government. But it was completely and triumphantly successful.
Henceforward friction between the Canadian colonies and the
mother-country ceased: if there were grounds for complaint in the state
of Canadian affairs, the Canadians must now blame their own ministers,
and the remedy lay in their own hands. And what was the outcome? Twenty
years later the various colonies, once as full of mutual jealousies as
the American colonies had been before 1775, began to discuss the
possibility of federation. With the cordial approval and co-operation
of the home government, they drew up a scheme for the formation of a
united Dominion of Canada, including distant British Columbia and the
coastal colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward
Island; and the adoption of this scheme, in 1867, turned Canada from a
bundle of separate settlements into a great state. To this state the
home government later made over the control of all the vast and rich
lands of the North-West, and so the destinies of half a continent
passed under its direction. It was a charge, the magnitude and
challenge of which could not but bring forth all that there was of
statesmanship among the Canadian people; and it has not failed to do so.

One feature of Canadian constitutional development remains to be noted.
It might have been expected that the Canadians would have been tempted
to follow the political model of their great neighbour the United
States; and if their development had been the outcome of friction with
the mother-country, no doubt they would have done so. But they
preferred to follow the British model. The keynote of the American
system is division of power: division between the federal government
and the state governments, which form mutual checks upon one another;
division between the executive and the legislature, which are
independent of one another at once in the states and in the federal
government, both being directly elected by popular vote. The keynote of
the British system is concentration of responsibility by the
subordination of the executive to the legislature. The Canadians
adopted the British principle: what had formerly been distinct colonies
became, not 'states' but 'provinces,' definitely subordinated to the
supreme central government; and whether in the federal or in the
provincial system, the control of government by the representative body
was finally established. This concord with the British system is a fact
of real import. It means that the political usages of the home-country
and the great Dominion are so closely assimilated that political
co-operation between them is far easier than it otherwise might be; it
increases the possibility of a future link more intimate than that of
mere co-operation.

Not less whole-hearted or generous than the treatment of the problems
of Canadian government was the treatment of the same problem in
Australia. Here, as a matter of course, all the colonies had been
endowed, at the earliest possible date, with the familiar system of
representative but not responsible government. No such acute friction
as had occurred in Canada had yet shown itself, though signs of its
development were not lacking. But in 1852 an astonishing step was taken
by the British parliament: the various Australian colonies were
empowered to elect single-chamber constituent assemblies to decide the
forms of government under which they wished to live. They decided in
every case to reproduce as nearly as possible the British system:
legislatures of two chambers, with ministries responsible to them.
Thus, in Australia as in Canada, the daughter-peoples were made to feel
the community of their institutions with those of the mother-country,
and the possibility of intimate and easy co-operation was increased.
Two years later, in 1854, New Zealand was endowed with the same system.
Among all the British realms in which the white man was predominant,
only South Africa was as yet excluded from this remarkable development.
The reasons for this exclusion we have already noted: its consequences
will occupy our attention in later pages.

Very manifestly the empire which was developing on such lines was not
an empire in the old sense--a dominion imposed by force upon unwilling
subjects. That old word, which has been used in so many senses, was
being given a wholly new connotation. It was being made to mean a free
partnership of self-governing peoples, held together not by force, but
in part by common interests, and in a still higher degree by common
sentiment and the possession of the same institutions of liberty.

In the fullest sense, however, this new conception of empire applied
only to the group of the great self-governing colonies. There were many
other regions, even before 1878, included within the British Empire,
though as yet it had not incorporated those vast protectorates over
regions peopled by backward races which have been added during the last
generation. There were tropical settlements like British Honduras,
British Guiana, Sierra Leone, and Cape Coast Castle; there were many
West Indian Islands, and scattered possessions like Mauritius and
Hong-Kong and Singapore and the Straits Settlements; there were
garrison towns or coaling-stations like Gibraltar, Malta, Aden, St.
Helena. To none of these were the institutions of full responsible
self-government granted. Some of them possessed representative
institutions without responsible ministries; in others the governor was
assisted by a nominated council, intended to express local opinion, but
not elected by the inhabitants; in yet others the governor ruled
autocratically. But in all these cases the ultimate control of policy
was retained by the home government. And in this general category, as
yet, the South African colonies were included. Why were these
distinctions drawn? Why did the generation of British statesmen, who
had dealt so generously with the demand for self-government in Canada
and Australia, stop short and refuse to carry out their principles in
these other cases?

It is characteristic of British politics that they are never merely or
fully logical, and that even when political doctrines seem to enjoy the
most complete ascendancy, they are never put into effect without
qualifications or exceptions. The exceptions already named to the
establishment of full self-government were due to many and varying
causes. In the first place, there was in most of these cases no
effective demand for full self-government; and it may safely be
asserted that any community in which there is no demand for
self-governing institutions is probably not in a condition to work them
with effect. Some of these possessions were purely military posts, like
Gibraltar and Aden, and were necessarily administered as such. Others
were too small and weak to dream of assuming the full privileges. But
in the majority of cases one outstanding common feature will appear on
closer analysis. Nearly all these territories were tropical or
semi-tropical lands, whose British inhabitants were not permanent
settlers, but were present solely for the purposes of trade or other
exploitation, while the bulk of the population consisted of backward
peoples, whose traditions and civilisation rendered their effective
participation in public affairs quite impracticable. In such cases, to
have given full political power to the small and generally shifting
minority of white men would have been to give scope to many evils; and
to have enfranchised, on a mere theory, the mass of the population
would have been to produce still worse results. It would have sentenced
these communities to the sort of fate which has befallen the beautiful
island of Hayti, where the self-government of a population of
emancipated negro slaves has brought nothing but anarchy and
degradation. In such conditions the steady Reign of Law is the greatest
boon that can be given to white settlers and coloured subjects alike;
and the final authority is rightly retained by the home government,
inspired, as British opinion has long required that it should be, by
the principle that the rights of the backward peoples must be
safeguarded. Under this system, both law and a real degree of liberty
are made possible; whereas under a doctrinaire application of the
theory of self-government, both would vanish.

But there remains the vast dominion of India, which falls neither into
the one category nor into the other. Though there are many primitive
and backward elements among its vast population, there are also peoples
and castes whose members are intellectually capable of meeting on equal
terms the members of any of the ruling races of the West. Yet during
this age, when self-government on the amplest scale was being extended
to the chief regions of the British Empire, India, the greatest
dominion of them all, did not obtain the gift of representative
institutions even on the most modest scale. Why was this?

It was not because the ruling race was hostile to the idea, or desired
merely to retain its own ascendancy. On the contrary, both in Britain
and among the best of the British administrators in India, it was
increasingly held that the only ultimate justification for the British
power in India would be that under its guidance the Indian peoples
should be gradually enabled to govern themselves. As early as 1824,
when in Europe sheer reaction was at its height, this view was being
strongly urged by one of the greatest of Anglo-Indian administrators,
Sir Thomas Munro, a soldier of distinction, then serving as governor of
Madras. 'We should look upon India,' he wrote, 'not as a temporary
possession, but as one which is to be maintained permanently, until the
natives shall have abandoned most of their superstitions and
prejudices, and become sufficiently enlightened to frame a regular
government for themselves, and to conduct and preserve it. Whenever
such a time shall arrive, it will probably be best for both countries
that the British control over India should be gradually withdrawn. That
the desirable change contemplated may in some after age be effected in
India, there is no cause to despair. Such a change was at one time in
Britain itself at least as hopeless as it is here. When we reflect how
much the character of nations has always been influenced by that of
governments, and that some, once the most cultivated, have sunk into
barbarism, while others, formerly the rudest, have attained the highest
point of civilisation, we shall see no reason to doubt that if we
pursue steadily the proper measures, we shall in time so far improve
the character of our Indian subjects as to make them able to govern and
protect themselves.'

In other words, self-government was the desirable end to be pursued in
India as elsewhere; but in India there were many and grave obstacles to
its efficient working, which could only slowly be overcome. In the
first place, India is more deeply divided in race, language, and
religion than any other region of the world. Nowhere else is there such
a medley of peoples of every grade of development, from the almost
savage Bhil to the cultivated and high-bred Brahmin or Rajput or
Mahomedan chief. There are sharp regional differences, as great as
those between the European countries; but cutting across these there
are everywhere the rigid and impermeable distinctions of caste, which
have no parallel anywhere else in the world. The experience of the
Austro-Hungarian Empire, whose confusion of races is simplicity itself
in comparison with the chaos of India, affords a significant
demonstration of the fact that parliamentary institutions, if they are
established among deeply divided peoples, must almost inevitably be
exploited for the purpose of racial ascendancy by the most vigorous or
the best-organised elements among the people; and a very ugly tyranny
is apt to result, as it has resulted in Austro-Hungary. This
consequence would almost certainly follow the establishment of a full
representative system in India. In the cities of mediaeval Italy, when
the conflict of parties became so acute that neither side could expect
justice from the other, the practice grew up of electing a podesta from
some foreign city to act as an impartial arbiter. The British power in
India has played the part of a podesta in restraining and mediating
between the conflicting peoples and religions of India.

But again (and this is even more fundamental), for thousands of years
the history of India has been one long story of conquests and tyrannies
by successive ruling races. Always Might has been Right, so that the
lover of righteousness could only pursue it, like the mediaeval
ascetic, by cutting himself off from the world, abjuring all social
ties, and immolating the flesh in order to live by the spirit. Always
Law had been, in the last resort, the Will of the Stronger, not the
decree of impartial justice. Always the master-races, the predatory
bands, the ruling castes, had expected to receive, and the mass of the
people had been accustomed to give, the most abject submission; and
these habits were difficult to overcome. 'In England,' says Sir Thomas
Munro, 'the people resist oppression, and it is their spirit which
gives efficacy to the law: in India the people rarely resist
oppression, and the law intended to secure them from it can therefore
derive no aid from themselves. ... It is in vain to caution them
against paying by telling them that the law is on their side, and will
support them in refusing to comply with unauthorised demands. All
exhortations on this head are thrown away, and after listening to them
they will the very next day submit to extortion as quietly as before.'
How could representative institutions be expected to work under such
conditions? They would have lacked the very foundation upon which alone
they can firmly rest: respect for law, and public co-operation in the
enforcement of it. Thus the supreme service which the government of
India could render to its people was the establishment and maintenance
of the Reign of Law, and of the liberty which it shelters. In such
conditions representative government would be liable to bring, not
liberty, but anarchy and the renewal of lawless oppression.

But although the extension of the representative system to India
neither was nor could be attempted in this age, very remarkable
advances were made towards turning India in a real sense into a
self-governing country. It ceased to be regarded or treated as a
subject dominion existing solely for the advantage of its conquerors.
That had always been its fate in all the long centuries of its history;
and in the first period of British rule the trading company which had
acquired this amazing empire had naturally regarded it as primarily a
source of profit. In 1833 the company was forbidden to engage in trade,
and the profit-making motive disappeared. The shareholders still
continued to receive a fixed dividend out of the Indian revenues, but
this may be compared to a fixed debt-charge, an annual payment for
capital expended in the past; and it came to an end when the company
was abolished in 1858. Apart from this dividend, no sort of tribute was
exacted from India by the ruling power. India was not even required to
contribute to the upkeep of the navy, which protected her equally with
the rest of the Empire, or of the diplomatic service, which was often
concerned with her interests. She paid for the small army which guarded
her frontiers; but if any part of it was borrowed for service abroad,
its whole pay and charges were met by Britain. She paid the salaries
and pensions of the handful of British administrators who conducted her
government, but this was a very small charge in comparison with the
lavish outlay of the native princes whom they had replaced. India had
become a self-contained state, whose whole resources were expended
exclusively upon her own needs, and expended with the most scrupulous
honesty, and under the most elaborate safeguards.

They were expended, moreover, especially during the later part of this
period, largely in equipping her with the material apparatus of modern
civilisation. Efficient police, great roads, a postal service cheaper
than that of any other country, a well-planned railway system, and,
above all, a gigantic system of irrigation which brought under
cultivation vast regions hitherto desert--these were some of the boons
acquired by India during the period. They were rendered possible partly
by the economical management of her finances, partly by the liberal
expenditure of British capital. Above all, the period saw the beginning
of a system of popular education, of which the English language became
the main vehicle, because none of the thirty-eight recognised
vernacular tongues of India either possessed the necessary literature,
or could be used as a medium for instruction in modern science. In 1858
three universities were established; and although their system was
ill-devised, under the malign influence of the analogy of London
University, a very large and increasing number of young graduates,
trained for modern occupations, began to filter into Indian society,
and to modify its point of view. All speaking and writing English, and
all trained in much the same body of ideas, they possessed a similarity
of outlook and a vehicle of communication such as had never before
linked together the various races and castes of India. This large and
growing class, educated in some measure in the learning of the West,
formed already, at the end of the period, a very important new element
in the life of India. They were capable of criticising the work of
their government; they were not without standards of comparison by
which to measure its achievements; and, aided by the large freedom
granted to the press under the British system, they were able to begin
the creation of an intelligent public opinion, which was apt, in its
first movements, to be ill-guided and rash, but which was nevertheless
a healthy development. That this newly created class of educated men
should produce a continual stream of criticism, and that it should even
stimulate into existence public discontents, is by no means a
condemnation of the system of government which has made these
developments possible. On the contrary, it is a proof that the system
has had an invigorating effect. For the existence and the expression of
discontent is a sign of life; it means that there is an end of that
utter docility which marks a people enslaved body and soul. India has
never been more prosperous than she is to-day; she has never before
known so impartial a system of justice as she now possesses; and these
are legitimate grounds of pride to her rulers. But they may even more
justly pride themselves upon the fact that in all her history India has
never been so frankly and incessantly critical of her government as she
is to-day; never so bold in the aspirations for the future which her
sons entertain.

The creation of the new class of Western-educated Indians also
facilitated another development which the British government definitely
aimed at encouraging: the participation of Indians in the conduct of
administration in their own land. The Act of 1833 had laid it down as a
fundamental principle that 'no native of the said territories ... shall
by reason only of his religion, place of birth, descent, or any of
them, be disabled from holding any place, office, or employment.' The
great majority of the minor administrative posts had always been held
by Indians; but until 1833 it had been held that the maintenance of
British supremacy required that the higher offices should be reserved
to members of the ruling race. This restriction was now abolished; but
it was not until the development of the educational system had produced
a body of sufficiently trained men that the new principle could produce
appreciable results; and even then, the deficiencies of an undeveloped
system of training, combined with the racial and religious jealousies
which the government of India must always keep in mind, imposed
limitations upon the rapid increase of the number of Indians holding
the higher posts. Still, the principle had been laid down, and was
being acted upon. And that also constituted a great step towards

India in 1878 was governed, under the terms of a code of law based upon
Indian custom, by a small body of British officials, among whom leading
Indians were gradually taking their place, and who worked in detail
through an army of minor officials, nearly all of Indian birth, and
selected without regard to race or creed. She was a self-contained
country whose whole resources were devoted to her own needs. She was
prospering to a degree unexampled in her history; she had achieved a
political unity never before known to her; she had been given the
supreme boon of a just and impartial law, administered without fear or
favour; and she had enjoyed a long period of peace, unbroken by any
attack from external foes. Here also, as fully as in the self-governing
colonies, membership of the British Empire did not mean subjection to
the selfish dominion of a master, or the subordination to that master's
interests of the vital interests of the community. It meant the
establishment among a vast population of the essential gifts of Western
civilisation, rational law, and the liberty which exists under its
shelter. Empire had come to mean, not merely domination pursued for its
own sake, but trusteeship for the extension of civilisation.

The period of practical British monopoly, 1815-1878, had thus brought
about a very remarkable transformation in the character of the British
Empire. It had greatly increased in extent, and by every test of area,
population, and natural resources, it was beyond comparison the
greatest power that had ever existed in the world. But its organisation
was of an extreme laxity; it possessed no real common government; and
its principal members were united rather by a community of institutions
and ideas than by any formal ties. Moreover, it presented a more
amazing diversity of racial types, of religions, and of grades of
civilisation, than any other political fabric which had existed in
history. Its development had assuredly brought about a very great
expansion of the ideas of Western civilisation over the face of the
globe, and, above all, a remarkable diffusion of the institutions of
political liberty. But it remained to be proved whether this loosely
compacted bundle of states possessed any real unity, or would be
capable of standing any severe strain. The majority of observers, both
in Britain itself and throughout the world, would have been inclined,
in 1878, to give a negative answer to these questions.



The Congress of Berlin in 1878 marks the close of the era of
nationalist revolutions and wars in Europe. By the same date all the
European states had attained to a certain stability in their
constitutional systems. With equal definiteness this year may be said
to mark the opening of a new era in the history of European
imperialism; an era of eager competition for the control of the still
unoccupied regions of the world, in which the concerns of remote lands
suddenly became matters of supreme moment to the great European powers,
and the peace of the world was endangered by questions arising in China
or Siam, in Morocco or the Soudan, or the islands of the Pacific. The
control of Europe over the non-European world was in a single
generation completed and confirmed. And the most important of the many
questions raised by this development was the question whether the
spirit in which this world-supremacy of Europe was to be wielded should
be the spirit which long experience had inspired in the oldest of the
colonising nations, the spirit of trusteeship on behalf of
civilisation; or whether it was to be the old, brutal, and sterile
spirit of mere domination for its own sake.

On a superficial view the most obvious feature of this strenuous period
was that all the remaining unexploited regions of the world were either
annexed by one or other of the great Western states, or were driven to
adopt, with greater or less success, the modes of organisation of the
West. But what was far more important than any new demarcation of the
map was that not only the newly annexed lands, but also the
half-developed territories of earlier European dominions, were with an
extraordinary devouring energy penetrated during this generation by
European traders and administrators, equipped with railways,
steam-boats, and all the material apparatus of modern life, and in
general organised and exploited for the purposes of industry and trade.
This astonishing achievement was almost as thorough as it was swift.
And its result was, not merely that the political control of Europe
over the backward regions of the world was strengthened and secured by
these means, but that the whole world was turned into a single economic
and political unit, no part of which could henceforth dwell in
isolation. This might have meant that we should have been brought
nearer to some sort of world-order; but unhappily the spirit in which
the great work was undertaken by some, at least, of the nations which
participated in it has turned this wonderful achievement into a source
of bitterness and enmity, and led the world in the end to the tragedy
and agony of the Great War.

The causes of this gigantic outpouring of energy were manifold. The
main impelling forces were perhaps economic rather than political. But
the economic needs of this strenuous age might have been satisfied
without resort to the brutal arbitrament of war: their satisfaction
might even have been made the means of diminishing the danger of war.
It was the interpretation of these economic needs in terms of an
unhappy political theory which has led to the final catastrophe.

On a broad view, the final conquest of the world by European
civilisation was made possible, and indeed inevitable, by the amazing
development of the material aspects of that civilisation during the
nineteenth century; by the progressive command over the forces of
nature which the advance of science had placed in the hands of man, by
the application of science to industry in the development of
manufacturing methods and of new modes of communication, and by the
intricate and flexible organisation of modern finance. These changes
were already in progress before 1878, and were already transforming the
face of the world. Since 1878 they have gone forward with such
accelerating speed that we have been unable to appreciate the
significance of the revolution they were effecting. We have been
carried off our feet; and have found it impossible to adjust our moral
and political ideas to the new conditions.

The great material achievements of the last two generations have been
mainly due to an intense concentration and specialisation of functions
among both men of thought and men of action. But the result of this has
been that there have been few to attempt the vitally important task of
appreciating the movement of our civilisation as a whole, and of
endeavouring to determine how far the political conceptions inherited
from an earlier age were valid in the new conditions. For under the
pressure of the great transformation political forces also have been
transformed, and in all countries political thought is baffled and
bewildered by the complexity of the problems by which it is faced. To
this in part we owe the dimness of vision which overtook us as we went
whirling together towards the great catastrophe. It is only in the
glare of a world-conflagration that we begin to perceive, in something
like their true proportions, the great forces and events which have
been shaping our destinies. In the future, if the huge soulless
mechanism which man has created is not to get out of hand and destroy
him, we must abandon that contempt for the philosopher and the
political thinker which we have latterly been too ready to express, and
we must recognise that the task of analysing and relating to one
another the achievements of the past and the problems of the present is
at least as important as the increase of our knowledge and of our
dangerous powers by intense and narrow concentration within very
limited fields of thought and work.

In the meantime we must observe (however briefly and inadequately), how
the dazzling advances of science and industry have affected the
conquest of the world by European civilisation, and why it has come
about that instead of leading to amity and happiness, they have brought
us to the most hideous catastrophe in human history.

Science and industry, in the first place, made the conquest and
organisation of the world easy. In the first stages of the expansion of
Europe the material superiority of the West had unquestionably afforded
the means whereby its political ideas and institutions could be made
operative in new fields. The invention of ocean-going ships, the use of
the mariner's compass, the discovery of the rotundity of the earth, the
development of firearms--these were the things which made possible the
creation of the first European empires; though these purely material
advantages could have led to no stable results unless they had been
wielded by peoples possessing a real political capacity. In the same
way the brilliant triumphs of modern engineering have alone rendered
possible the rapid conquest and organisation of huge undeveloped areas;
the deadly precision of Western weapons has made the Western peoples
irresistible; the wonderful progress of medical science has largely
overcome the barriers of disease which long excluded the white man from
great regions of the earth; and the methods of modern finance,
organising and making available the combined credit of whole
communities, have provided the means for vast enterprises which without
them could never have been undertaken.

Then, in the next place, science has found uses for many commodities
which were previously of little value, and many of which are mainly
produced in the undeveloped regions of the earth. Some of these, like
rubber, or nitrates, or mineral and vegetable oils, have rapidly become
quite indispensable materials, consumed by the industrial countries on
an immense scale. Accordingly, the more highly industrialised a country
is, the more dependent it must be upon supplies drawn from all parts of
the world; not only supplies of food for the maintenance of its teeming
population, but, even more, supplies of material for its industries.
The days when Europe, or even America, was self-sufficient are gone for
ever. And in order that these essential supplies may be available, it
has become necessary that all the regions which produce them should be
brought under efficient administration. The anarchy of primitive
barbarism cannot be allowed to stand in the way of access to these
vital necessities of the new world-economy. It is merely futile for
well-meaning sentimentalists to talk of the wickedness of invading the
inalienable rights of the primitive occupants of these lands: for good
or for ill, the world has become a single economic unit, and its
progress cannot be stopped out of consideration for the time-honoured
usages of uncivilised and backward tribes. Of course it is our duty to
ensure that these simple folks are justly treated, led gently into
civilisation, and protected from the iniquities of a mere ruthless
exploitation, such as, in some regions, we have been compelled to
witness. But Western civilisation has seized the reins of the world,
and it will not be denied. Its economic needs drive it to undertake the
organisation of the whole world. What we have to secure is that its
political principles shall be such as will ensure that its control will
be a benefit to its subjects as well as to itself. But the development
of scientific industry has made European control and civilised
administration inevitable throughout the world.

It did not, however, necessarily follow from these premises that the
great European states which did not already possess extra-European
territories were bound to acquire such lands. So far as their purely
economic needs were concerned, it would have been enough that they
should have freedom of access, on equal terms with their neighbours, to
the sources of the supplies they required. It is quite possible, as
events have shown, for a European state to attain very great success in
the industrial sphere without possessing any political control over the
lands from which its raw materials are drawn, or to which its finished
products are sold. Norway has created an immense shipping industry
without owning a single port outside her own borders. The manufactures
of Switzerland are as thriving as these of any European country, though
Switzerland does not possess any colonies. Germany herself, the loudest
advocate of the necessity of political control as the basis of economic
prosperity, has found it possible to create a vast and very prosperous
industry, though her colonial possessions have been small, and have
contributed scarcely at all to her wealth. Her merchants and
capitalists have indeed found the most profitable fields for their
enterprises, not in their own colonies, which they have on the whole
tended to neglect, but in a far greater degree in South and Central
America, and in India and the other vast territories of the British
Empire, which have been open to them as freely as to British merchants.
All that the prosperity of European industry required was that the
sources of supply should be under efficient administration, and that
access to them should be open. And these conditions were fulfilled,
before the great rush began, over the greater part of the earth. If in
1878, when the European nations suddenly awoke to the importance of the
non-European world, they had been able to agree upon some simple
principle which would have secured equal treatment to all, how
different would have been the fate of Europe and the world! If it could
have been laid down, as a principle of international law, that in every
area whose administration was undertaken by a European state, the 'open
door' should be secured for the trade of all nations equally, and that
this rule should continue in force until the area concerned acquired
the status of a distinctly organised state controlling its own fiscal
system, the industrial communities would have felt secure, the little
states quite as fully as the big states. Moreover, since, under these
conditions, the annexation of territory by a European state would not
have threatened the creation of a monopoly, but would have meant the
assumption of a duty on behalf of civilisation, the acrimonies and
jealousies which have attended the process of partition would have been
largely conjured away. In 1878 such a solution would have presented few
difficulties. For at that date the only European state which controlled
large undeveloped areas was Britain; and Britain, as we have seen, had
on her own account arrived at this solution, and had administered, as
she still administers, all those regions of her Empire which do not
possess self-governing rights in the spirit of the principle we have

Why was it that this solution, or some solution on these lines, was not
then adopted, and had no chance of being adopted? It was because the
European states, and first and foremost among them Germany, were still
dominated by a political theory which forbade their taking such a view.
We may call this theory the Doctrine of Power. It is the doctrine that
the highest duty of every state is to aim at the extension of its own
power, and that before this duty every other consideration must give
way. The Doctrine of Power has never received a more unflinching
expression than it received from the German Treitschke, whose influence
was at its height during the years of the great rush for extra-European
possessions. The advocate of the Doctrine of Power is not, and cannot
be, satisfied with equality of opportunity; he demands supremacy, he
demands monopoly, he demands the means to injure and destroy his
rivals. It would not be just to say that this doctrine was influential
only in Germany; it was in some degree potent everywhere, especially in
this period, which was the period par excellence of 'imperialism' in
the bad sense of the term. But it is certainly true that no state has
ever been so completely dominated by it as Germany; and no state less
than Britain. It was in the light of this doctrine that the demands of
the new scientific industry were interpreted. Hag-ridden by this
conception, when the statesmen of Europe awoke to the importance of the
non-European world, it was not primarily the economic needs of their
countries that they thought of, for these were, on the whole, not
inadequately met: what struck their imagination was that, in paying no
attention to the outer world, they had missed great opportunities of
increasing their power. This oversight, they resolved, must be
rectified before it was too late.

For when the peoples of Western and Central Europe, no longer engrossed
by the problems of Nationalism and Liberalism, cast their eyes over the
world, lo! the scale of things seemed to have changed. Just as, in the
fifteenth century, civilisation had suddenly passed from the stage of
the city-state or the feudal principality to the stage of the great
nation-state, so now, while the European peoples were still struggling
to realise their nationhood, civilisation seemed to have stolen a march
upon them, and to have advanced once more, this time into the stage of
the world-state. For to the east of the European nations lay the vast
Russian Empire, stretching from Central Europe across Asia to the
Pacific; and in the west the American Republic extended from ocean to
ocean, across three thousand miles of territory; and between these and
around them spread the British Empire, sprawling over the whole face of
the globe, on every sea and in every continent. In contrast with these
giant empires, the nation-states of Europe felt themselves out of
scale, just as the Italian cities in the sixteenth century must have
felt themselves out of scale in comparison with the new nation-states
of Spain and France. To achieve the standard of the world-state, to
make their own nations the controlling factors in wide dominions which
should include territories and populations of varied types, became the
ambition of the most powerful European states. A new political ideal
had captivated the mind of Europe.

These powerful motives were reinforced by others which arose from the
development of affairs within Europe itself. In the first place, the
leading European states had by 1878 definitely abandoned that tendency
towards free trade which had seemed to be increasing in strength during
the previous generation; and, largely in the hope of combating the
overwhelming mercantile and industrial supremacy of Britain, had
adopted the fiscal policy of protection. The ideal of the protectionist
creed is national self-sufficiency in the economic sphere. But, as we
have seen, economic self-sufficiency was no longer attainable in the
conditions of modern industry by any European state. Only by large
foreign annexations, especially in the tropical regions, did it seem
possible of achievement. But when a protectionist state begins to
acquire territory, the anticipation that it will use its power to
exclude or destroy the trade of its rivals must drive other states to
safeguard themselves by still further annexations. It was, indeed, this
fear which mainly drove Britain, in spite of, or perhaps because of,
her free trade theories, into a series of large annexations in regions
where her trade had been hitherto predominant.

Again, the most perturbing feature of the relations between the
European powers also contributed to produce an eagerness for colonial
possessions. Europe had entered upon the era of huge national armies;
the example of Prussia, and the rancours which had been created by her
policy, had set all the nations arming themselves. They had learned to
measure their strength by their available man-power, and in two ways
the desire to increase the reserve of military manhood formed a motive
for colonisation. In the first place, the surplus manhood of a nation
was lost to it if it was allowed to pass under an alien flag by
emigration. Those continental states from which emigration took place
on a large scale began to aspire after the possession of colonies of
their own, where their emigrants could still be kept under control, and
remain subject to the obligations of service. Germany, the state which
beyond all others measures its strength by its fighting man-power, was
most affected by this motive, which formed the chief theme of the
colonial school among her politicians and journalists, and continued to
be so even when the stream of her emigrants had dwindled to very small
proportions. In a less degree, Italy was influenced by the same motive.
In the second place, conquered subjects even of backward races might be
made useful for the purposes of war. This motive appealed most strongly
to France. Her home population was stationary. She lived in constant
dread of a new onslaught from her formidable neighbour; and she watched
with alarm the rapid increase of that neighbour's population, and the
incessant increases in the numbers of his armies. At a later date
Germany also began to be attracted by the possibility of drilling and
arming, among the negroes of Central Africa, or the Turks of Asia
Minor, forces which might aid her to dominate the world.

Thus the political situation in Europe had a very direct influence upon
the colonising activity of this period. The dominant fact of European
politics during this generation was the supreme prestige and influence
of Germany, who, not content with an unquestioned military superiority
to any other power, had buttressed herself by the formation (1879 and
1882) of the most formidable standing alliance that has ever existed in
European history, and completely dominated European politics. France,
having been hurled from the leadership of Europe in 1870, dreaded
nothing so much as the outbreak of a new European war, in which she
must be inevitably involved, and in which she might be utterly ruined.
She strove to find a compensation for her wounded pride in colonial
adventures, and therefore became, during the first part of the period,
the most active of the powers in this field. She was encouraged to
adopt this policy by Bismarck, partly in the hope that she might thus
forget Alsace, partly in order that she might be kept on bad terms with
Britain, whose interests seemed to be continually threatened by her
colonising activity. But she hesitated to take a very definite line in
regard to territories that lay close to Europe and might involve
European complications.

Bismarck himself took little interest in colonial questions, except in
so far as they could be used as a means of alienating the other powers
from one another, and so securing the European supremacy of Germany. He
therefore at first made no attempt to use the dominant position of
Germany as a means of acquiring extra-European dominions. But the
younger generation in Germany was far from sharing this view. It was
determined to win for Germany a world-empire, and in 1884 and the
following years--rather late in the day, when most of the more
desirable territories were already occupied--it forced Bismarck to
annex large areas. After Bismarck's fall, in 1890, this party got the
upper hand in German politics, and the creation of a great world-empire
became, as we shall see, the supreme aim of William II. and his
advisers. The formidable and threatening power of Germany began to be
systematically employed not merely for the maintenance of supremacy in
Europe, which could be secured by peaceful means, but for the
acquisition of a commanding position in the outer world; and since this
could only be attained by violence, the world being now almost
completely partitioned, the new policy made Germany the source of
unrest and apprehension, as she had earlier been, and still continued
to be, the main cause of the burden of military preparation in Europe.

Among the other powers which participated in the great partition,
Russia continued her pressure in two of the three directions which she
had earlier followed-south-eastwards in Central Asia, eastwards towards
China. In both directions her activity aroused the nervous fears of
Britain, while her pressure upon China helped to bring Japan into the
ranks of the militant and aggressive powers. But Russia took no
interest in the more distant quarters of the world. Nor did Austria,
though during these years her old ambition to expand south-eastwards at
the expense of Turkey and the Balkan peoples revived under German
encouragement. Italy, having but recently achieved national unity and
taken her place among the Great Powers, felt that she could not be left
out of the running, now that extra-European possessions had come to
appear an almost essential mark of greatness among states; and,
disappointed of Tunis, she endeavoured to find compensation on the
shores of the Red Sea. Spain and Portugal, in the midst of all these
eager rivalries, were tempted to furbish up their old and half-dormant
claims. Even the United States of America joined in the rush during the
fevered period of the 'nineties.

Lastly, Britain, the oldest and the most fully endowed of all the
colonising powers, was drawn, half unwilling, into the competition; and
having an immense start over her rivals, actually acquired more new
territory than any of them. She was, indeed, like the other states,
passing through an 'imperialist' phase in these years. The value
attached by other countries to oversea possessions awakened among the
British people a new pride in their far-spread dominions. Disraeli, who
was in the ascendant when the period opened, had forgotten his old
opinion of the uselessness of colonies, and had become a prophet of
Empire. An Imperial Federation Society was founded in 1878. The old
unwillingness to assume new responsibilities died out, or diminished;
and the rapid annexations of other states, especially France, in
regions where British influence had hitherto been supreme, and whose
chieftains had often begged in vain for British protection, aroused
some irritation. The ebullient energy of the colonists themselves,
especially in South Africa and Australia, demanded a forward policy.
Above all, the fact that the European powers, now so eager for colonial
possessions, had all adopted the protectionist policy aroused a fear
lest British traders should find themselves shut out from lands whose
trade had hitherto been almost wholly in their hands; and the militant
and aggressive temper sometimes shown by the agents of these powers
awakened some nervousness regarding the safety of the existing British
possessions. Hence Britain, after a period of hesitancy, became as
active as any of the other states in annexation. Throughout this period
her main rival was France, whose new claims seemed to come in conflict
with her own in almost every quarter of the globe. This rivalry
produced acute friction, which grew in intensity until it reached its
culminating point in the crisis of Fashoda in 1898, and was not removed
until the settlement of 1904 solved all the outstanding difficulties.
It would be quite untrue to say that Britain deliberately endeavoured
to prevent or to check the rapid colonial expansion of France. The
truth is that British trading interests had been predominant in many of
the regions where the French were most active, and that the
protectionist policy which France had adopted stimulated into a new
life the ancient rivalry of these neighbour and sister nations. Towards
the colonial ambitions of Germany, and still more of Italy, Britain was
far more complaisant.

It is difficult to give in a brief space a clear summary of the
extremely complicated events and intrigues of this vitally important
period. But perhaps it will be easiest if we consider in turn the
regions in which the strenuous rivalries of the powers displayed
themselves. The most important was Africa, which lay invitingly near to
Europe, and was the only large region of the world which was still for
the most part unoccupied. Here all the competitors, save Russia, Japan,
and America, played a part. Western Asia formed a second field, in
which three powers only, Russia, Germany, and Britain, were immediately
concerned. The Far East, where the vast Empire of China seemed to be
falling into decrepitude, afforded the most vexed problems of the
period. Finally, the Pacific Islands were the scene of an active though
less intense rivalry.

It is a curious fact that Africa, the continent whose outline was the
first outside of Europe itself to be fully mapped out by the European
peoples, was actually the last to be effectively brought under the
influence of European civilisation. This was because the coasts of
Africa are for the most part inhospitable; its vast interior plateau is
almost everywhere shut off either by belts of desert land, or by swampy
and malarious regions along the coast; even its great rivers do not
readily tempt the explorer inland, because their course is often
interrupted by falls or rapids not far from their mouths, where they
descend from the interior plateau to the coastal plain; and its
inhabitants, warlike and difficult to deal with, are also peoples of
few and simple wants, who have little to offer to the trader. Hence
eight generations of European mariners had circumnavigated the
continent without seriously attempting to penetrate its central mass;
and apart from the Anglo-Dutch settlements at the Southern extremity,
the French empire in Algeria in the north, a few trading centres on the
West Coast, and some half-derelict Portuguese stations in Angola and
Mozambique, the whole continent remained available for European
exploitation in 1878.

What trade was carried on, except in Egypt, in Algeria, and in the
immediate vicinity of the old French settlements on the West Coast, was
mainly in the hands of British merchants. Over the greater part of the
coastal belts only the British power was known to the native tribes and
chieftains. Many of them (like the Sultan of Zanzibar and the chiefs of
the Cameroons) had repeatedly begged to be taken under British
protection, and had been refused. During the two generations before
1878 the interior of the continent had begun to be known. But except in
the north and north-west, where French explorers and a few Germans had
been active, the work had been mainly done by British travellers. Most
of the great names of African exploration--Livingstone, Burton, Speke,
Baker, Cameron and the Anglo-American Stanley--were British names.
These facts, of course, gave to Britain, already so richly endowed, no
sort of claim to a monopoly of the continent. But they naturally gave
her a right to a voice in its disposal. Only the French had shown
anything like the same activity, or had established anything like the
same interests; and they were far behind their secular rivals.

But these facts bring out one feature which differentiated the
settlement of Africa from that of any other region of the non-European
world. It was not a gradual, but an extraordinarily rapid achievement.
It was based not upon claims established by work already done, but, for
the most part, upon the implicit assumption that extra-European empire
was the due of the European peoples, simply because they were civilised
and powerful. This was the justification, in a large degree, of all the
European empires in Africa. But it was especially so in the case of the
empire which Germany created in the space of three years. This empire
was not the product of German enterprise in the regions included within
it; it was the product of Germany's dominating position in Europe, and
the expression of her resolve to create an external empire worthy of
that position.

Africa falls naturally into two great regions. The northern coast,
separated from the main mass of the continent by the broad belt of
deserts which runs from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, has always been
far more ultimately connected with the other Mediterranean lands than
with the rest of Africa. Throughout the course of history, indeed, the
northern coast-lands have belonged rather to the realms of Western or
of Asiatic civilisation than to the primitive barbarism of the sons of
Ham. In the days of the Carthaginians and of the Roman Empire, all
these lands, from Egypt to Morocco, had known a high civilisation. They
were racially as well as historically distinct from the rest of the
continent. They had been in name part of the Turkish Empire, and any
European interference in their affairs was as much a question of
European politics as the problems of the Balkans. Two countries in this
area fell under European direction during the period with which we are
concerned, and in each case the effects upon European politics were
very great. In 1881 France, with the deliberate encouragement of
Bismarck, sent armies into Tunis, and assumed the protectorate of that
misgoverned region. She had good grounds for her action. Not only had
she large trade-interests in Tunis, but the country was separated from
her earlier dominion in Algeria only by an artificial line, and its
disorders increased the difficulty of developing the efficient
administration which she had established there. Unhappily Italy also
had interests in Tunis. There were more Italian than French residents
in the country, which is separated from Sicily only by a narrow belt of
sea. And Italy, who was beginning to conceive colonial ambitions, had
not unnaturally marked down Tunis as her most obvious sphere of
influence. The result was to create a long-lived ill-feeling between
the two Latin countries. As a consequence of the annexation of Tunis,
Italy was persuaded in the next year (1882) to join the Triple
Alliance; and France, having burnt her fingers, became chary of
colonial adventures in regions that were directly under the eye of
Europe. Isolated, insecure, and eternally suspicious of Germany, she
could not afford to be drawn into European quarrels. This is in a large
degree the explanation of her vacillating action in regard to Egypt.

In Egypt the political influence of France had been preponderant ever
since the time of Mehemet Ali; perhaps we should say, ever since the
time of Napoleon. And political influence had been accompanied by
trading and financial interests. France had a larger share of the trade
of Egypt, and had lent more money to the ruling princes of the country,
than any other country save England. She had designed and executed the
Suez Canal. But this waterway, once opened, was used mainly by British
ships on the way to India, Australia, and the Far East. It became a
point of vital strategic importance to Britain, who, though she had
opposed its construction, eagerly seized the chance of buying a great
block of shares in the enterprise from the bankrupt Khedive. Thus
French and British interests in Egypt were equally great; greater than
those of all the rest of Europe put together. When the native
government of Egypt fell into bankruptcy (1876), the two powers set up
a sort of condominium, or joint control of the finances, in order to
ensure the payment of interest on the Egyptian debt held by their
citizens. To bankruptcy succeeded political chaos; and it became
apparent that if the rich land of Egypt was not to fall into utter
anarchy, there must be direct European intervention. The two powers
proposed to take joint action; the rest of Europe assented. But the
Sultan of Turkey, as suzerain of Egypt, threatened to make
difficulties. At the last moment France, fearful of the complications
that might result, and resolute to avoid the danger of European war,
withdrew from the project of joint intervention. Britain went on alone;
and although she hoped and believed that she would quickly be able to
restore order, and thereupon to evacuate the country, found herself
drawn into a labour of reconstruction that could not be dropped. We
shall in the next chapter have more to say on the British occupation of
Egypt, as part of the British achievement during this period. In the
meanwhile, its immediate result was continuous friction between France
and Britain. France could not forgive herself or Britain for the
opportunity which she had lost. The embitterment caused by the Egyptian
question lasted throughout the period, and was not healed till the
Entente of 1904. It intensified and exacerbated the rivalry of the two
countries in other fields. It made each country incapable of judging
fairly the actions of the other. To wounded and embittered France, the
perfectly honest British explanations of the reasons for delay in
evacuating Egypt seemed only so many evidences of hypocrisy masking
greed. To Britain the French attitude seemed fractious and
unreasonable, and she suspected in every French forward movement in
other fields--notably in the Eastern Soudan and the upper valley of the
Nile--an attempt to attack or undermine her. Thus Egypt, like Tunis,
illustrated the influence of European politics in the extra-European
field. The power that profited most was Germany, who had strengthened
herself by drawing Italy into the Triple Alliance, and had kept France
at her mercy by using colonial questions as a means of alienating her
from her natural friends. It was, in truth, only from this point of
view that colonial questions had any interest for Bismarck. He was, as
he repeatedly asserted almost to the day of his death, 'no colony man.'
But the time was at hand when he was to be forced out of this attitude.
For already the riches of tropical Africa were beginning to attract the
attention of Europe.

The most active and energetic of the powers in tropical Africa was
France. From her ancient foothold at Senegal she was already, in the
late 'seventies, pushing inland towards the upper waters of the Niger;
while further south her vigorous explorer de Brazza was penetrating the
hinterland behind the French coastal settlements north of the Congo
mouth. Meanwhile the explorations of Livingstone and Stanley had given
the world some conception of the wealth of the vast exterior. In 1876
Leopold, King of the Belgians, summoned a conference at Brussels to
consider the possibility of setting the exploration and settlement of
Africa upon an international basis. Its result was the formation of an
International African Association, with branches in all the principal
countries. But from the first the branches dropped all serious pretence
of international action. They became (so far as they exercised any
influence) purely national organisations for the purpose of acquiring
the maximum amount of territory for their own states. And the central
body, after attempting a few unsuccessful exploring expeditions,
practically resolved itself into the organ of King Leopold himself, and
aimed at creating a neutral state in Central Africa under his
protection. In 1878 H. M. Stanley returned from the exploration of the
Congo. He was at once invited by King Leopold to undertake the
organisation of the Congo basin for his Association, and set out again
for that purpose in 1879. But he soon found himself in conflict with
the active French agents under de Brazza, who had made their way into
the Congo valley from the north-west. And at the same time Portugal,
reviving ancient and dormant claims, asserted that the Congo belonged
to her. It was primarily to find a solution for these disputes that the
Berlin Conference was summoned in December 1884. Meanwhile the rush for
territory was going on furiously in other regions of Africa. Not only
on the Congo, but on the Guinea Coast and its hinterland, France was
showing an immense activity, and was threatening to reduce to small
coastal enclaves the old British settlements on this coast. Only the
energy shown by a group of British merchants, who formed themselves
into a National African Company in 1881, and the vigorous action of
their leader, Mr. (afterwards Sir) George Taubman Goldie, prevented the
extrusion of British interests from the greater part of the Niger
valley, where they had hitherto been supreme. In Madagascar, too, the
ancient ambitions of France had revived. Though British trading and
missionary activities in the island were at this date probably greater
than French, France claimed large rights, especially in the north-east
of the island. These claims drew her into a war with the native power
of the Hovas, which began in 1883, and ended in 1885 with a vague
recognition of French suzerainty. Again, Italy had, in 1883, obtained
her first foothold in Eritrea, on the shore of the Red Sea. And
Germany, also, had suddenly made up her mind to embark upon the career
of empire. In 1883 the Bremen merchant, Luderitz, appeared in
South-west Africa, where there were a few German mission stations and
trading-centres, and annexed a large area which Bismarck was persuaded
to take under the formal protection of Germany. This region had
hitherto been vaguely regarded as within the British sphere, but though
native princes, missionaries, and in 1868 even the Prussian government,
had requested Britain to establish a formal protectorate, she had
always declined to do so. In the next year another German agent, Dr.
Nachtigal, was commissioned by the German government to report on
German trade interests on the West Coast, and the British government
was formally acquainted with his mission and requested to instruct its
agents to assist him. The real purpose of the mission was shown when
Nachtigal made a treaty with the King of Togoland, on the Guinea Coast,
whereby he accepted German suzerainty. A week later a similar treaty
was made with some of the native chiefs in the Cameroons. In this
region British interests had hitherto been predominant, and the chiefs
had repeatedly asked for British protection, which had always been
refused. A little later the notorious Karl Peters, with a few
companions disguised as working engineers, arrived at Zanzibar on the
East Coast, with a commission from the German Colonial Society to peg
out German claims. In the island of Zanzibar British interests had long
been overwhelmingly predominant; and the Sultan, who had large and
vague claims to supremacy over a vast extent of the mainland, had
repeatedly asked the British government to take these regions under its
protectorate. He had always been refused. Peters' luggage consisted
largely of draft treaty-forms; and he succeeded in making treaties with
native princes (usually unaware of the meaning of the documents they
were signing) whereby some 60,000 square miles were brought under
German control. The protectorate over these lands had not been accepted
by the German government when the Conference of Berlin met. It was
formally accepted in the next year (1885). Far from being opposed by
Britain, the establishment of German power in East Africa was actually
welcomed by the British government, whose foreign secretary, Earl
Granville, wrote that his government 'views with favour these schemes,
the realisation of which will entail the civilisation of large tracts
over which hitherto no European influence has been exercised.' And when
a group of British traders began to take action further north, in the
territory which later became British East Africa, and in which Peters
had done nothing, the British government actually consulted the German
government before licensing their action. Thus before the meeting of
the Conference of Berlin the foundations of the German empire in Africa
were already laid; the outlines of the vast French empire in the north
had begun to appear; and the curious dominion of Leopold of Belgium in
the Congo valley had begun to take shape.

The Conference of Berlin (Dec. 1884-Feb. 1885), which marks the close
of the first stage in the partition of Africa, might have achieved
great things if it had endeavoured to lay down the principles upon
which European control over backward peoples should be exercised. But
it made no such ambitious attempt. It prescribed the rules of the game
of empire-building, ordaining that all protectorates should be formally
notified by the power which assumed them to the other powers, and that
no annexation should be made of territory which was not 'effectively'
occupied; but evidently the phrase 'effective occupation' can be very
laxly interpreted. It provided that there should be free navigation of
the Congo and Niger rivers, and freedom of trade for alienations within
the Congo valley and certain other vaguely defined areas. But it made
no similar provision for other parts of Africa; and it whittled away
the value of what it did secure by the definite proviso that should
parts of these areas be annexed by independent states, the restriction
upon their control of trade should lapse. It recognised the illegality
of the slave-trade, and imposed upon annexing powers the duty of
helping to suppress it; this provision was made much fuller and more
definite by a second conference at Brussels in 1890, on the demand of
Britain, who had hitherto contended almost alone against the traffic in
human flesh. But no attempt was made to define native rights, to
safeguard native customs, to prohibit the maintenance of forces larger
than would be necessary for the maintenance of order: in short, no
attempt was made to lay down the doctrine that the function of a ruling
power among backward peoples is that of a trustee on behalf of its
simple subjects and on behalf of civilisation. That the partition of
Africa should have been effected without open war, and that the
questions decided at Berlin should have been so easily and peacefully
agreed upon, seemed at the moment to be a good sign. But the spirit
which the conference expressed was not a healthy spirit.

After 1884 the activity of the powers in exploration, annexation and
development became more furious than ever. Britain now began seriously
to arouse herself to the danger of exclusion from vast areas where her
interests had hitherto been predominant; and it was during these years
that all her main acquisitions of territory in Africa were made:
Rhodesia and Central Africa in the south, East Africa and Somaliland in
the East, Nigeria and the expansion of her lesser protectorates in the
West. To these years also belonged the definite, and most unfortunate,
emergence of Italy as a colonising power. She had got a foothold in
Eritrea in 1883; in 1885 it was, with British aid, enlarged by the
annexation of territory which had once been held by Egypt, but had been
abandoned when she lost the Soudan. But the Italian claims in Eritrea
brought on conflict with the neighbouring native power of Abyssinia. In
spite of a sharp defeat at Dogali in 1887, she succeeded in holding her
own in this conflict; and in 1889 Abyssinia accepted a treaty which
Italy claimed to be a recognition of her suzerainty. But the
Abyssinians repudiated this interpretation; and in a new war, which
began in 1896, inflicted upon the Italians so disastrous a defeat at
Adowa that they were constrained to admit the complete independence of
Abyssinia--the sole native state which has so far been able to hold its
own against the pressure of Europe. Meanwhile in 1889 and the following
years Italy had, once more with the direct concurrence of Britain,
marked out a new territory in Somaliland.

The main features of the years from 1884 to 1900 were the rapidity with
which the territories earlier annexed were expanded and organised, more
especially by France. In the 'nineties her dominions extended from the
Mediterranean to the Guinea Coast, and she had conceived the ambition
of extending them also across Africa from West to East. This ambition
led her into a new and more acute conflict with Britain, who, having
undertaken the reconquest of the Egyptian Soudan and the upper valley
of the Nile, held that she could not permit a rival to occupy the upper
waters of the great river, or any part of the territory that belonged
to it. Hence when the intrepid explorer, Marchand, after a toilsome
expedition which lasted for two years, planted the French flag at
Fashoda in 1898, he was promptly disturbed by Kitchener, fresh from the
overthrow of the Khalifa and the reconquest of Khartoum, and was
compelled to withdraw. The tension was severe; no episode in the
partition of Africa had brought the world so near to the outbreak of a
European war. But in the end the dispute was settled by the
Anglo-French agreement of 1898, which may be said to mark the
conclusion of the process of partition. It was the last important
treaty in a long series which filled the twenty years following 1878,
and which had the result of leaving Africa, with the exception of
Morocco, Tripoli, and Abyssinia, completely divided among the chief
European states. Africa was the main field of the ambitions and
rivalries of the European powers during this period; the other fields
may be more rapidly surveyed. In Central Asia and the Near East the
main features of the period were two. The first was the steady advance
of Russia towards the south-east, which awakened acute alarms in
Britain regarding India, and led to the adoption of a 'forward policy'
among the frontier tribes in the north-west of India. The second was
the gradual and silent penetration of Turkey by German influence. Here
there was no partition or annexation, But Germany became the political
protector of the Turk; undertook the reorganisation of his armies;
obtained great commercial concessions; bought up his railways, ousting
the earlier British and French concerns which had controlled them, and
built new lines. The greatest of these was the vitally important
project of the Bagdad railway, which was taken in hand just before the
close of the period. It was a project whose political aims outweighed
its commercial aims. And it provided a warning of the gigantic designs
which Germany was beginning to work out. But as yet, in 1900, the
magnitude of these designs was unperceived. And the problems of the
Middle East were not yet very disturbing. The Turkish Empire remained
intact; so did the Persian Empire, though both were becoming more
helpless, partly owing to the decrepitude of their governments, partly
owing to the pressure of European financial and trading interests. As
yet the empires of the Middle East seemed to form a region
comparatively free from European influence. But this was only seeming.
The influence of Europe was at work in them; and it was probably
inevitable that some degree of European political tutelage should
follow as the only means of preventing the disintegration which must
result from the pouring of new wine into the old bottles.

In the Far East--in the vast empire of China--this result seemed to be
coming about inevitably and rapidly. The ancient pot-bound civilisation
of China had withstood the impact of the West in the mid-nineteenth
century without breaking down; but China had made no attempt, such as
Japan had triumphantly carried out, to adapt herself to the new
conditions, and her system was slowly crumbling under the influence of
the European traders, teachers, and missionaries whom she had been
compelled to admit. The first of the powers to take advantage of this
situation was France, who already possessed a footing in Cochin-China,
and was tempted during the colonial enthusiasm of the 'eighties to
transform it into a general supremacy over Annam and Tonking. As early
as 1874 she had obtained from the King of Annam a treaty which she
interpreted as giving her suzerain powers. The King of Annam himself
repudiated this interpretation, and maintained that he was a vassal of
China. China took the same view; and after long negotiations a war
between France and China broke out. It lasted for four years, and
demanded a large expenditure of strength. But it ended (1885) with the
formal recognition of French suzerainty over Annam, and a further
decline of Chinese prestige.

Ten years later a still more striking proof of Chinese weakness was
afforded by the rapid and complete defeat of the vast, ill-organised
empire by Japan, the youngest of the great powers. The war gave to
Japan Formosa and the Pescadores Islands, and added her to the list of
imperialist powers. She would have won more still--the Liao-tang
Peninsula and a sort of suzerainty over Korea--but that the European
powers, startled by the signs of China's decay, and perhaps desiring a
share of the plunder, intervened to forbid these annexations, on the
pretext of defending the integrity of China. Russia, France and Germany
combined in this step; Britain stood aloof. Japan, unwillingly giving
way, and regarding Russia as the chief cause of her humiliation, began
to prepare herself for a coming conflict. As for unhappy China, she was
soon to learn how much sincerity there was in the zeal of Europe for
the maintenance of her integrity. In 1896 she was compelled to permit
Russia to build a railway across Manchuria; and to grant to France a
'rectification of frontiers' on the south, and the right of building a
railway through the province of Yunnan, which lies next to Tonking. The
partition of China seemed to be at hand. Britain and America vainly
urged upon the other powers that China should be left free to direct
her own affairs subject to the maintenance of 'the open door' for
European trade. The other powers refused to listen, and in 1897 the
beginning of the end seemed to have come. Germany, seizing on the
pretext afforded by the murder of two German missionaries, stretched
forth her 'mailed fist,' and seized the strong place and admirable
harbour of Kiao-chau, the most valuable strategic position on the
Chinese coast. That she meant to use it as a base for future expansion
was shown by her lavish expenditure upon its equipment and
fortification. Russia responded by seizing the strong place of Port
Arthur and the Liao-Tang Peninsula, while every day her hold upon the
great province of Manchuria was strengthened. Foreseeing a coming
conflict in which her immense trading interests would be imperilled,
Britain acquired a naval base on the Chinese coast by leasing
Wei-hai-Wei. Thus all the European rivals were clustered round the
decaying body of China; and in the last years of the century were
already beginning to claim 'spheres of influence,' despite the protests
of Britain and America. But the outburst of the Boxer Rising in
1900--caused mainly by resentment of foreign intervention--had the
effect of postponing the rush for Chinese territory. And when Britain
and Japan made an alliance in 1902 on the basis of guaranteeing the
status quo in the East, the overwhelming naval strength of the two
allies made a European partition of China impracticable; and China was
once more given a breathing-space. Only Russia could attack the Chinese
Empire by land; and the severe defeat which she suffered at the hands
of Japan in 1904-5 removed that danger also. The Far East was left with
a chance of maintaining its independence, and of voluntarily adapting
itself to the needs of a new age.

The last region in which territories remained available for European
annexation consisted of the innumerable archipelagoes of the Pacific
Ocean. Here the preponderant influence had been in the hands of Britain
ever since the days of Captain Cook. She had made some annexations
during the first three quarters of the century, but had on the whole
steadfastly refused the requests of many of the island peoples to be
taken under her protection. France had, as we have seen, acquired New
Caledonia and the Marquesas Islands during the previous period, but her
activity in this region was never very great. The only other European
power in possession of Pacific territories was Spain, who held the
great archipelago of the Philippines, and claimed also the numerous
minute islands (nearly six hundred in number) which are known as
Micronesia. When the colonial enthusiasm of the 'eighties began,
Germany saw a fruitful field in the Pacific, and annexed the Bismarck
Archipelago and the north-eastern quarter of New Guinea. Under pressure
from Australia, who feared to see so formidable a neighbour established
so near her coastline, Britain annexed the south-eastern quarter of
that huge island. During the 'nineties the partition of the Pacific
Islands was completed; the chief participators being Germany, Britain,
and the United States of America.

The entry of America into the race for imperial possessions in its last
phase was too striking an event to pass without comment. America
annexed Hawaii in 1898, and divided the Samoan group with Germany in
1899. But her most notable departure from her traditional policy of
self-imposed isolation from world-politics came when in 1898 she was
drawn by the Cuban question into a war with Spain. Its result was the
disappearance of the last relics of the Spanish Empire in the New World
and in the Pacific. Cuba became an independent republic. Porto Rico was
annexed by America. In the Pacific the Micronesian possessions of Spain
were acquired by Germany. Germany would fain have annexed also the
Philippine Islands. But America resolved herself to assume the task of
organising and governing these rich lands; and in doing so made a grave
breach with her traditions. Her new possession necessarily drew her
into closer relations with the problems of the Far East; it gave her
also some acquaintance with the difficulty of introducing Western
methods among a backward people. During these years of universal
imperialist excitement the spirit of imperialism seemed to have
captured America as it had captured the European states; and this was
expressed in a new interpretation of the Monroe doctrine, put forth by
the Secretary of State during the Venezuela controversy of 1895. 'The
United States,' said Mr. Olney, 'is practically sovereign on this
continent (meaning both North and South America), 'and its fiat is law
upon the subjects to which it confines its interposition.' No such
gigantic imperial claim had ever been put forward by any European
state; and it constituted an almost defiant challenge to the
imperialist powers of Europe. It may safely be said that this dictum
did not represent the settled judgment of the American people. But it
did appear, in the last years of the century, as if the great republic
were about to emerge from her self-imposed isolation, and to take her
natural part in the task of planting the civilisation of the West
throughout the world. Had she frankly done so, had she made it plain
that she recognised the indissoluble unity and the common interests of
the whole world, it is possible that her influence might have eased the
troubles of the next period, and exercised a deterrent influence upon
the forces of disturbance which were working towards the great
catastrophe. But her traditions were too strong; and after the brief
imperialist excitement of the 'nineties, she gradually relapsed once
more into something like her old attitude of aloofness.

It is but a cursory and superficial view which we have been able to
take of this extraordinary quarter of a century, during which almost
the whole world was partitioned among a group of mighty empires, and
the political and economic unity of the globe was finally and
irrefragably established. Few regions had escaped the direct political
control of European powers; and most of these few were insensibly
falling under the influence of one or other of the powers: Turkey under
that of Germany, Persia under that of Russia and Britain. No region of
the earth remained exempt from the indirect influence of the European
system. The civilisation of the West had completed the domination of
the globe; and the interests of the great world-states were so
intertwined and intermingled in every corner of the earth that the
balance of power among them had become as precarious as was the
European balance in the eighteenth century. The era of the world-states
had very definitely opened. It remained to be seen in what spirit it
was to be used, and whether it was to be of long duration. These two
questions are one; for no system can last which is based upon injustice
and the denial of right.

At this point we may well stop to survey the new world-states which had
been created by this quarter of a century of eager competition.

First among them, in extent and importance, stood the new empire of
France. It covered a total area of five million square miles, and in
size ranked third in order, coming after the older empires of Russia
and Britain. It had been the result of the strenuous labours of
three-quarters of a century, dating from the first invasion of Algiers;
it included also some surviving fragments of the earlier French Empire.
But overwhelmingly the greater part of this vast dominion had been
acquired during the short period which we have surveyed in this
chapter; and its system of organisation and government had not yet had
time to establish itself. It had been built only at the cost of
strenuous labour, and many wars. Yet the French had shown in its
administration that they still retained to the full that imaginative
tact in the handling of alien peoples which had stood them in good
stead in India and America during the eighteenth century. Once their
rule was established the French had on the whole very little trouble
with their subjects; and it is impossible to praise too highly the
labours of civilisation which French administrators were achieving. So
far as their subjects were concerned, they may justly be said to have
regarded themselves as trustees. So far as the rest of the civilised
world was concerned, the same praise cannot be given; for the French
policy in the economic administration of colonies was definitely one of
monopoly and exclusion. The French Empire fell into three main blocks.
First, and most important, was the empire of Northern Africa, extending
from Algiers to the mouth of the Congo, and from the Atlantic to the
valley of the Nile. Next came the rich island of Madagascar; lastly the
eastern empire of Annam and Tonking, the beginnings of which dated back
to the eighteenth century. A few inconsiderable islands in the Pacific
and the West Indies, acquired long since, a couple of towns in India,
memories of the dreams of Dupleix, and the province of French Guiana in
South America, which dated back to the seventeenth century, completed
the list. For the most part a recent and rapid creation, it
nevertheless had roots in the past, and was the work of a people
experienced in the handling of backward races.

Next may be named the curious dominion of the Congo Free State,
occupying the rich heart of the African continent. Nominally it
belonged to no European power, but was a recognised neutral territory.
In practice it was treated as the personal estate of the Belgian king,
Leopold II. Subject to closer international restrictions than any other
European domain in the non-European world, the Congo was nevertheless
the field of some of the worst iniquities in the exploitation of
defenceless natives that have ever disgraced the record of European
imperialism. International regulations are no safeguard against
misgovernment; the only real sanction is the character and spirit of
the government. For the Congo iniquities Leopold II. must be held
guilty at the bar of posterity. When he went to his judgment in 1908
this rich realm passed under the direct control of the Belgian
government and parliament, and an immediate improvement resulted.

The least successful of the new world-states was that of Italy. Its
story was a story of disaster and disappointment. It included some two
hundred thousand square miles of territory; but they were hot and arid
lands on the inhospitable shores of the Red Sea and in Somaliland.
Italy had as yet no real opportunity of showing how she would deal with
the responsibilities of empire.

The most remarkable, in many respects, of all these suddenly acquired
empires was that of Germany. For it was practically all obtained within
a period of three years, without fighting or even serious friction. It
fell almost wholly within regions where Germany's interests had been
previously negligible, and British trade predominant. Yet its growth
had not been impeded, it had even been welcomed, by its rivals. This
easily-won empire was indeed relatively small, being not much over one
million square miles, little more than one-fifth of the French
dominions. But it was five times as large as Germany itself, and it
included territories which were, on the whole, richer than those of
France. The comparative smallness of its area was due to the fact that
Germany was actually the last to enter the race. She took no steps to
acquire territory, she showed no desire to acquire it, before 1883; if
she had chosen to begin ten years earlier, as she might easily have
done, or if she had shown any marked activity in exploring or
missionary work, without doubt she could have obtained a much larger
share of African soil.

These rich lands afforded to their new masters useful supplies of raw
materials, which were capable of almost indefinite expansion. They
included, in East and South-West Africa, areas well suited for white
settlement; but German emigrants, despite every encouragement, refused
to settle in them. An elaborately scientific system of administration,
such as might be expected from the German bureaucracy, was devised for
the colonies; officials and soldiers have from the beginning formed a
larger proportion of their white population than in any other European
possessions. Undoubtedly the government of the German colonies was in
many respects extremely efficient. But over-administration, which has
its defects even in an old and well-ordered country, is fatal to the
development of a raw and new one. Although Germany has, in order to
increase the prosperity of her colonies, encouraged foreign trade, and
followed a far less exclusive policy than France, not one of her
colonies, except the little West African district of Togoland, has ever
paid its own expenses. In the first generation of its existence the
German colonial empire, small though it is in comparison with the
British or the French, actually cost the home government over
100,000,000 pounds in direct outlay.

The main cause of this was that from the first the Germans showed
neither skill nor sympathy in the handling of their subject
populations. The uniformed official, with his book of rules, only
bewilders primitive folk, and arouses their resentment. But it was not
only official pedantry which caused trouble with the subject peoples;
still more it was the ruthless spirit of mere domination, and the total
disregard of native rights, which were displayed by the German
administration. The idea of trusteeship, which had gradually
established itself among the rulers of the British dominions, and in
the French colonies also, was totally lacking among the Germans. They
ruled their primitive subjects with the brutal intolerance of Zabern,
with the ruthless cruelty since displayed in occupied Belgium. This was
what made the rise of the German dominion a terrible portent in the
history of European imperialism. The spirit of mere domination,
regardless of the rights of the conquered, had often shown itself in
other European empires; but it had always had to struggle against
another and better ideal, the ideal of trusteeship; and, as we have
seen, the better ideal had, during the nineteenth century, definitely
got the upper hand, especially in the British realms, whose experience
had been longest. But the old and bad spirit reigned without check in
the German realms. And even when, in 1907, it began to be seriously
criticised, when its disastrous and unprofitable results began to be
seen, the ground on which it was challenged in discussions in Germany
was mainly the materialist ground that it did not pay.

The justification for these assertions is to be found in the history of
the principal German colonies. In the Cameroons the native tribes, who
had been so ready to receive European government that they had
repeatedly asked for British protection, were driven to such incessant
revolts that the annals of the colony seem to be annals of continuous
bloodshed: forty-six punitive expeditions were chronicled in the
seventeen years from 1891--long after the establishment of the German
supremacy, which took place in 1884. The record of East Africa was even
more terrible for the ferocity with which constant revolts were
suppressed. But worst of all was the story of South-West Africa. There
were endless wars against the various tribes; but they culminated in
the hideous Herero war of 1903-6. The Hereros, driven to desperation by
maltreatment, had revolted and killed some white farmers. They were
punished by an almost complete annihilation. The spirit of this hideous
slaughter is sufficiently expressed by the proclamation of the
governor, General von Trotha, in 1904. 'The Herero people must now
leave the land. Within the German frontier every Herero, with or
without weapon, with or without cattle, will be shot. I shall take
charge of no more women and children, but shall drive them back to
their people, or let them be shot at.' Ten thousand of these unhappy
people, mainly old men, women and children, were driven into the
desert, where they perished. There is no such atrocious episode in the
history of European imperialism since Pizarro's slaughter of the Incas;
if even that can be compared with it.

The causes of these ceaseless and ruinous wars were to be found partly
in the total disregard of native custom, and in the hide-bound pedantry
with which German-made law and the Prussian system of regimentation
were enforced upon the natives; but it was to be found still more in
the assumption that the native had no rights as against his white lord.
His land might be confiscated; his cattle driven away; even downright
slavery was not unknown, not merely in the form of forced labour, which
has been common in German colonies, but in the form of the actual sale
and purchase of negroes. Herr Dernburg, who became Colonial Secretary
in 1907, himself recorded that he met in East Africa a young farmer who
told him that he had just bought a hundred and fifty negroes; he also
described the settlers' pleasing practice of sitting beside the wells
with revolvers, in order to prevent the natives from watering their
cattle, and to force them to leave them behind; and he noted that
officials nearly always carried negro whips with them. These practices,
indeed, were condemned by the German Government itself, but only after
many years, and mainly because they were wasteful. Government
representatives have told the Reichstag, as Herr Schleitwein did in
1904, that they must pursue a 'healthy egoism,' and forswear
'humanitarianism and irrational sentimentality.' 'The Hereros must be
forced to work, and to work without compensation and for their food
only. ... The sentiments of Christianity and philanthropy with which
the missionaries work must be repudiated with all energy.' This is what
is called Realpolitik.

Is it too much to say that the appearance of the spirit thus expressed
was a new thing in the history of European imperialism? Is it not plain
that if this spirit should triumph, the ascendancy of Europe over the
non-European world must prove to be, not a blessing, but an unmitigated
curse? Yet the nation which had thus acquitted itself in the rich lands
which it had so easily acquired was not satisfied; it desired a wider
field for the exhibition of its Kultur, its conception of civilisation.

From the beginning it was evident that the colonial enthusiasts of
Germany had no intention of resting satisfied with the considerable
dominions they had won, but regarded them only as a beginning, as bases
for future conquests. The colonies were not ends in themselves, but
means for the acquisition of further power; and it was this, even more
than the ruthlessness with which the subject peoples were treated,
which made the growth of the German dominions a terrible portent. For
since the whole world was now portioned out, new territories could only
be acquired at the cost of Germany's neighbours. This was, indeed, at
first the programme only of extremists; the mass of the German people,
like Bismarck, took little interest in colonies. But the extremists
proved that they could win over the government to their view; the
German people, most docile of nations, could be gradually indoctrinated
with it. And because this was so, because the ugly spirit of domination
and of unbridled aggressiveness was in these years gradually mastering
the ruling forces of a very powerful state, and leading them towards
the catastrophe which was to prove the culmination of European
imperialism, it is necessary to dwell, at what may seem
disproportionate length, upon the development of German policy during
the later years of our period.

Filled with pride in her own achievements, believing herself to be,
beyond all rivalry, the greatest nation in the world, already the
leader, and destined to be the controller, of civilisation, Germany
could not bring herself to accept a second place in the imperial
sphere. She had entered late into the field, by no fault of her own,
and found all the most desirable regions of the earth already occupied.
Now that 'world-power' had become the test of greatness among states,
she could be content with nothing short of the first rank among
world-states; if this rank could not be achieved, she seemed to be
sentenced to the same sort of fate as had befallen Holland or Denmark:
she might be ever so prosperous, as these little states were, but she
would be dwarfed by the vast powers which surrounded her. But the
German world-state was not to be the result of a gradual and natural
growth, like the Russian, the British or the American world-states. The
possibility of gradual growth was excluded by the fact that the whole
world had been partitioned. Greatness in the non-European world must
be, and might be, carved out in a single generation, as supremacy in
Europe had been already attained, by the strong will, efficient
organisation, and military might of the German government.

It was natural, perhaps inevitable, that a nation with the history of
the German nation, with its ruling ideas, and with its apparently
well-tried confidence in the power of its government to achieve its
ends by force, should readily accept such a programme. The date at
which this programme captured the government of Germany, and became the
national policy, can be quite clearly fixed: it was in 1890, when
Bismarck, the 'no colony man,' was driven from power, and the supreme
direction of national affairs fell into the hands of the Emperor
William II. An impressionable, domineering and magniloquent prince,
inflated by the hereditary self-assurance of the Hohenzollerns, and
sharing to the full the modern German belief in German superiority and
in Germany's imperial destiny, William II. became the spokesman and
leader of an almost insanely megalomaniac, but terribly formidable
nation. During the first decade of his government the new ambitions of
Germany were gradually formulated, and became more distinct. They were
not yet very apparent to the rest of the world, in spite of the fact
that they were expounded with vigour and emphasis in a multitude of
pamphlets and books. The world was even ready to believe the Emperor's
assertion that he was the friend of peace: he half believed it himself,
because he would have been very ready to keep the peace if Germany's
'rights' could be attained without war. But many episodes, such as
Kiao-Chau, and the Philippines, and the ceaseless warfare in the German
colonies, and the restless enterprises of Pan-German intrigue, provided
a commentary upon these pretensions which ought to have revealed the
dangerous spirit which was conquering the German people.

It is difficult, in the midst of a war forced upon the world by German
ambition, to take a sane and balanced view of the aims which German
policy was setting before itself during these years of experiment and
preparation. What did average German opinion mean by the phrase
Weltmacht, world-power, which had become one of the commonplaces of its
political discussions? We may safely assume that by the mass of men the
implications of the term were never very clearly analysed; and that, if
they had been analysable, the results of the analysis would have been
widely different in 1890 and in 1914, except for a few fanatics and
extremists. Was the world-power at which Germany was aiming a real
supremacy over the whole world? In a vague way, no doubt, important
bodies of opinion held that such a supremacy was the ultimate destiny
of Germany in the more or less distant future; and the existence of
such a belief, however undefined, is important because it helped to
colour the attitude of the German mind towards more immediately
practical problems of national policy. But as a programme to be
immediately put into operation, world-power was not conceived in this
sense by any but a few Pan-German fanatics; and even they would have
recognised that of course other states, and even other world-powers,
would certainly survive the most successful German war, though they
would have to submit (for their own good) to Germany's will. Again, did
the demand for world-power mean no more than that Germany must have
extra-European territories, like Britain or France? She already
possessed such territories, though on a smaller scale than her rivals.
Did the claim mean, then, that her dominions must be as extensive and
populous as (say) those of Britain? Such an aim could only be obtained
if she could succeed in overthrowing all her rivals, at once or in
succession. And if she did that, she would then become, whatever her
intentions, a world-power in the first and all-embracing sense. It is
probably true that the German people, and even the extreme Pan-Germans,
did not definitely or consciously aim at world-supremacy. But they had
in the back of their minds the conviction that this was their ultimate
destiny, and in aiming at 'world-power' in a narrower sense, they so
defined their end as to make it impossible of achievement unless the
complete mastery of Europe (which, as things are, means the mastery of
most of the world) could be first attained. Certainly the ruling
statesmen of Germany must have been aware of the implications of their
doctrine of world-power. They were aware of it in 1914, when they
deliberately struck for the mastery of Europe; they must have been
aware of it in 1890, when they began to lay numerous plans and projects
in all parts of the world, such as were bound to arouse the fears and
suspicions of their rivals.

It is necessary to dwell for a little upon these plans and projects of
the decade 1890-1900, because they illustrate the nature of the peril
which was looming over an unconscious world. It would be an error to
suppose that all these schemes were systematically and continuously
pursued with the whole strength of the German state. They appealed to
different bodies of opinion. Some of them were eagerly taken up for a
time, and then allowed to fall into the background, though seldom
wholly dropped. But taken as a whole they showed the existence of a
restless and insatiable ambition without very clearly defined aims, and
an eagerness to make use of every opening for the extension of power,
which constituted a very dangerous frame of mind in a nation so strong,
industrious, and persistent as the German nation.

In spite of the disappointing results of colonisation in Africa, the
German colonial enthusiasts hoped that something suitably grandiose
might yet be erected there: if the Belgian Congo could somehow be
acquired, and if the Portuguese would agree to sell their large
territories on the east and west coasts, a great empire of Tropical
Africa might be brought into being. This vision has not been abandoned:
it is the theme of many pamphlets published during the course of the
war, and if Germany were to be able to impose her own terms, all the
peoples of Central Africa might yet hope to have extended to them the
blessings of German government as they have been displayed in the
Cameroons and in the South-West.

In the 'nineties there seemed also to be hope in South Africa, where
use might be made of the strained relations between Britain and the
Boer Republics. German South-West Africa formed a convenient base for
operations in this region: it was equipped with a costly system of
strategic railways, far more elaborate than the commerce of the colony
required. There is no doubt that President Kruger was given reason to
anticipate that he would receive German help: in 1895 (before the
Jameson Raid) Kruger publicly proclaimed that the time had come 'to
form ties of the closest friendship between Germany and the Transvaal,
ties such as are natural between fathers and children'; in 1896 (after
the Jameson Raid) came the Emperor's telegram congratulating President
Kruger upon having repelled the invaders 'without recourse to the aid
of friendly powers'; in 1897 a formal treaty of friendship and commerce
was made between Germany and the Orange Free State, with which the
Transvaal had just concluded a treaty of perpetual alliance. And
meanwhile German munitions of war were pouring into the Transvaal
through Delagoa Bay. But when the crisis came, Germany did nothing. She
could not, because the British fleet stood in the way.

South America, again, offered a very promising field. There were many
thousands of German settlers, especially in southern Brazil: the
Pan-German League assiduously laboured to organise these settlers, and
to fan their patriotic zeal, by means of schools, books, and
newspapers. But the Monroe Doctrine stood in the way of South American
annexations. Perhaps Germany might have been ready to see how far she
could go with the United States, the least military of great powers.
But there was good reason to suppose that the British fleet would have
to be reckoned with; and a burglarious expedition to South America with
that formidable watchdog at large and unmuzzled was an uninviting

In the Far East the prospects of immediate advance seemed more
favourable, since the Chinese Empire appeared to be breaking up. The
seizure of Kiao-chau in 1897 was a hopeful beginning. But the
Anglo-Japanese alliance of 1902 formed a serious obstacle to any
vigorous forward policy in this region. Once more the British fleet
loomed up as a barrier.

Yet another dream, often referred to by the pamphleteers though never
brought to overt action by the government, was the dream that the rich
empire of the Dutch in the Malay Archipelago should be acquired by
Germany. Holland herself, according to all the political ethnologists
of the Pan-German League, ought to be part of the German Empire; and if
so, her external dominions would follow the destiny of the ruling
state. But this was a prospect to be talked about, not to be worked for
openly. It would naturally follow from a successful European war.

A more immediately practicable field of operations was to be found in
the Turkish Empire. It was here that the most systematic endeavours
were made during this period: the Berlin-Bagdad scheme, which was to be
the keystone of the arch of German world-power, had already taken shape
before our period closed, though the rest of the world was strangely
blind to its significance. Abstractly regarded, a German dominion over
the wasted and misgoverned lands of the Turkish Empire would have meant
a real advance of civilisation, and would have been no more
unjustifiable than the British control of Egypt or India. This feeling
perhaps explained the acquiescence with which the establishment of
German influence in Turkey was accepted by most of the powers. They had
yet to realise that it was not pursued as an end in itself, but as a
means to further domination.

But neither the great Berlin-Bagdad project, nor any of the other
dreams and visions, had been definitely put into operation during the
decade 1890-1900. Germany was as yet feeling the way, preparing the
ground, and building up her resources both military and industrial.
Perhaps the main result which emerged from the tentative experiments of
these years was that at every point the obstacle was the sprawling
British Empire, and the too-powerful British fleet. The conviction grew
that the overthrow of this fat and top-heavy colossus was the necessary
preliminary to the creation of the German world-state.

This was a doctrine which had long been preached by the chief political
mentor of modern Germany, Treitschke, who died in 1896. He was never
tired of declaring that Britain was a decadent and degenerate state,
that her empire was an unreal empire, and that it would collapse before
the first serious attack. It would break up because it was not based
upon force, because it lacked organisation, because it was a medley of
disconnected and discordant fragments, worshipping an undisciplined
freedom. That it should ever have come into being was one of the
paradoxes of history; for it was manifestly not due to straightforward
brute force, like the German Empire; and the modern German mind could
not understand a state which did not rest upon power, but upon consent,
which had not been built up, like Prussia, by the deliberate action of
government, but which had grown almost at haphazard, through the
spontaneous activity of free and self-governing citizens. Treitschke
and his disciples could only explain the paradox by assuming that since
it had not been created by force, it must have been created by low
cunning; and they invented the theory that British statesmen had for
centuries pursued an undeviating and Machiavellian policy of keeping
the more virile states of Europe at cross-purposes with one another by
means of the cunning device called the Balance of Power, while behind
the backs of these tricked and childlike nations Britain was meanly
snapping up all the most desirable regions of the earth. According to
this view it was in some mysterious way Britain's fault that France and
Germany were not the best of friends, and that Russia had been
alienated from her ancient ally. But the day of reckoning would come
when these mean devices would no longer avail, and the pampered,
selfish, and overgrown colossus would find herself faced by
hard-trained and finely tempered Germany, clad in her shining armour.
Then, at the first shock, India would revolt; and the Dutch of South
Africa would welcome their German liberators; and the great colonies,
to which Britain had granted a degree of independence that no virile
state would ever have permitted, would shake off the last shreds of
subordination; and the ramshackle British Empire would fall to pieces;
and Germany would emerge triumphant, free to pursue all her great
schemes, and to create a lasting world-power, based upon Force and
System and upon 'a healthy egoism,' not upon 'irrational
sentimentalities' about freedom and justice.

These were the doctrines and calculations of Realpolitik. They were
becoming more and more prevalent in the 'nineties. They seem definitely
to have got the upper hand in the direction of national policy during
the last years of the century, when Germany refused to consider the
projects of disarmament put forward at the Hague in 1899, when the
creation of the German navy was begun by the Navy Acts of 1898 and
1900, and when the Emperor announced that the future of Germany lay
upon the water, and that hers must be the admiralty of the Atlantic. At
the moment when the conquest of the world by European civilisation was
almost complete, two conceptions of the meaning of empire, the
conception of brutal domination pursued for its own sake, which has
never been more clearly displayed than in the administration of the
German colonies, and the conception of trusteeship, which had slowly
emerged during the long development of the British Empire, stood forth
already in sharp antithesis.

The dreadful anticipation of coming conflict weighed upon the world.
France, still suffering from the wounds of 1870, was always aware of
it. Russia, threatened by German policy in the Balkans, was more and
more clearly realising it. But Britain was extraordinarily slow to
awaken to the menace. As late as 1898 Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was
advocating an alliance between Britain, Germany, and America to
maintain the peace of the world; and Cecil Rhodes, when he devised his
plan for turning Oxford into the training-ground of British youth from
all the free nations of the empire, found a place in his scheme for
German as well as for American students. The telegram to President
Kruger in 1896 caused only a passing sensation. The first real
illumination came with the extraordinary display of German venom
against Britain during the South African war, and with the ominous
doubling of the German naval programme adopted in the midst of that
war, in 1900. But even this made no profound impression. The majority
of the British people declined to believe that a 'great and friendly
nation,' or its rulers, could deliberately enter upon a scheme of such
unbridled ambition and of such unprovoked aggression.



Throughout the period of rivalry for world-power which began in 1878
the British Empire had continued to grow in extent, and to undergo a
steady change in its character and organisation.

In the partition of Africa, Britain, in spite of the already immense
extent of her domains, obtained an astonishingly large share. The
protectorates of British East Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, Nyasaland, and
Somaliland gave her nearly 25,000,000 new negro subjects, and these,
added to her older settlements of Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast,
whose area was now extended, outnumbered the whole population of the
French African empire. But besides these tropical territories she
acquired control over two African regions so important that they
deserve separate treatment: Egypt, on the one hand, and the various
extensions of her South African territories on the other. When the
partition of Africa was completed, the total share of Britain amounted
to 3,500,000 square miles, with a population of over 50,000,000 souls,
and it included the best regions of the continent: the British Empire,
in Africa alone, was more than three times as large as the colonial
empire of Germany, which was almost limited to Africa.

It may well be asked why an empire already so large should have taken
also the giant's share of the last continent available for division
among the powers of Europe. No doubt this was in part due to the
sentiment of imperialism, which was stronger in Britain during this
period than ever before. But there were other and more powerful causes.
In the first place, during the period 1815-78 British influence and
trade had been established in almost every part of Africa save the
central ulterior, and no power had such definite relations with various
native tribes, many of which desired to come under the protectorate of
a power with whom the protection of native rights and customs was an
established principle. In the second place, Britain was the only
country which already possessed in Africa colonies inhabited by
enterprising European settlers, and the activity of these settlers
played a considerable part in the extension of the British African
dominions. And in the third place, since the continental powers had
adopted the policy of fiscal protection, the annexation of a region by
any of them meant that the trade of other nations might be restricted
or excluded; the annexation of a territory by Britain meant that it
would be open freely and on equal terms to the trade of all nations.
For this reason the trading interests in Britain, faced by the
possibility of exclusion from large areas with which they had carried
on traffic, were naturally anxious that as much territory as possible
should be brought under British supremacy, in order that it might
remain open to their trade.

It is the main justification for British annexations that they opened
and developed new markets for all the world, instead of closing them;
and it was this fact chiefly which made the acquisition of such vast
areas tolerable to the other trading powers. The extension of the
British Empire was thus actually a benefit to all the non-imperial
states, especially to such active trading countries as Italy, Holland,
Scandinavia, or America. If at any time Britain should reverse her
traditional policy, and reserve for her own merchants the trade of the
immense areas which have been brought under her control, nothing is
more certain than that the world would protest, and protest with
reason, against the exorbitant and disproportionate share which has
fallen to her. Only so long as British control means the open door for
all the world will the immense extent of these acquisitions continue to
be accepted without protest by the rest of the world.

In the new protectorates of this period Britain found herself faced by
a task with which she had never had to deal on so gigantic a scale,
though she had a greater experience in it than any other nation: the
task of governing justly whole populations of backward races, among
whom white men could not permanently dwell, and whom they visited only
for the purposes of commercial exploitation. The demands of industry
for the raw materials of these countries involved the employment of
labour on a very large scale; but the native disliked unfamiliar toil,
and as his wants were very few, could easily earn enough to keep him in
the idleness he loved. Slavery was the customary mode of getting
uncongenial tasks performed in Africa; but against slavery European
civilisation had set its face. Again, the ancient unvarying customs
whereby the rights and duties of individual tribesmen were enforced,
and the primitive societies held together, were often inconsistent with
Western ideas, and tended to break down altogether on contact with
Western industrial methods. How were the needs of industry to be
reconciled with justice to the subject peoples? How were their customs
to be reconciled with the legal ideas of their new masters? How were
these simple folk to be taught the habits of labour? How were the
resources of their land to be developed without interference with their
rights of property and with the traditional usages arising from them?
These were problems of extreme difficulty, which faced the rulers of
all the new European empires. The attempt to solve them in a
high-handed way, and with a view solely to the interests of the ruling
race, led to many evils: it produced the atrocities of the Congo; it
produced in the German colonies the practical revival of slavery, the
total disregard of native customs, and the horrible sequence of wars
and slaughters of which we have already spoken. In the British
dominions a long tradition and a long experience saved the subject
peoples from these iniquities. We dare not claim that there were no
abuses in the British lands; but at least it can be claimed that
government has always held it to be its duty to safeguard native
rights, and to prevent the total break-up of the tribal system which
could alone hold these communities together. The problem was not fully
solved; perhaps it is insoluble. But at least the native populations
were not driven to despair, and were generally able to feel that they
were justly treated. 'Let me tell you,' a Herero is recorded to have
written from British South Africa to his kinsmen under German rule,
'Let me tell you that the land of the English is a good land, since
there is no ill-treatment. White and black stand on the same level.
There is much work and much money, and your overseer does not beat you,
or if he does he breaks the law and is punished.' There was a very
striking contrast between the steady peace which has on the whole
reigned in all the British dominions, and the incessant warfare which
forms the history of the German colonies. The tradition of protection
of native rights, established during the period 1815-78, and the
experience then acquired, stood the British in good stead. During the
ordeal of the Great War it has been noteworthy that there has been no
serious revolt among these recently conquered subjects; and one of the
most touching features of the war has been the eagerness of chiefs and
their peoples to help the protecting power, and the innumerable humble
gifts which they have spontaneously offered. Much remains to be done
before a perfect solution is found for the problems of these dominions
of yesterday. But it may justly be claimed that trusteeship, not
domination, has been the spirit in which they have been administered;
and that this is recognised by their subjects, despite all the mistakes
and defects to which all human governments must be liable in dealing
with a problem so complex.

Administrative problems of a yet more complex kind were raised in the
two greatest acquisitions of territory made by Britain during these
years, in Egypt and the Soudan, and in South Africa. The events
connected with these two regions have aroused greater controversy than
those connected with any other British dominions; the results of these
events have been more striking, and in different ways more instructive
as to the spirit and methods of British imperialism, than those
displayed in almost any other field; and for these reasons we shall not
hesitate to dwell upon them at some length.

The establishment of British control over Egypt was due to the most
curious chain of unforeseen and unexpected events which even the
records of the British Empire contain. Nominally a part of the Turkish
Empire, Egypt had been in fact a practically independent state, paying
only a small fixed tribute to the Sultan, ever since the remarkable
Albanian adventurer, Mehemet Ali, had established himself as its Pasha
in the confusion following the French occupation (1806). Mehemet Ali
had been an extraordinarily enterprising prince. He had created a
formidable army, had conquered the great desert province of the Soudan
and founded its capital, Khartoum, and had nearly succeeded in
overthrowing the Turkish Empire and establishing his own power in its
stead: during the period 1825-40 he had played a leading role in
European politics. Though quite illiterate, he had posed as the
introducer of Western civilisation into Egypt; but his grandiose and
expensive policy had imposed terrible burdens upon the fellahin
(peasantry), and the heavy taxation which was necessary to maintain his
armies and the spurious civilisation of his capital was only raised by
cruel oppressions.

The tradition of lavish expenditure, met by grinding the peasantry, was
accentuated by Mehemet's successors. It inevitably impoverished the
country. Large loans were raised in the West, to meet increasing
deficits; and the European creditors in course of time found it
necessary to insist that specific revenues should be ear-marked as a
security for their interest, and to claim powers of supervision over
finance. The construction of the Suez Canal (opened 1869), which was
due to the enterprise of the French, promised to bring increased
prosperity to Egypt; but in the meanwhile it involved an immense
outlay. At the beginning of our period Egypt was already on the verge
of bankruptcy, and the Khedive was compelled to sell his holding of
Suez Canal shares, which were shrewdly acquired for Britain by Disraeli.

But financial chaos was not the only evil from which Egypt suffered.
There was administrative chaos also, and this was not diminished by the
special jurisdictions which had been allowed to the various groups of
Europeans settled in the country. The army, unpaid and undisciplined,
was ready to revolt; and above all, the helpless mass of the peasantry
were reduced to the last degree of penury, and exposed to the merciless
and arbitrary severity of the officials, who fleeced them of their
property under the lash. All the trading nations were affected by this
state of anarchy in an important centre of trade; all the creditors of
the Egyptian debt observed it with alarm. But the two powers most
concerned were France and Britain, which between them held most of the
debt, and conducted most of the foreign trade, of Egypt; while to
Britain Egypt had become supremely important, since it now controlled
the main avenue of approach to India.

When a successful military revolt, led by Arabi Pasha, threatened to
complete the disorganisation of the country (1882), France and Britain
decided that they ought to intervene to restore order, the other powers
all agreeing. But at the last moment France withdrew, and the task was
undertaken by Britain single-handed.[7] In a short campaign Arabi was
overthrown; and now Britain had to address herself to the task of
reconstructing the political and economic organisation of Egypt. It was
her hope and intention that the work should be done as rapidly as
possible, in order that she might be able to withdraw from a difficult
and thankless task, which brought her into very delicate relations with
the other powers interested in Egypt. But withdrawal was not easy. The
task of reorganisation proved to be a much larger and more complicated
one than had been anticipated; and it was greatly increased when the
strange wave of religious fanaticism aroused by the preaching of the
Mahdi swept over the Soudan, raised a great upheaval, and led to the
destruction of the Egyptian armies of occupation. Britain had now to
decide whether the revolting province should be reconquered or
abandoned. Reconquest could not be effected by the utterly disorganised
Egyptian army; if it was to be attempted, it must be by means of
British troops. But this would not only mean a profitless expenditure,
it would also indefinitely prolong the British occupation, which
Britain was desirous of bringing to an end at the earliest possible

[7] See above, p. 164

The romantic hero, Gordon, was therefore sent to Khartoum to carry out
the withdrawal from the Soudan of all the remaining Egyptian garrisons.
On his arrival he came to the conclusion that the position was not
untenable, and took no steps to evacuate. There was much dangerous
delay and vacillation; and in the end Gordon was besieged in Khartoum,
and killed by the bands of the Mahdi, before a relief force could reach
him. But this triumph of Mahdism increased its menace to Egypt. The
country could not be left to its own resources until this peril had
been removed, or until the Egyptian army had been fully reorganised. So
the occupation prolonged itself, year after year.

The situation was, in fact, utterly anomalous. Egypt was a province of
Turkey, ruled by a semi-independent Khedive. Britain's chief agent in
the country was in form only in the position of a diplomatic
representative. But the very existence of the country depended upon the
British army of occupation, and upon the work of the British officers
who were reconstructing the Egyptian army. And its hope of future
stability depended upon the work of the British administrators,
financiers, jurists, and engineers who were labouring to set its
affairs in order. These officials, with Sir Evelyn Baring (Lord Cromer)
at their head, had an extraordinarily difficult task to perform. Their
relations with the native government, which they constantly had to
overrule, were difficult enough. But besides this, they had to deal
with the agents of the other European powers, who, as representing the
European creditors of the Egyptian debt, had the right to interfere in
practically all financial questions, and could make any logical
financial reorganisation, and any free use of the country's financial
resources for the restoration of its prosperity, all but impossible.

Yet in the space of a very few years an amazing work of restoration and
reorganisation was achieved. Financial stability was re-established,
while at the same time taxation was reduced. The forced labour which
had been exacted from the peasantry was abolished; they were no longer
robbed of their property under the lash; they obtained a secure tenure
in their land; and they found that its productive power was increased,
by means of great schemes of irrigation. An impartial system of justice
was organised--for the first time in all the long history of Egypt
since the fall of the Roman Empire. The army was remodelled by British
officers. Schools of lower and higher grade were established in large
numbers. In short, Egypt began to assume the aspect of a prosperous and
well-organised modern community. And all this was the work, in the
main, of some fifteen years.

Meanwhile in the Soudan triumphant barbarism had produced an appalling
state of things. It is impossible to exaggerate the hideousness of the
regime of Mahdism. A ferocious tyranny terrorised and reduced to
desolation the whole of the upper basin of the Nile; and the population
is said to have shrunk from 12,000,000 to 2,000,000, although exact
figures are of course unattainable. One of the evil consequences of
this regime was that it prevented a scientific treatment of the flow of
the Nile, on which the very life of Egypt depended. Scientific
irrigation had already worked wonders in increasing the productivity of
Egypt, but to complete this work, and to secure avoidance of the
famines which follow any deficiency in the Nile-flow, it was necessary
to deal with the upper waters of the great river. On this ground, and
in order to remove the danger of a return of barbarism, which was
threatened by frequent Mahdist attacks, and finally in order to rescue
captives who were enduring terrible sufferings in the hands of the
Mahdi, it appeared that the reconquest of the Soudan must be undertaken
as the inevitable sequel to the reorganisation of Egypt. It was
achieved, with a wonderful efficiency which made the name of Kitchener
famous, in the campaigns of 1896-98. The reconquered province was
nominally placed under the joint administration of Britain and Egypt;
but in fact the very remarkable work of civilisation which was carried
out in it during the years preceding the Great War was wholly directed
by British agents and officers.

The occupation of the Soudan necessitated a prolongation of the British
occupation of Egypt. But, indeed, such a prolongation was in any case
inevitable; for the beneficial reforms in justice, administration,
finance, and the organisation of the country's resources, which had
been effected in half a generation, required to be carefully watched
and nursed until they should be securely rooted: to a certainty they
would have collapsed if the guardianship of Britain had been suddenly
and completely withdrawn. The growing prosperity of Egypt, however, and
still more the diffusion of Western education among its people, has
naturally brought into existence a nationalist party, who resent what
they feel to be a foreign dominance in their country, and aspire after
the institutions of Western self-government. But it has to be noted
that the classes among whom this movement has sprung up are not the
classes who form the bulk of the population of Egypt--the fellahin, who
from the time of the Pharaohs downwards have been exploited and
oppressed by every successive conqueror who has imposed his rule on the
country. This class, which has profited more than any other from the
British regime, which has, under that regime, known for the first time
justice, freedom from tyranny, and the opportunity of enjoying a fair
share of the fruits of its own labour, is as yet unvocal. Accustomed
through centuries to submission, accepting good or bad seasons, just or
unjust masters, as the gods may send them, the fellah has not yet had
time even to begin to have thoughts or opinions about his place in
society and his right to a share in the control of his own destinies;
and if the rule which has endeavoured to nurture him into prosperity
and self-reliance were withdrawn, he would accept with blind
submissiveness whatever might take its place. The classes among whom
the nationalist movement finds its strength are the classes which have
been in the past accustomed to enjoy some degree of domination; the
relics of the conquering races, Arabs or Turks, who have succeeded one
another in the rule of Egypt, the small traders and shopkeepers of the
towns, drawn from many different races, the students who have been
influenced by the knowledge and the political ideas of the West. It is
natural and healthy that a desire to share in the government of their
country should grow up among these classes: it is in some degree a
proof that the influence of the regime under which they live has been
stimulating. But it is also obvious that if these classes were at once
to reassume, under parliamentary forms, the dominance which they
wielded so disastrously until thirty years ago, the result must be
unhappy. They are being, under British guidance, gradually introduced
to a share in public affairs. But the establishment of a system of full
self-government and national independence in Egypt, if it is to be
successful, must wait until not only these classes, but also the
classes beneath them, have been habituated to the sense of self-respect
and of civic obligation by a longer acquaintance with the working of
the Reign of Law.

Since the Great War broke out, the British position in Egypt has been
regularised by the proclamation of a formal British protectorate.
Perhaps the happiest fate which can befall the country is that it
should make that gradual progress in political freedom, which is alone
lasting, under the guidance of the power which has already given it
prosperity, the ascendancy of an impartial law, freedom from arbitrary
authority, freedom of speech and thought, and emancipation from the
thraldom of foreign financial interests; and in the end it may possibly
be the destiny of this ancient land, after so many vicissitudes, to
take its place as one among a partnership of free nations in a
world-encircling British Commonwealth of self-governing peoples.

The most vexed, difficult, and critical problems in the history of the
British Empire since 1878--perhaps the most difficult in the whole
course of its history--have been those connected with the South African
colonies. In 1878 there were four distinct European provinces in South
Africa, besides protected native areas, like Basutoland. All four had
sprung from the original Anglo-Dutch colony of the Cape of Good Hope.
In two of them--Cape Colony and Natal--the two European peoples,
British and Dutch, dwelt side by side, the Dutch being in a majority in
the former, the British in the latter; but in both the difficulty of
their relationship was complicated by the presence of large coloured
populations, which included not only the native African peoples,
Hottentots, Kaffirs, Zulus, and so forth, but also a large number of
Asiatics, Malays who had been brought in by the Dutch before the
British conquest, and Indians who had begun to come in more recently in
large numbers, especially to Natal. Difference of attitude towards
these peoples between the British authorities and the Dutch settlers
had been in the past, as we have seen, a main cause of friction between
the two European peoples, and had caused the long postponement of full
self-government. In the other two provinces, the Transvaal and the
Orange Free State, the white inhabitants were, in 1878, almost
exclusively Dutch. The native populations in these states were no
longer in a state of formal slavery, but they were treated as
definitely subject and inferior peoples: a law of the Transvaal laid it
down that 'there shall be no equality in Church or State between white
and black.' Thus the mutual distrust originally aroused by the native
question still survived. It was intensified by ill-feeling between the
Boers and British missionaries. When Livingstone, the British
missionary hero, reported the difficulties which the Boers had put in
his way, British opinion was made more hostile than ever. Of the two
Boer republics, the Orange Free State had enjoyed complete independence
since 1854; and no serious friction ever arose between it and the
British government. But the Transvaal, which had been turbulent and
restless from the first, had been annexed in 1878, largely because it
seemed to be drifting into a war of extermination with the Zulus. As a
consequence, Britain was drawn into a badly managed Zulu-War; and when
this dangerous tribe had been conquered, the Transvaal revolted. The
Boers defeated a small British force at Majuba; whereupon, instead of
pursuing the struggle, the British government resolved to try the
effect of magnanimity, and conceded (1881 and 1884) full local
independence to the Transvaal, subject only to a vague recognition of
British suzerainty.

This was the beginning of many ills. The Transvaal Boers, knowing
little of the world, thought they had defeated Britain; and under the
lead of Paul Kruger, a shrewd old farmer who henceforth directed their
policy with all but autocratic power, began to pursue the aim of
creating a purely Dutch South Africa, and of driving the British into
the sea. Kruger's policy was one of pure racial dominance, not of
equality of rights. It was a natural aim, under all the conditions. But
it was the source of grave evils. Inevitably it stimulated a parallel
movement in Cape Colony, where Dutch and British were learning to live
peaceably together. The Boer extremists also began to look about for
allies, and were tempted to hope for aid from Germany, who had just
established herself in South-West Africa. Full of pride, the
Transvaalers, though they already held a great and rich country which
was very thinly peopled, began to push outwards, and especially to
threaten the native tribes in the barren region of Bechuanaland, which
lay between the Transvaal and the German territory. To this Britain
replied by establishing a protectorate over Bechuanaland (1884) at the
request of native chiefs: the motive of this annexation was, not
suspicion of Germany, for this suspicion did not yet exist, but the
desire to protect the native population.

Kruger's vague project of a Dutch South Africa would probably have
caused little anxiety so long as his resources were limited to the
strength of the thinly scattered Boer farmers. But the situation was
fundamentally altered by the discovery of immense deposits first of
diamonds and then of gold in South Africa, and most richly of all in
the Rand district of the Transvaal. These discoveries brought a rapid
inrush of European miners, financiers, and their miscellaneous
camp-followers, and in a few years a very rich and populous European
community had established itself in the Transvaal, and had created as
its centre the mushroom new city of Johannesburg (founded 1884). These
immigrants, who came from many countries, but especially from Britain,
changed the situation in the Transvaal; it seemed as though the
majority among the white men in that state would soon be British.

A simple and primitive organisation of government, such as sufficed for
the needs of Boer farmers, was manifestly inadequate for the needs of
the new population, which included, in the nature of things, many
undesirable elements; and it was natural that the mining population
should desire to be brought under a more modern type of government, or
to obtain an effective share in the control of their own affairs. But
this was precisely what the Boers of Kruger's way of thinking were
determined to refuse them. They were resolved that Boer ascendancy in
the Transvaal should not be weakened. They therefore denied to the new
immigrants all the rights of citizenship, and would not even permit
them to manage the local affairs of Johannesburg. At the same time
Kruger imposed heavy taxation upon the gold industry and the people who
conducted it; and out of the proceeds he was able not only to pay the
expenses of government without burdening the Boer farmers, but to build
up the military power by means of which he hoped ultimately to carry
out his great project. Thus the 'Uitlanders' found themselves treated
as an inferior race in the land which their industry was enriching.
They practically paid the cost of the government, but had no share in
directing it.

The policy of racial ascendancy has seldom been pursued in a more
mischievous or dangerous form. One cannot but feel a certain sympathy
with the Boers' desire to maintain Boer ascendancy in the land which
they had conquered. Yet it must be remembered that they were themselves
very recent immigrants: the whole settlement of the Transvaal had taken
place in Paul Kruger's lifetime.

The diamonds and the gold of the recent discoveries had produced in
South Africa a new element of power: the power of great wealth, wielded
by a small number of men. Some of these were, of course, mean and
sordid souls, to whom wealth was an end in itself. But among them one
emerged who was more than a millionaire, who was capable of dreaming
great dreams, and had acquired his wealth chiefly in order that he
might have the power to realise them. This was Cecil Rhodes, an almost
unique combination of the financier and the idealist. If he was
sometimes tempted to resort to the questionable devices that high
finance seems to cultivate, and if his ideals took on sometimes a
rather vulgar colour, reflected from his money-bags, nevertheless
ideals were the real governing factors in his life.

He dreamed of a great united state of South Africa; it was to be a
British South Africa; but it was to be British, not in the sense in
which Kruger wished it to be Dutch, but in the sense that equality of
treatment between the white races should exist within it, as in all the
British lands. He dreamed also of a great brotherhood of British
communities, or communities governed by British ideals, girdling the
world, perhaps dominating it (for Rhodes was inclined to be a
chauvinist), and leading it to peace and liberty. As a lad fresh from
Oxford, in long journeyings over the African veldt, he had in a
curious, childlike way thought out a theology, a system of politics,
and a mode of life for himself; having reached the conclusion that the
British race had on the whole more capacity for leading the world
successfully than any other, he had resolved that it should be his
life's business to forward and increase the influence of British ideas
and of British modes of life; and he had systematically built up a
colossal fortune in order that he might have the means to do this work.
At the roots of this strange medley of poetry and chauvinism which
filled his mind was an unchanging and deep veneration for the
outstanding memory of his youth, Oxford, which in his mind stood for
all the august venerable past of England, and was the expression of her
moral essence. When he died, after a life of money-making and intrigue,
in a remote and half-developed colony, it was found that most of his
immense fortune had been left either to enrich the college where he had
spent a short time as a lad, or to bring picked youths from all the
British lands, and from what he regarded as the two great sister
communities of America and Germany, so that they might drink in the
spirit of England, at Oxford, its sanctuary.

His immediate task lay in South Africa, where, from the moment of his
entry upon public life, he became the leader of the British cause as
Kruger was the leader of the Dutch: millionaire-dreamer and shrewd,
obstinate farmer, they form a strange contrast. The one stood for South
African unity based upon equality of the white races: the other also
for unity, but for unity based upon the ascendancy of one of the white
races. In the politics of Cape Colony Rhodes achieved a remarkable
success: he made friends with the Dutch party and its leader Hofmeyr,
who for a long time gave steady support to his schemes and maintained
him in the premiership. It was a good beginning for the policy of
racial co-operation. But Rhodes's most remarkable achievement was the
acquisition of the fertile upland regions of Mashonaland and
Matabililand, now called Rhodesia in his honour. There were episodes
which smelt of the shady practices of high finance in the events which
led up to this acquisition. But in the result its settlement was well
organised, after some initial difficulties, by the Chartered Company
which Rhodes formed for the purpose. Now one important result of the
acquisition of Rhodesia was that it hemmed in the Transvaal on the
north; and, joined with the earlier annexation of Bechuanaland,
isolated and insulated the two Dutch republics, which were now
surrounded, everywhere except on the east, by British territory. From
Cape Town up through Bechuanaland and through the new territories
Rhodes drove a long railway line. It was a business enterprise, but for
him it was also a great imaginative conception, a link of empire, and
he dreamed of the day when it should be continued to join the line
which was being pushed up the Nile from Cairo through the hot sands of
the Soudan.

But Rhodes's final and most unhappy venture was the attempt to force,
by violent means, a solution of the Transvaal problem. He hoped that
the Uitlanders might be able, by a revolution, to overthrow Kruger's
government, and, perhaps in conjunction with the more moderate Boers,
to set up a system of equal treatment which would make co-operation
with the other British colonies easy, and possibly bring about a
federation of the whole group of South African States. He was too
impatient to let the situation mature quietly. He forced the issue by
encouraging the foolish Jameson Raid of 1895. This, like all wilful
resorts to violence, only made things worse. It alienated and angered
the more moderate Boers in the Transvaal, who were not without sympathy
with the Uitlanders. It aroused the indignation of the Cape Colony
Boers, and embittered racial feeling there. It put the British cause in
the wrong in the eyes of the whole world, and made the Boers appear as
a gallant little people struggling in the folds of a merciless
python-empire. It increased immensely the difficulty of the British
government in negotiating with the Transvaal for better treatment of
the Uitlanders. It stiffened the backs of Kruger and his party. The
German Kaiser telegraphed his congratulations on the defeat of the Raid
'without the aid of friendly powers,' and the implication that this aid
would be forthcoming in case of necessity led the Boers to believe that
they could count on German help in a struggle with Britain. So every
concession to the Uitlanders was obstinately refused; and after three
years more of fruitless negotiation, during which German munitions were
pouring into the Transvaal, the South African War began. It may be that
the war could have been avoided by the exercise of patience. It may be
that the imperialist spirit, which was very strong in Britain at that
period, led to the adoption of a needlessly high-handed tone. But it
was neither greed nor tyranny on Britain's part which brought about the
conflict, but simply the demand for equal rights.

The war was one in which all the appearances were against Britain, and
the whole world condemned British greed and aggression. It was a case
of Goliath fighting David, the biggest empire in the world attacking
two tiny republics; yet the weaker side is not necessarily always in
the right. It seemed to be a conflict for the possession of gold-mines;
yet Britain has never made, and never hoped to make, a penny of profit
out of these mines, which remained after the war in the same hands as
before it. It was a case of the interests of financiers and
gold-hunters against those of simple and honest farmers; yet even
financiers have rights, and even farmers can be unjust. In reality the
issue was a quite simple and straightforward one. It was the issue of
racial ascendancy against racial equality, and as her traditions bade
her, Britain strove for racial equality. It was the issue of
self-government for the whole community as against the entrenched
dominion of one section; and there was no question on which side the
history of Britain must lead her to range herself. Whatever the rest of
the world might say, the great self-governing colonies, which were free
to help or not as they thought fit, had no doubts at all. They all sent
contingents to take part in the war, because they knew it to be a war
for principles fundamental to themselves.

The war dragged its weary course, and the Boers fought with such
heroism, and often with such chivalry, as to win the cordial respect
and admiration of their enemies. It is always a pity when men fight;
but sometimes a fight lets bad blood escape, and makes friendship
easier between foes who have learnt mutual respect. Four years after
the peace which added the Transvaal and the Orange Free State as
conquered dominions to the British Empire, the British government
established in both of these provinces the full institutions of
responsible self-government. As in Canada sixty years earlier, the two
races were bidden to work together and make the best of one another;
because now their destinies were freely under their own control. Yet
this was even a bolder experiment than that of Canada, and showed a
more venturesome confidence in the healing power of self-government.
How has it turned out? Within five years more, the four divided
provinces which had presented such vexed problems in 1878, were
combined in the federal Union of South Africa, governed by institutions
which reproduced those of Britain and her colonies.

In handing over to the now united states of South Africa the
unqualified control of their own affairs, Britain necessarily left to
them the vexed problem of devising a just relation between the ruling
races and their subjects of backward or alien stocks; the problem which
had been the source of most of the difficulties of South Africa for a
century past, and which had long delayed the concession of full
self-government. Nowhere in the world does this problem assume a more
acute form than in South Africa, where there is not only a majority of
negroes, mostly of the vigorous Bantu stock, but also a large number of
immigrants mainly from India, who as subjects of the British crown
naturally claim special rights. South Africa has to find her own
solution for this complex problem; and she has not yet fully found it.
But in two ways her association with the British Empire has helped, and
will help, her to find her way towards it. If the earlier policy of the
British government, guided by the missionaries, laid too exclusive an
emphasis upon native rights, and in various ways hampered the
development of the colony by the way in which it interpreted these
rights, at least it had established a tradition hostile to that policy
of mere ruthless exploitation of which such an ugly illustration was
being given in German South-West Africa. An absolute parity of
treatment between white and black must be not only impracticable, but
harmful to both sides. But between the two extremes of a visionary
equality and a white ascendancy ruthlessly employed for exploitation, a
third term is possible--the just tutelage of the white man over the
black, with a reasonable freedom for native custom. 'A practice has
grown up in South Africa,' says the greatest of South African
statesmen,[8] 'of creating parallel institutions, giving the natives
their own separate institutions on parallel lines with institutions for
whites. It may be that on these lines we may yet be able to solve a
problem which may otherwise be insoluble.' It is a solution which owes
much to the British experiments of the previous period; and the
principle which inspires it was incorporated in the Act of Union. This
is one of the innumerable fruitful experiments in government in which
the British system is so prolific. Again, the problem of the
relationship between Indian immigrants and white colonists is an
acutely difficult one. It cannot be said to have been solved. But at
least the fact that the South African Union and the Indian Empire are
both partners in the same British commonwealth improves the chances of
a just solution. It helped to find at least a temporary adjustment in
1914; in the future also it may contribute, in this as in many other
ways, to ensure that a fair consideration is given to both sides of the
thorny question of inter-racial relationship.

[8] General Smuts, May 22, 1917.

The events which led up to, and still more the events which followed,
the South African War had thus brought a solution for the South African
problem, which had been a continuous vexation since the moment of the
British conquest. It was solved by the British panacea of
self-government and equal rights. Who could have anticipated, twenty
years or fifty years ago, the part which has been played by South
Africa in the Great War? Is there any parallel to these events, which
showed the gallant general of the Boer forces playing the part of prime
minister in a united South Africa, crushing with Boer forces a revolt
stirred up among the more ignorant Boers by German intrigue, and then
leading an army, half Boer and half British, to the conquest of German
South-West Africa?

The South African War had proved to be the severest test which the
modern British Empire had yet had to undergo. But it had emerged, not
broken, as in 1782, but rejuvenated, purged of the baser elements which
had alloyed its imperial spirit, and confirmed in its faith in the
principles on which it was built. More than that, on the first occasion
on which the essential principles or the power of the empire had been
challenged in war, all the self-governing colonies had voluntarily
borne their share. Apart from a small contingent sent from Australia to
the Soudan in 1885, British colonies had never before--indeed, no
European colony had ever before--sent men oversea to fight in a common
cause: and this not because their immediate interests were threatened,
but for the sake of an idea. For that reason the South African War
marks an epoch not merely in the history of the British Empire, but of
European imperialism as a whole.

The unity of sentiment and aim which was thus expressed had, however,
been steadily growing throughout the period of European rivalry; and
doubtless in the colonies, as in Britain, the new value attached to the
imperial tie was due in a large degree to the very fact of the
eagerness of the other European powers for extra-European possessions.
Imperialist sentiment began to become a factor in British politics just
about the beginning of this period: in 1878 the Imperial Federation
Society was founded, and about the same time Disraeli, who had once
spoken of the colonies as 'millstones around our necks,' was making
himself the mouthpiece of the new imperialist spirit. To this wave of
feeling a very notable contribution was made by Sir John Seeley's
brilliant book, "The Expansion of England." Slight as it was, and
containing no facts not already familiar, it gave a new perspective to
the events of the last four centuries of British history, and made the
growth of the Empire seem something not merely casual and incidental,
but a vital and most significant part of the British achievement. Its
defect was, perhaps, that it concentrated attention too exclusively
upon the external aspects of the wonderful story, and dwelt too little
upon its inner spirit, upon the force and influence of the instinct of
self-government which has been the most potent factor in British
history. The powerful impression which it created was deepened by other
books, like Froude's "Oceana" and Sir Charles Dilke's "Greater
Britain," the title of which alone was a proclamation and a prophecy.
It was strengthened also by the wonderful imperial pageants, like
nothing else ever witnessed in the world, which began with the two
Jubilee celebrations of 1887 and 1897, and were continued in the
funerals of Queen Victoria and Edward VII., the coronations of Edward
VII. and George V., and the superb Durbars of Delhi. The imaginative
appeal of such solemn representations of a world-scattered fellowship
of peoples and nations and tongues must not be underestimated. At first
there was perhaps a suggestion of blatancy, and of mere pride in
dominion, in the way in which these celebrations were received; the
graver note of Kipling's 'Recessional,' inspired by the Jubilee of
1897, was not unneeded. But after the strain and anxiety of the South
African War, a different temper visibly emerged.

More important than the pageants were the conferences of imperial
statesmen which arose out of them. The prime ministers of the great
colonies began to deliberate in common with the statesmen of Britain;
and the discussions, though at first quite informal and devoid of
authority, have become more intimate and vital as time has passed: a
beginning at least has been made in the common discussion of problems
affecting the Empire as a whole. And alongside of, and in consequence
of, all this, imperial questions have been treated with a new
seriousness in the British parliament, and the offices which deal with
them have ceased to be, as they once were, reserved for statesmen of
the second rank. The new attitude was pointedly expressed when in 1895
Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, the most brilliant politician of his
generation, who could have had almost any office he desired,
deliberately chose the Colonial Office. His tenure of that office was
not, perhaps, memorable for any far-reaching change in colonial policy,
though he introduced some admirable improvements in the administration
of the tropical colonies; but it was most assuredly memorable for the
increased intensity of interest which he succeeded in arousing in
imperial questions, both at home and in the colonies. The campaign
which he initiated, after the South African War, for the institution of
an Imperial Zollverein or a system of Colonial Preference was a
failure, and indeed was probably a blunder, since it implied an attempt
to return to that material basis of imperial unity which had formed the
core of the old colonial system, and had led to the most unhappy
results in regard to the American colonies. But at least it was an
attempt to realise a fuller unity than had yet been achieved, and in
its first form included an inspiring appeal to the British people to
face sacrifices, should they be necessary, for that high end. Whether
these ideas contribute to the ultimate solution of the imperial problem
or not, it was at least a good thing that the question should be raised
and discussed.

One further feature among the many developments of this era must not be
left untouched. It is the rise of a definitely national spirit in the
greater members of the Empire. To this a great encouragement has been
given by the political unity which some of these communities have for
the first time attained during these years. National sentiment in the
Dominion of Canada was stimulated into existence by the Federation of
1867. The unification of Australia which was at length achieved in the
Federation of 1900 did not indeed create, but it greatly strengthened,
the rise of a similar spirit of Australian nationality. A national
spirit in South Africa, merging in itself the hostile racial sentiments
of Boer and Briton, may well prove to be the happiest result of the
Union of South Africa. In India also a national spirit is coming to
birth, bred among a deeply divided people by the political unity, the
peace, and the equal laws, which have been the greatest gifts of
British rule; its danger is that it may be too quick to imagine that
the unity which makes nationhood can be created merely by means of
resolutions declaring that it exists, but the desire to create it is an
altogether healthy desire. On the surface it might appear that the rise
of a national spirit in the great members of the Empire is a danger to
the ideal of imperial unity; but that need not be so, and if it were
so, the danger must be faced, since the national spirit is too valuable
a force to be restricted. The sense of nationhood is the inevitable
outcome of the freedom and co-operation which the British system
everywhere encourages; to attempt to repress it lest it should endanger
imperial unity would be as short-sighted as the old attempt to restrict
the natural growth of self-government because it also seemed a danger
to imperial unity. The essence of the British system is the free
development of natural tendencies, and the encouragement of variety of
types; and the future towards which the Empire seems to be tending is
not that of a highly centralised and unified state, but that of a
brotherhood of free nations, united by community of ideas and
institutions, co-operating for many common ends, and above all for the
common defence in case of need, but each freely following the natural
trend of its own development.

That is the conception of empire, unlike any other ever entertained by
men upon this planet, which was already shaping itself among the
British communities when the terrible ordeal of the Great War came to
test it, and to prove as not even the staunchest believer could have
anticipated, that it was capable of standing the severest trial which
men or institutions have ever had to undergo.



At the opening of the twentieth century the long process whereby the
whole globe has been brought under the influence of European
civilisation was practically completed; and there had emerged a group
of gigantic empires, which in size far surpassed the ancient Empire of
Rome; each resting upon, and drawing its strength from, a unified
nation-state. In the hands of these empires the political destinies of
the world seemed to rest, and the lesser nation-states appeared to be
altogether overshadowed by them. Among the vast questions which fate
was putting to humanity, there were none more momentous than these: On
what principles, and in what spirit, were these nation-empires going to
use the power which they had won over their vast and varied multitudes
of subjects? What were to be their relations with one another? Were
they to be relations of conflict, each striving to weaken or destroy
its rivals in the hope of attaining a final world-supremacy? Or were
they to be relations of co-operation in the development of
civilisation, extending to the whole world those tentative but far from
unsuccessful efforts after international co-operation which the
European states had long been endeavouring to work out among
themselves?[9] At first it seemed as if the second alternative might be
adopted, for these were the days of the Hague Conferences; but the
development of events during the first fourteen years of the century
showed with increasing clearness that one of the new world-states was
resolute to make a bid for world-supremacy, and the gradual maturing of
this challenge, culminating in the Great War, constitutes the supreme
interest of these years.

[9] See the Essay on Internationalism (Nationalism and
Internationalism, p. 124 ff.).

The oldest, and (by the rough tests of area, population, and natural
resources) by far the greatest of these new composite world-states, was
the British Empire, which included 12,000,000 square miles, or
one-quarter of the land-surface of the globe. It rested upon the
wealth, vigour, and skill of a population of 45,000,000 in the
homeland, to which might be added, but only by their own consent, the
resources of five young daughter-nations, whose population only
amounted to about 15,000,000. Thus it stood upon a rather narrow
foundation. And while it was the greatest, it was also beyond
comparison the most loosely organised of all these empires. It was
rather a partnership of a multitude of states in every grade of
civilisation than an organised and consolidated dominion. Five of its
chief members were completely self-governing, and shared in the common
burdens only by their own free will. All the remaining members were
organised as distinct units, though subject to the general control of
the home government. The resources of each unit were employed
exclusively for the development of its own welfare. They paid no
tribute; they were not required to provide any soldiers beyond the
minimum needed for their own defence and the maintenance of internal
order. This empire, in short, was not in any degree organised for
military purposes. It possessed no great land-army, and was, therefore,
incapable of threatening the existence of any of its rivals. It
depended for its defence firstly upon its own admirable strategic
distribution, since it was open to attack at singularly few points
otherwise than from the sea; it depended mainly, for that reason, upon
naval power, and secure command of the sea-roads by which its members
were linked was absolutely vital to its existence. Only by sea-power
(which is always weak in the offensive) could it threaten its
neighbours or rivals; and its sea-power, during four centuries, had
always, in war, been employed to resist the threatened domination of
any single power, and had never, in time of peace, been employed to
restrict the freedom of movement of any of the world's peoples. On the
contrary, the Freedom of the Seas had been established by its
victories, and dated from the date of its ascendancy. The life-blood of
this empire was trade; its supreme interest was manifestly peace. The
conception of the meaning of empire which had been developed by its
history was not a conception of dominion for dominion's sake, or of the
exploitation of subjects for the advantage of a master. On the
contrary, it had come to mean (especially during the nineteenth
century) a trust; a trust to be administered in the interests of the
subjects primarily, and secondarily in the interests of the whole
civilised world. That this is not the assertion of a theory or an
ideal, but of a fact and a practice, is sufficiently demonstrated by
two unquestionable facts: the first that the units which formed this
empire were not only free from all tribute in money or men, but were
not even required to make any contribution towards the upkeep of the
fleet, upon which the safety of all depended; the second that every
port and every market in this vast empire, so far as they were under
the control of the central government, were thrown open as freely to
the citizens of all other states as to its own. Finally, in this empire
there had never been any attempt to impose a uniformity of method or
even of laws upon the infinitely various societies which it included:
it not merely permitted, it cultivated and admired, varieties of type,
and to the maximum practicable degree believed in self-government.
Because these were the principles upon which it was administered, the
real strength of this empire was far greater than it appeared. But
beyond question it was ill-prepared and ill-organised for war; desiring
peace beyond all things, and having given internal peace to one-quarter
of the earth's population, it was apt to be over-sanguine about the
maintenance of peace. And if a great clash of empires should come, this
was likely to tell against it.

The second oldest--perhaps it ought to be described as the oldest--of
the world-empires, and the second largest in area, was the Russian
Empire, which covered 8,500,000 square miles of territory. Its strength
was that its vast domains formed a single continuous block, and that
its population was far more homogeneous than that of its rivals, three
out of four of its subjects being either of the Russian or of kindred
Slavonic stock. Its weaknesses were that it was almost land-locked,
nearly the whole of its immense coastline being either inaccessible, or
ice-bound during half of the year; and that it had not adopted modern
methods of government, being subject to a despotism, working through an
inefficient, tyrannical, and corrupt bureaucracy. In the event of a
European war it was further bound to suffer from the facts that its
means of communication and its capacity for the movement of great
armies were ill-developed; and that it was far behind all its rivals in
the control of industrial machinery and applied science, upon which
modern warfare depends, and without which the greatest wealth of
man-power is ineffective. At the opening of the twentieth century
Russia was still pursuing the policy of Eastward expansion at the
expense of China, which the other Western powers had been compelled to
abandon by the formation of the Anglo-Japanese alliance. Able to bring
pressure upon China from the landward side, she was not deterred by the
naval predominance which this alliance enjoyed, and she still hoped to
control Manchuria, and to dominate the policy of China. But these aims
brought her in conflict with Japan, who had been preparing for the
conflict ever since 1895. The outcome of the war (1904), which ended in
a disastrous Russian defeat, had the most profound influence upon the
politics of the world. It led to an internal revolution in Russia. It
showed that the feet of the colossus were of clay, and that her
bureaucratic government was grossly corrupt and incompetent. It forbade
Russia to take an effective part in the critical events of the
following years, and notably disabled her from checking the progress of
German and Austrian ascendancy in the Balkans. Above all it increased
the self-confidence of Germany, and inspired her rulers with the
dangerous conviction that the opposing forces with which they would
have to deal in the expected contest for the mastery of Europe could be
more easily overthrown than they had anticipated. To the Russian defeat
must be mainly attributed the blustering insolence of German policy
during the next ten years, and the boldness of the final challenge in

The third of the great empires was that of France, with 5,000,000
square miles of territory, mostly acquired in very recent years, but
having roots in the past. It rested upon a home population of only
39,000,000, but these belonged to the most enlightened, the most
inventive, and the most chivalrous stock in Christendom. As France had,
a hundred years before, raised the standard of human rights among the
European peoples, so she was now bringing law and justice and peace to
the backward peoples of Africa and the East; and was finding in the
pride of this achievement some consolation for the brutality with which
she had been hurled from the leadership of Europe.

The fourth of the great empires was America, with some 3,000,000 square
miles of territory, and a vague claim of suzerainty over the vast area
of Central and South America. Her difficult task of welding into a
nation masses of people of the most heterogeneous races had been made
yet more difficult by the enormous flood of immigrants, mainly from the
northern, eastern, and south-eastern parts of Europe, which had poured
into her cities during the last generation: they proved to be in many
ways more difficult to digest than their predecessors, and they tended,
in a dangerous way, to live apart and to organise themselves as
separate communities. The presence of these organised groups made it
sometimes hard for America to maintain a quite clear and distinctive
attitude in the discussions of the powers, most of which had, as it
were, definite bodies of advocates among her citizens; and it was
perhaps in part for this reason that she had tended to fall back again
to that attitude of aloofness towards the affairs of the non-American
world from which she seemed to have begun to depart in the later years
of the last century. Although she had herself taken a hand in the
imperialist activities of the 'nineties, the general attitude of her
citizens towards the imperial controversies of Europe was one of
contempt or undiscriminating condemnation. Her old tradition of
isolation from the affairs of Europe was still very strong--still the
dominating factor in her policy. She had not yet grasped (indeed, who,
in any country, had?) the political consequences of the new era of
world-economy into which we have passed. And therefore she could not
see that the titanic conflict of Empires which was looming ahead was of
an altogether different character from the old conflicts of the
European states, that it was fundamentally a conflict of principles, a
fight for existence between the ideal of self-government and the ideal
of dominion, and that it must therefore involve, for good or ill, the
fortunes of the whole globe. She watched the events which led up to the
great agony with impartial and deliberate interest. Even when the war
began she clung with obstinate faith to the belief that her tradition
of aloofness might still be maintained. It is not surprising, when we
consider how deep-rooted this tradition was, that it took two and a
half years of carnage and horror to convert her from it. But it was
inevitable that in the end her still more deeply rooted tradition of
liberty should draw her into the conflict, and lead her at last to play
her proper part in the attempt to shape a new world-order.

We cannot stop to analyse the minor world-states, Italy and Japan; both
of which might have stood aside from the conflict, but that both
realised its immense significance for themselves and for the world.

Last among the world-states, both in the date of its foundation and in
the extent of its domains, was the empire of Germany, which covered
considerably less than 1,500,000 square miles, but rested upon a home
population of nearly 70,000,000, more docile, more industrious, and
more highly organised than any other human society. The empire of
Germany had been more easily and more rapidly acquired than any of the
others, yet since its foundation it had known many troubles, because
the hard and domineering spirit in which it was ruled did not know how
to win the affections of its subjects. A parvenu among the great
states--having only attained the dignity of nationhood in the
mid-nineteenth century--Germany has shown none of that 'genius for
equality' which is the secret of good manners and of friendship among
nations as among individuals. Her conversation, at home and abroad, had
the vulgar self-assertiveness of the parvenu, and turned always and
wholly upon her own greatness. And her conduct has been the echo of her
conversation. She has persuaded herself that she has a monopoly of
power, of wisdom, and of knowledge, and deserves to rule the earth. Of
the magnitude and far-reaching nature of her imperialist ambitions, we
have said something in a previous chapter. She had as yet failed to
realise any of these vaulting schemes, but she had not for that reason
abandoned any of them, and she kept her clever and insidious
preparations on foot in every region of the world upon which her
acquisitive eyes had rested. But the exasperation of her steady failure
to achieve the place in the world which she had marked out as her due
had driven her rulers more and more definitely to contemplate, and
prepared her people to uphold, a direct challenge to all her rivals.
The object of this challenge was to win for Germany her due share in
the non-European world, her 'place in the sun.' Her view of what that
share must be was such that it could not be attained without the
overthrow of all her European rivals, and this would bring with it the
lordship of the world. It must be all or nothing. Though not quite
realising this alternative, the mind of Germany was not afraid of it.
She was in the mood to make a bold attempt, if need be, to grasp even
the sceptre of world-supremacy. The world could not believe that any
sane people could entertain such megalomaniac visions; not even the
events of the decade 1904-14 were enough to bring conviction; it needed
the tragedy and desolation of the war to prove at once their reality
and their folly. For they were folly even if they could be momentarily
realised. They sprang from the traditions of Prussia, which seemed to
demonstrate that all things were possible to him who dared all, and
scrupled nothing, and calculated his chances and his means with
precision. By force and fraud the greatness of Prussia had been built;
by force and fraud Prussia-Germany had become the leading state of
Europe, feared by all her rivals and safe from all attack. Force and
fraud appeared to be the determining factors in human affairs; even the
philosophers of Germany devoted their powers to justifying and
glorifying them. By force and fraud, aided by science, Germany should
become the leader of the world, and perhaps its mistress. Never has the
doctrine of power been proclaimed with more unflinching directness as
the sole and sufficient motive for state action. There was practically
no pretence that Germany desired to improve the condition of the lands
she wished to possess, or that they were misgoverned, or that the
existing German territories were threatened: what pretence there was,
was invented after war began. The sole and sufficient reason put
forward by the advocates of the policy which Germany was pursuing was
that she wanted more power and larger dominions; and what she wanted
she proposed to take.

On the surface it seemed mere madness for the least and latest of the
great empires to challenge all the rest, just as it had once seemed
madness for Frederick the Great, with his little state, to stand up
against all but one of the great European powers. But Germany had
calculated her chances, and knew that there were many things in her
favour. She knew that in the last resort the strength of the
world-states rested upon their European foundations, and here the
inequality was much less. In a European struggle she could draw great
advantage from her central geographical position, which she had
improved to the highest extent by the construction of a great system of
strategic railways. She could trust to her superbly organised military
system, more perfect than that of any other state, just because no
other state has ever regarded war as the final aim and the highest form
of state action. She commanded unequalled resources in all the
mechanical apparatus of war; she had spared no pains to build up her
armament works, which had, indeed, supplied a great part of the world;
she had developed all the scientific industries in such a way that
their factories could be rapidly and easily turned to war purposes; and
having given all her thoughts to the coming struggle as no other nation
had done, she knew, better than any other, how largely it would turn
upon these things. She counted securely upon winning an immense
advantage from the fact that she would herself fix the date of war, and
enter upon it with a sudden spring, fully prepared, against rivals who,
clinging to the hope of peace, would be unready for the onset. She
hoped to sow jealousies among her rivals; she trusted to catch them at
a time when they were engrossed in their domestic concerns, and in this
respect fate seemed to play into her hands, since at the moment which
she had predetermined, Britain, France, and Russia were all distracted
by domestic controversies. She trusted also to her reading of the minds
and temper of her opponents; and here she went wildly astray, as must
always be the fate of the nation or the man who is blinded by
self-complacency and by contempt for others.

But, above all, she put her trust in a vast political combination which
she had laboriously prepared during the years preceding the great
conflict: the combination which we have learned to call Mittel-Europa.
None of us realised to how great an extent this plan had been put in
operation before the war began. Briefly it depended on the possibility
of obtaining an intimate union with the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a
control over the Turkish Empire, and a sufficient influence or control
among the little Balkan states to ensure through communication. If the
scheme could be carried out in full, it would involve the creation of a
practically continuous empire stretching from the North Sea to the
Persian Gulf, and embracing a total population of over 150,000,000.
This would be a dominion worth acquiring for its own sake, since it
would put Germany on a level with her rivals. But it would have the
further advantage that it would hold a central position in relation to
the other world-powers, corresponding to Germany's central position in
relation to the other nation-states of Europe. Russia could be struck
at along the whole length of her western and south-western frontier;
the British Empire could be threatened in Egypt, the centre of its
ocean lines of communication, and also from the Persian Gulf in the
direction of India; the French Empire could be struck at the heart, in
its European centre; and all without seriously laying open the
attacking powers to the invasion of sea-power.

It was a bold and masterful scheme, and it was steadily pursued during
the years before the war. Austro-Hungary was easily influenced. The
ascendancy of her ruling races--nay, the very existence of her
composite anti-national empire--was threatened by the nationalist
movements among her subject-peoples, who, cruelly oppressed at home,
were more and more beginning to turn towards their free brothers over
the border, in Serbia and Rumania; and behind these loomed Russia, the
traditional protector of the Slav peoples and of the Orthodox faith.
Austro-Hungary, therefore, leant upon the support of Germany, and her
dominant races would be very willing to join in a war which should
remove the Russian menace and give them a chance of subjugating the
Serbs. This latter aim suited the programme of Germany as well as it
suited that of Austria, since the railways to Constantinople and
Salonika ran through Serbia. Serbia, therefore, was doomed; she stood
right in the path of the Juggernaut car.

The acquisition of influence in Turkey was also comparatively easy.
Constantinople is a city where lavish corruption can work wonders.
Moreover Turkey was, in the last years of the nineteenth century, in
bad odour with Europe; and Germany was able to earn in 1897 the lasting
gratitude of the infamous Sultan Abdul Hamid by standing between him
and the other European powers, who were trying to interfere with his
indulgence in the pastime of massacring the Armenians. Turkey had had
many protectors among the European powers. She had never before had one
so complaisant about the murder of Christians. From that date Germany
was all-powerful in Turkey. The Turkish army was reorganised under her
direction, and practically passed under her control. Most of the
Turkish railways were acquired and managed by German companies. And
presently the great scheme of the Bagdad railway began to be carried
through. The Young Turk revolution in 1908 and the fall of Abdul Hamid
gave, indeed, a shock to the German ascendancy; but only for a moment.
The Young Turks were as amenable to corruption as their predecessors;
and under the guidance of Enver Bey Turkey relapsed into German
suzerainty. Thus the most important parts of the great scheme were in a
fair way of success by 1910. One of the merits of this scheme was that
as the Sultan of Turkey was the head of the Mahomedan religion, the
German protectorate over Turkey gave a useful mode of appealing to the
religious sentiments of Mahomedans everywhere. Twice over, in 1898 and
in 1904, the Kaiser had declared that he was the protector of all
Mahomedans throughout the world. Most of the Mahomedans were subjects
either of Britain, France, or Russia--the three rival empires that were
to be overthrown. As General Bernhardi put it, Germany in her struggle
for Weltmacht must supplement her material weapons with spiritual

To obtain a similar ascendancy over the Balkan states was more
difficult; for the Turk was the secular enemy of all of them, and
Austria was the foe of two of the four, and to bring these little
states into partnership with their natural enemies seemed an all but
impossible task. Yet a good deal could be, and was, done. In two of the
four chief Balkan states German princes occupied the thrones, a
Hohenzollern in Rumania, a Coburger in Bulgaria; in a third, the
heir-apparent to the Greek throne was honoured with the hand of the
Kaiser's own sister. Western peoples had imagined that the day had gone
by when the policy of states could be deflected by such facts;
especially as the Balkan states all had democratic parliamentary
constitutions. But the Germans knew better than the West. They knew
that kings could still play a great part in countries where the bulk of
the electorate were illiterate, and where most of the class of
professional politicians were always open to bribes. Their calculations
were justified. King Carol of Rumania actually signed a treaty of
alliance with Germany without consulting his ministers or parliament.
King Ferdinand of Bulgaria was able to draw his subjects into an
alliance with the Turks, who had massacred their fathers in 1876,
against the Russians, who had saved them from destruction. King
Constantine of Greece was able to humiliate and disgrace the country
over which he ruled, in order to serve the purposes of his
brother-in-law. These sovereigns may have been the unconscious
implements of a policy which they did not understand. But they earned
their wages.

There were, indeed, two moments when the great scheme came near being
wrecked. One was when Italy, the sleeping partner of the Triple
Alliance, who was not made a sharer in these grandiose and vile
projects, attacked and conquered the Turkish province of Tripoli in
1911, and strained to breaking-point the loyalty of the Turks to
Germany. The other was when, under the guidance of the two great
statesmen of the Balkans, Venizelos of Greece and Pashitch of Serbia,
the Balkan League was formed, and the power of Turkey in Europe broken.
If the League had held together, the great German project would have
been ruined, or at any rate gravely imperilled. But Germany and Austria
contrived to throw an apple of discord among the Balkan allies at the
Conference of London in 1912, and then stimulated Bulgaria to attack
Serbia and Greece. The League was broken up irreparably; its members
had been brought into a sound condition of mutual hatred; and Bulgaria,
isolated among distrustful neighbours, was ready to become the tool of
Germany in order that by her aid she might achieve (fond hope!) the
hegemony of the Balkans. This brilliant stroke was effected in
1913--the year before the Great War. All that remained was to ruin
Serbia. For that purpose Austria had long been straining at the leash.
She had been on the point of making an attack in 1909, in 1912, in
1913. In 1914 the leash was slipped. If the rival empires chose to look
on while Serbia was destroyed, well and good: in that case the
Berlin-Bagdad project could be systematically developed and
consolidated, and the attack on the rival empires could come later. If
not, still it was well; for all was ready for the great challenge.

We have dwelt at some length upon this gigantic project, because it has
formed during all these years the heart and centre of the German
designs, and even to-day it is the dearest of German hopes. Not until
she is utterly defeated will she abandon it; because its abandonment
must involve the abandonment of every hope of a renewed attempt at
world-supremacy, after an interval for reorganisation and recovery. Not
until the German control over Austria and Turkey, more complete to-day,
after two and a half years of war, than it has ever been before, has
been destroyed by the splitting up of Austria among the nationalities
to which her territory belongs, and by the final overthrow of the
Turkish Empire, will the German dream of world-dominion be shattered.

But while this fundamentally important project was being worked out,
other events, almost equally momentous in their bearing upon the coming
conflict, were taking place elsewhere. It was the obvious policy of
Germany to keep her rivals on bad terms with one another. The tradition
of Bismarck bade her isolate each victim before it was destroyed. But
the insolence and the megalomania of modern Germany made this
difficult. German writers were busily and openly explaining the fate
marked out for all the other powers. France was to be so crushed that
she would 'never again be able to stand in our path.' The bloated and
unconsolidated empire of Britain was to be shattered. The Russian
barbarians were to be thrust back into Asia. And what the pamphleteers
and journalists wrote was expressed with almost equal clearness in the
tone of German diplomacy. In face of all this, the clumsy attempts of
the German government to isolate their rivals met with small success,
even though these rivals had many grounds of controversy among
themselves. France knew what she had to fear; and the interpolation of
a few clumsy bids for her favour amid the torrent of insults against
her which filled the German press, were of no avail; especially as she
had to look on at the unceasing petty persecution practised in the lost
provinces of Alsace-Lorraine. Russia had been alienated by the first
evidences of German designs in the Balkans, and driven into a close
alliance with France. Britain, hitherto obstinately friendly to
Germany, began to be perturbed by the growing German programmes of
naval construction from 1900 onwards, by the absolute refusal of
Germany to consider any proposal for mutual disarmament or retardation
of construction, and above all by the repeated assertions of the head
of the German state that Germany aspired to naval supremacy, that her
future was on the sea, that the trident must be in her hands. Should
the trident fall into any but British hands, the existence of the
British Empire, and the very livelihood of the British homeland, would
rest at the mercy of him who wielded it. So, quite inevitably, the
three threatened empires drew together and reconciled their differences
in the Franco-British agreement of 1904 and the Russo-British agreement
of 1907.

These agreements dealt wholly with extra-European questions, and
therefore deserve some analysis. In the Franco-British agreement the
main feature was that while France withdrew her opposition to the
British position in Egypt, Britain on her side recognised the paramount
political interest of France in Morocco. It was the agreement about
Morocco which counted for most; because it was the beginning of a
controversy which lasted for seven years, which was twice used by
Germany as a means for testing, and endeavouring to break, the
friendship of her rivals, and which twice brought Europe to the verge
of war.

Morocco is a part of that single region of mountainous North Africa of
which France already controlled the remainder, Tunis and Algeria.
Peoples of the same type inhabited the whole region, but while in Tunis
and Algeria they were being brought under the influence of law and
order, in Morocco they remained in anarchy. Only a conventional line
divided Morocco from Algeria, and the anarchy among the tribesmen on
one side of the line inevitably had an unhappy effect upon the people
on the other side of the line. More than once France had been
compelled, for the sake of Algeria, to intervene in Morocco. It is
impossible to exaggerate the anarchy which existed in the interior of
this rich and wasted country. It was, indeed, the most lawless region
remaining in the world: when Mr. Bernard Shaw wished to find a scene
for a play in which the hero should be a brigand chief leading a band
of rascals and outlaws from all countries, Morocco presented the only
possible scene remaining in the world. And this anarchy was the more
unfortunate, not only because the country was naturally rich and ought
to have been prosperous, but also because it lay in close proximity to
great civilised states, and on one of the main routes of commerce at
the entrance to the Mediterranean. In its ports a considerable traffic
was carried on by European traders, but this traffic was, owing to the
anarchic condition of the country, nothing like as great as it ought to
have been. In 1905, 39 per cent. of it was controlled by French
traders, 32 per cent. by British traders, 12 per cent. by German
traders, and 5 per cent. by Spanish traders. Manifestly this was a
region where law and order ought to be established, in the interests of
civilisation. The powers most directly concerned were in the first
place France, with her neighbouring territory and her preponderant
trade; in the second place Britain, whose strategic interests as well
as her trading interests were involved; in the third place Spain, which
directly faced the Morocco coast; while Germany had only trading
interests involved, and so long as these were safeguarded, had no
ground of complaint. If any single power was to intervene, manifestly
the first claim was upon France.

In 1900 France had directed the attention of Europe to the disorderly
condition of Morocco, and had proposed to intervene to restore order,
on the understanding that she should not annex the country, or
interfere with the trading rights of other nations. Some states agreed;
Germany made no reply, but made no objection. But owing to the
opposition of Britain, who was then on bad terms with France and feared
to see an unfriendly power controlling the entrance to the
Mediterranean, no action was taken; and in the next years the chaos in
Morocco grew worse. By the agreement of 1904 Britain withdrew her
objection to French intervention, and recognised the prior political
rights of France in Morocco, on the condition that the existing
government of Morocco should be maintained, that none of its territory
should be annexed, and that 'the open door' should be preserved for the
trade of all nations. But, of course, it was possible, and even
probable, that the existing Moroccan government could not be made
efficient. In that case, what should happen? The possibility had to be
contemplated by reasonable statesmen, and provided against. But to do
so in a public treaty would have been to condemn beforehand the
existing system. Therefore a hypothetical arrangement was made for this
possible future event in a secret treaty, to which Spain was made a
party; whereby it was provided that if the arrangement should break
down, and France should have to establish a definite protectorate, the
vital part of the north coast should pass under the control of Spain.

To the public part of these arrangements, which alone were of immediate
importance, no objection was made by any of the other powers, and the
German Chancellor told the Reichstag that German interests were not
affected. France accordingly drew up a scheme of reforms in the
government of Morocco, which the Sultan was invited to accept. But
before he had accepted them the German Kaiser suddenly came to Tangier
in his yacht, had an interview with the Sultan in which he urged him to
reject the French demands, and made a public speech in which he
declared himself the protector of the Mahomedans, asserted that no
European power had special rights in Morocco, and announced his
determination to support the 'independence and integrity' of
Morocco--which in existing circumstances meant the maintenance of
anarchy. What was the reason for this sudden and insolent
intervention--made without any previous communication with France? The
main reason was that France's ally, Russia, had just been severely
defeated by Japan, and would not be able to take part in a European
war. Therefore, it appeared, France might be bullied; Britain might not
be willing to risk war on such an issue; the Entente of 1904 might be
destroyed; the extension of French influence might be prevented; and
the preservation of a state of anarchy in Morocco would leave open the
chance of a seizure of that country by Germany at a later date, thus
enabling her to dominate the entrance to the Mediterranean, and to
threaten Algeria. But this pretty scheme did not succeed. The Entente
held firm. Britain gave steady support to France, as indeed she was
bound in honour to do; and in the end a conference of the powers was
held at Algeciras (Spain). At this conference the predominating right
of France to political influence in Morocco was formally recognised;
and it was agreed that the government of the Sultan should be
maintained, and that all countries should have equal trading rights in
Morocco. This was, of course, the very basis of the Franco-British
agreement. On every point at which she tried to score a success over
France, Germany was defeated by the votes of the other powers, even her
own ally, Italy, deserting her.

But the German intervention had had its effect. The Sultan had refused
the French scheme of reform. The elements of disorder in Morocco were
encouraged to believe that they had the protection of Germany, and the
activity of German agents strengthened this belief. The anarchy grew
steadily worse. In 1907 Sir Harry Maclean was captured by a brigand
chief, and the British government had to pay 20,000 pounds ransom for
his release. In the same year a number of European workmen engaged on
harbour works at Casablanca were murdered by tribesmen; and the French
had to send a force which had a year's fighting before it reduced the
district to order. In 1911 the Sultan was besieged in his capital
(where there were a number of European residents) by insurgent
tribesmen, and had to invite the French to send an army to his relief.

This was seized upon by Germany as a pretext. Morocco was no longer
'independent.' The agreement of Algecras was dead. Therefore she
resumed her right to put forward what claims she pleased in Morocco.
Suddenly her gunboat, the Panther, appeared off Agadir. It was meant as
an assertion that Germany had as much right to intervene in Morocco as
France. And it was accompanied by a demand that if France wanted to be
left free in Morocco, she must buy the approval of Germany. The
settlement of Morocco was to be a question solely between France and
Germany. The Entente of 1904, the agreement of 1906, the Moroccan
interests of Britain (much more important than those of Germany), and
the interests of the other powers of the Algeciras Conference, were to
count for nothing. Germany's voice must be the determining factor. But
Germany announced that she was willing to be bought off by large
concessions of French territory elsewhere--provided that Britain was
not allowed to have anything to say: provided, that is, that the
agreement of 1904 was scrapped. This was a not too subtle way of trying
to drive a wedge between two friendly powers. It did not succeed.
Britain insisted upon being consulted. There was for a time a real
danger of war. In the end peace was maintained by the cession by France
of considerable areas in the Congo as the price of German abstention
from intervening in a sphere where she had no right to intervene. But
Morocco was left under a definite French protectorate.

We have dwelt upon the Morocco question at some length, partly because
it attracted a vast amount of interest during the years of preparation
for the war; partly because it affords an extraordinarily good
illustration of the difficulty of maintaining peaceable relations with
Germany, and of the spirit in which Germany approached the delicate
questions of inter-imperial relationships--a spirit far removed indeed
from that friendly willingness for compromise and co-operation by which
alone the peace of the world could be maintained; and partly because it
illustrates the crudity and brutality of the methods by which Germany
endeavoured to separate her intended victims. It is improbable that she
ever meant to go to war on the Moroccan question. She meant to go to
war on whatever pretext might present itself when all her preparations
were ready; but in the meanwhile she would avoid war on all questions
but one: and that one was the great Berlin-Bagdad project, the keystone
of her soaring arch of Empire. She would fight to prevent the ruin of
that scheme. Otherwise she would preserve the peace, she would even
make concessions to preserve the peace, until the right moment had
come. In that sense Germany was a peace-loving power: in that sense

On the agreement between Russia and Britain in 1907 it is unnecessary
to dwell with such fulness. The agreement turned mainly upon the
removal of causes of friction in the Middle East--in Persia and the
Persian Gulf, and in Tibet. These were in themselves interesting and
thorny questions, especially the question of Persia, where the two
powers established distinct spheres of interest and a sort of joint
protectorate. But they need not detain us, because they had no direct
bearing upon the events leading up to the war, except in so far as, by
removing friction between two rivals of long standing, they made it
possible for them to co-operate for their common defence against a
menace that became more and more apparent.

From 1907 onwards Germany found herself confronted by united defensive
action on the part of the three empires whose downfall she intended to
compass. It was not (except as regarded France and Russia) a formal
alliance which bound these powers. There was no fixed agreement between
them as to military co-operation. France and Britain had indeed, in
1906 and in 1911, consulted as to the military steps they should take
if they were drawn into war, as seemed likely in those years, but
neither was in any way bound to help the other under all circumstances.
France and Britain had also agreed that the French fleet should be
concentrated in the Mediterranean, the main British fleet in the North
Sea. This arrangement (which was universally known, and, indeed, could
not be concealed) put Britain under a moral obligation to defend France
against naval attack, but only if France were the object of aggression.
It was, therefore, actually a safeguard of peace, since it ensured that
neither France nor, consequently, her ally, Russia, would begin a war
without being sure of the concurrence of Britain, the most pacific of
powers. As the diplomatic records show, at the opening of the Great War
they were not sure of this concurrence, even for naval purposes, until
August 1, when the die was already cast. The Triple Entente, therefore,
was not an alliance; it was only an agreement for common diplomatic
action in the hope of averting a terrible menace.

Until 1911 Germany, or some elements in Germany, seem to have hoped
that she could get her own way by bullying and rattling her sabre, and
that by these means she could frighten her rivals, make them mutually
distrustful, and so break up their combination and deal with them in
detail. Those who held this view were the peace-party (so-called), and
they included the Kaiser and his Chancellor. They would probably not
themselves have accepted this description of their policy, but in
practice this is what it meant. But there was always a formidable and
influential party in Germany which had no patience with these
hesitations, and was eager to draw the sabre. It included the men of
the General Staff, backed by the numerous Pan-German societies and
newspapers. The issue of the Morocco question in 1911, which showed
that the policy of bullying had failed, played into the hands of the
men of violence; and from this moment began the last strenuous burst of
military preparation which preceded the war. In 1911 was passed the
first of a series of Army Acts for the increase of the already immense
German army, and still more for the provision of vast equipment and the
scientific apparatus of destruction; two further Acts for the same
purpose followed in 1912 and in 1913. In 1911 also was published
General Bernhardi's famous book, which defined and described the course
of future action, and the aim which Germany was henceforth to pursue
with all her strength: Weltmacht oder Niedergang, world-power or

The events in the Balkans in 1912 and 1913 completed the conversion of
those who still clung to the policy of peaceful bullying. The formation
and triumph of the Balkan League in 1912 formed a grave set-back for
the Berlin-Bagdad project, which would be ruined if these little states
became strong enough, or united enough, to be independent. The break-up
of the Balkan League and the second Balkan War of 1913 improved the
situation from the German point of view. But they left Serbia
unsatisfactorily strong, and Serbia distrusted Austria, and controlled
the communications with Constantinople. Serbia must be destroyed;
otherwise the Berlin-Bagdad project, and with it the world-power of
which it was to be the main pillar, would be always insecure. Austria
was for attacking Serbia at once in 1913. Germany held her back: the
widening of the Kiel Canal was not completed, and the fruits of the
latest Army Acts were not yet fully reaped. But all was ready in 1914;
and the Great Challenge was launched. It would have been launched at or
about that time even if an unpopular Austrian archduke, significantly
unguarded by the Austrian police, had NOT been most opportunely
murdered by an Austrian subject on Austrian territory. The murder was
only a pretext. The real cause of the war was the resolution of Germany
to strike for world-supremacy, and her belief that the time was
favourable for the great adventure.

Meanwhile, what had the threatened empires been doing during the years
of strenuous German preparation which began in 1911? Their governments
could not but be aware of the enormous activity which was taking place
in that country--which was unthreatened on any side--though they
probably did not know how thorough and how elaborate it was. What steps
did they take to guard against the danger? Russia was busy constructing
strategic railways, to make the movement of troops easier; she was
erecting new munition factories. But neither could be quickly got
ready. France imposed upon the whole of her manhood the obligation of
serving for three instead of for two years in the army. Britain
reorganised her small professional army, created the Territorial Force,
and began the training of a large officer class in all the universities
and public schools. But she did not attempt to create a national army.
If she had done so, this would have been a signal for the precipitation
of the war. Besides, Britain obstinately clung to the belief that so
monstrous a crime as Germany seemed to be contemplating could never be
committed by a civilised nation; and she trusted mainly to her fleet
for her own security.

But Britain unquestionably laboured with all her might to conjure away
the nightmare. From 1906 onwards she had made, in vain, repeated
attempts to persuade Germany to accept a mutual disarmament or
retardation of naval construction. In 1912 she resolved upon a more
definite step. The German newspapers were full of talk about the
British policy of 'encircling' Germany in order to attack and destroy
her, which they attributed mainly to Sir Edward Grey. It was a manifest
absurdity, since the Franco-Russian alliance was formed in 1894, at a
time when Britain was on bad terms with both France and Russia, and the
agreements later made with these two countries were wholly devoted to
removing old causes of dispute between them. But the German people
obviously believed it. Perhaps the German government also believed it?
Britain resolved to remove this apprehension. Accordingly in 1912 Lord
Haldane was sent to Germany with a formal and definite statement,
authorised by the Cabinet, to the effect that Britain had made no
alliance or understanding which was aimed against Germany, and had no
intention of doing so. That being so, since Germany need have no fear
of an attack from Britain, why should not the two powers agree to
reduce their naval expenditure? The German reply was that to stop the
naval programme was impossible, but that construction might be DELAYED,
on one condition--that both powers should sign a formal agreement drawn
up by Germany. Each power was to pledge itself to absolute neutrality
in any European war in which the other was engaged. Each power was to
undertake to make no new alliances. But this agreement was not to
affect existing alliances or the duties arising under them. This
proposal was an obvious trap, and the German ministers who proposed it
must have had the poorest opinion of the intelligence of English
statesmen if they thought it was likely to be accepted. For observe
that it left Germany, in conjunction with Austria, free to attack
France and Russia. It left the formidable Triple Alliance unimpaired.
But it tied the hands of Britain, who had no existing European
alliances, enforced neutrality upon her in such a war, and compelled
her to look on idly and wait her turn. In the present war, Germany
could have pleaded that she was bound to take part by the terms of her
alliance with Austria, who began it; but Britain would have been
compelled to stand aloof. A very convenient arrangement for Germany,
but not an arrangement that promised well for the peace of the world!

Even this rebuff did not dishearten Britain. Feeling that Germany might
have some reasonable ground of complaint in the fact that her share of
the extra-European world was so much less than that of France or of
Britain herself, Britain attempted to come to an agreement on this
head, such as would show that she had no desire to prevent the imperial
expansion of Germany. A treaty was proposed and discussed, and was
ready to be submitted to the proper authorities for confirmation in
June 1914. It has never been made public, because the war cancelled it
before it came into effect, and we do not know its terms. But we do
know that the German colonial enthusiast, Paul Rohrbach, who has seen
the draft treaty, has said that the concessions made by Britain were
astonishingly extensive, and met every reasonable German demand. This
sounds as if the proposals of the treaty, whatever they were, had been
recklessly generous. But this much is clear, that the government which
had this treaty in its possession when it forced on the war was not to
be easily satisfied. It did not want merely external possessions. It
wanted supremacy; it wanted world-dominion.

One last attempt the British government made in the frenzied days of
negotiation which preceded the war. Sir Edward Grey had begged the
German government to make ANY proposal which would make for peace, and
promised his support beforehand; he had received no reply. He had
undertaken that if Germany made any reasonable proposal, and France or
Russia objected, he would have nothing further to do with France or
Russia. Still there was no reply. Imagining that Germany might still be
haunted by what Bismarck called 'the nightmare of coalition,' and might
be rushing into war now because she feared a war in the future under
more unfavourable conditions, he had pledged himself, if Germany would
only say the word which would secure the peace, to use every effort to
bring about a general understanding among the great powers which would
banish all fears of an anti-German combination. It was of no use. The
reply was the suggestion that Britain should bind herself to neutrality
in this war on the following conditions: (a) that Germany should be
given a free hand to violate the neutrality of Belgium (which Britain
was bound by treaty to defend), on the understanding that Belgium
should be reinstated after she had served her purpose, if she had
offered no resistance; Belgium, be it noted, being bound in honour to
offer resistance by the very treaty which Germany proposed to violate;
and (b) that after France had been humiliated and beaten to the earth
for the crime of possessing territories which Germany coveted, she
should be restored to independence, and Germany should be content to
annex her 5,000,000 square miles of colonies. In return for this
undertaking Britain was to be--allowed to hold aloof from the war, and
await her turn.

There is no getting over these facts. The aim of Germany had come to be
nothing less than world-supremacy. The destiny of the whole globe was
to be put to the test. Surely this was the very insanity of megalomania.



The gigantic conflict into which the ambitions of Germany have plunged
the world is the most tremendous event in human history, not merely
because of the vast forces engaged, and the appalling volume of
suffering which has resulted from it, but still more because of the
magnitude of the principles for which it is being fought. It is a war
to secure the right of communities which are linked together by the
national spirit to determine their own destinies; it is a war to
maintain the principles of humanity, the sanctity of formal
undertakings between states, and the possibility of the co-operation of
free peoples in the creation of a new and better world-order; it is a
war between two principles of government, the principle of military
autocracy and the principle of self-government. With all these aspects
of the mighty struggle we are not here immediately concerned, though
they have an intimate bearing upon our main theme: some of them have
been analysed elsewhere.[10] But what does concern us most directly,
and what makes this war the culmination of the long story which we have
endeavoured to survey, is that this is a war in which, as in no earlier
war, the whole fate and future of the now unified world is at stake.
For just because the world is now, as never before, an indissoluble
economic and political unity, the challenge of Germany, whatever view
we may take of the immediate aims of the German state, inevitably
raises the whole question of the principles upon which this unified
world, unified by the victory of European civilisation, is to be in
future directed. And the whole world knows, if vaguely, that these vast
issues are at stake, and that this is no merely European conflict. That
is why we see arrayed upon the fields of battle not only French,
British, Russian, Italian, Serbian, Belgian, Rumanian, Greek and
Portuguese soldiers, but Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South
Africans, Indians, Algerians, Senegalese, Cambodians; and now,
alongside of all these, the citizens of the American Republic. That is
why Brazil and other states are hovering on the edge of the fray; why
Japanese ships are helping to patrol the Mediterranean, why Arab armies
are driving the Turk from the holy places of Mahomedanism, why African
tribesmen are enrolled in new levies to clear the enemy out of his
footholds in that continent. Almost the whole world is arrayed against
the outlaw-power and her vassals. And the ultimate reason for this is
that the whole world is concerned to see this terrible debate rightly

[10] In Nationalism and Internationalism and in National

For the issue is as simple as this. Now that the world has been made
one by the victory of Western civilisation, in what spirit is that
supremacy to be used? Is it to be in the spirit expressed in the German
Doctrine of Power, the spirit of mere dominion, ruthlessly imposed and
ruthlessly exploited for the sole advantage of the master-power? That
way ruin lies. Or is it to be in the spirit which has on the whole, and
in spite of lapses, guided the progress of Western civilisation in the
past, the spirit of respect for law and for the rights of the weak, the
spirit of liberty which rejoices in variety of type and method, and
which believes that the destiny towards which all peoples should be
guided is that of self-government in freedom, and the co-operation of
free peoples in the maintenance of common interests? Britain, France,
and America have been the great advocates and exponents of these
principles in the government of their own states: they are all ranged
on one side to-day. Britain, also, as we have tried to show, has been
led by Fate to take a chief part in the extension of these principles
of Western civilisation to the non-European regions of the world; and,
after many mistakes and failures, has in the direction of her own wide
dominions found her way to a system which reconciles freedom with
unity, and learned to regard herself as being only the trustee of
civilisation in the government of the backward peoples whom she rules.
For the just and final determination of such gigantic issues not even
the terrible price we are paying is too high.

The issue of the great conflict lies still upon the lap of the gods.
Yet one thing is, we may hope, already assured. Although at the
beginning of the war they came near to winning it, the Germans are not
now likely to win that complete victory upon which they had calculated,
and which would have brought as its prize the mastery of the world. We
can now form some judgment of the extent of the calamity which this
would have meant for humanity. There would have remained in the world
no power capable of resisting this grim and ugly tyrant-state, with its
brute strength and bestial cruelty as of a gorilla in the primaeval
forest, reinforced by the cold and pitiless calculus of the man of
science in his laboratory; unless, perhaps, Russia had in time
recovered her strength, or unless America had not merely thrown over
her tradition of aloofness and made up her mind to intervene, but had
been allowed the time to organise her forces for resistance. Of the
great empires which the modern age has brought into being, the Russian
would have survived as a helpless and blinded mammoth; the French
Empire would have vanished, and the proud and noble land of France
would have sunk into vassalage and despair; the British Empire would
assuredly have dissolved into its component parts, for its strength is
still too much concentrated in the motherland for it to be able to hold
together once her power was broken. After a few generations, that will
no longer be the case; but to-day it is so, and the dream of a
partnership of free nations which had begun to dawn upon us would have
been shattered for ever by a complete German victory. Some of the atoms
of what once was an empire might have been left in freedom, but they
would have been powerless to resist the decrees of the Master-state.
There would have been one supreme world-power; and that a power whose
attitude towards backward races has been illustrated by the ruthless
massacre of the Hereros; whose attitude towards ancient but
disorganised civilisations has been illustrated by the history of
Kiao-chau and by the celebrated allocution of the Kaiser to his
soldiers on the eve of the Boxer expedition, when he bade them outdo
the ferocity of Attila and his Huns; whose attitude towards kindred
civilisations on the same level as their own has been illustrated
before the war in the treatment of Danes, Poles, and Alsatians, and
during the war in the treatment of Belgium, of the occupied districts
in France, of Poland and of Serbia. The world would have lain at the
mercy of an insolent and ruthless tyranny, the tyranny of a Kultur
whose ideal is the uniformity of a perfect mechanism, not the variety
of life. Such a fate humanity could not long have tolerated; yet before
the iron mechanism could have been shattered, if once it had been
established, there must have been inconceivable suffering, and
civilisation must have fallen back many stages towards barbarism. From
this fate, we may perhaps claim, the world was saved from the moment
when not Britain only, but the British Empire, refused to await its
turn according to the German plan, threw its whole weight into the
scale, and showed that, though not organised for war, it was not the
effete and decadent power, not the fortuitous combination of discordant
and incoherent elements, which German theory had supposed; but that
Freedom can create a unity and a virile strength capable of
withstanding even the most rigid discipline, capable of enduring defeat
and disappointment undismayed; but incapable of yielding to the
insolence of brute force.

It is still possible that the war may end in what is called an
inconclusive peace; and as it is certain that of all her unrighteous
gains that to which Germany will most desperately cling will be her
domination over the Austrian and Turkish Empires, with the prospect
which it affords of a later and more fortunate attempt at world-power,
an inconclusive peace would mean that the whole world would live in
constant dread of a renewal of these agonies and horrors in a still
more awful form. What the effect of this would be upon the
extra-European dominions of powers which would be drained of their
manhood and loaded with the burden of the past war and the burden of
preparation for the coming war, it is beyond our power to imagine. But
it seems likely that the outer world would very swiftly begin to revise
its judgment as to the value of that civilisation which it has, upon
the whole, been ready to welcome; and chaos would soon come again.

Finally, it is possible that the Evil Power may be utterly routed, and
the allied empires, tried by fire, may be given the opportunity and the
obligation of making, not merely a new Europe, but a new world. If that
chance should come, how will they use it? One thing at least is clear.
The task which will face the diplomats who take part in the coming
peace-congress will be different in kind as well as in degree from that
of any of their predecessors at any moment in human history. They will
be concerned not merely with the adjustment of the differences of a few
leading states, and not merely with the settlement of Europe: they will
have to deal with the whole world, and to decide upon what principles
and to what ends the leadership of the peoples of European stock over
the non-European world is to be exercised. Whether they realise it or
not, whether they intend it or not, they will create either a
world-order or a world-disorder. And it will inevitably be a
world-disorder which will result unless we do some hard thinking on
this gigantic problem which faces us, and unless we are prepared to
learn, from the history of the relations of Europe with the outer
world, what are the principles by which we ought to be guided. We are
too prone, when we think of the problems of the future peace, to fix
our attention almost wholly upon Europe, and, if we think of the
non-European world at all, to assume either that the problem is merely
one of power, or that the principles which will guide us in the
settlement of Europe can be equally applied outside of Europe. Both of
these assumptions are dangerous, because both disregard the teachings
of the past which we have been surveying.

If, on the one hand, we are content to regard the problem as merely one
of power, and to divide out the non-European world among the victors as
the spoils of victory, we shall indeed have been conquered by the very
spirit which we are fighting; we shall have become converts to the
German Doctrine of Power, which has brought upon us all these ills, and
may bring yet more appalling evils in the future. The world will emerge
divided among a group of vast empires which will overshadow the lesser
states. These empires will continue to regard one another with fear and
suspicion, and to look upon their subject-peoples merely as providing
the implements for a war of destruction, to be waged by cut-throat
commercial rivalry in time of peace, and by man-power and machine-power
in war. If that should be the result of all our agonies, the burden
which must be laid upon the peoples of these empires, and the
intolerable anticipation of what is to come, will make their yoke seem
indeed a heavy one; will probably bring about their disintegration; and
will end that ascendancy of Western civilisation over the world which
the last four centuries have established. And justly; since Western
civilisation will thus be made to stand not for justice and liberty,
but for injustice and oppression. Such must be the inevitable result of
any settlement of the non-European world which is guided merely by the
ambitions of a few rival states and the Doctrine of Power.

On the other hand, we are urged by enthusiasts for liberty, especially
in Russia, to believe that imperialism as such is the enemy; that we
must put an end for ever to all dominion exercised by one people over
another; and that outside of Europe as within it we must trust to the
same principles for the hope of future peace--the principles of
national freedom and self-government--and leave all peoples everywhere
to control freely their own destinies. But this is a misreading of the
facts as fatal as the other. It disregards the value of the work that
has been done in the extension of European civilisation to the rest of
the world by the imperial activities of the European peoples. It fails
to recognise that until Europe began to conquer the world neither
rational law nor political liberty had ever in any real sense existed
in the outer world, and that their dominion is even now far from
assured, but depends for its maintenance upon the continued tutelage of
the European peoples. It fails to realise that the economic demands of
the modern world necessitate the maintenance of civilised
administration after the Western pattern, and that this can only be
assured, in large regions of the earth, by means of the political
control of European peoples. Above all this view does not grasp the
essential fact that the idea of nationhood and the idea of
self-government are both modern ideas, which have had their origin in
Europe, and which can only be realised among peoples of a high
political development; that the sense of nationhood is but slowly
created, and must not be arbitrarily defined in terms of race or
language; and that the capacity for self-government is only formed by a
long process of training, and has never existed except among peoples
who were unified by a strongly felt community of sentiment, and had
acquired the habit and instinct of loyalty to the law. Assuredly it is
the duty of Europe and America to extend these fruitful conceptions to
the regions which have passed under their influence. But the process
must be a very slow one, and it can only be achieved under tutelage. It
is the control of the European peoples over the non-European world
which has turned the world into an economic unit, brought it within a
single political system, and opened to us the possibility of making a
world-order such as the most daring dreamers of the past could never
have conceived. This control cannot be suddenly withdrawn. For a very
long time to come the world-states whose rise we have traced must
continue to be the means by which the political discoveries of Europe,
as well as her material civilisation, are made available for the rest
of the world. The world-states are such recent things that we have not
yet found a place for them in our political philosophy. But unless we
find a place for them, and think in terms of them, in the future, we
shall be in danger of a terrible shipwreck.

If, then, it is essential, not only for the economic development of the
world, but for the political advancement of its more backward peoples,
that the political suzerainty of the European peoples should survive,
and as a consequence that the world should continue to be dominated by
a group of great world-states, how are we to conjure away the nightmare
of inter-imperial rivalry which has brought upon us the present
catastrophe, and seems to threaten us with yet more appalling ruin in
the future? Only by resolving and ensuring, as at the great settlement
we may be able to do, that the necessary political control of Europe
over the outer world shall in future be exercised not merely in the
interests of the mistress-states, but in accordance with principles
which are just in themselves, and which will give to all peoples a fair
chance of making the best use of their powers. But how are we to
discover these principles, if the ideas of nationality and
self-government, to which we pin our faith in Europe, are to be held
inapplicable to the greater part of the non-European world? There is
only one possible source of instruction: our past experience, which has
now extended over four centuries, and which we have in this book
endeavoured to survey.

Now while it is undeniably true that the mere lust of power has always
been present in the imperial activities of the European peoples, it is
certainly untrue (as our study ought to have shown) that it has ever
been the sole motive, except, perhaps, in the great German challenge.
And in the course of their experience the colonising peoples have
gradually worked out certain principles in their treatment of subject
peoples, which ought to be of use to us. The fullest and the most
varied experience is that of the British Empire: it is the oldest of
all the world-states; it alone includes regions of the utmost variety
of types, new lands peopled by European settlers, realms of ancient
civilisation like India, and regions inhabited by backward and
primitive peoples. It would be absurd to claim that its methods are
perfect and infallible. But they have been very varied, and quite
astonishingly successful. And it is because they seem to afford clearer
guidance than any other part of the experiments which we have recorded
that we have studied them, especially in their later developments, with
what may have seemed a disproportionate fulness. What are the
principles which experience has gradually worked out in the British
Empire? They cannot be embodied in a single formula, because they vary
according to the condition and development of the lands to which they

But in the first place we have learnt by a very long experience that in
lands inhabited by European settlers, who bring with them European
traditions, the only satisfactory solution is to be found in the
concession of the fullest self-governing rights, since these settlers
are able to use them, and in the encouragement of that sentiment of
unity which we call the national spirit. And this involves a
recognition of the fact that nationality is never to be defined solely
in terms of race or language, but can arise, and should be encouraged
to arise, among racially divided communities such as Canada and South
Africa. Any attempt to interpret nationhood in terms of race is not
merely dangerous, but ruinous; and such endeavours to stimulate or
accentuate racial conflict, as Germany has been guilty of in Brazil, in
South Africa, and even in America, must be, if successful, fatal to the
progress of the countries affected, and dangerous to the peace of the

In the second place we have learnt that in lands of ancient
civilisation, where ruling castes have for centuries been in the habit
of exploiting their subjects, the supreme gift which Europe can offer
is that of internal peace and a firmly administered and equal law,
which will render possible the gradual rise of a sense of unity, and
the gradual training of the people in the habits of life that make
self-government possible. How soon national unity can be established,
or self-government made practicable in any full sense, must be matter
of debate. But the creation of these things is, or ought to be, the
ultimate aim of European government in such countries. And in the
meantime, and until they become fully masters of their own fate, these
lands, so our British experience tells us, ought to be treated as
distinct political units; they should pay no tribute; all their
resources should be devoted to their own development; and they should
not be expected or required to maintain larger forces than are
necessary for their own defence. At the same time, the ruling power
should claim no special privileges for its own citizens, but should
throw open the markets of such realms equally to all nations. In short
it should act not as a master, but as a trustee, on behalf of its
subjects and also on behalf of civilisation.

In the third place we have learnt that in the backward regions of the
earth it is the duty of the ruling power, firstly, to protect its
primitive subjects from unscrupulous exploitation, to guard their
simple customs, proscribing only those which are immoral, and to afford
them the means of a gradual emancipation from barbarism; secondly, to
develop the economic resources of these regions for the needs of the
industrial world, to open them up by modern communications, and to make
them available on equal terms to all nations, giving no advantage to
its own citizens.

In spite of lapses and defects, it is an undeniable historical fact
that these are the principles which have been wrought out and applied
in the administration of the British Empire during the nineteenth
century. They are not vague and Utopian dreams; they are a matter of
daily practice. If they can be applied by one of the world-states, and
that the greatest, why should they not be applied by the rest? But if
these principles became universal, is it not apparent that all danger
of a catastrophic war between these powers would be removed, since
every reason for it would have vanished? Thus the necessary and
advantageous tutelage of Europe over the non-European world, and the
continuance of the great world-states, could be combined with the
conjuring away of the ever-present terror of war, and with the gradual
training of the non-European peoples to enjoy the political methods of
Europe; while the lesser states without extra-European dominions need
no longer feel themselves stunted and reduced to economic dependence
upon their great neighbours. Thus, and thus alone, can the benefits of
the long development which we have traced be reaped in full; thus alone
can the dominion of the European peoples over the world be made to mean
justice and the chance for all peoples to make the best of their powers.

But it is not only the principles upon which particular areas outside
of Europe should be governed which we must consider. We must reflect
also upon the nature of the relations that should exist between the
various members of these great world-empires, which must hence-forward
be the dominating factors in the world's politics. And here the problem
is urgent only in the case of the British Empire, because it alone is
developed to such a point that the problem is inevitably raised.
Whatever else may happen, the war must necessarily bring a crisis in
the history of the British Empire. On a vastly greater scale the
situation of 1763 is being reproduced. Now, as then, the Empire will
emerge from a war for existence, in which mother and daughter lands
alike have shared. Now, as then, the strain and pressure of the war
will have brought to light deficiencies in the system of the Empire.
Now, as then, the most patent of these deficiencies will be the fact
that, generous as the self-governing powers of the great Dominions have
been, they still have limits; and the irresistible tendency of
self-government to work towards its own fulfilment will once more show
itself. For there are two spheres in which even the most fully
self-governing of the empire-nations have no effective control: they do
not share in the determination of foreign policy, and they do not share
in the direction of imperial defence. The responsibility for foreign
policy, and the responsibility, and with it almost the whole burden, of
organising imperial defence, have hitherto rested solely with Britain.
Until the Great War, foreign policy seemed to be a matter of purely
European interest, not directly concerning the great Dominions; nor did
the problems of imperial defence appear very pressing or urgent. But
now all have realised that not merely their interests, but their very
existence, may depend upon the wise conduct of foreign relations; and
now all have contributed the whole available strength of their manhood
to support a struggle in whose direction they have had no effective
share. These things must henceforth be altered; and they can be altered
only in one or other of three ways. Either the great Dominions will
become independent states, as the American colonies did, and pursue a
foreign policy and maintain a system of defence of their own; or the
Empire must reshape itself as a sort of permanent offensive and
defensive alliance, whose external policy and modes of defence will be
arranged by agreement; or some mode of common management of these and
other questions must be devised. The first of these solutions is
unlikely to be adopted, not only because the component members of the
Empire are conscious of their individual weakness, but still more
because the memory of the ordeal through which all have passed must
form an indissoluble bond. Yet rashness or high-handedness in the
treatment of the great issue might lead even to this unlikely result.
If either of the other two solutions is adopted, the question will at
once arise of the place to be occupied, in the league or in the
reorganised super-state, of all those innumerable sections of the
Empire which do not yet enjoy, and some of which may never enjoy, the
full privileges of self-government; and above all, the place to be
taken by the vast dominion of India, which though it is not, and may
not for a long time become, a fully self-governing state, is yet a
definite and vitally important unit in the Empire, entitled to have its
needs and problems considered, and its government represented, on equal
terms with the rest. The problem is an extraordinarily difficult one;
perhaps the most difficult political problem that has ever faced the
sons of men. But it is essentially the same problem which has
continually recurred in the history of British imperialism, though it
now presents itself on a vastly greater scale, and in a far more
complex form, than ever before: it is the problem of reconciling unity
with liberty and variety; of combining nationality and self-government
with imperialism, without impairing the rights of either. And beyond
any doubt the most tremendous and fascinating political question which
now awaits solution in the world, is the question whether the political
instinct of the British peoples, and the genius of self-government,
will find a way out of these difficulties, as they have found a way out
of so many others. Patience, mutual tolerance, willingness to
compromise, will be required in the highest measure if the solution is
to be found; but these are the qualities which self-government

'A thing that is wholly a sham,' said Treitschke, speaking of the
British Empire, 'cannot in this world of ours, endure for ever.' Why
did this Empire appear to Treitschke to be 'wholly a sham'? Was it not
because it did not answer to any definition of the word 'Empire' to be
found in German political philosophy; because it did not mean dominion
and uniformity, but liberty and variety; because it did not rest upon
Force, as, in his view, every firmly established state must do; because
it was not governed by a single master, whose edicts all its subjects
must obey? But for 'a thing that is wholly a sham' men do not lay down
their lives, in thousands and in hundreds of thousands, not under the
pressure of compulsion, but by a willing self-devotion; for the defence
of 'a thing that is wholly a sham' men will not stream in from all the
ends of the earth, abandoning their families and their careers, and
offering without murmur or hesitation themselves and all they have and
are. There must be a reality in the thing that calls forth such
sacrifices, a reality of the kind to which Realpolitik, with its
concentration upon purely material concerns, is wholly blind: it is the
reality of an ideal of honour, and justice, and freedom. And if the
Germans have been deceived in their calculations of Realpolitik, is it
not perhaps because they have learnt to regard honour, and justice, and
freedom as 'things that are wholly shams'?

This amazing political structure, which refuses to fall within any of
the categories of political science, which is an empire and yet not an
empire, a state and yet not a state, a super-nation incorporating in
itself an incredible variety of peoples and races, is not a structure
which has been designed by the ingenuity of man, or created by the
purposive action of a government; it is a natural growth, the product
of the spontaneous activity of innumerable individuals and groups
springing from among peoples whose history has made liberty and the
tolerance of differences their most fundamental instincts; it is the
outcome of a series of accidents, unforeseen, but turned to advantage
by the unfailing and ever-new resourcefulness of men habituated to
self-government. There is no logic or uniformity in its system, which
has arisen from an infinite number of makeshifts and tentative
experiments, yet in all of these a certain consistency appears, because
they have been presided over by the genius of self-government. It is
distributed over every continent, is washed by every ocean, includes
half the dust of islands that Nature has scattered about the seas of
the world, controls almost all the main avenues of the world's
sea-going commerce, and is linked together by ten thousand ships
perpetually going to and fro. Weak for offensive purposes, because its
resources are so scattered, it is, except at a few points, almost
impregnable against attack, if its forces are well organised. It
includes among its population representatives of almost every human
race and religion, and every grade of civilisation, from the Australian
Bushman to the subtle and philosophic Brahmin, from the African dwarf
to the master of modern industry or the scholar of universities. Almost
every form of social organisation and of government known to man is
represented in its complex and many-hued fabric. It embodies five of
the most completely self-governing communities which the world has
known, and four of these control the future of the great empty spaces
that remain for the settlement of white men. It finds place for the
highly organised caste system by which the teeming millions of India
are held together. It preserves the simple tribal organisation of the
African clans. To different elements among its subjects this empire
appears in different aspects. To the self-governing Dominions it is a
brotherhood of free nations, co-operating for the defence and diffusion
of common ideas and of common institutions. To the ancient
civilisations of India or of Egypt it is a power which, in spite of all
its mistakes and limitations, has brought peace instead of turmoil, law
instead of arbitrary might, unity instead of chaos, justice instead of
oppression, freedom for the development of the capacities and
characteristic ideas of their peoples, and the prospect of a steady
growth of national unity and political responsibility. To the backward
races it has meant the suppression of unending slaughter, the
disappearance of slavery, the protection of the rights and usages of
primitive and simple folk against reckless exploitation, and the chance
of gradual improvement and emancipation from barbarism. But to all
alike, to one quarter of the inhabitants of the world, it has meant the
establishment of the Reign of Law, and of the Liberty which can only
exist under its shelter. In some degree, though imperfectly as yet, it
has realised within its own body all the three great political ideas of
the modern world. It has fostered the rise of a sense of nationhood in
the young communities of the new lands, and in the old and decaying
civilisations of the most ancient historic countries. It has given a
freedom of development to self-government such as history has never
before known. And by linking together so many diverse and contrasted
peoples in a common peace, it has already realised, for a quarter of
the globe, the ideal of internationalism on a scale undreamt of by the
most sanguine prophets of Europe.

Truly this empire is a fabric so wonderful, so many-sided, and so
various in its aspects, that it may well escape the rigid categories of
a German professor, and seem to him 'wholly a sham.' Now is the crisis
of its fate: and if the wisdom of its leaders can solve the riddle of
the Sphinx which is being put to them, the Great War will indeed have
brought, for a quarter of the world, the culmination of modern history.

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